The Echo Man: A Novel of Suspense

The Echo Man: A Novel of Suspense

by Richard Montanari

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062467423
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 02/07/2017
Series: A Byrne & Balzano Thriller , #1
Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 71,938
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

A novelist, screenwriter, and essayist, Richard Montanari's work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Detroit Free Press, Cleveland Plain Dealer, and scores of other national and regional publications. He is the OLMA-winning author of the internationally acclaimed thrillers Deviant Way and The Violet Hour that have now been published in more than twenty countries. Montanari currently makes his home in Cleveland, Ohio, where he is slavish only to the high arts of boxing, Italian food, and independent film.

Read an Excerpt

9780345528612|excerpt

Montanari / ECHOMAN

1

Sunday, October 24

Can you hear it?

Listen closely. There, beneath the clatter of the lane, beneath the ceaseless hum of man and machine, you will hear the sound of the slaughter, the screaming of peasants in the moment before death, the plea of an emperor with a sword at his throat.

Can you hear it?

Step onto hallowed ground, where madness has made the soil luxuriant with blood, and you will hear it: Nanjing, Thessaloniki, Warsaw.

If you listen closely you will realize it is always there, never fully silenced, not by prayer, by law, by time. The history of the world, and its annals of crime, is the slow, sepulchral music of the dead.

There.

Can you hear it?

I hear it. I am the one who walks in shadow, ears tuned to the night. I am the one who hides in rooms where murder is done, rooms that will never again be quieted, each corner now and forever sheltering a whispering ghost. I hear fingernails scratching granite walls, the drip of blood onto scarred tile, the hiss of air drawn into a mortal chest wound. Sometimes it all becomes too much, too loud, and I must let it out.

I am the Echo Man.

I hear it all.

•••

On Sunday morning I rise early, shower, take my breakfast at home. I step onto the street. It is a glorious fall day. The sky is clear and crystalline blue, the air holds the faint smell of decaying leaves.

As I walk down Pine Street I feel the weight of the three killing instruments at the small of my back. I study the eyes of passersby, or at least those who will meet my gaze. Every so often I pause, eavesdrop, gathering the sounds of the past. In Philadelphia, Death has lingered in so many places. I collect its spectral sounds the way some men collect fine art, or war souvenirs, or lovers.

Like many who have toiled in the arts over the centuries my work has gone largely unnoticed. That is about to change. This will be my magnum opus, that by which all such works are judged forever. It has already begun.

I turn up my collar and continue down the lane.

Zig, zig, zig.

I rattle through the crowded streets like a white skeleton.

At just after eight a.m. I enter Fitler Square, finding the expected gathering—­bicyclists, joggers, the homeless who have dragged themselves here from a nearby passageway. Some of these homeless creatures will not live through the winter. Soon I will hear their last breaths.

I stand near the ram sculpture at the eastern end of the square, watching, waiting. Within minutes I see them, mother and daughter.

They are just what I need.

I walk across the square, sit on a bench, take out my newspaper, halve and quarter it. The killing instruments are uncomfortable at my back. I shift my weight as the sounds amass: the flap and squawk of pigeons congregating around a man eating a bagel, a taxi’s rude horn, the hard thump of a bass speaker. Looking at my watch, I see that time is short. Soon my mind will be full of screams and I will be unable to do what is necessary.

I glance at the young mother and her baby, catch the woman’s eye, smile.

“Good morning,” I say.

The woman smiles back. “Hi.”

The baby is in an expensive jogging stroller, the kind with a rainproof hood and mesh shopping basket beneath. I rise, cross the path, glance inside the pram. It’s a girl, dressed in a pink flannel one-­piece and matching hat, swaddled in a snow-­white blanket. Bright plastic stars dangle overhead.

“And who is this little movie star?” I ask.

The woman beams. “This is Ashley.”

“Ashley. She is beautiful.”

“Thank you.”

I am careful not to get too close. Not yet. “How old is she?”

“She’s four months.”

“Four months is a great age,” I reply with a wink. “I may have peaked around four months.”

The woman laughs.

I’m in.

I glance at the stroller. The baby smiles at me. In her angelic face I see so much. But sight does not drive me. The world is crammed full of beautiful images, breathtaking vistas, all mostly forgotten by the time the next vista presents itself. I have stood before the Taj Mahal, Westminster Abbey, the Grand Canyon. I once spent an afternoon in front of Picasso’s Guernica. All these glorious images faded into the dim corners of memory within a relatively short period of time. Yet I recall with exquisite clarity the first time I heard someone scream in anguish, the yelp of a dog struck by a car, the dying breath of a young police officer bleeding out on a hot sidewalk.

“Is she sleeping through the night yet?”

“Not quite,” the woman says.

“My daughter slept through the night at two months. Never had a problem with her at all.”

“Lucky.”

I reach slowly into my right coat pocket, palm what I need, draw it out. The mother stands just a few feet away, on my left. She does not see what I have in my hand.

The baby kicks her feet, bunching her blanket. I wait. I am nothing if not patient. I need the little one to be tranquil and still. Soon she calms, her bright blue eyes scanning the sky.

With my right hand I reach out, slowly, not wanting to alarm the mother. I place a finger into the center of the baby’s left palm. She closes her tiny fist around my finger and gurgles. Then, as I had hoped, she begins to coo.

All other sounds cease. In that moment it is just the baby, and this sacred respite from the dissonance that fills my waking hours.

I touch the record button, keeping the microphone near the little girl’s mouth for a few seconds, gathering the sounds, collecting a moment which would otherwise be gone in an instant.

Time slows, lengthens, like a lingering coda.

I withdraw my hand. I do not want to stay too long, nor alert the mother to any danger. I have a full day ahead of me, and cannot be deterred.

“She has your eyes,” I say.

The little girl does not, and it is obvious. But no mother ever refuses such a compliment.

“Thank you.”

I glance at the sky, at the buildings that surround Fitler Square. It is time. “Well, it was lovely talking to you.”

“You, too,” replies the woman. “Enjoy your day.”

“Thank you,” I say. “I’m sure I will.”

I reach out, take one of the baby’s tiny hands in mine, give it a little shake. “It was nice meeting you, little Ashley.”

Mother and daughter giggle.

I am safe.

A few moments later, as I walk up Twenty-­third Street, toward Delancey, I pull out the digital recorder, insert the mini-­plug for the earbuds, play back the recording. Good quality, a minimum of background noise. The baby’s voice is precious and clear.

As I slip into the van and head to South Philadelphia I think about this morning, how everything is falling into place.

Harmony and melody live inside me, side by side, violent storms on a sun-­blessed shore.

I have captured the beginning of life.

Now I will record its end.

Interviews

THE ECHO MAN by Richard Montanari
Review by Tess Gerritsen

It's a sight that shocks even the veteran investigators of the Philadelphia Police Department. The man's body has been shaved completely clean. A laceration slices across his forehead, and over one eye, drilled into the skull, is puncture wound. Homicide detectives Jessie Balzano and Kevin Byrne soon discover that this victim had more than a passing acquaintance with murder: he was the prime suspect in a slaying years before, and he now lies in the very spot where his victim's body was found.

Soon other bodies turn up, all of them suspected murderers, left in the very places where their victims had fallen. All of them are shaved, their foreheads sliced, their skulls punctured. Is a brutal vigilante at work, meting out punishment which the justice system was unable to deliver?

For Balzano and Byrne, the case takes an even more bizarre twist when they realize these killings are inextricably linked to musical themes, and to one musician in particular: the insane and beautiful cellist Christa-Marie, who years earlier was found calmly playing her cello as her butchered victim bled to death. Locked in Christa-Marie's mind is the secret behind why these new murders are happening, a secret that only Kevin Byrne can tap into. But Byrne has secrets of his own, and those secrets just might jeopardize his life — and Balzano's.

This tale had me gripped by the throat, unwilling to do anything but anxiously turn the pages. Richard Montanari's writing is both terrifying and lyrical, a killer combination that makes him a true stand-out in the crowded thriller market. THE ECHO MAN showcases a master storyteller at his very best.

Customer Reviews

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Echo Man 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
sailaway7289 More than 1 year ago
The book, Echo Man, is over 1100 pages in length - something that I found to be about five hundred pages too long. A lot could have been cut out or done with more brevity. Long books work only if the topic continues to evolve with excitement and character. This book seemed to drag on to me. The good thing about the book is the attention to detail. Mr. Montanari takes pages to describe simple things in extreme detail leaving little room for the imagination. He did manage to keep the identity of the killer a secret till close to the end - usually I have it figured out by the middle of a book but this time it took longer which is a sign of experienced weaving. The book is about a duo of detectives who are trying to solve a rash of killers where the victim's head is wrapped in paper and a small tattoo is place on their finger. The killer is making a statement, creating a symphony to be revealed towards the end of the book. It comes to a head on Halloween. I was given an advance copy of this book from Netgallery in return for writing a review. The review does not have to be a good one but needs to be based on the entire book. There were definitely parts to the book that I enjoyed - investigating the crime scenes was one of them. I would give this book a B- due mostly to the excessive length and it's snails pace. If you want to settle in with a book - say during a three day snow storm - I would recommend this one.
enticed More than 1 year ago
The story kept me on the edge of my seat. It was very well written with very good suspense
ShelleyJax on LibraryThing 27 days ago
*Rating* 3.5*Genre* Mystery/Thriller*Review*The Echo Man, by Richard Montanari, is the fifth novel in the Jessica Balzano and Kevin Byrne series and the first book released since Badlands came out in 2008. Echo Man marks the return of Philadelphia Police Department Homicide Detectives Balzano and Byrne in a case that has major implications for Byrne as well as a case that he worked on 20 years ago.Flashback to November 1, 1990; Byrne¿s discovery of a woman who just committed what he thought was murder. A case that has haunted him ever since. Readers are given a glimpse into a newly promoted Detective Kevin Byrne. The so called guilty party was a world famous cellist named Christa Marie Schonburg. After admitting to the murder of her psychiatrist, she spent the next 20 years in and out of jail and psychiatric facilities. Now, in the present, it appears that someone in Philadelphia is cleaning up the messes caused by her guilty verdict and other crimes that went unsolved by the PPD. Once again Christa plays an important part in the story. Christa sends Kevin a letter and tells him that she can help him with finding out who the killer is. The only catch--Christa is dying and wants to spend time with Kevin whose own guilt in her guilty verdict has haunted him ever since.The murderer, nicknamed the Echo Man, has spent the past 20 years hiding in plain sight in an important role for the city of Philadelphia. He goes after those who have gotten away with murder, and plans one final Coda, or final selection of a piece of music, and then he will bow out forever. By the time he is done, Philadelphia will have yet another serial killer all in the name of vigilante justice.Lucinda (Lucy) Doucette is another character that plays an important role in the story. 9 years ago, she lost 3 days of her life that she¿s been trying to get back by going to different specialists including regression therapists. Lucy¿s forgotten memories happened on 09/11/2001 when Flight 93 hit the ground near Shanksville, PA. On that day, she was kidnapped along with another girl who wasn¿t as lucky as Lucy to survive her ordeal. Lucy and Kevin also have a relationship; one built on lost time and guilt. The one constant and the reason I continue to enjoy reading this series is the partnership between Balzano and Byrne and how they react to each other. While Kevin is dealing with personal issues and the fact that someone is gunning for his head because of his involvement in the Christa Marie case, Jessica is about ready to go through a life changing moment by becoming a mother to an orphaned 2 year old child.What doesn¿t change is that since Byrne was shot in the head, and was dead, he gets psychometry like intuitions. He can somehow sense and see things that others can¿t. It¿s what makes him a damn fine detective and one who is able to figure out who the killer is before Jessica can. I don¿t believe that you need to read any of the previous installments in this series to enjoy this book. Montanari may change certain aspects of Philadelphia for the sake of the story, but he gets the police procedures down to a science. My only hope is that those who have enjoyed this series in the past, won't have to wait another 3 years before the next book comes out.Other books in series:1. The Rosary Girls (2005)2. The Skin Gods (2006)3. Merciless (2007)4. Badlands (2008)ARC Recvd 08/10/2011 via Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group.
Twink on LibraryThing 30 days ago
The Echo Man is the 5th book in Richard Montanari's series featuring Detectives Balzano and Byrne. Jessica Balzano and Kevin Byrne face one of their most baffling cases to date. A body is found - completely shaved, with the head wrapped in paper and sealing wax and a temporary tattoo on one finger. As the detectives delve further, they realize that the spot where the body was found is the scene of an unsolved cold case from eight years ago. The placement of the body is identical. And then - it happens again. Who has knowledge of these past crimes and what is the link?The common link seems to be music. And Kevin Byrne. One of his first cases was that of a gifted musician. It seemed open and shut at the time...." When the woman opened her eyes, Byrne felt something flicker in his chest. In his time on the streets of Philadelphia he had met all types of people, from soulless drug dealers, to smash-and-grab artists, to hopped-up joyriding kids. But never before had he encountered anyone so detached from the crime they had just committed. In her light-brown eyes Byrne saw demons caper from shadow to shadow. 'My name is Detective Kevin Byrne', he said. It's going to be all right'. It was November 1, 1990. Nothing has been right since."But Kevin Byrne has demons of his own to battle. Nearly killed in a past case, he has been subject to blinding headaches, black outs and visions.I enjoy the character of Jessica Balzano very much. The secondary storyline featuring her home life and family provides a continuing thread I have enjoyed following. I'm never sure what I think of Kevin Byrne. He's highly intelligent, quite determined, but doesn't always include his partner on his actions. I'm not sure if Montanari is aiming to be different with the vision thing, but I feel it sometimes interferes in what would be a solid detective series without adding it to the mix.The plot of The Echo Man is quite ingenious and highly original. Reader beware - some of the descriptons are quite graphic. Lots of red herrings will keep you guessing until the end.
Ryguydg More than 1 year ago
This book is great!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JBronder More than 1 year ago
Jessica Balzano and Kevin Byrne are back an on the hunt two killers. The first one is targeting young women as they leave their Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. But then they find a mutilated body. Upon further inspections they learn that there was an old murder case in the same location. Then more bodies start turning up, heads wrapped in paper, and a small tattoo on a finger. But the catch is that the bodies are left in old murder scene locations that these people had a connection to. It seems someone has been going through the old case files and staging the murders. It looks like someone on the police force has become a vigilante. I really liked this story. There were a lot of twists and turns and I didn’t expect the killer until the reveal. Jessica and Kevin work well together. I enjoyed following along as they put the pieces of the puzzle slowly together. My only complaint is that the book is just over 500 pages long. Long books don’t bother me if they keep me engrossed in the story. Unfortunately there were parts that started to drag or felt like things were just thrown into the story to take up pages. Beyond that, this is my first Balzano and Byrne story. I really enjoyed it and would like to read the other books in the series to see what I have missed. I received The Echo Man from Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for free. This has in no way influenced my opinion of this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love the series, hope they continue. This, however, was too confusing, could have been told in 100 less pages.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Characters were realistic to me. Much of the zeitgeist comments were so similar to what I say I felt comfortable reading them. The story has enough twists and turns to keep me interested.
TxLakeLady More than 1 year ago
A good book, it held my interest throughout.
travelreaderCP More than 1 year ago
It was hard to put the book down. Suspense to the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
conwon More than 1 year ago
Slow reading but good.
jfox5 More than 1 year ago
After reading the Echo Man I learned that it is the 5th in a series involving the 2 detectives Kevin Byrne & Jessica Ballzano. I went back and read the 1st two and i'm reading the third now. If you like serial murder mysteries these books wont disappoint. I can usually figure out 'who-dunnit' but these books keep you guessing until the end. the 1st 4 books are sold in a set on nook, good value.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Twink More than 1 year ago
The Echo Man is the 5th book in Richard Montanari's series featuring Detectives Balzano and Byrne. Jessica Balzano and Kevin Byrne face one of their most baffling cases to date. A body is found - completely shaved, with the head wrapped in paper and sealing wax and a temporary tattoo on one finger. As the detectives delve further, they realize that the spot where the body was found is the scene of an unsolved cold case from eight years ago. The placement of the body is identical. And then - it happens again. Who has knowledge of these past crimes and what is the link? The common link seems to be music. And Kevin Byrne. One of his first cases was that of a gifted musician. It seemed open and shut at the time.... " When the woman opened her eyes, Byrne felt something flicker in his chest. In his time on the streets of Philadelphia he had met all types of people, from soulless drug dealers, to smash-and-grab artists, to hopped-up joyriding kids. But never before had he encountered anyone so detached from the crime they had just committed. In her light-brown eyes Byrne saw demons caper from shadow to shadow. 'My name is Detective Kevin Byrne', he said. It's going to be all right'. It was November 1, 1990. Nothing has been right since." But Kevin Byrne has demons of his own to battle. Nearly killed in a past case, he has been subject to blinding headaches, black outs and visions. I enjoy the character of Jessica Balzano very much. The secondary storyline featuring her home life and family provides a continuing thread I have enjoyed following. I'm never sure what I think of Kevin Byrne. He's highly intelligent, quite determined, but doesn't always include his partner on his actions. I'm not sure if Montanari is aiming to be different with the vision thing, but I feel it sometimes interferes in what would be a solid detective series without adding it to the mix. The plot of The Echo Man is quite ingenious and highly original. Reader beware - some of the descriptons are quite graphic. Lots of red herrings will keep you guessing until the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago