Final Truth

Final Truth

by Mariah Stewart

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From New York Times bestselling author Mariah Stewart comes a novel of sexy romantic suspense for fans of Nora Roberts, Catherine Coulter, and Karen Robards.

In her thrill-packed trilogy Cold Truth, Hard Truth, and Dark Truth, Mariah Stewart proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that she can brilliantly and suspensefully handle the truth. Can you? Then prepare yourself for the shocking, eye-opening Final Truth, in which a woman who specializes in exposing lies finds herself trapped in a real-life nightmare.

All that stands between Lester Ray Barnes and the state of Florida’s death chamber is a judge’s signature. He is sentenced to die for the rape and murder of a young woman, his conviction hinging on two pieces of evidence: DNA testing and an eyewitness who placed him at the scene. But when the story breaks that the DNA testimony at trial had been fabricated and that the eyewitness was coerced by a cop, all hell breaks loose. In the absence of credible evidence to sustain the conviction, the court is forced to set Lester Ray free. It’s the sort of circus the media adore–until it turns into the kind of Grimm’s fairy tale the media love even more.

Intrigued by the story of a young man railroaded by justice, true-crime writer Regan Landry is drawn into Lester Ray’s camp like a moth to a flame. For Regan, writing is a way to stay connected to her late literary-legend father, and her knack for detective work makes her a natural when it comes to uncovering new leads in even the murkiest mysteries.

Eager for the spotlight, Lester Ray willingly agrees to work with Regan on a tell-all about his experience as an innocent man on death row. But less than a week after leaving prison, he vanishes from the Sunshine State. Soon after, darkness descends on the outer banks of North Carolina as a string of women are raped and murdered in a frenzied spree. Fearing the worst, Regan, along with Special Agent Mitch Peyton and the FBI, sweeps in to confront the unspeakable: the horrifying possibility that they have helped to free a cunning monster with an insatiable appetite for death–and a ruthless determination never to be caged again.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345483843
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/27/2007
Series: Truth Thriller Series , #4
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 595,042
Product dimensions: 4.19(w) x 6.88(h) x 0.94(d)

About the Author

Mariah Stewart is the bestselling author of numerous novels and several novellas. She is a RITA finalist for romantic suspense and is the recipient of the Award of Excellence for contemporary romance, a RIO (Reviewers International Organization) Award honoring excellence in women’s fiction, and a Reviewers’ Choice Award from Romantic Times magazine. A native of Hightstown, New Jersey, she is a three-time recipient of the Golden Leaf Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the New Jersey Romance Writers, and has been inducted into their Hall of Fame. Stewart is a member of the Valley Forge Romance Writers, the New Jersey Romance Writers, and the Romance Writers of America. She lives with her husband, two daughters, and two rambunctious golden retrievers amid the rolling hills of Chester County, Pennsylvania.

Read an Excerpt


Regan Landry sat cross-legged on the floor of her father’s study and thumbed through the contents of a file, one of several she’d brought up from the basement in an unmarked cardboard box earlier that morning. Her father, Josh Landry, internationally renowned bestselling author of true crime books, had been the world’s worst record keeper. Almost two years after his death, Regan was still sorting through the boxes of material he’d left scattered throughout his home outside Princeton, New Jersey. So far this past week, she’d uncovered newspaper articles in a box in the attic that related to cases chronicled in the file cabinets in the basement. Not for the first time, Regan rolled her eyes. The man had been the most unorganized person on the face of the earth. When her cell phone rang, she had to move several piles of newspapers to find it. A glance at the caller ID screen brought a smile to her face.

“So what are you doing on this fine morning in May?” Mitch Peyton asked.

“What am I always doing when I’m at my dad’s?” She laughed good-naturedly. “Sorting through files and trying to organize the mess.”

“I’d think you’d be used to it by now.”

“You’d think.”

“I don’t know why you don’t just hire someone to do that for you.”

“How would someone else know what to do with all this?” She glanced around the room and frowned.

“You’d tell them. You’d show them what you’ve done, point them in the direction of the materials that still need to be sorted through, and tell them to follow your lead. If a file exists, file the newly found material in it. No existing file, you make a new one.”

“I wasn’t aware that the FBI taught a class in Filing 101.”

“You’d be surprised what they teach us down here.”

“I’ve seen you at work, Mitch, up close and personal. There’s little that you do that surprises me.”

“I can see I’m going to have to work on my technique. Can’t have the woman thinking she knows all my secrets.”

Regan could have replied that Mitch had been an open book right from the start, but she let it pass.

As a special agent with the FBI, Mitch was a member of a distinguished team within the Bureau that sought out the best of the best. But when it came to Regan, there’d been no sign of the wily investigator with crack computer skills that had brought him to the attention of the team leader. Mitch was a man who wore his heart on his sleeve, and had since the first time they’d worked a case together.

“Maybe you’re right.” She sighed. “Maybe I should just have someone come in and make a list of the files we already have, then go through the other boxes, check the list for duplicates . . .”

“There you go.” He didn’t wait for her to run through the entire process as he knew her mind was already starting to do. “You’ve spent enough time on cleanup. You have a book due.”

“Already turned it in to Nina last week, which is one of the reasons I’m here at Dad’s now. I’m trying to decide what I want to do next.”

“No ideas?”

“I have plenty of ideas, but none of them have struck my immediate fancy.” She stood and went to the desk and flipped through one of the files she’d left out last night, thinking it might be a contender for the topic of her next book. “There are lots of possibilities, but nothing seems to be jumping out at me and demanding my attention.”

“I always wondered about the process you writers go through,” he said. “How you decide on one idea over another.”

“The story that needs to be told decides for me. It’s simply a matter of finding it. I’m just lucky that Dad did so much of the groundwork on several potential projects. There’s no end to the number of books he’d wanted to write. Which, of course, explains why there’s no end to the number of boxes and folders he left everywhere from the attic to the basement to one of the outbuildings.”

“But until some idea grabs you by the throat . . .”

“. . . I’ll be sorting through files, hoping something does, sooner rather than later.” She sighed. “I get antsy when I’m not working.”

“I’ve noticed. While you’re waiting for lightning to strike, move the search for an assistant to the top of your list of things to do. You know how things go with you: something lands on your radar, and you forget about everything else.”

“You know me too well, Agent Peyton. Once I get started, finding an assistant will be the last thing on my mind. I shall put an ad in this week’s Princeton Packet and one of the Trenton papers—maybe I should try New Brunswick, too—and see what kind of response I get. It would make more sense to have someone else doing this”—she stared around the room at the piles of files and boxes—“so that I can focus on my next project.”

“Speaking of projects, anything new on your search for the elusive Eddie Kroll?”

“Not really.” Regan sat in her father’s oversized leather chair and swiveled around to stare out the window.

“Dolly Brown still not returning your calls?”

“No. She called me back, left me a message saying, effectively, she’s told me everything she knows and to stop calling her. I can’t for the life of me figure out what she’s hiding, but she’s lying about something.” Regan paused. “I think if I work on her sister-in-law, Stella, I might be able to finally get some answers. But since her husband, Carl, died back in March, I’ve given Stella a pretty wide berth.”

“Carl was Dolly and Eddie Kroll’s brother?”

“Right. Stella always seemed to have something she wanted to say, but she was a bit wary of speaking up in front of Dolly, and Dolly was always around.” Regan watched several ducks land feetfirst in the pond behind the old farmhouse. “Maybe I should make a quick trip to Illinois, stop in and see if Dolly feels like chatting. While I’m there, I can stop at Stella’s as well.”

“Good idea. But put that ad for an assistant in the paper before you leave. Think you can be back in time for the weekend? I’m planning on a few days off, and I was hoping we could meet up at your place in Maryland. I miss you.”

“I miss you, too. I was thinking about going to look at boats on Saturday. You can come with me and put in your two cents.”

“I’ll brush up on my boat-speak. Fore and aft. Avast and ahoy. Bow and stern.”

“You’re going to have to do better than that, if you’re going to crew for me.” She laughed. “I guess I’ll see you . . . when?”

“Let’s shoot for Friday night. I’m leaving this afternoon for Michigan, but I don’t expect this case will go more than a day or so. I’ll let you know if there’s a change.”

“Okay. I love you, Mitch.”

“Love you, too, babe.”

Regan closed her phone and slipped it into her pocket, hoping that Friday night would find Mitch on his way to her home in Maryland rather than the scene of some other heinous crime. She admired his work, was proud of his reputation as one of the FBI’s top agents, understood the urgency of his job. But there were times when she needed him, too. Like now. She wished she could have his company for even an hour, right now.

Unfortunately, wishing alone couldn’t make it happen, she reminded herself.

She forced her thoughts back to Sayreville, Illinois, and the mystery she’d found there a year ago, a mystery that remained unsolved.

