Suspicious Origin

Suspicious Origin

4.5 2
by Patricia MacDonald

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Patricia MacDonald has captivated readers worldwide with her page-turning suspense novels that are filled with surprising twists and turns and psychologically perceptive characterizations. Now MacDonald delivers her most masterful work to date -- a chilling thriller about a woman who, while investigating her sister's death in a house fire of suspicious origin,


Patricia MacDonald has captivated readers worldwide with her page-turning suspense novels that are filled with surprising twists and turns and psychologically perceptive characterizations. Now MacDonald delivers her most masterful work to date -- a chilling thriller about a woman who, while investigating her sister's death in a house fire of suspicious origin, uncovers the work of a twisted killer who has taken refuge in an idyllic Vermont town.

When Boston cable television news producer Britt Andersen learns of the death of her beautiful sister, Greta, she heads straight for her sister's hometown. Estranged from Greta since their father died, Britt meets for the first time her attractive brother-in-law, Alec Lynch, the owner of a successful snowmobile dealership, and her eleven-year-old niece, Zoe, who narrowly escaped the fire with her life. Surprised by the emotional bond that springs up between her and Zoe, Britt decides to spend time with her sister's family to help her niece recover from the tragedy. But soon Britt clashes with her brother-in-law and picks up clues about her sister's unhappy marriage and Alec's likely infidelity.

When the fire marshal discovers the house fire was set deliberately, Britt pushes the police to question Alec more closely. An outsider in a small town whose ways she doesn't understand, Britt finds it difficult to sort the truth from the gossip and the innuendos. Why does Dr. Olivia Farrar, with whom Greta worked, hold a grudge against Alec? Is pretty Lauren Rossi merely Alec's devoted employee or "the other woman"? And what do the Carmichaels, Alec's former neighbors, really know about the events that led to the deadly conflagration? When Britt learns a closely guarded family secret she begins to question everything she believed about her sister's life and death...and unwittingly places herself on a collision course with a killer.

With a vibrant cast of memorable characters, unerring insight into the dark side of human nature and exciting twists of plot, Suspicious Origin holds readers engrossed as it races to its stunning, emotionally charged conclusion.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Tess Gerritsen I could not put down this book. It haunted my dreams, called to me through the day.

The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) One of the best practitioners of romantic suspense.

Andrea Kane New York Times bestselling author of Scent of Danger A tightly woven tapestry of psychological suspense...Tension, revelation and self-discovery abound!

Kirkus Reviews Now that Joy Fielding seems to have left soccer-mom suspense behind her, MacDonald may well be the leading practitioner of...domestic intrigue.

Tess Gerritsen New York Times bestselling author of The Apprentice Patricia MacDonald is now on my list of favorite authors.

Lisa Gardner New York Times bestselling author of The Survivors Club MacDonald ratchets up the tension. Even when you think you know what will happen next, MacDonald twists the plot in a new and startling direction.

Kay Hooper New York Times bestselling author of Once a Thief MacDonald kept me guessing and kept me on the edge of my seat.

