Dead Connection (Ellie Hatcher Series #1)

Dead Connection (Ellie Hatcher Series #1)

by Alafair Burke


View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Friday, September 20


Two young, single women are murdered on the streets of New York City, exactly one year apart. Their only connection: Both had posted profiles on the popular online dating service, Enter NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher. She fits the profile of the victims, and is called in for a special assignment to the homicide team. promises its online clientele that they'll remain anonymous and safe. But Ellie is about to discover that the company is protecting the identity of the killer more than it protected the safety of his victims...

Soon Ellie is entangled in a web of anonymous identities and false leads as she tries to attract and lure in a suspect. But time is running out to find the killer before he claims his next victim which, in a devastating twist of fate, is looking more and more likely to be Ellie herself....

Expertly plotted and perfectly paced, Dead Connection advances Alafair Burke to the front ranks of American thriller writers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250038708
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 11/04/2008
Series: Ellie Hatcher Series , #1
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 202,906
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.79(d)

About the Author

A former deputy district attorney in Portland, Oregon, Alafair Burke now teaches criminal law at Hofstra Law School and lives in New York City. Her three novels in the Samantha Kincaid series, Judgment Calls, Missing Justice, and Close Case, are available in paperback from St. Martin's Press. Her novel, Angel's Tip, features NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher.

Read an Excerpt

Dead Connection

By Alafair Burke

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2007 Alafair Burke
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-312-94481-0


THE MAN'S FIRST LOOK AT THE NEWSPAPER ITEM WAS A casual one, followed immediately by a more deliberate perusal. But it was the photograph accompanying the story that had him transfixed.

Caroline Hunter had preoccupied his thoughts in recent weeks, but this was his first opportunity to reflect on her appearance. To his surprise, she reminded him of a girl he had worked hard not to think about for a very long time. So proud. So uppity. Caroline Hunter had the look of a woman convinced of her own intelligence, a woman who assumed she could do whatever she wanted — get whatever she wanted — without any repercussions.

The man wondered if Caroline Hunter had any regrets as those two bullets tore through her body. Maybe for some women it took dying in the street like a dog to reflect upon one's decisions and the effects they have on others. He felt his muscles tense, crumpling the pages of newsprint in his hands.

Then he placed the paper neatly onto the breakfast table, took another sip of tea, and looked down at the muted traffic in the street below the window. He smiled. Fate was presenting him an even more promising opportunity than he had understood when he first spotted the article. Details remained to be worked out, but he was certain of one thing: Caroline Hunter was only the beginning. There would be more stories, just like this one, about women just like her.

Three hundred and sixty-four days later, Amy Davis finished a second glass of red wine, pondering which excuse she should exploit to call it a night. She should have known better than to agree to a first date that started at eleven o'clock. Even by New York City standards, such a late invitation was an unequivocal sign that the guy wanted to avoid the cost of dinner but leave open the possibility of a spontaneous one-nighter.

But then the guy — he claimed his name was Brad — had suggested meeting at Angel's Share, not one of the usual meat markets. Amy still thought of the cozy lounge as her secret oasis, tucked so discreetly inside a second-floor dive Japanese restaurant on Stuyvesant Street. She decided to take Brad's awareness of the place as a sign. Then she looked out her apartment window and saw the snow, the first of the season. To Amy, the first flakes of winter were magical, almost spiritual. Watching them fall to the quiet square of grass beneath the oversized bay windows at Angel's Share would be fantastic, much more satisfying than observing them from the fire escape of her fifth-floor Avenue C walk-up.

And so Amy had taken a risk. None of the previous risks had panned out, but that didn't mean that Brad wouldn't. Besides, all she had to lose was another night at home with Chowhound the Persian cat, falling asleep to the muted glow of her television. Three weeks earlier, she had committed herself to this process, and nights like this were the price she would have to pay if she were ever going to find The One.

She knew the date was a mistake precisely one second after she heard the voice behind her at the bar's entrance. "Are you Amy?" It was a nice voice. Deep, but not brusque. Friendly, but calm. For exactly one second, she was optimistic. For that one second, she believed that Brad with the good voice, who was familiar with Angel's Share, whose first date with her fell with the first snow, might just make a good companion for the evening, if not more.

Then the second passed, and she turned to meet the man who went with the voice. The truth was, Amy did not care about looks. People said that all the time, but Amy actually meant it. Her ex-boyfriend — perhaps he had never become a boyfriend, but the man she'd most recently dated — had been handsome as hell, but by the time they were through, she found him repulsive. This time, she was putting looks aside to focus on the qualities that counted.

Brad's face was not unattractive, but neither was it familiar — a surprise to Amy since they had exchanged multiple pictures over the last week. Internet daters posted photographs, so, even though Amy did not particularly care, she looked. It was nice, after all, to have a visual image to go with the instant messages and e- mails. This face in front of her, however, did not match the image she'd carried.

As Brad squeezed through a small group of people to ask the host for a table, she mentally shuffled through the pictures he'd sent and realized that in most, his face had been obscured — sunglasses on both the fishing boat and the ski slopes, a hat on the golf course, a darkened dinner table at some black tie event. One head shot had been pretty clear, but even a toad could eke out one good picture. In retrospect, she realized she had used that one good picture to fill in the blanks on the rest.

Once they were seated, Amy tried to put her finger on precisely what was different. The face was puffier. Older, too. In fact, Brad looked much older than the thirty-eight years he claimed in his profile. Sure, she might have shaved off a couple of years herself, but she was talking much older in his case. She realized there was no point in getting bogged down in the differences. He looked completely different than she had envisioned, and that was that.

By the end of the first glass of wine, she knew it wasn't just Brad's face that didn't match up to his online counterpart. According to Brad's profile, he was a gourmand and a red wine junkie. She allowed him to order first, afraid she might embarrass herself with a passé selection. After he requested a cheap Merlot mass-produced in California, she proceeded to ask for a Barbera d'Asti. If Brad was going to lie, then she was going to rack up Piedmont prices on his tab.

He talked about work while he drank, pausing only to take big gulps from his glass. Commercial litigation. A motion for summary judgment. Something about jurisdiction and somebody who lacked it. An appeal. His monologue would have been boring at eleven thirty in the morning, but Amy found it sleep-inducing at this late hour.

She tried shifting the conversation, resorting to all of the subjects he'd gone on about in his e-mails — independent films, running, his photography hobby. Each topic was a bust, sparking nothing other than a brief expression of surprise on Brad's unfamiliar face. Reaching for her coat, Amy did not see Brad order the second round until it was too late.

Nearly an hour into the date, Brad finally took a break from his running legal commentary. "I'm sorry. I've been working so hard it's tricky to turn it off sometimes. I should ask you about yourself."

The brief glimmer of hope Amy allowed herself was dashed when he proceeded to make good on his perceived obligation. "So which publishing house do you work for?" he asked.

"Pardon me?"

"You're an editor, right? Which house?" Her confusion must have been apparent. "Oh, right. No, you're a ... a fundraiser. For the Museum of Modern Art, right? So how's that going for you?"

It was going, she thought, much better than this date. The jerk had actually mixed her up with some other stupid woman he was duping online. The wine was good, and the view of the snow was wondrous, but nothing was worth this humiliation.

She selected her excuse and went with it. "I know I said I was up for a late night, but I took a painkiller earlier for this problem I'm having with my rotator cuff." She rubbed her right shoulder for effect. "With the wine on top of it, I'm feeling a little loopy."

"Let me walk you home," Brad suggested brightly, clearly spotting an opportunity in her feigned high.

"No, really, I'm fine. I'm just around the corner," she lied. She might be an idiot for signing on to this endeavor, but she knew better than to tell any of them where she lived.

Amy didn't bother waiting once he signaled for the check. She yawned conspicuously and began to maneuver out of the booth as she pulled on her coat. Before Brad could rise for the awkward good- night peck, she shook his hand abruptly and thanked him for the wine he had yet to pay for.

Then, after a quick scramble down the narrow staircase, through the exit of the Japanese restaurant, she was out of there. She was alone, free of that lame excuse for a date. It struck her then that two or three times a week, for the last three weeks, she had reached the end of the evening with this same feeling. She had made a ridiculous pact with herself to "get out there," to finally meet a man she could see for more than a month, to finally meet a man she could trust and even love. But, at the end of a night like this, she was always happier once she was able to get out of there. After an hour with Brad, the idea of watching snow from her fire escape didn't sound half bad.

Amy walked through the East Village, smoking a Marlboro Light, with a new appreciation of her solitude. She was a thirty-one-year-old woman living in Manhattan. She had a painless enough job in a kick-ass museum. She got to see mind-blowing art every day. She had fifty-one different delivery menus in her kitchen drawer and really good hair. She had a big fat Persian cat named Chowhound. Tomorrow she would treat herself to some street shopping, where only in this city could twenty bucks buy you a seemingly authentic designer handbag. There were worse things in life than being on her own.

The snow was starting to stick by the time she reached the alphabet blocks on the Lower East Side. Amy's father still didn't approve of her choice of neighborhoods, but her parents had been overprotective ever since that problem back home. She kept telling him that times had changed since he formed his impressions of the city. Every location in Manhattan was safe now, and the Lower East Side was all she could afford.

She had her key ring in her hand and was already unzipping her coat when she heard the noise from the alley. Mew.

"Chowhound?" she called out, peering into the dark void between two buildings. She looked up at her fifth-floor window above, left open during the last cigarette before she walked out for the night.

Shit. I've got to quit smoking. She always made sure to lock the other window, the one by the fire escape. And it would take Jackie Chan to leap from the fire escape to her smoking window. But she forgot that big fat Chowhound was 50 percent fur and had the uncanny ability to squeeze himself through tiny spaces if he knew freedom awaited him on the other side. And Chowhound, in spite of his plumpness, was freakishly aerodynamic. When it came to a pounce to the fire escape, Jackie Chan had nothing on him.

"Come here, Chowhound. Come here, baby." Amy could see she was going to have to tear him away from whatever disgusting thing he was eating next to the Dumpster. She looked up and down her street. There was no one within a block. She'd be quick.

As she reached down to grab the cat, the man pinned her from behind. She felt arms around her waist, then latex hands around her neck. She felt the frame of his body pressing against her and she knew it was happening. It was real. The moment Amy had always feared — that every woman, at some level, always fears — was happening.

Amy was strong. She fought back. She was not going to make it easy for this son of a bitch. She kicked and twisted, punched and clawed.

But everything she managed to grab — sleeves, coat, collar, gloves — only protected her attacker. Her range of motion was limited by her winter parka. The ground was growing slick now. She could not find the leverage she needed.

Please, God, no. He was no longer just squeezing her neck with those latex-covered fingers. He was crushing her throat. Her tongue was swelling. When he had forced the full weight of her body to the concrete, he placed his head next to hers and gazed into her face.

I know you.

Amy heard the words in her mind, but could not speak them. She knew she had enjoyed the last breath of air she would ever take. As she finally succumbed, she tasted blood, bile, and Barbera d'Asti. It was the taste of death.

With a gloved hand, her killer placed a single piece of paper in Amy's coat pocket, satisfied with the puzzled and panicked look that had crossed her face in those final seconds. It was a look of recognition. It was a look of profound regret. It had been precisely as he had wanted it. He wondered if the others would flow so smoothly. How many more until they notice?


DETECTIVE ELLIE HATCHER WAS CERTAIN THAT SOMEthing was wrong with the victim's story. She'd spent the last fifteen minutes in an interview room of the NYPD's Mid-town North Precinct working through the man's report. He hadn't wavered from his bogus story yet, but she knew she was getting close.

But now it appeared from a loud rap on the door that she had a different problem looming. She turned to find the towering bulk of her lieutenant, Randy Jenkins, filling the door frame. He beckoned her with an upward tip of his prominent chin.

"Hatcher, we need to talk."

"I'll be right in, boss."

"Wrap it up."

"Five minutes," Ellie said. She looked at the man sitting across the table. He was still holding the pack of ice to the side of his head. "We're just about done here, right?"

"Five minutes," Jenkins emphasized before closing the door.

"They gave you one nasty bump, huh, Mr. Pandey?"

"I am sure that in your position you have seen others who faced far worse."

"Not too many. I'm still pretty new to this." Ellie smiled shyly, but then quickly tucked her expression away, pretending to look over the notes she had been compiling. "I'm sorry. Can you run over the timeline again — just to make sure I haven't missed anything?"

As Samir Pandey related his story for the third time that morning, Ellie searched for the flaw. Car-for-hire drivers were rarely robbed — far easier for the bad guys to go after the yellow taxicabs that deal only in cash and stop on demand for the nearest waving hand. Tack on Pandey's claim that a man in a ski mask popped out of nowhere, pulled open the back door, and conked him in the back of the noggin at six in the morning while he was driving on the West Side Highway, and the story was about as convincing and original an explanation as I don't know. Some black guy did it.

"Can you excuse me for a moment, Mr. Pandey?"

Escaping the watchful eye of a suspect always helped Ellie collect her thoughts. She turned the facts over again in her mind as she paced the narrow hallway adjacent to the interview rooms. According to the car service's dispatcher, Pandey had picked up his last scheduled fare from the Times Square Marriott at five in the morning and dropped her off at her Bronx apartment thirty minutes later. Pandey was late returning to the garage, then called in shortly after six fifteen, groggily reporting that he had just come to after the assault and robbery he suffered on the drive downtown. He was only missing the fifty bucks from that last fare, and he would have had to have knocked himself in the head to get it. Ellie had seen the bump. He wasn't messing around.

Looking at the old-fashioned, round clock that hung at the end of the hallway, Ellie evaluated her next move. She knew what her training detective would have said during her probation period. He would have told her to save her energy because this was how the system worked: An employee pilfers cash, then blames it on a robbery. The employer uses the police department as a bullshit detector by requiring a report. Sometimes the employee caves and retracts the allegation, afraid of getting in trouble for filing a false statement. More often, he calls his boss's bluff, knowing the cops are too busy to pursue a robbery complaint with no leads. Ellie knew that a good, efficient detective — one who could prioritize her limited time in sensible ways — would act as a transcriber, file the report, and move on to the real work.

Efficiency, however, had never been Ellie's first priority. She knew that Pandey was lying, so that made him important — to her at least. She didn't especially care about punishing the man. He seemed decent enough. What she needed was an explanation for why this decent-enough person would bother. Find the motive, her father used to say. Until she understood Pandey's motive, this inconsequential robbery report would continue to nag at her.


Excerpted from Dead Connection by Alafair Burke. Copyright © 2007 Alafair Burke. 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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Dead Connection 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 51 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is ok, but it is the details that keep in from being great. As an example that won't be a spoiler - the detective is from the Midwest, living in NYC, but drinks Pittsburgh-based Rolling Rock Beer . Doesn't fit her persona or the story line. Besides the small (many) details that could have been fine tuned, it is an good easy read. Not as intriguing as Lisa Unger or Tammi Hoag, and not as fun as Sandra Balzo or Shelly Fredman's crime/mystery books.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Being a NYPD rookie, Kansas transplant Ellie Hatcher works the boring minor leagues of inconsequential robberies unless of course you are the victim. However, her break to the majors occurs when she is assigned as the partner of charismatic Homicide Detective Flann McIlroy who investigates the murder of Louisiana expatriate Amy Davis. The veteran sleuth believes a serial killer murdered Amy the brass disagrees but stays out of the way of Flann who has a higher than norm completion record in spite of the worst case assignments. His theory and the police scoffing at it hits personally home to Ellie, who believes her father, a Wichita cop, was slain killed by a serial killer he was investigating but his brass says otherwise.--------------- The only clue found on the victim apparently was placed there by the culprit. It leads the sleuths to FirstDate Internet dating. They quickly realize the FirstDate connection includes the murdered last year on this day Caroline Hunter. Ellie and Flann begin to look into the lives of other deceased females who died under similar circumstances. The FBI notices their efforts and Agent Charlie Dixon tries to end their investigation, which only encourages Flann and Ellie to dig deeper while their murderous felon switch MO to mimic her father¿s killer.------------- Flann and Ellie make a delightful pairing as a media seeking veteran and a shy rookie work a psychopathic serial killer case that both knows will haunt them long after they are finished. The FBI causing roadblocks is not new, but fans will not care as this cat and mouse encounter switches roles to the delight of the audience. Initially the cops are the felines and the predator the rodent, but once the culprit realizes Ellie is on the case, he becomes the feline and she (and her partner) the rodents. This is a terrific New York police procedural.------------- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was skeptical. Thought Alafair was trading on her father's name. She's still a novice, but she has created an intriguing story with interesting characters both of which show promise for this series. I'm looking forward to reading her next to see how she and the series evolve.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my first book by this author...n my last it's painful trying to keep going I'm totally lost have not connected with charecters or story line for the first time ever...I'm gonna jump ship I would absolutely NOT recommend buying this book C.R,
Sherri_Hunter More than 1 year ago
The first book in the Ellie Hatcher series by new to me author, Alafair Burke introduces us to Ellie Hatcher, an NYPD Detective who is transferred to a new unit to help solve the murders of four women, who are all connected by an online dating site. I absolutely loved Ellie. She's strong but not arrogant or pushy. She has some demons in her past that she is battling surrounding the death of her father, also a cop, when she was a kid. She's tenacious but she is open and flexible to looking at the bigger picture. This story really packed a punch for me and as each layer was folded back and the reader learns more, the intensity levels increased as it became apparent how complex this story is. Ellie is also very likable. I enjoyed her sense of humor and her outlook on the world around her. She has a way with people that puts them at ease, from hardened cops who don't know what a sexual harassment policy is in place for all the way to suspects and potential romantic interests. Ellie can handle herself and I liked that she didn't allow the bad and the ugly side of her job drag her down. Unfortunately, there is a lot of bad and ugly that came out of left field and hopefully the second book, Angel's Tip, will prove to be just as entertaining.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book...can't wait to read the next in the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
keeps you interested.
MikeEC More than 1 year ago
songbirdsue More than 1 year ago
Definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good mystery. I thought I had it figured our but was surprised in the end. There are many angels that you have to keep track of for when they come together in the end. I enjoyed the development of the characters, they are believable and either likeable or not. It is on the clean side with some strong language from the shadier characters. Just a touch of romance – really just a relationship. It was a quick fun read.
Forensicdoc More than 1 year ago
Alafair Burke's writing style is detailed and comprehensive, very much like her father's, James Lee Burke. Her characters come alive and vibrate with reality. When she describes a crime scene it is as if you are almost right there with her main character, Detective Ellie Hatcher. I had been listening to and ran out of James Lee Burke's audiobooks so I thought I'd give Alafair a try. Now I'm "hooked." They are a great listen while communting to and from work. If you live in NYC, you'll easily recognize the "landmarks," i.e., John Jay College of Criminal Justice and many of the seedier spots. Alafair also incorporates New Iberia, Louisiana, where many of her dad's epochs take place.
Anonymous 8 months ago
EssFair on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A little too much coincidence tying the different deaths together¿otherwise an intriguing mystery. The Ellie Hatcher works to catch a serial killer who appears to be using an on-line dating service to select his victims. She uses herself as bait so the tension mounts¿will she id the killer before he decides to remove her?
jepeters333 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When two young women are murdered on the streets of New York, exactly one year apart, Detective Ellie Hatcher is called up for a special assignment on the homicide task force. The killer has left behind a clue connecting the two ases to, a popular online dating service, and Flann McIlroy, an eccentric, publicity-seeking homicide detective, is convinced that only Ellie can help him pursue his terrifying theor: Someone is using the lure of the internet and the promise of love to launch a killing spree against the women of New York City. This one was OK, but I liked Burkes earlier works better.
jenforbus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ellie Hatcher is a young New York detective working scams and robberies when a special request is made for her to work a homicide case....possibly a serial homicide case. But Ellie also comes with baggage. Her father was a police detective who supposedly committed suicide over a serial murder investigation he conducted years before. In Alafair Burke's first Ellie Hatcher novel, DEAD CONNECTION, Ellie is called up for a case that involves Internet Dating, and she enters the homicide squad to snickering whispers of "Date Bait." But that doesn't deter Ellie; quite the contrary. She's even more determined to do a damn fine job.Two factors continually come up when I comment on a book. The first is characterization. If a book has poor characterization, it doesn't matter how fabulous the plot is. I'm a character person. And this book ABOUNDS in character. Ellie is fascinating - Ellie is REAL! I love the fact that Ellie makes mistakes. She's a young detective and she makes mistakes that inexperienced people make.O.k., so Alafair Burke mastered the art of next factor - predictability. After all, how can a suspense novel be suspenseful if you can predict everything that's going to happen, right? Didn't predict a gosh darn thing in this book! The reader is fed the facts in little snippets just like Ellie and McIlroy would discover them. The reader has to fit the disordered puzzle pieces together just like the detectives would. And this is one of those puzzles that you can't figure out until every last piece is in its rightful place...and believe me, some of the pieces look like they could fit where they don't belong, creating a whole different picture. A chuckle came for me in the novel when Ellie calls a detective "Robi --"..."Just call me Dave" from...yep, you guessed it, New Iberia, Louisiana! Gotta love it!Outstanding read!
blueslibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lawyer and college professor Alafair Burke is the daughter of renowned crime novelist James Lee Burke, and following in his footsteps she has written a police procedural mystery set in New York City. NYPD detective Ellie Hatcher is called by a more experienced detective to help in the case of young women who are being stalked and killed after posting ads on an Internet dating site. It¿s an interesting plot device that combines technology, sleuthing and Hatcher make for an interesting tough female lead. The problem is that the writing and the characters in this novel never seem to really gel, and the wooden nature of the killer and his victims keeps the chills to a minimum. The wise-cracking cop buddy angle is also a little stale, it¿s something we¿ve seen in many books and films. Fans of strong female leads may be able to look past the story¿s faults, but my hope is that the next Ellie Hatcher story will surround this intriguing character with better conceived allies and adversaries.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dead Connection is a fascinating, fast paced mystery full of suspense, intriguing plot twists, and well-developed characters who begin to feel like personal friends (or enemies) before the final page is read. I am eager to begin Angel's Tip (#2 of the Ellie Hatcher series).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First book by this author. Will not be the last, recommend to all who like a good mystery,,,
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this series which was prompted by a Barnes & Noble Free Friday offering of one of the series books. Thanks Barnes & Noble. A win win, I purchased more books of an author I had never heard of before because I took advantage of a free book.