New York Times bestselling author Allison Brennan is back with Compulsion, another high-octane thriller starring the "compelling new protagonist" (RT Book Reviews) Maxine Revere.
Investigative reporter Maxine Revere has a theory: that the five New York City murders for which Adam Bachman is being tried are just part of his killing spree. In probing the disappearance of a retired couple who vanished the prior summer, Max uncovers striking similarities to Bachman's MO and develops a theory that Bachman wasn't working alone.
Max wins a coveted pre-trial interview with the killer, whose disarming composure in the face of her questions is combined with uncomfortable knowledge of Max's own past. She leaves the room convinced, but unable to prove, that Bachman knows exactly what happened to the missing couple. The D.A. wants nothing to jeopardize his case against Bachman and refuses to consider Max's theory. With no physical evidence, Max has to rely on her own wits and investigative prowess to dig deep into Bachman's past. The picture that Max puts together is far darker and more deadly than she ever imagined.
As Max gets closer to the truth, she doesn't realize that she's walking down a road that has been paved just for her. That every step she takes brings her one step closer to a brilliant, methodical sociopath who has been waiting for her to make just one small mistake.
And when she does, he'll be there waiting.
About the Author
Allison Brennan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over thirty novels, including the Max Revere Novels (Abandoned, Shattered) and the Lucy Kincaid Novels (Cut and Run, Nothing to Hide) She was nominated for Best Paperback Original Thriller by the International Thriller Writers and is a two-time winner of the Daphne du Maurier Award by Kiss of Death.
Married for more than a quarter of a century, Allison and her husband Dan raised five children. They recently relocated from California to Arizona with their two youngest where they are looking forward to baseball's Spring Training and exploring the Grand Canyon.
Read an Excerpt
By Allison Brennan
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Allison Brennan
All rights reserved.
Maxine Revere stood in the doorway of Ben's office while he finished his conversation with the New York City district attorney.
Max took the D.A.'s verbal attack as a compliment. After all, she had a love-hate relationship with him. In fact, she had a love-hate relationship with most of the people in her life.
"Yes, she is." Ben caught her eye and put his finger to his lips as he leaned over his speakerphone. "I'll give her the good news. Thank you, Richard."
He pressed the off button before the D.A. could change his mind—or Max could give him a piece of her mind.
Ben's huge grin threatened to swallow him. He jumped out of his chair and squeezed her arm as he grabbed his blazer off the coat rack.
"I don't know what you said to him, Max, but it worked."
"It was as much you as me," she told her producer. She'd played hardball with Richard and Ben played Mr. Nice Guy; between them, they got exactly what she wanted. An interview with Adam Bachman, the twenty-seven-year-old bartender on trial for five murders.
"You'll have twenty minutes," he said as they walked to the elevator.
The Maximum Exposure offices occupied half of the eighteenth floor of a Seventh Avenue skyscraper, south of Times Square. "Make them count."
She didn't respond to his comment, too energized about this interview to be irritated over Ben's habitual lecture. She'd been maneuvering for time with Bachman ever since she figured out that the missing person's case she'd been investigating since last summer followed the same pattern as Bachman's killing spree.
Max was covering the trial for the station's news programming. She'd been NET's on-site reporter for several high-profile trials. NET wasn't CNN or Fox, but it was making a name for itself. It had exclusively been an Internet news show until three years ago, one year before Max joined the team. Now, while 75 percent of its schedule related directly to up-to-the-minute news, it featured several original daily, weekly, and monthly programs including Max's true crime show Maximum Exposure, which Ben produced. She liked that NET was independent and run by a close-knit family with good business sense.
"No cameras," Ben said as he pounded the down button several times, as if the repeated motion would make the door open faster. "But you can record it."
"And that makes you mad," Max said. Max didn't care half as much about the visual, not with this case. She'd been fighting for this interview for too long to quibble over the details. Months of talking—with the D.A., the defense lawyer, cops, the victims' families, everyone she could get access to, but not the killer himself.
Until now. Exclusive. One-on-one. Pen, paper, and an audio recorder. An old-fashioned interview. Because, as the D.A. had said, she was a tenacious bitch.
"Get him to agree to go on camera after the trial," Ben said. He peered at his reflection in the shiny metal elevator doors and adjusted his tie. Such a yuppie, she thought. "A follow-up after he's convicted."
Max glanced at Ben as the doors opened and interrupted his preening. "Innocent until proven guilty," she said as they stepped inside the empty elevator. The doors swished closed behind them.
"You don't for a minute believe that bastard didn't kill those people."
She'd seen some of the evidence, enough to believe the prosecution had a solid case. But she was a reporter first; she wanted the truth out, no matter what. And while her instincts told her New York's Finest had caught the right guy, anything could happen.
"He's not going to admit his guilt to me the morning his trial begins," she said. "I'll push for the follow-up, but these twenty minutes were hard-fought."
"If you wanted it you could get it," Ben mumbled.
She laughed. "I love that you have such confidence in me."
"NET will be set up to do a live interview with you during the court's lunch break," Ben said. "What happened the first morning of the Bachman trial, yada yada, then again when court recesses for the evening. They'd like you to post comments on your Twitter feed."
"No can do—I told you the judge's rules." Judge Tarkoff had met with lawyers and reporters Friday afternoon about trial conduct. While court was in session, there would be no social media posts from inside the courtroom or the reporter would be banned for the duration of the trial.
Commentary would be allowed only during official court breaks. "No electronics inside at all. If you need me, call David or Riley."
"Where is Riley?" Ben asked. He sounded irritated, but it was his usual demeanor when he couldn't immediately order someone to do something. Though he hadn't liked Riley Butler when Max first hired her last month, the Columbia grad quickly earned her way into his good graces. Ben cared about two things: competence and speed. He expected the job to be done well, and to be done fast. Riley had picked up on that immediately and ingratiated herself with Ben in less than a week. A new record.
Max just wished her right-hand man David felt the same.
"I sent her on an errand. I'm picking her up on the way to the courthouse."
He glanced at his watch. "Isn't that cutting it close?"
"It's important." She had Riley doing a bit of undercover work with Bachman's former friends and neighbors. She didn't want to share details with Ben because he didn't like that she'd been sending Riley out into the field. Ben felt an office assistant should be in the office assisting. Max countered that an office assistant should be assisting in whatever needed to be done. If said assistant could take care of basic footwork that gave Max more time with research and interviews—and more time to write.
The elevator doors opened. They stepped out and headed toward the exit. Voices echoed in the cavernous lobby, so Ben lowered his voice. "Are you going to ask him about the partner?"
"Of course." She caught Ben's eye. "Why?"
"I kind of told Richard that you weren't pursuing that line of inquiry," he said as he cleared his throat.
"Why the hell would you say that? You know that's the primary reason I wanted this interview."
"I thought you wanted to find out if he killed the Palazzolos."
"I know Bachman was involved; I want proof. And you damn well know that I've been working on this killing pair theory for months."
"When you're not flying down to Miami to annoy your ex, or flying off to California to screw your lover."
"Screw you," she said. Sometimes, Ben acted like the little brother she never had. "You had no right telling Rich I'd dropped that theory. I'll ask Bachman whatever I damn well please."
Ex–Army Ranger, personal assistant, and sometime bodyguard David Kane approached them. She had never wanted a bodyguard or a personal assistant, but after threats during a trial nearly two years ago, Ben had insisted. Now David was not only indispensable, he was her closest friend and the only person she trusted explicitly. He'd earned it. Largely because he hadn't quit on her, though she'd given him ample opportunity. And he seemed to be the diffuser of wars waged between Ben and Max.
Truth was, she wasn't the easiest person to work for.
"David, I e-mailed you a revised schedule," Ben said, ignoring Max's glare. She was not dropping it. And he knew it. So why would he tell the D.A.—her friend (sort of)—that she would?
David nodded once. "We have to go, Max. I'm parked illegally."
"Ben will pay for the ticket," Max said. She patted him on the cheek, still angry that he was playing games with her interview. "Won't you, Benji?"
He reddened. "Just—watch yourself."
"I didn't make that ridiculous promise."
"The D.A. is an asset to NET. Don't blow it."
"Let me handle Richard Milligan. And never make a promise for me that you know damn well I won't keep."
"Max, this is a great case for you."
"Meaning, don't blow it?"
"Stop trying to piss me off. Your interview is going to be picked up everywhere. Just—well, do what you do best."
She arched an eyebrow. "Antagonize people?"
"Find the truth."
She relaxed. She and Ben butted heads often, but she respected him.
"That I can do."
"You always do."
She strode through the lobby, David at her side.
"Ben never liked your theory," he said. David was one of the smartest people Max knew, and she rarely had to explain anything to him.
"He's playing games with my reputation. I can make or break my own reputation."
David tipped the security guard who'd ensured his car didn't get towed, then opened the passenger door for Max before she could reach it. "You're not my chauffeur," she grumbled.
He shut the door without a response, then slipped into the driver's seat, and pulled away from the curb. "I drive because you're the definition of a distracted driver," he said.
"He jokes," Max said.
David smiled, as much as his half smiles were.
"I'm right about this," she continued.
"I don't doubt you."
She glanced at him. "But you aren't convinced."
"I'm convinced that if Bachman has a partner, you'll prove it." He stopped at a light. "You rarely surprise me, but I didn't think this was going to happen."
"I can't believe you doubted me," Max said with mock hurt. Then, "I knew Bachman wanted to talk to me—I have his letters to prove it—but his attorney and the prosecutor were two stubborn roadblocks. So I went around both and talked to Milligan directly."
"The important thing is that it's happening. I've been planning for this interview for months—I have a number of directions I can go, depending on his answers, but he's going to slip up and I'm going to confirm my theory."
"I don't have to tell you to be careful with him," David said.
"He's in custody. He can't hurt me."
