Edgar Award–winning author Stefanie Pintoff shoots to thrill in her gripping new novel of suspense.
The night before the Thanksgiving Day Parade, a crowd gathers on Manhattan’s Upper West Side to watch the giant balloons fill with helium and rise toward the sky. Then the festive ritual takes a terrifying turn—a gunshot rings out, police commissioner Logan Donovan falls, and panic erupts. When the chaos clears, another crime is revealed: Donovan’s daughter, Allie, has been kidnapped. Soon the abductor will make his shocking demands.
Within hours, Special Agent Eve Rossi and her handpicked team of quick-thinking, swift-moving, hard-striking former convicts know a lot about the kidnapper. He’s somewhere close by, holding Allie along with a captive boy. He hates Logan Donovan enough to destroy him. And he will kill.
But there’s more Eve and her team don’t know—about a weapon planted inside the parade, about Commissioner Donovan’s hidden life, and about the secrets his daughter keeps. As people line the streets, bands and marchers prepare, and the massive parade steps off into New York’s echoing canyons, a desperate race begins to keep the city from being torn asunder by a brutal act of violence. But even as her squad deploys for action, Eve grapples with a harrowing question: Whom should she fear more—a vengeful man threatening innocent lives, or a charming, arrogant cop fighting to save his daughter, who may be trying to cover up his crimes?
Praise for Stefanie Pintoff’s Hostage Taker
“The perfect blend: an urban thriller as modern as tomorrow’s New York Times, driven by a two-hundred-year-old idea, with a main character to die for . . . I hope we see plenty more of Eve Rossi and her team.”—Lee Child
“A high-voltage game of parry and thrust.”—New York Daily News
“Pintoff skillfully ratchets up the tension and throws more than one curveball into this twisty, exciting read.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Strong writing, a well-paced plot, and intriguing characters make this one of the best thrillers of the year. Fans of Lisa Gardner will find much to like here.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“A high-velocity roller coaster of a thriller.”—Jeffery Deaver
“A brilliant thriller . . . Stefanie Pintoff is one of the best crime writers at work today.”—Michael Koryta
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)|
About the Author
Stefanie Pintoff is the Edgar Award–winning author of four previous novels. Her writing has also won the Washington Irving Book Award and earned nominations for the Barry, Anthony, Macavity, and Agatha awards. She lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where she is at work on her next novel.
Read an Excerpt
INSIDE THE FROZEN ZONE
Fourth Wednesday of November
12:41 p.m. to 6:59 p.m.
Sometimes the simplest things could be complicated.
Like enjoying an incredible moment.
Perched high above Central Park West, Evangeline Rossi had an unparalleled view of the city from the penthouse terrace. Straight ahead, the park was a fiery swath of oranges, yellows, and reds. To her right, she could trace the Manhattan skyline down to One World Trade Center. On her left, the rooftops of Harlem stretched in a wide arc. It was as expansive as the scene where Spider-Man swings, swirling and twirling, through the canyons of Manhattan. And every bit as dizzying.
Mind over matter, she told herself.
But the vertigo didn’t cooperate. More than a sensation that played cruel tricks on her, it was a reminder that the brain never controlled the body completely. She was at the mercy of a host of involuntary physical responses—from her rapid heartbeat to tingling skin to skewed and unsteady vision.
Control was just an illusion.
She glanced over to her host. Tall, lean, and unbothered by the fact that he was more than five hundred feet above street level, he let his elbows dangle over the railing edge.
Damned if she’d let him see her struggle.
She forced a relaxed smile, even though her world was spinning and her frozen fingers could no longer feel the railing she clutched. The flimsy metal-and-glass-panel was an insufficient barrier, anyway, against frigid, thirty-five-mile-per-hour winds. The temperature on the old CNN billboard might read 43°f, but today’s wind gusts had sent the real feel to below freezing.
“You were right,” she managed to say. “The view’s spectacular.”
“It’s even better from right here.” Tony Falcon’s dark eyes turned from the skyline to focus on Eve—and sparked with something primitive.
Seeing only the good-time blonde he’d met over drinks at the marble bar of the Modern, he placed a hand on top of hers—and Eve’s every nerve came alive, responding to his warmth. Another involuntary response.
A helicopter buzzed nearby, one of several security measures in place for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Eve steadied herself, glanced down to the street, and saw dozens of officers on foot. Small as ants, they swarmed, and her equilibrium shifted awkwardly again.
“Hope they’ve got it in hand,” he said, shaking his head. “Three and a half million people crammed onto these streets. Every year, it’s a miracle when nothing happens.”
