A wave of babynappings has terrified parents from San Diego to Portland. And when the Pied Pipernamed for the penny flute he leaves in the cribs of his victimsclaims his first Seattle infant, the investigation draws in homicide detective Lou Boldt. Assigned temporarily to Intelligence so he can spend more time with his kids while his wife is hospitalized for chemotherapy, Boldt's role is to keep the FBI out of the Seattle Police Department's way. But FBI special agent Gary Flemming is a tough adversaryso tough it almost seems as if he's intentionally sabotaging the SPD's investigation. Then the Pied Piper snatches Boldt's own daughter, promising that unless Boldt throws both the Feds and the SPD off his trail he'll never see his child again. Caught between his professional obligations and his fear for Sarah's life, Boldt launches his own private manhunt with the help of John La Moia, his replacement in homicide, and police psychologist Daphne Matthews, his closest friend in the department. They form a sub rosa task force under the noses of the Feds and the SPD, and soon discover how the Piper has managed to stay a step ahead of the police, elude capture, and find his small victims. The chase moves from Seattle to Portland to New Orleans, culminating in a thrilling denouement in the daffodil fields of Washington's Skagit Valley. Combining strong characterizations with an impressive command of both policing and pacing, Ridley Pearson, author of Chain of Evidence and Beyond Recognition, delivers another sure winner in this outing for Lou Boldt. Jane Adams
About the Author
Ridley Pearson is the award-winning co-author, along with Dave Barry, of Peter and the Starcatchers, Peter and the Shadow Thieves, Peter and the Secret of Rundoon, Peter and the Sword of Mercy, Escape From the Carnivale, Cave of the Dark Wind, Blood Tide, and Science Fair. In addition to Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark, Kingdom Keepers: Disney at Dawn, Kingdom Keepers: Disney in Shadow, and Kingdom Keepers: Power Play, he is also the author of the young adult thrillers Steel Trapp: The Challenge and Steel Trapp: The Academy. He has written more than twenty best-selling crime novels including Killer View and Killer Weekend. He was the first American to be awarded the Raymond Chandler/Fulbright Fellowship in Detective Fiction at Oxford University.
Hometown:St. Louis, Missouri
Date of Birth:March 13, 1953
Place of Birth:Glen Cove, New York
Education:Kansas University, B.A., Brown University
Read an Excerpt
The train left the station headed for nowhere, its destination also its point of embarkation, its purpose not to transport its passengers, but to feed them.
By early March, western Washington neared the end of the rinse cycle, a nearly perpetual curtain of ocean rain that blanketed the region for the winter months, unleashing in its wake a promise of summer. Dark, saturated clouds hung low on the eastern horizon. Well to the west, where the sun retreated in a violent display, a glimpse of blue cracked the marbled gray, as welcome to the residents of Seattle as any sight alive.
Arrival at the dinner train surprised Doris Shotz. She had thought her husband Paul was taking her to Ivar's, one of Seattle's more popular fish-house chains. A simple dinner date had presented her with a test of sorts, being that it was her first evening leaving her four-month-old baby girl, Rhonda, with a sitter. She'd finally decided she could handle an hour or two a few blocks away from home. But an entire evening stuck on a train in the woods was unimaginable, unthinkable!
"Surprised?" he asked, displaying the tickets proudly.
On the verge of total panic, Doris reminded herself that Julie was an experienced sitter, having taken care of Henry for the last year, as responsible a fifteen-year-old as one could ask for. Better to give Paul his moment than to start a fight.
They'd been talking about the dinner train for years. And Doris had to concede that over the last nine months, Paul had been a saint. She owed him.
"I can't believe it!" she said truthfully.
"I know. You didn't guess, did you?"
"Not for an instant. I promise: It's a complete surprise."
"Good." He reached down and took her hand and squeezed. She felt flushed. She wanted to be home with the kids.
"All aboard," he said.
The train lurched. Doris Shotz shifted to avoid spilling the cheap champagne that Paul had ordered. Although she didn't want to drink while nursing, she knew Paul would consider it an act of defiance to say no to any part of the celebration, and given that she had already gone this far to please her husband, she wasn't going to let one glass of champagne ruin the evening. When the train turned east, the frosted mountains flooded crimson with the sunset, Paul said with obvious satisfaction, "This is a long way from the backside of a computer."
