“Fans of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher should enjoy Jack Dana’s adventures.”—Publishers Weekly
With the death of his nemesis, corrupt business mogul Abner Brown, retired Marine infantry officer Jack Dana can finally return to his peaceful career as a novelist. And after falling hard for Heidi Krohn, the glamorous high-powered lawyer who helped avenge his best friend’s death, Jack dreams of starting a family of his own.
But dark forces intervene to upend Jack’s comfortable new life when two of his uncle Harry’s closest friends are brutally murdered in their own home. Quickly it becomes clear that these murders are a message, sent by a shadowy criminal Jack comes to call “the Monster.” His warning to Jack: a fate even more cruel awaits you. Indeed, despite the best-laid precautions, there seems to be no escape when Heidi and her nephew are kidnapped. With their lives in the balance, Jack must take the only step honor will allow and face the Monster alone, whatever the consequences.
Look for all of Louis Begley’s gripping Jack Dana thrillers:
KILLER, COME HITHER • KILL AND BE KILLED • KILLER’S CHOICE
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
There is no end of me, Abner Brown had mocked minutes before he injected himself with the deadly overdose of insulin. I’ve seen to that! There never will be.
I took those words then to be more of the braggadocio the diabolical Texas billionaire had been spouting ever since I dumped on his desk the files I said I would deliver the next day to the U.S. attorney. Files certain to put Abner behind bars for the rest of his life, or on death row if they helped prove that he had used interstate means to commission murders. Words I was glad to forget. It crossed my mind, not for the first time, that he was insane.
But I am getting ahead of my story. My name is Jack Dana. I am a former Marine Corps Infantry officer and a graduate of its toughest combat schools. The Force Recon platoon I commanded was on patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, near Delaram, when a Taliban sniper got me. His bullet did serious damage to my pelvis. It took a good deal of time and surgeons’ skill to make me almost as good as new, although not good enough for active duty with Corps Infantry. When Walter Reed Army Medical Center finally released me, I could have gone back to the fancy academic career on which I had embarked before 9/11 and before I decided to join the marines so as not to leave the fighting to poor saps who hadn’t had my sort of privileged upbringing and didn’t know any better. But while in the hospital, I began writing about what the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had been like, and what they had done to my men and me. Completing that book became my only goal. I did finish it, living in New York with my uncle Harry Dana, a prominent lawyer who was like a father to me. Closer to me than my real father. He was also the last living member of my family. My book turned out to be an immediate success; the advance I received, the royalties that followed, the sale of the movie rights, and the bonus to which I became entitled when the movie turned out to be a runaway hit all made me rich. The novels that followed were almost equally successful.
So without my having planned it, writing became my profession.
Once again, I’m getting ahead of the story. Soon after my first book came out, while I was vacationing in Brazil on a fazenda without Internet or cell-phone connection, my uncle Harry was murdered. The murder, disguised as a suicide by hanging, was committed by a hit man called Slobo commissioned by Abner Brown, who had been Harry’s principal client. The following day, the same hit man killed Harry’s longtime secretary. He pushed her under a subway train. I avenged those murders, as well as the murder, months later, of Kerry Black, my uncle’s favorite associate and later young partner, who had helped me get the goods on Brown, the file I gave to the U.S. attorney that led to Abner’s ultimate defeat. We had fallen in love passionately, but she dumped me after I killed Slobo instead of only disabling that thug and turning him over to the police. It was murder that Kerry told me I’d committed, and not homicide in legitimate self-defense. Poor Kerry! Abner did not forget the role she played in helping me assemble the dossier laying bare his criminal affair. He had her murdered too, murder disguised this time as her having overdosed on a lethal mixture of drugs.
I was not able to kill Kerry’s assassin. Abner had him murdered before I could find him. But once I knew that thug was dead, once I had seen Abner give himself that fatal injection, I stopped thinking about Abner and his crimes. I was tired. Tired of Abner and of the killing I’d done to even the score with him and to stop his hit men, of whom he seemed to have an inexhaustible supply, from killing me. Yes, the wounds I had suffered in the encounter with the last of that lot had healed, but even flesh wounds that require only minimal surgery and heal without major complications take some squeak out of you—my poor lovely mother’s favorite expression. Besides, I was absorbed by work on a new book.
In that book, about the murder of my uncle Harry, I told the truth—I declared on the first page that I was telling a true story. For some reviewers what the murderer, Slobo, had done and my duty to avenge my uncle weighed little in comparison with society’s interest in bringing Slobo to justice, giving him his day in court. Didn’t I know that this is the United States of America, where the rule of law prevails? You bet! The same rule of law that lets billionaires like Abner Brown send rivers of money to PACs and think tanks backing every extreme right-wing cause they can find or dream up and buy and put in their pocket a good half of the U.S. Congress. The rivers of money that have corrupted American politics so thoroughly that a candidate as grotesquely unfit as Donald J. Trump could become president. That kind of rule of law is not good enough for me. I didn’t go to war to make America great again—it was plenty great, so far as I was concerned. I wanted America to be decent again. A country that gives suckers an even break, that cares for the weak and needy. If I had still had Slobo or Abner on my mind after my book’s appearance, I might have taken out a full-page ad in The New York Times Book Review promising solemnly to deal in the future with hit men sent by extremist nuts and their employers exactly as I had dealt with Slobo and his employer.
But I wasn’t thinking about any of that. I was obsessed by the damage the Trump administration was doing to the country at home and abroad. Every thought I could spare was for a girl with whom I was head over heels in love: an impossibly lovely, elegant, and clever lady litigator, Heidi Krohn. Heidi had been Kerry’s best friend. She became my partner in the quest to avenge Kerry and destroy Abner. But, from the first, she set the rules. She was not attracted physically to men, she warned me when we first met. It hadn’t always been so, she said, and it might not be so forever. We shook hands on that, and, in time, I came to have grounds to think that for once I was playing my cards right: patience and forbearance were paying off. Just a few weeks after Abner died, Heidi spent the Christmas vacation with me at the house in Sag Harbor I inherited from my uncle Harry. I gave her the master bedroom, thinking that I would occupy a guest room across the hall, but she invited me to share her bed. Only to “cuddle,” she specified. We have cuddled ever since, of late dispensing with the tops of our pajamas, and, although she didn’t give up her pad on Lexington and Eighty-Seventh, many weekday nights she could be found at my Fifth Avenue apartment, another property I inherited from Uncle Harry. If we decided to go to the country, she’d stay at my house in Sag Harbor, paying only brief visits to her parents, whose house is in East Hampton on Further Lane. And she brought over to Fifth Avenue much of her wondrous wardrobe and the true love of her life, a coal-black one-and-a-half-year-old French bulldog named Satan. It’s much better for him to be with you, across the street from Central Park, than to sit alone all day at my apartment waiting for the walker to take him out. These were the surest signs, I believe, that we were on the right track.