A Perfect Evil (Maggie O'Dell Series #1)

A Perfect Evil (Maggie O'Dell Series #1)

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by Alex Kava
     
 

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The brutal murders of three young boys paralyze the citizens of Platte City, Nebraska. What’s worse is the grim realization that the man recently executed for the crimes was a copycat. When Sheriff Nick Morrelli is called to the scene of another grisly murder, it becomes clear that the real predator is still at large, waiting to kill again.

Morrelli

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Overview

The brutal murders of three young boys paralyze the citizens of Platte City, Nebraska. What’s worse is the grim realization that the man recently executed for the crimes was a copycat. When Sheriff Nick Morrelli is called to the scene of another grisly murder, it becomes clear that the real predator is still at large, waiting to kill again.

Morrelli understands the urgency of the case terrorizing his community, but it’s the experienced eye of FBI criminal profiler Maggie O’Dell that pinpoints the true nature of the evil behind the killings—a revelation made all the more horrific when Morrelli’s own nephew goes missing.

Maggie understands something else: the killer is enjoying himself, relishing his ability to stay one step ahead of her, making this case more personal by the hour. Because out there, watching, is a killer with a heart of pure and perfect evil.

Editorial Reviews

Woman's Own
A roller coaster read. Your heart is in your throat the entire time.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A serial killer eludes an FBI profiler and a smalltown Nebraska sheriff in Kava's engaging debut, which manages to remain entertaining despite a fairly conventional plot line. As the story opens, recently appointed Sheriff Nick Morelli is as relieved as the rest of the citizens of Platte City that his predecessor, who also happens to be his father, has captured the child killer who plagued the town. But after the killer is executed, another child is discovered dead, and Morelli realizes that the convicted man was in fact a copycat killer, leaving the original criminal still on the prowl. Morelli gets some much-needed help in the investigation from FBI profiler Maggie O'Dell, but the hunt gets complicated when Morelli's sister, a journalist, leaks info to the media. Things become even stickier when O'Dell unearths a couple of unlikely suspects who've been dismissed by the police, and the search takes on a new level of urgency when Morelli's nephew is abducted and appears to be the next victim. Kava keeps her prose simple, but she does a nice job of setting up the chemistry between O'Dell and Morelli while balancing the various family issues Morelli faces in the investigation. She also makes good use of the smalltown milieu, tightening the tension by establishing that the killer is part of the fabric of the community. The result is a well-crafted page-turner involving the reader in the specter of murder in an intimate and disturbing fashion, with a plausible setup for a sequel. Agent, Philip Spitzer. (Aug.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
Kava's debut thriller borrows bits and pieces from other novels: a little Silence of the Lambs here, a dash of Kiss the Girls there. The result is uneven but indicative of better things to come once Kava does his research a little better and cuts back on some of the purple prose. Research problems? Well, it is doubtful that a small Nebraska town would have a radio station with the call letters KRAP, and the Strategic Air Command disappeared more than a decade ago. But the story still manages to hold a listener's interest. An FBI profiler and the town sheriff are brought together after a string of brutal murders of young boys. The female profiler has had experience with a similar killer who is now in jail (or is he?), and the sheriff knows that he got his job only because his father had been a well-loved law officer (or was he?). The red herrings abound in A Perfect Evil, but true aficionados of thrillers will have figured out who the killer is halfway through the story. And speaking of KRAP, this cassette came in the worst casing this reviewer has ever encountered: the cover shatters like glass, and trying to fit the tapes back into their respective slots gives figuring out the Rubik's Cube a run for its money. Still, it's a promising first novel and should be popular in most audio collections. The narrator, Richard Rohan, does voices well and manages to keep up the pace of the story even when the text slacks a little. Joseph L. Carlson, Lompoc P.L., CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780778325932
Publisher:
Harlequin
Publication date:
08/01/2008
Series:
Maggie O'Dell Series, #1
Pages:
480
Product dimensions:
4.21(w) x 6.62(h) x 1.26(d)

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Chapter One


Five miles outside Platte City, Nebraska
Friday, October 24


Nick Morrelli wished the woman beneath him wore less makeup. He knew it was ridiculous. He listened to her soft moans—purrs really. Like a cat, she slithered against him, rubbing her silky thighs up and down the sides of his torso. She was more than ready for him. And yet, all he could think about was the blue powder smeared on her eyelids. Even with the lights out, it remained etched in his mind like fluorescent, glow-in-the-dark paint.

    "Oh, baby, your body is so hard," she purred in his ear as she ran her long fingernails up his arms and over his back.

     He slid off her before she discovered that not all of his body was hard. What was wrong with him? He needed to concentrate. He licked her earlobe and nuzzled her neck, then moved down to where he really wanted to be. Instinctively, his mouth found one of her breasts. He ravished it with soft, wet kisses. She moaned even before his tongue flicked at her nipple. He loved those sounds a woman made—the short little gasp, then the low moan. He waited for them, then wrapped his tongue around her nipple and sucked it into his mouth. Her back arched, and she quivered. He leaned into her, absorbing the shiver, her soft, smooth flesh trembling against him. Normally, that reaction alone would immediately give him an erection. Tonight, nothing.