Paul repaired PCs for Micro System Workshop, a name his employer had invented because it could be reduced to MS Workshop, and in an area dominated by Microsoft those two initials meant dollars. Paul drove a blue MS Workshop van around the city, crisis to crisis, fire to fire: hard drives, networks, IRQ ports -- Doris had heard all the buzzwords enough times to think she might be capable of a repair or two herself.
Paul provided for them adequately. He loved her in his own way. She loved him too, though differently than she once had. Now the children absorbed most of her time and much of her love, too. She wasn't sure exactly how to categorize her love for Paul; she simply knew that she would always be at his side, would attempt to put up with his moods. But the truth was that she lived for her children, Rhonda and Henry. She had never before known such a complete feeling. It warmed her just thinking about it.
She politely refused a refill of champagne as she watched her husband's cheeks redden behind the alcohol's effects. Clearly carried away with happiness and the light buzz that came from the champagne, he talked at her, but she didn't hear. Boys and trains, she thought.
"Do you think I should call home?" she asked him.
She motioned to the rear of the train car. "There's a pay phone. Cellular. I could call them."
"You know how much those things cost? Fifteen minutes, Doro," he pointed out, checking his Casio and saying sarcastically, "we've been gone a whole fifteen minutes!" He leaned closer and she could smell the sweet alcohol on his breath, a smell that reminded her of the occasional drunken violence that Paul had sometimes brought with him to their bed. "They're fine. Julie's perfectly capable."
"You're right," she said, offering him a fragile smile. He nodded and stared out the window. She felt sick with anxiety.
It occurred to her that in a few minutes she could excuse herself to go to the bathroom and use the phone. Paul would probably never know. The champagne bottle's white plastic cork rolled noisily at his feet. The train clattered past condominiums that reminded her of a Monopoly board. A few of the couples had dressed for the occasion, though most wore jeans and sweatshirts. It wasn't exactly the Orient Express.
It soon became clear that Paul's romance was with the train rather than her. Flushed cheeks pressed to the glass, his right foot tapping quickly as it always did when he drank in excess, her husband disappeared into the alcohol and she retreated into thoughts about her children.
Ten minutes passed with minimal conversation. Doris excused herself and made the call home. It rang and rang, but there was no answer.
Wrong number, she decided. At those prices -- $3.95 for the first minute, $.99 each portion of a minute thereafter -- Paul was certain to catch the charge on the credit card bill. But so what? She pressed NEW CALL. She redialed, again suffering under the weight of its endless ringing. She could envision Julie busy with a diaper, or in the middle of feeding. It didn't necessarily mean trouble....
A fire, she thought. Paul's home entertainment center -- a sports center was more like it -- crowded the outlets with far too many wires. What would Julie do in a fire?
The knot in her stomach twisted more tightly. Her fingers went cold and numb. Julie might be in the bathroom. Nothing more than that.
But her imagination wouldn't let it go. Perhaps Julie had a boyfriend with her in the house. In that case, she wouldn't be paying attention to either the kids or the phone. Doris stole a look around the corner and down the shifting train car's center aisle to the back of her husband's head. She had already been gone a few minutes, and it would ruin everything if he caught her at the pay phone. She had promised him she would wait to call until after dinner.
She hung up the receiver, deciding to slip into the washroom and then try again when she came out. But she emerged only to find someone else using the phone, ironically a mother happily talking to her children.
When the woman hung up, Doris tried again. This time the phone's endless ringing seemed a kind of punishment for trying at all. She glanced up the aisle at Paul, but now all she could think about was that there was something terrible going on. She decided to call her neighbor Tina, who answered on the second ring.
Doris concentrated on removing any panic from her voice. "Tina, it's Doris. I have a really weird favor to ask of you...."
In her mother's heart she knew: Something was dreadfully wrong.
Table of Contents
What People are Saying About This
One hell of a writer. He grabs, he twists, he tightens the screws.
On Friday, August 7th, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Ridley Pearson to discuss THE PIED PIPER.
Moderator: Welcome, Ridley Pearson! Thank you for taking the time to join us online this evening. How are you doing tonight?
Ridley Pearson: I am doing great. I am in New Orleans on a book tour and it is hot here!
Jamie from Bryn Mawr, PA: Do you see a lot of yourself in Lou?
Ridley Pearson: I think the answer is yes and no. The yes is certainly in Boldt's appreciation of jazz and music and his love of his family. The no, is in that I am not a cop, though I do so much research sometimes I wonder about that...
Matt Stone from Bellingham, WA: Were there many or any external influences involved in the story of THE PIED PIPER? Any particular news stories set you off?