"Don't be cocky, Max. If you are right, that means there's another killer still walking free. And you know that."
"And that's why I have you, dear David, by my side." She smiled, trying to lighten the conversation, but David stared straight ahead, expertly weaving through traffic.
Bachman had no close friends, no roommate, no siblings. His mother lived in Hartford, Connecticut, and his father wasn't in the picture. His closest childhood friend had enlisted in the army when he turned eighteen and was currently deployed overseas. Bachman's only known friend from college, his former Boston University roommate Chris Gibson, was a social animal whom Max had already dissected; she could find no violent tendencies. What's more, Gibson couldn't have assisted with at least two of the crimes as he was out of town.
So who was Bachman's partner in these murders?
She changed the subject. "Did you tag Riley?"
"She's waiting for us."
He didn't say anything more, and Max let it go. David wasn't sold on Riley. David would come around, because Max trusted her gut, and her gut told her Riley had the chops. Max wanted to train her. She just wished she understood why David didn't like her.
Max had sent Riley Butler to befriend Chris Gibson. Max wanted information about Bachman—insight that would help her write a three-dimensional story of a man who by all accounts was average, with a steady job as a bartender at a popular club and a loving mother in Connecticut. He fit the profile of a Ted Bundy—charming, attractive, polite—the last person anyone expected to brutally kill strangers.
Max had sent Riley because she was closer to Gibson's age. Gibson worked as a waiter while trying to break into theater. He was sociable and Riley was cute—it worked well. Riley was born to be an undercover reporter. That she came from a long line of Boston cops and had sharp instincts made her even more valuable to Max. She graduated from Columbia with a major in psychology and a minor in journalism, and Max, hands down, thought Riley was smarter than all of her previous assistants combined.
She wasn't perfect. In the six weeks she'd worked for Max, she'd once pursued an inquiry without first clearing it with Max—something Max could appreciate, but not when Riley was still in training, so to speak, so Max had to be much clearer about the rules and her expectations. Riley also didn't care much for the paperwork that went with her job and cut corners, which could be a problem in the future or just a sign of immaturity. Yet Riley was tech-savvy, which streamlined much of the mundane part of her job.
David pulled over in front of a Starbucks in SoHo and Riley slipped into the backseat. She was a petite bundle of energy. A twenty-three-year-old workaholic. Her dad was an Irish cop from Boston. Her mother was a half-black, half-Hispanic pediatric surgeon at the Children's Hospital. Riley was a beautiful blend of the two—skin the color of latte with an added shot of espresso, curly light brown hair, and huge green eyes. She looked like a teenager and had an aura of innocence and trustworthiness that put people at ease. She had two older brothers, one a firefighter and one a cop, who'd taught her to defend herself. She leaned forward and handed Max a drink, and another to David. "Latte, black coffee." She grinned.
"Thanks," Max said and sipped.
"I got something," Riley said, unable to contain her excitement.
"Spill it. We have seven minutes until we get to the courthouse."
"I brought Chris over a bottle of wine last night after he missed out on a part he wanted Off-Broadway. Which sucked, because he was called back, so thought it was a sure thing, and—"
"Faster, Riley," Max interrupted.
"We played the 'who you know' game, back and forth, and he said he knew the most notorious serial killer in New York City, Adam Bachman. We drank, talked, and I learned something that seems important. Chris thinks Bachman is obsessive-compulsive."
"And he has a psychiatry degree to back this up?"
Riley frowned, but continued. "He said Bachman was moody and absolutely anal about his stuff—very meticulous, everything had its place, a place-for-everything kind of OCD. He was gone for a semester his sophomore year. Bachman told Chris that he just needed a break from school, but Chris thinks he was in a mental hospital. Just like you suspected."
"But you said—"
"I said I had a hunch, but I had no proof. Did he see meds?
Bachman say anything about talking to a shrink? Does Chris know where he went?"
Max turned in her seat and caught Riley's eye. She could see the girl was fuming, but Max needed her to understand that conjecture was bullshit without something tangible to back it up. Max had a lot of theories, but she didn't flap her mouth until she had a thread she could pull.
"Riley, what you think means nothing. It means you should follow up on your theory, but it's not tangible." She didn't want to demoralize the novice, but she also needed her to understand that rumors and theories weren't printable without evidence. "How can you prove Chris's theory?"
"Talk to Bachman's family. Friends."
"No one is going to talk to you. I worked that angle hard, and couldn't get inside. His mother is completely devoted to him, will not talk to reporters or the police. He has few friends—even Gibson hasn't seen Bachman since college." Max softened her tone, just a bit. "I can tell you there's nothing in the files about Bachman being committed. Medical records are practically sacrosanct and if the police don't know something exists, they aren't going to know to ask. His mother, if she knew, didn't tell the police, so she's not going to tell a reporter. And everything Gibson told you might just be a horny guy bragging in the hopes of getting you horizontal, so take everything he said with a grain of salt."
Excerpted from Compulsion by Allison Brennan. Copyright © 2015 Allison Brennan. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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