Liars Anonymous

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When Roadside Assistance Operator Jessie Dancing receives a call from real estate tycoon Darren Markson, she hears him being killed while she’s on the phone with him: she's now the only witness to a murder, but it's not going to be that simple.

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When Roadside Assistance Operator Jessie Dancing receives a call from real estate tycoon Darren Markson, she hears him being killed while she’s on the phone with him: she's now the only witness to a murder, but it's not going to be that simple.

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  • Liars Anonymous
    Liars Anonymous  

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise of Liars Anonymous:

"Louise Ure is an exciting new voice in the mystery field." - Laura Lippman

"Ure provides a meaty, twisty puzzle. But the real prize here is Jessie, a tough, conflicted heroine you won't soon forget." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"A powerful, masterfully constructed, action-packed novel with fiercely moral underpinnings and a strong protagonist." - Booklist (starred review)

"As Ure slowly peels back the layers of scar tissue to reveal Jessie's past crimes, the investigation of the woman's murder takes on even more depth as readers come to realize just host damanged the feisty heroine truly is." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Ure's finest effort to date." - Library Journal (starred review)

Marilyn Stasio
Unrestrained by the housekeeping duties of a mystery series, Ure uses the freedom to push her themes to their limits.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

At the start of this taut crime novel from Shamus Award-winner Ure (The Fault Tree), Jessie Dancing, an operator for a roadside emergency service in Phoenix, Ariz., receives a call from a driver in Tucson, Darren Markson, who sounds as if he's being murdered. Not content to merely contact the local police, Jessie tracks down Markson's family and is surprised when his wife tells her he's still alive. Back in her hometown of Tucson, Jessie's past returns to haunt her, including her acquittal three years earlier for a cold-blooded murder she may or may not have committed. When a young woman she meets near the site of Markson's phone call gets blown up in her car, Jessie is once again thrown into a world where the lines between guilty and not guilty blur. As Ure slowly peels back the layers of scar tissue to reveal Jessie's past crimes, the investigation of the woman's murder takes on even more depth as readers come to realize just how damaged the feisty heroine truly is. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Roadside assistance operator Jessie Dancing hears a man being murdered while she's on the phone with him. Jessie, who had changed her name and occupation after she was acquitted of murder, reluctantly gets involved in an investigation that places her squarely in the uncomfortable position of having to face her estranged family and her guilt. Shamus Award-winning Ure's third mystery (after Forcing Amaryllis and The Fault Tree) is perhaps her finest effort to date. [See Prepub Mystery, LJ12/08; library marketing.]

—Jo Ann Vicarel
Kirkus Reviews
An emergency operator who's already gotten away with one murder gets involved in another. What a liar Jessie Dancing is. Three years ago she told the Tucson police she didn't shoot Walter Racine, who'd been abusing his niece, Jessie's friend Catherine Chandliss, and planned more of the same for her daughter Katie. When she beat the rap, moved to Phoenix and landed a new job, she never told the folks at HandsOn Emergency about her checkered past. After fielding a distress call indicating that developer Darren Markson's car has been rear-ended, she doesn't tell the cops that the flurry of voices at the other end made her suspicious enough to call back-that's against the law-or that she recorded what may have been Markson's death throes. Why bother, anyway, when Markson's wife and former student Emily insists that she heard from Darren-who was alive and well-the next day? Unfortunately, Jessie's trip to Tucson to play the recording she's willing to make public for the cold-eyed Emily ensnares her in still another murder when Felicia Villalobos, a teenager Jessie saw at the accident scene, is blown up in her car as Jessie watches. Now Detective Len Sabin, who's convinced Jessie got away with murder last time, and Tucson DA Ted Dresden, who dubbed her the Queen of Liars Anonymous at her trial, are avid to take another crack at her. Ure (The Fault Tree, 2008, etc.) provides a meaty, twisty puzzle. But the real prize here is Jessie, a tough, conflicted heroine you won't soon forget. Agent: Philip Spitzer/Philip Spitzer Literary Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312614935
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 2/2/2010
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.38 (w) x 8.18 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

LOUISE URE currently lives in San Francisco with her husband and whichever senior golden retriever rescue dog has most recently captured her heart. She is the Shamus Award-winning author of Forcing Amaryllis and The Fault Tree. This is her third novel.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I got away with murder once, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen again. Damn. This time I didn’t do it. Well, not all of it, anyway.

The incoming call showed up as an alert on my computer screen at almost midnight Friday night. I balled up the paper wrapper from the cold burrito I’d called dinner and reached for the mouse. There were more than a hundred of us on the night shift, each sequestered in separate cubicles and hunched over our screens like penitents in a confessional. The room was supercooled to keep us awake. I laughed at the irony that, although it was September, it was probably still ninety degrees outside in the Arizona desert.

According to the information on the screen, the client’s name was Markson and he was driving a 2007 Cadillac Seville. The HandsOn service he’d signed up for included automatic notification to the call center if his air bag had been triggered.