Ridley Pearson: Yes, I discovered on the Internet a legal filing in the case of an illegal adoption, and the case so intrigued me that it eventually led me to research that led to the writing of THE PIED PIPER. Some of that research was conducted down here in New Orleans and some, using the Lexus/Nexus legal search service -- but all combined to suggest that the kidnapping of infants for resale in an illegal adoption market is an ongoing climb in the United States.
Lenea736@aol.com from Plano, TX: Do you ever do any Patricia Cornwell-like research with the police department? What type of reaction -- if any -- have you gotten from Seattle's Police Department? Do you know a lot of cops?
Ridley Pearson: Cornwell does Pearsonesque research! After all, I got here first! LOL. Yes, I do an inordinate amount of what I call hands-on/expert research. I have resources inside the Seattle Police Department with whom I have worked for over 10 years including a sergeant in homicide whom I didn't meet until a few years ago. And when I opened the door and saw him standing there, I found myself face to face with Lou Boldt! I could not believe it.
Berry from Williamsburg: How did you get started in your writing career? What were you doing before? Did you ever think you would get that first book published?
Ridley Pearson: Prior to writing I spent 11 years on the road as a folk rock musician. About halfway through those 11 years, I began writing scripts and teleplays in hopes of starting a writing career, and although I was starting a writing career, I wasn't starting a paid writing career. As it turned out, it would be eight and a half years of writing for the love of it before anything sold. I didn't focus as much on when my first piece would sell as I did on how to write better. Simply because it gets so frustrating not to sell, but as the writing improved, there was more and more interest and finally after nine scripts and two novels -- both of which went through over six drafts -- I was published! For more info check out www.ridleypearson.com.
Mick22 from AOL: Being an expert in forensic evidence, I want to know what you think about the manner that the evidence was handled in the O. J. case? Any thoughts?
Ridley Pearson: I have lots of thoughts on the O. J. case, but they are probably better saved for another time. Primarily, the scene was not handled well from the beginning, and in any investigation that will later rely on evidence, if it gets off to a sloppy start, the investigators end up with their hands tied.
Michael from MMuntz@yahoo.com: If you had your life lying in the hands of either Lou or Daphne, who would you choose? Why?
Ridley Pearson: Great question! I think if my life was in physical peril, I would want it in the hands of both -- if I was kidnapped or someone was threatening me. If I was just going to throw my life into the hands of someone, as a red-blooded male, who wouldn't pick Daphne?
Rudolph from Keene, New Hampshire: Did you base Crowley off of anybody in particular or is he more of a composite character of evil?
Ridley Pearson: Yeah, the latter. I have a lot of fun with the villainous characters in the books. I do quite a bit of advanced research with forensic psychiatrists. I present the deeds that these people do, and the psychiatrist then tells me who this person is and where he or she came from.
Pac87@aol.com from XX: Do you do a lot of research for this book? Did your research take you down to New Orleans? What was that like?
Ridley Pearson: Yes, I did a lot of research for the book, and it did take me down to New Orleans. It was a fascinating week or so that I spent down here, and it included a visit to a private boys home. It was an old brownstone edifice [of] a building that I end up describing in THE PIED PIPER, and my experience with the director was very much the same as Boldt's is in the novel. What I got out of that was that New Orleans had been through a corruption case where legitimate birth certificates were being sold out the back door of the Bureau of Vital Statistics for the purpose of illegal adoption. When I came upon that, I knew I had a book!
Matt Smith from Tates Creek, KY: You would think Lou would be a pretty jaded individual with all he has been through. Do you think you would have the thick skin necessary to ever be a cop? Also, what is your opinion of the current Seattle Police Department? What about New Orleans? Have things drastically improved in New Orleans since the embarrassment they had a couple of years ago with the cops killing cops and corruption? What in your opinion is the key to having an effective police department? The mayor? Like Rudy Giuliani up there in NYC?
Ridley Pearson: I agree that Lou with all he has been through might be pretty tough-skinned by now. But from some of the cops I have modeled him after, he still has retained a humanism and a sensitivity towards life just as they have. It is amazing to see these guys separate work from everyday life. How they do it, I am not sure; it seems to be a combination of morbid humor and an understanding of their own limitations. It would be interesting for me to be a cop for a month or two, and I have been tested on several occasions by some tough cops who wanted to shake me up, and I can tell you they shook me up.
