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The Cold Room (Taylor Jackson Series #4)

The Cold Room (Taylor Jackson Series #4)

4.6 92
by J. T. Ellison, Joyce Bean (Read by)

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Homicide detective Taylor Jackson thinks she’s seen it all in Nashville — but she’s never seen anything as perverse as The Conductor. Once his victim is captured, he contains her in a glass coffin, slowly starving her to death. Only then does he give in to his attraction.

Later, he creatively disposes of the body by reenacting scenes from famous


Homicide detective Taylor Jackson thinks she’s seen it all in Nashville — but she’s never seen anything as perverse as The Conductor. Once his victim is captured, he contains her in a glass coffin, slowly starving her to death. Only then does he give in to his attraction.

Later, he creatively disposes of the body by reenacting scenes from famous paintings. Strangely, similar macabre works are being displayed in Europe. Taylor teams up with her fiancé, FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin, and New Scotland Yard detective James “Memphis” Highsmythe — a haunted man who has eyes only for Taylor — to put an end to The Conductor’s art collection.

Has the killer gone international? Or are there dueling artists, competing to create the ultimate masterpiece?

“Fusing gritty cop drama with dark psychological thriller, Ellison distinguishes herself with exceptional character development, consistently breakneck pacing and a sense of authenticity.” - Chicago Tribune

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Ellison's fourth Taylor Jackson thriller finds a serial killer murdering young women in both the United States and Europe. Such an international crime brings New Scotland Yard Detective/profiler James “Memphis” Highsmythe into the investigation, causing an unexpected hitch in homicide detective Jackson's romantic involvement with fiancée FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin. But personal feelings or no, the trio must pool their resources to find the serial killer known as the Conductor in the United States and Il Macellaio across the Atlantic, before he can strike again. Joyce Bean is perfectly cast; her narration keeps the book moving at a steady pace and infuses the prose with just the right amount of menace and suspense. Her reading of the killer's chance encounter with a young woman destined to become his next victim is chilling. Even when the writing may be a little over the top at times, Bean's performance is down to the ground solid. A Mira paperback. (Mar.)

Product Details

Brilliance Audio
Publication date:
Taylor Jackson Series , #4
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.00(h) x 1.37(d)

Read an Excerpt

Gavin Adler jumped when a small chime sounded on his computer. He looked at the clock in surprise; it was already 6:00 p.m. During the winter months, darkness descended and reminded him to close up shop, but the daylight savings time change necessitated an alarm clock to let him know when it was time to leave. Otherwise, he'd get lost in his computer and never find his way home.

He rose from his chair, stretched, turned off the computer and reached for his messenger bag. What a day. What a long and glorious day.

He took his garbage with him; his lunch leavings. There was no reason to have leftover banana peels in his trash can overnight. He shut off the lights, locked the door, dropped the plastic Publix bag into the Dumpster, and began the two-block walk to his parking spot. His white Prius was one of the few cars left in the lot.

Gavin listened to his iPod on the way out of downtown. Traffic was testy, as always, so he waited patiently, crawling through West End, then took the exit for I-40 and headed, slowly, toward Memphis. The congestion cleared right past White Bridge, and he sailed the rest of the way.

The drive took twenty-two minutes, he clocked it. Not too bad.

He left the highway at McCrory Lane and went to his gym. The YMCA lot was full, as always. He checked in, changed clothes in the locker room, ran for forty-five minutes, worked on the elliptical for twenty, did one hundred inverted crunches and shadow boxed for ten minutes. Then he toweled himself off. He retrieved the messenger bag, left his sneakers in the locker, slipped his feet back into the fluorescent orange rubber Crocs he'd been wearing all day. He left his gym clothes on—they would go straight into the wash.

He went across the street to Publix, bought a single chicken cordon bleu and a package of instant mashed potatoes, a tube of hearty buttermilk biscuits, fresh bananas and cat food. He took his groceries, went to his car, and drove away into the night. He hadn't seen a soul. His mind was engaged with what waited for him at home.

