Jamie Wagner is a young lawyer who is happy to be flying under the radar at a large firm. It's not that he isn't smart. He is. It's just that hard work, not to mention the whole legal thing, isn't exactly his passion. Underachiever? A little. Content? Right up until the firm puts him on a case that turns his whole world upside down.
Sheryl Harrison has served four years of a thirty-year murder sentence for killing her husband, who she claims was abusive. The case is settled---there shouldn't be anything for Jamie to do---except Sheryl's fourteen-year-old daughter, Karen, is sick. She has a congenital heart defect and will die without a transplant. Her blood type is rare, making their chances of finding a matching donor remote at best. Sheryl wants to be that donor for her daughter, and Jamie is in way over his head. Suicide, no matter the motive, is illegal. So with Sheryl on suicide watch, Jamie's only shot at helping her and saving Karen is to reopen the murder case, prove Sheryl's innocence, and get her freed so that she can pursue her plan on her own.
Heart of a Killer---a gripping story of an ordinary man faced with an impossible situation---is the most powerful and shocking thriller yet from David Rosenfelt, a true master of the genre.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
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About the Author
David Rosenfelt is the Edgar and Shamus Award--nominated author of nine Andy Carpenter novels, most recently One Dog Night, and three previous stand-alones. He and his wife recently moved to Maine with the twenty-seven golden retrievers they have rescued and rehabilitated over the years.
DAVID ROSENFELT is the Edgar-nominated and Shamus Award-winning author of several stand-alone thrillers and more than a dozen Andy Carpenter novels, including Outfoxed. He and his wife live in Maine with their ever-changing pack of rescue dogs.
Read an Excerpt
Heart of a Killer
By David Rosenfelt
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2012 Tara Productions, Inc.
All rights reserved.
"Jamie, Mr. Hemmings wants to see you." Alicia Waldman, my assistant, delivered the news. She said it with a stunned reverence, in the way she might say, "God is on line two." Actually, calling Alicia my assistant might imply too high a status level for me; she assisted four other lawyers in the firm as well, all of whom she liked more than me.
I had absolutely no guess why Richard Hemmings would want to see me. I was a twenty-nine-year old, sixth-year associate in the corporate litigation section of Carlson, Miller, and Timmerman, while he was a senior partner in the bankruptcy section. In non-law-firm parlance, when it came to dumping work on people, he was a "dumper" and I was a "dumpee," but we worked in very different dumping grounds.
We also worked on different floors in our Newark, New Jersey, office building. I was a second-floor guy with a view of the second floor of the building right next door. He was a tenth-story guy, which was as high as it went, with a view on one side of glorious downtown Newark, and a clear sight line to the airport on the other side.
I went right up, and his assistant ushered me directly into his office. He was looking out the window and turned when he heard me. "Jamie," he said, although he had never met me. He must have just known that he had sent for a Jamie, and figured I must be him. He might even have known that my last name was Wagner. Those are the kind of smarts that partners have.
"Mr. Hemmings," I responded, keeping the conversation humming. The culture in the firm was that everyone was on a first-name basis, but when it came to full partners, nobody on my level really trusted that. Better to address them formally, and let them correct you if they wanted.
He didn't, but fortunately came right to the point. "I assume you know that Stan Lysinger is out attending to a personal issue."
I knew that quite well, everybody did, if advanced lung cancer could be casually dismissed as a personal issue. "Yes."
"Everybody is pitching in until he gets back," he said, although we both knew that Stan was not coming back. "I'm taking on his pro-bono responsibilities."
I immediately knew why I was there. Most big firms feel a corporate responsibility, or at least want to look as if they feel a corporate responsibility, to do pro-bono work within the community. They generally like to assign lower- and mid-level people to these jobs, and Stan is, or was, the resident assigner-in-chief.
Most associates dread such assignments, because it takes them out of the mainstream of the firm, and can thus impact their ability to shine and make partner. I had no such concerns, since it had been clear for a while that I was never going to reach those heights. So I viewed a pro-bono assignment with a wait-and-see attitude; it would depend on the specifics of the assignment.
"It's with Legal Aid," he said, as my feelings went from mixed to outright negative. "You're to see an inmate in New Jersey State Prison named Sheryl Harrison."
"They're not going to brief me first?" I asked.
He looked at the file, as if reading it for the first time. "No. They want you to hear it from the client. Seems unusual."