    Jesus, was he losing his touch? No, he was too young to be having this problem. After all, he was four years away from forty.

    When in the world had hestarted keeping track of his age by its distance from forty?

    "Oooh, lover, don't stop!"

    He didn't even realize he had stopped. She groaned impatiently and began moving her hips up and down, slowly, with a sensuous rhythm. Yes, she was definitely ready for him. And he was definitely not ready. Just once he wished women would use his name instead of baby, lover, stud muffin, whatever. Did women worry about yelling out the wrong name, too?

    Her fingers twisted into his short, thick hair. She yanked hard, the streak of pain surprising him. Then she pulled his face back to her breasts. In the dim light, he noticed that the triangle of tanned skin was crooked. The point overlapped onto the underside of her breast. What was wrong with him? A beautiful blonde wanted him. Why didn't her breathless anticipation arouse him? He needed to focus. It all felt too mechanical, too routine. Nevertheless, he would compensate again using his fingers and tongue. After all, he had a reputation to maintain.

    He began the descent down her body, devouring her with kisses and nibbles. Her body squirmed beneath his touch. She was writhing and gasping for breath even before his teeth tugged at her lace panties. He kissed his way to the inside of her thighs. Suddenly, a sound stopped him. He strained to hear from under the bedcovers.

    "No, please don't stop," she groaned, pulling him back into her.

    There it was again. Pounding. Someone was at the front door.

    "I'll be right back." Nick gently pushed her hands away and stumbled out of bed, disentangling himself from the sheets and almost tripping. He pulled on jeans as he checked the clock on the nightstand—10:36.

    Even in the dark, he knew every creak in the staircase by heart. Out of habit, he found himself tiptoeing, though his parents hadn't slept in the old farmhouse for over five years.

    The knock was louder and more insistent now.

    "Hold on a minute," he called out impatiently, yet relieved by the interruption.

    When he opened the door, Nick recognized Hank Ashford's son, though he couldn't recall his name. The boy was sixteen or seventeen, a linebacker on the football team and built like he could move two or three players at a time off the line of scrimmage. Yet, tonight, as he stood on Nick's front porch, the kid slouched with his hands stashed in his pockets, eyes wild and face pale. He shivered despite the sweaty forehead.

    "Sheriff Morrelli, you have to come ... on Old Church Road ... please, you have to ..."

    "Is someone hurt?" The crisp night air stung Nick's bare skin. It felt good.

    "No, it's not ... he's not hurt ... Oh, God, Sheriff, it's awful." The boy looked back toward his car. It was only then that Nick saw the girl in the front seat. Even looking into the headlights, he could see she was crying.

    "What's going on?" he demanded, sending the boy into a speechless, arm-crossing dance, shifting his weight from one leg to the other.

    What stupid game had they been playing this time? Last week, the night before homecoming, a group of boys had played chicken with a couple of Jake Turner's tractors. The loser had tipped over into a rain-filled ditch, pinning himself under the water. The boy was lucky he had escaped with only broken ribs and the flimsy punishment of sitting out two football games.

    "What the hell happened this time?" Nick found himself yelling at the shivering linebacker.

    "We found ... down off Old Church Road ... in the tall grass. Oh God, we found ... we found a body."

    "A body?" Nick wasn't sure he believed him. "You mean a dead body?" Was the boy drunk? Was he stoned?

    The boy nodded, tears filling his eyes. He scraped the sleeve of his sweatshirt across his face and looked from Nick to his girlfriend, then back to Nick.

    "Hang on a minute."

    Nick stepped back inside, letting the screen door slam behind him. They had probably imagined it. Or maybe it was an early Halloween prank. They'd been out partying. Both of them were probably stoned. He pulled on his boots, bypassing socks, then grabbed his shirt from the sofa, where it had been taken off him earlier in the evening. He was annoyed to find his fingers shaking as he buttoned the front.

    "Nick, what is it?"

    The voice from the top of the stairs startled him. He had forgotten about Angie. Roused from bed, her long, blond hair was ruffled and floated around her shoulders. The blue eye makeup was hardly noticeable from this distance. She wore one of his T-shirts. It was transparent in the hallway's soft light. Now, looking up at her, he couldn't imagine why he had been relieved to leave her.

    "I've got to check something out."

    "Is someone hurt?"

    She sounded more curious than concerned. Was she only looking for a bit of gossip? Something to share with the morning coffee drinkers at Wanda's Diner?

    "I don't know."

    "Did someone find the Alverez boy?"

    Jesus, he hadn't even thought of that. The boy had been missing since Sunday, gone, taken before he began his newspaper route.