Eve focused on Tony. She didn’t have to look to envision the scene on the ground that created a frozen zone. Garbage cans had been removed. Bags were being searched. Barricades had been erected: concrete stanchions, reinforced by city sanitation trucks filled with sand, each strategically placed to block potential car bombs.
The goal was simple: to erect a secure cordon that would be as impenetrable as a medieval fort.
The helicopter approached, hovering directly above them.
“New York’s Finest sure know how to ruin a moment.” Tony snorted in disgust. He pulled his hand away, buried it in the pocket of his cardigan sweater with leather elbow patches. He stood, solid and steady—and Eve envied him.
“I’m cold, anyway,” she said. “Maybe we should go inside.”
“An excellent idea.” He moved to open the glass terrace door.
Six steps later, when her head cleared the threshold, she felt a rush of relief.
She found a smile. The illusion of control had returned.
Just inside, she stopped, lingered by a classic black Steinway piano. Scattered memories fell into place, of practices and concerts—all now seemed a lifetime ago.
“Do you play?” she asked him. She circled the piano, relishing how with every step her balance grew steadier.
He shook his head. “I keep it for guests. Sometimes, the boy.” He indicated one of the photos on top of the piano. The setting was a park—and the boy was bashful, poking his head out from behind a tree. The camera had focused on his long, dark lashes.
“Handsome. Your son?” She picked up the frame and studied it. The child appeared to be about seven or eight.
“No. Just a nephew.”
A lie. The likeness was too strong in the squared jaw. The broad nose. The expression of the boy’s mouth. It reminded her there was plenty she still didn’t know about her host.
She replaced the photograph. The man liked his secrets—almost as much as he liked his trophies.
The Steinway was just one of many. In the living room alone, Eve also recognized a Klimt, a Rembrandt—and a marble tribute to the female form by Rodin.
She walked toward him. “You’ve surrounded yourself with beautiful things.”
“Life can be tough. Beauty makes it easier to bear.”
Another lie. If Eve knew one thing about the man who’d invited her up, it was this: He was obsessed with collecting fine objects. When he was a child, he’d hoarded comic books and toy cars. Then he grew up, made a small fortune from a tech start-up, and began an acquisition spree like no other.
Vintage sports cars. Rare works of art. Exotic animals. And women. The harder to obtain, the better.
The fact that he wanted to possess her normally would have bothered her. But she liked him—much more than she expected to. Master-of-the-universe types were usually predictable: too one-dimensional for her taste.
Besides, they had things in common. She wasn’t his usual empty blonde. In fact, she was a collector, too—though what she collected was information. She observed human behavior and choices. Clues that told her volumes about a person. It was a habit she couldn’t kick; didn’t matter whether the subject was personal or professional.
From the way Tony moved, she knew that he was supremely confident, a risk-taker. From the clothes he wore, she knew that he favored quality over ostentation. When they talked, he focused on her with an intensity that made her feel she was the only one in the room who mattered. It was seductive—just like the man himself.
A man used to getting exactly what he wanted.
Which probably explained why when she peeled his hands off her thighs at lunch the day before, it only made him want her more.
“I should go.” Eve touched her leather jacket, which she’d casually draped on the back of the sofa, and made as if to put it on.
“Not yet.” He passed her a snifter of cognac. His hand brushed her own—strong and sure.
“It’s the afternoon before Thanksgiving,” he teased. “Where do you really have to be?”
Eve’s heartbeat quickened. “Company’s coming. I have to get ready.”
He reached over and brushed a blond curl from her forehead. His tanned body was solid and powerful under his monogrammed shirt. “Relax. I can have your whole Thanksgiving delivered on Haviland china.”
She put down the cognac after taking a small sip. She felt his gaze travel down her chest. She was wearing body-hugging jeans, high leather boots, and a red silk shirt with five buttons. The first was already undone.
She didn’t move. She let him stare.
“Stay awhile,” he breathed. His fingers traced the side of her face, down her neck, to the deep V of her silk shirt. Then he caught her arm, pushing up her hammered metal bracelet so he could kiss her wrist.
She grabbed his hand—held it—and took a step toward the bedroom.
He followed her six additional steps. Stopped.
With his free hand, he unbuttoned his own Egyptian cotton shirt and let it slip off his shoulders, revealing a smooth chest tapering down to a full six-pack.
Another four steps.
His fingers then made quick work of the buttons on Eve’s shirt, which fell to the floor, revealing a low-cut lace camisole.
“Magnificent,” he whispered.
Five final steps—and they were in his bedroom.
She took in what lay before her. It was everything she’d hoped to see.
Except for one thing.
By her count, there were three women in the room other than herself: one by Picasso, one by Degas, and another by Klimt.
“You do like unique women,” she breathed. He had just kissed her arm—long, slow.
“They mean very much to me.”
“But one is missing. The most important Lady. The one you’ve been telling me about.”
“The only woman I want now is you.” His breathing was heavy; his hands were moving fast.
But she had seen him steal a quick glance to his right. Where there was a door. It looked like the entry to an ordinary closet.
Eve knew better.
She slid her fingers around his arm. Tugged lightly, pulling him toward the closet that wasn’t a closet. “How about something different? Something I’ll bet even you haven’t done before?” She unzipped her left black-leather boot, tossed it aside.
He quirked an eyebrow. “What do you have in mind?”
She pressed her lips to his ear. “I want the Lady to watch.” She kicked her other boot off.
He grinned as he flicked the light switch on the wall—and suddenly what had appeared to be a television opposite the bed was revealed to be a computer screen with a security keypad. It required a code—as well as his voice command—before the closet door swung open.
Revealing a safe room.
It was rectangular, about eight feet by fifteen, clad in polished walnut. There was a chaise longue, a fully stocked bar, a four-foot-high steel safe, and an entire wall of masterpieces.
He led her to an emerald-green case with brass fittings that lay on top of the safe. Wrapping his body around hers, he kissed the nape of her neck. And opened the lid.
Eve couldn’t stop the delighted cry that escaped her lips.
Inside the case, nestled in a cushion of green silk, was the Lady Blunt Stradivarius from 1721. Named after the granddaughter of Lord Byron, the violin had last sold for nearly sixteen million dollars to an anonymous buyer.
She pulled Tony to the floor, next to the safe, right below the Lady Blunt.
She straddled him.
He took a noisy breath, then seemed to relax. His fingers reached for her blond curls.
“A masterpiece!” she said, intercepting Tony’s hand. She casually slipped the metal bracelet from her arm. Clapped it around his wrist. And activated it by pressing a small remote in her pocket.
The electromagnetic handcuff instantly bound Tony to the base of the steel safe with a force stronger than twenty-six men.
His eyes widened with surprise. Definitely not the good-time blonde he’d expected.
Eve was on her feet before he could react. She snatched the case holding the Lady Blunt. Enabled her earpiece.
And called for backup.
One minute, thirty-two seconds later, they were not alone. Three officers in body armor had joined them in the safe room, guns raised.
“Anthony Falcon, you’re under arrest,” she began calmly. She never lifted her eyes from his chest. He was like a dog: less threatened when no one made eye contact.
Tony’s accent wasn’t as charming when he cursed.
“On charges related to the theft of over one hundred nineteen million dollars’ worth of stolen art and musical instruments,” she finished.
“YOU BITCH!” he snarled.
The agents assisting Eve surrounded him. Deactivated the electromagnetic cuff still attaching him firmly to the steel safe. Pinned his arms behind his back.
First he resisted; then he looked around. Sized up the situation. Regained control of himself.
He was outnumbered and there was no way he could win. But he was a fighter who, even in retreat, was already planning his next battle. “Who are you? What’s your real name?”
“You lost. Do this the right way, Tony.”
“There’s nothing right about this.”
Eve’s three agents marched him out of the bedroom.
But before he was through the door, he wrenched his head back toward Eve.
His face was twisted with menace when he said, “I have eyes and ears all over this city. I’ll be in touch.”
Eve shrugged. “Guys always say they’re going to call. Then they never do.”
VIDOCQ FILE #A3065277
Current status: ACTIVE
Race/Ethnicity: Caucasian, Italian
Weight: 117 lbs.
Current Address: 350 Riverside Drive (Morningside Heights).
Criminal Record: None.
Expertise: Behavioral science and criminal investigative analysis, subspecialties in kinesics and paralinguistics. Seasoned interrogator and hostage negotiator.
Education: Yale University, B.S. and M.S., Clinical Psychology.
Family: Mother, Annabella, deceased. Stepfather, Zev Berger, recently deceased, former CIA operative.
Spouse/Significant Other: None.
Interests: Addicted to crossword puzzles. Concert-level pianist. Avid runner who has finished four NYC marathons.
Strengths: The stepdaughter of a CIA spook, Eve was born into the business and is dedicated to her work, believing that it makes the world a better place. Her instincts and training give her insight into the criminal mind that most agents of her age and experience do not possess.
Weaknesses: A perfectionist. She likes control and does not delegate well.
Notes: Popular within the ranks following successful resolution of a hostage crisis at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral (case history #667533) but increasingly less of a team player since moving her offices into the mansion she inherited from her stepfather.
*Assessment prepared—and updated—by ADIC Henry Ma. For internal use only.
One hour later
Good afternoon! This is WJXZ News with Gwen Allensen reporting from the Upper West Side, where all the balloons—not to mention Macy’s workers, street vendors, and of course New York’s Finest—are getting pumped up for tomorrow’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
A number of tourists have braved the sleet and bone-chilling winds to watch this annual event. I’ve been talking with Sara and Francesca, high school seniors from Cincinnati, who have been snapping pictures as this big blue creature behind me is inflated: Papa Smurf. Do you know it takes ninety minutes to inflate one of these giant balloons?
FRANCESCA: This is so cool! Can we get a selfie with you and Papa Smurf?
GWEN: Only if you promise to catch my good side. Seriously, you can see all the activity behind me. Everyone here will be working overtime, throughout the night, to get ready for the main event.
The numbers tell the story: Tomorrow’s parade is going to feature more than eight thousand participants—including cheerleaders, dancers, singers, clowns, and eleven marching bands—in addition to eighteen giant character balloons (like Papa Smurf here) and two dozen floats. Sara and Francesca tell me they’ll be part of it all tomorrow, performing with the show choir from their high school—
SARA: That’s Briar Woods High—and we’ll be on the Spirit of the Midwest float, in the first section of the parade!
GWEN: All of us at WJXZ wish you good luck, girls. Now back to you, Bob.
Giant Balloon Inflation Area—West 77th to West 81st Street
Everyone loves a parade.
But not Allie Donovan.
Not just because she had passed two cops in full body armor—standing with submachine guns hoisted, right across the street from a vendor selling cotton candy, stuffed animals, and balloons.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Special Agent Eve Rossi and her team of ex-cons have just wrapped up another case when they are asked to look into a very sensitive situation. Police Commissioner Logan Donovan’s daughter has gone missing. She was present at the balloon inflation ceremony for the Macy’s day parade where a group of individuals protesting police brutality got out of hand and Donovan was struck in the head by a projectile. During the resulting chaos Donovan’s Allie disappeared. Soon the kidnapper provides a list of demands in exchange for Allie’s life. Rossi and her team must do their best to get Allie back safely while making sure not to endanger the lives of the millions attending the Macy’s Day Parade. Author Stefanie Pintoff has succeeded in crafting another edge-of-your-seat suspense story. Eve Rossi maintains her status as a strong intelligent and interesting character with a backstory that itself could be used in future books. The team of ex-cons that Rossi heads up are truly likeable and feel believable and fleshed out. Corey Haddox, the Irish hacker with a surprising amount of charm is especially fun. There was one tiny issue at the beginning where a prior case that is being wrapped up seemed a bit unbelievable, but since it wasn’t in any way germane to the plot, it doesn’t detract. City on Edge perfectly merges a suspense mystery with a strong character development. What I love most about Pintoff’s works is that she doesn’t let things like violence, gore or sex distract from the actual meat of the storyline. Yes, there is violence obviously and there is a side love interest, but these things don’t eclipse the storyline. It seems like a lot of writers of cop stories think that steamy sex scenes and pages of description devoted to one incident of violence equals good writing. I prefer a storyline so meticulously planned and hard to predict that I have to know the ending, no matter how late at night it is. Pintoff did not disappoint. Featuring strong suspense, unexpected twists and truly likeable characters, City on Edge is a fast-paced enjoyable read that is impossible to put down. Disclaimer: I received a free ARC of this story from the publisher on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
This is a timely thriller taking place in and around Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The 13-year-old daughter of Police Commissioner Logan Donovan has been kidnapped. Donovan is trying to handle all the threats coming in concerning the parade and basically doesn't have time to look for his daughter. As she has run away from home before, there is the question of her doing it again vs being kidnapped. Special Agent Eve Rossi heads up a different kind of team. Her team members all have been convicted of crimes, and were recruited to use their talents / skills in helping law enforcement rather than spend years in prison. Eve, herself, is a former FBI profiler, a clinical psychologist and hostage negotiator. It is to this group that Donovan turns for help in finding his daughter. I found this book to be somewhat different from most mystery/suspense/thrillers that I normally read. The team members are introduced by way of personnel files/profiles listing height, weight, hair and eye color, as well as family members, religion, strengths and weaknesses, as well as a bit about their special talent, was okay ... but really didn't add anything to the story line. I found it interesting that most of her team are computer gurus who seemingly can find anything they want or need from a computer, even if it doesn't even exist. Other than Rossi and her team, I didn't like any of the other characters. They were like cardboard cut-outs. The ending was not that much of a surprise. Although it was all tied up with a bow, the author left a little wiggle room for a follow-up book. My thanks to the author / Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine / Netgalley who provided a digital copy. All opinions expressed are my own.