Dark. Lonely. Empty.

Gavin pulled into the rambler-style house at 8:30 p.m. His cat, a Burmese gray named Art, met him at the door, loudly protesting his empty bowl. He spooned wet food into the cat's dish as a special treat before he did anything else. No reason for Art to be miserable. The cat ate with his tail high in the air, purring and growling softly.

He hit play on his stereo, and the strains of Dvorák spilled through his living room. He stood for a moment, letting the music wash over him, his right arm moving in concert with the bass. The music filled him, made him complete, and whole. Art came and stood beside him, winding his tail around Gavin's leg. He smiled at the interruption, bent and scratched the cat behind the ears. Art arched his back in pleasure.

Evening's ritual complete, Gavin turned on the oven, sprinkled olive oil in a glass dish and put the chicken in to bake. It would take forty-five minutes to cook.

He showered, checked his work e-mail on his iPhone, then ate. He took his time; the chicken was especially good this evening. He sipped an icy Corona Light with a lime stuck in the neck.

He washed up. 10:00 p.m. now. He gave himself permission. He'd been a very good boy.

The padlock on the door to the basement was shiny with promise and lubricant. He inserted the key, twisting his wrist to keep it from jangling. He took the lock with him, holding it gingerly so he didn't get oil on his clothes. Oil was nearly impossible to get out. He made sure Art wasn't around; he didn't like the cat to get into the basement. He saw him sitting on the kitchen table, looking mournfully at the empty spot where Gavin's plate had rested.

Inside the door, the stairs led to blackness. He flipped a switch and light flooded the stairwell. He slipped the end of the lock in the inside latch, then clicked it home. No sense taking chances.

She was asleep. He was quiet, so he wouldn't wake her. He just wanted to look, anyway.

The Plexiglas cage was the shape of a coffin with a long clear divider down the length—creating two perfectly sized compartments—with small drainage holes in the bottom and air holes along the top. It stood on a reinforced platform he had built himself. The concrete floor had a drain; all he needed to do was sluice water across the opening and presto, clean. He ran the water for a few minutes, clearing out the debris, then looked back to his love.

Her lips were cracking, the hair shedding. She'd been without food and water for a week now, and she was spending more and more time asleep. Her lethargy was anticipated. He looked forward to the moment when her agonies were at an end. He had no real desire to torture her. He just needed her heart to stop. Then, he could have her.

He licked his lips and felt embarrassed by his erection.

He breathed in the scent of her, reveling in the musky sweetness of her dying flesh, then went to the desk in the corner of the basement. No spiders and dust and basement rot for Gavin. The place was clean. Pristine.

The computer, a Mac Air he'd indulged in as a late Christmas present to himself, sprang to life. A few taps of the keyboard, the wireless system engaged and he was online. Before he had a chance to scroll through his bookmarks, his iChat chimed. The user's screen name was IlMorte69. He and Gavin were very good friends. Gavin responded, his own screen name, hot4cold, popping up in red ten-point Arial.

My dollhouse is nearly complete, Hot. Howz urs?

Hey, Morte. Mine's on its last legs as well. I'm here checking. Your trip go well?

My friend, I can't tell you. Such a wonderful time. But it's good to be home.

New dolls?

One. Luscious. Easy pickings. Like taking a rat from a cellar.

Gavin cringed. Sometimes Morte got to be a little much. But what could you do? It was hard for Gavin to talk to people, the online world was his oyster, his outlet. He had other friends who weren't quite as crude as Morte.

Speaking of which…he glanced at the listing of contacts and saw Necro90 was online as well. He sent him a quick hello, then went back to his chat with Morte.

When do you think you'll be ready?

Morte came back almost immediately.

Within two days. Did you do it like we discussed? You were more careful with the disposal than with the snatch, weren't you?

Gavin bristled a tiny bit, then relaxed. Morte was right to chide him. After all, he had made a mistake. He'd quickly learned that following Morte's every instruction was important. Very, very important.

Yes. It was perfect. I'll send you a photo.

He uploaded the shots, breath quickening in remembrance. So beautiful. Within moments, Morte responded.

My God. That is perfect. Lovely. You've become quite an artist.

Thank you.

Gavin blushed. Receiving compliments gracefully wasn't one of his strongest attributes. He glanced over his shoulder, knew he needed to wrap this up.

Morte, I've gotta run. Long day today.

I'll bet. You be good. Don't forget, two days and counting. I'll expect pictures!


A picture flooded his screen—Morte had sent him a gift. Gavin studied the photo; his ears burned. Oh, Morte was amazingly good with a camera. So much better than he was.

Morte's doll had no animation, no movement. Her eyes were shut. Gavin turned his chair around so he could stare at his own dollhouse, his own doll, lying in the darkness. Alone. He'd need to find her another friend soon. If only Morte's girl was a sister. He didn't have a taste for white meat.

Another chime—this time it was Necro responding. He asked how Gavin was doing, if there'd been any news in the community. Gavin replied with a negative—he'd heard nothing. Of course, his ear wasn't to the floor like Morte—Morte was the architect of their online world. Gavin had found his friends deep in a sleepy sex message board, and was so thrilled to have them. They made his life bearable.

He chatted for a few minutes with Necro, read a rambling account of a perfect specimen Necro had sighted on some white-sand Caribbean beach, then logged out. He stared at the photo he'd downloaded from Morte. He was overwhelmingly turned on, and no longer able to contain himself. With a last glance at his doll, he went up the stairs, unlocked the door, locked the basement behind him and returned to his life. It was time for another shower, then bed. He had a very busy day ahead of him. A very busy few days. The plan was in motion.

He was proud of himself. He only checked the doll's breathing three times during the night.

Taylor Jackson was happy to spy an empty parking spot halfway up Thirty-second Avenue. Luck was on her side tonight. Parking in Nashville was extremely hit-or-miss, especially in West End. The valet smiled hopefully as she turned in front of Tin Angel, but she couldn't leave a state vehicle with a kid who didn't look old enough to have a driver's license, not without getting into all kinds of trouble. She drove past him, paralleled smoothly and walked the slight hill back down to the restaurant's entrance. She was looking forward to the evening, a girls' night with her best friend Sam and colleague Paula Simari. No homicides. No crime scenes. Just a low-key meal, some wine, some chicken schnitzel. A night off.

She was early, her friends hadn't arrived yet. She followed the hostess to a table for four right by the bricked fireplace. The logs were stacked tightly and burning slow, putting out a pleasant low, smoky heat. Even though the weather was warming, it was still nippy in the early mornings and late evenings.

She ordered a bottle of Coppola Merlot, accepted a menu, then lost herself in thought. The envelope she'd addressed before she left for dinner was burning a hole in her pocket. She took it out and stared at the lettering, wishing she didn't recognize the handwriting. Wishing she didn't have to address letters to federal penitentiaries, even if they were the chinos and golf-shirt variety.

Winthrop Jackson, IV



P.O. BOX 1000


The edges of the envelope were getting frayed. She needed to decide if she was going to mail this letter or not.

She traced the outline of the address, her mind still screaming against the reality. Her father, in prison. And she'd been the one who put him there. Glancing to make sure no one was looking, she slid the single handwritten page from its nest.

Dear Win,

I am sorry. I know you understand I was just doing my job. I had no choice. I would appreciate it if you would stop trying to contact me. I find our relationship impossible to handle, and I want to get on with my life. Mom is still in Europe, but she has her cell phone. She can send you the money you need.

For what it's worth, I do forgive you. I know you couldn't help yourself. You never have.


"Whatcha reading? You look upset."

Taylor started. Sam took the seat across from her, dropped her Birkin bag on the floor under the table and stretched her fingers, the joints popping slightly. She grimaced.

"Holding a scalpel all day does that to you. What's that?"

Taylor shook the page lightly. "A letter to Win."

"Really? I thought you'd sworn off dear old dad. Did you order some wine?"

"I did. It should be here any minute. Where's Paula?"

"She got called to a case. Sends her apologies. She'll catch us next week. It's just us chickens tonight."

Sam settled back into the chair, the firelight glinted red off her dark hair. Taylor still wasn't used to the blunt-cut bangs that swooped across Sam's forehead. She'd cropped her tresses into a sophisticated bob, what she called her mom do. Taylor thought she looked less like a mom and more like Betty Page with that cut, but who was she to comment?

"What are you staring at?"

"Sorry. The hair. It's so different. Takes me a minute."

"You have no idea how easy it is. Though I do miss long hair. Simon does too."

"I thought about cutting mine. When I mentioned it, Baldwin had a fit."

The wine arrived and they placed their orders. They clinked their glasses together, and Sam said, "Up to it, down to it."

Taylor laughed. They'd started that toast in eighth grade. Up to it, down to it, damn the man who can't do it…. The rest of the toast was a crude allusion to their future lovers' skill, though they had no idea what it meant at the time. In high school Taylor had embarrassed herself at one of her parents' many dinner parties by leading a toast with it. When the men roared and the women blushed, her mother, Kitty, had taken her aside and explained why that wasn't an appropriate thing for a young lady of breeding to say. She wouldn't tell her why, though, and Taylor and Sam puzzled over it for days. Now, as a woman, she understood, and always laughed at the memory of her disgrace.

She thought of Win then, and sobered.

"I'm trying to shut Win down, Sam. He keeps mailing, keeps calling. I don't want anything to do with him. He's poison, and I need to get him out of my life. What if Baldwin and I have children one day? Can you imagine ole jailbird gramps telling stories at Christmas dinner? He'll either corrupt them or embarrass them."

"You're thinking of having kids?"

"Focus, woman. We're talking about my dad."

"You'd make a great mother."

Taylor stared hard at her best friend. "Why do you say that?"

"Please. You're totally the nurturing type. You just don't know it yet. You'll be like a bear with its cub, or a tiger. Nothing, and no one, will harm a hair on your kid's head. Trust me, you'll take to it like a seal to water. When might this magnificent event take place, anyway?"

"You mean my immaculate conception?"

Sam laughed. "Baldwin's still in Quantico, I take it."

"Yes. He gets back tonight. That's why I wanted to meet downtown. I'm going to head to the airport from dinner."

"You miss him when he's gone, don't you?" Sam smiled at her, a grin of understanding. Taylor had never needed a man to feel complete, but when she'd gotten involved with John Baldwin, she suddenly felt every moment without him keenly.

Meet the Author

J.T. Ellison is the New York Times bestselling author of 14 critically acclaimed novels and co-writes with #1 NYT bestseller Catherine Coulter. THE COLD ROOM won the ITW Thriller Award for Best Paperback Original. Visit http://JTEllison.com