"HandsOn Emergency. This is Jessie. Is there an emergency in the vehicle?"

A muffled response. Coughing. He was probably still patting back the doughy folds of air bag that had assaulted him, reeling from the sting of the high-powered blast of the nylon bag on his cheeks and chest. His face would be dusted with white powder from the explosion. His nose might be broken.

"I’m all right." More coughing. "Just got rear-ended."

"Is anyone in your car injured? Do you want me to call an ambulance?" It must have been quite a hit; rear-enders rarely set off the air bag.

There was something like a groan. Then the metal-on-metal snick of a car door shutting.

"No, I’m okay. I’ll check with the other guy."

Another car door opened and shut, the sound closer this time.

"Didn’t you see . . ." Markson’s voice trailed off in the distance.

The map on my screen showed that the car was in Tucson. Weird. The call center was responsible for a thousand-mile section from Southern California to East Texas. Funny to get a call from just down the road.

The blinking cursor showed Darren Markson’s car near Agua Caliente Wash on the east side of town. The "hot water" in the name of the arroyo was pure wishful thinking; it would only see water during the monsoon runoffs. Probably not even a paved road out there, if the map markings were right. More desert than city, really. The creosote would be taller than the Cadillac’s windows.

The sound of scuffling came through my earpiece. I pushed the plastic ear bud tight to my head in concentration. Panting. A soft thud.

"I told you . . ." A deeper voice, it carried the hot, dusty smell of Mexico in the slurred bridge between the words. Almost "toll Jew."

Something slammed against nearby metal, then the sound of breaking glass.

"You lying sack of . . ." A different voice. English as a first language. Beer as a second.

Deep, fight-for-air panting. Heavy thuds of elbows or boots against the Cadillac’s solid metal door. A long exhaled breath. Then silence. A kicked pebble ricocheted off metal as someone moved away.

"Mr. Markson? Mr. Markson! Are you all right?"

The silence was louder than the voices had been.

Whatever was going on, it required the cops. I called the 911 operator in Tucson. In most cases, I’d make the connection and then let the client and 911 operator talk directly to each other, but Markson seemed to have his hands full right now.

"This is HandsOn Emergency dispatcher Jessie Dancing. One of our clients is having some trouble. He’s been rear-ended out near Agua Caliente Wash, just north of Soldier Trail."

"Give me the details on the car."

"It’s a white Cadillac Seville, Arizona plates, David-Edward-Nora Zero Six Six. I heard what sounded like a fight, and now I’ve lost contact with Mr. Markson."

"We’ll send a patrol car."

I gave her my number and hung up, then flipped back to the open communications channel with Markson’s car. If it was a fight, who’d started it? Markson or the guy who’d crashed into him? And I thought I’d heard three voices.

There was movement now—the susurration of fabric on fabric. And something that sounded like the glove box opening then clicking shut again.

"Mr. Markson? Are you okay?"

A grunted acknowledgment, then silence. The connection had gone dead.

I zapped an audio copy of the Markson conversation over to Mad Cow. Madeleine Cowell was her real name, but I treasured the friendship that allowed me to use the shortened honorific. She was on the concierge team tonight—the HandsOn operators that made hotel and restaurant reservations for clients—not the emergency dispatch group. Take a listen to this, I typed. Easy enough to walk right over to her cubicle and ask her myself, but this way I didn’t have to leave my computer screen unattended.

Mad Cow’s return e-mail popped into view. Is this going to be one of the Dumb Questions? Mad Cow and I had adapted comedian Bill Engvall’s "Here’s Your Sign" skits to life at HandsOn. You know the ones. "Tire go flat?" "No. The other three just swelled right up on me." The current pick for the dumbest incoming call was the guy who phoned last week and asked if I could tell him if his car was running.

Not this time. I thought this guy was in trouble, but I’m not sure.

I thought it sounded like a couple of guys at a kegger, she answered.

Maybe she was right. Maybe I’d imagined the threat in those voices.

I tried to put the sounds in the most positive light. Say Mark-son wandered into this patch of trackless desert—got stuck in the sand—and somehow got tapped by another car that was trying to help push him out. The "I told you" and sounds of a scuffle could just be a couple of guys trying to dislodge a car from deep sand.

But I couldn’t get around the third voice. The one that had said "you lying sack of " something. That made it more serious than a couple of guys straining their calf muscles and debating whose insurance was going to cover the damage.

Now that Markson’s first call had been disconnected I couldn’t initiate another call to his car—well, not legally. Our customers frowned on the notion that we might listen in whenever we wanted to.

His personal cell phone information was listed on the screen, too. I listened through five rings and an even-tempered voicemail greeting, then left my number for him to call back.

I turned the volume all the way up and replayed his incoming call. There was a breath of desert air and the scritch of creosote branches on metal, sounds I hadn’t heard the first time around. Markson must have had the windows open. And I heard the same words as before, although Markson’s voice sounded more nasal than I’d first thought. Maybe the airbag really had broken his nose.

