The Prey (Predator Thriller Series #1)

( 46 )


First, she imagined it. Then a killer made it real.

Rowan Smith is living in a borrowed Malibu beach house while her bestselling novel is made into a Hollywood movie. A former FBI agent with a haunted past, Rowan thinks she has outrun her demons. But fiction and reality collide when a dismembered body is found in Colorado: the real-life victim had the same name, occupation, and looks as a character in Rowan’s novel. By the time the FBI, the LAPD, and her own private bodyguard ...

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First, she imagined it. Then a killer made it real.

Rowan Smith is living in a borrowed Malibu beach house while her bestselling novel is made into a Hollywood movie. A former FBI agent with a haunted past, Rowan thinks she has outrun her demons. But fiction and reality collide when a dismembered body is found in Colorado: the real-life victim had the same name, occupation, and looks as a character in Rowan’s novel. By the time the FBI, the LAPD, and her own private bodyguard gather around her, another person is killed–again, the murder ripped from the pages of Rowan’s book.

In the company of a former Delta Force officer with secrets of his own, Rowan faces an excruciating dilemma: the only way to chase down the tormenting killer is by revisiting the darkness of her past–and by praying for some way out again.

After the prey is chosen, the hunt is on and the kill is certain.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345480231
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/27/2005
  • Series: Predator Thriller Series, #1
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 297,144
  • Product dimensions: 4.15 (w) x 6.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Allison Brennan is the author of ten bestselling romantic thrillers, including The Prey, Speak No Evil, Killing Fear, and Playing Dead. For thirteen years she worked as a consultant in the California State Legislature before leaving to devote herself fully to her family and writing. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. She lives in Northern California with her husband, Dan, and their five children.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Rowan Smith learned about Doreen Rodriguez’s murder from the reporters camped out in her front yard Monday morning.

A car door slammed and she awoke with a start. Instinctively, she reached for the gun that was no longer under her pillow, searching the cool cotton sheet before remembering it was in her nightstand. Hesitating briefly, she retrieved the cold Glock. She couldn’t think of a good reason for needing her gun, but it felt right in her hand.

She’d slept in sweatpants and a T-shirt, an old habit of being ready for anything, and padded down the stairs in bare feet to look out her den window and see who was visiting so early in the morning. The grating sound of a sliding van door shutting told her she had more than one visitor. She used her index finger to bend down the blinds a mere inch to peer out.

She could tell from their rumpled attire and notepads they were print reporters. Television hounds were far more concerned with appearance. Three vans and two cars crammed the driveway of her leased beachfront home. She despised reporters. She’d had more than enough of them while working for the Bureau.

The doorbell echoed, startling her. Though she could see the driveway from her den, she couldn’t see the door. Presumably one of the bolder reporters had summoned the courage to ring her doorbell.

What did they want? She’d just given an interview about the premiere of Crime of Passion two days ago; surely they didn’t need a group session.

She started for the door, then remembered she was carrying her gun. She imagined the headline: Paranoid Former Agent Armed for Interview. She slid the gun into the top drawer of her desk and briskly walked to the front door, barely registering the coolness of the tile under her bare feet.

Her phone rang at the same time the doorbell repeated its obnoxious ding-dong. Great. Reporters coming at her from every direction. She’d dealt with them before; she’d have to again. It was only as she opened the door that she feared something bad had happened and that maybe she shouldn’t talk to them.

Too late.

“Do you have a comment on the murder of Doreen Rodriguez?”

“I don’t know Doreen Rodriguez,” she said automatically, even as alarm bells went off in the back of her head. The name was familiar, but she couldn’t place it. A sick feeling ate at her gut as she tried to connect the dots. As she was shutting the door, another question rang clear:

“You don’t know that a twenty-year-old woman named Doreen Rodriguez was killed in Denver Saturday night in the same manner as the character Doreen Rodriguez was murdered in your book Crime of Opportunity?”

Rowan slammed the door shut. She didn’t fear reporters walking in uninvited; she’d have them arrested for trespassing without a qualm. She simply wanted the resounding finality of her “no comment” to ring loud and clear.

The phone finally stopped ringing. Then, thirty seconds later, the incessant ring-ring started again. She ran back to her den and glanced at the caller ID: Annette. Her producer.

Picking up the receiver she said, “What in the hell is going on?” She heard yet another car screech to a halt in her driveway.

“You’ve heard.”

“I have a bunch of reporters on my doorstep, more arriving as we speak.” She peered out the blinds again. Television van. She pressed a hand to her stomach. Something was very wrong.

“I got the details from a reporter in Denver.” Annette said rapidly, emphasizing some of her words. “A twenty-year-old waitress named Doreen Rodriguez was killed Saturday night. They found her body yesterday in a Dumpster outside of, and I quote, ‘a small Italian café off South Broadway that could have been called quaint if not for the blood drying on the white brick façade.’ ”

Rowan listened to the words she’d penned years ago. Rubbing her temple, she craved a cigarette for the first time since she’d quit the FBI four years ago. “This is some kind of sick joke.”

“I’m so sorry, Rowan.”

“Dear God, I don’t believe this is happening.” She squeezed her eyes shut in an effort to absorb what Annette had told her. Her breath caught, and she placed a hand over her mouth. It had to be a coincidence. Some idiot reporter taking a violent crime and trying to sensationalize it by comparing it to one of her novels.

The image of Doreen Rodriguez’s bloody, dismembered body flashed in her mind. She opened her eyes immediately, her vision of the murder far too real because she had created it. It couldn’t have been a similar crime. Just the name was the same.

“Rowan, she was killed with a machete against the restaurant wall, her body thrown in a Dumpster!” Annette’s voice took on a feverish pitch. “She worked in Denver and was born in Albuquerque. Some crazy person copied the crime exactly as you wrote it.”

Rowan pressed fingers deeper into her right temple. Someone had copied her fictional crime? It couldn’t be possible. How had the killer found someone so exactly like her fictional character?

More important, why?

She sunk to the floor next to her desk and buried her face in her arms, holding the phone with her shoulder. She took another deep breath and held it. She had to get hold of herself; then she’d get to the bottom of this.

There had to be a mistake.

“Are you okay?” Annette’s voice was full of concern.

“What do you think?” Her voice came out a raspy whisper.

“I’m worried about your safety, Rowan.”

“I can take care of myself.”

“I’ll come right over.”

She almost grinned at the thought. Petite fifty- something Hollywood producer Annette O’Dell rushing over to protect her star screenwriter from a pack of vicious reporters. Rowan shook her head. “No, after my run I have to go to the studio and talk to the director about reworking a scene.”

“The reporters will follow you. They’re probably staked out there now.”

“Damn the reporters! I have no comment. Period. Nothing, nada, zero. I don’t want you saying word one about this to anyone. I am going to the studio and going to do my job. I’m not a cop; let them take care of this.” She didn’t want to play cop anymore. She didn’t want any more blood on her hands.

But there it was. She wiped her hands on her sweats until Lady Macbeth came to mind, madly scrubbing her hands of blood that wasn’t there.

Doreen Rodriguez. Rowan didn’t kill the poor woman, but she had somehow caused her death just the same.

“Rowan, let me hire a security—”

Rowan cut Annette off with a click as she replaced the receiver in its cradle.

She took a minute to gather herself before getting up from the floor. Outside, another car drove up, more vultures ready to pounce. It made great copy, she thought wryly. Real-life murder mystery: The Fiction Copycat. The Copycat Killer. The press seemed to actually like murders. Especially high-profile, gruesome crimes. Nothing exciting in a typical domestic dispute, a hit-and-run, or a routine gang drive-by. But being sliced and diced by a machete against the side of a quaint Italian café . . .

She shook her head. Was she any better? She wrote violent murder mysteries. Even if her corpses were fictionalized, didn’t she do the same thing as the reporters? Capitalizing on people’s interest in gruesome crime? The human fascination with death went back thousands of years. Violent Greek and Roman myths had relieved people’s fear of the unknown. Similar gruesome entertainments could be found in every generation since.

Doreen Rodriguez. Could the murder possibly have been the same as Rowan had written it? Her heart beat double-time as she imagined the pain and horror that poor young woman had suffered.

