One Kick (Kick Lannigan Series #1)

One Kick (Kick Lannigan Series #1)

by Chelsea Cain

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One Kick (Kick Lannigan Series #1) by Chelsea Cain

From the author of the critically acclaimed Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell thrillers, here is a heart-stopping ride that Cheryl Strayed (author of #1 New York Times bestseller Wild) called “deeply intelligent and grippingly suspenseful…a wickedly brilliant masterpiece.”

Kick Lannigan has taught herself to be dangerous. She can pick any lock, fire any weapon, throw any knife, and aim a punch at her opponent’s trachea. She has also taught herself to be safe. So when enigmatic John Bishop shows up asking her to help him rescue missing kids, Kick has every reason to be wary. He appears to have access to limitless money, high-level contacts, and details of Kick’s background long kept sealed by the court. Yet everything he tells her about himself seems to be a lie.

Headstrong by nature, suspicious by circumstance, and a smart-ass by self-determination, Kick can’t help but see the writing on the wall: together, she and Bishop could make an unstoppable team, willing to do whatever it takes—legal or not—to see justice served…if they don’t kill each other first. For Kick, whose interest in child abduction is deeply personal, it’s a gamble worth taking.

Critically acclaimed as “excruciating…compelling” (Booklist, starred review) and “a propulsive new thriller” (People), One Kick is an engrossing, entertaining new novel you won’t want to miss.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781476749877
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication date: 05/26/2015
Series: Kick Lannigan Series , #1
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 250,951
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.80(d)

About the Author

Chelsea Cain is the author of the New York Times bestselling Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell thrillers Heartsick, Sweetheart, Evil at Heart, The Night Season, Kill You Twice, and Let Me Go. Her Portland-based thrillers have been published in twenty-four languages, recommended on the Today show, appeared in episodes of HBO’s True Blood and ABC’s Castle, and included in NPR’s list of the top 100 thrillers ever written. According to Booklist, “Popular entertainment just doesn’t get much better than this.” Visit her online at

Read an Excerpt

One Kick


    KICK LANNIGAN AIMED THE sights of her Glock, lined up the shot, and squeezed the trigger. The paper target shuddered. Kick inhaled the satisfying smell of gunpowder and concrete and squeezed the trigger again. And again. She emptied the magazine. The gun barely moved in her hand. She had learned to shoot with a .22, but she’d been firing a .45 since she turned fourteen and first started coming to the shooting range. Even at fourteen, she’d known she wanted something that could bring down a bigger target.

    She laid the gun on the counter, pressed the button to reel in the target, and watched it flutter toward her. Half the targets they sold at the range now were zombies—everyone loved shooting zombies—but Kick preferred the old-fashioned black-and-white image of a square-jawed guy in a black watch cap. The target arrived and she inspected her handiwork. Bullet holes collected at the heart, groin, and center of the forehead.

    A blush of pleasure burned her cheeks.

    For the last seven years she had only been allowed to fire range rental weapons. Now, finally, she was firing her own gun. Some people went out and got drunk when they came of age; Kick had picked out a Glock with a ten-round magazine and applied for a concealed-weapons permit.

    The Glock 37 had all the performance of a .45 ACP, but with a shorter grip. It was a big gun sized for small hands. The beveled slide and sleek black finish, the finger grooves and thumb rests—Kick loved every millimeter of that pistol. Her knuckles were raw and the blue polish on her fingernails was chipped, but that Glock still looked beautiful in her hand.

    She glanced up from the gun and listened.

    The range was too quiet.

    The skin on Kick’s arms prickled. She set the Glock back on the counter and tilted her head, straining to hear through her noise-reduction headphones.

    The muffled crack of gunshots had been steady around her. There were only three people using the range that morning, and Kick had taken note of them all. Her martial arts sensei called it being mindful. Kick called it being vigilant. Now she listened to the muted shots around her and tried to pinpoint what had changed.

    The woman a lane over from Kick had stopped firing. Kick had seen the woman’s weapon when she crossed behind her, a pretty Beretta Stampede with a nickel finish and a revolving six-bullet chamber. The Stampede was a replica of an Old West gunslinger’s weapon, a big gun. Fire it at a car, and the bullet would pierce the body panel and crack the engine block. It was too much gun for that woman. Which was why Kick had noted it.

    The woman had fired all six rounds, reloaded, and then fired just three.

    Kick could feel her heartbeat instantly quicken. Her muscles tensed. Her calves itched. Fight or flight. That’s how the shrinks explained it. For a few years after she’d first come home, the feeling would overcome her and she’d just take off, pell-mell, on foot. Once her mother found her nearly five miles away in a Safeway parking lot. Her mother and sister had to force her into the car, screaming.

    Biofeedback. Meditation. Talk therapy. Drug therapy. Scream therapy. Sensory deprivation tanks. Yoga. Tai chi. Chinese herbs. Equine therapy. None of it had helped.

    It had been Frank who suggested letting her take kung fu when she was eleven. The FBI had transferred him to Portland to help get her ready to testify, and he told her mother that martial arts would give Kick confidence, help her get through the trial. But he probably knew she just needed to hit something. There was no getting her into the sensory deprivation tank after that. She started martial arts, boxing, target shooting, archery, and even knife throwing. Her parents thought she did it all to feel safe, and in a way they were right. She wanted to make sure that no one—not even her mother—would ever be able to force her into a car again. After her father left, she took on more: rock climbing, mountaineering, flying lessons—anything to keep her busy and out of the house.

    Kick scanned the floor for spent shell casings. Now when she felt the itch in her calves, she didn’t think about running; she thought about how to thrust her right arm forward so that the meaty part of her hand between her thumb and index finger connected with her opponent’s throat. She eyed a casing on the concrete and gave it a nudge with the steel toe of her boot and watched the brass cartridge rattle out of her shooting stall. Then she followed it. The woman from the next lane over was leaning up against a back wall, texting someone. Kick had her sweatshirt hood up, covering her hair, headphones on top of the hood; she was wearing protective goggles, black jeans, boots, and a sweatshirt zipped up to her neck. She could have robbed a bank and gotten away unidentified. But this woman? She recognized Kick. She wasn’t even subtle about it; she inhaled so sharply, she almost dropped her phone. Kick instinctively turned her head to hide her face, reached for the shell casing on the floor, and stepped quickly back into her stall.

    Kick had not been a good witness in court. The prosecution had called her four times over the three months Mel was on trial. They wanted to know what she remembered about other people who had come to the house, other children, what she’d seen or heard, where they’d traveled. But there was so much that had faded into darkness.

    She had spent the last decade training herself to notice details.

    Tightening her fist around the still-warm spent cartridge in her hand, Kick conjured a picture in her head. The woman was in her mid-fifties and expensively maintained. She was in full makeup at nine a.m., and her black hair around her hot-pink noise-canceling headphones had been teased perfectly, which had to have required fifteen minutes and a mirror. Kick dropped the spent cartridge into a plastic tub with the rest of her shell casings. But she was at the gun range at nine a.m. on a Tuesday, so she didn’t work banker’s hours. No wedding ring. Some people took them off to shoot, but Kick guessed the woman didn’t know that. Kick glanced across the open lanes but couldn’t see the woman’s target. A middle-aged woman picks up shooting for self-defense, after a violent incident or a change of circumstance, like a divorce. The woman hadn’t been looking for Kick. She’d stumbled upon her. Now she was texting . . . whom? The hair and makeup could mean TV reporter. Kick didn’t recognize her, but then, Kick’s interest in the news was very subject-specific.

    Kick ejected the empty magazine of her Glock and reloaded it with ten .45 GAP rounds.

    The ten-year anniversary of her rescue was coming up. They always came looking for her before the anniversaries. Where was she now? How was she coping? Her mother was probably already angling for another Good Morning America appearance.

    Kick lifted her backpack over her shoulder, stowed her Glock in her sweatshirt pocket, lowered her head, and left her stall. She was not going to run.

    Even with her head down, Kick could see that the woman was still there. She had positioned herself in Kick’s path. She said something, but Kick just tapped her headphones and went to step around her. The woman moved in front of her again, but Kick was agile and slid between the woman and the wall. The woman didn’t give up. Kick could feel her behind her, just a foot or two back. When Kick opened the glass door from the range to the lobby gun shop, the woman caught it before it swung closed.

    Kick spun around. “What?” she demanded. She could execute a front kick to the woman’s chin, crushing her larynx, shattering her teeth, and breaking her jaw.

    The woman smiled brightly and said something that Kick couldn’t hear.

    Kick took her headphones off.

    The woman did the same.

    Kick’s grip tightened around the Glock in her pocket.

    “I just wanted to say . . .” the woman said. She pressed her lips together and her eyes filled with tears. “We were all so happy you made it home.”

    Kick took her hand off the gun.

    A gold pendant set with four different gems hung around the woman’s neck, and she worried it with a nervous hand. Four gems—the birthstones of each of her children. The woman was Kick’s mother’s age, which meant that she’d probably had kids about Kick’s age when Kick had disappeared.

    The woman wasn’t a reporter. She was a mother.

    Glass display cases full of weapons lined the gun shop walls below paper targets for sale: Osama bin Laden, a woman with a beret and an AK-47, zombies, a man with a watch cap and a bag full of cash.

    “I prayed for you,” the woman said.

    Kick saw the ex-cop working behind the counter glance up from the page of Guns & Ammo magazine he was reading and then go back to his article.

    A lot of people had told Kick that they’d prayed for her. It was like they wanted credit, to be counted. Kick was never sure how she should respond. I guess God wasn’t listening the first five years? “Thank you,” Kick muttered.

    The woman put her hand on Kick’s shoulders, and Kick flinched. People always wanted to touch her, especially the mothers.

    “You were rescued for a reason,” the woman said, and Kick groaned internally. She knew the reason she’d been rescued. Mel’s IP address had turned up in an investigation into online child pornography trading. According to Frank, the entire operation was a series of botched calls and interagency drama. They hadn’t even known she was there. The reason she was rescued was dumb luck. “If you ask me,” the woman continued, “that bastard deserves what’s coming to him. The devil gets his due, one way or another.”

    “Excuse me,” Kick said politely. “I have to buy a Taser.” She stepped backward, out of the woman’s reach.

    “We all thought you were dead,” the woman called. She was gazing at Kick with a sort of glassy-eyed reverence, like she’d just found the face of Jesus on her toast. On the wall behind her, the bank robber was aiming the barrel of his gun at her back. “It’s like a resurrection,” the woman said, beaming. She pointed upward, at the gun shop’s drop-panel ceiling. “There’s a plan for you,” she said. Her tongue was out a little bit, the tiny pink tip. If Kick connected with her chin, the woman would bite it right off.

    The woman took a step toward Kick. “Trust yourself, Kit,” she said.

    Kick winced at the sound of her old name. “Kick,” she corrected her.

    There was no comprehension in the woman’s face.

    “I go by Kick,” Kick said, feeling her center harden. “Not Kit. Not anymore.” She hadn’t been able to get used to her old name after she came home. It made her feel like an impersonator.

    “Well,” the woman said, touching the pendant again, “time heals all wounds.”

    “Your gun’s too big,” Kick said. “It’s got too much recoil; that’s why you’re not hitting the target. Start with something smaller, like a .22. And aim for the head.”

    The woman gave the corner of her mouth a tiny scratch. “Thank you.”

