Simpleby Kathleen George
"If anyone's writing better police thrillers than George, I don't know who it is."
Nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Novel for The Odds, Kathleen George has received raves from all corners for her Pittsburgh-set police procedural series. Now, in Simple, series detective Colleen Greer is back in/i>/i>/b>/i>/b>
"If anyone's writing better police thrillers than George, I don't know who it is."
Nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Novel for The Odds, Kathleen George has received raves from all corners for her Pittsburgh-set police procedural series. Now, in Simple, series detective Colleen Greer is back in this stunning.
Cassie Price is thrilled when she's hired to work at one of Pittsburgh's most prestigious law firms. Young, pretty, and from a sheltered background, Cassie's new life as an adult now includes meeting rich and powerful people, and she may even be having a mysterious affair. But when her lifeless body is discovered, the police are stumped. Suspicion falls on a neighborhood handyman, but Detective Colleen Greer and her boss, Commander Richard Christie, are not sure. The detectives discover that what seem like the easiest cases are actually the most complicated.
With fantastic series characters and a compelling story, Kathleen George again proves herself to be a master of the police procedural in Simple.
“What most distinguishes this police procedural... is its fully realized cast of characters, a close-knit group of detectives who deal with shades of gray in crime-solving. George's deft prose, skillful plotting, and winning characters are reminiscent of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct series, and her fiction is almost as praiseworthy.” Booklist (starred)
“So richly observed, subtly characterized, precisely writtenher syncopated paragraphs are a special delightand successful in its avoidance of genre clichés that you’d swear you were reading the first police procedural ever written.” Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“Hideout barrels like a locomotive. The fast-paced suspense pulls you along for the ride.” Kathy Reichs on Hideout
“Stellar… Told in lean, efficient prose, this is a top-notch, emotionally satisfying police procedural.” Publishers Weekly on Hideout
“Outstanding… Would appeal to Dennis Tafoya and Tana French readers.” Library Journal on Hideout
“A winning combination of nuanced character study and expertly plotted, nitty-gritty police procedural.” Booklist on Hideout
“George is, above all else, a master storyteller.” Pittsburgh Magazine on The Odds
“A masterfully plotted crime novel.” Pohla Smith, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on The Odds
“I will read anything that Kathleen George writes.” George P. Pelecanoson on Taken
Read an Excerpt
By Kathleen George
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2012 Kathleen George
All rights reserved.
THEY ARE IN HIS OFFICE, the door locked. He has an eye on the clock because if she stays for a long time, people will talk.
She comes in farther, looking about again as if to memorize the furniture though this is not the first time he's summoned her. He has a sofa in there, comfortable chairs. He gestures her toward the sofa.
"It's been an exhausting day." He throws up a hand awkwardly. She smiles. "Sit for just a minute," he says. He rubs his hands over his eyes and sits on the sofa next to her. "I worry about too many things, and I'm not sure worry does any good at all."
"You remind me of a saint," she says.
"Well, no. Not at all. I'm not sure I'm flattered."
"You look kind of holy. I'm not sure what it is — long face, eyes a little moist." She laughed then.
"Well, you don't seem very taken with me."
"Oh ... I am, though."
And that's what he was waiting to hear. But after she said it — and lightly, as if teasing — she slumped, defeated. Then he said, as if brushing it aside, he said, "I am, too. I mean there's a lot of something in the air between us. I don't want to act on it."
"I know." She glanced at the picture of his wife and two sons on the desk and then quickly averted her eyes. "I'm pretty mixed up. I mean I never had this experience of feeling close to someone who was married. It goes against ... everything. So I fight it."
He said something like, "I wouldn't put you through the ... the mess. The midlife mess." He went to his desk and picked up a folder of information he'd assembled for her about charitable work with the local hospitals. For years he'd coordinated ways for big businesses to present gifts of magazines and flowers and toys to those who needed comfort. "In here," he said. "You'll see how I did it." Instead of handing it over, he sat down across from her and met her eyes. "My wife and I are separated. We live in the same house but not ... you know, together. We have to stay together because of the election — so my handlers tell me." For some reason, he added, knew to add, "She's ... seeing someone. I have to put up with it, and of course that's tough."
"Oh, no. You mean she's ... Has it been for a long time?"
"Long enough." He moved to sit next to her again and began rolling the manila folder instead of handing it over.
"Being governor wouldn't be worth it."
"Oh, don't say that. There are too many people hoping we can pull this off."
"Don't they care about you?"
"They want me in there. For their own purposes mostly — please don't quote me on that, please — and if not now, definitely in four years." He shrugged and noticed what he was doing to the folder, which he then straightened.
"Too slow. Somebody could be in for three terms."
"Interesting. So interesting."
He can see it, hear it, months later, the whole conversation.
"Are those pet projects good things in the long run?" she asked.
"They have to be or I wouldn't play ball."
She wore a simple brown dress that crossed over — a wraparound. He remembered his wife describing that kind of dress once, so he knew the name. It was meant to be modest, but on her it wasn't. She was a creature with bedroom eyes, bedroom mouth. Is that what he couldn't stop thinking about? Or was it the way she carried herself, intensely alert? Or the surprise of her laugh. Or plain need in him for the adoration she provided.
He wanted to see her relax. There was that, too. He handed over the folder. She took it, closed her eyes, then opened them wide to look straight at him.
"Don't care about me," he said. "Don't. You have boyfriends?"
"Plural? That would be something. I don't even have one."
"And why not?"
"I never like anybody enough."
"I just don't."
He leaned over and kissed her. The promise in her eyes and mouth was true; she was a sensual creature. Her family, she'd told him, was very religious. She'd had a strict upbringing and was even homeschooled for a time. "Oh my God," she said. "Oh my God. I wanted this, I thought about you that way, and now here I am and I don't know what to do."
She started to cry. "I'm stupid. As bad as Monica Lewinsky. Falling in love with the wrong person."
"You could make purses afterward," he teased. Then he sobered up. He couldn't do this, not with her. "Don't ever tell anyone I kissed you," he said. "You understand? They would misconstrue — or exaggerate. It would ruin my life. It would ruin all my chances of getting elected. Can you ... not say anything?"
"I won't say anything."
He kissed her again and began touching her body.
That was in May when she came to work for the firm as a paralegal. She was a hard worker. Her name was Cassie Price.
He watched her out of the corner of his eye, so to speak, overheard her talking about wanting to buy a house, and steered her to a friend of his and a real estate company selling properties in the Oakland area. He enjoyed her excitement when she described the house to others in the office — a dinky thing that she planned to transform, a starter house that needed a lot of work.
She was on the verge of a new phase in her life. She was starting law school in the fall.
The thing in the air between them continued. They subsisted on the idea of it for almost a month before they did anything serious about it. At the office her assignments were not always about the political part of his life but included other aspects of the firm's business and some of his charitable work. She was interested in everything. That was May.
* * *
IN AUGUST, THE PARTY organizer came to him as he did at least once a week to jaw about the progress they were making. They sat in his office, him on the sofa, Todd Simon on the chair in front of the sofa. Todd spread out a map of the state on the small coffee table between them. He explained which districts were coming along and which ones weren't, which local party chairmen were likely on board and which were difficult. "We don't have a long time," he said. "And we need more bucks. You're going to have to lean on a few of your friends." He pulled out and lit up a cigarette even though he knew Michael Connolly hated smoke. "I can't raise the bulk of it on my end. I can only do my thing."
"You'll get on these friends in the next two weeks?"
Simon unearthed an ugly plastic ashtray from his briefcase, one that had some logo on it and notches for three cigarettes. He blew smoke in the direction of the door, away from Connolly. Then all of a sudden, Simon said, "How many women in your life? Currently?"
"What do you mean?"
"Don't be dumb. I'm told you mess around. Or have. We're at a crucial juncture. You want to tell me anything?"
"Who are the current squeezes?"
"You don't need to know that."
"I sure do. Believe me, there are people looking to find out."
"Press, donkeys, my bosses."
"I'm very careful."
"Tell me. Let's start with current."
He stared out the window for a long time. He supposed he would always feel there was a camera on his every move. "There's a young ... one of the paralegals here. And six months ago one of my wife's ... friends."
Simon laughed. "Some friend. That's it?"
"And in the more distant past?"
"You don't need that."
"Yes, I do."
"A woman who used to be in the firm."
"She could be trouble."
"She's married. Lives in Dallas. She's content with her life."
"How do they leave you when they leave you?"
"Happy. I'm nice."
"A woman I met at a fund-raiser about ten years ago."
"And where is she?"
"Somewhere in the city. I ran into her, say, three years ago and she was all friendly. No grudges."
"You must do and say the right things. How many more?"
"You don't look the type. Which is good, I guess."
"What does that mean?"
"You look like a guy who wouldn't."
He gave names and addresses. It galled him.
* * *
FOUR DAYS LATER, Simon was back. "You only have four paralegals. I could have figured out which one — not a doubt in my mind — without a name. I'd say she looks unreliable." This time Simon didn't sit down.
"What makes you say that?"
That was true. She was emotional.
That was true. He hated Simon.
"Where do you see her?"
"Thirty miles out, sixty, a hundred. Never the same one."
"I give her cash. She books the room."
"You ever go to her house?"
"Never." It occurred to him afterward that Simon had said "house" and not "place" or "apartment."
"That's good, anyway. And your wife?"
"We're ... okay. The usual stresses."
"Or like she's seeing anybody herself?"
"No, she would never."
"Well, it does happen. Sure?"
"Absolutely. Why? Are you telling me something different?"
"No. No. This little girlfriend of yours. I watched her get into her car one day. She was crying. See? She was crying?"
What could he say? He'd seen the waterworks. They made him nervous, too.
"Tell me," Simon said. "Remember, I'm on your side. You are our boy. A lot of people are putting up a lot of money on you. I need to know. The worst."
"Once she said she was going to call my wife and suggest we all meet and hash it out."
"Who ends up with whom?"
"So she's completely nuts. She doesn't get it, does she — what's at stake for you?"
"She's religious. She's upset. She needs to talk to somebody, I think. She doesn't know how to put it together."
"She thinks she's going to end up with you?"
"And — you want that?"
"No. No. I want to keep things as they are."
A long whistle came out of Simon.CHAPTER 2
THURSDAY, AUGUST 13
LATE AFTERNOON, SIMON was getting into his car in the lot. He'd made sure he parked it near Cassie Price's car. Just as she was getting into her little Focus, he muttered something and looked up at her and gave a big smile. "My cell phone is out of charge." He smiled again.
"Don't you have a car charger?"
"I forgot it. Would you be willing ... I'm sorry. I know who you are. I've seen you up at the offices. I'm the party man for —"
"Oh, I know who you are, too. I've seen you up there."
"Yeah, yeah. Meeting with our boy. He's fantastic, isn't he?"
"Yes." She handed over her phone.
He punched in a number and walked away, pacing a bit a few yards from her. Finally he said, "Simon here. We need it. I'm telling you we need it yesterday. Call me. Any time tonight." He ended the call — the noncall. He went back to her, handing over her phone. "Thanks. Is anybody ever at the other end of a phone these days?"
"Thank you. Would you ... What a day! Would you be willing to go someplace for a few minutes? Have a drink or a coffee?"
"Oh, I really couldn't."
He made a halfhearted gesture of acceptance. "You see, I'm ... kind of worried about our boy."
"Oh!" she said, and then she pulled back and tried to ask casually, "Why? The campaign?"
"Yes and no. His health."
She froze. "He's not well?"
"Maybe I shouldn't have said that. It isn't his physical health."
"He said ... you needed to talk to somebody. I'm a friendly dope."
"He said that?"
"He ... confided in me. An hour? Give me an hour."
"Yes, all right. Where?" She looked around the parking garage as if to suggest they lean against a wall.
"I have to have a drink."
"A bar near your place? Which end of town do you live in?" He knew perfectly well.
"Oakland. Parking is terrible in Oakland up where the bars are. It's not much better in Squirrel Hill. There are bars there that could be okay, but —"
"Hmm. Parking — you're right. How about that Shadyside — you know, Highland Park — area. You know where Casbah is?"
"I've seen it. Highland, right?"
"You got it. One car or two?"
"Two," she said definitely.
He got into his Saab and followed her Ford down the ramps and out the gate of the lot and then into the city. She drove competently, not fast like he wanted to drive. When they got to Casbah twenty-five minutes later, he parked quickly and watched her fuss with a lot of back-and-forth adjustments to get her car evenly between the lines. He played out possible scenarios while he waited. He went to her and led her inside.
"It's dark," she said.
"That way no one will hear us." He winked.