It would do her no good to dwell on the victim now. Rowan mentally summoned more than ten years of training to distance herself. When it got personal, that’s when mistakes happened.

Ignoring both the door and phone, on her laptop she logged onto the local Denver newspaper website. She hoped against hope there was a mistake, some misunderstanding. But the press was on top of the story. Bad news travels fast, evidence of which was parked in her driveway.

Everything Annette had told her was there on the screen. Rowan wondered what details had, in fact, been withheld. She wondered how long it would take for the police to come and interview her. With the press already showing an interest in the coincidence, the police wouldn’t be far behind. She’d get more details from them once they tracked her down.

No. No, she couldn’t get involved. She had a meeting at the studio in two hours. She had made a new life for herself, a quiet life. Damn if she was going to let a murdering lunatic control her future. Again.

She started for her bedroom to dress for her run when a familiar pounding on the front door interrupted her. Cops.

That was fast.

“Ms. Smith!” a mumbled voice called. “Ms. Smith, this is the police. We need to talk.”

She turned toward the door. It had started.

They sat at the dining room table, in front of the picture window that framed the blue-green Pacific Ocean. From here, twenty feet above the beach and a good hundred feet inland, one could still see the individual waves and whitecaps, tossed up by a light wind. The tide was out, the beach empty of people.

Rowan placed two mugs of hot black coffee in front of the detectives, then opened the window. The tangy, salty sea air relaxed her as she breathed in deeply. She needed to be calm and alert, but above all else, she needed to maintain control.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 46 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 46 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2005

    Great debut thriller!

    Allison Brennan's first book is a tightly written thriller with a romance that sizzles. Rowan left the FBI four years ago with hopes of finding peace in seclusion at a Malibu beach house where she's penning best selling mystery novels. She's a tortured heroine who still sleeps with her weapon and contends she needs no one. But she wakes one morning to a front yard filled with media, because a killer is using real people to recreate deaths of fictional characters in her story with grisly accuracy. The fast paced story is woven with gripping emotion, high action and tense scenes as Rowan, her hot Delta Force bodyguard and the FBI try to find the murderer before an end game is played out with Rowan as the final prey. The ending of THE PREY is terrific and the ride to get there intense. I've already ordered THE HUNT and THE KILL.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 29, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Overall Rating:  4.95 // Action: 4.5 / Emotion: 5.0 / Romance: 5

