The Penalty Killing: A Martin Carter Mystery


The action is intense in this debut mystery featuring Martin Carter, a former hockey star whose career was cut short by a head injury. Now he's has to solve three apparent, related murders - one of them his own - to get his life and reputation back.

Former hockey great Martin Carter now works for the New York St. Patricks, a team with a rare chance at winning a playoff spot. Their fans are hungry for the Cup, but their hopes are smashed when a ...

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The action is intense in this debut mystery featuring Martin Carter, a former hockey star whose career was cut short by a head injury. Now he's has to solve three apparent, related murders - one of them his own - to get his life and reputation back.

Former hockey great Martin Carter now works for the New York St. Patricks, a team with a rare chance at winning a playoff spot. Their fans are hungry for the Cup, but their hopes are smashed when a crucial game ends in a violent, bench-clearing brawl, and a star forward is left in a coma.

Only one person saw what happened. She caught the attack on video and intends to use it for some expensive blackmail. When her body is found by the cops two days later, Carter is in deep trouble. His DNA is all over her and her apartment, and hers in his. And the footage, which now only he has seen, is missing.

In a story full of unexpected twists, the action is intense, the stakes are high, and the main player very cool under pressure.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780771055829
  • Publisher: McClelland & Stewart Ltd.
  • Publication date: 3/23/2010
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

The author of Hockey: A People's History and four earlier books on hockey, MICHAEL MCKINLEY is also a journalist, a documentary filmmaker, and a screenwriter. A Vancouver native, he was educated at the University of British Columbia and at the University of Oxford. While at Oxford, he was associate editor of the Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations. His journalism has appeared in major venues on two continents, including the Guardian, Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the National Post, and Saturday Night magazine. He has also written and produced several documentaries for CNN, and one episode of Due South. The Penalty Killing is his first novel.