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The Cold Room (Taylor Jackson Series #4) 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 92 reviews.
totton More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best series I've read in a while of the police procedural genre! Taylor Jackson is having a hard time adjusting to her recent demotion back to detective and the break up of her homicide detective crew. She has a new boss and a new partner and now a new serial killer to contend with. Taylor hasn't seen anything like this killer before - killing in Italy, the UK and now in Nashville. Not only does this killer change locations, but he has been changing his MO; highly unusual for a serial killer. With the help of her FBI boyfriend and a detective inspector on loan from the New Scotland Yard, Taylor is racing to find this killer before he strikes again. As she and the team are closing in, someone from her past resurfaces to let her know that he is coming for her.
christytilleryfrench More than 1 year ago
Due to restructuring of the Nashville Metro Police Department, homicide detective Taylor Jackson's been demoted from her prior position of lieutenant. If that isn't bad enough, she's being pursued by a serial killer called the Pretender. Now another serial killer's in Nashville, one who abducts young black women, starves them to death and, after performing necrophilia, poses them per scenes from famous paintings. It isn't long before Jackson's fiancé, FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin, connects Jackson's serial killer to one he's been investigating in Europe named the Conductor. Jackson and Baldwin team up with Scotland Yard detective James "Memphis" Highsmythe, and the chase is on as the three try to determine if they're dealing with only one killer or perhaps two. As the investigation proceeds, Jackson's trying not to be distracted by the chemistry between her and Highsmythe, which is unexpected and confusing, and her superior's strange actions, which are hampering her efforts to investigate her case. This fourth installment of the Taylor Jackson series is as suspenseful and intriguing as the first. This psychological thriller is gritty and realistic and filled with intense action. The chemistry between Jackson and Highsmythe, although not expected, is nicely delivered. Jackson's a great character, a woman who's tough mentally and physically but a real softy on the inside. The colorful backdrop of Nashville is a bonus to readers, as is Ellison's intelligent writing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read all of ellison's books. They are always a true fantastic read. The Cold Room was no exception. It sarted out with a ang and just kept ongoing. A real page turner.
peaceloveandpat More than 1 year ago
The Conductor is a sick human being. That is a huge statement coming from me. I often watch gory and truly horrifying films (both paranormal and twisted demented minds of a serial killer) my cousin-in-law and I, would watch three consecutive films every other saturday and would have a lengthy discussion of what happened to the characters, the camera angles and the acting, etc. With that I rarely get the urge to buy a book a read them up. But when The Cold Room was offered to me, the blurb intrigued me to no end so I grabbed the opportunity. So the premise is - the Conductor kidnaps his victim, place them in a clear coffin like glass box, starves them to death, strangles them then performs the disgusting and truly perverse way of Necrophilia and of course it does not end there after the "process" he then calls the poor kidnapped / dead victims as his doll / masterpiece by reenacting famous artworks, disposing them that way. Pay very attention on the first chapter of this book, it hold a great clue about the Conductor himself. The love drama between Jackson, her FBI profiler boyfriend, Dr. Baldwin and Scottland Yard's Highsmythe neutralizes the horrors of the crime written in this book. I didn't realize that this is book 4 of Taylor Jackson series, I did not get lost nor had that fleeting urge that I should have read the other books first and that works for me. I like Taylor and will be reading her previous adventures. If you are looking for a great suspense-thriller-and murder mystery book, this one is for you
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another good book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read all of lois lowry books.this one was the best of all.it was a quick read page turner.
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I love this author and series! Best books I've read in a while.
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Good read. Good author
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this series!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent read
RobertDowns More than 1 year ago
J.T. Ellison knows how to spin a tale with Taylor Jackson, a tough-as-nails main character who never seems to lack for passion. She finds it in both her professional and personal life. The Cold Room gripped me from the first page, and it didn't let me go until I had reached the end. The chilling nature of the tale kept me in rapt attention, and while the plot may have seemed a bit farfetched to some, I found it to be both heavily researched and a compelling read. I found myself intrigued by the descriptions of Nashville, and I attribute this to the outstanding writing abilities of the author. She turned a local tale into an international one, when Taylor and her fiancé, FBI agent John Baldwin, crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Italy. Florence never sounded so good. It takes a special writer to delve into some dark places of the human psyche, when many individuals might shy away from such an experience. To her credit, she didn't just skirt across the surface, she jumped all the way in, and her novel is a stronger, better book because of her willingness to peek beneath the surface. Endings can prove a bit of a challenge, but Ellison pulls it off with ease. She sets herself and the reader up perfectly for the next addition to the Taylor Jackson series. While this is my first foray into Taylor's world, it certainly won't be my last. Robert Downs Author of Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private Investigator
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