There were at least three voices—one born in a big city in the East, one nurtured on the stony mesas of Mexico, and one coming straight from a bar. And there was definitely a fight.

I’d never had a call drop like this before. The satellite communications system we used was much more powerful than a regular cell phone, so it wasn’t likely that he’d gone out of range or lost the connection. More likely, somebody inside the car had pushed the button to disconnect.

Fuck the privacy laws. I shut off the automatic recording system and pinged the car. It was still in the same spot.

I opened the phone channel to allow me to hear what was going on. Voices muttered in the distance—the cadence and consonants sounding more like Spanish than English. I couldn’t tell how many voices or what they were saying. The sound of something dragged across brittle vegetation, and a rasping sound that I couldn’t place. Heavy, smacking thumps of wood against something softer. A grunt of air with the effort. A scream and a groan in response.

I didn’t say anything, unwilling—even though I was almost a hundred miles away—to let them know that I was a witness to the scene. A coward, hiding on the other end of a satellite phone.

The heavy thuds continued but the moaned responses stopped.

I called the cops back, but didn’t tell them about listening in again on Markson’s car. What good would that do anyway? It was against the law, it wasn’t recorded, and I didn’t have anything but a scary premonition to tell them about.

"Have your officers found the car yet?"

"They’re on their way. We had a delay here with a drive-by shooting."

"Call me when you find him. Okay?"

It was almost two a.m. before I got a call back.

"This is Officer Painter."

Thank God it wasn’t anybody I knew on the Tucson PD. I’d changed my name to Dancing—it was my middle name and my mother’s maiden name—but there had been plenty of headlines back then that included it. Hopefully this guy wouldn’t make the connection. "Did you find the Cadillac?"

"Yeah, just where you said it would be." He sounded young.

"How’s Mr. Markson?"

"There’s no one here."

Maybe Markson got a ride from the other driver or went to get a tow truck. But he wouldn’t have needed to; I could have done that for him. HandsOn clients knew that. It’s why they paid as much as my monthly food bill for the service.

"But . . . ma’am?"

This kid was making me feel decades older than my thirty-two years.

"There’s blood everywhere."

Excerpted from Liars Anonymous by Louise Ure.

Copyright © 2009 by Louise Ure.

Published by St. Martin’s Press.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 21, 2009

    no country for this woman...

    Wow, I can't think of a more engaging, powerful, complex protagonist than Louise Ure's Jessie... as I read this powerful page turner, I had flashes of so many women, some actresses and some not, who filled the vision of Ure's words... from S. Weaver to J. Foster and H. Hunt, to more obscure possibilities such as Pink or an angry Queen Latifa, my mind was trying to capture the elusive Jessie. She is a character unto herself, without precedence. Rather than try to give a truncated story of a book that really requires your attention and devotion, I will just say that this will be a blowout hit and you will wish you can say you read it before everyone else is bragging on it...
    Take a flyer and just get this book and read it... then you will see what I mean...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 4, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Amazing and exciting

    This is a wonderful book, filled with great characters and excellent dialog. The plot moves foreward briskly and there are many curves to the narrative. The ending is completely unexpected but totally satisfying.

    Ure is an excellent author and this book lives up to the promise of her earlier works.

    Well worth the investment, a book you'll love to share and reread.

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  • Posted July 6, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Expectations not Met

    Based on what it was rated and the reviews on the book in the newspapers, I expected more. A lot of elements that were not really relevant to the story line and a weak plot.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Very solid offering, buy this book.

    This novel is well-written with fully developed characters and a no-nonsense dialog style. The mystery is first rate, well developed and the plot twists would do Hitchcock proud.
    Easily makes my top one-hundred list of best books.
    This is only her second novel and I look forward to enjoying many more from Ure.

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  • Posted March 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    excellent tale of a woman in trouble from both sides of the law

    In Phoenix, Arizona, HandsOn Emergency roadside emergency service operator Jessie Dancing receives a frantic call from developer Darren Markson, whose car was rear-ended in the Tucson area, but the background noise led her to believe someone is killing him. She calls the police, but breaks company regulations by also following up on her own time by visiting his wife Emily who insists he is alive and well to her shock.--------------------

    Jessie lived in Tucson until three years ago when she was arrested for the murder of cruel Walter Racine, who had abused his niece, her friend Catherine Chandliss, and apparently targeted his grand niece Katie. Jessie was not convicted in court and moved away. However, when teenager Felicia Villalobos, whom she meets at the site of the Markson accident and is a witness to the incident, dies in a car explosion, PPD Detective Len Sabin and Tucson DA Ted Dresden salivate as they have a second chance at the Queen of Liars Anonymous who they feel got away with one homicide.-----------------------

    Jessie makes this a vigorous unique thriller as the police and the DA plan to throw the book at her, not so much for the current homicide, but because they strongly feel she got away with murder a few years ago. Though Jessie has issues and somewhat wilts under the pressure, she also gets stronger and feistier. As the violence surges, with a great final spin Louise Ure provides an excellent tale of a woman in trouble from both sides of the law.---------------------

    Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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