Face of a Killer

Face of a Killer

by Robin Burcell

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Facts lie . . . Two decades after the murder that shattered her world, FBI agent and forensic artist Sydney Fitzpatrick confronts her father's killer face to face. But the inmate who's scheduled to be executed for the crime is not what she expected. Heightening Sydney's unease, she receives a photograph sent to her by a man just prior to his suicide, causing her to question everything she believed about her father. Now she wants the truth—no matter where it's hidden, no matter how painful . . . or dangerous. But Sydney Fitzpatrick is about to trespass on sacred ground. And being a federal agent will offer her no security or shelter if it's her own government that wants her dead.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061980084
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/06/2009
Series: Sidney Fitzpatrick , #1
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 145,812
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Robin Burcell is an FBI-trained forensic artist who has worked in law enforcement for over two decades as a police officer, detective, and hostage negotiator. A two-time Anthony Award winner, she is the author of four Sydney Fitzpatrick novels—The Black List, The Dark Hour, The Bone Chamber, and Face of a Killer—as well as four novels featuring SFPD homicide detective Kate Gillespie: Every Move She Makes, Fatal Truth, Deadly Legacy, and Cold Case.

Read an Excerpt

Face of a Killer

Chapter One

Sydney Fitzpatrick eyed the bottle of scotch, watched the bartender pour the amber liquid into her glass, and wondered how much of it she'd have to drink to forget it had been twenty years since her father had been killed.

"Leave the bottle," she told the bartender.

"Don't think so."

"You're only going to have to come back."

"Maybe," he said, returning the whiskey to its place among the other bottles, all backlit, shining, each advertising its own brand of panacea.

All false advertising, she thought, finishing her second shot. She would've ordered a third...except her cell phone started vibrating an alert.

Only one sort of call comes in at one in the morning, never mind that Sydney recognized the number: her boss, Dave Dixon. "Fitzpatrick," she announced into the phone. "And I'm supposed to have the day off."

"Day being the operative word. It's dark out, which makes it night, which you didn't request off."

"And I've been drinking."

"Since when do you drink?"

"Since an hour ago," she said, and let him wonder.

Apparently he didn't wonder long. "We need you down here. A Seven matter," he said, giving the Bureau program designator for initiating a kidnap investigation.

Her stomach knotted. She did not need this. Not tonight.

"Did you hear me, Fitzpatrick? Got a kidnap-rape."

"You assigning me the case?"

"No. Just a sketch."

Sydney eyed the bottle of whiskey that seemed to beckon, thinking that even on a good day it was hard enough to interview victims for drawings, hard to get past the mental exhaustion of being inside her victims' heads,knowing the pain and terror they felt . . .

Maybe she should tell Dixon no, but that would require an explanation, and she wasn't sure she wanted to go into that. It wasn't that Dixon didn't know her history. They'd worked together in D.C., used to be friends, at least up until he was promoted and all friendships were checked at the door. The last thing Sydney wanted was for him to worry about her. "I'm just a few blocks away. I'll be right there."

She took some money out of her wallet, paid for her drinks, then walked to the door and opened it. What had been a light sprinkle when she'd left her car at home that October night to drink herself into oblivion, had now turned into a heavy downpour that hammered the sidewalk with a deafening blast. And lucky her, not a cab in sight.

With no umbrella, she'd be soaked, and she was tempted to see if the rain might slow. But then she thought of the waiting that her victim had already endured. In the grand scheme of things, getting wet was the least of her worries, and she stepped out into the driving rain. She hadn't walked more than half a block when the odd feeling of being watched came over her. She stopped, turned, eyed the street up and down, saw nothing but a few parked cars, seemingly unoccupied. Across the street, a couple of women huddled beneath an overhang, smoking a cigarette. Other than that, the streets seemed deserted.

Hearing nothing but the rain, the water sluicing down the gutters into the storm drains, she pulled her coat tighter against the autumn chill. But the farther she walked, the stronger the feeling came that she was being followed. It's only your imagination, she told herself. Even so, she quickened her pace and pressed her right elbow into her hip, wanting to feel the reassuring presence of her holstered Glock...then remembered she'd left it in her desk drawer.

She normally carried the damned thing night and day, but she'd intended to spend the night drinking in a vain attempt to erase not only the anniversary of her father's murder, but also the bitter fight she'd had with her mother over her plans for the upcoming day. It was the same fight they'd had last year and the two years before that. At thirty-three years old, a girl should be able to make up her own damned mind on how she spent her day. Her mother had nothing to do with this, she thought, as a movement caught her eye. Definitely someone back there. She doubled her pace, didn't get far, when a man stepped out in front of her, blocked her path.

She jumped back, her pulse slamming in her veins. The man towered a good eight inches over her, his craggy face barely visible beneath his knit cap and a scarf wrapped around his neck and mouth. A sharp smell of body odor, unwashed clothes, wet, stale, and sour, assaulted her nose.

"Got some change?" he asked, opening his hand, palm up. His other was shoved in the pocket of an army coat, ragged, buttons dangling, held closed with another scarf tied around his waist.

Recognition hit her. Private Cooper was a regular on this block, chased off by the cops on a continual basis, only to return the moment they left. Right now she was grateful for his presence. "Yeah," she said, digging into her purse. She handed him a few bills, then looked back, saw a figure darting into the shadows. Someone was following her, no doubt. The federal building was only two blocks away, and she crossed to the other side of the street, where the building facades were more modern, better lit. If whoever it was thought she was going to be an easy mark, he'd have to come out and get her.

A few minutes later, she waved her access identification across the pad, punched in her code, and with one last look behind her, entered the door of the San Francisco FBI field office. A purse snatcher had been hitting women in the area for a couple of weeks now, and she wondered if that was who'd been tailing her. Not that she could offer any description, she thought, walking down the hall to her office.

Face of a Killer. Copyright © by Robin Burcell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

John Lescroart

“Robin Burcell kicks off a new series character with her trademark authenticity, wit, and pure story-telling prowess. Burcell scores big with this one—it’s a real winner!”

Jan Burke

“Robin Burcell is among the best writers of crime fiction. This book has it all—characters you care about, a complex plot, great pacing, and plenty of intriguing forensic detail. I can’t wait for the next entry in the Sydney Fitzpatrick series.”

Lee Child

“Big story + great character + relentless suspense + expert insider knowledge = one really terrific thriller.”

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Face of a Killer 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
DanieXJ on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm generally wary when the first book of a series introduces a mystery that directly involves the main character or her family. But in the case of this book it seemed to work okay. Perhaps because Burcell intertwined quite a good solid mystery as a secondary story with the main one of Sydney Fitzpatrick, who's looking into the man who is in jail on death row for killing her father.Sydney is a special agent of the FBI. She is a forensic artist who does sketches of people, either unidentified victims or perpetrators as well as age progression etc. It's nice that Burcell doesn't forget these facts halfway through the book as a lot of authors do. They give their main character a job, and then they forget about it halfway through and the main character instead turns into just another avenging angel with a gun and sometimes a badge (though that doesn't seem to be a requirement). That loss of the central core of the character didn't happen here.I liked the details of how the character did the sketches, and it was just the right amount of info about the process and then she went back to the story.Another cool thing was the picture of the fact that slowly took shape at the beginning of every chapter. Very cool.The only complaint I had about the story was that it did seem to start slowly, but I persevered and it sped up a bit after the first few chapters.All in all, both a book and an author I'd recommend to anyone who likes suspense mysteries.
Marlyn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've known Robin Burcell virtually for many years. I didn't actually meet her in person until Left Coast Crime in Hawai'i in March, at which I was pleased to obtain a signed copy of her latest book, FACE OF A KILLER. I have read her previous books, featuring SFPD Homicide Investigator Kate Gillespie. The latest book is not part of the series, although the protagonist, FBI agent Sydney Fitzpatrick, does mention knowing Kate.Sydney has recently transferred to San Francisco, partially with the ulterior motive of meeting the man who is in prison for murdering her father 20 years earlier. He has maintained since his arrest that he is innocent, and when Sydney visits him, she finds herself believing his story. Beginning to investigate it, she finds herself the object of a serial killer. Or is it a hit man? This is a gripping story. We learn quite a bit about Sydney's (and Robin's) talent and training as a forensic artist. The character of Sydney is sympathetic, and her thought patterns and relationships with family and co-workers are realistically portrayed. I had to force myself to read more slowly than usual so I could enjoy the excellent writing. I'm now planning to go back and reread the Kate Gillespie books.
jenforbus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sydney Fitzpatrick is a forensic artist for the FBI. On the twentieth anniversary of her father's death, she's called in to do a sketch of a rapist. When her suspect starts baring resemblance to a suspect in another rape case, Sydney is partnered up with Tony Carillo to investigate.Meanwhile, Sydney decides it's time to confront her father's murderer who is awaiting execution at San Quentin. She simply wants to know why he killed her father, but instead she ends up having doubts that the man DID kill her father. Then when her father's old army buddy sends her an envelope before he commits suicide, things looks even more suspicious. Everything seems to be tied to a picture in the envelope. A picture of her father with several other men; a picture of a group of men who look sort of like...special forces.I'm not sure I know exactly where to start with this review because I loved every aspect of this book. The characters were wonderfully developed. Their interactions together were absolutely smooth and completely believable at every level.Sydney's ex comes in to town because he's on surveillance. He's surveying Sydney due to a hit the FBI believes has been put out on her. This obviously causes internal conflict for Sydney and tension between the two of them.Sydney and Carillo cracked me up as partners. Imagine the most fun pairing of law enforcement officers from television or the movies; Sydney and Carillo match if not surpass any great combo! Their banter was so realistic and their personalities fit like Yin and Yang. And the best part about Sydney and Carillo? They DON'T jump in the sack together; don't even hint at doing anything like that. It is so refreshing to have a male/female team that doesn't end up in bed together!Another refreshing element of this book - the law enforcement characters aren't swearing every other word. They are intelligent enough to carry on a conversation in which they can express themselves without excessive profanity. It's a beautiful thing.The plot kept me glued to the pages in this book. I was in the dark about the outcome until the very end. And Burcell does an outstanding job of throwing in twists each time the reader thinks they have the mystery nailed. It is also a plot that keeps you guessing without throwing in some unknown factors right at the end. In addition the two subplots kind of weave in and out of each other leaving the reader wondering if they're connected or if it's just all a strange coincidence. The reader is challenged at every page turn in this book.While the plot was very well constructed, I have to admit that the element of the book that hooked me right away was the authenticity. Or at least in my limited knowledge what I perceived to be authenticity. And, it's very subtle which makes it that much more powerful. A final element about this novel I really enjoyed is Topper. Topper is a poodle that Carillo calls a sheep:The endearing thing about Topper is not that he's a poodle; it's that his personality reminds me of my own dog. Very happy-go-lucky, likes to be around people, but if someone is not the "right people" Topper lets you know. If my dog growls about a person, I know something isn't right. I'm sure a lot of people who aren't "dog people" would find Topper unbelievable, but having experienced such a dog myself, I know Topper is realistic, and for me he added a lot to the dimension of the book.I loved Face of a Killer. The humor, the three-dimensional characters, the authentic plot all make this an outstanding crime fiction novel. I'm looking forward to the next one!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had read three of the series before reading the first book. It set many things straight. Enjoyed every one of the books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
gymandbooks More than 1 year ago
Quite a letdown ... seemed like it would develop into quite a drama, but it never did. Super-human recovery, stregth and endurance by consistently seriously injured characters drove me insane, as well!! The story had the potential to engender so much empathy, but it was not to be.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Two decades ago the police arrested Johnnie Wheeler in the killing of the father of Sydney Fitzpatrick he was convicted and now after twenty years on death row he is to be executed. Sydney, over the objections of her concerned family members, joined the FBI as a forensic artist.---------------- Her boss Supervisory Special Agent Dixon asks her to come in on a day off that¿s he planned to drink away because of the state execution. He needs her to coax a description of a perp out of reticent battered victim Tara Brown, who was raped and left to die. Sydney succeeds, but the vivid drawing of the rapist looks like a twin of Wheeler. Sydney decides to visit Wheeler to ask him why she informs her outraged mom and stepfather, who want Wheeler dead so they can obtain some closure. After meeting Wheeler at San Quentin, Sydney begins to doubt he is her father¿s killer and starts to consider the Brown rapist as the predator who murdered her dad. She begins to make inquiries and with the help of her doubting partner Carillo finds clues that lead to a political-CIA connection that places her family in danger.--------------- This is an exhilarating police procedural with the focus on forensic drawing. The story line is action packed but driven by Sydney¿s need to know the truth about her dad¿s murder. Although the conspiracy seems a bit over the Sierras, fans will appreciate Robin Burcell¿s strong suspense tale as the heroines draws THE FACE OF A KILLER.- ----------- Harriet Klausner