Publishers Weekly
Some clever hiding of clues in plain sight distinguishes Edgar nominee MacDonald's (The Unforgiven) otherwise unremarkable contemporary thriller. Britt Andersen finds herself playing Nancy Drew after Greta, her estranged older sister, perishes in a fire that also almost claims the life of her 11-year-old niece, Zoe. Remorseful at having lost her chance at reconciliation, Britt leaves Boston, where she produces a late-night news talk show, for the rural Vermont community where her sister lived and died. Her intended short stay for the funeral is extended both by unexpected feelings of connection to Zoe and by the alarming news that the fatal blaze was of "suspicious origin," a phrase that develops a personal resonance when she learns that Greta was trying to locate their mother, who'd deserted them when they were little. After her brother-in-law starts behaving oddly, Britt joins forces with a local reporter to build a case against him. Predictably, Britt too becomes the target of arson and attempted murder. While the author plays fair by giving reasonable hints that still allow for a pleasurable surprise twist, her paper-thin characters generate little interest. A successful professional who must have considerable emotional intelligence to do her job, Britt acts as if the most basic human feelings of love and attachment are an unknowable mystery. Her strictly amateur sleuthing succeeds only by accident. Readers for whom romance matters more than crime-solving, however, will like the hopeful, heart-warming ending. (Apr. 8) FYI: MacDonald is a bestselling author in France. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
After her estranged sister dies in a fire, Britt suspects the charming ex-brother-in-law she has just met. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The arson death of Britt Andersen's long-estranged sister is all in a day's woe in MacDonald's latest round of domestic suspense. Abandoned as a child by her mother, Boston TV producer Britt hadn't spoken to Greta Lynch for 12 years, ever since their father died of cancer while Britt was away at college and Greta's resentment at her own abandonment boiled over. Now Britt arrives in Coleville, Vermont, in the shadow of Mt. Glace, to find that her sister's left a disconcerting legacy. Alec Lynch is so abrupt and unwelcoming that his daughter Zoe's obvious affection and need for her newfound aunt are all the more awkward-especially once police chief Ray Stern rules the fire suspicious and Britt, convinced that Alec set it, trumpets her certainty to both Ray and Alec. Though Alec's neighbor Kevin Carmichael, the high-powered attorney who plucked Zoe from the blaze, takes over his defense, his alibi is laughably weak, and the circumstantial evidence against him dauntingly strong. He's obviously close to Laurie Rossi, the twinkie assistant at his snowmobile dealership; he'd rented a cozy little one-bedroom house even before Greta's death; and the morning Britt arrives, he swiftly takes charge of the registered letter from a detective agency specializing in family surveillance that's come addressed to Greta. The whole setup is all so pat that Britt is obviously misreading her surly brother-in-law as homicidal, leaving the field of suspects wide open (the Carmichaels' spoiled surrogate mother? the ambitious local TV reporter? the self-righteous neighbors?). Yet the characters are too transparently themselves, too forthright in their accusations and defensive maneuvers, to keep their secretshidden very long or very convincingly, and only the dullest readers will be as dumbfounded as Britt by the alleged surprises. MacDonald, who parlayed everyday fears into spiraling paranoia so effectively in Not Guilty (2002), piles on the menace, suspicion, and deceit this time until the whole exercise shrieks formula.

Product Details

Atria Books
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6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Kevin Carmichael awoke with a start in his darkened bedroom and waited for the thudding of his heartbeat to subside. He couldn't remember the nightmare that awakened him. It vanished when he opened his eyes. But from his years of prepping psychiatrists for court testimony he knew enough to trust the lingering feeling. The affect, they called it. An anxiety dream. He'd had so many lately. Over and over he dreamed he was trapped in a maze, meeting one dead end after another, hounded by a sense of futility.

He glanced over at Caroline. She slept peacefully on her side, her abundant, caramel-colored hair spread in a thick tangle of curls across the pillow. He propped himself up on one elbow, reached over and gently brushed a few strands away from her forehead, so that he could see her face. In the dim moonlight, the vibrant peach and honey tones of her skin were faded to gray, but the hollow in her cheek was more pronounced than ever. With one finger he traced the taut, sinuous line of her back. She was an athlete, a lightning bolt on skis, religious with her workouts so that her body had the ideal proportion of muscle to curves. Gazing at the arch of her dark eyebrow, the sculpted curve of her lips, he was suffused with a familiar combination of tenderness and desire. She looked so serene, as if she didn't have a care in the world. She never looked that way when she was awake anymore.

Kevin sighed and glanced at the clock. Twelve-fifteen. There was no way he was going to turn over and go back to sleep. He was as alert as if someone had thrown a bucket of water on his head. He could lie there, shifting positions until he either fell back to sleep, or he awoke his wife with his rustlings. Perhaps she would make a sleepy offer of a massage to help him get back to sleep. Perhaps the massage might lead to caresses and more. He'd never known a woman who stirred him the way Caroline did. Nor had he ever met a woman who could match him, need for need. From the moment they'd set eyes on one another, it had been chemistry, combustion. It was ironic, he thought, and maddening, that all their great sex was unable to satisfy her heart's greatest desire. Specialist after specialist had confirmed that she could never bear a child.

He sighed, and let her sleep. It would be selfish to disturb her.

Carefully, Kevin swung his legs out from under the duvet, stuffed his feet into slippers and reached for his robe which hung over the end of their brass bed frame. He shivered as he pulled it on, and tied the belt. It was only early December, but the Vermont winter had definitely arrived, he thought.

He tiptoed out of the room, and pulled the door closed behind him. He walked down the hall, passing Vicki's room. There was a bar of light under her door. Someone else who was not sleeping. Serves her right, he thought. She was the one who had stolen their peace of mind.

He went downstairs in the darkness and opened the kitchen door. Something dark and low to the ground rushed by him. "Good God," he exclaimed and then, immediately, he remembered. Of course. Vicki's cat, Kirby. Nothing would do but that she bring that flea-bitten furball with her when she moved in. And they had readily agreed to it. So far, they had agreed to quite a few things they would otherwise never have tolerated. Anything to keep her happy with them until she had the baby. Their baby. The baby she was going to let them adopt.

Kevin flipped on the kitchen light and looked around for the plate of brownies Caroline had made this morning. She didn't usually make sweets, because she was careful about their diet. But she'd wanted to make something she could give to their neighbors, the Lynches, to thank them for watching the house and the cat last week, and she'd baked an extra batch for home. Kevin began to rummage in the cupboards, wondering where she might have put the brownies after dinner. He walked over and opened the refrigerator door. There was the brownie plate all right, the plastic wrap crumpled up at the halfway point across the plate. And nothing left but crumbs. Vicki, he thought furiously. That was typical. She'd polished off the food and left the empty plate right there in the refrigerator. Sometimes, he wished he could just throw her out, bag and baggage.

Only a week ago, they'd returned from a wearying trip to Disney World. It had been no vacation for him and Caroline. Their idea of paradise was a hot tub after a day on the slopes. Not traipsing around in the heat from one silly ride to another with a pregnant teenager. But Vicki had never been to Disney World, and she wanted to go. That's ridiculous, Kevin had protested when Caroline had told him what Vicki wanted. But Caroline had pleaded with him, that stricken, anxious look in her huge brown eyes which Kevin had seen so often since Vicki had answered their personals ad. "Loving couple can offer your baby a good home, and a comfortable, happy life."

He slammed the refrigerator door, and put the kettle on for a cup of tea. It would be better for him than brownies anyway. It would all be worth it when they got the baby, he thought, as he waited for the kettle to boil. And it wouldn't be much longer until he'd be filing those adoption papers. Vicki was close to term. She'd moved in with them two months ago. Seems like a lifetime, he thought with a sigh.

Kevin carried his steaming cup into his study down the hall and put his feet up on the desk, tilting back in his chair. He flipped his desk lamp on, but the first place his gaze rested was on the pattern of water stains on the walls, behind his framed university and law school degrees. His curmudgeonly mood returned. The Vicki effect, he thought ruefully. She had left the water running in her private bathroom when they departed for Florida. Zoe Lynch, the eleven-year-old girl who lived in the next house down the road, had been coming in to feed Kirby, and noticed the flood that had already seeped through the ceiling, down the walls and all through his books and papers. Luckily, she'd called her mother, and Greta Lynch had come over, turned off the faucet, and spent an entire day cleaning up the mess as best she could. If not for Greta, they might have returned to a house ankle-deep in water.

Kevin caught a movement behind him out of the corner of his eye. He turned his head to see Kirby poised in the doorway, his yellow eyes glittering. I suppose I ought to be glad you're here, Kevin thought. If it weren't for Zoe feeding you, the whole house would have floated away. Kevin shook his head, and sipped his tea. Relax, he told himself. Try to relax. It won't last forever. Once the baby comes, you and Caroline will have your life back. And your child. Vicki will have the money she wants, and she'll be gone from here. You only have to be patient a little bit longer.