    Overall Rating:  4.95 // Action: 4.5 / Emotion: 5.0 / Romance: 5.0 / Sensuous: 3.5 / Suspense: 5.0 // Laughter: 1 // Tears: 12 / Teary: 2
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    The Prey: 4.95: 
    Since the Romantic Suspense genre is a favorite, it was a joy to find another author who not only keeps the story filled with edge-of-your-seat suspense, but also includes the romance and sensuality that really enhances the story.  This well-told story was so intriguing and engaging that it made for an un-put-down-able read.
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    Hero: 4.0: 
    John Flynn:  The typical alpha hero.  Ex-DEA Agent, driven, honorable, loyal, loves his family (brother, Michael, and sister, Tess), has that sexy, hunky, tough guy thing going on, but still exhibits a compassionate, understanding nature and is strong enough to stand up to Rowan.  Liked the way Brennan stressed the way John seemed to understand Rowan.
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    {quote} John understood her.  And she hated him for it.  (Rowan, page 112)
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    Heroine: 3.5: 
    Rowan Smith:  An intelligent, beautiful, strong-willed, determined ex-FBI Agent turned crime novel authoress who refused to let anyone get close to her because of the horrific childhood she endured.  It was easy to admire Rowan as a survivor.  Even though Rowan tried to bury all her emotions, she was unsuccessful.
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    Story Line: 4.5: 
    Brennan successfully weaves an undeniable attraction between John and Rowan after the Flynn's security agency is hired to guard Rowan when she is targeted by a ruthless killer who is using the scenes and people she creates in her novels as the blueprints for his heinous crimes.  The Copycat Killer makes it quite clear that he knows about Rowan's past and that she is his eventual target.
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    Action: 4.5: 
    The story proceeded along at a steady, constant pace as John, Rowan, Michael, Tess, Quinn, Roger and other law enforcement officials investigated the murders perpetrated by the Copycat Killer and tried to bring him to justice.
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    Emotion: 5.0: 
    Brennan did such a phenomenal job of creating multi-faceted characters who experienced powerful emotions in spite of the barriers they had erected around their hearts that it was impossible not to become deeply connected to them -- to experience their fear, their compassion, their love and to cry right along with them.  Sometimes there are things going on in your life that make a book even more powerful than expected.  Such was the case when I re-read The Prey.
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    Romance: 5.0: 
    The attraction between John and Rowan was instant and run prevalently throughout the book in spite of the many obstacles that stood in their way.  Obstacles like Michael's attraction to Rowan, a killer's determination to bring Rowan to her knees, and a history of angst that made Rowan come across as cold and unapproachable.
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    Sensuous: 3.5: 
    Loved the fact Brennan included several love scenes in this book and added spice, sizzle and zing to them.
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    Suspense: 5.0: 
    The suspense was just as intense as the emotion and the romance.  Brennan is truly gifted when it comes to steadily building the suspense factor in this book as the plot unfolds.  It was impossible not to experience nail-biting, spine-tingling, pace-the-floor tension by the time the big showdown between the villain and the protagonists took place at the end of the book.
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    Secondary Characters: 4.5: 
    Most of the secondary characters were well-developed and added wonderful depth to the story.  The inclusion of these memorable secondary characters added great interest to the story: {a} Michael Flynn, {b} Teresa "Tess" Flynn, {c} Special Agent Quincy "Quinn" Peterson, {d} Assistant Director of the FBI, Roger Collins, {e} Rowan's brother, Father Peter O'Brien, {f} simple-minded, Adam Williams, and {g} high-class call girl, Suzannah "Sadie" Darlene Pierce.
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    See Wolf Bear Does Books for a more in-depth, detailed review of *The Prey*.
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    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 14, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Fiction Born to Reality

    Rowan Smith is a murder mystery writer. Her third movie is in production and her fifth book is due out in two weeks. Her world is about to be drastically changed forever.<BR/><BR/>Someone is taking murders from her books, one from each, and making them reality. Except for with each killing, it becomes more personal. The killer starts sending tokens. Tokens that bring Rowan's bloody past glaringly into her present. A past she has desperatly tried to keep buried. <BR/><BR/>John Flynn is a former Delta officer who now runs his own security operation with his brother Michael, and his sister Tess. John was in the South American jungles chasing his own demon when Michael received the job of protecting Rowan Smith from the killer. John quickly takes over the job when he comes back to California because he is afraid Michael's objectivity is being compromised. Michael has a thing for damsels in distress. <BR/><BR/>John must fight a past that Rowan won't talk about and keep her safe. Protecting their hearts becomes difficult as they come closer together to try and catch her tormentor.<BR/><BR/>Neither of them know just how close Rowan's past is........<BR/><BR/>This is a very suspenseful book that I almost finished in one sitting. It was a fantastic book and I am glad that I have the next two readily available.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2006

    New Author to Follow

    Allison Brennan is right there at the top with this series. Her storyline caught me from the first page and held me to the end. I've read hundreds of book and this series is right at the top!!! Thank you Allison and please... keep it up.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2006

    Amazing debut!

    The concept of a killer using fiction to create reality is not unique, but Brennan's spin on it is. The twists and turns in the plot keep coming and hitting hard. The romantic element is an added bonus to a twisted and complex story. This is an awesome debut with the next stories eagerly anticipated. This was a real page-turner that kept me up way too late, but impossible to put down before the last page.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2015


    There are twists and turns. A quick read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2014


    I really WANTED to like this book, esp. because there were some good reviews of it, and I have been looking for a riveting mystery book/author to get into. But I just couldn't with this one. The beginning seems promising but I truly disliked the main character - found her annoying actually - and did not for a second buy into the male characters falling for her. The main reason for this was 1) her personality wasn't interesting or strong enough and 2) there just wasn't enough substance to their relationships. And to be honest there wasn't enough plausibility to the killer - maybe not enough background or explanation to suit my skeptical mind. At any rate, I suffered through this book, hoping it would get better...but it didn't. From start to finish, I disliked it. Weak characters, weak plot, many cliches. Blegh.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2013

    Very Predictable!

