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The Mercedes Coffin (Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus Series #17)
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The Mercedes Coffin (Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus Series #17)

3.8 36
by Faye Kellerman

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Billionaire genius Genoa Greeves never got over the shocking death of her favorite teacher, Bennett "Dr. Ben" Alston Little, murdered execution-style and stuffed into the trunk of his Mercedes-Benz. No arrests were ever made, no killer charged for the brutal crime. Fifteen years later, the high-tech CEO reads about another execution-style murder; this time the


Billionaire genius Genoa Greeves never got over the shocking death of her favorite teacher, Bennett "Dr. Ben" Alston Little, murdered execution-style and stuffed into the trunk of his Mercedes-Benz. No arrests were ever made, no killer charged for the brutal crime. Fifteen years later, the high-tech CEO reads about another execution-style murder; this time the victim is a Hollywood music producer named Primo Ekerling. There is no obvious connection, but the case is eerily similar to Little's and Genoa feels the time is right to close Dr. Ben's case once and for all—offering the L.A.P.D. a substantial financial "incentive" if justice is finally served for Little.

Lieutenant Peter Decker resents having to commit valuable manpower to a fifteen-year-old open case simply because a rich woman says "Jump!" Still, the recent murder of Primo Ekerling does bear a disturbing resemblance to Little's case, even though two thug suspects are currently behind bars for the Ekerling murder. Decker can't help but wonder about a connection. His first phone calls are to the two primary investigators in the Little case, retired detectives Calvin Vitton and Arnie Lamar. Lamar is cooperative, but Vitton is not only reluctant to talk, he winds up dead of a suspicious suicide twelve hours later. Plunging into this long-buried murder, Decker discovers that even though the two slayings are separated by a decade and a half, there is still plenty of greed, lust, and evil to connect the dots.

Decker's team of top investigators not only includes his favorite homicide detectives, Scott Oliver and Marge Dunn, but also his newly minted Hollywood detective daughter, Cindy Kutiel, whose helpproves to be invaluable. His wife, Rina Lazarus, continues to be his backbone of support, offering a cool, rational outlook despite her growing concern for her husband's welfare and safety. Rina's worries and fears begin to build at a fevered pitch as past and present collide with a vengeance, catapulting an unsuspecting Peter Decker closer and closer to the edge of an infinite dark abyss.

A relentlessly gripping tale spun by a master, Faye Kellerman's The Mercedes Coffin races through a dangerous urban world of fleeting fame and false dreams, making heart-pumping hairpin turns at each step of a terrifying journey, where truth and justice are fine lines between life and death.

Editorial Reviews

Richard Lipez
The Dutch have a good word, gezellig (pronounced geh-ZELL-ig, with a phlegmy "g" on either end), that means cozy, familiar, congenial, memorable. That's Kellerman…You don't go to Kellerman for originality in style or plotting; in fact, this book reminded me of my Aunt Rae's tasty beef brisket. Aunt Rae confessed to me with a laugh in her 98th year that she prepared her popular brisket with packaged onion soup, and that in no way lessened the pleasure.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

In bestseller Kellerman's uneven 17th novel to feature LAPD Lt. Peter Decker and wife Rina Lazarus (after 2007's The Burnt House), Decker must solve a 15-year-old cold case-the murder of saintly Bennett Little, a high school history teacher whose bound body the police found, with three shots in the back of his head, in the trunk of Little's Mercedes. When unscrupulous music producer Primo Ekerling turns up dead in the trunk of his Mercedes, Genoa Greeves, a wealthy computer mogul with fond memories of Little as a teacher, offers the LAPD a seven-figure charitable donation to reopen the case. Early in the reinvestigation, Decker is brought up short when one of the original cops on the case "eats his gun" just before a scheduled appointment with the lieutenant. Finding a link between Little and Eckerling won't prove easy. Fans may enjoy the interplay among Decker, Rina and their children, but newcomers would be advised to start with an earlier entry in this popular crime series. (Aug.)

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

In the 17th Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus mystery from New York Times best-selling author Kellerman, the LAPD reopens a murder case that's been cold for 18 years when it looks like a new killing might be related. George Guidall (who also reads Robin Cook's Foreign Body, p. 38) masterfully adjusts his voice and accent to help listeners differentiate among the many characters. Though not as straightforward as some of Kellerman's other audio titles-the unraveling of the plot on the last two discs is especially difficult to follow-this is recommended for public libraries whose patrons are fans of the author as well as for those wanting to complete their Kellerman collections. [Audio clip available through www.harperaudio.com.-Ed.]
—Ilka Gordon

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus Series , #17
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt


Copyright © 2008
Faye Kellerman
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-06-122733-2

Chapter One TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO, they were called nerds.

