Life Sentences [NOOK Book]

Overview

Daisy Hubbard, a genetic researcher in a prestigious Boston lab, is driven to find a cure for the rare genetic disease that claimed the life of her younger brother. Her progress is halted, however, when her mentally unstable sister Anna is discovered missing from her California home. Daisy, fearing the worst, drops everything and flies across the country to find Anna. Once there, she is informed by the LAPD that known serial killer Roy Gaines has confessed to Anna's murder, but he will only reveal where he has ...
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Life Sentences

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Overview

Daisy Hubbard, a genetic researcher in a prestigious Boston lab, is driven to find a cure for the rare genetic disease that claimed the life of her younger brother. Her progress is halted, however, when her mentally unstable sister Anna is discovered missing from her California home. Daisy, fearing the worst, drops everything and flies across the country to find Anna. Once there, she is informed by the LAPD that known serial killer Roy Gaines has confessed to Anna's murder, but he will only reveal where he has hidden the body if he can lead Daisy to it himself. Daisy, teaming up with a handsome detective named Jack Makowski, follows Roy to a number of dead bodies, but none of them are Anna's. As Daisy realizes that Roy knows too much about her research, she begins to fear that Anna is a pawn in a game with much larger stakes. It will take all of Daisy's cunning and resolve to stop the killer in his tracks and to uncover his obsession with the disease she has been trying to unravel for her entire life.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Blanchard (The Breathtaker) again proves how research enriches detective fiction in this engrossing novel about a Boston scientist on the trail of a psychopath. Neurogeneticist Daisy Hubbard has a personal interest in her research on gene therapy for brain disorders: her brother died of Stier-Zellar's disease; her mother suffers from diabetes and depression, her sister, Anna, from schizophrenia. When Anna vanishes, handsome LAPD Det. Jack Makowski persuades Daisy to come to De Campo Beach, the Pacific coast town where Anna was last seen, with news that the disappearance may be linked to a serial killer as well as Daisy's research. Joining forces, Jack and Daisy find themselves suspicious about the behavior of Anna's associates, Anna's mom and even Anna herself, while Daisy deals with childhood memories, concerns about her research and research supervisor, encounters with a manipulative killer and a growing romance with thrice-married Jack. Blanchard contrasts snowy New England memories with sunny California landscapes, intimate tenderness with violent obsession. Carefully plotted, the novel reveals much of the author's hand racing to the conclusion, but by then the reader is too enrapt to protest, captivated by Blanchard's lucid descriptions, compelling takes on the challenges and heartache of degenerative disease, schizophrenia and abuse, action-packed drama and believable, believably conflicted, characters. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In Blanchard's (The Breathtaker) gripping but flawed novel, Daisy Hubbard works as a neurogenetics specialist, finding cures for fatal congenital brain disorders under the auspices of renowned Professor Truett at the country's top lab in Boston. Just as Daisy wins FDA approval for clinical trials on the cure for Stier-Zellar's disease, her schizophrenic sister Anna disappears. For the sake of her aging mother, Daisy goes to California to search for Anna with detective (soon to be lover) Jack Makowski. They uncover a series of murders linked to Anna's lover, Roy Hildreth, who confesses and fools them into thinking he's taking them to Anna's grave before escaping. Although the story unfolds in exciting sequences, implausible twists mar an otherwise good read. It's hard to believe that an ice-cold serial killer murders carriers of Stier-Zellar's disease because his daughter died of the illness and he wants to prevent its spreading or get even with it. Recommended with reservations for suspense collections.-Michelle Foyt, Russell Lib., Middletown, CT Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In what could be Blanchard's breakout, a man strives to end a deadly disease by murdering all who carry it. Heartbreaking, invariably fatal, Stier-Zellar's attacks the young, and Daisy Hubbard has lost a six-year-old brother to the disease, which goes a long way toward explaining her choice of career. Daisy, a genetic researcher, is convinced that one day her work will earn her, among other prizes, the Nobel, as well as the self-validation that comes with eliminating a merciless child-killer. So Daisy's a brain, and it's entirely possible her sister Anna, three years younger, might be recognized as one, too, if she weren't so flaky. Anna creates uproar-that's her history. Among other stunts, she vanishes from time to time. Burrowed down, then, in her exhaustively demanding Boston lab, Daisy is not eager to drop everything and take off to California to search for Anna. But she goes anyway, persuaded by her mother that this disappearance signals something truly ominous. Her mother's right. Turns out that Anna is one of three De Campo Beach residents to go missing, and LAPD detective Jack Makowsky has begun to think it might be the work of a serial killer. Nice guy that he is-and smitten besides-he tries to hide that from Daisy, but he can't. By this time, Roy Gaines-smart, manipulative, hopelessly demented, a kind of minor-league Hannibal Lector-has entered the picture. Slowly, the shaken Daisy begins to understand what might have happened to her sister. What she has yet to comprehend is the secret she shares with a remorseless sociopath. Blanchard (The Breathtaker, 2003, etc.) is just a bit long-winded in two or three scenes, but his characters are exceptionally strong and his plotting issure-footed.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446528658
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 10/15/2007
  • Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 409,234
  • File size: 538 KB

Read an Excerpt

Life Sentences


By Alice Blanchard

Warner Books

Copyright © 2005 Alice Blanchard
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-446-61576-5


Chapter One

Daisy Hubbard headed down the hallway past the equipment room with its centrifuges and spectrophotometers and listened to the light, fast click of her own heels. The echoing stillness inside Berhoffer Medical School late at night was unlike any other stillness in the world. Over a century old, the Wessels building was an enormous creaking labyrinth of twisting corridors and submarine sounds-hissing radiators, gurgling water pipes, the constant hum of machinery. This was Professor Marlon Truett's lab, the top neurogenetics department in the country, and Daisy was one of its rising stars. She had worked her entire life to get here. Blind ambition had fueled her. She wasn't afraid to admit it, her career came before everything else-a husband and children, family obligations, her crazy sister.

Daisy could hear dissonant sounds coming from somewhere inside the lab and paused for a moment to listen. The cleaning crew had come and gone. According to the sign-in sheet, she was supposed to be alone in the lab tonight. She glanced at her watch. Half past midnight. Her best friend, Fiona Wu, was convinced that the lab was haunted, but Daisy didn't believe in ghosts. She wasn't a superstitious person. Now she moved a little further down the hallway, where she could hear it distinctly-a tinkling,musical sound. "Sugar, Sugar" by the Archies. What a relief. Somebody had left the radio on in the X-ray room, that was all. No ghosts.

Her hands trembled slightly as she dug around in her pockets for her keys. She unlocked the door to the Mouse Facility, switched on the lights and was hit by a familiar mixture of animal and chemical odors. The Mouse Facility was composed of two rooms-a larger "outer" room containing a chemotherapeutic workstation, an operating table and a refrigerator for specimens, and a smaller "inner" room which housed the mice. Professor Truett's lab of forty graduate students, postdocs and technical assistants worked as a team, their mission to isolate the specific genes that caused certain rare inherited brain disorders, some of the rarest in the world. Truett's shining achievement stood right in front of her now, the old DNA model on its rickety metal stand, a four-foot plastic double helix resembling a spiral staircase. He'd won a Nobel Prize for his work, and just looking at the model strengthened Daisy's resolve to work harder, to push beyond the boundaries and unlock the secrets of these fatal diseases.

High above the model on a dusty shelf were a dozen empty champagne bottles, the celebratory symbols of past accomplishments. Truett had a special bottle waiting just for her, a rare vintage: Cuvee Williams Duetz 1990. He believed in Daisy. He had the utmost faith in her, and she didn't want to disappoint him. She wanted to be the first person in the world to cure a neurodegenerative disorder using gene replacement therapy.

Pocketing her keys, she went over to the aluminum sink and started to wash up, then thought she heard a scratching sound. She turned the water off and stood listening for a moment. All she could hear was the radio in the distance. Shrugging it off, she grabbed a paper towel and wiped her hands. Taped to the wall above the sink was a list of screwups that had occurred in the lab so far this year, and Daisy was relieved to see that her name wasn't on it. Fiona had dropped the agarose gel; Archie had forgotten to switch on the hot lid for the PCR cycler; Carlson had tried to filter water through the "hydrophobic" filters, talk about humiliating. To the sides of the screwup sheet were colorful signs that served as unnecessary reminders: HUMANE IS THE WAY WE TREAT OUR VALUABLE GUESTS! and MICE SAVE LIVES! Of course Daisy treated her mice humanely. She loved her mice and gave them the kind of overweening attention that had made her the butt of Carlson's jokes. Daisy and her pwecious wittle babies ... She wuvs her meeses to pieces ...

There was a loud noise down the hall now-a thump or a bump-and she spun around and peered into the darkness beyond the door's single pane of smoky glass. Scientists weren't supposed to be afraid of the unknown, were they? She stood poised on the brink of panic, goose bumps breaking out on her arms.

"Daisy, Daisy ... give me your answer do ..."

Her body began to relax. "Truett?"

"I'm half crazy ..."

She ventured out into the hallway, where she could hear Professor Marlon Truett's mellifluous voice echoing throughout the corridor. She stepped into the X-ray room and turned off the radio, then checked the tissue culture room. "Truett?" She followed the sound of his voice all the way back to her workbench with its moody printer and terminally ill fax machine, black electrical cords slithering across the floor into multiple sockets. Three benches occupied this side of the lab, along with a shared sink. Daisy's workstation was wedged in between a large uninsulated window overlooking the parking lot and a broken autoclave. Truett stood in his rumpled gray suit and colorless tie in front of the autoclave, trying to lift it off its rusty platform. He was obviously drunk, just back from a scientific conference in New Mexico, and her heart fluttered delicately at the sight of him.

"What do you think you're doing?" she asked in a gently chiding tone.

"Oh, there you are." He dropped the autoclave back on its base and spun around with the grace of an aging Baryshnikov. "Why do we keep all this broken equipment around, Daisy? Seriously, what's the point?"

She listened with a vexed expression. Truett and his moods. There was a low hum in the air that never went away, and the night pressed black and starless against the windowpanes. From her second-story window, she could see down into the Boston cityscape below, where the streetlamps cast icy streaks of light across the patchwork asphalt. Earlier in the day, she'd discovered the stitchlike footprints of a mouse in a frail arc of snow on her windowsill. Field mice were distant kin to the genetically pure mice they bred inside the lab. "So how was the conference?" she asked him.

"Oh, terrific. Have you ever spent seventy-two hours with a bunch of mental midgets?" He waved his hand in disgust. "They keep asking the same old boring questions, Daisy. Everybody wants to talk about cloning, for God's sake. Nobody wants to discuss what's never been discussed before." In his mid-fifties, Marlon Truett had the silver hair and trademark glower of an academic legend. Whenever he walked into a room, there was no doubt in his mind who God was. He'd never been handsome in the classical sense, but now he was very distinguished-looking. He possessed both a monster ego and the kind of power that could be incredibly seductive. Truett could raise his students up to great intellectual heights, or else crush their hopes with a few carefully chosen words. He could ruin careers, but if you stood right next to him, some of the limelight might rub off on you.

"It was so damn hot down there," he complained, great furrows opening on his tall forehead. He moved a little too close, his powerful ego looming before her like a boulder about to tip over. "The air-conditioning wasn't working, we were all swimming in our own sweat, and Munson's giving one of his laborious speeches on science and God ... when all of a sudden, there's this raging debate going on about genetics and morality. And I'm the bad guy, because I want to cure the world's most incurable diseases. I'm being vilified in my own time, Daisy."

"I doubt that very much," she said.

He snatched her hand and focused sharply on her face. "God, you're drunk, Daisy." He giggled. "Shame on you."

Very gently, she reclaimed her hand. "Somebody needs a cup of coffee."

"Shh, keep your voice down! Mice are sleeping."

"C'mon," she said with her best schoolmistress air. "I'll make us a fresh pot and you can tell me all about it."

"Forget the damn coffee. Give me a kiss."

She held his gaze for a moment, then pretended this exchange hadn't happened. "Follow me, Professor."

"I'd follow you to the ends of the earth."

"There are no ends of the earth." She did her best to keep two paces ahead of him. Truett was married to another professor at the university, but it was an open secret that he cheated on his wife. Last year one of the department secretaries passed around a confidential letter from a woman whom the esteemed professor had met during one of his many scientific conferences. The woman had written, "I know I promised never to contact you, but I just had to let you know that last night will be with me forever. Your ideas are endlessly fascinating, and if we ever meet again ..."

It was a startling revelation, but then again, nothing Truett did shocked people anymore. He had the attitude of an adolescent boy, the body of an aging college athlete, an intimidating intellect and a southern drawl so deceptively down-home his competitors had a tendency to underestimate him. The odd thing was, Daisy couldn't hate him for his infidelity. She understood that this was no ordinary mortal. Truett was bigger than life and could get away with these things. She wondered if his wife felt the same way.

Now he followed her obediently into the lunchroom, where she switched on the fluorescent lights. Recoiling in mock horror, he said, "Oh God, let's get out of here before I lose the will to live." The harsh light illuminated every dingy corner, every aging appliance.

"Take a seat," she said.

He swayed in the doorway. "Some drunk I am."

"Should I call your wife?"

He winced. "No, don't do that."

"I'll make us a fresh pot."

"Don't do that, either."

She walked over to the calcified coffee machine and dug around in the cupboards for the filters while he took a cautious step inside.

"Daisy?"

She looked up.

"I'm afraid I've got bad news." He sounded serious. "We have to abandon the Dahlberg trials."

"What?" She dropped the filters on the floor.

"Turns out a private company already owns the patent."

Stupefied, she bent to pick up the filters.

"What's happened to the scientific community?" he said with a dramatic groan. "We used to be so generous with our research. We used to share our findings, Daisy, but not anymore. I remember the days when science was a calling, an actual calling. Now you can't ask for start-up funds without consulting the patent lawyers first."

"We still have Stier-Zellar's and Rostislav, don't we?"

He nodded. "Thank God."

She pulled out a chair for him. "Sit, Truett."

He sat down and cradled his chin in his hands, then watched her with solemn curiosity. "Do you know what I like the most about you, Daisy?" He paused before answering his own question. "You have no life."

She felt an angry flush crawl up her neck. "That's a rotten thing to say."

"Relax. It's what I like about you."

She poured them both a cup of coffee, then sat down next to him. The first time they ever met, five years ago, his angry eyes and wild gray hair had terrified her. Now he moved her in a deep, inexplicable way. He'd received a genius grant at the age of twenty-seven and, as the father of rare orphan brain disorders, was the medical school's most prominent prima donna. Daisy treated his words with the utmost respect. Still, she didn't like being alone in the lab with him late at night. He was complicated and demanding, and she wasn't sure where their working relationship ended and their personal relationship began.

"You haven't asked me about my trip yet," he said petulantly.

"I thought I did."

"Ah, but you didn't."

"So, Truett." She played along. "How was your trip?"

"Dismal. Met a colleague on the plane. Claude Bagget." He wrinkled his nose. "The thief."

"What did Claude do now?"

"Published that article on viral vector systems. Beat me to it, the bastard." He rolled his eyes. "He's got spies everywhere, you know."

Daisy laughed. "I doubt that very much, Truett."

"Oh, you do, do you?" He wagged a finger at her. "Oh, to suffer the slings and arrows of outraged colleagues ... I'm just a poor South Carolina farm boy, you know. A simple man at heart."

"Simple," she repeated with a skeptical nod. "Right."

"You don't believe me?"

"I've never met anyone more complicated."