She turned the chair around to gaze on the boxes she’d brought up from the basement. It had been in a box very much like any one of those that she’d first found report cards, dated from the 1940s, from Saint John the Baptist Elementary School in Sayreville, Illinois, for a child named Edward Kroll. From the comments written in the small, precise hand of Sister Mary Matthew, Regan had learned that Eddie Kroll had been an asset to the class, had shown an aptitude for mathematics, was inquisitive and an excellent reader. But there’d been no explanation of how or why her father had come into possession of these pieces from another boy’s childhood, or why he had kept them hidden away. She’d searched through hundreds of files since her father’s death, but the name hadn’t turned up anywhere else. She’d even asked Mitch to run a check through the FBI computers to see if Edward Kroll had a criminal record, but he hadn’t gotten any hits. The puzzle had led Regan to place ads in all of the newspapers local to Sayreville, Illinois. It had been one of those ads that had come to the attention of Dolly Brown.

Dolly Brown told Regan she’d been a neighbor of the Krolls, and how, at age thirteen, Eddie Kroll and two of his friends had lured another classmate to a vacant lot, where they’d beaten the boy to death. Eddie, as the youngest of the three, and the least culpable, had been sentenced to juvenile detention until he turned twenty-one, at which time he was released. No one knew what happened to him after that, Dolly Brown had said. Eddie Kroll had simply disappeared, and they’d heard a few years later that he’d died.

Dolly Brown had lied.

Dolly neglected to tell Regan that her maiden name was Kroll, and that she was the sister of the sought-after Eddie. It had taken Regan a while to figure that out.

She still wasn’t sure why Dolly had lied about all that.

And there’d been that business about the other Kroll sister, Catherine. Dolly had shown Regan photos of Eddie as a child, but had insisted there were no pictures of their younger sister, Catherine, beyond early childhood.

Another lie of Dolly’s.

Regan still had no explanation of why Dolly’s sister-in-law, Stella, had quietly slipped a packet of old family photographs into Regan’s purse during her last visit to Sayreville. There, amid photos of Eddie that had been taken prior his incarceration, were pictures of a pretty young woman identified on the flip sides as Catherine Kroll. The pictures were dated 1963. Regan had already determined that Catherine had been born in 1938, so she’d have been twenty-five years old.

Why had Dolly lied?

Regan had returned to Sayreville to discuss this very thing with Dolly, only to find she’d gone to Florida for the winter and had instructed everyone she knew not to divulge her whereabouts to anyone—especially to Regan Landry. When Regan had stopped at Stella’s home, she found Stella’s husband seriously ill, and she’d declined to press the matter. After a phone call to Stella in April, she learned that Carl had passed away several weeks earlier, and once again Regan chose not to question the woman.

“I guess the real question is why can’t I let it go,” Regan muttered under her breath as she reached for the file. It sat off by itself next to the phone on the corner of the desk, as if waiting for Dolly to call back with answers to all the questions the file seemed to ask.

Why can’t I let it go?

Regan rested her chin in her hand. What difference would it make if she ever found out what happened to Eddie Kroll—where he’d gone, how he’d died, where he’d been laid to rest—or why Dolly had been so protective of him, even now, all these years later?

Questions without answers. Regan didn’t know why it mattered. She only knew that it did, and that she was driven by something she didn’t understand to take it as far as she could.

To that end, she went online and booked herself on a morning flight to Chicago. She could drop in on Stella, pay a sympathy call on Carl’s widow. Of course, while she was in Sayreville, she’d drop in at Dolly’s as well, see what that crafty old bird was up to, see if she could figure out whatever it was Dolly didn’t want her to know.

Her travel arrangements made, Regan turned her attention to her search for an assistant. She hunted up the phone number for the local newspapers’ classified departments, and dialed the first number on the list.

Mitch was right. It was time. Time to get her father’s files organized. Time to get on with her next book.

And once she’d hired that assistant, maybe she’d have time to figure out just what Dolly Brown was up to.

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Final Truth 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The truth has come out and it is NOT pretty. Eugene Potts worked at the Fremont lab in Florida. He is the one who tested evidence and then testified to his findings, putting several awful criminals in prison. Now Potts can no longer hide the fact that for almost two months he has been mixing or losing samples, fudging reports and results, then committing perjury in the trials. Due to this, Potts's career is over. But the really bad part is that those criminals are contacting their lawyers to see if their DNA samples were tested by Potts during that time. ...................... Erwin Capshaw was the first to be released. He was sentenced to life in prison. Now he is free. His prison buddy, Lester Ray Barnes, is on Death Row. He has only a matter of weeks before he dies. Taking Erwin's cue, Lester Ray has his lawyer, Roland Booth, pull strings to have a judge look into his case quickly. There was no time to lose. That was how Roland Booth ended up on the famous legal talk show, 'And Justice for All'. The show not only succeeded in getting Lester Ray's case heard and the man released, but also ensured that Roland would become a famous and rich lawyer. ....................... Regan Landry has continued her late father's legacy of writing true crime novels. Since he was murdered not too long ago, Regan is still trying to sort out all the reports, notes, sketches and pictures that her father has left in boxes. The boxes are stacked everywhere, including the attic and basement, and nothing is organized. Her fiancé, FBI Agent Mitch Peyton, talks her into hiring an assistant, Bliss McKinley, to help organize her father's work. ..................... Regan tunes in to 'And Justice for All' and is intrigued. Unable to decide if she would like to write the story, she meets with Roland and Lester Ray. Regan is still undecided when Lester Ray is released from prison. Roland, sure that Regan will make him even richer, gives Lester Ray one of his credit cards. Thus the man accused of being a serial killer is free and heading to the Outer Banks in North Carolina for a vacation. ................ Within a short time, bodies are showing up. The female victims all share Lester Ray's MO. But since all Lester Ray's DNA has disappeared, no one can prove that he is up to his old ways again. Regan and Mitch, along with Mitch's FBI co-workers, begin the horrid task of following Lester Ray and trying to pick up evidence as they go. Will Regan be able to help prove Lester Ray is killing again? If Lester Ray finds out what she is doing, will he kill her too? Or will Lester Ray decide she is too valuable to kill since she will publish his story? ....................... ***** If you enjoy the hot television shows of crime scene investigators, ER, police or law enforcements, or just plain enjoy drama, then this is for you! You do not HAVE to read any of the other 'Truth' novels to fully understand and enjoy this story however, if you have been following them, then you already know how Regan and Mitch got together. You will also recognize several of the secondary and minor characters that help in this investigation. It made the story seem much more realistic. I, as the reader, followed Regan in her search to learn more about the elusive Eddie Kroll (whom her father was obsessed with) and in her involvement with investigating Lester Ray with the FBI. The author's extensive research in forensics and law show on almost every page of the book. I finally got answers about Kroll and I got to see what the main characters from the previous novels in this series were up to. Mariah Stewart is going to hit the best seller charts all over again with this gem. *****
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it & the whole series
suzanne5002 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I finished reading this book in the wee hours of the morning. It was suspenseful in the sense that the ex-con was a copycat serial killer. One of the convicts found out that the DNA samples were mismatched. He was released from prison as well as another man on death row. Ms. Landry is a writer of true crimes. When she hears about this turn of events in prison life, she is interested to learn of how this can happen. Landry interviews the ex-cons to see what their life was like before prison, while in prison anad what they will do next. Even though this is a series, the books can be stand alone ones as well. I read Dark Truth and this one. I will read the others that came before since there is a plot that is tied up in the end of this one.
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This is the final in a series.I recomend that all be read in sequence, as the charters for one book are often carried over to the next.As well as the final plot.This was the first time I've read anything by this aurthor but I will look for more by her.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Once again Mariah Stewart, with her usual style and finesse, has produced another incredible work. From word one to the final word, the supspense is riveting, with plenty of twists and turns that keep you on the very edge and unable to turn the pages quickly enough. Her heroine, Regan Landry, is the epitome of grace, elegance, and intelligence all combined with a strong sense of the right thing to do. It's more than obvious that Ms. Stewart goes above and beyond when it comes to researach. Her knowlege of law enforcement, the judicial and the penal systems are incredible, and once more she has created a novel of suspense, with a wonderful heroine and hero without page after page of redundant, steamy sex scences, in other words she has a story to tell and she tells it!. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. READ IT!!
harstan More than 1 year ago
Lester Ray Barnes is eight weeks away from lethal injection after his he was convicted of raping and torturing a woman who is in an irreversible coma. When the owner of the Fremont Lab used to test DNA found at crime scenes gave false testimony, another inmate was freed as the lab workers could not match his DNA to the crime. The lab owner admits he committed perjury many convicts are going to be freed as the DA lacks any other substantial evidence............. Famous true crime writer Regan Landry becomes interested in the Barnes case and soon discovers that the prosecution witness who identified Barnes as being at the crime scene was coerced by the police to give false testimony. The state is forced to free Barnes. Afterward Regan meets Barnes to interview him. However a series of murders of young women occur with Barnes as the prime suspect. Regan risks her life to bring down Barnes while her FBI boyfriend Mitch Peyton panics over her safety........... Mariah Stewart brings her Truth series to a delightful close with a fantastic suspense thriller that will appeal to mystery and romance fans. The romance between the heroine and the Fed serves as strong background to the fast-paced story line. FINAL TRUTH is a superb exciting finish starring a believable courageous woman........... Harriet Klausner