Murder in Hell's Kitchen

Murder in Hell's Kitchen

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by Lee Harris

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After twenty years of loyal service, Detective Jane Bauer is just two months and one case away from leaving the NYPD for a cushy desk job. Her last assignment: working for a special unit that tackles unsolved crimes. At a crossroads in her personal life, Jane relishes the chance to lose herself in a challenging investigation.

Four years ago, Arlen Quill was


After twenty years of loyal service, Detective Jane Bauer is just two months and one case away from leaving the NYPD for a cushy desk job. Her last assignment: working for a special unit that tackles unsolved crimes. At a crossroads in her personal life, Jane relishes the chance to lose herself in a challenging investigation.

Four years ago, Arlen Quill was found dead in the entryway to his apartment building—leaving no clues, no witnesses, and no leads. When Jane decides to interview Quill’s old neighbors, she makes a startling discovery: Every single occupant at the time of the murder subsequently disappeared. Like any seasoned New Yorker, Jane knows that mere homicide isn’t enough to drive people from their rent-controlled apartments. In Hell’s Kitchen, where a cold case suddenly heats up—Jane soon finds herself face-to-face with a killer. . . .

From the Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Lee Harris, author of the beloved Christine Bennett holiday mystery series, gives us a new detective and a grittier neighborhood in Murder in Hell’s Kitchen, but her storytelling skill remains top quality.”

“Lee Harris heads off in an exciting new direction with Murder in Hell’s Kitchen—a page-turner of a police procedural, in which a cold case turns hot and the suspense builds and builds. Detective Jane Bauer is a most welcome addition to the ranks of fictional cops.”

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Random House Publishing Group
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Manhattan Mystery Series
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Read an Excerpt

For seven days the picture had haunted front pages and small screens. In the overcast haze of a fall afternoon in downtown New York was the eerie image of the wheelchair with its small, lifeless occupant alone on the grass. The photograph had become the symbol of the dangers of a city so preoccupied with its own needs and wants that it ignored or overlooked a killing in its midst, that it passed alongside death and never stopped to look even once.

The City Hall Park Murder, as it came to be called, had promised to be the case of a lifetime, the capping of a career, the most fitting of departures. But that was a week ago. Today Jane Bauer's life was upside down and she hadn't thought of the little figure in the wheelchair for at least eight hours. She looked at her watch once again.

"We'll get there," Det. Martin Hoagland said.

"I know. I just can't help looking."

He was traveling north on Riverside Drive to avoid the problems on the Henry Hudson Parkway, which ran just west of the drive along the river of the same name. At red lights, he edged forward, then shot across. They drove along the western end of the Twenty-sixth Precinct, the Two-Six, her first assignment out of the Academy. Almost twenty years had passed since she had put on her blues, "the bag" as most cops called it, for the first time and reported there in the center of Harlem. Before graduation, still wearing her cadet grays, she rode for a week as the third person in a radio motor patrol car in the Two-Six so that the sergeant in the car could assess her ability to handle "jobs." He had been impressed and she had gotten the assignment at the Two-Six on graduation. Her father had beamed with pride; her mother had barely accepted it with tight-lipped apprehension.

They passed the street where she had seen her first dead body in a fifth-floor walk-up during a twelve-by-eight, a midnight-to-eight a.m. shift, early in her career when she was given the crap details. Just stay with it, kid, the veteran cop on the scene had said as she tried to control her trembling and her queasy stomach. Don't leave till the body's picked up, the area secured, and all the paperwork's done. If the smell gets too bad in here, just light a cigar. Then he laughed and wished her a nice tour.

Looking out the window Jane thought that she could relive her entire career by driving the streets of Manhattan. Who would have thought nostalgia was so easy to come by?

"I'll pull into Emergency and wait for you there," Marty's voice said, piercing her recollections. They were long past the Two-Six now.

"You don't have to wait, Marty. I can take the subway back."

"I'll wait for you."

It was the kind of firm reassurance that tended to settle stomachs in times of less distress. Not much would work this afternoon.

She thanked him in her head, her apprehension growing as they approached Columbia Presbyterian, the huge hospital complex just south of the George Washington Bridge overlooking the Hudson River and, on the other side, New Jersey. Marty turned and turned again, pulling in close to the Emergency entrance.

"Go," he said as the car came to a jerky stop in front of the door at the covered dock, now almost empty of ambulances.

She went.

Her heart was pounding as she made her way through the sick and the bored to the woman with the records. "John Bauer. I'm his daughter."

"Yes, Ms. Bauer. Your dad's been admitted. You can go up to see him." She wrote the room number and floor for her on a slip of paper and gave brief but good directions.

Jane ran. Arrows on floors and walls directed her around corners and down halls to the elevators and past frequently visited units. A rainbow of color coding indicated one specialty after another. The elevator took forever to arrive. Then it stopped on every floor. Then she ran again.

Her gun was in her large shoulder bag, which she held tightly to her side as she looked at room numbers. Two more. She slowed, trying to calm herself, not wanting her anxiety to become his.

The door was open and she walked in. A curtained bed stood near the window, and her father, a little pale, rested in the nearer bed.

"Janey," he said, seeing her, his face lighting up. "You didn't have to come, honey. I'm just fine."

"You look pretty good," she said grudgingly, edging up to the bed.

"I'm just fine. I'll be outta here tomorrow."

"What happened? You forget to take your medicine?"

"Nah. I took it just like you set it up for me, one of these, one of those, one of the other."

"Then what happened?"

"They gave me too much is what happened. They overmedicated me," he said, articulating the word carefully. "Doc'll come by; you'll talk to him."

She sat down hesitantly. "You were taking too much?"

"That's what he said. Gave me palpitations. Made me dizzy. Got my stomach all upset. I thought I ought to come in and they decided to keep me overnight. It's nothing, Janey. Believe me."

She started breathing again. "You look pretty good."

"Better'n you look." He laughed. "Like you've seen a ghost. You shouldn'ta come all this way. I'm fine. Really."

"Who's your doctor?"

"Swinson, Swenson, something like that."

"Mind if I go find him?"

"Be my guest. Look at you. You look like you're the one needs a night in the hospital."

She felt like it. She went down to the nurses' station and asked for the doctor. He was there, writing on a clipboard.

"I'm John Bauer's daughter."

"Glad to meet you. Dr. Swenson." He offered a slim, pale hand. "Good thing he came in when he did. We're cutting down his medication. That should do the trick. You're the police officer?"

"I guess he talked about me."

"Didn't talk about anything else. He's fine, Miss Bauer. Officer. Once we get the medication straight, he'll be fine."

"He said he was taking just what he was told to take." She wanted to hear him say it, that they had made a mistake, that it wasn't her father's fault, that they had put her father's life in jeopardy by prescribing the wrong amount of drugs.

"He probably was." The doctor looked at her directly. He was a thin, bony man with pale gray eyes behind large thick glasses. "Sometimes the medication needs a little fine-tuning. This should do the trick."

"Thank you." She went back down the hall to her father's room.

"You get the whole story?" he said. He seemed in a good mood, just missing his usual robust color.

"Confirmed every word you told me. I'll come by in the morning and pick you up."

"Don't bother, Janey. Madeleine'll come for me. She's got nothin' better to do. You go to work. You got a big case to work on."

She considered letting it go by. He had been so excited when she was picked for the City Hall Park Murder team. She could tell him another time but he was sharp; he would pick up on the delay and be hurt that she hadn't taken him into her confidence. "I'm off the case, Dad."

He stared at her, shaking his head as if to push away spiderwebs that had clouded the transmission. "What's that you said?"

"They took me off the case. I just got the word yesterday. A telephone call and I'm on a thirty-day assignment as of this morning. I'm on a steal with a new task force."

The phrase captured his attention, his eyes widening. "What kinda task force?"

"The mayor wants to clean up old unsolved homicides. We got a lot of briefings today. Tomorrow I'll get to look at a file."

"That's terrible, Janey. It's a waste. They need you on that City Hall case. Who cares about an old murder that happened in the Dark Ages? Some cases are so old they got whiskers, for cryin' out loud."

"Too many unsolved homicides, Dad. Someone's got to give them another look. Get the averages up."

"They know you're pullin' the pin?" He loved cop lingo.


"You shouldn'ta said anything. You should've kept it to yourself. You'd still be on the case."

He was probably right. "Don't worry about it. Just rest; get a good night's sleep. Marty's downstairs waiting to drive me home."

"Thanks for comin', honey."

She smiled, then bent and kissed his stubbled cheek. He hadn't felt well enough to shave this morning. "I'll call you tomorrow. Take care of yourself."

"You too, darlin'."

She had Marty drop her off at the new apartment. It was closer to where he was going anyway, and she felt like seeing it again. She had taken possession only two days ago and had the key with her. It was down in the West Village, south of Fourteenth Street, not far from Abingdon Square. The building was old, what was still called "prewar" more than half a century after that war had ended, with beautiful floors that would be scraped and refinished before she moved in at the end of the month, thick walls that kept sounds within them, fine details in the moldings, and, her greatest joy, a working wood-burning fireplace.

As she got out of his car, she thanked Marty again. It wasn't so much that she entrusted her life to him; it was a long time since either of them had drawn a weapon. It was that when the ordinary miseries of life exploded, he was there. That was what partners were all about.

She turned the key, pushed open the heavy door, and went inside. There was an echo of emptiness as she walked, the smell of fresh paint. It was clean, had just needed the paint and the work on the floor. The kitchen had been updated recently and the appliances were nearly new and actually filled the space as though designed for it. All four burners of the gas stove worked. That would give her a third more firepower than she had in the old place. When she got some money together, she would change the floor, maybe put in some fancy tiles with a little color. She was almost forty-one. It was time to live like a grown-up.

