Tough Customer

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Overview

Colleagues, friends, and lovers know Dodge Hanley as a private investigator who doesn’t let rules get in his way—in his private life as well as his professional one. If he breaks a heart, or bends the law in order to catch a criminal, he does so without hesitation or apology.

That’s why he’s the first person Caroline King—who after a thirty-year separation continues to haunt his dreams—asks for help when a deranged stalker attempts to murder their daughter . . . the daughter ...

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Tough Customer: A Novel

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Overview

Colleagues, friends, and lovers know Dodge Hanley as a private investigator who doesn’t let rules get in his way—in his private life as well as his professional one. If he breaks a heart, or bends the law in order to catch a criminal, he does so without hesitation or apology.

That’s why he’s the first person Caroline King—who after a thirty-year separation continues to haunt his dreams—asks for help when a deranged stalker attempts to murder their daughter . . . the daughter Dodge has never met. He has a whole bagful of grudging excuses for wishing to ignore Caroline’s call, and one compelling reason to drop everything and fly down to Texas: guilt.

Dodge’s mind may be a haze of disturbing memories and bad decisions, but he arrives in Houston knowing with perfect clarity that his daughter, Berry, is in danger. She has become the object of desire of a co-worker, a madman and genius with a penchant for puzzles and games who has spent the past year making Berry’s life hell, and who now has vowed to kill her.

Dodge joins forces with local deputy sheriff Ski Nyland, but the alarming situation goes from bad to worse when the stalker begins to claim other victims and leaves an ominous trail of clues as he lethally works his way toward Berry. Sensing the killer drawing nearer, Dodge, who’s survived vicious criminals and his own self-destructive impulses, realizes that this time he’s in for the fight of his life.

From acclaimed best-selling author Sandra Brown, Tough Customer is a heart-pounding tale about obsession and murder, the fragile nature of relationships, and, possibly, second chances.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
How does Sandra Brown do it? Over the past thirty years, she has penned more than fifty heart-grabbing romantic thrillers—and that tally doesn't even count novels written under her three pseudonyms! The latest of the batch is this tightly plotted fiction about a female protagonist you won't forget.
Publishers Weekly
Introduced in 2009's Smash Cut, Atlanta PI Dodge Hanley makes this entertaining, if slightly talky romantic thriller from bestseller Brown a must-read for anyone who appreciates a tough guy hero with a heart of gold. Late one night Dodge receives a phone call from his lost love, Houston realtor Caroline King, who asks him to come to Texas to help catch Oren Starks, a creepy over-the-top stalker who's out to kill Dodge and Caroline's 30-year-old daughter, Berry Malone. Dodge hasn't seen Berry since the day she was born. When Starks takes a shot at Berry in Caroline's house, hitting a work associate of Berry's instead, Dodge rushes to the rescue. While Merritt County deputy sheriff Ski Nyland, who falls for the equally smitten Berry, is no slouch on the case, the relentlessly ruthless Dodge plays the most crucial role in the effort to stop the bad guy. Brown fans will want to see more of the irresistible Dodge. (Aug.)
Kirkus Reviews

A manhunt for a homicidal stalker reunites an ex-cop and his long-lost daughter, in Brown's latest thriller (Rainwater, 2009).

Private eye Dodge Hanley, who left the Houston police for Atlanta years before, is summoned back to Texas by his long-ago flame Caroline King, now a successful realtor. Caroline wants Dodge, who once rescued her from an abusive fiancé, to lend his sleuthing skills to find Oren Starks, the man who burst in on her daughter Berry and Berry's co-worker Ben at Caroline's lake house near the small town of Merritt. Shooting and wounding Ben, Oren fled, but not before vowing to murder Berry. A dismissed co-worker at the Houston marketing firm where Berry and Ben work, Oren was unhinged by his thwarted efforts to woo Berry and another colleague, Sally Buckland. Dodge (who, unbeknownst to Berry, is her father) and local deputy Ski Nyland join forces to track Oren down. Ski's call to Sally finds her strangely reluctant to corroborate her previous claim of sexual harassment against Oren, perhaps because Oren has a gun to her head during the call. Despite a leg injury sustained at Caroline's house, Oren confounds pursuers by somehow managing to be in several places at once. He breaks into a Merritt motel room, fatally wounding a teenager who surprises him there. Sally's body is found hanging in the closet of Berry's Houston home. Oren takes an elderly couple hostage in a campground, and kills again before disappearing into the Big Thicket, a treacherous, swampy national park. Brown's trademark romance spiced with raunch serves her well as she orchestrates two parallel lust stories: Caroline's and Dodge's passionate but brief encounter in 1978, and the present frisson between Berry and Dodge's younger doppelgänger, hard-boiled cop Ski. The narrative, slowed by too many talky scenes and descriptive filler, eventually rewards readers' patience with a bang-up surprise ending.

Brown's ear for Texas dialect and her earnest characterizations of cynical lawmen with stout hearts make for an enjoyable summer read.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416563105
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 8/10/2010
  • Pages: 391
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Sandra Brown

Sandra Brown is the author of numerous New York Times bestsellers—including most recently Smash Cut, Smoke Screen, Play Dirty, Ricochet, Chill Factor, White Hot, Hello, Darkness, The Crush, and Envy. She is the recipient of the 2008 Thriller Master Award from International Thriller Writers, Inc. She and her husband live in Arlington, Texas.

Biography

In 1979, Sandra Brown lost her job at a television program and decided to give writing a try. She bought an armful of romance novels and writing books, set up a typewriter on a card table and wrote her first novel. Harlequin passed but Dell bit, and Brown was off and writing, publishing her works under an assortment of pseudonyms.

From such modest beginnings, Brown has evolved into multimillion publishing empire of one, the CEO of her own literary brand; she towers over the landscape of romantic fiction. Brown has used her growing clout to insist her publishers drop the bosom-and-biceps covers and has added more intricate subplots, suspense, and even unhappy endings to her work. The result: A near-constant presence on The New York Times bestsellers list. In 1992, she had three on the list at the same time, joining that exclusive club of Stephen King, Tom Clancy, J. K. Rowling, and Danielle Steel.

Her work in the mainstream realm has taken her readers into The White House, where the president's newborn dies mysteriously; the oil fields and bedrooms of a Dallas-like family dynasty; and the sexual complications surrounding an investigation into an evangelist's murder. Such inventions have made her a distinct presence in a crowded genre.

"Brown is perhaps best known now for her longer novels of romantic suspense. The basic outline for these stories has passionate love, lust, and violence playing out against a background of unraveling secrets and skeletons jumping out of family closets," wrote Barbara E. Kemp in the book Twentieth-Century Romance & Historical Writers . Kemp also praises Brown's sharp dialogue and richly detailed characters. "However, her greatest key to success is probably that she invites her readers into a fantasy world of passion, intrigue, and danger," she wrote. "They too can face the moral and emotional dilemmas of the heroine, safe in the knowledge that justice and love will prevail."

Critics give her points for nimble storytelling but are cooler to her "serviceable prose," in the words of one Publishers Weekly reviewer. Still, when writing a crack page-turner, the plot's the thing. A 1992 New York Times review placed Brown among a group of a writers "who have mastered the art of the slow tease."

Staggeringly prolific, Brown found her writing pace ground to a halt when she was given a different assignment. A magazine had asked her for an autobiographical piece, and it took her months to complete. Her life in the suburbs, though personally fulfilling, was nonetheless blander than fiction. That may be why she dives into her fiction writing with such workhorse gusto. "I love being the bad guy," she told Publishers Weekly in 1995, "simply because I was always so responsible, so predictable growing up. I made straight A's and never got into any trouble, and I still impose those standards on myself. So writing is my chance to escape and become the sleaziest, scummiest role."

When she started writing, her goal was always to break out of the parameters of romance. After about 45 romances, the woman who counts Tennessee Williams and Taylor Caldwell among her influences told The New York Times that felt she had reached a plateau. In fact, she doesn't even look at her books as romances anymore. "I think of my books now as suspense novels, usually with a love story incorporated," she said. "They're absolutely a lot harder to write than romances. They take more plotting and real character development. Each book is a stretch for me, and I try something interesting each time that males will like as well as women."

Good To Know

  • "I hate to exercise and only do so because I absolutely must."

  • "I love to eat and my favorite foods are all bad for the body. Fried chicken and gravy, TexMex, red meat (hey, I'm from Texas!). My only saving grace is that I'm not that fond of sweets. Salty is my thing. Chocolate cake and ice cream I can skip. But a bag of Fritos. . ."

  • "It takes me a long time to go to sleep, usually because I read in bed and hate to put down the book. But when I do nod off, I'm a champion sleeper. I can easily do eight or nine hours a night."

  • "My worst "thing" is mean-spirited people. People who deliberately belittle or embarrass someone really irk me. The people I admire most are the ones who find something good about even the most undesirable individual. That was a quality my mother had, the one I hope most to emulate."

  • "I have a fear of gravity. Recently my whole family went to Belize. We had several adventures. We tubed a river through miles of cave, wearing head lamps so we'd have illumination. No problem. I scaled Mayan ruins. I rode horseback (on a monster named Al Capone) through the rain forest. No problem. But I couldn't zip line. Even though my five-year-old grandsons did it with glee, I just couldn't make that leap."

  • "I and my husband are huge fans of Jeopardy! We never miss it if we can help it. Does that make us complete dorks?"

  • Read More Show Less
      1. Also Known As:
        Laura Jordan, Rachel Ryan and Erin St. Claire
      2. Hometown:
        Arlington, TX
      1. Date of Birth:
        March 12, 1948
      2. Place of Birth:
        Waco, Texas
      1. Education:
        Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Texas Christian University, 2008
      2. Website:

    Customer Reviews

    Average Rating 3.5
    ( 479 )
    Rating Distribution

    5 Star

    (162)

    4 Star

    (110)

    3 Star

    (100)

    2 Star

    (53)

    1 Star

    (54)

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    See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 483 Customer Reviews
    • Posted June 20, 2010

      more from this reviewer

      fantastic non stop action thriller

      Dodge Henley is an investigator for a defense attorney. He and real estate manager Caroline King had a child together, but Dodge betrayed her so she turned her back on him. The last time he saw his daughter was when she was born thirty years ago. Dodge never expected to see either of them again.

      One night Caroline calls him to come home because Berry desperately needs him as she is being stalked by Oren Starks. The psychopath entered her house while she was in the shower and aimed a gun at her. Her co-worker ran inside when he heard her scream; but Oren shoots him and yells at Berry he will return to kill her. While in hiding Oren kills an elderly man and a young woman so the pressure is on the sheriff to apprehend him before someone else dies at the hands of this lunatic. Dodge knows he still loves Caroline and adores his daughter. He teams up with Merritt County Sheriff's Deputy Ski Nylander to go after the maniac as each vows to never quit until they either die, or Oren is stopped and captured alive or dead.

      The lead in Smash Cuts, Dodge returns, but remains a loner who is unable to allow any woman get close to her since he never moved passed his love for Caroline who in spite of the decades still rocks his world while the scars of their break-up haunts him today. Even with that emotional hang-up, this is a fantastic non stop action thriller with an underlying second chance romance as Sandra Brown will rock the reader's world.

      Harriet Klausner

      13 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted August 24, 2010

      more from this reviewer

      I Also Recommend:

      Terrible, unoriginal, cliched ending.

      "Tough Customer" is not one of Brown's finest creative productions. Is there a point that every author arrives at where they look to cliché, overused endings as their own? I was bitterly disappointed with her ending. I felt cheated and Brown honestly insulted my intelligence. As part of the reading audience, shouldn't we be given the chance to solve the mystery with hints that the writer drops throughout the book? As far as I can recall, Brown didn't give the reader any such chance to figure out the ending.

      What kept "Tough Customer" from bombing completely was the story behind Dodge and Caroline. It gave the book its only pulse. There was more action going on in the flashbacks then there were during the entire novel. Throughout the story I became more and more exasperated with Berry, who kept back a plethora of details from the police and made her less credible throughout the novel.

      I'm very disappointed in this book, as I am an avid Brown fan. This was not one of her best - but personally, it's a slight step up from "Smash Cut", which was absolutely terrible.

      6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted August 23, 2010

      Tough Customer

      I usually enjoy Sandra Brown's book but this one made me crazy. One of the main characters of the book is a rough-around-the edges kind of guy named Dodge. He smokes.....okay we get that. Ms. Brown mentions this at least 100 times throughout the book. Every other page she has Dodge going outside for a cigarette or fishing in his pocket wishing he could smoke. Because she mentioned cigarettes, smoking cigarettes or the fact that Dodge was about to have a fit because he couldn't smoke so often throughout the book it makes me wonder how much the tobacco companies paid her for "product placement".

      6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted August 24, 2010

      I Also Recommend:

      Not a Tough Customer

      I am a enthusiastic reader of Sandra Brown and really enjoyed Smash Cut. So, I was looking forward to reading Tough Customer. I was so disappointed with the book that I took it back to my local Barnes & Noble. The writing was extremely choppy. For example, Brown has the younger female character (Dodge's daughter) suddenly confess to several "mistakes" that were critical to subsequent events without even inviting the reader into the thought process. She tells her mother that she has figured out that Dodge is her real father even though we again have not been invited into her thinking. There is no real character development and I was not invested emotionally into who they are - I didn't like them. Brown's editor did her a disservice by not doing the job.

      5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted November 23, 2010

      Where Oh Where Has Sandra Brown Gone?

      Okay I am going to try and help Sandra out here, b/c though I have rated this book low, some of her earlier work (i.e. anything from 2001 or before)is absolutely incredible and is why I have such a low opinion of some of her most recent works. If you have never read a book by Sandra Brown, don't bother with this book at all...Don't look at it, don't even flip through it, to be honest its crap and I have no idea what in the world has happened to Sandra Brown's writings in the past few years. Now no more negative...lets talk about books of hers that you SHOULD read, b/c they have some of the richest character developments and some of the best twists I have ever read. My favorite is Envy!!! This, to me, was her last amazing book! Other novels of hers that are fantastic are French Silk, Fat Tuesday, Mirror Image, The Alibi, and basicly anything before 2001. For those of us avid fans that have read every piece of work by her and now pray each October for the newest novel to be more like her older work and less like her water downed, predictable, blah work that she has put out in the last few years, we just need to hold on and hope that she sees the light :)

      4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted September 6, 2010

      This could not have been written by Sandra Brown!

      I'm a big fan of Sandra Brown novels, and I've real all of them, including her early works done under a different name. This book was a huge disappointment! The main character was poorly drawn and not particularly likable. The dialogue was dull and not what one would expect from such an accomplished author. I can't help but have a a sneaking suspicion that this book was written by someone else. Or perhaps Ms. Brown was distracted by "Rainwater" and not able to concentrate on her character development properly. The reasons why people behaved the way they did seemed to be thrown in when the editor or reader required an explanation. I do hope we get to read more Sandra Brown stories, but I also hope that they are the type of novels that her loyal readers look forward to and expect from her. This was not a page turner and it definitely was not worth the price paid to download to my Nook! Wait until you can get it at your local library.

      4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted January 23, 2012

      Sandra brown

      Holds my undivided attention every time, all are "must read"'s

      3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted September 4, 2010

      So disappointed!

      I have probably read everything Sandra Brown has written, starting with her romance paperbacks, and enjoyed them for what they were at that time. I am still wishing she would leave out all of the graphic sex details because she has grown beyond that as a writer - or I thought she had in the past years with her wonderful hardback thrillers. This was a good book when I started it, but I actually had to wonder if she wrote it because there were parts that didn't flow. Then there was all the references to cigarette cravings. Parts in it that seemed to just be misplaced. I still could have recommended it until I reached the end of the book, and then I wanted to throw it down and stomp it. The story stopped. It didn't end. I kept wondering if there were pages missing. I even looked to see if there was a note that said something about "look for Part 2 coming out in October"! When I invest my money on a hardback book, and my time reading it, I certainly expect it to have an ending. The characters may continue in another book, but this story should have ended in this book. Am totally surprised that Ms. Brown's editor didn't do a better job for her with this book. Don't know if I'll spend my money on another Brown book.

      3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted December 18, 2011

      Highly recommended

      I have loved everything I read by Sandra Brown and this was no exception. It was a great read!!

      2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted November 27, 2011

      Highly Recommended

      Sandra Brown is a new author for me and will definately become another one of my favorites. I loved this book and the Character of Dodge Hanley.

      2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted October 30, 2011

      Must read

      Sandra Brown never dissapoints

      2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted December 1, 2010

      Forget it!

      I enjoyed Sandra Brown's romances early on and when she switche to mystery I kept reading with mixed reactions. Tough Customer follows "Smash Cut" with some of the same characters, however, it's not nearly as entertaining. Ms. Brown resorts some some trite overdone plot developments especially at the end. I was disgusted that I had wasted so much time when the end was so disappointing. Don't bother.

      2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted October 7, 2010

      more from this reviewer

      Okay read

      This was an okay book, considering what I usually see from Sandra Brown. I read all types of books and I have been a fan of SB for a while, the writing style was classic SB, but it was still missing the little extra something Sandr Brown has become famous for.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted September 25, 2010

      more from this reviewer

      NOT HER BEST

      One of the worst Sandra Brown books I've read. Really enjoyed Smash Cut but barely remembered the characters from it since it was so long ago. The characters were weak and didn't enjoy any of this book.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted September 20, 2010

      Disappointing

      I found most of the lead characters unlikable, the derogatory references to gay people offensive, and it took me a long time to get involved in the story. The twist at the end was dumb. I doubt I buy another book by this author.

      1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted August 22, 2010

      I Also Recommend:

      A Good Read that keeps you guessing

      I love Sandra Brown and this book was no exception. The characters were fascinating and the plot kept you guessing. It was a thriller that kept you wanting to keep turning the pages. The ending was a complete surprise that I doubt you would guess.

      1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted November 24, 2013

      Well write

      Awesome book full if thrills and twists you wouldnt expect

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    • Anonymous

      Posted March 9, 2013

      Sandra Brown is a great author!

      I love all of Sandra Brown's books! She really knows how to weave the characters together and keep you guessing until the end.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted December 1, 2012

      Lamest book ive ever read. Cant believe i finished it

      Half the book was just a repeat.

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    • Posted November 2, 2012

      great read

      I just finished this book last night and I tell you I enjoyed every single page of it. Did not have "drag parts" at all.

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