"Does it say what she's in there for?"
He looked again. "Murder. She murdered her husband six years ago; slit his throat. Pleaded guilty. Got fifteen to life."
"Sounds like a nice lady," I said, but it didn't get a smile from Hemmings.
"You'll provide me with written reports on your progress," he said. "Until Stan gets back."
"Yes, I certainly will."
I lived then, and now, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, which made me semi-unique among my colleagues at the firm. My apartment was on the third floor of a brownstone on Seventy-sixth Street, between Columbus and Amsterdam. It was a walk-up, common among those kinds of buildings in the area, and I tried to think positive by viewing the stairs as a way to stay in shape.
I suspected that my Manhattan residence was not viewed as a positive by my superiors, who no doubt felt that the forty-five-minute commute each way was time better spent in the office, doing work billable to clients.
It wasn't that I was anti–New Jersey; I was pro–New York. If I wanted a pizza at 11:00 P.M., I didn't want to have to preheat an oven. I wanted to go downstairs and get one.
Also, my favorite bars to hang out in were in New York, though I never really gave the Jersey bars a chance. I felt at home in Manhattan, on its streets, in its restaurants, with its women. And if a woman came in one night from Queens, that was fine as well.
The truth is that I would willingly date a woman from any of the five boroughs, with the obvious exception of Staten Island. Even that would be fine, if not for the fact that at some point I'd have to take her home, or meet her parents, or something like that. I've heard that people never come back from there.
I was and am a Manhattan snob, and that's where I'd soon be looking for a job. I was reaching that point at my tenure in the firm where one was either made a partner or encouraged to leave. I was certainly going to receive such encouragement, and I wasn't going to move to any job I couldn't commute to by subway or feet.
I got home from work at about 7:45, which was fairly typical. The phone was ringing as I was walking in the door. It was my friend Ken Bollinger, asking if I wanted to meet him for the first of what would become quite a few drinks.
Ken was and is an investment banker, on track to make ridiculous amounts of money, none of which he was willing to spend. He actually ordered beer based on price.
"Not tonight," I said. "I've got to be at New Jersey State Prison for Women first thing in the morning." It was a line I had never gotten to say before in my life, and I took my time with it.
I explained the situation, after which he said, "There's nothing better than conjugal visit sex."
I knew he was talking about a Seinfeld episode in which George dated a female prisoner. He reveled in the idea of conjugal visit sex. Ken and I could talk for days, only using Seinfeld references.
"And no pop-ins," I said, since George had also considered it a huge plus that his inmate girlfriend couldn't just show up at his apartment unannounced.
"Can I go with you?" he asked. "Convicts never insist on going to expensive restaurants."
"No chance," I said. "But I'll see if she has a friend. Maybe a nice, frugal arsonist."CHAPTER 2
The prison was about a forty-five-minute drive from my apartment, though with New York traffic you never know. I didn't want to be late, since I couldn't be sure what the prison punishment for that might be. Solitary? Two weeks in the hole? No sense taking a chance.
Most people I know, and pretty much everyone I work with, are amazed that I keep a car in the city at all. There are trains that could get me to work, but I don't like them. Somehow when I'm in the car I feel like I'm in control, despite the fact that traffic jams can be awful and arbitrary.
I got to the prison a half hour early, which was just as well, because it took almost that long to identify myself, demonstrate that I had an appointment, and go through security. At ten after nine I was finally led into a small visiting room, where Sheryl Harrison was already waiting for me. She was sitting at a table with a folder in front of her.
I almost did a double take. I don't know what I was expecting, but it sure wasn't this. She was young, I would have said about my age, and quite nice looking. There was no hard edge to her, no scraggly hair, or tattooed arms. She was actually pretty, despite the prison garb and obvious lack of makeup, and there was a softness about her that took me off guard. Under different circumstances, this could be someone I'd be willing to follow to Staten Island.
George Costanza may have been on to something.
All in all, she looked like someone that ten years ago I could have taken to the prom, except for the fact that prospective prom dates are rarely handcuffed to metal tables, and almost never have a knife murder as part of their high school experience.
"I'm Jamie Wagner," I said, sitting down. "I'm a lawyer."
She looked me straight in the eye. Eye contact is not my specialty, but she seemed to silently mandate it. "Have they told you why you're here?" she asked.
"No, apparently I'm supposed to hear that from you. But I should tell you straight out that I have no experience in criminal matters."
She nodded. "That's okay; this isn't a criminal matter."
"No, and I doubt anyone has experience in what I need." She said it matter-of-factly.
"What might that be?"
"I want to die."
"A lot of women have that initial reaction to me." It was a stupid joke, meant to cover my panic and discomfort. What I really wanted to say was, "Guard! Get me out of here."
She didn't respond either way, not even to reprimand me for the misplaced humor. "I don't have much time," she said.
"Why don't you tell me exactly what's going on?" I asked, though I really didn't want to know.
She opened the folder and took out a picture, which she slid across the table to me. It was of a young girl, pretty but thin, who clearly resembled Sheryl, especially in the eyes. "This is my daughter, Karen. The picture was taken last year, when she was thirteen."
"She looks like you."
"Thank you. She hasn't been well for the last couple of years. Tires easily, poor appetite, not sleeping well. My mother, that's who she lives with, finally took her to the doctor for tests. We got the diagnosis two months ago."
This was not going to be good. "And?"
"She has a congenital heart defect. It's a progressive condition, and it will kill her, unless she gets a transplant."
"I'm sorry, but how does your dying help her?"
"She has a rare blood type, which will make finding a donor almost impossible. So I'm going to give her my heart," she said, definitely, as if the issue was already decided, and only the details were still to be worked out.
She slid another piece of paper across the desk. It was a report from a doctor, with lab results and a written summary. I didn't read it at that point, because she was describing it.
"The prison doctor is a good guy; he took some of my blood and I had it tested on the outside. I have the same blood type, and I'm a perfect match."
"So you want me to get the prison authorities to let you give your heart to your daughter?"
"That's correct," she said.
"You'd be committing suicide in the process."
"You figured that out?"
It was as bizarre a conversation as I'd ever been involved in; this woman was actually asking me to arrange her death. But the situation itself and the surroundings felt even weirder, and that was mostly because of Sheryl Harrison.
People say that certain charismatic people, the Bill Clintons and Ronald Reagans of the world, are the center of whatever room they're in. They control the room by the force of their personality.
Well, Sheryl Harrison controlled this room, and she didn't do it with an entourage of assistants or Secret Service officers around her. She did it alone, wearing an orange jumpsuit, handcuffed to a table. It was surprising to me, and a little disconcerting. I would have thought, just going by our positions in life, that I would have had the upper hand.
Having said that, I was there because of my alleged legal expertise, so I figured I should demonstrate some of it. "Look, this is not a situation I'm faced with every day, but I believe that suicide is illegal, and —"
She interrupted me. "Actually, it's not. Assisting a suicide is illegal."
"And in this case you need assistance."
"Less than you think," she said. "But as you can imagine, it has to be carefully orchestrated. I've done a lot of research on it."
I had no doubt that she had done so; I could already tell that there was nothing impulsive about this decision. "Have you talked to the authorities about it yet?"
"No, I thought it best to have a lawyer do that, at least initially. They will take it more seriously."
I hadn't liked where this was going, and now that it had gotten there, I liked it even less. "Mrs. Harrison ..."
"Sheryl, I'm not sure I'm the right attorney to handle this."
She laughed a short laugh. "You think I picked you?" she said, then softened it with, "You're all I have. This is my daughter, and her life is more worth living than mine."
I looked at the picture again, then at this woman chained to a table, who was probably right in her assessment. But fortunately I don't get to make calls like that. "What does Karen think of all this?" I asked. "She would certainly have to consent."
"She doesn't know yet. I don't want to tell her until it's arranged. And at her age, consent isn't necessary."
"And your mother?"
"She knows. She's opposed to it." For the first time, I thought I detected a bit of frustration, or an impatience. "But none of that need concern you. That's for me to deal with."
I felt as if I was being dismissed and I wasn't crazy about the feeling. "I'm going to need time to think about this, and research it."
She nodded. "That's fine. Just do me one favor, please."
"What's that?" I asked.
"So she's a nut job?" The questioner was Julie Ammerman, the closest I had to a real friend in the entire firm. There are a limited number of partnerships at the end of the eight- or nine-year rainbow, so a natural competition exists among the associates vying to receive them.
Somehow Julie and I had always mostly gotten past that, and since it became obvious I was no real threat for one of the coveted spots, we'd gotten even closer. We'd slept together twice, which qualified as a semi-long relationship for me, but the last time was six months prior, and we'd since settled into a platonic friendship.
Julie had gone to a much lesser law school than me; actually, everybody by definition had gone to a lesser law school than me. But she certainly never resented it, and worked tirelessly and successfully to prove those Ivy admissions offices wrong.
We were in the firm's cafeteria, moving through the line with our trays. The food was extraordinarily good and inexpensive; it was the one aspect of big-time lawyering that I was likely to miss.
"That's what I thought while I was talking to her, but ... yeah, she might be nuts."
"Maybe you should report her," she said.
"To who? About what?"
"Well, if she's suicidal, shouldn't you tell someone? I mean, if she hangs herself in her cell and they come to you, what are you going to say? 'Oh, right, she mentioned cutting her heart out, but it slipped my mind'?"
"She's not going to hang herself in her cell. She wants to do the whole thing under medical supervision. And I can't tell anyone about it; it's covered under attorney-client privilege. Did you cut class the year they taught that in law school?"
"Sorry, Mr. Harvard." The fact that I went to Harvard Law somehow has always qualified me for ridicule among my colleagues, all of whom would have sacrificed their future firstborns to have gone there. "And if it's all privileged, how come you're telling me?"
"Because we work for the same firm; I consider you my cocounsel."
"I suggest you reconsider that. Are you going to take her case?"
"No way. If I lose, which I would, I'm a loser. If I win, which I won't, my client dies. Not exactly a fun way to pass the time."
"And her daughter is really going to die?"
"That's what she said; I have to assume she wouldn't lie about it."
We were quiet for a while; I was thinking about Sheryl's situation and I imagined Julie was doing the same.
Finally, she said, "I'm trying to imagine my mother giving up her heart for me." She laughed. "If she did, I'd never hear the end of it."
I wasn't quite into the humor of this; I could still picture Sheryl in that prison, trying to control her desperation, relying on me.
But Julie was on a roll. "Every day I don't get married, she tells me I'm tearing her heart out."
We finished lunch and headed back to our respective offices for another torture-filled afternoon. At 6:15, I got an instant message from her asking me if I was almost done for the day. I wrote back that I was planning to be out in fifteen minutes.
You want to grab a drink? Julie asked.
More than one, I responded.
Excerpted from Heart of a Killer by David Rosenfelt. Copyright © 2012 Tara Productions, Inc.. 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.
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Also by David Rosenfelt,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I'm a sucker for everything Rosenfelt; and you should be too if you like snappy dialogue and holding on to the edge of your seat. I wasn't sure how I'd fare without Andy Carpenter, but I was more than rewarded! How often do I get lucky enough to read a thriller that really makes me think? And one that does not have a predictable ending? If you are deciding whether or not to read this book, take my advice and do! It's worth every penny and then some.
Get ready to just read....I couldn't put it down at all and spent the day cuddled on my sofa reading and then, when it was over, wished it wasn't. Rarely do you get this kind of book. Certainly grabs your attention.
David Rosenfelt is a great writer. From the first page I am always hooked, can't put the book down. His wit and impossible legal cases are a perfect combination. Can't wait for him to write another!
I am an avid mystery reader and this book has an amazing twist. It is more than just detective work-it is about characters that grab your heart.
Heart of a Killer is one of those books that makes a good night's sleep impossible. It is exciting and terrifying, but more than that, it is thought provoking. Just how much would you give up for your child? Sheryl, In prison for a murder we are not sure she committed, is willing to give up her heart...literally. A prison system that doesn't mind keeping her locked up, will not let her die. She hires Jamie Wagner, an "underachieving" lawyer, to fight for her right to die and give her heart to her dying daughter. The introduction of domestic terrorists, a police detective who has doubts about Sheryl's guilt, the FBI, and the most amoral character since Hannibal Lecter, makes this a book to remember way after the last page.
David Rosenfelt master penner of the legal thriller has come up with another gem in Heart of a Killer. This one grabs you from the start as Sheryl Harrison confesses to murder that she probably didn't commit and is sentenced to life. Six years later a junior lawyer (Jamie Wagner) working on civil actions is asked by his bosses to take a pro bono assignment in the criminal arena. Jamie is asked to represent Sheryl. It seems that her daughter is dying from a defective heart and needs a transplant as soon as possible. Sheryl tells Jamie that she wants him to "assist" her in some way to take her life so she can donate her heart to her daughter. Jamie knows this is a losing proposition because no prison system would ever kill a prisoner at their request. He is intrigued by Sheryl though and agrees to do what he can to help her. He meets with Sheryl's arresting detective (Novack). Novack was always bothered by his arrest of Sheryl because all the evidence at the scene of the crime indicated that someone other than Sheryl had done the original crime. He investigated no further because at the time he had been overloaded with casework and with Sheryls confession, her case was an easy conviction. Jamie convinces Novack to begin the investigation that he should have done six years prior. Meanwhile there are some evil computer bad guys who are performing acts of terrorism such as hacking into airplanes and crashing them. They seem to have an agenda bordering on something really big. They also seem to have their eyes on Novack and Sheryl and are worried that Novack's investigation may lead back to them. There are several tense moments throughout and Rosenfelt does an excellent job of keeping the reader guessing all the way to the last page. As Jamie is relatively young, maybe he will be another character to build a series upon just like Andy Carpenter. Highly recommended!
Rosenfelt's books always entertain. I never fail to laugh out loud at some point but the suspense keeps me on the edge of my seat page after page.
While I found the main character, Jamie Wagner, a bit annoying, the story it self was good. His underachieving skills/attitude just seemed a bit much for a lawyer that manages to solve the mystery. But, overall, I felt the book was a good one. I do believe, however, that B&N should list how many pages are in a book along with the brief description of the book.
I finished this book too quickly; it was so well written, that the pages kept turning on their own. Good character development, well constructed story line, and thought provoking enough without being confusing. Need to go back and read the books I missed.
I really didn't think I would like it since it was not an Andy Carpenter Series book, BUT it was astounding! There are so many conflicts and twists and turns that it kept me reading and not wanting to put it down. The humor was great, characters were just as interesting, and the plot was right along with today's news and current events. Highly recommend reading this book.
Per his usual style Rosenfeldt combines action, humor, & a dash of romance to create good fiction. Although Andy Carpenter was absent from this plot, it still the feel of Carpenter mystery.
Setting aside his popular and irreverent New Jersey attorney, Andy Carpenter, as a protagonist, David Rosenfelt has created a standalone based on another attorney, Jamie Wagner, a Harvard graduate who is a six-year associate at a leading Newark law firm. Basically unambitious, and no less a quipster than Andy, although his area of concentration is in contract law Jamie is handed a pro bono case he is ill-equipped to handle: a woman who wants to donate her heart to save her 14-year-old daughter’s life, currently serving a 15-years-to-life sentence for the confessed murder of her husband. Other aspects of the plot involve terrorist attacks based on computer technology masterminded by the same persons who were involved in the husband’s death. The story then moves around these two themes. The author writes with a light touch, using asides and humor to make various points. [I must note, and was surprised at the fact, that a finished first-rate novel from a leading publisher contained the word “benefited” spelled with two “t”s, among other instances of what I felt to be poor proof-reading.] Nevertheless, the book is enjoyable, with an unexpected twist or two to keep the reader forging ahead, and it is recommended.
i thoroughly enjoyed David Rosenfelt's latest novel and found the story line to be unique, interesting and in many ways, thought provoking. It definitely raises questions about moral and ethical concerns and then you factor in an interesting plot line and the end result is a novel that I read in a day and half. I loved it and I love him. He just never disappoints.
Once you start reading, you won't want to leave this enthralling mystery. The only things missing is one of the Golden Retreivers dogs which wag their tail through many of the author's bookd. There are issues society hasn't addressed for those incarcerated and that is part of the mystery. Good read.
Definitely not one of his better ones i wont give up on him though.
Very good plot. Not as witty as some of other novels but stays interesting all the way through.
Excellent book! David Rosenfelt has become one of my favorite authors, starting from his very first book. You will enjoy this book immensely, as well as all of his other books!
While I've read and enjoyed all of David Rosenfelt's books, I think this may be his best. Thoroughly enjoyed it and can't wait for his next one.
Stand alone but I love his characters. They are always humorous, self effacing and the new lawyer in this one is very likable. The plot is a very different type of case and it moves along swiftly. Strange to read a Rosenfelt book minus Golden Retrievers but I enjoyed this book.
This effort was pathetic and made me think someone else wrote the Andy Carpenter series.