The Rosary Girls (Kevin Byrne & Jessica Balzano Series #1)

( 24 )

Overview

In his sleek, visceral novels Deviant Way, Kiss of Evil, and The Violet Hour, Richard Montanari slammed into the suspense field like a force of nature. Now Montanari has written an astounding novel that pits two besieged detectives against a fiercely intelligent serial killer.

Sprawling beneath the statue of William Penn, Philadelphia is a city of downtrodden crack houses and upscale brownstones. Somewhere in this concrete crazy quilt, one teenage Catholic girl is writing in her...

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The Rosary Girls (Kevin Byrne & Jessica Balzano Series #1)

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Overview

In his sleek, visceral novels Deviant Way, Kiss of Evil, and The Violet Hour, Richard Montanari slammed into the suspense field like a force of nature. Now Montanari has written an astounding novel that pits two besieged detectives against a fiercely intelligent serial killer.

Sprawling beneath the statue of William Penn, Philadelphia is a city of downtrodden crack houses and upscale brownstones. Somewhere in this concrete crazy quilt, one teenage Catholic girl is writing in her diary, another is pouring her heart out to a friend, and yet another is praying. And somewhere in this city is a man who wants these young women to make his macabre fantasy become reality. In a passion play of his own, he will take the girls–and a whole city–over the edge.

Kevin Byrne is a veteran cop who already knows that edge: He’s been living on it far too long. His marriage failing, his former partner wasting away in a hospital, and his heart lost to mad fury, Byrne loves to take risks and is breaking every rule in the book. And now he has been given a rookie partner. Jessica Balzano, the daughter of a famous Philly cop, doesn’t want Byrne’s help. But they will need each other desperately, since they’ve just caught the case of a lifetime: Someone is killing devout young women, bolting their hands together in prayer, and committing an abomination upon their otherwise perfect bodies.

Byrne and Balzano spearhead the hunt for the serial killer, who leads them on a methodically planned journey. Suspects appear before them like bad dreams–and vanish just as quickly. And while Byrne’s sins begin to catch up with him, and Balzano tries to solve the blood-splattered puzzle, the body count rises. Meanwhile, the calendar is approaching Easter and the day of the resurrection. When the last rosary is counted, a madman’s methods will be revealed, and the final crime will be the one that hurts the most.

Relentlessly paced and vividly told, The Rosary Girls is a smart, emotionally complex, fiercely gripping thriller from an author who takes chances, breaks new ground, and leaves readers haunted and moved long after the last page is turned.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
One of the most popular riffs on the police procedural is the partner story -- and suspense writer Richard Montanari's powerful novel rings the changes on a veteran cop/new partner situation. Kevin Byrne has years of experience with the Philadelphia Homicide Unit, a reputation for working a case for as long as it takes to solve it, and a nasty gift that sometimes gives him a vision of the perp he's after. Now that his longtime partner is sidelined by a heart attack, he has someone new riding shotgun, and it remains to be seen how she'll deal with his less-than-orthodox methods.At least Jessica Balzano is no rookie detective…but three years of experience in Auto isn't the same as a stint in Homicide. But as Kevin sees it, she's earned her chance to prove herself. She's as eager as he is for a case that will push her to the limit and beyond. Jessica doesn't expect to get her big break the first day out, but that's what happens when she and Kevin are called to the scene of the murder of a parochial school student. The dead girl, clasping a rosary, has been mutilated in a way that shocks even the hardened medical examiner. And when a second teen's body is discovered and a task force is formed, Jessica is determined to make sure that she stays on the case. And if that means going the extra mile and risking her own life and sanity by immersing herself in the dark, dangerous mind of a serial killer, that's what she'll do to close the case of the Rosary Girls. Sue Stone
From the Publisher
Praise for The Rosary Girls

“The Rosary Girls is a well-written, fast-moving thriller with twists and turns galore that will keep you guessing until the end.”
–Phillip Margolin, author of Lost Lake

“Readers of this terrifying page-turner are in the hands of a master storyteller. Be prepared to stay up all night.”
–James Ellroy, author of L.A. Confidential

“A relentlessly suspenseful, soul-chilling thriller that hooks you instantly.”
–Tess Gerritsen

From the Hardcover edition.

Publishers Weekly
A specialist in serial killer tales (Kiss of Evil, etc.) offers the gory first in a projected series. A religious nut is preying on Catholic schoolgirls, picking them off with impunity while Philadelphia detective Kevin Byrne and his new partner, Jessica Balzano, wring their hands and wrack their brains. The victims are found with their necks broken, their hands bolted together in prayer and their vaginas sewn shut. Byrne has a problematic past and a Vicodin habit, and Jessica's daughter, Sophie, is a tempting target for the killer, especially since her dad, undercover cop Vincent Balzano, has been kicked out of the house for cheating on Jessica. Several red herring suspects keep both cops and readers off balance, and there are plenty of subplots-Jessica is a female boxer, Byrne is the divorced father of a deaf daughter, there's a nosy tabloid reporter trying to start trouble. But most of these mini-dramas serve only to provide a breather between sadistic mutilations. Montanari can be a wonderfully evocative writer, but the final unveiling of the madman's identity will draw cries of foul from readers who expect a fighting chance at figuring out who the guilty party is. Agent, Meg Ruley. (Feb.) Forecast: Ballantine is pushing this one as Montanari's breakout book-and it's a featured alternate of the Literary Guild, the Mystery Guild and the Doubleday Book Club-but the dangling subplots and a formulaic ending may hobble it a bit. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Leaving behind Cleveland detective Jack Paris, Montanari (Kiss of Evil) introduces Philadelphia veteran cop Kevin Byrne and his rookie partner Jessica Balzano. What hasn't changed is the twisted serial killer and the gore-drenched violence that are Montanari's trademarks. Here the Philly killer targets teenage girls attending Catholic schools, leaving a rosary with each corpse and a clue to the next murder. This is a no-holds-barred thriller with driving prose that thrusts the reader into the black soul of the killer. The plot is cleverly crafted, the appealing characters are multidimensional, and those with a taste for Thomas Harris will look forward to the sure-to-follow sequel. Recommended for popular fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/04.]-Rebecca House Stankowski, Purdue Univ. Calumet Lib., Hammond, IN Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Someone is killing the Catholic schoolgirls of Philly. Detective Jessica Balzano, the newest Gold Badge in the Philadelphia Homicide Unit, has caught the high-profile case of five girls slain in a single week. There's no telling why, no sign of an end to the brutal pattern. Each victim has rosary beads clutched in her hand, each has been mutilated in a grisly way. Jessica, a decorated police officer's daughter, is bright, resourceful, eager to succeed and as nervous as a kitten on her first day. Fortunately, she draws as her partner Kevin Byrne, a man whose 20 years on the force has given him a special insight into the pathology of serial killers and a special hatred of them derived from his conviction that mindless cruelty is an inextricable part of a serial killer's m.o. Byrne likes Jessica. He thinks she's talented and committed. She respects him enormously. Together, they mount an investigation that soon points in an interesting direction-until its subject is transformed from possible mastermind to brutalized victim, leaving Jessica and Byrne suddenly clueless. Frustrated, though not discouraged, they return to the grunt work. It bears fruit, and this time Jessica feels absolutely certain it's the right direction-something that scares the daylights out of her. A long but lively police procedural told with Montanari's (The Violet Hour, 1998, etc.) signature brand of inelegant brio. Agent: Meg Ruley/Jane Rotrosen Literary Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345470966
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/28/2006
  • Series: Kevin Byrne & Jessica Balzano Series , #1
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 251,618
  • Product dimensions: 5.49 (w) x 6.86 (h) x 1.21 (d)

Meet the Author

RICHARD MONTANARI is a novelist, screenwriter, and essayist. His work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Detroit Free Press, Cleveland Plain Dealer, and scores of other national and regional publications. He is the OLMA-winning author of the internationally acclaimed thrillers Kiss of Evil, Deviant Way, and The Violet Hour–all published in more than twenty countries. Visit the author’s website at www.richardmontanari.com.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

Palm Sunday, 11:55 PM

There is a wintry sadness about this one, a deep-rooted melancholy that belies her seventeen years, a laugh that never fully engages any sort of inner joy.

Perhaps there is none.

You see them all the time on the street; the one walking alone, books clutched tightly to her breast, eyes cast earthward, ever adrift in thought. She is the one strolling a few paces behind the other girls, content to accept the rare morsel of friendship tossed her way. The one who baby-sits her way through all the milestones of adolescence. The one who refuses her beauty, as if it were elective.

Her name is Tessa Ann Wells.

She smells like fresh-cut flowers.

“I cannot hear you,” I say.

“. . . lordaswiddee,” comes the tiny voice from the chapel. It sounds as if I have awakened her, which is entirely possible. I took her early Friday morning, and it is now nearly midnight on Sunday. She has been praying in the chapel, more or less nonstop.

It is not a formal chapel, of course, merely a converted closet, but it is outfitted with everything one needs for reflection and prayer.

“This will not do,” I say. “You know that it is paramount to derive meaning from each and every word, don’t you?”

From the chapel: “Yes.”

“Consider how many people around the world are praying at this very moment. Why should God listen to those who are insincere?”

“No reason.”

I lean closer to the door. “Would you want the Lord to show you this sort of contempt on the day of rapture?”

“No.”

“Good,” I reply. “What decade?”

It takes a few moments for her to answer. In the darkness of the chapel, one must proceed by feel.

Finally, she says: “Third.”

“Begin again.”

I light the remainder of the votives. I finish my wine. Contrary to what many believe, the rites of the sacraments are not always solemn undertakings, but rather are, many times, cause for joy and celebration.

I am just about to remind Tessa when, with clarity and eloquence and import, she begins to pray once more:

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. . . .”

Is there a sound more beautiful than a virgin at prayer?

“Blessed art thou amongst women. . . .”

I glance at my watch. It is just after midnight.

“And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. . . .”

It is time.

“Holy Mary, mother of God. . . .”

I take the hypodermic from its case. The needle gleams in the candlelight. The Holy Spirit is here.

“Pray for us sinners. . . .”

The Passion has begun.

“Now and at the hour of our death. . . .”

I open the door, and step into the chapel.

Amen.

Part One

Monday, 3:05 AM

There is an hour known intimately to all who rouse to meet it, a time when darkness sheds fully the cloak of twilight and the streets fall still and silent, a time when shadows convene, become one, dissolve. A time when those who suffer disbelieve the dawn.

Every city has its quarter, its neon Golgotha.

In Philadelphia, it is known as South Street.

This night, while most of the City of Brotherly Love slept, while the rivers flowed mutely to the sea, the flesh peddler rushed down South Street like a dry, blistering wind. Between Third and Fourth Streets he pushed through a wrought iron gate, walked down a narrow alleyway and entered a private club called Paradise. The handful of patrons scattered about the room met his gaze, then immediately averted their eyes. In the peddler’s stare they saw a portal to their own blackened souls, and knew that if they engaged him, even for a moment, the understanding would be far too much to bear.

To those who knew his trade, the peddler was an enigma, but not a puzzle anyone was eager to solve.

He was a big man, well over six feet tall, with a broad carriage and large, coarse hands that promised reckoning to those who crossed him. He had wheat-colored hair and cold green eyes, eyes that would spark to bright cobalt in candlelight, eyes that could take in the horizon with one glance, missing nothing. Above his right eye was a shiny keloid scar, a ridge of ropy tissue in the shape of an inverted v. He wore a long, black leather coat that strained against the thick muscles in his back.

He had come to the club five nights in a row now, and this night he would meet his buyer. Appointments were not easily made at Paradise. Friendships were unknown.

The peddler sat at the back of the dank, basement room, at a table that, although not reserved for him, had become his by default. Even though Paradise was settled with players of every dark stripe and pedigree, it was clear that the peddler was of another breed.

The speakers behind the bar offered Mingus, Miles, Monk; the ceiling: soiled Chinese lanterns and rotary fans covered in wood-grain contact paper. Cones of blueberry incense burned, wedding the cigarette smoke, graying the air with a raw, fruity sweetness.

At three-ten, two men entered the club. One was the buyer; the other, his guardian. They both met the eyes of the peddler. And knew.

The buyer, whose name was Gideon Pratt, was a squat, balding man in his late fifties, with flushed cheeks, restless gray eyes and jowls which hung like melted wax. He wore an ill-fitting three-piece suit and had fingers long-gnarled by arthritis. His breath was fetid. His teeth, ocher and spare.

Behind him walked a bigger man—bigger even than the peddler. He wore mirrored sunglasses and a denim duster. His face and neck were ornamented with an elaborate web of ta moko, the Maori tribal tattoos.

Without a word, the three men gathered, then walked down a short hallway to a supply room.

The back room at Paradise was cramped and hot, packed with boxes of off-brand liquor, a pair of scarred metal desks and a mildewed, ragged sofa. An old jukebox flickered carbon blue light.

Once in the room, door closed, the large man, who went by the street name of Diablo, roughly patted down the peddler for weapons and wires, attempting to establish a stratum of power. As he was doing this, the peddler noted the three-word tattoo at the base of Diablo’s neck. It read: Mongrel for Life. He also noticed the butt of a chrome Smith and Wesson revolver in the large man’s waistband.

Satisfied that the peddler was unarmed, and wore no listening devices, Diablo stepped away, behind Pratt, crossed his arms and observed.

“What do you have for me?” Pratt asked.

The peddler considered the man before answering him. They had reached the moment that occurs in every transaction, the instant when the purveyor must come clean and lay his wares upon the velvet. The peddler reached slowly into his leather coat—there would be no furtive moves here—and removed a pair of Polaroid pictures. He handed them to Gideon Pratt.

Both photographs were of fully clothed, precociously posed teenaged black girls. The one called Tanya sat on the front stoop of her row house, blowing a kiss to the photographer. Pink and white streamers cascaded from the handlebar grips. Alicia, her sister, vamped on the beach in Wildwood.

As Pratt scrutinized the photos, his cheeks flared crimson for a moment, his breath hitched in his chest.

“Just . . . beautiful,” he said.

Diablo glanced at the photos, registering no reaction. He turned his gaze back to the peddler.

“What is her name?” Pratt asked, holding up one of the photos.

“Tanya,” the peddler replied.

“Tan-ya,” Pratt repeated, separating the syllables, as if to sort the essence of the girl. He handed one of the pictures back, then glanced at the photograph in his hand. “She is adorable,” he added. “A mischievous one. I can tell.”

Pratt touched the photograph, running his finger gently over the glossy surface. He seemed to drift for a moment, lost in some reverie, then put the picture into his pocket. He snapped back to the moment, back to the business at hand. “When?”

“Now,” the peddler replied.

Pratt reacted with surprise and delight. He had not expected this. “She is here?”

The peddler nodded.

“Where?” asked Pratt.

“Nearby.” Gideon Pratt straightened his tie, adjusted the vest over his bulging stomach, smoothed what little hair he had. He took a deep breath, finding his axis, then gestured to the door. “Shall we?”

The peddler nodded again, then looked to Diablo for permission. Diablo waited a moment, further cementing his status, then stepped to the side.

From the Hardcover edition.

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First Chapter

PA L M SU N DAY, 1 1 : 5 5 PM

There is a wintry sadness about this one, a deep-rooted melancholy that belies
her seventeen years, a laugh that never fully engages any sort of inner joy.
Perhaps there is none.
 You see them all the time on the street; the one walking alone, books
clutched tightly to her breast, eyes cast earthward, ever adrift in thought. She
is the one strolling a few paces behind the other girls, content to accept the
rare morsel of friendship tossed her way.The one who babysits her way through
all the milestones of adolescence.The one who refuses her beauty, as if it were
elective.
Her name is Tessa Ann Wells.
She smells like fresh-cut flowers.
"I cannot hear you," I say.
". . . lordaswiddee," comes the tiny voice from the chapel. It sounds as if I
have awakened her, which is entirely possible. I took her early Friday morning,
and it is now nearly midnight on Sunday. She has been praying in the chapel,
more or less nonstop.
It is not a formal chapel, of course, merely a converted closet, but it is out-
fitted with everything one needs for reflection and prayer.
"This will not do," I say."You know that it is paramount to derive meaning
from each and every word, don't you?"
From the chapel:"Yes."
"Consider how many people around the world are praying at this very
moment.Why should God listen to those who are insincere?"
"No reason."
I lean closer to the door."Would you want the Lord to show you this sort of
contempt on the day of rapture?"
"No."
"Good," I reply."What decade?"
It takes a few moments for her to answer. In the darkness of the chapel, one
must proceed by feel.
Finally, she says:"Third."
"Begin again."
I light the remainder of the votives. I finish my wine. Contrary to what
many believe, the rites of the sacraments are not always solemn undertakings,
but rather are,many times, cause for joy and celebration.
I am just about to remind Tessa when, with clarity and eloquence and
import, she begins to pray once more:
"Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee . . ."
Is there a sound more beautiful than a virgin at prayer?
"Blessed art thou amongst women . . ."
I glance at my watch. It is just after midnight.
"And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus . . ."
It is time.
"Holy Mary, mother of God . . ."
I take the hypodermic from its case.The needle gleams in the candlelight.
The Holy Spirit is here.
"Pray for us sinners . . ."
The Passion has begun.
"Now and at the hour of our death . . ."
I open the door and step into the chapel.
Amen.
 
Part One
1
MO N DAY, 3 : 0 5 A M

There is an hour known intimately to all who rouse to meet it, a
time when darkness sheds fully the cloak of twilight and the streets fall
still and silent, a time when shadows convene, become one, dissolve.A
time when those who suffer disbelieve the dawn.
Every city has its quarter, its neon Golgotha.
In Philadelphia, it is known as South Street.
This night, while most of the City of Brotherly Love slept, while the
rivers flowed mutely to the sea, the flesh peddler rushed down South
Street like a dry, blistering wind. Between Third and Fourth Streets he
pushed through a wrought-iron gate, walked down a narrow alleyway,
and entered a private club called Paradise. The handful of patrons scattered
about the room met his gaze, then immediately averted their eyes.
In the peddler's stare they saw a portal to their own blackened souls, and
knew that if they engaged him, even for a moment, the understanding
would be far too much to bear.
To those who knew his trade, the peddler was an enigma, but not a
puzzle anyone was eager to solve.
He was a big man, well over six feet tall, with a broad carriage and
large, coarse hands that promised reckoning to those who crossed him.
He had wheat-colored hair and cold green eyes, eyes that would spark to
bright cobalt in candlelight, eyes that could take in the horizon with one
glance, missing nothing. Above his right eye was a shiny keloid scar, a
ridge of ropy tissue in the shape of an inverted V. He wore a long black
leather coat that strained against the thick muscles in his back.
He had come to the club five nights in a row now, and this night he
would meet his buyer. Appointments were not easily made at Paradise.
Friendships were unknown.
The peddler sat at the back of the dank basement room at a table that,
although not reserved for him, had become his by default. Even though
Paradise was settled with players of every dark stripe and pedigree, it was
clear that the peddler was of another breed.
The speakers behind the bar offered Mingus, Miles, Monk; the ceiling:
soiled Chinese lanterns and rotary fans covered in wood-grain contact
paper. Cones of blueberry incense burned, wedding the cigarette
smoke, graying the air with a raw, fruity sweetness.
At three ten, two men entered the club. One was the buyer; the
other, his guardian. They both met the eyes of the peddler.And knew.
The buyer, whose name was Gideon Pratt, was a squat, balding man
in his late fifties, with flushed cheeks, restless gray eyes, and jowls that
hung like melted wax. He wore an ill-fitting three-piece suit and had fingers
long-gnarled by arthritis. His breath was fetid. His teeth, ocher and
spare.
Behind him walked a bigger man-bigger even than the peddler. He
wore mirrored sunglasses and a denim duster. His face and neck were
ornamented with an elaborate web of ta moko, the Maori tribal tattoos.
Without a word, the three men gathered, then walked down a short
hallway to a supply room.
The back room at Paradise was cramped and hot, packed with boxes
of off-brand liquor, a pair of scarred metal desks, and a mildewed, ragged
sofa.An old jukebox flickered carbon-blue light.
Once in the room, door closed, the large man, who went by the
street name of Diablo, roughly patted down the peddler for weapons and
wires, attempting to establish a stratum of power. As he was doing this,
the peddler noted the three-word tattoo at the base of Diablo's neck. It read: MONGREL FOR LIFE. He also noticed the butt of a chrome Smith & Wesson revolver in the large man's waistband.
Satisfied that the peddler was unarmed and wore no listening
devices, Diablo stepped away, behind Pratt, crossed his arms, and
observed.
"What do you have for me?" Pratt asked.
The peddler considered the man before answering him. They had
reached the moment that occurs in every transaction, the instant when
the purveyor must come clean and lay his wares upon the velvet. The
peddler reached slowly into his leather coat-there would be no furtive
moves here-and removed a pair of Polaroid pictures. He handed them
to Gideon Pratt.
Both photographs were of fully clothed, suggestively posed teenaged
black girls. The one called Tanya sat on the front stoop of her row house,
blowing a kiss to the photographer. Alicia, her sister, vamped on the
beach in Wildwood.
As Pratt scrutinized the photos, his cheeks flared crimson for a
moment, his breath hitched in his chest. "Just . . . beautiful," he said.
Diablo glanced at the snapshots, registering no reaction. He turned
his gaze back to the peddler.
"What is her name?" Pratt asked, holding up one of the photos.
"Tanya," the peddler replied.
"Tan-ya," Pratt repeated, separating the syllables, as if to sort the
essence of the girl. He handed one of the pictures back, then glanced at
the photograph in his hand. "She is adorable," he added. "A mischievous
one. I can tell."
Pratt touched the photograph, running his finger gently over the
glossy surface. He seemed to drift for a moment, lost in some reverie,
then put the picture into his pocket. He snapped back to the moment,
back to the business at hand. "When?"
"Now," the peddler replied.
Pratt reacted with surprise and delight. He had not expected this. "She is here?"
The peddler nodded.
"Where?" asked Pratt.
"Nearby."
Gideon Pratt straightened his tie, adjusted the vest over his bulging stomach, smoothed what little hair he had. He took a deep breath, finding his axis, then gestured to the door. "Shall we?"
The peddler nodded again, then looked to Diablo for permission.
Diablo waited a moment, further cementing his status, then stepped to
the side.
The three men exited the club, walked across South Street to Orianna
Street. They continued down Orianna, emerging into a small parking
lot between the buildings. In the lot were two vehicles: a rusted van
with smoked-glass windows and a late-model Chrysler. Diablo put a hand
up, strode forward, and looked into the windows of the Chrysler. He
turned, nodded, and Pratt and the peddler stepped up to the van.
"You have the payment?" the peddler asked.
Gideon Pratt tapped his pocket.
The peddler looked briefly between the two men, then reached into
the pocket of his coat and retrieved a set of keys. Before he could insert
the key into the van's passenger door, he dropped them to the ground.
Both Pratt and Diablo instinctively looked down, momentarily distracted.
In the following, carefully considered instant, the peddler bent down
to retrieve the keys. Instead of picking them up, he closed his hand
around the crowbar he had placed behind the right front tire earlier in the
evening. When he arose, he spun on his heels and slammed the steel bar
into the center of Diablo's face, exploding the man's nose into a thick
scarlet vapor of blood and ruined cartilage. It was a surgically delivered
blow, perfectly leveraged, one designed to cripple and incapacitate but
not kill. With his left hand the peddler removed the Smith & Wesson
revolver from Diablo's waistband.
Dazed, momentarily bewildered, operating on animal instinct
instead of reason, Diablo charged the peddler, his field of vision now
clouded with blood and involuntary tears. His forward motion was met
with the butt of the Smith & Wesson, swung with the full force of the
peddler's considerable strength. The blow sent six of Diablo's teeth into
the cool night air, then clacking to the ground like so many spilled pearls.
Diablo folded to the pitted asphalt, howling in agony.
A warrior, he rolled onto his knees, hesitated, then looked up, anticipating
the deathblow.
"Run," the peddler said.
Diablo paused for a moment, his breath now coming in staggered,
sodden gasps. He spit a mouthful of blood and mucus.When the peddler
cocked the hammer of the weapon and placed the tip of the barrel to his
forehead, Diablo saw the wisdom of obeying the man's order.
With great effort, he arose, staggered down the road toward South
Street, and disappeared, never once taking his eyes from the peddler.
The peddler then turned to Gideon Pratt.
Pratt tried to strike a pose of menace, but this was not his gift. He
was facing a moment all murderers fear, a brutal computation of his
crimes against man, against God.
"Wh-who are you?" Pratt asked.
The peddler opened the back door of the van. He calmly deposited
the gun and the crowbar, and removed a thick, cowhide belt. He wrapped
his knuckles in the hard leather.
"Do you dream?" the peddler asked.
"What?"
"Do . . . you . . . dream?"
Gideon Pratt fell speechless.
For Detective Kevin Francis Byrne of the Philadelphia Police Department's
Homicide Unit, the answer was a moot point. He had tracked Gideon Pratt for a long time, and had lured him into this moment with precision and care, a scenario that had invaded his dreams.
Gideon Pratt had raped and murdered a fifteen-year-old girl named Deirdre Pettigrew in Harrowgate Park, and the department had all but given up on solving the case. It was the first time Pratt had killed one of his victims, and Byrne had known that it would not be easy to draw him out. Byrne had invested a few hundred hours of his own time and many a night's sleep in anticipation of this very second.
And now, as dawn remained a dim rumor in the City of Brotherly Love, as Kevin Byrne stepped forward and landed the first blow, came his receipt.


Twenty minutes later they were in a curtained emergency room at
Jefferson Hospital. Gideon Pratt stood dead center, Byrne to one side, a
staff intern named Avram Hirsch on the other.
Pratt had a knot on his forehead the size and shape of a rotted plum,
a bloodied lip, a deep purple bruise on his right cheek, and what might
have been a broken nose. His right eye was nearly swollen shut. The front
of his formerly white shirt was a deep brown, caked with blood.
As Byrne looked at the man-humiliated, demeaned, disgraced,
caught-he thought about his own partner in the Homicide Unit, a
daunting piece of ironwork named Jimmy Purify. Jimmy would have
loved this, Byrne thought. Jimmy loved the characters, of which Philly
seemed to have an endless supply. The street professors, the junkie
prophets, the hookers with hearts of marble.
But most of all, Detective Jimmy Purify loved catching the bad guys.
The worse the man, the more Jimmy savored the hunt.
There was no one worse than Gideon Pratt.
They had tracked Pratt through an extensive labyrinth of informants,
had followed him through the darkest veins of Philadelphia's netherworld
of sex clubs and child pornography rings. They had pursued him with the
same sense of purpose, the same focus and rabid intent with which they
had stepped out of the academy so many years earlier.
Which was just the way Jimmy Purify liked it.
It made him feel like a kid again, he said.
In his day Jimmy had been shot twice, run over once, beaten far too
many times to calculate, but it was a triple bypass that finally took him
out. While Kevin Byrne was so pleasantly engaged with Gideon Pratt,
James "Clutch" Purify was resting in a post-op room in Mercy Hospital,
tubes and drip lines snaking out of his body like Medusa's snakes.
The good news was that Jimmy's prognosis looked good. The sad
news was that Jimmy thought he was coming back to the job. He wasn't.
No one ever did from a triple. Not at fifty. Not in Homicide. Not in Philly.
I miss you, Clutch, Byrne thought, knowing that he was going to meet
his new partner later that day. It just ain't the same without you,man.
It never will be.
Byrne had been there when Jimmy went down, not ten, powerless
feet away. They had been standing near the register at Malik's, a hole-inthe-
bricks hoagie shop at Tenth and Washington. Byrne had been loading
their coffees with sugar while Jimmy had been macking the waitress,
Desiree, a young, cinnamon-skinned beauty at least three musical styles
Jimmy's junior and five miles out of his league. Desiree was the only real
reason they ever stopped at Malik's. It sure as hell wasn't the food.
One minute Jimmy had been leaning against the counter, his young-
girl rap firing on all eight, his smile on high beam. The next minute he
was on the floor, his face contorted in pain, his body rigid, the fingers of
his huge hands curling into claws.
Byrne had frozen that instant in his mind, the way he had stilled few
others in his life. Over his twenty years on the force, he had found it
almost routine to accept the moments of blind heroism and reckless
courage in the people he loved and admired. He had even come to accept
the senseless, random acts of savagery delivered by and unto strangers.
These things came with the job: the steep premium to justice sought. It
was the moments of naked humanity and weakness of flesh, however, he
could not elude, the images of body and spirit betrayed that burrowed
beneath the surface of his heart.
When he saw the big man on the muddied tile of the diner, his body
skirmishing with death, the silent scream slashed into his jaw, he knew
that he would never look at Jimmy Purify the same way again. Oh, he
would love him, as he had come to over the years, and he would listen to
his preposterous stories, and he would, by the grace of God, once again
marvel at Jimmy's lithe and fluid abilities behind a gas grill on those sweltering
Philly summer Sundays, and he would, without a moment's thought or hesitation, take a bullet to the heart for the man, but he knew immediately that this thing they did-the unflinching descent into the maw of violence and insanity, night after night-was over.
As much as it brought Byrne shame and regret, that was the reality of
that long, terrible night.
The reality of this night, however, found a dark balance in Byrne's
mind, a delicate symmetry that he knew would bring Jimmy Purify
peace. Deirdre Pettigrew was dead, and Gideon Pratt was going to take
the full ride. Another family was shredded by grief, but this time the
killer had left behind his DNA in the form of a gray pubic hair that would
send him to the little tiled room at SCI Greene. There Gideon Pratt
would meet the icy needle if Byrne had anything to say about it.
Of course, the justice system being what it was, there was a fifty-fifty
chance that, if convicted, Pratt would get life without parole. If that
turned out to be the case, Byrne knew enough people in prison to finish
the job. He would call in a chit. Either way, the sand was running on
Gideon Pratt. He was in the hat.
"The suspect fell down a flight of concrete steps while he attempted
to evade arrest," Byrne offered to Dr. Hirsch.
Avram Hirsch wrote it down. He may have been young, but he was
from Jefferson. He had already learned that, many times, sexual predators
were also quite clumsy, and prone to tripping and falling. Sometimes
they even had broken bones.
"Isn't that right, Mr. Pratt?" Byrne asked.
Gideon Pratt just stared straight ahead.
"Isn't that right, Mr. Pratt?" Byrne repeated.
"Yes," Pratt said.
"Say it."
"While I was running away from the police, I fell down a flight of
steps and caused my injuries."
Hirsch wrote this down, too.
Kevin Byrne shrugged, asked: "Do you find that Mr. Pratt's injuries
are consistent with a fall down a flight of concrete steps, Doctor?"
"Absolutely," Hirsch replied.
More writing.
On the way to the hospital, Byrne had had a discussion with Gideon
Pratt, imparting the wisdom that what Pratt had experienced in that
parking lot was merely a taste of what he could expect if he considered a
charge of police brutality. He had also informed Pratt that, at that
moment, Byrne had three people standing by who were willing to go on
the record that they had witnessed the suspect tripping and falling down
the stairs while being chased. Upstanding citizens, all.
In addition, Byrne disclosed that, while it was only a short ride from
the hospital to the police administration building, it would be the longest
few minutes of Pratt's life.To make his point, Byrne had referenced a few
of the tools in the back of the van: the saber saw, the surgeon's ribcracker,
the electric shears.
Pratt understood.
And he was now on the record.
A few minutes later, when Hirsch pulled down Gideon Pratt's pants
and stained underwear, what Byrne saw made him shake his head. Gideon
Pratt had shaved off his pubic hair. Pratt looked down at his groin, back up at Byrne.
"It's a ritual," Pratt said. "A religious ritual."
Byrne exploded across the room. "So's crucifixion, shithead," he said.
"What do you say we run down to Home Depot for some religious supplies?"
At that moment Byrne caught the intern's eyes. Dr. Hirsch nodded,
meaning, they'd get their sample of pubic hair. Nobody could shave that
close. Byrne picked up on the exchange, ran with it.
"If you thought your little ceremony was gonna stop us from getting a
sample, you're officially an asshole," Byrne said. "As if that was in some
doubt." He got within inches of Gideon Pratt's face. "Besides, all we had
to do was hold you until it grew back."
Pratt looked at the ceiling and sighed.
Apparently that hadn't occurred to him.


Byrne sat in the parking lot of the police administration building, braking from the long day, sipping an Irish coffee. The coffee was cop-shop rough. The Jameson paved it.
The sky was clear and black and cloudless above a putty moon.
Spring murmured.
He'd steal a few hours sleep in the borrowed van he had used to lure
Gideon Pratt, then return it to his friend Ernie Tedesco later in the day.
Ernie owned a small meat packing business in Pennsport.
Byrne touched the wick of skin over his right eye. The scar felt warm
and pliant beneath his fingers, and spoke of a pain that, for the moment,
was not there, a phantom grief that had flared for the first time many
years earlier. He rolled down the window, closed his eyes, felt the girders
of memory give way.
In his mind, that dark recess where desire and revulsion meet, that
place where the icy waters of the Delaware River raged so long ago, he
saw the last moments of a little girl's life, saw the quiet horror unfold . . .
. . . sees the sweet face of Deirdre Pettigrew. She is small for her age, naïve
for her time. She has a kind and trusting heart, a sheltered soul. It is a sweltering
day, and Deirdre has stopped for a drink of water at a fountain in Harrowgate
Park.A man is sitting on the bench next to the fountain. He tells her that
he once had a granddaughter about her age. He tells her that he loved her very
much and that his granddaughter got hit by a car and she died.That is so sad,
says Deirdre. She tells him that a car had hit Ginger, her cat. She died, too.The
man nods, a tear forming in his eye. He says that, every year, on his granddaughter's
birthday, he comes to Harrowgate Park, his granddaughter's favorite
place in the whole world.
The man begins to cry.
Deirdre drops the kickstand on her bike and walks to the bench.
Just behind the bench there are thick bushes.
Deirdre offers the man a tissue . . .
Byrne sipped his coffee, lit a cigarette. His head pounded, the images
now fighting to get out. He had begun to pay a heavy price for them. Over the years he had medicated himself in many ways-legal and not, conventional and tribal. Nothing legal helped. He had seen a dozen doctors, heard all the diagnoses-to date, migraine with aura was the prevailing theory.
But there were no textbooks that described his auras. His auras were
not bright, curved lines. He would have welcomed something like that.
His auras held monsters.
The first time he had seen the "vision" of Deirdre's murder, he had
not been able to fill in Gideon Pratt's face. The killer's face had been a
blur, a watery draft of evil.
By the time Pratt had walked into Paradise, Byrne knew.
He popped a CD in the player, a homemade mix of classic blues. It
was Jimmy Purify who had gotten him into the blues. The real thing, too:
Elmore James, Otis Rush, Lightnin' Hopkins, Bill Broonzy.You didn't
want to get Jimmy started on the Kenny Wayne Shepherds of the world.
At first Byrne didn't know Son House from Maxwell House. But a lot
of late nights at Warmdaddy's and trips to Bubba Mac's on the shore had
taken care of that. Now, by the end of the second bar, third at the latest,
he could tell the difference between Delta and Beale Street and Chicago
and St. Louis and all the other shades of blue.
The first cut on the CD was Rosetta Crawford's "My Man Jumped
Salty on Me."
If it was Jimmy who had given him the solace of the blues, it was
Jimmy who had also brought him back into the light after the Morris
Blanchard affair.
A year earlier, a wealthy young man named Morris Blanchard had
murdered his parents in cold blood, blown them apart with a single shot
each to the head from a Winchester 9410. Or so Byrne had believed,
believed as deeply and completely as anything he had understood to be
true in his two decades on the job.
He had interviewed the eighteen-year-old Morris five times, and each
time the guilt had risen in the young man's eyes like a violent sunrise. Byrne had directed the CSU team repeatedly to comb Morris's car, his dorm room, his clothing. They never found a single hair or fiber, nor a single drop of fluid that would place Morris in the room the moment his parents were torn apart by that shotgun.
Byrne knew that the only hope he'd had of getting a conviction was a
confession. So he had pressed him. Hard. Every time Morris turned around, Byrne was there: concerts, coffee shops, studying in McCabe Library. Byrne had even sat through a noxious art house film called Eating, sitting two rows behind Morris and his date, just to keep the pressure on. The real police work that night had been staying awake during the movie.
One night Byrne parked outside Morris's dorm room, just beneath
the window on the Swarthmore campus. Every twenty minutes, for eight
straight hours, Morris had parted the curtains to see if Byrne was still
there. Byrne had made sure the window of the Taurus was open, and the
glow of his cigarettes provided a beacon in the darkness. Morris made
sure that every time he peeked he would offer his middle finger through
the slightly parted curtains.
The game continued until dawn. Then, at about seven thirty that
morning, instead of attending class, instead of running down the stairs
and throwing himself on Byrne's mercy, babbling a confession, Morris
Blanchard decided to hang himself. He threw a length of towrope over a
pipe in the basement of his dorm, stripped off all his clothes, then kicked
out the sawhorse beneath him. One last fuck you to the system. Taped to
his chest had been a note naming Kevin Byrne as his tormentor.
A week later the Blanchard's gardener was found in a motel in
Atlantic City, Robert Blanchard's credit cards in his possession, bloody
clothes stuffed into his duffel bag. He immediately confessed to the
double homicide.
The door in Byrne's mind had been locked.
For the first time in fifteen years, he had been wrong.
The cop-haters came out in full force. Morris's sister Janice filed a
wrongful death civil suit against Byrne, the department, the city. None of
the litigation amounted to much, but the weight increased exponentially
until it threatened to break him.
The newspapers had taken their shots at him, vilifying him for weeks
with editorials and features. And while the Inquirer and Daily News and CityPaper had dragged him over the coals, they had eventually moved on. It was The Report-a yellow rag that fancied itself alternative press, but in reality was little more than a supermarket tabloid-and a particularly fragrant piece-of-shit columnist named Simon Close, who had made it personal beyond reason. For weeks after Morris Blanchard's suicide, Simon Close wrote polemic after polemic about Byrne, the department, te police state in America, finally closing with a profile of the man Morris Blanchard would have become: a combination Albert Einstein, Robert
Frost, and Jonas Salk, if one were to believe.
Before the Blanchard case, Byrne had given serious consideration to
taking his twenty and heading to Myrtle Beach, maybe starting his own
security firm like all the other burned-out cops whose will had been
cracked by the savagery of inner-city life. He had done his time as interlocutor
of the Bonehead Circus. But when he saw the pickets in front of
the Roundhouse-including clever bons mots such as burn byrne!-he
knew he couldn't. He couldn't go out like that. He had given far too
much to the city to be remembered that way.
So he stayed.
And he waited.
There would be another case to take him back to the top.
Byrne drained his Irish, got comfortable in his seat. There was no
reason to head home. He had a full tour ahead of him, starting in just a
few hours. Besides, he was all but a ghost in his own apartment these
days, a dull spirit haunting two empty rooms. There was no one there to
miss him.
He looked at the windows of the police administration building, the
amber glow of the ever-burning light of justice.
Gideon Pratt was in that building.
Byrne smiled, closed his eyes. He had his man, the lab would confirm
it, and another stain would be washed from the sidewalks of Philadelphia.
Kevin Francis Byrne wasn't a prince of the city.
He was king.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 24 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 24 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2013

    Whoa! What an exciting thriller.

    Highly recommend this book if you are a fan of police crime thrillers. Great story with interesting characters. I thought I had it figured out a number of times, but nope, not until the end. Even then I was wrong!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2005

    Great read

    I do a lot of reading and when I picked up this book, I thought 'more of the same in this genre'. Wow! was I wrong. This was a fast paced, twisted ,suspenseful thriller. You really don't know 'who done it?' until the last few pages, though there are many twists and turns up until then. If you are looking for a great read in this milieu this is it. And besides all of that you learn something of the rituals of the rosary and coincidently you travel the mean streets of Philadelphia

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2005

    One of the Finest Novels I've Read

    THE ROSARY GIRLS is one of the finest novels I have ever read. It is fast paced and filled with page after page of seat-edged suspense. The book is difficult to put down and will keep you awake long into the night. The characters are extremely well drawn. Even the secondary characters have substance and depth. The dialogue is smooth and realistic, never stilted or boring. The first thing you will want to do when you finish this novel is read another of Richard Montanari¿s novels. Unfortunately, his previous novels are not readily available. The best thing this author¿s agent/publisher could do would be to reissue his backlist. It would be an act of kindness to all of us who favor the suspense or mystery genre. This author should be encouraged to write, write and then write some more. Fans of James Patterson, John Grisham, Sue Grafton, Michael Connelly, Mary Higgins Clark, Nelson DeMille and John Lescroart will add Richard Montanari to their list of favorite authors.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2012

    Fabilous read

    This was gripping. Hard to put down at night. Highly recommended read. Will see what else has been written by this author.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 11, 2012

    Not a nonfiction book on using the rosary to pray

    crappy book.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 1, 2010

    Fascinating story

    I picked this book up in the afternoon & did not want to put it down until I was done! I found the story complex and I kept guessing 'who did it' - I read a lot of mysteries and this is the first one is a while that totally hooked me in. I really enjoyed this book because other than the mystery I felt the characters were being developed as opposed to being two dimensional. Also the topic of young girls being murdered isn't exactly pleasant, but the author didn't go into gory details with the murders. I find alot of newer mystery writers try to go all CSI with how the bodies are found and what exactly were done to them. This book did discuss those topics but not ad nauseum like some others do.

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  • Posted January 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent!

    This was my first book by this author. It will not be my last! Great thriller that had me on the edge of my seat and kept me guessing until the end. Looking forward to Kevin & Jessica's next case!

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  • Posted February 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Fantastic...

    The Rosary Girls is very engaging and addicting. I enjoyed the characters in this book because they aren't portrayed as perfect, they are real people with their own flaws. Philadelphia provided an interesting setting for this mystery/thriller. The sadistic killer was demented, which is made obvious from the gruesome details in the book. Richard Montanari is an author that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys dark and gritty suspenseful thrillers.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2006

    fabulous fast read!

    got this book from an equally addicted mystery reading friend and agree with her strong reccommendation! great plot lines, interesting characters and scary without being over the top!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2006

    What a Great Read

    This truely is a great book. It keeps you guessing till the last page. Was hard to put down. Was one of those books that you couldn't wait for the end so you found out who was doing the killings, then when you have finished the book you missed the characters. The good news is Mr. Montanari has written a follow up book (The Skin Gods) with the same detectives.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2005

    Keeps you guessing

    This is an excellent read. Make sure you have time to read because this will keep you up all night wanting to read the next page. It will keep you guessing until the very end.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2005

    A page turner

    This was the kind of book that you start reading and just can't wait until you get to the next page. Everyone is a suspect and it keeps you guessing to the end.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2005

    An Excellent Thriller

    This book was my first read of a Montanari novel and I couldn't put the book down until I finished the last page, which is a first for me! I have read all the best of the mystery/thriller writers from Crais, Connelly, Crichton, DeMille, Deaver, Flynn, North Patterson, Fulsome, W.E.B. Griffin,and so on and so forth. Although, I don't necessarily read a book because it's on the NYT bestseller list since that list is not necessarily accurate in it's judgement of what a great mystery read is For example; Richard definately belongs on the NYT bestseller list so how come he isn't on it?. I pride myself on being quite discriminate in my choice of excellent mystery novels and Mr. Montanari's 'The Rosary Girls' is certainly that. I am going to pick up the rest of his past mysteries and hope they are of equal quality. Of course, I wait with bated breath for another novel containing his characters Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano. I would venture to say, I have had a marvelous time turning the pages and holding my breath at the same time Bravo Mr. Montanari...you have a great talent and those of us who appreciate a good mystery salute you !!! .

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A chilling thriller

    Philadelphia detective Kevin Byrne, a twenty year veteran, works in the homicide unit. He has a phenomenal success rate of clearing his cases but his methods make him a maverick who adheres to the letter of the law but not its spirit. Detective Jessica Balzano is assigned to the homicide unit with Byrne as her partner; he accepts her as an equal............................... Their first case is the murder of a teenage high school girl who is found in an abandoned house. Her hands are bolted together by someone using a drill. Her vagina is stitched up and a cross in blue chalk is on her forehead. The perpetrator left no other evidence behind. Two more teens are found dead in the same way, all three having attended a Catholic high school. They finally figure out that the killer is reenacting the five sorrowful mysteries of the rosary which means he intends to kill at least two more girls before he is finished. Byrne and Jessica work overtime trying to get one step ahead of him, not realizing that for his finale he has very special plans for Jessica and her daughter....................... Anyone who has not read a Richard Montanari thriller is missing something very special. THE ROSARY GIRLS is told in the third person from the police working the crime and the first person point of view of the killer. This is a book that is very exciting with several red herrings to force the reader (and the police) down the wrong path so that the audience will need to finish it in one sitting so they can find out who the killer is. Hopefully there will be future books starring Byrne and Jessica............................. Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2004

    Rosary Girls - a Philadelphia Crime novel

    I'll admit I am partial to crime/mystery/legal novels that take place in my home town. William Lashner and Lisa Scottoline always seem to end up on my reading list somehow. Now, Cleveland native Richard Montonari has begun a series based on a duo of Philadelphia-based cops that freely combines both actual and fictional venues based in the City of Brotherly Love. Part of the fun is deducing the real places or institutions he cleverly masks. I got a preview of Rosary Girls recently, and was glued to a cover-to-cover read. Obviously, Mr. Montanari has a few cheesesteaks under his belt, as he has captured the flavor of a huge city with disparate neighborhoods and cultures. Our cops have a reputation for sometimes administering 'street justice', but even those of us with liberal leanings feel a little safer for it. Beyond the venue, however, this is a gritty, twisted tale with abrupt turns of plot, and characters you may alternately love, hate, admire and be repulsed by. Montanari's books are not for the squeamish, as the grisly details of his evil-doers' deeds could easily make a hoagie come straight back up. Despite the wild ride, he manages to wind up with a satisfying, if not necessarily happy ending, just when all is given up for lost. Regardless of your home town, Richard Montanari is a mystery writer who will doubtless join the top ranks. Even though reading him can be a disturbing, nightmare-inducing practice, once you are hooked, you'll be anxiously awaiting the next one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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