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The Talk Show Murders (Billy Blessing Series #3)

The Talk Show Murders (Billy Blessing Series #3)

3.8 7
by Al Roker, Dick Lochte

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Al Roker returns with his most tantalizing mystery to date—as celebrity chef turned sleuth Billy Blessing finds his plate full of danger and secrets from his long-buried past threaten to make a comeback.
Before Billy Blessing was tapped to co-host the morning show Wake Up, America!, the celebrity chef lived a totally different


Al Roker returns with his most tantalizing mystery to date—as celebrity chef turned sleuth Billy Blessing finds his plate full of danger and secrets from his long-buried past threaten to make a comeback.
Before Billy Blessing was tapped to co-host the morning show Wake Up, America!, the celebrity chef lived a totally different life under a very different identity: as wily con man Billy Blanchard. Caught trying to run a scam on a shady Detroit businessman, Billy did time for his crimes, and has successfully kept that part of his past covered up ever since. But when Eddie Patton, a nosy ex-cop with a long memory, tries to blackmail him, Billy may have to pay up or to see the embarrassing truth blogcast to the world. And when Patton winds up dead, it’s just the first in a string of killings that has America’s most beloved TV host scrambling for clues and desperate to clear his name. Throw in a budding romance with a visiting movie star, and Billy Blessing may have finally gotten himself into one sticky situation even he can’t talk his way out of.
“Great fun! Al pulls back the curtain to reveal what really goes on when the cameras go off.”—Harlan Coben

“Great fun, full of nifty twists and turns.”—Carl Hiaasen
“An engaging performance . . . The Talk Show Murders has all the charm and depth of a network morning show. The characters are pithy and colorful.”—Mystery Scene
“As well-paced and thoughtfully prepared as an Alice Waters tasting menu.”—Kirkus Reviews
“For fans old and new, The Talk Show Murders is a book not to pass up.”—The Philadelphia Tribune

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The Midnight Show Murders

“Great fun, full of nifty twists and turns.”—Carl Hiaasen
“Roker and Lochte offer a satisfying entrée to follow the appetizer they provided in The Morning Show Murders.”—Kirkus Reviews
The Morning Show Murders
“This is a funny, funny, very funny mystery that really gallops along and has several cool twists.”—James Patterson

“Dazzling . . . If you like your crime with a brilliant plot, crackling dialogue, a dash of celebrity and plenty of suspense, then The Morning Show Murders is an absolute must-read.”—Linda Fairstein
“Roker brings his A-game to the table when it comes to giving readers a birds-eye view into the behind-the-scenes action on a television show.”—Chicago Sun-Times
“Action-packed, fast-paced, and fun to read.”—The Oklahoman

Publishers Weekly
Roker and Lochte delve into the hitherto unknown dark side of their engaging lead, chef and TV personality Billy Blessing, in their third whodunit (after 2010’s The Midnight Show Murders). While Blessing’s Today-like morning show, Wake Up, America!, is telecasting for two weeks in Chicago, Pat Patton, an ex-cop turned right-wing blogger, corners Blessing. Besides knowing Blessing’s real last name, Patton knows of the chef’s arrest for fraud 25 years earlier and, possibly, the truth behind the murder of Blessing’s partner-in-crime. While Blessing’s still adjusting to the implications of Patton’s blackmail threats, someone connected to Wake Up, America! is murdered. The authors take things lightly (“Every mystery novel I’ve ever read,” Blessing says at one point, “if somebody dies in a fire, they always turn up in the last chapter alive with a gun in their hand”), but offer enough clues and twists to gratify fair-play fans. (Dec.)
Kirkus Reviews
A celebrity chef lands in someone's crosshairs after an appearance on a daytime talk show. Billy Blessing (The Midnight Show Murders, 2010, etc.), star of Wake Up, America!'s cooking spot, hasn't entirely made a secret of his former life as William Blanchard, who went to jail for helping his foster father, con man Paul Lamont. But he doesn't exactly flaunt it either. So when he guest stars on Midday with Gemma along with former Chicago cop Pat Patton, the last thing he wants is for Patton to show up in his hotel room threatening to expose his past. Paul is long deceased, killed on orders from mobster Gio Polvere. Polvere is dead too, killed in a fire. When Patton buys it as well, Billy goes on alert, but what puts him over the top is the death of Larry Kelsto, a comic who was supposed to appear on Gemma with him and Patton until he got bumped because starlet Carrie Sands went on too long about her latest project, an American remake of Gerard Parnelle's The Thief Who Stole the Eiffel Tower. Now strangers in a van are taking pot shots at Billy and Carrie. Mantata, an art gallery owner with likely ties to Lamont, steps out of the shadows, sending three oddball henchmen to protect him. But can Philippine fashion plate Hiho, jiving Jamaican Trejean and good-old-boy-gone-wrong Dal save Chef Billy from a threat whose source is as mysterious as Mantata himself? Despite its over-the-top finale, Roker and Lochte's third is as well-paced and thoughtfully prepared as an Alice Waters tasting menu.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Billy Blessing Series , #3
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.36(w) x 6.72(h) x 0.95(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter ONE

At roughly six—thirty on a Thursday morning that dawned bright and clear, members of the Chicago Police Department’s Homicide Division and Forensic Services were lured to the city’s Oak Street Beach by a body that had been deposited on the sand by Lake Michigan’s ebbing tide. A drowning in the lake, accidental or otherwise, was not exactly remarkable. But this one was clearly unique, though that fact was not presented immediately to the public.

The CPD had dropped a cone of silence over the discovery. Even the hapless early—morning jogger who’d nearly stumbled over the corpse was being forced to pursue his cardio perfection in seclusion somewhere off the grid.

Surprisingly, in this era of instant information, where members of the media are as persistent as they are plentiful, the news blackout lasted for nearly thirty hours. It was broken by a gray—haired, ill—tempered former cop named Edward “Pat” Patton. Since his retirement, Patton had begun a second career with a blog, Windy City Blowdown, devoted primarily to outspoken and often outrageous political critiques, right—wing rants and, adding a much—needed patina of credibility to his efforts, an ex—lawman’s insider take on the city’s criminal activity.

Blowdown’s popularity had led to Patton’s frequent appearances on local talk shows and on a few network offerings, such as Midday with Gemma, where the eponymous hostess Gemma Bright had just welcomed him to share a periwinkle—blue couch with her previous guest, Carrie Sands, a young vibrantly blond actress who was starring in a new motion picture filming in the city.

When the applause of the primarily female audience began to subside, Patton plopped down on the couch. He leaned in close to the actress and whispered something in her ear that caused her smile to lose its perk. Then he turned his attention toward the show’s hostess, adjusting his face in what he probably believed resembled a Gene Hackman–Popeye Doyle half—grin. “Okay, Gemma, I’m here,” he said in his familiar, gruff voice. “So what d’ya wanna talk about today?”

“Oh, I think you know, Pat.” Gemma Bright’s Australian accent was elaborate, slightly nasal, and made more distinctive by her odd habit of emphasizing words and syllables in a seemingly random fashion. This, combined with her fortysomething zaftig but stylish good looks, an extroverted personality, and an ability to convey what seemed like genuine interest, had positioned her as the second—most—popular television personality in the Second City. “We want some dish on that mysterious body that washed ashore yesterdye.”

“Dish, huh? Well, lemme tell ya, babe, it ain’t all that appetizing.”

“Death rarely is,” Gemma said.

“That’s probably why all those health—conscious wimps kept jogging past the body without stopping,” Patton said. “Or could it be that they were just too caught up in their own petty little lives to wanna get involved?”

“That’s not fair,” Carrie Sands chirped, evidently feeling he was talking about her people. “When you jog you get in the zone and you block out a lot of what’s happening around you.”

“That explains why most of you bubbleheads voted for our illus-trious illegal—alien president. You were in the zone.” Patton winked at the audience, which, surprisingly, rewarded him with scattered applause and laughter.

“Holy shit, Billy,” my assistant, Kiki Owens, said. “Who is this trog?”

“You know as much about him as I do,” I said, which was the truth at the time.

“After the president’s release of his full, authenticated birth certificate, this guy must be the last idiot spewing the birther crap. On our network!”

“Oh that pesky First Amendment,” I told her.

We were in the studio—six greenroom of Worldwide Broadcasting’s Chicago affiliate, WWBC, watching the midday show unfold while I awaited my turn on camera. We were sharing the space with a pale, undernourished—looking guy in his twenties. His black hair was bowl—cut in what may have been an homage to the late Moe Howard, may he rest in Three Stooges Heaven. His concave chest was wrapped in a black T‑shirt emblazoned with the statement “Down is the New Up” in yellow letters. His faded black jeans had slipped low enough on his hips to show an inch or two of candy—striped boxers, which in its way complimented his oversized pink high—top canvas shoes.

“Patton’s a local celebrity,” he said. “A real asshole who treats his employees like dirt.”

“You work for him?” I asked.

He frowned. “Me? I’m Larry Kelsto. Why would I work . . . ? I’m a comic,” he stated, adding defensively, “I’ve been on a bunch of network shows. Last Comic Standing, Comedy Brew, Last Call with Carson Daly. Anyway, if you want to know about Pat Patton . . .”

He then went on to provide a Wikipedia—lite explanation of Pat Patton’s semi—fame, concluding with, “The guy never met anybody he didn’t hate. He’s the opposite of Roy Rogers.”

“I think you mean Will Rogers,” I said.

“Who the hell is Will Rogers?”

“Roy’s father,” I told him, dismayed that a comedian, even a young one, would have to ask that question.

Larry Kelsto was not really interested in any of the Rogerses, including, I assumed, Kenny or the late Mister. Lowering his voice, he said to Kiki, “You’re an actress or a model, right?”

Kiki stared at him. She’s an attractive, diminutive black woman who seems as fragile as an orchid, but, as I once witnessed, she can make a six—foot—four, 290—pound Russian Mafia enforcer break down and cry like a baby. Her best weapon is a British accent with which she can draw blood faster than a buck knife. Judging by the look she was giving Larry, she didn’t seem to be into younger guys. Or maybe it was the candy—striped boxers. Or the shoes. Probably just Larry.

“Stick to comedy,” she said, and focused her attention on the monitor.

That didn’t seem to improve her disposition. “I’m picking up a really toxic vibe from Mr. Patton. We should leave now, Billy.”

“Are you kidding? What business are we in, again? Show business. And what’s the cardinal rule? The show must go on.”

“I can fill for you,” the comedian said.

“Thanks, Larry, but I think I can handle it.”

Kiki shook her head. “Big mistake, Billy.”

“Relax,” I said. “It’s just a talk show. After sharing a couch with Carrot Top, listening to him expound on the joy of weightlifting, and Sean Hannity just being Sean Hannity, this will be a breeze.”

“Really? Listen to the guy. He’s rancid, Billy. He makes Hannity sound like Walter Cronkite.”

“Bite your tongue,” I said.

On the monitor, Patton’s face had turned a sanguine shade as he replied to something the young blond actress had said. “Okay, I give you that, missy. Out of a couple hundred self—absorbed, gotta—stay-in-shape me—firsters, one little wimp shows some sense of civic responsibility by pressing a button on his cute little iPhone to call the CPD. Give ’im the friggin’ key to the city, why not?”

“We tried to get him for the show,” Gemma said, diluting the man’s vitriol by choosing to ignore it. “But the police are treating this as if Homeland Security were being threatened. We couldn’t even find out his name.”

“All you had to do was ask me, Gemma,” Patton said. “It’s Shineman. Carl Shineman. They got him locked up tight in his million—dollar high—rise apartment on Elm.”

“Why all the seecrecy?”

“Ah. If I told you that, Gemma, you’d know as much as me.”

“How is it, Pat, that you allways seem to be in the know on every crime story?”

“Honey, as I’ve told you before, I put in a lotta long, hard years with the CPD, and I was payin’ attention every minute. I understand how things work and where to go to get the info that citizens have a right to know.”

“Then maybe you should tell us why the police are being so seecretive.”

Patton hesitated, then said, “It’s . . . all about the corpse, Gemma.”

“The corpse?” It was our hostess’s turn to address the camera. “This bad boy will never even give me a clue about what he’s going to say once he’s out here.”

“Where would the fun be in that?” Patton asked with a guffaw. “I get a kick out of seeing your reactions.” He faced the audience. “You like to be surprised, too, am I right?”

Applause and giggles.

“Point made, Pat. So what’s the big seecret about the corpse?”

“The police don’t want to look like clowns, but the fact is, even with all their state—of—the—art computer toys, they’re having the devil’s own time making an ID.”

“Had the body been in the lake that long?” Gemma inquired.

“The water and the fishies did some damage, to be sure,” Patton said. “But that’s not the real problem.”

I noticed a tiny crease appear above Gemma’s right eyebrow. Love that high—def quality. She seemed to be getting a little peeved at the way Patton was drawing it out. “And the real problem is . . . ?” she demanded.

Grinning, the ex-cop ran a thick finger across his neck. “The corpse’s head had been chopped off clean. And they can’t find it anywhere.”

Enjoy your lunch, kids.



Gemma blinked.

I’d written off as nonsense her comment about not knowing what Patton was going to say. Even if Standards and Practices didn’t have their own often too—rigid rules of dos and don’ts, talk show hosts are usually control freaks, at least professionally. But from where I was sitting, it looked like genuine surprise on her elaborately pancaked face.

She waited for the gasps from the audience to subside and asked, “You’re saying someone decapitated the victim?”

“He sure as heck didn’t do it himself,” Patton said. “His hands and feet were chopped off, too.”

“OhmyGod!” Carrie Sands exclaimed. “Then it had to be murder.”

The view switched from a two—shot of Patton and Gemma to an angle that included the actress.

“The missing hands do kinda rule out suicide, babe,” Patton said. “But like the old joke says, they could always use what was left for third base.”

“That’s disgusting,” Carrie said.

Patton shrugged. “All in the eye of the beholder. I know people who say pole dancing is disgusting. Personally, I’m a fan.”

Carrie glared at the grinning man.

“If you can get your mind off of pole dancing for a few more minutes, Pat,” Gemma said, “is there anything else you can tell us about the mysterious body?”

The camera moved in on Patton.

“Sure,” he said. “The vic was Caucasian. Male. That much is still in evidence. Wherever the head is, it’s got brown hair. In his forties, they think. No DNA match so far. The feeling at Homicide is that he’s somebody whose identity would point the way to the killer or killers.”

The camera closed in on Patton and Gemma, catching a glint in her green eyes. “And they have no idea who the poor soul might be?”

Patton lowered his head and tried another Gene Hackman grin. “They don’t.”

“But you do?”

He shrugged. “Let’s just say I’ve got a hunch. If it pans out, you and your audience will be the first to hear, Gemma.”

“Does your hunch have anything to do with the work you were doing before your retirement? Back when you were on the Organized Crime Task Force?”

He smiled. “Good try, Gemma. But no. Those Outfit guys usually didn’t bother cuttin’ off parts of the body if they were using the vic for fish food. When they put somebody in the drink, they stayed in the drink.”

“W-whoever did this didn’t try to keep the . . . d‑dead man submerged?” Carrie Sands asked, catching the camera operator off guard. By the time he found her, Patton was answering the question.

“They tried. The theory is the body had been anchored by a heavy weight but broke loose when the fish came to dinner. Judging by the teeth marks, they say it mighta been a bull shark did most of the dining. I been living in Chi my whole life and I never knew there were bull shark in Lake Michigan.”

Gemma Bright must have realized the idea of a shark nibbling on the corpse was one nightmare image too many for her lunchtime audience. “Yes. Well. Nasty business, indeed.”

She turned to the camera and said, “A real—life murder mystery, and we’ll be bringing you the events as they unfold. Now, coming up is a charming man—you all know him from Wake Up, America!, seen every weekday morning from seven to nine right here on WWBC Chicago, and on his own cooking show on the Wine and Dine cable network, Chef Billy Blessing.

“But first . . .”

As the show cut to a commercial, I stood, fully aware of Kiki’s gimlet eye. She was on the verge of saying something, but Larry Kelsto interrupted her.

“Only fourteen minutes left,” he whined. “I’m getting that bumped feeling. I knew it as soon as Patton showed up, the asshole.”

I took a few deep breaths and tried to relax. A young woman appeared at the door, wearing denims, a white WBC T‑shirt, a barbed—wire tattoo on her left wrist, and a headset. Whispering into the headset, she approached and quickly and efficiently checked a tiny wireless microphone before hiding it behind my tie.

“This way, Chef Blessing,” she said.

“Lose the goofy grin, Billy,” Kiki advised. “It’s inappropriate with all the talk about a headless dead body.”

As I followed my guide along the darkened backstage area, I heard Gemma announcing, “Here he is, one of your favorites and my very good friend, superchef Billy Blessing.”

A stagehand pulled back a flap in the dark curtain, and I stepped into bright lights and a response that sounded, to my ears, at least, a little more enthusiastic than the blinking applause signs usually produced.

The other two guests shifted on the couch as I took our hostess’s hand and kissed it. I can be debonair when I want to. I gave the still-applauding audience a friendly wave and took my place on the end of the couch.

Gemma smelled of magnolias. Patton smelled of a spicy aftershave and, unless I missed my guess, a mid—morning gin.

“Billy, it’s wonderful to have you here again,” our hostess said. “It’s been much too long since your last visit.”

“About three years,” I said. “Definitely too long. This is a great city.”

Gemma faced the camera. “This is the busiest man I know. In addition to his so very entertaining television work, he has a marvelous restaurant in Manhattan. He writes cookbooks and—”

“He was mixed up in some murders on the West Coast,” Patton said.

A shadow of annoyance flitted over Gemma’s face. She wasn’t used to being upstaged, especially by a guest who’d already moved to the less—active middle of the couch. “How right you are, Pat,” she said.

She leaned closer to me and, using a softer, more intimate voice, said, “You went through quite an ordeal in Southern California last year, Billy. And before that, you helped the police with a series of murders in New York City, as we know from the fascinatingly suspenseful book you wrote. What was it called?”

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
The Midnight Show Murders

“Great fun, full of nifty twists and turns.”—Carl Hiaasen
“Roker and Lochte offer a satisfying entrée to follow the appetizer they provided in The Morning Show Murders.”—Kirkus Reviews
The Morning Show Murders
“This is a funny, funny, very funny mystery that really gallops along and has several cool twists.”—James Patterson

“Dazzling . . . If you like your crime with a brilliant plot, crackling dialogue, a dash of celebrity and plenty of suspense, then The Morning Show Murders is an absolute must-read.”—Linda Fairstein
“Roker brings his A-game to the table when it comes to giving readers a birds-eye view into the behind-the-scenes action on a television show.”—Chicago Sun-Times
“Action-packed, fast-paced, and fun to read.”—The Oklahoman

Meet the Author

Al Roker is known to more than thirty million viewers for his work on NBC’s Today show, a role that has earned him ten Emmy awards. He is the New York Times bestselling author of Don’t Make Me Stop This Car!: Adventures in Fatherhood and co-author (with Dick Lochte) of the Billy Blessing novels, The Morning Show Murders and The Midnight Show Murders. An accomplished cook, Roker also has two cookbooks to his credit. Al Roker lives in Manhattan with his wife, ABC News and 20/20 correspondent Deborah Roberts, and has two daughters and a son.
Dick Lochte is the author of many popular crime novels, including the award-winning Sleeping Dog, named one of “the 100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century” by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association. His crime fiction column ran for nearly a decade in the Los Angeles Times and earned him the 2003 Ellen Nehr Award for Excellence in Mystery Reviewing. He lives in Southern California.

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Talk Show Murders 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was very disappointed with the book . Had to force myself to finish it. Won't be reading anymore in this series .
harstan More than 1 year ago
Wake Up, America! Morning show is on location in Chicago. Retired CPD cop Edward "Pat" Patton, the extreme right wing true crime blogger, guests appears on the show. He accosts the co-host Billy Blessing; whom he knew when the renowned chef was a two bit con artist Billy Blanchard who was sent to prison for fraud and implies he also knows what happened to Billy's partner in that failed Detroit sting from twenty-five years ago. After prison, Blessing did a complete makeover but concealed his sordid past. Patton threatens to out him on his blog unless Blanchard pays for silence. However, someone murders Patton and soon other homicides associated with the show occur. Still fearing exposure, Blessing investigates hoping to expose the killer. The latest Blessing amateur sleuth (see The Morning Show Murders and The Midnight Show Murders) is an entertaining mystery in which the protagonist's dark past deftly comingles with his lighthearted asides. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Patton and Blessing have that first heated discussion and never slows down until the final spin. Ironically, though in danger of becoming the tabloid's latest celeb scandal and being assaulted, kidnapped, and shot at, Blessing knows his biggest tsuris is his attraction to the French actress in town filming. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Noonatic More than 1 year ago
I ususally enjoy a good mystery, but I can't get into this one at all because it's a continuous rant against anyone who disagrees with a completely liberal platform. Crazy. I can't finish it; it's just way too annoying. Might be ok if there was more of a story to it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a fun book to read. A little bit smoother each time a new one comes out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago