XO (Kathryn Dance Series #3)by Jeffery Deaver
COUNTRY-POP INGÉNUE Kayleigh Towne’s career is just reaching new heights with her huge hit single “Your Shadow”—but increased fame is also bringing unwanted attention. An innocent exchange with one of her fans, signed with an “XO,” leads Kayleigh into the dangerous and terrifying realm of obsession.
Edwin Sharp thinks Kayleigh’s songs contain messages that speak directly to him. Despite her clear rejection and threats from lawyers and law enforcers, he remains convinced that “Your Shadow” was written just for him, and he announces he’s coming for Kayleigh. Then a potentially fatal accident occurs at the concert hall where Kayleigh is rehearsing for a triumphant hometown performance, and she is convinced that someone—maybe Edwin—was there watching her from the darkness.
True to his word, Edwin Sharp soon makes an ominous appearance in town, and California Bureau of Investigation Agent Kathryn Dance, a friend and fan of Kayleigh’s on vacation in Fresno to attend the show, intervenes on her behalf, drawing Sharp’s frightening attention to herself. That night a member of the road crew whom Kayleigh had once dated is murdered in an eerie echo of an image from her chart-topping song. As more deaths loom on the horizon, Kathryn Dance must use her considerable skills at investigation and body-language analysis to stop the stalker and save more innocent victims. But before long she learns that, like many celebrities, Kayleigh has more than one fan with a mission . . .
This nail-biting thriller from suspense master Jeffery Deaver speeds along over just three short days, filled with terrifying twists that will keep readers held in rapt suspense until the final shocking revelation.
“Deaver is a master of manipulation. XO delivers more twists than a bag of pretzels, and just when readers believe they have everything figured out, another surprise awaits them.”—Associated Press
“Just in time for poolside season, Jeffery Deaver gives us XO. . . . Deaver's talent will keep you plugging away.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“In his new thriller, XO, Jeffery Deaver gives his readers triple or quadruple their money, with more twists, turns, and doglegs than an East Tennessee back road. . . . Just when you think you’ve finally hit the straightaway in XO, there’s another series of hairpins in your path.”—Knoxville News-Sentinel
“In XO, Deaver challenges the reader, entertains the reader, and satisfies the reader. If every successful book is a notch on his computer he has just added one more mark.”—HuffingtonPost.com
“Sharply drawn characters, fully realized protagonists, and unexpected plot twists will keep readers guessing until the very last page. Deaver is one of this country’s most popular writers and he proves with his latest book that he is at the top of his game.”—TucsonCitizen.com
“Thriller Award-winner Deaver’s excellent third novel featuring Kathryn Dance (after 2009’s Roadside Crosses) takes the California Bureau of Investigation agent on a vacation . . . plenty of surprises and red herrings complement developments in Dance’s problematic relations with boyfriend Jon Boling and Det. Michael O’Neil . . . Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs, the leads of Deaver’s other series, make cameo appearances in a novel sure to please fans of both.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Fans of Deaver’s celebrated sleuthing marathons will wait with bated breath as this onion is peeled to disclose multiple layers of deception, betrayal and triple crosses.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Written with Deaver’s usual keen eye for dialogue and character and featuring his customary right-angle plot twists, the novel will be a sure-fire hit with not only his legion of fans but also with readers who have yet to sample a Deaver novel. And Deaver fans who have felt that the Dance novels aren’t quite as sharp as his Lincoln Rhyme series might have to think again. This may be the most compelling of the Dance books.”—Booklist
Read an Excerpt
THE HEART OF a concert hall is people.
And when the vast space is dim and empty, as this one was at the moment, a venue can bristle with impatience, indifference.
Okay, rein in that imagination, Kayleigh Towne told herself. Stop acting like a kid. Standing on the wide, scuffed stage of the Fresno Conference Center’s main hall, she surveyed the place once more, bringing her typically hypercritical eye to the task of preparing for Friday’s concert, considering and reconsidering lighting and stage movements and where the members of the band should stand and sit. Where best to walk out near, though not into, the crowd and touch hands and blow kisses. Where best acoustically to place the foldback speakers—the monitors that were pointed toward the band so they could hear themselves without echoes or distortion. Many performers now used earbuds for this; Kayleigh liked the immediacy of traditional foldbacks.
There were a hundred other details to think about. She believed that every performance should be perfect, more than perfect. Every audience deserved the best. One hundred ten percent.
She had, after all, grown up in Bishop Towne’s shadow.
An unfortunate choice of word, Kayleigh now reflected.
I’ll be your shadow. Forever….
Back to the planning. This show had to be different from the previous one here, about eight months ago. A retooled program was especially important since many of the fans would have regularly attended her hometown concerts and she wanted to make sure they got something unexpected. That was one thing about Kayleigh Towne’s music; her audiences weren’t as big as some but were loyal as golden retrievers. They knew her lyrics cold, knew her guitar licks, knew her moves onstage and laughed at her shtick before she finished the lines. They lived and breathed her performances, hung on her words, knew her bio and likes and dislikes.
And some wanted to know much more …
With that thought, her heart and gut clenched as if she’d stepped into Hensley Lake in January.
Thinking about him, of course.
Then she froze, gasping. Yes, someone was watching her from the far end of the hall! Where none of the crew would be.
Shadows were moving.
Or was it her imagination? Or maybe her eyesight? Kayleigh had been given perfect pitch and an angelic voice but God had decided enough was enough and skimped big-time on the vision. She squinted, adjusted her glasses. She was sure that someone was hiding, rocking back and forth in the doorway that led to the storage area for the concession stands.
Then the movement stopped.
She decided it wasn’t movement at all and never had been. Just a hint of light, a suggestion of shading.
Though still, she heard a series of troubling clicks and snaps and groans—from where, she couldn’t tell—and felt a chill of panic bubble up her spine.
The man who had written her hundreds of emails and letters, intimate, delusional, speaking of the life they could share together, asking for a strand of hair, a fingernail clipping. The man who had somehow gotten near enough at a dozen shows to take close-up pictures of Kayleigh, without anyone ever seeing him. The man who had possibly—though it had never been proven—slipped into the band buses or motor homes on the road and stolen articles of her clothing, underwear included.
The man who had sent her dozen of pictures of himself: shaggy hair, fat, in clothing that looked unwashed. Never obscene but, curiously, the images were all the more disturbing for their familiarity. They were the shots a boyfriend would text her from a trip.
Her father had recently hired a personal bodyguard, a huge man with a round, bullet-shaped head and an occasional curly wire sprouting from his ear to make clear what his job was. But Darthur Morgan was outside at the moment, making the rounds and checking cars. His security plan also included a nice touch: simply being visible so that potential stalkers would turn around and leave rather than risk a confrontation with a 250-pound man who looked like a rapper with an attitude (which, sure enough, he’d been in his teen years).
She scanned the recesses of the hall again—the best place he might stand and watch her. Then gritting her teeth in anger at her fear and mostly at her failure to tame the uneasiness and distraction, she thought, Get. Back. To. Work.
And what’re you worried about? You’re not alone. The band wasn’t in town yet—they were finishing some studio work in Nashville—but Bobby was at the huge Midas XL8 mixing console dominating the control deck in the back of the hall, two hundred feet away. Alicia was getting the rehearsal rooms in order. A couple of the beefy guys in Bobby’s road crew were unpacking the truck in the back, assembling and organizing the hundreds of cases and tools and props and plywood sheets and stands and wires and amps and instruments and computers and tuners—the tons of gear that even modest touring bands like Kayleigh’s needed.
She supposed one of them could get to her in a hurry if the source of the shadow had been him.
Dammit, quit making him more than he is! Him, him, him, like you’re even afraid to say his name. As if to utter it would conjure up his presence.
She’d had other obsessed fans, plenty of them—what gorgeous singer-songwriter with a voice from heaven wouldn’t collect a few inappropriate admirers? She’d had twelve marriage proposals from men she’d never met, three from women. A dozen couples wanted to adopt her, thirty or so teen girls wanted to be her best friend, a thousand men wanted to buy her a drink or dinner at Bob Evans or the Mandarin Oriental … and there’d been plenty of invitations to enjoy a wedding night without the inconvenience of a wedding. Hey Kayleigh think on it cause Ill show you a good time better than you ever had and by the by heres a picture of what you can expect yah its really me not bad huh???
(Very stupid idea to send a picture like that to a seventeen-year-old, Kayleigh’s age at the time. By the by.)
Usually she was cautiously amused by the attention. But not always and definitely not now. Kayleigh found herself snagging her denim jacket from a nearby chair and pulling it on to cover her T-shirt, providing another barrier to any prying eyes. This, despite the characteristic September heat in Fresno, which filled the murky venue like thin stew.
And more of those clicks and taps from nowhere.
She turned quickly, trying to hide her slight jump, even though she recognized the voice.
A solidly built woman of around thirty paused halfway across the stage. She had cropped red hair and some subdued inking on arms, shoulders and spine, partly visible thanks to her trim tank top and tight, hip-hugging black jeans. Fancy cowboy boots. “Didn’t mean to scare you. You okay?”
“You didn’t. What’s up?” she asked Alicia Sessions.
A nod toward the iPad she carried. “These just came in. Proofs for the new posters? If we get them to the printer today we’ll definitely have them by the show. They look okay to you?”
Kayleigh bent over the screen and examined them. Music nowadays is only partly about music, of course. Probably always has been, she supposed, but it seemed that as her popularity had grown, the business side of her career took up a lot more time than it used to. She didn’t have much interest in these matters but she generally didn’t need to. Her father was her manager, Alicia handled the day-to-day paperwork and scheduling, the lawyers read the contracts, the record company made arrangements with the recording studios and the CD production companies and the retail and download outlets; her longtime producer and friend at BHRC Records, Barry Zeigler, handled the technical side of arranging and production, and Bobby and the crew set up and ran the shows.
All so that Kayleigh Towne could do what she did best: write songs and sing them.
Still, one business matter of interest to her was making sure fans—many of them young or without much money—could buy cheap but decent memorabilia to make the night of the concert that much more special. Posters like this one, T-shirts, key chains, bracelets, charms, guitar chord books, headbands, backpacks … and mugs, for the moms and dads driving the youngsters to and from the shows and, of course, often buying the tickets, as well.
She studied the proofs. The image was of Kayleigh and her favorite Martin guitar—not a big dreadnought-size but a smaller, 000-18, ancient, with a crisp yellowing spruce top and a voice of its own. The photo was the inside picture from her latest album, Your Shadow.
Eyes scanning the doors again.
“You sure you’re okay?” Alicia asked, voice buzzing with a faint Texas twang.
“Yeah.” Kayleigh returned to the poster proofs, which all featured the same photo though with different type, messages and background. Her picture was a straight-on shot, depicting her much as she saw herself: at five-two, shorter than she would have liked, her face a bit long, but with stunning blue eyes, lashes that wouldn’t quit and lips that had some reporters talking collagen. As if … Her trademark golden hair, four feet long—and no, not cut, only trimmed, in ten years and four months—flowed in the fake gentle breeze from the photographer’s electric fan. Designer jeans and high-collared dark-red blouse. A small diamond crucifix.
“You gotta give the fans the package,” Bishop Towne always said. “That’s visual too, I’m talking. And the standards’re different ’tween men and women. You get into trouble, you deny it.” He meant that in the country music world a man could get away with a look like Bishop’s own: jutting belly, cigarette, a lined, craggy face riddled with stubble, wrinkled shirt, scuffed boots and faded jeans. A woman singer, he lectured—though he really intended to say “girl”—had to be put together for date night. And in Kayleigh’s case that meant a church social, of course: the good girl next door was the image on which she’d built her career. Sure, the jeans could be a little tight, the blouses and sweaters could closely hug her round chest, but the necklines were high. The makeup was subtle and leaned toward pinks.
“Go with them.”
“Great.” Alicia shut off the device. A slight pause. “I haven’t gotten your father’s okay yet.”
“They’re good,” the singer reassured her, nodding at the iPad.
“Sure. I’ll just run it by him. You know.”
Now Kayleigh paused. Then: “Okay.”
“Acoustics good here?” asked Alicia, who had been a performer herself; she had quite a voice and a love of music, which was undoubtedly why she’d taken a job for someone like Kayleigh Towne, when the efficient, no-nonsense woman could have earned twice as much as a personal assistant for a corporate executive. She’d signed on last spring and had never heard the band perform here.
“Oh, the sound is great,” Kayleigh said enthusiastically, glancing at the ugly concrete walls. “You wouldn’t think it.” She explained how the designers of the venue, back in the 1960s, had done their homework; too many concert halls—even sophisticated ones intended for classical music—had been built by people without confidence in the natural ability of musical instruments and voices to reach the farthest seats with “direct volume,” that is, the sound emanating from the stage. Architects would add angular surfaces and free-standing shapes to boost the volume of the music, which did that but also sent the vibrations in a hundred different directions. This resulted in every performer’s acoustic nightmare, reverberation: in effect, echoes upon echoes that yielded muddy, sometimes even off-key, sounds.
Here, in modest Fresno, Kayleigh explained to Alicia, as her father had to her, the designers had trusted in the power and purity of the voice and drum skin and sounding board and reed and string. She was about to ask the assistant to join her in a chorus of one of her songs to prove her point—Alicia did great harmonies—when she noticed her looking toward the back of the hall. She assumed the woman was bored with the scientific discussion. But the frowning gaze suggested something else was on her mind.
“What?” Kayleigh asked.
“Isn’t it just us and Bobby?”
“What do you mean?”
“I thought I saw somebody.” She lifted a finger tipped in a black-painted nail. “That doorway. There.”
Just where Kayleigh herself had thought she’d seen the shadow ten minutes before.
Palms sweating, absently touching her phone, Kayleigh stared at the changing shapes in the back of the hall.
Yes … no. She just couldn’t tell.
Then shrugging her broad shoulders, one of them sporting a tattoo of a snake in red and green, Alicia said, “Hm. Guess not. Whatever it was it’s gone now…. Okay, see you later. The restaurant at one?”
Kayleigh listened absently to the thumping of boots as she left and continued to stare at the black doorways.
Angrily, she suddenly whispered, “Edwin Sharp.”
There I’ve said his name.
“Edwin, Edwin, Edwin.”
Now that I’ve conjured you up, listen here: Get the hell out of my concert hall! I’ve got work to do.
And she turned away from the shadowy, gaping doorway from which, of course, no one was leering at her at all. She stepped to center stage, looking over the masking tape on the dusty wood, blocking out where she would stand at different points during the concert.
It was then that she heard a man’s voice crying from the back of the hall, “Kayleigh!” It was Bobby, now rising from behind the mixing console, knocking his chair over and ripping off his hard-shell earphones. He waved to her with one hand and pointed to a spot over her head with another. “Look out! … No, Kayleigh!”
She glanced up fast and saw one of the strip lights—a seven-foot Colortran unit—falling free of its mounting and swinging toward the stage by its thick electric cable.
Stepping back instinctively, she tripped over a guitar stand she hadn’t remembered was behind her.
Tumbling, arms flailing, gasping …
The young woman hit the stage hard, on her tailbone. The massive light plummeted toward her, a deadly pendulum, growing bigger and bigger. She tried desperately to rise but fell back, blinded as the searing beams from the thousand-watt bulbs turned her way.
Then everything went black.
Meet the Author
Jeffery Deaver is the international, #1 bestselling author of more than twenty-seven suspense novels, including The Bone Collector, which was made into a film starring Denzel Washington. He lives in North Carolina.
- Washington, D.C.
- Date of Birth:
- May 6, 1950
- Place of Birth:
- Chicago, Illinois
- B.A., University of Missouri; Juris Doctor, cum laude, Fordham University School of Law
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Though a big Jeffery Deaver fan, this book was very disappointing. It might have been a better short story. It definitely needed some editing. Sadly, I simply cannot recommend it.
I love the Kathryn Dance series. Wait on pins and needles for the next one!
XO is classic Jeffery Deaver. Deaver keeps the pace moving constantly and true to his style, the ending has some great surprises. This was also an insightful glance into the music industry. Deaver has done his homework. I actually have a friend who is a grammy nominated pop star, Heather Schmid, who has had experiences similar to Kayleigh Towne’s in terms of her experience as a female pop star and with fanatical fans (though nowhere near as extreme) so when I say Deaver is accurate, I'm speaking from personal knowledge. Kathryn Dance is (of course) awesome in her role and anyone who is a fan of hers (or Lincoln Rhyme) will love this book. The great thing about Deaver's series is that each book advances the timeline in his world and it's been fun watching his characters evolve. I'm just sad he only writes one book per year!
Having read all of Deaver's books I think he's becoming formulaic. The early Lincoln Rhymes stuff was very good, but in this one the author indulges in topics he's researched intently (in this book it's country music, musical instruments and songwriting mainly). The stalking issue is forced since no serious law inforcement officer would let things proceed as they do in the book. There is no major character development-this plot is convoluted and he provides about 20 or more songs he's written (really I'm not into lyrics and the main character's bursts of ideas for lyrics)and his kinesics information is pretty ordinary. Beach reading-not substantial enough for me.
Written for, perhaps by, 13 year old girls (no insult to them intended). I really hated this book. The story is contrived and strains credulity. The abundant metaphors are eye-rollingly bad; appallingly trite like the author lacks both imagination and a thesaurus. What a waste of (my) time and (our) trees.
Deaver obviously does his research, but in this one his facts intrude on the storyline
What a disappointment - story was just darn silly. Don't waste your time or money
Book is pretty bad. Deaver has written some enjoyable books, this certainly is not one. This book was bad enough that the regular characters began to get annoying. Maybe it has something to do with Deaver trying to write as a woman. NOT believable & this was a pretty girly story. Lyrics were also dumb.
Great book! I really enjoyed this book! It was a thriller and full of suspense! I couldn't put it down! Loved it!
XO is the third book in the Kathryn Dance series by American author, Jeffery Deaver. CBI agent Kathryn Dance’s expertise is in kinesics, and she is often in demand when suspects are interviewed. But when she goes to Fresno on vacation, in search of folk songs and a country music concert, she isn’t expecting to need those skills. When Kathryn meets young country music sensation, Kayleigh Towne for lunch, she learns the singer is plagued by a stalker, one Edwin Stanton Sharp, and when one of Towne’s crew is murdered at the concert hall, suspicion falls on the stalker. But Kathryn finds she is neither wanted nor welcome at his interrogation. Not only that, but Chief of Detectives, P K Madigan, seems determined to ignore any advice she offers. In yet another thriller, Deaver gives the reader a plot with plenty of suspense, twists and turns and the odd red herring. Country music is heavily featured, and there are interesting tidbits on types of stalking and the legislation covering this, as well as, of course, quite a bit of kinesics. While it may be a little slow-moving in parts, this novel manages to include an assassination plot, a secret lover, a secret baby, some unpublished Beatles songs, a kidnapping, an overbearing father and witness intimidation. Deaver touches on innocence and image and immigration policy. Deaver’s other creations, Lincoln Rhyme and Amanda Sachs, make an appearance to help out with trace evidence analysis, and the reader is kept guessing to the end. Definitely a page-turner.
The story was good but the song lyrics took away from the story. They were very childish. Mr. Deaver needs to stick to novels only, not song writing.
I had to read this one after seeing that a main character and potential victim has my daughter's name...and it's spelled correctly! Being a singer like my daughter, blonde, and close to same age just made it even more fun and connecting. A surprise visit by Lincoln in the book made me very happy too!
Why do the Dance novels read like a teenager wrote them? They have none of the sophistication of the Rhyme novels. Rather, they are disguised love stories, embarrassing to read with unrealistic plots. I won't buy any more of them.
Have loved his other books but this one was disjointed, boring, etc. Had to fight my way through it, hoping for some salvation And, what's with all the poetry and songs? Publish that stuff somewhere else and don't taint your books with it.
Worst of the Dance series by far. Between leaving the colorful setting of Monterey and Pacific Grove for parched out Fresno (really???) and Deaver trying his hand at country song writing, this book just doesn't do the series or the writer justice.
Very exciting. Deaver's the best!