There were two bedrooms, the smaller one perfect for an office or a den or a guest room. Dad would enjoy staying over, helping her hang curtains and pictures. She walked over to the windows, moved them up and down, then locked them.

The master bedroom was exceptionally large, with a closet she would have trouble filling. The apartment was expensive but worth it. The new job would pay just enough more than this one paid to cover what it would cost. It was the kind of job she had occasionally dreamed about, an office of her own with a door that closed, a full-time assistant, an hour every day for lunch, not when you found a minute to stuff a sandwich or a piece of cold pizza in your mouth. That elusive quality called dignity.

She stepped into the bathroom. This was where you sensed the age of the apartment. The floor was a mass of white hexagonal tiles, the door on the medicine chest painted over so many times that it no longer closed. She wrote notes on a pad to leave for the workmen. The mirror was slightly wavy, making her look as though she had just stepped through the glass and hadn't completely re-formed on the other side. She smiled and her mouth smiled back in two sections. Time to go home.

From the Paperback edition.

Meet the Author

Lee Harris is the author of the popular mystery novels featuring ex-nun Christine Bennett. In 2001, Lee Harris received the Romantic Times magazine Career Achievement Award for her distinguished contribution to crime writing. Murder in Hell’s Kitchen is the first mystery starring Jane Bauer.

Lee Harris’s e-mail address is She also has a Web site which she shares with three other mystery authors. It can be found at

From the Paperback edition.

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Murder in Hell's Kitchen 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Detective Jane Bauer is pulled of what she believes to be the case of her career to work with a special unit tackling unsolved crimes. She is planning to leave the NYPD soon for a desk job with an insurance company. Her new partners are Gordon Defino and Sean MacHovec. It is soon evident that MacHovec prefers to stay in and work the phones. Defino and Jane do the legwork. They were to re-investigate the death of Arlen Quill. Quill had been found stabbed to death in the entry of his apartment building. When they begin investigating, they find that everyone has moved from the apartment building. Considering that it is a rent-controlled building, this alone is suspicious. Then they find out that there were other deaths that in and of themselves were not suspicious but when you put them all together, they were. On top of all this, Jane is going through some changes in her life. Recently she split up with Hack. He's married and his daughter was getting suspicious. And she's moving into a new apartment. Then the letter arrives and complicates her life even more. She ends up going to Omaha to try to find one of the former tenants who might have much needed information. From that trip, she is concerned that she was followed. The case takes on a different tempo. She ends up putting herself in danger in her attempts to solve it. I really like Jane. She is a complex character but yet she is human. New York is always a great setting for a mystery with a detective for the protagonist. The plot takes many twists and turns before everything is discovered. It is very well written. I have always enjoyed Lee Harris' other series starring ex-nun Christine Bennett. The two series are very different and I think that is a good thing. I highly recommend this new series and cannot wait for the next book to be published.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While I liked this well enough, it did not grab me like the Christine Bennett series does. It seemed to move very slowly (I also didn't like the fact that police jargon was explained too much - it interrupted the flow of the story, and I felt like I was getting a primer in police talk). I've had the book for almost 2 weeks and just finished it today, whereas with the CB series, I would be lucky to stretch it out into a day's reading so I ccould savor it. Also, the solution seemed implaausible and a little tacked-on (I am not known for usually guessing the solution ahead of time, and this was no exception). It was a calm, comforting read, but I'm definitely looking forward to the next Chris Bennett book!
harstan More than 1 year ago
After almost twenty years in the New York City Police Department, Detective Jane Bauer is near retirement and ready to start a cushy job in an insurance company. Her last three months will be spent on the newly formed cold case task force. She is assigned the case of Arlan Quill, who was killed in the entranceway of his apartment building. When she goes to talk to some of Quill¿s neighbor, she learns that every tenant who lived in the building while Quill resided there is gone. Nobody leaves a rent-controlled apartment in Manhattan and further investigation shows that all the former tenants except one are dead and circumstances taken as a whole make it look like wholesale contract killings. Jane traces the last tenant to Omaha where she learns that he is scared for his life. Shortly afterward, he is beaten with in an inch of his life, which means there is a mole in the department who had Jane followed to her witness. When Jane returns home, she traces the killer to one of his lairs and almost loses her life in the process. Lee Bennett, the author of the cozy Christine Bennett mysteries, has written an exciting, stimulating gritty urban noir police procedural that displays the wide range of the author¿s talent. The heroine is a three dimensional character whose personal life shows she is a caring person while as a cop she is a dedicated pro who goes all out even with her career winding down. The plot is fast paced with never a dull moment but the heart of MURDER IN HELL¿S KITCHEN are the men and women in blue who risk their lives to keep the streets safe. Harriet Klausner