Sudden Death (F.B.I. Trilogy Series #1)

Sudden Death (F.B.I. Trilogy Series #1)

by Allison Brennan

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Fast, furious and fatal . . . a pair of killers seek brutal revenge.

When a homeless veteran is found dead in a squalid Sacramento alley, FBI special agent Megan Elliott vows to find the murdered hero’s killer. Her investigation gets complicated fast, for the victim, a former Delta Force soldier, is just one link in a nationwide spree of torture and murder.

Straight off a job rescuing medical missionaries, soldier-for-hire Jack Kincaid returns to his home base in the Texas border town of Hidalgo only to receive the news that one of his closest colleagues–also ex-military–has been brutally murdered. Faced with an inept local police force, Jack takes matters into his own hands.

Now, as part of a national task force to stop the sadistic killings, by-the-book Megan and burn-the-book Jack form a tense alliance, sparked with conflict and temptation. But they struggle against more than passion, for a vicious pair of killers has only just begun a rampage of evil . . . and the primary target is much closer than Megan suspects.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345512840
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/24/2009
Series: FBI Trilogy , #1
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 20,578
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Allison Brennan is the New York Times bestselling author of many romantic thrillers, including Kiss Me, Kill Me; Love Me to Death; Sudden Death; and Killing Fear. A five-time RITA finalist and Daphne du Maurier Award winner, Brennan enjoys spending her free time reading, playing games, watching high school sports, and researching her novels. A member of Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers, Allison Brennan lives in Northern California with her husband, Dan, and their five children.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The homeless man’s murder had been ritualistic, brutal, and efficient.

Megan Elliott swatted flies that swarmed near the body next to the Dumpster as she squatted beside the victim. It was midmorning and the temperature was already eighty degrees. The bullet had gone in clean, execution style, behind the ear. All signs suggested that he’d been killed right here, in a narrow alley separating a parking garage from the historic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.

There didn’t appear to be signs of struggle, but here in the decrepit underside of Sacramento, that was difficult to determine. While the city did a fairly good job at keeping most of the streets clean, on the north side of downtown, away from the Capitol building and closer to the soup kitchen, the grime and unwanted bred. Here, homeless weeded through the garbage off K Street for something edible when the city rolled up the sidewalks; or they slept against brick walls, clutching their meager possessions in a desperate grip.

No sign of struggle, and based on the lack of blood spatter, the victim had been prone when shot at close range. But he had the same outward injuries as the other two known victims. His hamstrings had been cut clean through, incapacitating him. His wrists had been duct-taped to something, as evidenced from the chafing and band of missing arm hair. And he was barefoot.

“What are you thinking?”

Megan stood and, though she was five foot eight, she had to look up at Detective John Black, who had to be close to six and a half feet tall.

“All the appearances of an execution, but you’re absolutely right. The M.O. matches the murders on the recent FBI hot sheet.” And to maintain good relations with local law enforcement, she added, “You were right on the money there. Thanks.”

“His hamstrings weren’t cut here. Not enough blood. No spray or cast-off.”

Megan glanced around, but there was no blood on the brick wall or in the alleyway. Where had he been attacked?

Without touching the filthily clad victim, she inspected the deep gash in the back of his legs. She mim?icked a slicing motion with her hand and then said, “I’ll need the coroner’s report, but it appears that the killer sliced right to left, cutting both legs with an even, fluid motion.” She stood and said, “Turn around.”

Black did, looking over his shoulder. She said, “You’re much taller than the victim. If the victim was walking, the killer would have had to have walked up behind him and—slice—cut the hamstrings.” She mim-icked the motion against the back of Black’s knees. “It’s the only thing that makes sense. If the vic was lying down, why would the killer slice his legs across?”

“It would help if we could locate where he was attacked.”

Megan agreed. “If the vic went down on his knees, that should be obvious at the autopsy with bruising or evidence on his pants. But why shoot him here? Why did the killer move him at all after the inital attack?”

Wearing latex gloves and plastic booties over her shoes, an attractive, well-dressed woman who may have been thirty on her last birthday approached. “Nice theory, but maybe you should wait for crime scene analysis.”

Black’s lips twitched. “Simone, FBI Supervisory Agent Megan Elliott. Agent Elliott, Simone Charles, CSU Supervisor.”

Megan nodded. She’d worked with the prickly perfectionist before. “We’ve met. So, what does the evidence show, Simone?”

“My team just came off a triple murder in the Pocket. Sorry for being late.” She didn’t sound sorry, but Megan noticed the red eyes and tight expression. She’d heard about the murder-suicide before she’d left FBI headquarters. A man came home early in the morning, drunk, and shot his wife and two kids while they slept, then blew his own brains out.

“You’re not late,” Megan said.

Simone motioned for one of her team to photograph the scene and the body. “I’ll walk the area and be right back. You have a wide perimeter,” she noted to Detective Black. “Any reason?”

“To keep the vultures at bay.” He nodded toward the KCRA-3 van parked at the edge of the crime scene tape.

She grinned and walked away, dropping markers at specific spots.

Black said, “So was he killed here or not?”

Megan clarified. “He was definitely shot right here, small-caliber handgun is my guess, twenty-two caliber, behind the left ear. A twenty-two is very effective at close range.”

Megan had seen far too many execution-style murder victims when she was part of the national Evidence Response Team that went to Kosovo ten years ago. Which led to the question of why disable the victim first if only to shoot him?

If the evidence held true compared with the first two known victims, Megan already had the answer: between the time the victim’s hamstrings were cut to when he was shot, someone had received sick pleasure from torturing him. Handicapping the victim was to keep him from escaping.

“We need to find out where he was attacked and tortured,” Megan said.

The two previous victims had no visible marks until their clothing was removed. Then dozens of tiny pinpricks were obvious. “He plays before he kills.”

“Excuse me?”

Megan had forgotten that she wasn’t alone. The members of Squad Eight—the Violent Crimes/Major Offender Squad that she headed—were used to her talking to herself; she had to remember she was out of her element here, assisting SPD.

“Just thinking out loud.”

Megan itched to inspect the victim’s feet, but she didn’t want to touch the body until the coroner’s unit arrived.

First Austin, Texas, then Las Vegas, Nevada. Now Sacramento, California. The only thing those three places had in common, on the surface, was that they were large cities. The victims were single, male, between the ages of thirty-five and forty-five, tortured and murdered in their homes. While most serial predators stayed within one race, the first victim was black and the second and third were white. The first vic owned his own business and, though divorced, was by all accounts a devoted father. The second vic had never married, had a rap sheet for minor drug charges, and worked as a mechanic. There was some indication that he had a gambling problem, which delayed the local police from reporting the crime to the national database, mistakenly believing it was payback for an uncollected debt. The hot sheet possibly linking the two had only been sent out late last week.

As if reading her mind, or simply breathing too deeply, Black got on the radio and said to someone, “This body is cooking and it’s only going to get hotter. ETA of the coroner?”

A gender-neutral voice replied, “On scene.”

“Great.” Black looked around, frowned, and said to Megan, “I’ll find him.” He stalked off.

It wasn’t standard procedure for an FBI agent to go out to crime scenes alone, even aiding the local P.D., but there had been no initial certainty that this homicide was connected to the two other murders. Because her squad was already spread extremely thin, Megan had opted to check the scene herself.

But there was no doubt in her mind after viewing the body that the murder of this homeless man was connected somehow to the murders in Texas and Nevada. Why and how were the two big questions other than, of course, who.

She would wait to call it in until she had more information.

Megan frowned as she visually inspected the body again. Something else struck her as odd. Because the victim was homeless and had been living on the streets long enough to disappear into the backdrop of Sacramento, his age was indeterminate. At first glance, he could be as young as thirty, but the ravages of drugs and alcohol or simply the hard years living on the streets aged him. His clothes hadn’t been washed in weeks or longer, so his hands stood out.

They were clean.

She looked around for someone from the CSU or SPD, but all she saw were uniforms, and they eyed her apprehensively. Her boss, Bob Richardson, had made great inroads working with local law enforcement, but there were always a few who blamed the “Fibbies” for everything bad that happened on a call.

She took out her BlackBerry and snapped a couple photographs. Not SOP, but she didn’t plan to use the photos as evidence. She wanted to remember to ask the CSU about the hands, and this was Megan’s reminder.

Were clean hands part of the killer’s ritual? Or was this something new? Or special for this victim? Did this homeless man have some sort of hand-washing compulsion?

Or maybe there had been evidence on his hands and the killer had cleaned them. Very little could destroy evidence if the lab and technicians were good enough. But bleach or another caustic cleanser could be a sign that the victim had fought back and the killer had tried to conceal the evidence.

She knelt down and sniffed close to the hands.

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Sudden Death (F.B.I. Trilogy Series #1) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 51 reviews.
Jenrae More than 1 year ago
Awesome book. Brennan does romance and suspense equally well. Add in the "OMG, I can't believe that just happened" angle and you have a book that you can't put down.
Elisabeth77 More than 1 year ago
This author is outstanding ~ each time I read on of her books, I think she can't get better but each book is better than the one before. I can't wait for her next book. Definite reading for mystery fans!
cobras More than 1 year ago
I have read each of Allison Brennan's novels and each one keeps getting better. I like the way that she incorporates the Kincade Family in the story lines giving the reader an insight into the family. This helps to bring something special to each of the stories. The suspense builds while you read how she has the characters interact and solve the mystery. I would recomend this book to those readers who enjoy the mysteries of Nora Roberts and Catherine Coulter.
acorley84 More than 1 year ago
This was a first time read for this author and sub-genre for me and I can honestly say that I really enjoyed it. I won't hesitate to pick up another book from Allison Brennan nor will I hesitate to read another cozy romantic mystery! I listened to the audio version and at first thought that it was a little awkward listening to the narrator, Ann Marie Lee, for the character that she was playing. However, once I got into listening to the story, it didn't seem to bother me, it just struck me as odd at first. I think the narrator did the story great justice. As for the characters, I felt like they were in depth and to the core. I was interested in reading about them and learning more about them as the story progressed. I felt like all the characters blended together nicely to create a great story. I thought that the storyline ran smoothly without any delay. I really enjoyed the romance with a serious mystery. The romance part was not overdone, but a perfect fit with the story just to give it that extra spice. I do think that it would have been nice to have received a little more background on the characters, but for the most part, the story was easy to follow. Overall, I enjoyed listening to this story, and will certainly continue reading with Allison Brennan in mind.
picky1 More than 1 year ago
This is just another example of the reader not matching the material. It is very distracting to me. All the characters sound alike. Needs a stronger voice.
sjmccreary on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
FBI special agent Megan Elliott specializes in violent crimes. She is called out when the local Sacramento police discover a murder that seems to fit the pattern described on the recent FBI "hot sheet" of an active serial killer. Soon after, Megan receives a package at her home containing the companion dog tag to the one found on the body. When Megan realizes that all the victims so far had been members of the elite Delta Force the investigation takes off. When another victim is discovered in south Texas, Megan becomes acquainted with ex-Delta Force, and currrent mercenary, Jack Kincaid. (Jack is of the San Diego Kincaids, a family of recurring characters in Brennan's books.) Jack attaches himself to the investigation and, working together, they finally discover the killer's identity. But will they locate the person in time to prevent the death of the killer's ultimate target?I nearly ditched this book early on. The prologue is told from the POV of the killers (there are actually 2 - we know this from the beginning, it takes the investigators a little longer to figure it out) and describes the first of the series of murders. Very graphically. These killers like to torture their victims before finally murdering them. I'm not very squeamish, but I thought it was over the top - far more graphic than necessary. Once the body of the story begins, though, it settles down and proceeds more normally. Periodic scenes are still from the killer POV, and some are nearly as disturbing as the prologue. I understand that we are meant to be troubled by both of these people, and curious about what caused them to be this way - which is revealed as the book progresses. But you won't miss anything by skimming those bits - just pay attention to the parts that talk about the past. I also thought it was weak as romantic suspense (how I classify Brennan in my own mind), but then I noticed after finishing that the book is labeled as a "thriller". That fits better, but the romantic element is still there, just sort of stuck onto the side, almost as an afterthought. This could actually be a great thriller - a cold and ruthless killer, a young and beautiful herione, and a sidekick with a somewhat troubled past. It could also be a great romantic suspense - after all, the sidekick is ruggedly handsome and a confirmed bachelor. But it needs more work. Right now, it is falling flat somewhere in the middle. I'm not giving up on Brennan yet, though. I've enjoyed her work in the past and will wait to see what she does next.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Story line too slow and way too much sex.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Action Packed
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
J: The story starts out pretty interesting, although disturbing. But there are just too many characters to keep up with. I find myself looking back to figure out who they are and how they relate to the plot. Only about 100 pages in, and hope some of the dots start connecting before any more characters are introduced.
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1/18/13 My introduction to this author...not impressed.
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