He scowled down at his cooling cup of coffee, then reached into his jacket pocket and produced a silver flask. He took several swallows before offering her a taste. "Want some?"

"What is it?"

"Arsenic. Bottoms up."

"Since when do you carry around a flask?"

"I was born with a silver flask in my mouth." He shook it in her face. "Come on. Be a man."

She smiled reluctantly, then took the flask and tipped her head back, wincing as she swallowed something bitter and strong.

"For God's sake," he said with a delighted smile. "You look like you're twelve years old."

She enjoyed this mindless flattery. She was pleased that he'd singled her out. They had a unique relationship in the lab, a close student-mentor bond. He hyped her efforts, and she worked five times harder than anybody else.

"Your wife must be worried," she said now.

"Julia? She doesn't worry."

"Never?"

"Nah. She sleeps like a baby." He eyed her curiously. "What about you, Daisy? Do you sleep like a baby?"

"Ha." She tilted her head to drink again, feeling a warmth in her belly. "I'll sleep when I'm dead."

"Would you sleep with me?"

"You're an outrageous flirt, you know."

"Are you shocked?"

"Nothing you do shocks me anymore, Truett."

"Liar. I think you're deeply shocked."

"Right. I'm such a prude. I have no life, remember?"

His look was stern. "Such a waste."

She gave an involuntary shiver. She handed back the flask, and their fingers touched briefly. There was something raw and dangerous about his gaze, and she wanted him to stop. He was making her feel vaguely threatened. She edged his coffee cup closer and said, "Drink up."

With a mischievous grin, he put the flask away and took a sip of black coffee. "Mm. Terrible."

She smiled.

"Go home, foolish girl," he said softly. "Before I devour you alive."

"You've got a pretty high opinion of yourself, don't you?"

"Go home before I say something I'll regret." He fished his car keys out and promptly dropped them on the floor. "Ugh." He leaned over and reached for them but kept drunkenly missing.

"Truett," she said, "you're in no condition to drive."

He looked up.

"I'm taking you home."

With a heavy sigh, he staggered to his feet. "Your wish is my command."

As they drove across town, Truett breathed deeply beside her, looking old. She could feel butterflies in her stomach as she thought about the line he had crossed. Still, she could forgive him. He was drunk. He would probably have no memory of it tomorrow. The tree boughs sagged with snow on this blustery March night, and the moon had disappeared behind the clouds. The parking spaces in Boston were so hard to come by that people dragged old armchairs or cardboard boxes over to the curb in an effort to save their places, and a dusting of snow gave these items a ghostly glow.

"Daisy," he said, sliding her a look, "what are you thinking about?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing? You look so damn sad."

"I'm not sad."

"Your eyes have that faraway look."

"I'm not sad, Truett."

"Daisy ... you leave your unhappiness behind you like the wake of a canoe."

She didn't like where this was going. The streetlamps cast mutating shadows across the snowdrifts while the car's chains rattled over the slippery road. She swung into the circular driveway of Truett's expensive Colonial, her high beams illuminating the cat-poop-studded snow. Truett and Julia owned several cats, whereas Daisy didn't have any pets. She didn't own a goldfish or even a houseplant. It was true what he'd said about her-she had no life outside the lab. While the car idled in the driveway, he turned to her and said, "Look at you. Now, there's a whole lot of lovely in one place."

"Truett ..."

He raised her chin with his finger. "Pleasure and pain are this close right now. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

She shook her head.

He leaned forward and kissed her.

His kisses were sweet and sour. His lips were the lips of an older man, and for the first time in her life, Daisy felt sorry for him. He smelled of the lab, of his boring conference in New Mexico, of his hatred for Claude Bagget and his desperation for government money.

She drew back. "Good night, Truett."

He got out and slammed the door, then stumbled up the porch steps.

She didn't understand what had just happened. Her hands wouldn't stop shaking as she pulled out onto the road, where elusive shadows darted from her headlights' glare.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Life Sentences by Alice Blanchard Copyright © 2005 by Alice Blanchard. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2005

    I didn't want this book to end.

    LIFE SENTENCES really got under my skin. It¿s a suspense thriller involving two sisters whose lives have taken radically different paths. Daisy Hubbard is a professional on a fast-track and her little sister Anna has a history of mental illness and is spinning out of control. When her big sister tries to help, a fascinating mystery unfolds. The story is utterly compelling from first page to last. Blanchard is great at creating three-dimensional characters with tremendous heart. The story is loaded with atmosphere. The action is swift. The genetics research is beautifully handled. The ideas are fresh and interesting. All these elements are woven together so successfully that LIFE SENTENCES is an impressive tapestry. The great thing about Blanchard is that each one of her books takes a different kind of risk. Take the risk with LIFE SENTENCES--Blanchard¿s storytelling is masterful.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2005

    Life Sentences

    This was hard to put down. I bought it yesterday and just finished. It's a great book on several levels, not the least of which is character. The family dynamic between the three women rings hauntingly real and is the perfect backdrop for the story. Daisy is a strong character who gets swept up into her sister's drama despite herself. I loved the fish-out-of-water aspect with Daisy in Los Angeles. And this book has one of the creepiest serial killers I've ever read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A terrific medical thriller

    Boston based research neurogeneticist Daisy Hubbard is obsessed with her work on gene therapy for brain disorders because of family illnesses. Her brother died at six years old of Stier-Zellar's disease her mother has depression and her sister Anna suffers from schizophrenia.................... When her mom goes over the edge because Anna vanishes, Daisy thinks nothing of this because her sibling has disappeared before. However, mom makes a persuasive case that this time the vanishing act is different so reluctantly Daisy leaves her laboratory haven to travel to California. LAPD Detective Jack Makowski convinces Daisy to help him with her sibling¿s missing person¿s case that includes other females that seem linked to a serial killer. Starting with visiting Anna¿s friends in De Campo Beach, last known place that she apparently was before falling off the map, the duo investigates unaware that the culprit is taking genetic engineering to the extreme by eradicating those with specific diseases.................. LIFE SENTENCES is a terrific medical thriller that provides readers with a deep look at the full impact on families by degenerative diseases to include members without any illnesses as there is a psychological impact as well as physical and financial factors. The exhilarating story line is action-packed yet insures the two key players, Daisy and the killer come across as similar yet opposites. Anyone who reads Alice Blanchard¿s strong tale will wonder why we bushwhack stem cell research.................... Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2012

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    Car

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2005

    Blanchard's best book so far

    I loved this. The mix of DNA science and psychological thrills really worked. I also loved Darkness Peering and The Breathtaker, but Life Sentences is such an emotionally charged book. Great characters. Highly recommended for the intelligent reader.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2005

    Well done mystery thriller

    This is a good read. I enjoyed Blanchard's other books and this one was great. Good solid story that kept my attention. She uses interesting ideas to describe the surroundings in her books. These ideas catch your attention in a unique and creative way.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2005

    Life Sentences

    This was one of those pleasant surprises you get once in a blue moon. I enjoyed Blanchard's last book, the Breathtaker enough to take a chance on this one as a hardcover and I highly recommend it to anybody looking for a serious, but seriously fun summer read. Daisy is a genetics scientist trying to cure the disease that killed her brother years earlier and left her family in something of a shambles. Her mother turns to her when Daisy's sister gets into trouble, a common occurence over the years. Only this time, she's missing and Daisy has to drop everything to fly to Los Angeles and help Detective Mokowski find her. This involves working with a twisted killer - the last man known to have seen Daisy's sister. Without giving away too much of the plot, he proceeds to engage in a sick, twisted game, bringing Daisy to the breaking point before the stuff really hits the fan. I was also hugely impressed by Blanchard's attention to detail and research. Usually an author who can spin a good yarn falls way short in the research department. But in this case, Blanchard does it all. She clearly did her homework and wove it all together into one tremendously engaging novel. I enjoyed the Breathtaker, too, but this one is a cut above.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2011

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