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Read an Excerpt

A bell rang, and it began.
“Hello?” Martin Carter said into his office phone late in the afternoon of St. Patrick’s Day. On the other end was Douglas Bleecker IV, his voice rising at the end of the sentence with a question mark, like a teenager’s at the mall. “Just the man I need – Come to my office? I need you to do an intervention?”
“Doug, can’t we do this over the –”
Bleecker had hung up. It sounded as if he’d asked a question, but it was a command.
Doug Bleecker ranked higher on the corporate food chain, so Carter stood up from his computer and headed for the door, dodging boxes of books and files that should have been on shelves. The office was barely big enough for Carter and a desk, and a coat of paint. On the way out he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror next to the clock, both serving as his mortality meter. He hadn’t changed. His nose sported a hat trick of breaks that hooked it to starboard, his lips were thick and full, and his head a riot of black curls. He dressed it all up as best he could in a black suit over a crisp white shirt, the tie gold with a touch of green, the team colours.
Bleecker was waiting for him outside his much bigger office – with a view of the Hudson River – and when he saw Carter round the corner, he tilted his head up like a dog sniffing the wind. “Be a pal,” Bleecker said, his smoker’s rasp hushed and important, “and look after this woman with a camera. Cartch?”
Carter winced. Once it had seemed as if the world had known him as Cartch, the best thing to happen to the New York St. Patricks since they had first and last won the Cup back in 1969. But now, from the lips of guys like Bleecker, it was just a reminder of all that had been lost.
Bleecker stared at him without blinking. His strangely thin head on his plump, pear-shaped body made him a walking contradiction, which Carter thought perfectly suited the media director who had come to the St. Pats as an undistinguished business reporter from the Financial News and who could say one thing and very much mean another.
“Love to help,” Carter lied, “but I’m jammed up, selling playoff tickets.” The St. Pats were a long shot to make the playoffs, and their fans, the Patsies, were not known to be optimists.
“C’mon, Cartch, she’s one of yours – doing something for Canadian TV.”
“And you’re the media boss. If she wants to host a pancake breakfast for orphans – or buy playoff tickets – I’m your man.”
Bleecker stepped closer, a quick look over his shoulder toward his office, conveying conspiracy. “Look, here’s the thing. Freddie wants me to look after some VIP tonight, and I need to prep, so you’d be doing me a favour.”
Freddie Hutt was the team’s new boss, a money guy who had been collateral damage in Wall Street’s latest failed greed grab and had brought Bleecker in with him. He had “vipps,” as Bleecker called them, crawling all over Emerald Gardens, people Carter had seen on TV: actors, a couple of musicians, some models, and, he was told, a porn star or two. It was all part of Hutt’s plan “to brand the St. Patricks as a team of the future.” Yeah, well, good luck to him, Carter had thought when he first heard of this stroke of genius. The Pats had been the team of the future for the past four decades.
“What’s in it for me?” Carter asked, plumbing his leverage.
Bleecker gave him a puckered smile, a bad poker player holding cards he thinks are worth more than they are. “Well, let’s just say she’s your type of woman.”
His type of woman? Ever since his accident, that pretty much meant any woman between the ages of twenty and forty-five. But he’d been as chaste as a Belfast nun for more than a year now, and he didn’t like Bleecker playing pimp. So Carter flashed him the killer smile he used to use on Continental Hockey League goalies as he sped in on a breakaway. Bleecker stepped back and his eyes said, Martin Carter is a head case.
Then the woman from Canada came out of Bleecker’s office.
“Martin Carter. This is Hayley Rawls. From Canada.”
Carter offered his hand. “A pleasure.”
On the surface, it was a pleasure. Chocolate eyes, auburn curls, porcelain skin, bone structure as fine as roses, and a smile full of promise.
She cocked her head to one side. “The pleasure is mine,” she said, taking Carter’s hand with a firm grip. “I’m such a fan of yours.”
She held on to him for a moment longer than needed. Her skin was soft and warm, her perfume lilac. She was a contradiction worth parsing, thought Carter. Her leather blazer, black and expensive, framed a string of pearls that glinted on her tanned cleavage. Under the jacket, she was wearing a baby blue scooped-neck T-shirt with the slogan “I Play,” the current motto of the Continental Hockey League.
“The pleasure is mutual,” he said, and just like that he was ushering her down the corridor past the Old Testament eye of Brenda, the well-fed, short-sighted receptionist who hated him. Carter gave her a friendly wave and steered Hayley on to the elevator.
“What did you do to ruin her day?” Hayley asked when the doors shut.
So she was sharp too, Carter thought. “I just said no at the Christmas party,” he said, and Hayley grinned. She got the joke. Carter’s favourite kind of female combo – brains, beauty, sense of humour, and, in the end, probably trouble. His.
“What brings you to this old barn?” he asked as they walked down the aisle toward the ice. He meant the seventy-five-year-old rink and not himself, though he guessed that at thirty-eight he had maybe five or six years on her.
“I’m doing a doc on Link Andrachuk,” she said with a hint of a wince.
“Doc as in documentary?”
“Yup. It’s for a new website on him.”
Carter nodded. Further proof of a godless universe. Link Andrachuk, the power forward for the St. Pats, could shift from genius goal scorer to world-class goon in the misfiring of a neuron. He was constantly consumed with rage at everything from being called offside at the blue line to not getting passed the puck when he slapped his stick on the ice and yelled, “Hey, fuckwit!” at a teammate. When he really shortcircuited, he would mete out a cross-check to the head, a hit from behind into the boards, a sucker punch to the jaw. He was the kind of player who had ended Carter’s career.
“Good timing,” Carter told Hayley. “This is his first game back from a five-game suspension for that, uh” – he paused to find the right words – “cheap-shit scumbag hit that nearly killed that Czech kid in L.A.”
“He also nearly killed the whole damn project,” she said coolly, watching a couple of maintenance guys doing a patch-up job on the ice through the LCD screen of her camera. “I guess we both got lucky.”
Carter stared at her profile as she concentrated. The aquiline nose dividing high cheekbones, the delicate jaw giving way to a firm, long neck that he imagined kissing – on the way up to her full, lightly glossed lips, and then south to her tanned breasts, and then, if things went well . . .
He stopped the thought there. “Life Tourette’s” is what his ex, Flavia, had called it, affectionately at first, but then at the end, she just meant that he was a head case, and what to do next was a toss-up between euthanasia and just ending their affair.
“How does a nice Canadian girl wind up with a gig on the Missing Link?” Carter asked.
Hayley Rawls touched his arm. “The producer is based in Vancouver, like me, and he’s tied into the CHL, who want to showcase Andrachuk, and they hired me to help them do it.”
“What are you, a sorceress?”
She laughed. “Just a lady who needs to pay the rent. And I’m not so nice.”
She said it, though, in a very nice way – and it tempted him to take a step back onto the eternally thin ice of the romance game.
So he said, “I think I can help you out.”
She wanted some shots of the Missing Link playing hard and fierce as his team fought for a playoff spot on Manhattan ice, and since she was shooting on DVD, she didn’t have a lot of gear to park in the sightlines of the famously tolerant St. Pats fans.
Carter took her around the rink to a sweet spot, just a little to the left of what would be the opponents’ goal for two of the three periods in tonight’s game.
The team the St. Pats would be facing, the Sea Lions, were also from Vancouver. They had spent most of the season dozing in the Pacific sunlight and had just awakened to find themselves fighting for the last playoff spot in the Western Division of the CHL. The St. Pats had the same problem in a different time zone. If Link Andrachuk decided to play winning hockey tonight, the boys in the green and gold would celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by clinching the last playoff spot in the East. They were running out of time to do that, with only six games left in the season and Toronto three points back and surging. It had the makings of an expensive night for someone at Emerald Gardens.
Carter told Hayley that from where they were standing she would have the perfect view of the Missing Link doing what got him a four-year, $24.2 million contract from the St. Pats – cutting in from the left, from his opposite wing, muscling the d-man with one hand and cradling the puck in his stick with the other, then making the little red goal light shine.
“Perfect,” she said, checking the angle through her viewfinder. “If –”
“He shows up.”
She smiled. “You’re a mind reader.”
“Nah, I’ve just had to watch him play for the last three years.”
She nodded sympathetically, then frowned a little. “So what is it that you do, exactly?” she asked. “You’re not a coach?”
“I’m director of community relations,” he said.
“Oh? And what communities do you have relations with?”
He took a deep breath. “I get to attend fundraisers for everyone from graffiti removers to Wall Street titans to gladhand parents at ice rinks from Chelsea Piers to Corona Park on behalf of the St. Pats in the hope they’ll buy corporate suites or season tickets, or just come to a game sometime and buy a hot dog. And I try not to squeeze too hard when I meet those hockey dads – all of them older than me – who all loved to watch me play for the Patsies when they were kids.”
She took a step back at the vehemence of his speech. Then she smiled.
“Too bad it’s my last day of shooting,” she said. And started the clock on Carter’s future.
He took a desperation shot. “The team’s having a St. Patrick’s Day party tonight, after the game. Would you like to come as my guest?”
She tilted her head again, as if assessing the cost of crossing the line he was inviting her over. “I have to be up at four-thirty for my flight home tomorrow.”
As it wasn’t a no, he pressed on. “These parties go all night. Or until the cops come.” This was a head-case thing to say, but it was true.
“Tell you what,” she said with professional cool. “If Mr. Link Andrachuk gives me what I want, then I’ll definitely be in the mood for a party.”

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