    They looked at each other in silence for a moment. Kick felt an urge to run like she had not felt in a long time. “I have to pee,” Kick said, tilting her head toward the restroom sign. The woman let her go. Kick hurried through the bathroom door and locked it behind her. The outline of the Glock was visible in her sweatshirt pocket. She had red lines on her face where her safety goggles had made an impression on her forehead and cheeks. She pulled back her hood and examined her reflection. People knew her from the Missing Child posters. Her first-grade school photograph, bangs and braids, a forced smile. She had been famous in her absence—on billboards, national news, the subject of talk shows and newspaper stories. She’d been on the covers of magazines. The first photo of her, after she was saved, went global. But she wasn’t the girl people remembered—eleven years old, angry-eyed, a tangle of long dark hair down her back. Kick’s mother cut her bangs and braided her hair and the family released another photograph: Kick reunited with her sister, their arms around one another. That one had been on the cover of People. Her mother sold pictures every year after that, on the anniversary, until Kick left home. They owed it to the public, her mother said, to let them see Kick grow up.

    Kick turned the cold water on in the sink, pushed up her sleeves, and started washing her hands. Ammo left lead residue on everything. She cupped her hands under the faucet and lowered her face into the water. After she dried herself, she inspected herself in the mirror again.

    She undid her ponytail and let her hair fall loose. It came down to her elbows. She didn’t get haircuts. Not anymore.

    Her phone buzzed in her pants pocket and she dug it out with cold fingers.

    She reread the message three times. It made her stomach hurt.

    An Amber Alert had just been issued by Washington State police looking for a five-year-old girl abducted by a stranger and last seen in a white SUV with Washington State plates, heading down I-5 toward Oregon.

    Kick hesitated. She knew how this went.

    But she couldn’t stop herself.

    Kick opened the police scanner app on her phone, picked her backpack off the bathroom floor, and headed for the door, the loaded Glock still in her sweatshirt. Whenever they had traveled, Mel put her under a blanket on the floor of the backseat and switched the vehicle plates out for fake dealer ones. The dealer plates were harder to read, and produced little information, so patrol cops often didn’t bother running them.

    It’s not like she thought she’d find the car. This was something that none of her shrinks ever seemed to understand. Kick knew exactly how futile it was. She knew she’d drive up and down the interstate until she was exhausted, and stay up half the night refreshing her browser, sorting through every detail, hunting for anything familiar. She knew that the kid was probably already dead and that when the police did find the body, it would feel like a part of Kick had died too.

    That’s how this went.

    How it always went.

    Penance wasn’t supposed to be fun.

  • Customer Reviews

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    One Kick: A Novel 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 58 reviews.
    Caroles_Random_Life More than 1 year ago
    Exciting start to a new series! I received an advance reader edition of this book from Simon & Schuster and Net Galley for the purpose of providing an honest review. 4 Stars! When I saw the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book, I was more than a little excited. I have read all of the books in the Gretchen Lowell series (some more than once actually) so I knew that I enjoy Chelsea Cain's writing. This book did not disappoint! Chelsea Cain is a master at writing characters that are deeply troubled. She puts that skill to use in this book. One note of warning for some readers: This book is focused on crimes against children including, child pornography. Any readers who wish to avoid these subjects will want to avoid this book. Kick was abducted by a stranger when she was 6 years old. She learned to survive in that environment until she was rescued 6 years later. As an adult, she finds herself dealing with the emotional scars directly connected to that time. Anytime an Amber alert is issued, she searches hoping to save that child from what she has been through. Bishop approaches Kick and asks for her help in finding two children that have recently been kidnapped. Kick's knowledge may be the key to finding these children. Bishop and Kick work together in some very dangerous situations trying to find the victim in time. This book was filled with troubled characters dealing with issues from their past. All of these characters came together to tell a story that was hard to put down. I would definitely recommend this book to others. I look forward to reading future books in the series.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    BE WARNED. The B&N description leaves out a few things. The main character was kidnapped by a pedophile as a child who made kiddie porn. As an adult, the main character hunts down pedophiles. So, if you do work with abuse victims like I do, or just in general don't want to read about kiddie porn, skip this book. I just wanted a crime drama with a kick ass heroine but with no child abuse. Is that so much to ask?
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    What a great start to a new series! Ms. Cain is an amazing author, and she has started something great here! Have read all of the Gretchen Lowell series, so I was very excited with this book coming out. I was not disappointed. Ms. Cain has a way of creating heroes that are cracked but not quite broken. I loved Archie Sheridan, and I think I love Kick just as much. She is a wonderfully brave character and I cannot wait to watch her grow in this series! I must give warning that the subject matter in this book is more than a little dark. Child abductions, child abuse, and child pornography are not easy subjects to read about. That being said, Ms. Cain approaches this topic delicately. There are no overly graphic details. Kick's memories will have you almost in tears, not from what is said, but from what is left out. You just know. There are heartbreaking moments when you just wonder how Kick can feel some things she does, but when you remember what she went through, your heart breaks more because you DO understand. An excellent read that had me turning pages not just to find out if it all turns out great in the end, but to learn more about ALL of the characters. James, Bishop, Paula Devlin, and even Mel. I can't wait to read more on all of these characters. Bravo Chelsea Cain! Thank you for another sleepless night! Don't make us wait too long! -- SPeeD
    ABookVacation More than 1 year ago
    First and foremost, I want to assure readers that, while this novel does deal with child abduction and pornography, there are no descriptions. This is not a graphic story—allusions are made, but readers never learn what Kick herself experienced, and there are no descriptions of the photos or pornography sites the characters reference. This, for me, was a godsend. I was interested in the story, but I knew going in that I couldn’t stomach any graphic imagery at all, and as this is a very sensitive subject, I was very happy that Cain tread lightly here. However, I must admit that I still didn’t really enjoy the story. Honestly, I'm a bit disappointed in the main character, Kick. Said to be the new Lisbeth Salander by the editor in the introduction of the novel, I was expecting great things, but Kick falls bit too flat for me. There is what I consider a lack of action in this novel—with all the hype surround Kick, such as her ability to kill a man 571 ways with just her left hand, I expected to actually see her fight. She rarely does, and, in most instances that she does, she’s actually bested by her opponent. For all the time and training she put in to the arts, self-defense, knife throwing, and the like, I was really looking forward to seeing her skills. But they were not noteworthy, and for me, that’s somewhat of the opposite of what I expect when a character is compared to another kick-butt character, such as Lisbeth Salander. Kick is still in a fragile state of mind, though she tries to put on a tough front. Abducted and used in child porn for five years of her young life, this is expected. She does have a good handle on herself in most situations, and I admire her perseverance; I find her realistic, though she wasn't essentially deep or fleshed out in the story. Perhaps one of the reasons Kick is bested time and time again as she hunts for the missing children from Portland is because of her background; freezing up in situations when action is key and she must push herself to survive. Thank goodness she has Bishop there to help her when the going gets tough. Then again, Bishop is a jerk. The main reason that Kick continually freezes is because Bishop has thrust her back into the world of abducted children. Kick seems to function relatively well in the real world, but once Bishop comes charging in, her entire world shifts, and Bishop is none to kind in his treatment of Kick. In fact, he doesn’t do anything within the novel that redeems him in my eyes. So while the mystery aspect of the novel was indeed intriguing, I did not connect with any of the characters and I wasn't spurred on to read the novel as much as I'd hoped I'd be, based on the hype surrounding this story. The first chapter is indeed an attention grabber, but as the novel unfolds, much of the intensity tapered off for me. Overall, I’d say it’s an okay read for me, but it’s really just not my speed.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    So well rounded and interesting
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Enjoyable. Read it pretty quickly. Ready for the next one
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This novel introduces "Kick" Lannigan, a great female character who reinvents herself as a rescuer of missing children after being kidnapped herself as a child. Her flashbacks will melt your heart, her discipline and skills are impressive, and the tension will keep you turning the page. I can't wait to read the next one in the series!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Perfect book
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Loved i5
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Cannot wait for the next book !
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I loved this book! Keep on writing!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I couldn't put it down, I read until I finished it...
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Wow , best A+ , Excelleny
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I loved it. For a certain crowd i suppose. Can't wait for the next installment.
    Sean_From_OHIO More than 1 year ago
    I really enjoyed Chelsea Cain's newest series. The protagonist, Kick, is full of raw emotions and given her life that makes perfect sense. The book has intrigue and mysteries but the main focus is how Kick deals with the beyond terrible things that happened to her as a child. While some revelations came too easily I still flew through pages in anticipation of what was about to happen. While the subject matter is so depraved there are times it was tough to read. Overall though, a very good read.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This is a good suspense novel. My first Chelsea Cain an I'm looking forward to the rest of this series.
    deMachaut More than 1 year ago
    I became a Chelsea Cain fan after reading Heartsick and have now become very fond of Archie, Susan and much to my chagrin, Gretchen. How can you grow to like a serial killer? Probably because she's been brilliantly crafted by a great writer. Ms Cain pulls off the same trick to some degree with Mel, Kick's "father" in One Kick. But he's not the man us guys would want to be. That would be Kick's very good friend, Bishop. Who wouldn't want to be tough enough to stop bullets, debris from explosions and own a Tesla? Well, me, probably. Except for the Tesla. I digress, so shall end my review with an emphatic two thumbs up five star recommendation.
    T-PO More than 1 year ago
    I found the book to be rivoting and difficult to put down. Her pedophile references were pretty much spot on...Result is what a lot of people would like to see happen to pedophiles and those dealing in the sex trade...
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I am a fan of Archie and Grethen, but Kick is new, fresh and like her name Kick-start character.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I was torn in rating this. It was engrossing but man, the protagonist was hard to root for. But fascinating nonetheless.
    gloriafeit More than 1 year ago
    Having loved this author’s earlier series featuring Det. Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell, I couldn’t wait to read this book, the first in a new series, and I have to say it did not disappoint. Much as those earlier books, this one is not for the faint of heart, I must add. But it is terrific. The protagonist is Kit (“Kick”) Lannigan, a victim of child abduction/pedophilia, rescued ten years earlier when she was eleven years old in a slam-bang opening. She now obsesses over the rescue of other abducted children. A recent and mysterious ally in this quest is John Bishop, who appears in her life without much explanation other than that he was a former weapons dealer, and knows people in high and influential places. Kick, however, soon comes to think of him as “clearly some sort of unreliable psychopath.” Obviously still suffering from PTSD, among other things Kick keeps a list of self-destructive behavior she needed to work out, which she keeps in a “worry book” that is always with her. She has nothing but contempt for those, like her biological mother, who feed off her situation, having already written a book and made several TV appearances The author, inspired by the horrific real-life tales of women like Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard, this fictionalized story of the horrors inflicted on such children induces true schadenfreude, where one is afraid to read further, but at the same time cannot turn the pages quickly enough. The one word used most often in the reviews of this novel is “compelling,” and I cannot disagree. Kick is truly lethal, trained as a marksman, lock picker, escape artist and bomb maker, has mastered martial arts, boxing and knife throwing. She prides herself in knowing four ways to kill someone with a jacket and “knew 573 ways to take someone to the ground with her left hand alone.” When two youngsters are abducted in the same Washington State area within a three-week period, Kick, with Bishop’s assistance, vows to find and rescue them before they are sold or killed, two of the likelier outcomes. The title derives from a Bruce Lee quote: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who practiced one kick 10,000 times.” Highly recommended.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago