David Ellis’ Line of Vision has won the 2002 Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author!
Marty Kalish has been accused of murdering his lover's husband. He had a motive. He was at the scene of the crime. He manipulated evidence to hide his guilt. He even confessed. But that's not the end of the story. That's only the beginning.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||4.20(w) x 7.00(h) x 1.20(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
David Ellis is the author of seven novels, including Line of Vision for which he won the Edgar Award. An attorney from Chicago, he currently serves as Counsel to the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives and was recently appointed the Impeachment Prosecutor in the Blagojevich trial. Ellis lives in Springfield with his family.
Read an Excerpt
Something is wrong with this picture.
The winds on November 18 are unusually strong for this time of year, even by Midwestern standards, carrying mist and some stray leaves in the night air. It doesn't make my journey up the three acres of the Reinardts' backyard any easier. The ground is hard, but still damp from today's rain. My feet keep slipping on the blanket of wet leaves. I silently curse the Midwestern weather, the Indian summer that provides us these leaves that should have disappeared weeks ago, the abrupt plummet of the temperature this week. I feel the near-freezing mist on my cheeks, which are about the only parts of my body exposed to the elements. But even as I trudge up the hill, focused on the groundboth to avoid the wind and to watch my stepI sense that something is out of place. The typical leap of my heart when I make it into the clearing, the dreamy sensation as I approach the housenone of this fills me now. Something is different.
I read just the wool scarf, wrapped tightly around my face and irritating my skin to no end. Back before I crossed the stream, I was forced to tie it in a knot behind my head, or else it would fly off. Every few steps now, I stop to pull it back over my nose.
I press on, with my head down and eyes open in slants; no angle is safe from the relentless, swirling wind. My hands have curled into fists to keep warm, leaving the finger holes of my gloves empty.
I make it up the hill to within about thirty yards of the old Victorian house. It's been, what, sixteen years since high school, and it feels more like thirty to my legs. I catch my breath next to my favorite oak tree, whose naked branches wave mercilessly from side to side in this wind.
The estate of Dr. Derrick Reinardt and his wife, Rachel, rests triumphantly on top of a small hill in the suburb of Highland Woods. Your basic spread in this north-shore bedroom community: sprawling acreage in the back with no front yard to speak of, a fairly unassuming exterior masking the ornate decor within. This is the upper-class side of the suburbnot mega-rich family money but working-class wealth, CEOs, doctors, personal-injury lawyers, a former governorand the houses in this neighborhood remind me of tiny fiefdoms, wide plots bordered by trees and shrubbery that serve more to ensure privacy than to impress. This is not a bad thing, mind you; there is no way that a neighbor could see me back here.
The Reinardts have a long, wooden back patio with a surprisingly simple array of wood furniture and a gas barbecue grill that is covered this time of the year with a thick gray tarp. The den is in the back of the house by the patio, separated by a large sliding glass door with a silk curtain that
The curtain is open.
Wait. Today's Thursday, right? Yeah, of course it is. Am I late? Could she be done already?
I furiously pull back my coat sleeve to look at my watch, which is no small chore wearing these gloves. No. No. I be late.
No. The fluorescent numbers read 9:34. As usual, I'm way early. Maybe she hasn't set up yet. Butthat doesn't make sense, either. She usually has everything ready well before she starts. She knows I get here early, likes the fact that I'm waiting with anticipation. No, the curtain should definitely be closed.
I stand around for a couple of minutes, looking over the house, seeing nothing, no sign of Rachel. Tonight the sky offers no light; the warm-weather insects do not provide their creaks and calls. The fury of the wind mutes all sound, leaving me to a silent film with not much for video, either.
Maybe she just got a late start, is all. Maybe she'll come down soon. I yank my scarf down just in time to sneeze into my gloves. Then I sneeze again. I wipe my hands on the tree.
&'grave;This is ridiculous,'' I say to no one, though this is really not the most appropriate word to describe me at this moment, a grown man sneaking around outside a married woman's house. Pathetic. Depraved. Perverted. All of the above?
I consider leaving. It can't be more than twenty degrees out here, well below zero with the windchill. God, the wind is whipping up something awful.
&'grave;Story of my life,'' I mumble, again to an audience of no one. All dressed up and nowhere to go.
My mind drifts from my aborted fantasy show to work tomorrow. I have to get in early anyway, get ready for the presentation. It's probably just as well. Time to turn back, no more jollies, adult responsibility time. But still, my feet remain planted. I think of Rachel's words, almost two weeks ago to the day. I had mentioned her husband in an offhanded way, an innocuous comment, I don't even recall what. Her outburst of tears, the contortion of her face, her eyes squeezed shut.
&'grave;Tell me, Rachel,'' I said.
She shook her head. &'grave;No,'' she whispered.
I sat up on an elbow on the bed, moved the wisps of bangs from her forehead. &'grave;Tell me, sweetie. Tell me what's going on.''
Her sobbing subsided momentarily. She swallowed hard. &'grave;If he ever knew I told some''
&'grave;Oh, honey. He'll never know. You think I'm gonna tell him?'' I actually laughed as I said that. Then I took her hand in mine. &'grave;Told someone about what?''
The lights are on upstairs. I look up at the windows. No silhouettes. No sign of life.
&'grave;Sometimes,'' she started. &'grave;Sometimes he'' Her eyes closed, her mouth turned in a frown.
&'grave;Rach, sweetie, it's me. Tell me about it.''
She let out a sigh. She had settled on it now. She would tell me. Her eyes opened into mine.
I look back down into the den, the only room I can see into. Nothing. Nada. The staircase that leads to the bottom floor winds around at the last two stairs and ends at the cream tiled hallway, which leads past the living room into the den. From my view, I can see those last two stairs, the hallway, and the den. On the right side of the den is a white, deliciously soft couch. At the back end of the den, opposite the sliding glass door, is the bar, lined with bottles of liquor, oak cabinets underneath.
I do another once-over around the house. Not a creature is stirring.
&'grave;It's only sometimes,'' she said, apologizing for her husband. &'grave;Only when he drinks.''
&'grave;Okay,'' I said quietly, &'grave;it's only sometimes.'' I brought a hand to her face, then thought the gesture inappropriate. She needed space, time.
She sighed again, her body letting out a tremble.
&'grave;He hits me, Marty,'' she whispered. &'grave;My husband beats me.''
Still nothing upstairs. It's 9:37. My anxieties getting the better of me, images running wild in my mind, but the truth is, no one's home. She's probably at dinner with him or something. Regardless, the regularly scheduled programming will not be seen tonight, and all I'm gonna have to show for it is hypothermia and a bruised ego. Time to cut my losses. I look back down the hill at the woods that form the name of our town, Highland Woods. The entire suburb has built up around this miniforest, which has made my path to and from the Reinardts' house these many days a conveniently clandestine one. Over the stream and through the woods. To grandmother's house we go. I swear, that stupid song comes into my head every time I make this trip.
I looked over my beautiful Rachel, her neck, her shoulders, her face.
She sensed what I was doing. &'grave;No,'' she said flatly. Her face pale, void of any expression, she lifted herself from the bed and turned, adjusting herself so she sat with her back to me.
Before she had settled I saw them. I brought a trembling hand to her back but didn't make contact. Three, four, five lacerations, long spindly scars forming a gruesome road map down the center of her back. I remembered then her wincing while we had made love earlier, as I sank my fingers into her back.
Guilt was the first thing that I felt. How had I not noticed these before? How long had this gone on, and I hadn't noticed?
I brought my arms around her, pulling her backward against my chest, my face buried in her neck.
&'grave;He uses his belt,'' she said with no inflection. &'grave;But never my face. He's too smart for that. He even keeps it below the neckline. Scars you can never see.''
I look back at the den again. I stuff my hands into my jacket pockets and stomp my feet in a feeble attempt to keep warm. I fix on the staircase in the hallway, my eyes tearing from the wind.
I jump at the sight of her, my one and only, my beautiful Rachel, the jet-black hair to her shoulders, the shapely outline, even from a distance the shiny amber eyes. My hand leaves my pocket just in time to grab the tree to keep my balance. She must have been in the living room, not upstairs. Or did I miss her coming down the stairs?
I can't make out her features very well; I'm too far away to see the expression on her face. She's wearing a whitish blouse and blue slacks, not her ordinary attire for the occasionshe usually opts for a negligee, sometimes surprises me with an outfit like a schoolgirl skirt and knee-high socks. But tonight, as she walks along the tiled hallway in a semicrouch, almost tiptoeing yet moving with some urgency, Rachel is anything but provocative, her whole body wearing an obvious pain, maybe fear.
Scars you can never see.
She reaches the den, still crouching sheepishly, one hand tucked under her shirt. She walks to the bar. Her back is to me as she reaches the counter, a deep mahogany brown. She keeps looking up at the ceiling, probably listening for her husband upstairs? At the bar, she raises a trembling hand to the ice bucket. She removes a couple of cubes but knocks the tumbler sideways, the ice spilling onto the bar and floor.
Her head turns upward again.
It's only when he drinks.
She sets the glass upright, stuffs some more ice into it, and reaches for a bottle of liquor. She fills the glass and tries to gather the spilled ice. But her hand is shaking so hard that she can barely put the cubes back into the container.
The other hand remains tucked under her shirt.
She looks up again, but this time not straight at the ceiling. This time, she looks more toward the staircase in the hallway. Her hands are still now.
A clumsy, uncertain foot stomps onto that last stair, then into the hallway. Dr. Reinardt is wearing an oxford shirt, haphazardly tucked into his pants, with the sleeves rolled up. His movements are slow and awkward. He stops at one point in the hallway and reaches out to the wall to steady himself.
The doctor can't see Rachel yet; she is still by the bar, against the front wall of the den. But now Rachel has placed the drink on the bar; she is reaching behind the bottles of booze that line the back of the countertop. She pulls the bottles back and reaches out with her other hand. I catch a glimpse of shiny steel as she raises the object over and behind the bottles.
I shift and feel the wood from the Reinardts' deck. I'm only about twenty feet from the glass door now. The deck is raised three steps off the grass, leaving me the perfect amount of space to crouch down from their view. I reach up to the deck for balance and realize that my hands, like Rachel's, are trembling.
The outside porch light is off, so they can't see me unless they're looking. And as Dr. Reinardt enters the den, he is not looking out the glass door.
He stops and just stares at Rachel. She reaches for the glass on the bar, but the doctor, without moving, says something to her that makes her put her hands at her side. He says nothing more, just glares at her.
Rachel fidgets. She brushes back a strand of hair from her face, then puts her hands at her side again. She's talking to him, her head moving compliantly, but he doesn't respond. Finally, she picks up the glass and offers it to her husband. When he doesn't take it, she sets it down on the bar near him. The doctor lashes out with his right hand, knocking the glass and its golden contents to the carpet. Rachel instinctively steps back, says something in apology, then crouches down to retrieve the glass and ice. She is facing me now. For the first time, I see her face. I can make out cuts and bruises on her cheeks.
Scars you can see.
Rachel stands now, turning away from me and toward her husband. Her hands raise in compromise; she's trying to calm him.
The doctor staggers toward his wife, who holds her ground. They are face-to-face now. As slow as he's moving, his right hand rises in a flash, fist half closed. Rachel's head whips to the right, her hair and arms flying wildly, her knees buckling as she falls backward to the carpet. She lands awkwardly on an elbow, then rolls over so she's facing the carpet. The doctor nods approvingly, that's-what-ya-get, as Rachel brings a hand to the developing bruise below her eye.
Rachel slowly makes it to her feet again, her hand returning to her cheek, her entire body trembling.
&'grave;I know how it'll end,'' she told me only a few days ago. &'grave;He told me how.''
Dr. Reinardt approaches her. He grabs her by both arms, shaking her. Rachel breaks a hand free and swings it lifelessly toward his face.
I am on the deck now, crouched down like a catcher, as I watch this silent horror movie, no sound but the thump-
thump, thump of my pulse. The only thing separating me from the sliding glass door is the wooden bench and the picnic table.
&'grave;Tell me how, Rach.''
Dr. Reinardt reasserts his grip on Rachel. He pulls down on her, forcing her to the carpet in a vise grip. Once on the floor, he tears at her blouse.
&'grave;He's going to rape me first. He said he'll rape me then kill me.''
And then, as I grip the wooden bench and slowly rise, it is suddenly clear to me. And something like calm sweeps over me, a certain focus through the panic. Because now I know how this story will end.
Reprinted from Line of Vision by David Ellis by permission of Berkley, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 2002, David Ellis. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Excerpted from "Line of Vision"
Copyright © 2002 David Ellis.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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What People are Saying About This
What a wicked delight! ...an absolutely terrific legal thriller. The story grabs, shakes, twists, and won't let you go...deeply satisfying....
Perri O'Shaughnessy, author of Move to Strike
A well-written, surprising, completely original gem. The best suspense novel I've read in a while.
James Patterson, author of Roses are Red
A spellbinding legal drama-sexy, seductive and full of surprises-which features a fascinating, if unreliable protagonist.
William Berhardt, author of Justice series and Murder One
This novel starts at fever pitch and never lets up...a different, jaw-dropping direction. A terrific debut.
J.F. Freedman, author of Above the Law and Against the Wind
David Ellis won't you go, from the first tantalizing page to the final double-twist...get ready to dangle from the precipice.
Barbara Parker, author of Suspicion of Malice
"The best suspense novel I've read in a while...surprising." James Patterson
"Wicked...A twisty spellbinding story." Publishers Weekly
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Desperate for a good mystery, I ordered this old one because I like David Ellis. Just great. I really don't care for the reviews that tell the whole story.
I was lucky to go back looking for Edgar Award winning debut authors or I might never have come across David Ellis. This is about as compelling a mystery/thriller can be that ends up in the courtroom. And to Ellis' credit he knows what goes on in the courtroom so the drama is not only well told and taut but authentic. The characters are well developed and the plot is tight and given to us by someone who knows how to capture a reader by telling a first rate story. So what is it? A murder mystery that is somewhat disguised as an insider's view of the preparation of a murder trial from the defense side where just like the prosecution, winning at any cost is paramount. Damn ethics, facts, law or justice. Most whodunnits become an evidence collecting journey with all kinds of road forks meant to throw the reader off until the true culprit is unveiled. Ellis takes a novel approach giving us bachelor Marty Kalish, a law school dropout, successful investment banker and somewhat of a social misfit with the ladies. Poor Marty falls for a married high class socialite and soon ends up a willing confessor to the murder of the cardiac surgeon who was married to and abusing the object of his affections. But Marty is so likeable and the good doctor so evil that we are drawn into this story merely to see whether our tragic main character can successfully defend himself against dedicated and thorough prosecutors with the aid of an highly experienced team of criminal defense attorneys. But the story leads to new heights, suspense and ultimately the unexpected and unforeseen twists and turns that make this book soar above its mediocre counterparts we are so often disappointed with in this genre. Looking forward to reading more of this author's works.
The is the second book I've read by Ellis- the first being Eye of the Beholder. I enjoyed this book very much and completed it in 2 days (stayed up to 2:30 am to find out the ending). However, I would say that I enjoyed Eye of the Beholder even more!
I am an avid courtroom thriller reader if it's done by the right author, like John Grisham. I forget how I stumbled upon this author, but when I saw James Pattersons''great author also' stamp of approval, I had to check him out. I was not disappointed. I stayed up countless hours reading this book, fascinated by the twists and turns and the humor was very much on point with keeping the story intriguing. As I read it I couldn't wait for it to get to the end, yet I dreaded it all the same, because I wanted the story to continue so badly. This is the first time in a while where I've read an author I hadn't heard about first, and was genuinely surprised and eagerly awaiting their next book. I've reread this book many times since... Kudos to David Ellis
EXCELLENT!!!! If you enjoy legal thrillers then dont miss this one. All I can say is- read it! Just finished reading it and am literally at a loss for words to describe how pleased I am. Previously read Life Sentence by this author and enjoyed it so set out to read some of his other work and boy did I find a treasure.
I could not put this back down!
This book was surprisingly endearing. The narrator was amazingly easy to identify with and this book was a whirlwind of emotions. I could not put it down.
i have read many legal stories as it is one of my favorite types of fiction books but I have never read one that describes the entire story through the eyes of the defendant. Mostly the lawyers are the central characters and to add to its uniqueness the reader is never sure if the defendant is being honest with himself or has such a crush on the victims wife that he is delusional. The dialogue is brilliant, the depiction of the trial is equal to the best of The Practise or Law and Order and the reader will forget all responsibilities and world problems while he is absorbed in this compelling book. I cannot wait to read his next book.
Let's hope we hear more from David Ellis, who is indeed supposed to be working on his next novel, according to the book jacket. Line of Vision unfolds at a breathtaking pace, taking more twists and unexpected turns than a Busch Gardens thrill ride. An intriguing and complex young man tells the story of his involvement in a murder (and is he innocent or not? -- we are kept in suspense) and the subsequent trial. Obsessive love, lies, betrayal, and deception are the order of the day here, and keep the story galloping along relentlessly. This book was VERY hard to put down.
In Highland Woods, investment banker Marty Kalish is having an affair with Rachel Reinardt, wife of renowned cardiologist and philanthropist Derrick. She tells Marty that her spouse beats her and shows him her scars. Mart hates Derrick for having what he wants and abusing her. Marty goes to Rachel¿s house expecting quality time with his beloved, but instead sees Derrick hitting her. Enraged, he picks up a bench and smashes through the glass patio door. Marty kills Derrick, but has the foresight to bury the body and clean up any evidence that points to him in spite of the freezing temperatures. Having law school experience, he knows that ¿every criminal makes a mistake¿. He tries desperately to act normal at work and among friends. Meanwhile, police detectives Cummings and Nicholaos begin to look at whether Rachel had an affair that led to her spouse¿s disappearance and probable death. Though a February release, it will be hard to imagine any legal thriller being better than LINE OF VISION. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action although the tale is told in the first person by Marty. This not only provides the audience with a radically different perspective on how just our legal system truly is; it furnishes an incredible insight into Marty. David Ellis has written an incredible tour-de-force that is must reading for sub-genre fans as a fresh exciting new voice has raised the quality level of this genre. Harriet Klausner