But it was hard. Caroline had quit her job as a physical therapist so that she could ferry Vicki to and from the doctor's, and the childbirth classes, and wait on her hand and foot. Kevin's income had diminished since they moved up here to Vermont, even though they had both agreed on the move. They had wanted to get away from his high-profile law practice in the city, with its attendant press coverage. Here they were anonymous. They could ski all they liked, and raise a baby in a healthier atmosphere. The practice would grow in time, but money was more of an issue than it used to be. Keep your eyes on the prize, he scolded himself. For Caroline's sake. It would all be worth it when he saw her holding that infant in her arms.

Kevin snapped off the desk lamp and returned to the kitchen, where he emptied his teacup and put it into the dishwasher. As he was about to turn and go back upstairs, he heard Kirby, mewing plaintively at the door off the enclosed back porch to be let out.

"Oh, all right," he said irritably. "But it's cold out there." Yawning, he stepped down and went to the door. The moment he pushed the door open, an acrid smell assailed him. Smoke, he thought. His first thought was of his own fireplace. They'd had a fire tonight. He had banked it before they went to bed. Could it have flamed up again? He closed the door and walked back through the house into the living room. A few embers sputtered in the hearth but that was all. Uh-oh, he thought. He opened the front door and stepped outside, shivering, to check around his house. The smell was stronger now, more pronounced, and as he looked out across the snow-coated field beside his house, through the border of bare trees he saw a brilliant red-and-orange glow in the spot where he normally could see the Lynches' farmhouse. "Oh my God," he said aloud. He leaned across his porch rail, trying to get a better look. All he knew for sure was that something that appeared to be a fiery ball was blazing, visible between the bare branches of the trees that separated their properties.

"Jesus Christ," he said. He rushed back into the house, dialed 911 and blurted out "fire" when the operator answered. He gave the address, and slammed down the phone.

Then he ran to the foot of the stairs. "Caroline," he screamed. "Wake up. There's a fire."

"What's...whatsit...Kevin," she mumbled, calling back to him.

"It's a fire," he cried. "It looks like the Lynches' house is on fire. I'm going over there." Not waiting for a reply, he doffed his slippers and robe and jammed his feet into some boots by the door. Then, grabbing his parka off the coatrack in the foyer, he burst out the door and began to run across the field, stumbling on the patches of icy grass in the dark, pulling on his coat as he went.

Copyright © 2003 by Patricia Bourgeau

Meet the Author

Patricia Macdonald's darkly hypnotic tales have captivated readers across America, as well as in France, where she is a #1 bestselling author. Her previous novels include Suspicious Origin, Stranger in the House, Not Guilty, and the Edgar Award-nominated The Unforgiven. She lives with her husband and daughter in New Jersey, where she is working on her next novel.

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Suspicious Origin 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
harstan More than 1 year ago
When Kevin Carmichael wakes up one night, he sees his neighbor¿s home on fire and he rushes out to try and save them. He manages to save ten-year-old Zoë but is unable to get to her mother Greta who dies of smoke asphyxiation. Luckily, Zoë¿s father Alec was out of the house at the time so the child has someone to cling to in this tragedy. Alec calls Britt Anderson to tell her that her sister has died. Though the siblings were estranged, Britt races to their side. When Britt arrives, the surviving father and daughter are staying at a neighbor¿s home. Zoë takes to her immediately but Alec is cold and rude. When the investigation into the fire shows that arson was involved, Britt begins to gather evidence that shows Alec is the perpetrator. It is only after he is arrested that Brett begins to doubt Alec¿s guilt. She does her best to prove his innocence, but her efforts nearly gets her killed by somebody who wants Alec found guilty. Patricia MacDonald, well known for her suspense thrillers, has written a work that rivals the novels of Marry Higgins Clark. The protagonist is a feisty woman who fights for her beliefs and is then not afraid to admit she might have made a big mistake. The story line moves along at such a brisk pace that readers will finish the book in one sitting and then put it on their keeper shelf, because it is too good to give away. Harriet Klausner