Wes from Metaire, LA: I have read many of your past novels, but have not started your latest. Are there any plans to make a movie out of any of your books? What about this one? I loved CHAIN OF EVIDENCE -- what actor do you see as the Dart?
Ridley Pearson: Yes! Although the various novels have been under option off and on for over a decade -- some of them several times in a row -- we've never gotten the film out of any of them. My feeling is things are just about to change (take that with a grain of salt!). The latest project we are attempting to put together is BEYOND RECOGNITION, which is just out in paperback. Academy Award-winner Richard Dreyfuss called me about three weeks ago, and I went down to Los Angeles, and I had meetings with him about bringing it to [the] screen with Richard as Lou Boldt.
ALecount@aol.com from AOL: Your latest surely portrays the press in an interesting manner. What do you think of the press here in 1998? Worse than it has ever been?
Ridley Pearson: I think the press in this country is historically different than it has ever been, and much of that comes from the shifting technologies and the media it is represented in. It is funny that you should bring this up because in my next novel that I am currently finishing up, I delve deeply into the role of press in the society -- the manipulation in fact and the effects on all of us. Keep an eye out for the next book in August of '99.
Mike from MMuntz@yahoo.com: Hello Ridley! Is your next book going to be another Lou/Daphne book? Or are you planning on writing about some new characters?
Ridley Pearson: The book that follows PIED PIPER is a Lou Boldt/Daphne novel and is nearly complete. As to the novel after that? I have it outlined and I am not sure if it is a Lou book or not.
Scott from San Francisco, CA: What do you think is an example of a movie that has carried over well from the written page to the screen? Any plans yourself?
Ridley Pearson: I wish I could remember the name of the script writer, but I can't. The adaptation of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS was incredibly true to the novel. One of the best movies that I have seen this summer and again an adaptation which was true to the novel is OUT OF SIGHT based off of an Elmore Leonard novel. What is interesting about "Out of Sight" is that the director chose to tell the story in a nonlinear fashion which makes it quite compelling.
Megan from Virginia: Does the small plastic flute have a personal significance to you?
Ridley Pearson: Well, I remember them as a kid -- they were metal -- but the significance of course is the flute's relationship to the story of THE PIED PIPER. It is interesting to note that the childhood fable that we all remember of children dancing behind the Pied Piper is a long way from the true story of the Pied Piper of Hamlin. In reality the Pied Piper was hired to rid the city of its rats. It is said that he did so, and then the city refused to pay him for doing his job. The frightening part of the real fable of the Pied Piper is that, determined to pay back the city for the wrong they had done to him, over the next eight to twelve months he led 80 children into the woods around Hamlin and killed them. The Pied Piper of Hamlin is in fact one of the earliest-recorded serial killers. (So next time pay that bill you owe!)
Matt S. from NYC: What is your opinion of the other contemporary authors in your genre? Are you happy with the thriller genre in general?
Ridley Pearson: Great question! For some reason, the espionage era lent itself well to thrillers, and some of the craft has been lost. In terms of police/crime fiction/suspense, there are some really good writers out there: Michael Connelly, Thomas Harris, and others -- and there are some also pretty lame ones. The nice and encouraging part of it all is that there still seems to be a large appetite for not only legal thrillers but cop thrillers as well.
Cindy from Detroit: What do you think of the way our nation's police departments handle crime-solving today? After all of your research for your books, do you see ways that crimes could be solved faster?
Ridley Pearson: Terrific question! I think that many police department are already in the process of a two-fold plan to improve policing, especially at the detective level. First off, many, many urban police departments are quietly adding requirements of college educations for their upper ranks. At the same time -- and in part because of cases like O. J. -- we are finally seeing money poured into the lab-side and the forensics side. There is so much available science to help track and apprehend criminals that has for years been out of reach because of budgets. The more of this lab side technology that comes online the more serious crimes we'll see solved. At the same time it takes well-educated, thoughtful, experienced law enforcement officers to correctly use, and know when not to use, that technology. As an aside I think we will see a controversy in the next year or two about the declining crime stats in our urban centers and nationally. Stay tuned!
SL from KC: I understand there was an auction for the cameo roles in THE PIED PIPER. Can you fill us in?
Ridley Pearson: One of the benefits that came as a result of some of these novels being bestsellers is that people became interested in seeing their name in print in a Ridley Pearson novel. That turned out to be something I could then turn into a bonus for charity. So on a few occasions, I have allowed a character name to be auctioned off for a good cause. In THE PIED PIPER, readers might recognize Sherrie Deach and Kay Kalidja. We have raised over $20,000 to date.
Fan from Pacific Northwest: It appears to me that Daphne and Lou are the perfect couple. A bit like Mulder and Scully?
Ridley Pearson: I know what you mean, and I think they know what you mean, but Boldt's married and happily so, and he has pushed that out of his mind over the last couple of years.
Lyons Woodhouse from Richmond, VA: Why do you think people are so drawn to reading suspense/crime novels? Is it our need to be shocked or scared?
Ridley Pearson: I think that there is a little bit of criminal in all of us as well as (hopefully) quite a bit of cop. We know it is not a black-and-white world, and yet in certain terms society demands that of certain behavior. The suspense thriller lets us ride the chills and thrills.
Chad Rapson from Richmond, VA: After writing so many different Lou and Daphne novels, do you feel a certain connection to these characters?
Ridley Pearson: Absolutely! I think I keep coming back to them because although the crimes wrap up in the novels, the character issues don't. There is quite a bit of me in Daphne, and Daphne in me, and likewise for Boldt. And I know that I will continue to write novels based around other characters, perhaps even serious characters started in other books, but Lou and Daphne remain dear to my heart, and I don't see them fading away any time soon.
Niki from Niki_palek@yahoo.com: Do you think police corruption is a serious and real problem that our forces face every day?
Ridley Pearson: This is a question that often comes up when I have discussions with public defenders who take the position that a good number of cops are constantly on the take in either minor or major ways. They emphasize that this occurs especially at the street level, whether it is a cop taking a free cheeseburger or $2000 a week in a protection scam. It is an incredibly disturbing issue for me because I see law enforcement [as] much more noble than that. I acknowledge that there are bad seeds in every company, every police and law enforcement agency, probably any large organization you can name. I bring them -- that is corrupt individuals -- into the novels as a way of turning up the conflict for the lead characters and to try to represent those bad people on the good side [who] do exist. Similarly, I try to show that on the bad side, there are often "good" motivations if not incorrectly carried out. Seattle is such a great place physically for such novels because it is so often gray there, and the true lines in all of these issues weave through the gray and rarely connect black and white.
Moderator: Thank you Ridley Pearson. It was a pleasure having you online tonight. Do you have any closing comments for the online audience?
Ridley Pearson: Thanks to everyone for being here. Keep reading. Please come visit www.ridleypearson.com. It is my new web site and I am adding to it constantly. It has email links to me, and I always love to hear from readers. Thanks for supporting the books and giving me the life of a writer. I will continue to work to earn and maintain your trust. Goodnight to all.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Hard to put this down at night
Good story line with recurring characters
Good book with great intersecting plots all dealt with and resolved
Fantastic book. A stunning read but then again its Ridley Pearson. He owns this genre I believe. I have read all his books and I like a few other authors but no one tells a story like Pearson. This one is top notch. It grabs you and just when you think you know what will happen next the opposite will happen. I found myself biting my nails while reading this. If you are looking for someone who really knows how to write a book look no further than Pearson and any thing in the Boldt series is worth it with this one or Undercurrents leading the way.
This is the first book I read by this author and have already given it to two of my co-workers to read. Since reading this book I have bought all the rest and have only three left to read. The Pied Piper makes you wish there were more pages to it. The whole book is well written and Mr. Pearson keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering how something like this could happen in everyday life. I would suggest this book to anyone that likes good vs. bad, and anyone that appreciates a good read
The Pied Piper by Ridley Pearson Published by Hyperion, New York This is the first book I've read by Ridley Pearson but it definitely won't be the last. The book is filled with believable characters with interesting lives outside of their work and relationships that makes the skin tingle with tension. The plot is skillfully crafted and moves quickly from the kidnaping of young children to the internecine competition between the FBI and the Seattle Police Department. Someone within the two groups is giving the kidnapers inside information and when Lou Boldt's child is kidnaped and he is told to slow down the investigation or he won't see his child again, the tension rises to unimaginable heights. For those who are parents and perhaps even those who arnt, the thought of losing a child to kidnapers brings a dimension and intensity to the plot that is at times unbearable. This is a well written and carefully crafted book filled with excitement and enough twists and turns of plot to hold anyone. I can't wait for the next one.
This was a very enjoyable book, with well thought out charachters full of depth and passion. There is nothing wooden about them. The story keeps you guessing right up to the end. Good weekend read.