    "No, I don't think so," Nick told her. Even the FBI was certain the boy had more than likely been taken by his father, who they were still trying to locate. It was a simple custody battle. And this was simply teenage kids playing tricks on each other.

    "I might be a while, but you're welcome to stay."

    He grabbed the keys to his Jeep and found Ashford sitting on the front steps, his face buried in his hands.

    "Let's go." Nick gently yanked a handful of sweatshirt and pulled the boy to his feet. "Why don't the two of you get in with me."


    Nick wished he had taken time to put on underwear. Now, in the cramped Jeep, the stiff denim scraped against him every time he put the clutch in and shifted. To make matters worse, Old Church Road was filled with ruts from the rains of the week before. The gravel popped against the Jeep as he weaved from side to side, avoiding the deep gashes in the road.

    "What exactly were you two doing out on this washboard?" As soon as he said it, he realized the obvious. He didn't need to be seventeen to remember all the benefits of an old deserted gravel road. "Never mind," he added before either of them had time to answer. "Just tell me where I'm going."

    "It's about another mile, just past the bridge. There's a pasture road that runs along the river."

    "Sure, okay."

    He noticed Ashford wasn't stuttering anymore. Perhaps he was sobering up. The girl, however, who sat between Nick and the boy, hadn't said a word.

    Nick slowed down as the Jeep bumped across the woodslatted bridge. He found the pasture road even before Ashford pointed it out. They bounced and slid over the dirt road that consisted of rutted tire tracks filled with muddy water.

    "All the way down to the trees?" Nick glanced at Ashford, who only nodded and stared straight ahead. As they approached the shelter belt, the girl hid her face in the boy's sweatshirt.

    Nick stopped, killed the engine, but left on the headlights. He reached across the two of them and pulled a flashlight from the glove compartment.

    "That door sticks," he said to Ashford. He watched the two exchange a glance. Neither made any attempt to leave the Jeep.

    "You never said we'd have to look at it again," the girl whispered to Ashford as she clung to his arm.

    Nick slammed the car door. Its echo sliced through the silence. There was nothing around for miles. No traffic, no farm lights. Even the night animals seemed to be asleep. He stood outside the Jeep, waiting. The boy's eyes met his, but still he made no motion to leave the Jeep. Instead of insisting, Nick pointed the flashlight toward an area down by the riverbank. The stream of light shot through thick grass, catching just a glimpse of rolling water. Ashford's eyes followed. He hesitated, looked back at Nick and nodded.

    The tall grass swished around Nick's knees, camouflaging the mud that sucked at his boots. Jesus, it was dark out. Even the orange moon hid behind a gauze of clouds. Leaves rustled behind him. He spun around and shot a stream of light from tree to tree. Was there movement? There, in the brash? He could have sworn a shadow ducked from the light. Or was it just his imagination?

    Nick strained to see beyond the thick branches. He held his breath and listened. Nothing. Probably just the wind. He listened again and realized there was no wind. A shiver caught him off guard, and he wished he had brought a jacket. This was crazy. He refused to be suckered by some high-school prank. The sooner he checked it out, the sooner he could be back in his warm bed.

    The squashing sound grew louder the closer he got to the river. It was an effort to walk, pulling each foot out and carefully placing it to avoid slipping. His new boots would be ruined. He could already feel his feet getting wet. No socks, no underwear, no jacket.

    "Damn it," he muttered. "This better be good." He was going to be mad as hell if he found a group of teenagers playing hide-and-seek.

    The flashlight caught something glittering in the mud, close to the water. He locked his eyes on the spot and quickened his pace. He was almost there, almost out of the tall grass. Suddenly, he tripped. He lost his balance and crashed down hard, with his elbows breaking his fall. The flashlight flew out of his hand and into the black water, a tunnel of light spiraling to the bottom.

    He ignored the sting shooting up his arms. The sucking mud pulled at him as he pushed himself to his hands and knees. A rancid smell clung to him, more than just the stench of the river. The silvery object lay almost within reach, and now he could tell it was a cross-shaped medallion. The chain was broken and scattered in the mud.

    He glanced back to see what had caused his fall. Something solid. He expected to see a fallen tree. But not more than a yard away was a small, white body nestled in the mud and leaves.

    Nick scrambled to his feet, his knees weak, his stomach in his throat. The smell was more noticeable now, and it filled the air, stinging his nostrils. He approached the body slowly as if not wanting to wake the boy, who looked asleep despite those wide eyes staring up at the stars. Then he saw the boy's slashed throat and mangled chest, the skin ripped open and peeled back. That's when his stomach lurched and his knees caved in.

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Meet the Author

ALEX KAVA’s two stand-alone novels and seven novels featuring FBI profiler Maggie O’Dell have been published in more than twenty countries, appearing on the bestseller lists in Britain, Australia, Poland, Germany, and Italy. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers. Alex divides her time between Omaha, Nebraska, and Pensacola, Florida.

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