Love Kills (Nan Vining Series #4)

Love Kills (Nan Vining Series #4)

by Dianne Emley

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345499554
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/25/2010
Series: Nan Vining Series , #4
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 1,210,002
Product dimensions: 4.28(w) x 6.94(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Dianne Emley is the bestselling author of The Night Visitor and the Nan Vining series: The First Cut, Cut to the Quick, The Deepest Cut, and Love Kills. A Los Angeles native, she lives in the Central California wine country with her husband, Charlie.

Read an Excerpt

Love Kills

A Novel
By Dianne Emley

Ballantine Books

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Emley
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780345499554

Vince Madrigal knew all about cause and effect. Many times he’d delivered the spark, then stood back to watch the fireworks with the satisfaction stemming from a job well done. He loved his work. He’d made more enemies than friends, but hate paid better than love. Several big Hollywood names would enjoy seeing him dead. The way Madrigal saw it, if those people hadn’t been doing nasty stuff that they shouldn’t have, they wouldn’t have dirty laundry to go through. In his line of work, secrets were money in the bank. A-list secrets had put his kids through private schools, paid a couple of alimonies, and footed a handsome lifestyle. He’d earned his moniker: “P.I. to the Stars.”

 Both secrets and silence were commodities. This job’s client understood that ugly fact and had taken the bad news well, knowing that fame had its privileges and costs. After negotiations on that unpleasant matter, they’d quickly moved on to the next order of business: the client needing more of the rare items that Madrigal could procure. It had all been very civilized— too civilized, Madrigal thought. 

It was the wee hours of the morning and raining buckets as he drove Colorado Boulevard and entered the Northeast L.A. neighborhood of Ea gle Rock. 

What idiot said it never rained in California? 

As the windshield wipers slapped the downpour, he looked at the lonely, shiny streets of the worn- out neighborhood. He was having a dark night of the soul. He was not an introspective person, and the impulse took him unawares, like a baseball bat to the skull. It wasn’t unusual for this client to arrange meetings in out- of- theway places to elude the paparazzi, but this early- morning rendezvous in East Jesus was making Madrigal uneasy. Rather than listening to his gut, though, he anticipated the “somthin’ somthin’ ” he’d been promised. 

“I know what you like,” the client had said with a snigger. 

Madrigal gave his stock response, “You know what I always say, ‘Faster horses, older whiskey, and younger women.’ ” And they’d laughed like old friends who well understood each other. 

He wheeled his Midas gold Ford F-150 pickup through the deserted streets. The truck was the same color as his pristine 1975 Cadillac Eldorado in his garage at home— the car Elvis had given him. One of the few tall tales about him that happened to be true. Madrigal had done security work and a bit more for the King back in the day. Spotting a road sign that announced that he was driving historic Route 66 prompted him to begin singing tunelessly to the old song about getting your kicks. He couldn’t remember all the cities in the lyrics, so he improvised, his baritone scoured by de cades of cigarettes and booze. 

“Barstow, Nipomo, San Bernardino . . .” 

He saw the motel’s neon sign: HiWay Haven. Some of the letters were sputtering. Of course, he thought. The dump came into view and then blurred as the wipers batted the rain. Attached above the original neon sign was a 1980s- era back lit plastic one that boasted: “Free Cable TV.” 

“Don’t forget Winona, by way of Pomona.” 

The truck idled in the deserted street as he checked out the place. The single- story motel had twenty room flanking a buckled asphalt parking lot. Three cars were parked there: a battered Toyota 4Runner with Mexican plates, a Nissan Maxima with California plates, and a car he recognized: a new yellow Volkswagen Beetle. The windows in all the other rooms and in the office near the driveway were dark, but a light shone dimly through a crack in the closed drapes in the room near where the Beetle was parked. 

“Trendi, my love.” Madrigal smiled. He’d coveted the willowy blonde, even though he thought the flowery tattoos across her shoulders and bosom were an insult to her beautiful skin. Was she his somthin’ somthin’? This was a treat. 

Thinking about her gave him a rise in his Wranglers. Madrigal turned into the driveway and drove past the motel office. Cardboard Easter bunnies and Easter eggs were taped inside its windows, reminding Madrigal that it was Easter morning. He reflected on his childhood in San Antonio, Texas. His mother used to wake him and his siblings before dawn to dress for the sunrise ser vice at Victory Baptist Church. 

He improvised a hymn. “Hearts to heaven and voices tuneless . . . Alleluia!” 

Madrigal parked beside the Volkswagen in front of room seven. He took out the key his client had mailed. The plastic diamond- shaped fob had “7” stamped on it in gold paint. Seven was his lucky number. 

He struggled into his sport coat with its Western- style suede trim and piping. He looked thinner with it on. He worked to keep himself fit, but a belly, though not as big as the one his dad had sported in his later years, persisted in hanging over his silver belt buckle, a large oval with USMC in raised letters. 

Still humming, he took a comb from his jacket pocket and ran it through his reddish- brown hair and his walrus mustache in the visor mirror. He straightened his aviator- style glasses and put on his black suede Resistol cowboy hat, also his trademarks, as were his Tony Lama ostrich boots. He guarded his image as carefully as a corporate giant protected its brands. 

Into his jacket pocket went the flask of Balvenie scotch he’d brought from home. He grabbed the items he was delivering and ran through the rain, robustly singing made- up lyrics, “All along Route Sixty- six . . .” 

Number 7’s door was locked. One swift kick would have been sufficient to bust it open, but he used the key. “Ahhh . . . leee . . . luiiiaaa!” 

Smelling of disinfectant and stale cigarette smoke, the darkened room’s furnishings were cheap pressboard, but everything looked cleaner than he’d expected— except for a stain on the carpet the size and shape of a watermelon. A dim light came from the bathroom, where the door was half- closed. The rest of the lights were off. The room was cold. 

“Well, hello, Trendi.” 

She sat on the edge of the bed, holding a black cape closed over her torso with two pale hands. The cape was draped open over her bare legs up to her thighs. The hood was pulled over her hair. Her white face looked like a bright moon against the black fabric. Her legs were dropped open. He’d investigate further in a minute, but she appeared to be nude. That would explain why her teeth were chattering, but her face was shiny with perspiration. She slid her eyes sideways to look at him and said nothing. It was hard to tell for sure in the nearly dark room, but her pupils looked dilated. 

Higher than a kite,
Madrigal thought. So much for the cocaine and X he’d brought. 

He set the things his client wanted on a table beneath a window near the door. Madrigal never asked questions. He’d just opened his Rolodex— he still used one— made a few calls, and gotten the stuff: cremated human remains and a box of Cuban cigars. He’d gotten a box of cigars for himself, while he was at it. The remains were sealed inside a gallon- sized Baggie. He’d been told to procure the remains of a lawyer, overcomplicating matters, he’d thought. He’d lie if asked. They were human, anyway. While he was locking the door, he heard Trendi say something. 


“Excuse me, honey?” 

Her eyes bored into him. She squeezed the cape so tightly that her hands looked translucent. 

She moved her eyes to focus on his hat. “That’s a demon’s hat,” she said. “It is a demon’s hat.” Her speech was clear, but she labored to put the words together. “It can be any kind of hat you want, doll.” 

Still standing near the door, he took the flask from his pocket and set it on the table. The room was quiet except for the pounding rain on the thin roof. He sniffed the air. There was the smell of wet wool from her cape but beneath that and the disinfectant was an earthy odor he knew only too well: blood. 

The girl’s teeth were chattering wildly and her hands were shaking as she held the cape closed. Then blood dripped from the hem onto her bare foot and began to ooze between her fingers. 

He pulled open the cape. 

She didn’t resist. He wondered if she’d forgotten he was there. She dropped her hands and fell back onto the bed. She was nude, a knife embedded in her belly. Madrigal recognized the WWII- era KA- BAR knife he kept beneath the seat of his truck. 

She mumbled incoherently. Her skin was smeared with blood. 

He reached for the Smith & Wesson Chiefs Special that he always carried in a pancake holster. 

The bathroom door was flung open. “Drop it, Vince.” He recognized the voice. Also familiar was the gun pointed his way: Vince usually kept it in his Cadillac’s glove compartment. “Did you do this?” he asked, gesturing at poor Trendi. 

“No, Vince. You did.” 

“So this is how it ends.” A violent death was no big surprise. It was astonishing that it hadn’t happened sooner. Of course, he would have chosen a classier joint, but all in all, it was a fitting send- off. 


Excerpted from Love Kills by Dianne Emley Copyright © 2010 by Dianne Emley. Excerpted by permission.
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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Love Kills 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read almost all of Emley's books and enjoyed them all. A lot of suspense for a good adult read.
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DanaJenn More than 1 year ago
Wonderful, unique, and believable characters. Great writing. A roller-coaster plot that the author spins to a very satisfying conclusion with some jaw-dropping twists along the way. Wry social commentary. Family drama. All sprinkled with some LOL dark humor. Simply a great and very fun read. If you're new to Dianne Emley's detective Nan Vining mystery/thrillers, you can jump in with this book, the fourth in the series. Then you'll want to read the first three. Other commenters have posted that Dianne Emley just keeps getting better. I whole heartedly agree!
MaggieKVA More than 1 year ago
Dianne Emley just keeps getting better and better---Love Kills is her best yet! She provides lots of twists, turns, and surprises not only for the reader but for the characters as well. The Pasadena setting is a favorite of mine, having lived in the City of Angels for many years. I'm eagerly awaiting Nan Vining's next adventure.
DrA More than 1 year ago
"Another winner in a great series. Love Kills is the fourth in Dianne Emley's detective Nan Vining series, but readers new to the series can jump in with this book and not feel they've missed out. As in her prior Nan Vining books, Emley has combined suspense, family dramas, dark humor, and social commentary into a page-turning mix that is impossible to put down. All her books have surprising twists, but this one in particular took turns that I never saw coming! A very enjoyable read. Highly recommened."
DAinNY1 More than 1 year ago
This was another great book featuring Nan Vining. When Nan's mother's friend is found in a pool, Nan leads the investigation. This was a thrilling ride with so many stops that I didn't want to get off. I can't wait to read the next book in this gripping series.
AllPurposeMonkey More than 1 year ago
Pasadena Police Department Homicide Detective Nan Vining most definitely knows about the dark side. Two years prior to the events in Love Kills she was attacked by a serial killer in a vicious knife assault that left her scarred both physically and psychologically. While her physical wounds mended on their own over time, it took Nan going to a very dark place psychologically before she emerged feeling confident and free again, which is where we find her at the start of Love Kills, the fourth book in author Dianne Emley's Nan Vining series. And Nan's going to need every ounce of her rediscovered confidence to deal with the three death investigations that cross her path in Love Kills, as not only do they all appear to be linked to each other, but also to someone close to Nan. When Nan and her partner, Detective Jim Kissick, are called to the site of a Pasadena socialite's drowning, Nan is startled to realize that she recognizes the victim, Catherine "Tink" Engleford, a longtime friend of her mother, Patsy. Nan's even more startled when she goes to Patsy's apartment to inform her of Tink's death only to find two Los Angeles detectives already present and questioning Patsy... about two completely different deaths. It turns out that Patsy's most recent boyfriend, a sleazy private investigator to the stars, was found shot to death in a motel room alongside a young woman who had been stabbed to death. Complicating matters even further, charismatic self-help guru to the stars Georgia Berryhill appears to have links to all of the victims, as well as to Patsy. Given that Berryhill's Malibu Canyon compound is frequented by a virtual who's who of the rich and famous, none of whom welcome a police investigation with open arms, Nan has an uphill battle on her hands to get to the bottom of things. As with all previous entries in the series, Emley has given Nan and her partner a wonderfully complex puzzle to solve, one that even the most savvy reader of mysteries will be hard pressed to get out in front of. Emley has also served up a healthy dose of black humor in addition to the mystery, as Berryhill and her followers are obviously a wickedly funny poke at the Hollywood set and their fascination with flavor of the month gurus and trends. Emley's descriptions of Pasadena and Malibu are picture perfect, and the locales are a refreshing change of pace from the numerous detective series set in Los Angeles proper. Emley also continues to masterfully bring Nan to life in a way that rings true to the delicate dance a single mother engages in on a daily basis to balance job and family. She's a competent, take charge detective, yet very realistically can't quite seem to wrap her arms around her hectic personal life: a teenage daughter who's starting to rebel; a wonderfully supportive grandmother, who unfortunately seems to be heading into Alzheimer's; an on again, off again romance with her partner (on again at the moment); and, of course, her well intentioned but often flighty mother Patsy, who presents a particularly unique challenge in Love Kills. Old friends of the series will find that Nan's closure with serial killer T.B. Mann has lifted a great burden from her and allowed her to begin rediscovering life without that constant shadow looming. In that regard, Love Kills also presents a unique opportunity for those new to the series to jump in and hit the ground running without feeling as though they've missed something.
JacquelynB More than 1 year ago
Great book. Once I stared reading ,I just couldn't stop. It was exciting to turn the page and find out what was happening next. Dianne Emley did it again with this 4th book of Det. Nan Vining series.