    The story was good, and was full of twists and turns. However, I had it figured out half-way through. The heroine wasn't very engaging and I had trouble believing the attraction. It was mildly entertaining at best.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2013

    Highly recommend

    Had it all - great mystery and romance between two strong characters.

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  • Posted December 8, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommend

    As w/ all of Allison Brennan's books this was a great read. I love a good mystery w/ a little love story thrown in the mix.

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  • Posted May 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Not bad, not great

    I enjoyed the book, although it certainly isn't the best writing ever. It started out a little slow, but the second half of the book did get better.

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  • Posted January 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:


    Awesome book. Suspenseful, dramatic, romantic, well written. Allison Brennan delivers. Couldn't put this book down, stayed up well into the night to finish this one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2006


    I,personally, did not care for this book. It was well written and had a good suspense story line. However, I was extremely disappointed when one the the 'good guys' didn't make it (I won't tell who). I couldn't relate to hero and herione. It didn't feel necessary to kill a protagonist it and left me feeling cheated.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2005

    Hard to believe it is the author's first!

    Three women have known violence in their childhood. They come together as roommates at the FBI training academy. Ten year later, their nightmares really begin. ............................ Rowan Smith left the FBI after she was assigned to a case very similar to her own childhood violence. No one really knew she left to preserve her sanity. She began a writing career and had astounding success. In fact, one of her books is being made into a movie in Hollywood. Rowan thought she had left her past behind her at last. Then a dismembered body is found in Colorado. The victim had the same name, occupation, and looks as a character Rowan wrote in one of her novels. This is followed by a second victim, again eerily similar to a character in one of Rowan novels. ............................ Michael Flynn is an ex-cop. John Flynn is a former DEA agent. The two brothers own and operate a security firm. They are hired to protect Rowan. John believes there is more to it all than they currently know. He also has some secrets of his own that he wants no one to learn of. Yet even he will be astounded as the truth comes out. And the only way to reach the truth is for Rowan to revisit the violence in her past, a past that just may kill them both. ............................ ***** It is hard to believe that this is Allison Brennan's debut novel. It is fantastic! This title is the first of a trilogy. Each woman from the academy will get her own story told. You will not have to wait a long time between the stories either. The three books come out with only a month between each. (The other two titles will be 'The Hunt' and 'The Kill'.) I could not read fast enough to find out what was going to happen next. Highly recommended reading! *****

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    strong thriller

    In Malibu former FBI agent turned mystery writer Rowan Smith finds the media camped outside her beach house. The reporters demand she explain why twenty years old Doreen Rodriguez was killed in Denver with the same name and much of the identical major events in their lives (and deaths) as a character in her book Crime of Opportunity. It has been four years since she left the Feds and it seems to have all come back in the guise of the Fiction Copycat killer. --- Denver Police Detective Ben Jackson and LAPD Jim Barlowe warn Rowan that she is the ultimate prey of the culprit. Siblings Michael and Teresa Smith arrive to protect Rowan, who insists she can take care of herself. When a funeral wreath from a ¿fan¿ is delivered in memoriam of Doreen, Rowan knows the killer will strike again Teresa calls her other brother John on assignment out of the country that they need him with his Delta Force experience to be here. He returns to the States to keep Rowan safe as another victim from one of her novels dies. --- Though the suspense is high and the action fast-paced, the secondary cast makes believers of the audience that ¿reality¿ is imitating fiction in the guise of a sane serial killer plotting his (or her) murders to precise military precision. The besieged heroine always relied on the Glock she sleeps with to keep her safe, but begins to think she would not mind John keeping her bones warm at night. The final twists will shock readers as the killer circles closer to THE PREY with THE HUNT and THE KILL to follow. --- Harriet Klausner

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2009

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    Posted July 28, 2010

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    Posted May 27, 2009

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