From Christi Daugherty, author of The Echo Killing, comes another pulse-pounding suspenseful thriller featuring crime reporter Harper McClain.
For a woman, being killed by someone who claims to love her is the most ordinary murder of all.
With its antebellum houses and ancient oak trees draped in a veil of Spanish moss, Savannah’s graceful downtown is famous around the world. When a woman is killed in the heart of that affluent district, the shock is felt throughout the city. But for crime reporter Harper McClain, this story is personal. The corpse has a familiar face.
Only twenty-four years old, Naomi Scott was just getting started. A law student, tending bar to make ends meet, she wanted to change the world. Instead, her life ended in the dead of night at the hands of an unseen gunman. There are no witnesses to the crime. The police have three suspects: Scott’s boyfriend, who has a criminal past he claims he’s put behind him, her boss, who stalked another young bartender two years ago, and the district attorney’s son, who Naomi dated until their relationship ended in acrimony. All three men claim to love her. Could one of them be her killer?
With the whole city demanding answers, Harper unravels a tangled story of obsession and jealousy. But the pressures on her go beyond the murder. The newspaper is facing more layoffs. Her boss fears both their jobs are on the line. And Harper begins to realize that someone is watching her every move. Someone familiar and very dangerous.
Someone who told her to run before it’s too late…
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"Eight ball in the corner pocket."
Leaning over the edge of the pool table, Harper McClain stared across the long expanse of empty green felt. The cue in her hands was smooth and cool. She'd had four of Bonnie's superstrength margaritas tonight, but her grip was steady.
There was a delicate, transient point somewhere between too much alcohol and too little where her pool skills absolutely peaked. This was it.
Exhaling slowly, she took the shot. The cue ball flew straight and true, slamming into the eight, sending it rolling to the pocket. There was never any question — it hit the polished wood edge of the table only lightly, and dropped like a stone.
"Yes." Harper raised her fist. "Three in a row."
But the cue ball was still rolling.
Lowering her hand, Harper leaned against the table.
"No, no, no," she pleaded.
As she watched in dismay, the scuffed white cue ball headed after the eight like a faithful hound.
"Come on, cue ball," Bonnie cajoled from the other side of the table. "Mama needs a new pair of shoes."
Reaching the pocket lip, the ball trembled for an instant as if making up its mind and then, with a decisive clunk, disappeared into the table's insides, taking the game with it.
"At last." Bonnie raised her cue above her head. "Victory is mine."
Harper glared. "Have you been waiting all night to say that?"
"Oh my God, yes." Bonnie was unrepentant.
It was very late. Aside from the two of them, the Library Bar was empty. Naomi, who had worked the late shift with Bonnie, had finished wiping down the bar an hour ago and gone home.
All the lights were on in the rambling bar, illuminating the battered books on the shelves that still covered the old walls from the days when it had actually been a library. It could easily hold sixty people, but with just the two of them, the place was comfortable — even cozy, in its way, with Tom Waits growling from the jukebox about love gone wrong.
Despite the hour, Harper was in no hurry to leave. It wasn't far to walk. But all she had at home was a cat, a bottle of whiskey, and a lot of bad memories. And she'd spent enough time with them lately.
"Rematch?" She glanced at Bonnie, hopefully. "Winner takes all?" Propping her cue against a sign that read BOOKS + BEER = LIFE, Bonnie walked around the table. The blue streaks in her long, blond hair caught the light when she held out her hand.
"Loser pays," she said, adding, "Also, I'm all out of change."
"I thought bartenders always had change," Harper complained, pulling the last coins from her pocket.
"Bartenders are smart enough to put their money away before they start playing pool with you," Bonnie replied.
There was a break in the music as the jukebox switched songs. In the sudden silence, the shrill ring of Harper's phone made them both jump.
Grabbing the device off the table next to her, Harper glanced at the screen.
"Hang on," she said, hitting the answer button. "It's Miles."
Miles Jackson was the crime photographer at the Savannah Daily News. He wouldn't call at this hour without a good reason.
"What's up?" Harper said, by way of hello.
"Get yourself downtown. We've got ourselves a murder on River Street," he announced.
"You're kidding me." Harper dropped her cue on the pool table. "Are you at the scene?"
"I'm pulling up now. Looks like every cop in the city is here."
Miles had her on speaker — in the background she could hear the rumble of his engine and the insistent crackle of his police scanners. The sound sent a charge through Harper.
"On my way." She hung up without saying good-bye.
Bonnie looked at her inquiringly.
"Got to go," Harper told her, grabbing her bag. "Someone just got murdered on River Street."
Bonnie's jaw dropped. "River Street? Holy crap."
"I know." Harper pulled out her notebook and police scanner and headed across the room, mentally calculating how long it would take her to get there. "If it's a tourist, the mayor will absolutely lose her shit."
River Street was the epicenter of the city's tourism district — and the safest place in town. Until now.
Bonnie ran after her.
"Give me a second to lock up," she said. "I'll come with you."
Harper turned to look at her. "You're coming to a crime scene?"
The music had started up again.
"You've had four margaritas," Bonnie reminded her. "I made them strong. You'll be over the limit. I've only had two beers tonight."
Behind the bar, she opened a concealed wall panel and flipped some switches. In an instant, the music fell silent. A second later, the lights went off one by one, until only the red glow of the exit sign remained.
Grabbing her keys, Bonnie ran to join Harper, the heels of her cowboy boots clicking against the concrete floor in the sudden quiet, her short skirt swirling around her thighs.
Harper still wasn't convinced this was a great idea.
"You know there'll be dead people there, right?"
Shrugging, Bonnie unlocked the front door and pulled it open. Steamy Southern night air poured in.
"I'm a grown-up. I can take it."
She glanced over her shoulder with a look Harper had known better than to argue with since they were both six years old.
* * *
River Street was a narrow cobblestone lane running between the old wharves and warehouses that had once serviced tall ships sailing for Europe, and the wide, dark water of the Savannah River.
The most photographed street in the city, it would be packed in a few hours with workers, tourists, and tour buses, but it was virtually empty now.
Most bars had closed at two A.M., and the heat wave currently underway sent everyone who might ordinarily have lingered by the river scurrying for air-conditioning.
Bonnie swung her pink pickup, with MAVIS painted on the tailgate in bright yellow, into a parking spot and killed the engine.
They could see flashing blue lights a short distance away at the water's edge.
The sight made Harper's heart race. It was nearly three in the morning. At this hour, the local TV channels might not have anyone on call. This could be her story exclusively.
"Come on," she told Bonnie, throwing the door open and jumping out.
When her feet hit the curb, the bullet wound in her shoulder throbbed a sharp warning. She winced, pressing her hand against the scar.
It had been over a year since she'd been shot. It was rare for the wound to twinge. It usually only acted up when the weather changed.
"You'll be a walking barometer now," her surgeon had remarked jovially at one of her checkups. "Always be able to tell when rain is coming."
"That's not the superpower I was hoping for," she'd responded.
Secretly, she was glad the pain was still there. The wound — which she'd sustained while exposing her mentor, former Chief Detective Robert Smith, for murder — served as a reminder to be careful who she trusted.
Bonnie missed her pained expression — her eyes were on the police cars.
"Damn. It really is right in the middle of everything. That's just a couple of blocks from Spanky's."
Spanky's Bar was a popular tourist joint. If the murder had happened a few hours earlier, hundreds of people could have been caught up in it.
Harper had already noticed the proximity. She needed to get down there.
Half running, they hurried down a steep cobbled lane toward the river. It had rained earlier, and Harper's shoes struggled to find traction on the slick, rounded stones.
It was darker down here. The breeze off the river cut a cool path through the humidity.
Harper usually avoided River Street altogether. It was mostly tourist traps, and until now, she couldn't think of one interesting crime that had ever happened here.
Ahead, crime tape had been strung from light pole to light pole, blocking the narrow street. Flashing emergency lights lit up the jaunty flags outside the locked bars and shuttered shops.
Harper scanned the scene — the road was packed with police cars but she could see no trucks bearing the hallmarks of the local TV news stations.
Bless Miles for staying up all night listening to his scanner.
About thirty yards beyond the tape, a cluster of uniformed cops and plain-clothed detectives had gathered. They were all looking down at something Harper couldn't see from here.
"Look, there's Miles." Bonnie pointed across the street.
The photographer stood alone at the edge of the crime tape. Hearing her voice, he turned and waved them over.
As always, he looked dapper in slacks and a button-down shirt. It was as if he'd been waiting for this crime to happen.
"Well, well, well," he said, as they walked up. "Is it two-for-one night? I didn't bring my coupon."
"Hi Miles." Bonnie beamed at him. "Fancy running into you at a murder scene."
"The night is full of surprises," he agreed.
"What'd we miss?" Harper gestured to the crowd of cops. "Any ID on the victim? Is it a tourist?"
"Nobody's saying anything," he said. "The tape was up when I got here. They've kept it quiet on the radio — there's no chatter. I almost missed it myself. I heard some chitchat about the coroner that let me know something was up, otherwise I'd still be home."
"You call Baxter yet?" she asked.
He shook his head.
"Don't have enough to tell her."
Bonnie listened to all of this, but said nothing. Her fine eyebrows were drawn together as she watched the police. They were shining flashlights on something lying on the cobblestones.
In the eight years Harper had worked at the newspaper, this was the first time she could remember Bonnie being at a crime scene. It felt strange. This wasn't Bonnie's world. She was an artist — bartending paid for the paint. Murder wasn't her business.
It was Harper's.
She'd been a crime reporter since she'd dropped out of college to take an internship at the Savannah Daily News when she was twenty years old. Ever since then she'd spent her nights investigating the city's worst crimes. Murder no longer turned her stomach as it had early on.
When she looked at a body now, all she saw was the words she'd need to describe it.
In the distance, the crowd of officers shifted. Squinting, Harper saw a small woman in a dark suit, crouching low.
"Daltrey's lead detective?" She glanced over at Miles.
"Looks like it." Raising his camera, he took a speculative shot, pausing to check the image on the screen.
It wasn't terrible news. Daltrey wasn't the easiest detective to work with, but she wasn't the worst, either.
Anyway, none of them were very easy to work with anymore.
A rumble broke the stillness, and they all turned to see a white van with the words FORENSICS UNIT on the side rolling up to the crime tape, its tires stuttering on the cobbles.
Its cold, bright headlights swung across the cluster of investigators, lighting up the scene like a film set.
They all saw the body in the same instant. The young woman lay sprawled on her back on the uneven cobbles. She was African American, slim and slight. She wore a black top with a knee-length skirt. Her legs were at an odd angle.
Harper couldn't make out her face from where she stood but one thing was certain — this was no gangbanger crime.
Lifting his camera, Miles fired off a rapid series of shots.
Harper stood on her toes to get a better look. Something about the woman was familiar.
Beside her, Bonnie made a stifled shocked sound.
"Don't look at the body," Harper said.
But Bonnie didn't look away. Instead, she leaned against the crime tape, pushing hard enough to make it bow.
One of the uniforms pointed his flashlight at her disapprovingly.
"Hey you — get back."
Harper turned to ask her what the hell she was doing. The last thing she needed was for Bonnie to piss off the cops. Things were bad enough with them already.
But the complaint died on her lips.
All the color had left Bonnie's face.
"Oh my God, Harper," she said, staring at the body in the street. "I think that's Naomi."CHAPTER 2
Before Harper could tell her she was wrong — she had to be wrong, it didn't make sense and they couldn't see the body properly from here — the uniformed cop beat her to it.
"Did you say you know the victim?" He raised his flashlight, shining it on Bonnie's face.
Her pupils shrank to pinpricks in the harsh light.
"I think ... maybe." Her voice was unsteady. "Her shirt — does it look like mine?"
The cop shined the light on her black T-shirt. Across the front, it read, THE LIBRARY: FROM BEER TO ETERNITY.
He was young. They always put the young ones on the late shift. He hadn't yet learned to hide his thoughts. Harper could see the truth in his face.
She squinted at the body in the distance.
Was that really Naomi? It couldn't be, could it?
She'd only been working at the bar a few months, but Harper knew enough about her to know she was an unlikely victim. Bookish and a bit shy, she eschewed the short skirts that Bonnie preferred. Amid the crowds of art students that favored the bar, with their brightly colored hair and eclectic clothing, she'd seemed quite conservative. In that way, she stood out. That, and the fact that she was gorgeous, with high cheekbones, cat-shaped eyes, and a perfect figure.
She never seemed to try to be noticed, but everyone noticed Naomi.
Who killed a girl like that?
"Stay right here," the cop ordered, swinging his flashlight to take in all three of them. "None of you moves."
He ran across to the official cluster.
A moment later, the detective Harper had noticed earlier broke loose from the group at the foot of the stairs and walked toward them with the uniformed cop.
She was dark-skinned, about forty years old, no taller than five foot four. She wore a simple, navy suit with a white blouse. Her hair was short and no-nonsense straight. She ducked under the crime tape with the ease of an athlete.
"Which one of you thinks you know the victim?"
Detective Julie Daltrey's tone was crisp and official. Her eyes skated across Harper's face without a flicker of acknowledgment that she'd known her for years in her distant expression. That they used to gossip and joke at crime scenes like this one.
Hesitantly, Bonnie raised her hand. "Me."
Harper watched as Daltrey took in Bonnie's blue-streaked ponytail, her miniskirt, and her black work T-shirt.
"Your name, please?"
"Bonnie Larson," she said, after a fractional pause.
Daltrey wrote this down in a small notepad.
"Who do you think that is?" Daltrey gestured with the notepad to the body on the ground.
Bonnie's throat worked. Her hands clenched at her sides.
"I ... I thought ... I mean, I think it's Naomi." Her voice dropped to a whisper. "Naomi Scott."
Daltrey had been a cop a long time. Her expression gave nothing away as she wrote something else and then raised her eyes to meet Bonnie's again.
"What can you tell me about Naomi Scott?"
Bonnie blinked. "I don't ..."
"Anything you know," the detective encouraged her. "Who she is, where she works, how old she is."
"She works with me at the Library," Bonnie said, uncertainly. "We're both bartenders. She's at school during the day. Law school."
Daltrey made a note.
"Please," Bonnie said, her voice faltering, "tell me it isn't her."
The detective paused, as if deciding what to say. When she spoke, though, she delivered the news quickly and she didn't sugarcoat it.
"I'm sorry to inform you that identification found on the victim indicates that it is Naomi Scott."
"Oh my God." Bonnie reeled back, taking the news like a blow. Her blue eyes filled with tears.
"She can't be dead," she pleaded, looking from the detective to Harper. "She was at work tonight. She was fine. She's only twenty-four. What happened?"
Daltrey focused on Harper.
"This is off the record, you got me?"
Harper nodded, although she was taking mental notes of everything that was said.
Daltrey turned back to Bonnie.
"She was shot." Her tone was almost gentle. "Is there anything you can tell me about her? Did she tell you she was scared of anyone? Did she have any problems you can think of?"
But Bonnie was numb now. In a kind of shock.
She shook her head. "I don't know. I don't think so."
Tears spilled over, running down her cheeks. "I have to tell her dad."
"We'll take care of that," Daltrey said, quickly.
She turned back to Harper. "Did you know the victim, too?"
"Only a little. I saw her at the bar tonight. She left an hour or so ago. She said she was going home."
"She live on River Street?" Daltrey asked.
"I don't think so."
The detective snapped her notebook shut and glanced at her watch. "Okay. I need both of you to come down to the station and give me a statement."
Harper's heart sank.
"Could we come later?" she asked. "I've got to get my story in first. And there's not much I can tell you ..."
"I don't care about your story." Daltrey cut her off. "This is homicide, McClain. Either you get to the station under your own power immediately or I will have you both taken there under mine. Am I clear?"
There was no point in arguing.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A Beautiful Corpse"
Copyright © 2019 Christi Daugherty.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Let me start off by saying that I truly think you should read the first book in this series (An Echo Killing) first to get the full reading experience. And secondly, let me just tell you how much I loved this book! Wow! I thought that the first book was a really solid beginning to this mystery series, and actually it came pretty darn close to hitting my top reads list for last year. I've been waiting to get my hands on this second book every since and it was completely worth the wait! This book is even better than that first book which should tell you exactly how much I enjoyed it. I'm going to be careful to try and not share any spoilers from that first book. This book picks up not too far long after the first book and there is a lot of stuff that carries over. Things I can't share without spoiling but one of those things is a pretty big storyline itself (and just to be clear the first book doesn't end abruptly or anything like that and has a solid ending). But these are the exact reasons why I think a reader would want to read that book first just to get a full understanding of everything that has gone on and could be now. Anyways, the suspense and mystery pick up right from the beginning with this one. It has this creepy stalker vibe going for it that really amped up the tension for me as the reader. I was constantly trying to figure out what was going on and who was behind it all. There is all of these other things in play as well because there are possible layoffs going on in the newspaper which has Harper worried about her job while she is trying to also investigate Naomi Scott's recent murder. Everything just added altogether beautifully and in a way where I couldn't put this book down. I hit a point with this book where I just knew that I had to finish it no matter how late it meant I was staying up - I needed to see how everything was going to end! And let me vaguely tell you about that ending...wow! I'm seriously, seriously pining now for the third book. I have no idea what is going to happen next for Harper but I will be there as soon as that book releases to see for myself! This is seriously one of the best new mystery series that I have found and I am so excited about it! Overall, I've gushed this entire review so I'm guessing that you can tell I loved this book! It was everything that I look for in a mystery series without me even knowing it. I am so glad that I didn't wait to read this one. Sometimes when I really like a first book in a series, I'm hesitant to pick up the second one in case it doesn't live up to the first. This book was even better then that first book so I needn't have worried. What else is there really to say at this point? I highly, highly recommend both of these books! I'm happy to have found another favorite author to follow at this point! Bottom Line: This series is fast becoming a favorite of mine after two really great reads! Disclosure: I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher, thoughts are my own.
I thoroughly enjoyed Daughterty's debut novel, The Echo Killing, last year. It was a great way to kick off a new series with both a contained murder investigation - and a solid introduction not only to a recurring cast that we see in this second installment, but also to a great character arc and mystery with Harper's mother's murder. This set up in the first book - including the complications of Harper's own relationships with different members of the Savannah police department - means that though this is another self-contained murder mystery, I would recommend starting with the first book rather than here (there are definite spoilers on the identity of the first murderer from The Echo Killing). Some time has passed with the opening of this book, but it starts off right away with quick pacing that both refreshed my memory on past events but also drew me into the new plot of when a young law student/bartender is found shot when she leaves her work shift abruptly. Harper has a bit of a personal connection to the victim, as she is a frequent customer of the bar. The pacing moves along quickly and though the identity of the murderer isn't a shock, there are some frankly shocking actions along the way that had me literally gasping out loud. As with the first novel, there are more developments in the murder mystery closest to Harper's heart, and there are more developments too in her personal life. This provides more set-up and background for future installments of which I am very excited to continue. Plus, I really enjoyed the Savannah backdrop here again. I am already counting down until the next book hits the shelves!
A Beautiful Corpse is amazing. The thriller story with the police aspect and the reporter aspect mixed together pulled me from the first page making it so I never wanted to stop reading. I love that Harper knew Naomi, that she was on outs with the police, and that she was so persistent in her need to know what happen that she didn’t let any of that slow her down. She took the fact that she knew Naomi to push her to solve the crime. The fact that the cops were blackballing all her inquiries made her stand up for herself and demand fair treatment. Harper went beyond what a reporter should do, pushed where no one else was pushing, and didn’t let the fact that the killer was still out there deter her from following the facts as she learned them. I have not read the first book in this series and while this book is a standalone, I feel like I should go back and read it. There are characters that I’d love to know the history of, relationships that I want to know how they started, and storylines that I feel I would have enjoyed more knowing their backstories. I will be looking for more from Christi Daugherty and her Harper McClain series. The storyline flows perfectly, the characters are strong and realistic, and the mysteries are fun to try to solve.
This second Harper McClain novel starts with a bang and doesn't let up. There's a lot going on in this one with some of it being new and some trickling over from the first book. Harper's determination shines through in spite of her less than stellar relationship with the police department, and her suspect this time doesn't do anything to repair that relationship. While we do get a satisfactory conclusion, there are still some unanswered questions to watch for in the next addition to the series. I would recommend reading the books in order to get Harper's backstory along with everything that led to her problems with the police department. All in all, this one is a solid addition to the series and the genre.
Sometimes reporting the truth tends to make you a pariah rather than a hero, even when the truth and its wickedness is very important for everyone to know. Now add to that being a news reporter, the hero so to speak. The crime buster. Except nobody else wants to talk to you anymore; not even a cop; not even your so-called boyfriend. You’re the hero bad guy all at once. Would you stay in the same line of work? Harper has, and she is one tough cookie. This is a fast-paced, thriller in which Harper McClain is a news reporter. She doesn’t just report but sometimes becomes the news herself without any intention. Each character sort of has his or her own little scene with Harper in this book. It is never confusing. It’s just that there are some very interesting and well-developed characters in this story and each one seems to have his or her own interaction with Harper. Sort of as if in an office where everyone has their own cubicle and interacts with each other and yet never really interferes with one another. I’m making this sound bad and I don’t mean to. Each interaction between a character and Harper seems to be up close and personal; never shared. I think this feeling comes from the one-person narration or single POV from Harper. None of it bothered me. None of it was difficult to keep straight. This is Book 2 in the “Harper McClain Mystery” series. No question this is a stand-alone book, but I sure wish I’d read Book 1. I couldn’t put this one down. I read page after page as fast as I could, and I hope there will be more.
A Beautiful Corpse can be read alone if you have not picked up The Echo Killing. The incidents that occurred in the first installment are summarized in A Beautiful Corpse. Harper McClain is a dedicated crime reporter who was mentored by Chief Detective Robert Smith. It was a blow when she learned he killed someone. The police now consider her a traitor and Harper is cut off from sources inside the Savannah PD. Naomi Scott is murdered on River Street with no eyewitnesses. The police focus on the boyfriend despite Jerrod Scott’s objections. Harper pursues another lead which could have deadly consequences for her career if she is wrong. In addition, someone has broken into her apartment again despite the alarm system. Then Harper feels like someone is following her. Harper’s boyfriend, Luke Walker broke up with after the Scott case, but they are still attracted to each other (trust issues). It was interesting following a mystery from a reporter’s perspective. Harper is dedicated (dogged determination) to uncovering the truth. The writing is descriptive and extremely detailed (a little too much for my tastes). Her narratives allowed me to visualize Savannah. I did find the pace to be on the slow side. For this type of story, the pacing needed to be livelier. The mystery was appealing in the beginning. The guilty party was soon glaringly obvious which took away from the mysteries appeal (I wanted more intrigue, twists). I felt the ending was too long and drawn out. There is suspense in wondering who is following Harper and what is the person’s motive. However, we do not get any answers in A Beautiful Corpse. Harper has not made any progress into identifying her mother’s killer. This storyline plays out in the background and remains unresolved. A Beautiful Corpse does contain violence, intimate relations and foul language. A Beautiful Corpse has some interesting components, but it was missing something that would take it to the next level.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher St. Martin's Press for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. After the fallout from the first book, Harper McClain has spent the last year rebuilding her life, and focusing on her crime reporting career. But a murder closer to home will drag her back into the limelight and test every ounce of grit and gumption that she's got. This book was great! Harper was just as interesting a main character as in the first book, but having gotten to know her in the first book left this one with plenty of room to develop her more deeply, rather than having to introduce her and set everything up. She's kickass and brave and determined to find the truth, and I adore her character, even when she's making big mistakes! Daugherty's writing is spot on as well. The story didn't feel too extraneous, and the only times it felt drawn out were the times it was *supposed* to feel that way - when Harper is struggling for leads and desperate to weed out the truth. It really helped me lose myself into her world and her life. The twists in this one aren't as big as in the first one, but the story is solid, and the path to get there is zig-zaggy enough to keep the readers on their toes. Plus, the ending - more about the mystery of Harper's mother's murder (when Harper was a child) - really left me excited about the prospect of more. Definitely think it's going to be an agonizing wait... *sighs* Highly recommended to lovers of mystery/thrillers... but read book one first. :)