When they'd settled on a padded banquette and he'd ordered a Scotch for himself and persuaded her to try a cocktail, she frowned at the fancy ones on the menu while she picked at the snack mix on the table.
"You like salt?"
"How about a nice margarita?"
He tipped a head to the waitress, who went off, and sat back and looked at her for a moment. "Oh, you are so beautiful."
"I'm not. I know that."
"That's why you're gorgeous. Because you don't flaunt it."
"You said —"
"I know what I said. Sit back. I want to do this slowly. I want to say everything accurately. Let's wait till we have some liquid relaxation —"
The waitress carefully put down cocktail napkins, glasses, and a fresh dish of cocktail mix. She asked if they wanted anything else. Simon shook his head.
"Drink up," he said easily to Cassie, who was sipping and making a face.
"This margarita is ... I mean I tasted one before, but this one is somehow different."
"Better. More salty. But tell me now. I can't stand this. You're worried about him?"
"And you. What do you call him? Our boy, Mick?"
"I wish you'd say what it is. You're making me nervous."
"In time. Sit still. Timing is everything. Breathe. We both need to be very patient. Tell me, the margaritas you had in college or wherever — was there much of that? Partying? Our Mick has the impression you didn't do much partying."
"I didn't. I maybe sipped a margarita once. I didn't go to parties until my senior year and then not very many."
"What did you do with yourself?"
"What does this have to do with ... Mike's health? I'm being patient. I just don't see the point of beating around the bush."
"It's the whole picture. He worries about you, and that makes him vulnerable. He'll never get elected if anybody finds out about you. You understand that, I know you do, and yet you keep seeing him. You are willing to stand in his way."
She stiffened and didn't say anything for a long time. "It's not like I'm forcing him." He smiled at her. She returned it with an angry scowl. She took a sip of the drink, then another. "Which is more important," she asked, "real life or the election?"
"I beg to differ."
"So you will stand in his way!" He said this with as much outrage and alarm as he could manage in a whisper in Casbah. He could already imagine the jumble of things party bosses were going to fling at him in some meeting in some out-of-the-way bar with no customers — thought you were watching, all that work, all that money, all this time and goodwill and a little two-bit intern or whatever she is gets away from you.
"I love him."
"That isn't sufficient reason to kill him."
"He loves me."
"He doesn't." He went very still for a moment because she did. He watched as she digested what he'd said, blinking.
"He does. He's going to leave his wife as soon as —"
"He's never going to leave his wife."
"Oh, yes — because —"
"He's not going to. Why do you think he asked me to come talk to you?"
"What are you saying?"
"How old are you? Think. Think. Be a woman."
"He wouldn't do it through you."
"What else is he going to do? You cry, don't you? You make a sign of yourself for everyone to see."
"Never at the office. I hold it back."
"What is he supposed to do? Come on. You're a woman of the world now. Be that. You like the nooky. Have it. Have plenty of it. Have it with me! Just not with him."
"You don't understand at all."
"My dear, I understand more than you can imagine. Let me try you. Have a sip first." She did. "Have another. Tell me if you can feel it, you know, the buzz in the knees, any of that?"
"Man. I might be in love with you."
"No. Don't make fun of me."
"Men fall in love with you. They do. Just looking at you. A little conversation and it's instant. That's what happened to Mike. You had some meeting, some conversation, I don't know what it was, his work on Veterans Affairs or the fund-raiser for the leukemia kid, whatever, you were impressed by him and he saw that and he wanted more of you being impressed by him. Then you, not having a lot of experience of shitheads, I mean men, and apparently ignoring your peer group culture totally, decided it was love. Nothing like love. It was not just lust, I know that, I'm not stupid, I know it was more than lust. It was imagination. Hope. A small fiction of an alternate life to the one you're living. What are you, some poor student? Living in a falling-apart house. All your college mates a year ago thought you were a dork because you weren't living it up when they were. Suddenly in your mind, you're better than any of those idiots, you're in the governor's mansion. You're in the newspapers. You're known for doing good works."
Excerpted from Simple by Kathleen George. Copyright © 2012 Kathleen George. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
KATHLEEN GEORGE is the author of The Odds, which was nominated in 2010 for the Edgar for Best Novel. She is also the editor of the short story collection Pittsburgh Noir. A professor of theatre at the University of Pittsburgh, she and her husband live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
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