Today, they're called billionaires.

Even among outcasts, Genoa Greeves suffered more than most. Saddled with a weird name-her parents' love for Italy produced two other children, Pisa and Roma-and a gawky frame, Genoa spent her adolescence in retreat. She talked if spoken to, but that was the extent of her social interaction. Her teenage years were spent in a self-imposed exile. Even the oddest of girls would have nothing to do with her, and the boys acted as if she'd been stricken by the plague. She remained an island to herself: utterly alone.

Her parents had been concerned about her isolation. They has taken her through an endless parade of shrinks who offered multiple diagnoses: depression, anxiety disorder, Asperger's syndrome, autism, schizoid personality disorder, all of the above in comorbidity. Medication was prescribed: Psychotherapy was five days a week. The shrinks said the rights things, but they couldn't change the school situation. No amount of ego bolstering or self-esteem-enhancing exercises could possibly counteract the cruelty of being so profoundly different. When she was sixteen, she fell into a deep depression. Medication began to fail. It was Genoa's firm opinion that she would have been institutionalized had it not been for two entirely unrelatedincidents.

As a woman, Genoa had definitely been born without feminine wiles, or any attributes that made girls desirable sexual beings. But if she wasn't born with the right female qualities, at least Genoa did have the extremely good fortune to be born at the right time.

That is, the computer age.

high tech and the personal computer proved to be Genoa's manna from heaven: chips and motherboards were her only friends. When she spoke to a computer-mainframes at first and then the omnipresent desktops that followed-she found at last that she and an inanimate object were communicating in a language that only the blessed few could readily understand. Technology beckoned, and she answered the summons like a siren's call. Her mind, the primary organ of her initial betrayal, became her most welcome asset.

As for her body, well, in Silicon Valley, who cared about that? The world that Genoa eventually inhabited was one of ingenuity and ideas, of bytes and megabytes and brilliance. Bodies were merely skeletons to support that great thinking machine above the neck.

But even growing up at the cutting edge of the computer age wasn't a guaranteed passport to success. Achievement was surely destined to elude Genoa had it not been for one individual-other than her parents-who believed in her.

Dr. Ben-Bennett Alston Little-was the coolest teacher in high school. His specialty was history with a strong emphasis on political science, but he had been so much more than just an educator, a guidance counselor and the boys' vice principal. Handsome, tall, and athletic, he had made the girls swoon and had garnered the boys' respect by being tough but fair. He knew everything about everything and had been universally loved by the twenty-five hundred high school students he had served. All that was good and fine, but virtually meaningless to Genoa until that fateful day when she passed him in the hallway.

He had smiled at her and said, "Hi, Genoa, how's it going?"

She had been so stunned she hadn't answered, running away, her face burning as she thought, Why would Dr. Ben know my name?

The second time she passed him, she still didn't answer back when he asked "how's it going?" but at least she didn't exactly run away. It was more like a fast step that converted into a trot one he was safely down the hall.

The third time, she looked down and mumbled something.

By the sixth time, she managed to mumble a "hi" back, although she still couldn't make eye contact without her cheeks turning bright red.

Their first, last, and only actual face-to-face conversation happened when she was a junior. Genoa had been called into his office. She had been so nervous that she felt her bladder leaking into her cotton underwear. She wore thick baggy jeans and a sweatshirt, and her frizzy hair had been pulled back into a thick, unwieldy ponytail.

"Sit down, Genoa," he told her. "How are you doing today?"

She couldn't answer. He looked serious, and she was too anxiety ridden to ask what she did wrong.

"I just wanted to tell you that we got your scores back from the PSAT."

She managed a nod, and he said, "I'm sure by now that you know that you're a phenomenal student. I'm thrilled to report that you got the highest score in the school. You got the highest score, period. A perfect 1600."

She was still too frightened to talk. Her heart was pumping out of her chest, and her face felt as if it had been burned by a thousand heat lamps. Sweat was pouring off her forehead, dripping down her nose. She quickly wiped away the drops and hoped he didn't notice. But of course, he probably did.

"Do you know how unusual that is?" Little went on.

Genoa knew it was unusual. She was painfully aware of how unusual she was.

"I just called you in today because I wanted to say congratulations in person. I expect big things from you, young lady."

Genoa had a vague recollection of muttering a thank-you.

Dr. Ben had smiled at her. It had been a big smile with big white teeth. He raked back his sandy blond hair and tried to make eye contact with her, his eyes so perfectly blue that she couldn't look at them without being breathless. He said, "People are all different, Genoa. Some are short, some are tall, some are musical, some are artistic, and the rarefied few like you are endowed with incredible brainpower. That head of yours is going to carry you though life, young lady. It's like the old tortoise and the hare story. You're going to get there, Genoa. You're going to get there, and I firmly believe you're going to surpass all your classmates because you have the one organ that can't be fixed by plastic surgery."

No comment. His words fell into dead air.

Little said, "You're going to get there, Genoa. You just have to wait for the world to catch up to you."

Dr. Ben stood up.

"Congratulations again. We at North Valley High are all very proud of you. You can tell your parents, but please keep it quiet until the official scores are mailed."

Genoa stood and nodded.

Little smiled again. "You can go now."

TEN YEARS LATER, from her cushy office on the fourteenth floor looking over Silicon Valley, about to take her morning hot cocoa, Genoa Greeves opened the San Jose Mercury News and read about Dr. Ben's horrific, execution-style homicide. If she would have been capable of crying, she would have done so. His words, the only encouraging words she had received in high school, rang through her brain.

She followed the story closely.

The articles that followed emphasized that Bennett Alston Little didn't appear to have an enemy in the world. Progress on the case, slow even in the beginning, seemed to grind to a halt six months later. There were a few "persons of interest"-it should have been "people of interest," Genoa thought-but nothing significant ever advanced the case toward conclusion. The homicide went from being a front-page story to obscurity, the single exception a note on the anniversary of the homicide. After that, the files became an ice-cold case sitting somewhere within the monolith of what was called LAPD storage.

Fifteen years came and went. And then, quite by happenstance, Genoa picked up a copy of the Los Angeles Times and read about a homicide with overtones of Dr. Ben's murder. When she saw the article, she was sitting in the president's chair, located in the CEO's office of Timespace, which was housed on the fifteen through the twentieth stories of the Greeves Building in Cupertino. But unlike Dr. Ben's murder, suspects had been arrested for this carjacking.

She wondered ...

Then she picked up the phone and called up LAPD. It took a while to get through to the right person, but when she did, she knew she was talking to someone with authority. Though Genoa didn't demand that the Little case be reopened, her intent was crystal. It was true that she had money to hire a battalion of private detectives to investigate the murder herself, but she didn't want to step on anyone's toes-and why should she shell out money when she paid an exorbitant amount of California state taxes? Surely the cash that she would have had to expend in private investigations could be put to better use in LAPD, aiding the homicide detectives in their investigation.

Lots of money, in fact, should the department decide to reopen the Ben Little homicide and actually solve it.

The inspector listened to her plaints, sounding appropriately eager and maybe just a tad sycophantic.

Genoa wanted to reopen the case to do right by Bennett Alston Little.

Genoa wanted to reopen the case because the more recent homicide brought to mind the Little case and she though about a connection.

Genoa wanted to reopen the case to bring a murderer to justice.

Genoa wanted to reopen the case to bring peace and solace to all of the victims' friends and families.

Genoa wanted to reopen the case because at this stage in her life, and sitting on 1.3 billion dollars, she could do whatever the hell she pleased.

Chapter Two THE CONVERSATION WENT like this: "The case is fifteen years old,' I say. Then Mackinerny responds, 'Strapp, I don't give a solitary fuck if it's from the Jurassic era; there's a seven-figure endowment riding on this solve, and you're going to make it happen'. I respond, 'Not a problem, sir'."

"Good comeback."

"I thought so."

Lieutenant Peter Decker regarded Strapp, who within the last ten minutes seemed to have gained a few more wrinkles from frowning. He was turning sixty this year, but still had the bull frame of a weight lifter. The man had a steel-trap mind and a matching metallic personality. "I'll do what I can, Captain."

"That's the idea, Lieutenant. You'll do what you can. I want you to handle this personally, Decker, not pass it off to someone in Homicide."

"My homicide squad is more up to date on the latest techniques and forensics. They'd probably do a better job since most of my time is spent doing psychotherapy and scheduling vacations."

"Horseshit!" Strapp rubbed his eyes. "Last summer you spent way more time in the field than in your office, judging from the amount of overtime you racked up flying Southwest to San Jose and to Santa Fe. Surely you got a couple of free trips out of that."

"We cleared two homicides."

"One of which was twenty-five years old, so this one should be a snap. We've got a hell of lot riding on this solve."

A potential seven-figure gift could lift LAPD into state of the art. Equipping the department with the newest in forensic machinery could potentially put more felons behind bars. Still, Decker has found that in the end, it was always the human factor: men and women sweating hours on end to extract confessions, noticing a detail that was overlooked, doing just one more interview.

Not that technology didn't have its place. And with a big endowment ...

Money talks, etc.

"What prompted the call?" Decker asked Strapp.

"She read about the Primo Ekerling carjacking in Hollywood and it reminded her of the unfinished business with the Little case."

"Doesn't Hollywood have a few cholos in custody for that one?"

"It does, but that's not the point. The parallels were similar enough to strike a chord in her very wealthy mind."

"What's her connection to Little other than the fact that he was her guidance counselor?"

"I think it's as simple as that. She told Mackinerny that Little was they only one who had been kind to her during her awkward years, and now she has enough money to get people to jump," Strapp said. "We were both in Foothill when the Little murder happened. From what I remember, he was a good guy."

Decker hadn't followed the details closely. He did recall that the case had occupied space in the local newspapers. "How soon do you want me on this?"

"How does yesterday sound, Lieutenant? Top priority. Got it?"

"Got it, and over and out."

* * *

THOUGHT HE COULDN'T delegate the thinking, Decker could certainly dole out the grunt work. He assigned one of the newest detectives the necessary but excruciatingly frustrating task of driving from the West Valley to downtown to pick up the Little file. In morning rush-hour traffic that was a heavy one- to tow-hour commute, depending on the amount of Sigalerts on L.A.'s arteries. In the meantime, Decker went over his current assignments, clearing most of his paperwork to devote his attention to the Little case.

The department had detectives who worked cold cases routinely, and why they didn't pick this one up was anyone's guess. Decker suspected that if West Valley got the solve, a substantial slab of the coveted cash would be directed to Strapp. Also, it was logical that the local detectives might have better luck concluding a case that happened in their own backyard.

By the time Decker could actually turn his attention to the sic boxes that had been checked out from storage, it was after six in the evening. Too many miscreants had occupied the day, and if he was to get anywhere, he needed solitude to read and think. He decided to work from his home office, and though it wasn't proper procedure to carry out official material, it happened all the time.

The drive to his house took less than fifteen minutes, down Devonshire Boulevard to his ranch-style wood-sided house. Decker's property was over a third of an acre, not nearly as big as the ranch he had owned when the Little case broke through to the media, but the space was large enough for him to spread out his workbench on a lovely spring day and play with his tools. The grounds had become a feast for the eyes since Rina had taken up gardening about two years ago. She had turned what had been a boring sheet of green lawn into lush gardens with riotous colors. Last spring, it had made the L.A. Garden list of places to visit. One entire Sunday had been taken up by troupes of gardening aficionados traipsing through his property oohing and aahing and congratulating Rina on a job well done.

Upon arriving home, Decker could smell garlic coming from the kitchen. His wife's cooking skills even surpassed her eminent prowess as a landscaper. Balancing three of the boxes while fiddling with the front door key, he managed to make an entrance, place the boxes on his dining room table, and not fall on his ass. It was a good sign.

Rina emerged from the kitchen, her hair maddeningly black without a hint of gray even though the woman was in her forties. Her lack of aging never ceased to painfully remind Decker that the was in his fifties and had a head streaked with silver. The follicles that retained the most of Decker's original carrot red coloring were embedded in his mustache. The facial hair was maybe a bit out of style, but Rina claimed it made him look very masculine and handsome, and she was the only one he was still trying to impress.

Rina wiped her hands on as dish towel. She pointed to the boxes. "What's all that about?"

"I got saddled with another cold case, only this one needs a quick solve."

"See what happens when you're too successful?"

Decker smiled. "Aren't you my good friend. What smells so good?"

"Chicken cacciatore over pasta. I've loaded it with garlic trying to stave off the current flu bug. My plan is to make it uncomfortable for anyone to get too close to us. But we'll be okay with each other because we'll both eat the same entrée,"

"What about our progeny? Will she be able to some close?"

"Hannah is irrelevant since I basically haven't seen her in three days-the consequence of a driver's license. She's at Lilly's studying for a chemistry test."

Decker brightened. "So we're all alone?"

"Yes. How about if you clear off the table and I'll open the wine. I've picked out a Sangiovese that I found on KosherWine.come."

"Sounds wonderful but just a single glass for me, darlin'. I've got to work."

"Hence the boxes."

"There are still three more in the car."


Copyright © 2008 by Faye Kellerman . 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.

Meet the Author

Faye Kellerman lives with her husband, New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Kellerman, in Los Angeles, California, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Brief Biography

Beverly Hills, California
Date of Birth:
July 31, 1952
Place of Birth:
St. Louis, Missouri
B.A. in Mathematics, 1974; D.D.A., 1978

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Mercedes Coffin 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
Nose_In_A_Book_Grandma More than 1 year ago
Peter Decker gets a nudge from his boss to solve a cold case involving the execution style killing of a much loved school counselor, Dr. Ben who was stuffed in the trunk of a Mercedes. Meanwhile a former geek student that Dr. Ben encouraged while in high school has made it big. After reading about a similar slaying, she decides to see if the original case could be related and solved. She will give the financially strapped LAPD a 7 figure financial incentive to solve Dr. Ben's case, Decker who has enough to do, assigns most of the work to associates, Scott and Marge. Who had motive to kill this great guy who seemingly had not an enemy in the world is a real challenge for the detectives. He does get some help from his daughter Cindy who is also in police work. This, like all of Faye Kellerman's books is a tight, page turning read. If you like crime stories, you're going to love Faye Kellerman. She has written some twenty plus books, many of the Decker Lazarus series, and I recommend that you start with her first the Ritual Bath and read all of them.
pisces317 More than 1 year ago
This the first Faye Kellerman book I have read and I was very disappointed. The begining of the plot was very interesting. However, there are so many characters introduced that it is hard to keep track of them. Much of the book is devoted to the detectives discussing different motives and scenarios. Soon all of the conversation starts to sound the same. I pushed through hoping the end would justify the initial time spent. It turns out the ending was the worst part. It seemed as though the author got bored and just decided to wrap it up with out tying in many of the details. In fact, I would say that the ending was just plain lazy. Many people have written that Faye Kellerman is a great writer even though this wasn't her best work. I'll probably give her another chance but it will be awhile before I can shake the "time wasted" feeling that this book gave me.
tj3720 More than 1 year ago
This was my first time reading a book by this author. I'm going to read another book by this author even though this book was very diffucult to follow. I like the concept , however there were so many characters i kept finding myself going backwards in the book to keep it all together. the plot was creative but way too complicated. I am a fan of book series and repeat characters, im sure other books in this series will be great as Idid enjoy the main cast of characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I always love the Faye Kellerman stories with Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus! I can't say I have been disappointed in her stories!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Billionaire Genoa Greeves believes that the LAPD should solve the fifteen year old excution style murder of her favorite teacher Bennett Little-especialy now that Hollywood music producer Primo Ekerling has been slain in an eerily similar manner:shot and stuffed in the trunk of his Mercedes-Benz Lieutenant Peter Decker resents having to commit valuable manpower to a cold case simply because a rich women says "jump!" But when a primary investigator in the Little case, now retired, suspiciously commits sucide hours after he and Decker talk, the dective realizes something evil's connecting the dots in two murders separated by a decade and a half. Wife Rina Lazarus offers a cool, rational outlook, as always, despite her growing concern for her husbands welfare- as past and present collide with a vengence, catapulting Decker ever closer to the edge of an infinate dark abyss
BCRedhead More than 1 year ago
Each book is a entity unto itself--no two are alike. I love that!!! I will be purchasing more of her books.
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Starling3 More than 1 year ago
The Decker/Lazarus mysteries never disappoint. Kellerman keeps the plot moving forward at a fast pace. I was disappointed that this book, as did the previous, left out many details of Decker's family life. Rina is spending too much time in the kitchen and not enough helping her husband! Look out for an appearance of a villian who continues to haunt the Deckers - - I am looking forward to seeing if he resurfaces in a future adventure. Fans of the series won't be disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago