When she’s called to the murder scene, the last thing San Francisco Homicide detective Valerie Hart is expecting is for Katherine Glass to walk back into her life. Six years earlier, revulsion and fascination had gripped the nation in equal measure, as beautiful, intelligent, charming—and utterly evil—Katherine Glass had been convicted on six counts of Murder One. But the freshly-mutilated corpse in the ground-floor apartment bears all the hallmarks of Katherine’s victims. And then there’s the note, with its chilling implications. Addressed to Valerie.
To stop the slaughter, Valerie has no choice. She must ask Katherine Glass to help her decipher the killer’s twisted message. But that means re-entering the pitch-black labyrinth that is Katherine’s mind, and this time Valerie isn’t so sure which one of them will survive.
About the Author
Saul Black is a pseudonym for Glen Duncan, the author of By Blood We Live, I, Lucifer, and many other books. He was chosen by both Arena and The Times Literary Supplement (London) as one of Britain's best young novelists. He lives in London.
Read an Excerpt
"This is the thing you've been dreading," Nick Blaskovitch called from the locker room showers at the Bay Club. "The great shift in the balance of power. Like all dreaded things it's probably come as a relief. It's okay to cry, by the way."
"Look, I had an off day," Eugene Trent replied from the bench, where he sat in his white Calvins, drying his toes. Nick had just beaten him at squash for the first time since they'd begun playing, eighteen months ago.
"I'm exhausted from screwing all night," Eugene said. "Not a problem you have, obviously — which is the real story here, by the way. Today was just you channeling your jealousy and rage. That gave you an edge against a sex-weakened opponent, but you're deluded if you think it was anything more than a glitch. In fact it was a cruel glimpse of something you'll never experience again."
"It was so obviously psychological," Nick said. "I could feel it in you: you've exhausted your repertoire. You know you're not going to get any better. Whereas I" — he shut off the water and reached for his towel — "am still expanding mine. I am still ... ascending."
"Don't talk to me about repertoire," Eugene said. "This girl last night was twenty-seven, and she stuck her finger in her ass. Her ass, mind you, not mine. I'm just saying: these things take their toll."
Their postmatch ritual was two beers apiece in the club bar. After the depletions of the gladiatorial squash court, two was enough to give Nick a pleasant buzz. More than two and he wouldn't be able to drive home.
"Seriously," Eugene said, "these girls today ... I don't know what's happened. I mean, okay, she's got thirteen years on me, and what the fuck do I know, et cetera, but it's like a whole porn generation thing. I don't like it. I want to be the corrupting influence, you know? I want to talk a girl into putting her finger in her ass. I'm a traditionalist. In fact, when it comes to filth, I'm a romantic."
This, too, was ritualized, Eugene's long-suffering satyr to Nick's settled monogamist. Nick and Valerie had been together (second time around) for just over two years, ever since he'd come back to San Francisco and the department's computer forensics unit.
"I know you think I want what you've got," Nick said. "But the truth is you have to think that, because you want what I've got."
"Eventually," Eugene said. "Of course, eventually. But not now. Now I'm in my prime. It's a sin against masculinity to waste your prime. Be honest: What are you guys down to now? Once a week? Twice a month?"
"Just pick a number that makes you feel better about dying old and alone."
"What's so terrible about dying old and alone? I'll get a dog. I'll get a maid. I can imagine a quite beautiful relationship with a maid. Like Philip Roth but with tenderness."
It was an odd friendship between them, Nick thought, formed from the sort of accident you imagined the hyperscheduled twenty-first century no longer had to offer. Nick's game was racquetball, and his usual opponent was Valerie's partner, Detective Will Fraser. But five minutes into a game a year and a half ago Will had pulled a calf muscle, and they'd had to retire to the bar. Eugene, whom they recognized as a fellow regular, had been stood up by his squash opponent and, as he had a spare racquet, had asked Nick if he felt like giving it a try. Since then, they'd been playing every two or three weeks. Eugene was one of those nuts who felt he had to balance his Caligulan excesses with a superhuman fitness regimen. The early games had seen Nick struggling to get through without having a nosebleed or throwing up, but his natural talent for racquet sports (and what Eugene referred to as his "devious mongrel style") had, over time, closed the gap between them. Hence today's milestone victory. The loser in all this was Will Fraser. The squash had so improved Nick's racquetball that Will hadn't won a game in months. Meanwhile Nick was in the best physical shape of his life. Valerie, running her hands over his lean muscles, had joked: "Are you sure this is just the squash? I mean, you're not working up to telling me you're gay, right?"
"I assume you're seeing her again?" Nick said to Eugene. "She sounds perfect for you."
"That's what I thought," Eugene said. "But this morning she was up and dressed while I was still in fucking REM sleep. If I hadn't heard the door open she'd have been out of there without me knowing. As it was, I'm like, hey, what's the rush? Come back to bed. I know a great place for breakfast. She looked at me like I was retarded."
"Maybe she sensed your confusion when she stuck her finger in her ass?"
"Don't joke about it. I was hurt. I thought there was a real connection. We fell asleep with our arms around each other, for Christ's sake. I gave her a foot massage."
Nick smiled. He took these tales of sexual conquest with a pinch of salt, but this time Eugene looked genuinely wounded.
"You know what she said to me?" Eugene said, his shoulders slumped. "She said: 'You're sweet.' Sweet! She didn't even leave her number. I mean, she could've left me a fake number at least. That's what a civilized person would do."
"What's it like, knowing you've been a sexual disappointment?"
"It's not easy. I'm not used to it. After she'd gone, I sat down in the shower. You don't sit down in the shower unless you're really upset."
They walked out to the parking lot together. It was a warm bright day, with a breeze bringing the fresh salt smell of the bay. Nick rarely took the risk of noticing his own happiness but occasionally a flash got through. He felt it now, via the sunlit cars and the rough scent of the ocean and his body's honest exhaustion and the gentle influence of the beer. These things had power again, now that he had Valerie, now that he had (this was the flash that shocked him with a sort of delighted absurdity) love.
"So what have you guys got planned for the weekend?" Eugene said. "No, wait, let me guess: You're going to watch TV together. Pair up the odd socks. Bleach the toilet."
"Actually, we're going upstate," Nick said. "Wineries and a great little hotel in Calistoga. Then the beach."
"What, cops get weekends off now?"
"Once every decade."
"This is what I'm paying my taxes for? Who's going to catch all the murderers while your lady's having her mimosas on the beach?"
"What can I tell you? Lock your windows and doors."
They made a loose date to play again in a couple of weeks, then headed to their vehicles.
"Hey," Nick called over his shoulder.
Eugene stopped. "What?"
"Good luck at the STD clinic."
Eugene opened his mouth for a reply but was distracted by a stunning red-haired girl emerging from a bottle-green Jaguar convertible. Sunlight glowed on her bare legs and shoulders. Eugene looked at Nick: See? All this is still available to me.
Nick, shaking his head, turned and walked away. Wineries and a great little hotel in Calistoga. Then the beach. What he hadn't added was: Oh yeah, and I'm going to ask Valerie to marry me. Not because he dreaded Eugene's astonishment (in fact he was looking forward to it, to seeing Eugene's face caught between outrage and envy; he would break the news next game, just as Eugene released the ball to serve) but because it offended something in him to speak of it to anyone. He hadn't spoken of it to anyone. He'd simply been walking around for a weird indeterminate time with the vague feeling that he was going to propose, until, a few weeks ago, the vague feeling had stopped being vague and become the central certainty of his life. It had happened, this epiphany, when he'd been on one of his occasional solitary afternoon hikes in Cascade Canyon, where he used to go with his father as a boy. Love (you had to laugh; he laughed, at himself) simplified aesthetics. He'd found himself wanting elemental things: sky, rock, trees, water. He felt archetypal: a Man who had found his Woman. He knew this idiom was ridiculous, but he was helpless. Whether he liked it or not this was a great benign, almost comical truth into which he had been released, like a horse into a field of delicious grass. He supposed it had been this way for prehistoric people, this primal recognition. To him the necessity of Valerie was a fact like the heat of a flame or the sweetness of honey. It was a wonderful thing to have been confronted by something against which there was no argument, however embarrassed he would be to explain it if someone asked. So he'd spent the day walking, and each time he put one foot in front of the other it confirmed him.
You're going to marry Valerie.
Well, now that you mention it, yes, I believe I am.
Then get a ring, dumbass.
So he had. It had taken a while. A farcical while, in fact. Valerie wore only one ring (not on her wedding finger), which was one of a pair her parents had had made for her and her older sister, Cassie, and presented to each of them when they'd turned eighteen. She wore only this one ring (silver and amethyst), but she had a dozen or more in the jewelry box on her dresser. Hey, how come you never wear any of these? He'd waited until they were both slightly drunk, then got her to try them on, one by one. He took note of the ring that fit her wedding finger and used it to size the Actual Ring a few days later. With which he was going to present her (probably not down on one knee, which would make her think he'd lost his mind, but there was no telling what his life would spring on him at the last minute) this weekend at the Calistoga bed-and-breakfast just before bed. Oddly, he liked the idea of proposing to her while she was standing, naked, brushing her teeth. He wanted to watch her face reacting in the semi-fogged mirror. He liked the thought of her, dark eyes wide and mouth foamy with toothpaste, decoding what he'd just said, letting it sink in, spitting out toothpaste, then saying: yes. He knew she would say yes. They'd never discussed marriage. But there it was: he would ask her and she would say yes. It wasn't arrogance on his part. It was just pure revealed knowledge.
He started the car, put on his sunglasses, and eased the vehicle out of the lot. He had a couple of hours before Valerie got home, during which he planned to look up possible honeymoon destinations. He didn't care where they went. He only knew that he wanted to see her lying in a hammock drinking an elaborate cocktail, her hands and ankles gleaming with sunscreen. He had these visions, now. They were the tenets of his strange new religion.
The San Francisco Imperial's lobby bar was all but empty. Melody sat alone in a booth, over-alive to the place's details. Windowed afternoon sunlight and a deep-red carpet and a smell of forced cleanliness. A petite blond bargirl in a white shirt and black vest was slicing limes, the bottles behind her like hefty jewels: emerald, ruby, amber, diamond.
It had happened. Melody couldn't say precisely when, but for the first time in her life she wasn't alone. For the first time in her life the mystery that separated her from other people, like a thick layer of invisible fat, had dissolved. Her body had received a sly gift. Now she moved through her days rich with purpose.
She checked the time on her phone: 2:38 P.M. She'd barely touched her Diet Coke, and though her mouth was dry, she took only one more sip before getting to her feet and crossing the lounge to the ladies' room. Adrenaline filled her with the familiar thrilling weakness. Her face was hot and her palms tingled, as if tiny stars were coming out in her skin.
The ladies' room was spotless, pale marble lit by Christmasy halogens. She went into a cubicle and tried to pee. Barely a trickle, but it helped her feel ready. She always wanted to be ready for him, clean, undistracted, the new, maximal version of herself. Pulling her underwear down excited her. She'd gotten a fresh bikini wax yesterday and now between her legs the skin was nude and sensitive.
Trembling, she washed and dried her hands, then carefully refreshed her makeup. She was a dark-haired woman with a round face and eyes the color of espresso. She had a look of both weight and suppleness. In the last few weeks she'd dropped twenty pounds, but she knew she still didn't turn heads in the street.
He'd said to her: I knew from the first moment I saw you. It's in your eyes. I can see these things. I'm never wrong.
She hadn't liked the last bit. I'm never wrong. That meant there had been — or still were — others.
Melody shut the thought down. There was no end to the thoughts she could shut down. He'd said: You've been waiting your whole life for this. And he'd been right, of course. When he looked at her, he saw her. There was only one other person in the world who saw her like that.
She took the elevator, alone, to the eighth floor. The deserted corridor's spongy gold carpet made her wobble in her high heels. With any other guy she'd have needed a booze-buzz. Not with him. With him her sheer untouched self was a deafening excitement that kept taking her to a point from which she felt sure she would pass out, faint, die. But she didn't.
She swallowed. Raised her hand. Knocked.
He opened the door, and at the first sight of him all the dials of herself went up, though only moments before she'd felt her excitement couldn't possibly increase.
He had the curtains closed and the laptop open on the crisply made bed.
"We'll talk in a little while," he said. Then he kissed her. Soft heat encased her. It was as if every atom in the room were with them, a pliable intelligence holding them snugly close to each other. She'd never felt a perfect fit before. Now, with him, she recognized it like a memory from a previous life.
She was wet for his hand, her panties sodden. He led her to the bed and they lay down together. For Melody, everything was simultaneously a warm blur and fizzing with distinct detail. Kissing was a sweet, heavy blindness, a soft darkness filling her.
He rolled her onto her side and slid behind her. He pushed her skirt up and eased her underwear down to her shins. When she reached behind herself her hand met his, unzipping his pants. Her breathing quickened.
For a moment he held the tip of his cock against her cunt, making her wait. She wanted what she wanted. Everything she wanted was the one giant certainty that had taken control of her life so that there was no room — no room — for anything else. Sometimes the word "love" flashed in her, like an explosive drug, but she didn't say it.
"You want to see, don't you?" he said.
The familiar shock of that word. Yes. Everything between them derived from that word. Yes.
He eased into her, sliding one arm under her to pull her tight against him. With his other arm, he reached over her and turned the laptop to face them.
"We're going to have it all," he said. "You know that, don't you?"
Her throat was tight. Her cunt throbbed. She was desperate to make it last and desperate to begin.
His hand hovered over the laptop's keyboard as he moved inside her.
Then he clicked the PLAY button, and the footage began to run, and within seconds Melody entered the state she lived for now, when time dropped away and she forgot herself utterly and chaos and peace were the same and the disease of her past melted away and in the annihilating perfection of hunger and bliss she might as well have been God.
Valerie lay naked on her bed, limbs spread like a starfish, waiting for her history (and indeed the universe) to reassemble itself out of the sweet chaos of her most recent orgasm. Her third since waking. The window, with its curtains still closed, was an ingot of soft orange light.
"Holy fuck," Valerie said quietly.
Nick lay with his face sweat-stuck to her left thigh, his right hand doodling below her navel. He didn't answer, but after a moment moved his head and very gently kissed her between her legs.
It was the Saturday morning of their precious weekend off, which, since Valerie was Homicide, could be aborted at any moment. They were both in terror of her phone. Her phone was a sleeping ogre, a capricious god, a ticking bomb. The longer they stayed put the more they dared it to ring.
"We should get up," Valerie said.
"I know," Nick answered.
Neither of them moved. The plan was Napa Valley wineries in the afternoon, dinner in Calistoga, overnight at a luxury bed-and-breakfast, then Sunday to Gualala, the ocean, the big sky, the soft boom and salt smash of the surf, the quiet drive home at dusk with sun-chastened skin smelling of the beach, the good childhood feeling of spent energy. They grabbed pleasure whenever they could. A consequence of the job. The job of living daily with depravity and death.
"If you keep doing that," Valerie said to him, "you know what'll happen."
Excerpted from "Lovemurder"
Copyright © 2017 Saul Black.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I loved The Killing Lessons, so I couldn't wait for this new Valerie Hart novel. But it feels slapped together, and features too many of the author's worst tendencies without enough of his trademark pin-sharp prose to balance it out. We, and Valerie, deserve better.
This can be read as a stand alone if you come across this book although it’s highly encouraged to read the first one only because it’s just as good! This time around, Valerie doesn’t get pummelled all over the place and you don’t cringe as much when she gets hit by something (whether it’s a bullet or a hit to the head). The plot held up to the same standards as the first; fast paced, filled with scenes of gratuitous violence and some sexual content here and there. This may not be for some readers as it does get graphic but I think without it, it would be hard to describe how heinous the crimes are. Throughout the novel, Valerie has these tete a tetes with Katherine and they’re well written. You feel the tension between them and the mind games Katherine plays are subtle and sometimes even frustrating because she’s maddingly brilliant and manipulative. You’re running along with Valerie trying to catch this killer and you follow through the chase filled with puzzles and cryptic notes and gifts (none very nice gifts either…). The killer is brilliant and when you think he’s this one person, he ends up being someone you didn’t realize and it’s mind blowing considering who this killer ends up kidnapping. And just when you think everything’s done there’s more extra twists happening. This is what makes this novel so quick and fast to read. You’re deeply engrossed in the plot and in the chase to find this killer but you forget he most likely has a plan B and you’re blindsided again. This is what makes this book so good!!!!!! I loved every minute of it!!! The only concern I have is, how much more can happen in this series before this starts getting repetitive. I love the way it’s going and I hope the series can stay fresh and exciting like it’s been so far. I am looking forward to seeing what happens next, given there’s a bit of a teaser at the very last page of the book.
I loved this book even more than the first, and that says a lot!! I hope to read more in the Valerie Hart series.
Saul Black has written a chilling and fascinating novel about the most reviled serial killer in the United States. Katherine Glass has been in prison for many years. Unfortunately, her partner was never found and presumably is still out there doing whatever it is that killers do. Our hero, Detective Valerie Hart, is the recipient of notes from the killer. But what is worse is that the victims also receive notes, predicting their demise. Meanwhile, the Feds are also receiving messages from the killer. LoveMurder is a great game of cat and mouse. Detective Hart gets caught up in a very dangerous match of wits, attempting to outsmart a sadistic and crazed killer. At times, she loses her perspective which is precisely what the killer wants. The detective’s fascination and compulsion drive this book to a striking conclusion. LoveMurder is a book worth reading. Be warned- once you start it you will fall in love with it.
A couple of years ago, I really enjoyed The Killing Lessons, a serial killer thriller, which featured Valerie Hart, a homicide detective. I was a bit surprised to see Valerie is back. For me, The Killing Lessons wasn't all that much about Valerie, who was your fairly standard broken detective then. However, in Lovemurder, she really takes center stage. Her life has changed for the better making her a different person to the one we met in the first book. Even if you haven't yet read The Killing Lessons, Lovemurder works perfectly well as a standalone serial killer thriller. The highlight for me was the relationship between Valerie and Katherine Glass, the beautiful, intelligent and mysterious serial killer who has been residing in prison since 2009, caught by Valerie and her team. I couldn't help but think of Chelsea Cains' Gretchen Lowell. Definite similarities. Katherine's partner in crime has never been caught, and now it seems he's back. A small disappointment for me was the fact that I identified Katherine's partner pretty early on. Nevertheless, there was plenty of suspense and while it wasn't quite as dark and disturbing or as strong as the first book, it was still a very enjoyable thriller.