The Crooked Staircase (Jane Hawk Series #3)

The Crooked Staircase (Jane Hawk Series #3)

by Dean Koontz

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525483441
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/08/2018
Series: Jane Hawk Series , #3
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 512
Sales rank: 1,240
File size: 6 MB

About the Author

Dean Koontz, the author of many #1 New York Times bestsellers, lives in Southern California with his wife, Gerda, their golden retriever, Elsa, and the enduring spirits of their goldens, Trixie and Anna.

Hometown:

Newport Beach, California

Date of Birth:

July 9, 1945

Place of Birth:

Everett, Pennsylvania

Education:

B.S. (major in English), Shippensburg University, 1966

Read an Excerpt

1

At seven o’clock on that night in March, during a thunderless but heavy rain pounding as loud as an orchestra of kettledrums, Sara Holdsteck finally left the offices of Paradise Real Estate, carrying her briefcase in her left hand, open purse slung over her left shoulder, right hand free for a cross-body draw of the gun in the purse. She boarded her Ford Explorer, threw back the dripping hood of her raincoat, and drove home by way of familiar suburban streets on which the foul weather had settled a strangeness, an apocalyptic gloom that matched her mood. Not for the first time in the past two years, she felt as if somewhere ahead of her, reality itself must be eroding, washing away, so that she might come to the crumbling edge of a precipice with nothing beyond but a lightless, bottomless abyss. Silver needles of rain pleated the darkness with mystery and threat. Any vehicle that followed her more than three blocks elicited her suspicion.

The Springfield Armory Champion .45 ACP was nestled in her open purse, which stood on her briefcase, within easy reach on the passenger seat. Originally she hadn’t wanted a weapon of such a high caliber, but she had eventually realized that nothing smaller would so reliably stop an assailant. She had spent many hours on a shooting range, learning to control the recoil.

She had once lived in a gated community with an around-the-clock security guard, in a paid-off twelve-thousand-square-foot residence with a view of the Pacific Ocean. Now she owned a house one-quarter that size, encumbered by a fat mortgage, in a neighborhood with no gate, no guard, no view. Starting with little money, by the age of forty she had built a modest fortune as a Southern California real-estate agent, broker, and canny investor—but most of it had been taken from her by the time she was forty-two.

At forty-four, though bitter, she was nonetheless grateful that she hadn’t been rendered penniless. Having clawed her way to the top once before, she’d been left with just enough assets to start the climb again. This time she would not make the mistake that had led to her ruin; she would not marry.

On the street where Sara lived, storm runoff overwhelmed the drains to form shallow lakes wherever the pavement swaled. Her Ford cast up wings of water in a false promise of magical flight. She slowed and swung into her driveway. Lights glowed in some windows, controlled by a smart-house program that, after nightfall and in her absence, created the illusion of occupancy and activity. She remoted the garage door and, while it rolled up on its tracks, put her open purse in her lap. She drove inside, the drumming of rain on the roof relenting as the welcome electronic shriek of the alarm system inspired a greater sense of safety than she had felt since setting out for work that morning.

She did not switch off the engine. With the doors still locked, she kept her left foot hard on the brake, her right poised over the accelerator, and she shifted into reverse. She used the remote control again and looked from one of the SUV’s side mirrors to the other, watching the big segmented door descend. If someone tried to slip in under it, the motion detector would sense the intruder and, as a safety measure, retract the door. If that happened, the instant the roll-up cleared the roof of the Explorer, she would take her foot off the brake, stomp the accelerator, and reverse at speed into the driveway, into the street.

With luck, she might be quick enough to run down whatever sonofabitch had come after her.

The bottom rail of the door met the concrete with a soft thud. She was alone in the garage.

She shifted the SUV into park, applied the emergency brake, switched off the engine, and got out. The last exhaust fumes threaded the air. The Ford shed rain on the concrete floor and ticked as the engine cooled.

After unlocking the connecting door to the house, she stepped into the laundry room, turned to the keypad, and entered the four-number code that disarmed the security system. At once she reset the alarm to the at-home mode, which activated only the sensors at the doors and windows, leaving dormant the interior motion detectors, allowing her to move freely through the residence.

She hung her raincoat on a wall hook, where it dripped onto the tile floor. Purse slung from her left shoulder, briefcase in her right hand, she opened the inner laundry-room door and went into the kitchen, realizing an instant too late that the air was redolent with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee.

A stranger with a pistol stood at the dinette table on which rested a mug of coffee and Sara’s copy of that morning’s Los Angeles Times with its banner headline jane hawk indicted for espionage, treason, murder. The barrel of the weapon was elongated by a silencer, the muzzle as dark and deep as a wormhole connecting this universe to another.

Sara halted, shocked not merely because her home had been violated in spite of all her precautions, but also because the intruder was a woman.

Twentysomething, with long black hair parted mid-forehead and tucked behind her ears, with eyes as black and direct as the muzzle of the gun, with no makeup or lipstick—and no need of any—wearing wire-rimmed glasses, dressed in a black sport coat and a white shirt and black jeans, she looked severe and yet beautiful and somehow unearthly, as if Death had undergone an image makeover and at long last revealed her true gender.

“I’m not here to hurt you,” the intruder said. “I just need some information. But first, put your purse on the counter, and don’t reach for the gun in it.”

Although Sara suspected that it would be foolish to hope to deceive this woman, she heard herself say, “Whatever you are, I’m not like you. I’m just a real-estate agent. I don’t have a gun.”

The stranger said, “Two years ago, you purchased a Springfield Armory Super Tuned Champion with a Novak low-mount fixed sight, polished extractor and ejector and feed ramp, and a King extended safety. You ordered it with an A1-style trigger precisely tuned to a four-pound pull, and you had the entire weapon carry-beveled, all its edges and corners rounded so that it won’t snag during a quick draw. You must have done a lot of research to come up with an order like that. And you must have spent many hours on a shooting range, learning to handle the piece, because then you applied for and received a concealed-carry permit.”

Sara put the purse on the counter.

“The briefcase, too,” the intruder directed. “Don’t even think of slinging it at me.”

When she did as told, Sara’s gaze fixed on a nearby drawer that held cutlery, including a chef’s French knife and a cleaver.

“Unless you’re a champion knife thrower,” the stranger said, “you’ll never be fast enough to use it. Didn’t you hear me say I don’t mean you any harm?”

Sara turned from the cutlery drawer. “Yeah, I heard. But I don’t believe it.”

The woman regarded her in silence for a moment and then said, “If you’re as smart as I think you are, you’ll warm up to me. If you’re not that smart, this will get ugly when it doesn’t need to be. Sit down at the table.”

“What if I just walk out of here?”

“Then I’ll have to hurt you a little, after all. But you’ll have brought it on yourself.”

The intruder’s face—the strength of its features, the clarity of its lines, its refinement—was as purely Celtic as any face in Scotland or Ireland. But those eyes, so black that the pupils and irises were as one, seemed to belong in a different countenance. The contrast was somehow unsettling, as if the face might be a mask, its every expression unreliable, while the truth that otherwise might be read in her eyes remained secreted in their darkness.

Although Sara had promised herself that she would never again be intimidated by anyone, after a brief staring match, she sat where she’d been told to sit.

2

The tropical stillness of the storm succumbed to a sudden wind that cast shatters of rain against the windows.

Jane Hawk sat across from Sara Holdsteck and put her Heckler & Koch .45 Compact on the kitchen table. Sara looked weary, which was not surprising, considering all that she had been through in the past two years. Weary but not defeated. Jane was familiar with that condition.

“Your Springfield Champion is a sweet weapon, Sara. But don’t carry it in your purse. Change the way you dress. Get in the habit of wearing a sport coat. Carry the gun in a concealed shoulder rig where you can draw it quickly.”

“I hate guns. It was a big step for me just to get one.”

“I understand. But switch to a shoulder rig anyway. And get real about security systems like the one you had installed here.”

Skirling wind rattled rain hard against the glass, disquieting Sara, so that she looked at each of the two kitchen windows as if she expected to see some face of inhuman configuration, conjured by the storm.

Returning her attention to Jane, she said, “Get real about my security system? What’s that mean?”

“Do you know that all alarm companies in any city or region use the same central station to monitor the systems they install?”

“I thought each company monitored its own.”

“Not the case. And certain government agencies have secret—basically illegal—back doors to all those central stations across the country. Do you understand what I mean by ‘back doors’?”

“A way into the company’s computer the company doesn’t know about.”

“I used a back door to your security provider and reviewed your account. Learned where your alarm keypads and motion detectors are located, the password you use when you accidentally trigger an alarm and call in a cancellation, the location of the battery that backs up the system during a power failure. Useful stuff for any bad guy to know. Though he’d still need the four-digit disarming code.”

Two words belatedly brought a scowl to Sara’s face. “ ‘Government agencies’? I’ve had enough of them. Which are you with?”

“None. Not anymore. Sara, the alarm company isn’t supposed to have that disarming code. It’s something only the homeowner should know. You should program it yourself with the primary keypad. But like a lot of people, you didn’t want to bother following the steps in the manual, so you asked the installer to program it for you. Which he did. And noted it in your account file. Where I found it.”

As if the weight of her mistake pressed on her, Sara slumped lower in her chair. “I’ve been living defensively for a long time, but I don’t claim to be perfect at it.”

“Maybe you need to be better, but you don’t want to be perfect at it. Only the insane are perfect in their paranoia.”

“Sometimes I think I’ve already gone half-crazy, the way I live. I mean, the worst happened more than two years ago. Nothing since.”

“But in your gut, you know . . . at any time he might decide you’re a loose end that needs to be tied off.”

Sara glanced again at the windows.

“Would you like to lower the blinds?” Jane asked.

“I always do when I come home after dark.”

“Go ahead. Then sit down again.”

Having closed the blinds, Sara returned to her chair.

Jane said, “I got in here using an automatic lock-picking gun supposedly sold only to police. Turned off the alarm with your code, reset it in the at-home mode, and settled down to wait.”

“I’ll change the code myself. But, who are you?”

Instead of answering, Jane said, “You were on top of the world, selling high-end houses, damn good at it, never a complaint from a client. Then suddenly you’re hit with three very public lawsuits, all within two weeks, alleging fraudulent activities.”

“The allegations weren’t true.”

“I’m aware of that. Then came a seemingly unrelated IRS audit. But not an ordinary audit. One conducted with the assumption of criminal intent, accusations of money laundering.”

The memory triggered indignation that drew Sara up straight in her chair. “The IRS agents who came to pore through my books, they were armed. As if I was some dangerous terrorist.”

“Armed auditors aren’t supposed to flaunt their weapons.”

“Yeah, well, they made damn sure I knew they were packing.”

“To intimidate you.”

Sara squinted as if to focus more intently on Jane’s face. “Do I know you? Have we met before?”

“Doesn’t matter, Sara. What matters is that I despise the same people you despise.”

“Like who would that be?”

From a jacket pocket, Jane produced a photograph of Simon Yegg and dealt it across the table as if it were a playing card.

“My husband,” Sara said. “Ex-husband. The vicious shit. I know why I despise him, but why do you?”

“Because of the crew he hangs with. I want to use him to get to them. In the process, I can make him profoundly sorry he did to you what he did. I can humble him.”

3

Tanuja Shukla was standing in the deep front yard, in the rain and the dark, soaked and chilled and lonely and wildly happy, when the assassins arrived, although of course she didn’t at once realize they were assassins.

Twenty-five and obsessively creative from early childhood, Tanuja had been writing a novelette in which a rain-drenched night provided atmosphere but also served as a metaphor for loneliness and spiritual malaise. After watching the downpour from a window of her second-floor study, she seized the opportunity to immerse herself in the elements, the better to know what her lead character felt during a long journey on foot in a storm. Other writers of literary fiction with elements of fantasy found most research unnecessary, but Tanuja believed that a skeleton of truth needed to provide the structure underlying an author’s muscular invention—the fantasy—and that the two must be bound together by tendons of accurate facts and well-observed details.

Her twin brother, Sanjay, who was two minutes younger than Tanuja and considerably more acerbic, had said, “Don’t worry. When you die of pneumonia, I’ll finish writing your story, and the last pages will be the best of it.”

Tanuja’s jeans and black T-shirt were saturated, at first clinging like one of those weighted blankets meant to alleviate anxiety, but then seeming to dissolve so that she felt as if she were unclothed except for her blue sneakers, naked in the storm, vulnerable and alone, exactly how the character in her novelette felt. As she mentally catalogued the physical details of this experience for later use in fiction, she was more content than she had been all day.

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The Crooked Staircase (Jane Hawk Series #3) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 66 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can't wait for the next book. What a wild ride which only the greats like Koontz can produce. The characters are genuine and the loss of some I did not see coming. The plot is believable and terrifying in its reality. As always I love his writing style and was thrilled to see over 600 pages per book! Thank you once again Mr. KOONTZ FOR AN EXCELLENT READ.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Compels you to keep reading . However, sometimes there was too much descriptive detail concerning physical surroundings. I wanted to get on with the story!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read all day and most of the night.Love the characters. Intriguing and edge of the seat action with great twists and turns.So vivid you can picture it in your minds eye.Can't wait for the next in the series Another great series .I can't wait for the next one to come out. Characters you can connect with and edge of the seat action that you feel your part of.
Anonymous 9 months ago
This story ran out of steam long ago. Let’s get the problem solved and get on with a reasonably satisfying ending. Not that it’s possible, since most of the people we care about have bee gratuitously murdered. I’ve read them all, curious and intrigued, then weary, thinking it was long past time to end this thing. I’m not picking up the next one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Typical Dean Koontz at the top of his writing game! This story will keep you on your toes and turning pages until the early morning light. Can't recommend this highly enough. Can't wait until the next book! Absolutely the best!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One can only hope, the corrupt leaders of our beloved country don't get any ideas from this genuinely ingenious plot; as they seem to be using "Mein Kampf and 1984" ideas concurrently. Its hard to believe Koontz writing and plots continue to weave webs that capture and mesmerize after all these years. Astounding me when I think he's reached the pinnacle in his genre. His plot is so terrifyingly believable in todays world. His hero characters have such deep heart understanding- as well as resources of soul and brilliance of courage. And he always includes bright, intelligent dog characters to love and appreciate. I hate to use this cliche - but, I was unable to put the book down. Now can't wait for the next episode.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book ... but I'm ready for this story to conclude!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Should be 5 stars but drags a bit in places.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Koontz once again has taken our heroine and embroiled her in many disadvantageous adventures. You want to keep reading and finding out what happens next! Can't wait for the next installment!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not as awesome as the 1st 2 in the series but I'm only on page 125 ....this one has a little over 600 pages so I'm hoping it's worth it. I will update my review when I'm finished if something changes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This Jane Hawk series is unstoppable !!
Anonymous 17 days ago
The book was incredibly well written the characters are great but if you are expecting a conclusion you will be greatly disappointed this was just a bridge to the next book
Norman Baron 4 months ago
I have been a follower of Dean Koontz for years. The Jean Hawk series is quite good and I am enjoying every bit of it. I have, however, noticed that there are sections that seem acerbic to the point of being a rant. I don't recall that in past books. I have always felt that there is a place for ranting and raving and a place that it doesn't belong. Otherwise, the books are good and I am waiting for the last one to come out. The dust covers with photos, supposedly, of Lady Jane Hawk are gorgeous. They have probably put book nerds, including me, into a positive sweat of passion. Thank you, Mr. Koontz, for the cracking good yarn. Keep up the good work. Please and thank you. Best regards, Norman Baron, MD, FACS
Anonymous 5 months ago
You can skip chapters and not miss anything . Love Koontz but not this story .
Anonymous 8 months ago
I have been stockpiling Dean Koontz's print books for years now but haven't read any. I picked an advanced copies of this and didn't want to put it down. Took me almost a week to read due to a personal illness that is almost gone. One a normal week I would have read it in a day or two. This book pulled you in and didn't let go. You want Jane, Travis, and everyone you time to love to be ok. Is that even possible. You want the bad guys to be tortured slowly before they die. Do you get that? Maybe on some level. I loved this book. Pick it up! Read it! Love it. You won't regret it (less)
Anonymous 9 months ago
Awesome
Anonymous 10 months ago
What I like the most about this book is that it is a true story. After all, they couldn't put it in books if it wasn't true. It's the law. The Federal law.
Bookworm_Babblings 11 months ago
Jane Hawk is back again and still out for revenge for the death of her husband. As she climbs higher up the totem to stop them from creating their version of utopia, she begins to wonder how much further she must go. Simon Yegg is a rich and powerful man. He will do anything for his brother, and doesn't ask questions. When Jane appears, he tries to outsmart her and sets up a signal to let his brother Booth Hendrickson know that Jane is with him. But when Jane encounters Booth, could she have met her match. Jessie and Gavin Washington have sworn to keep Travis Hawk safe. They feel that this is their part in this war. There are many changes in this book that had me thinking it was insanely riveting. There's nonstop excitement that will leave you at the edge of your seat, anticipating the arrival of book four.
Anonymous 12 months ago
Can't wait for the next book.
Booklover225 12 months ago
FBI agent Jane Hawk is on a solo mission to fight the evil that killed her husband and threatens our country. She is out to avenge her husbands death, protect her son and stop the diabiocal people who are trying to take over lives of people. Marked to the country as a murderering renegadee FBI agent doesn't stop her as she uses her considerable skills in her mission. Jane Hawk is successfully climbing the pyramid of evil one person at a time. Trying every way to stop her they are hunting for her son, tracking every friend and acquaintance she's ever had. Evil stalks her and she stalks evil and they want to do things worse than death to her and thousands of others. With no one to help her she has to be successful. I received a digital copy of this book from the author through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. A page turner the whole way!
Anonymous 12 months ago
Can't wait for the next installment
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I always look forward to Dean Koontz books. I am never disappointed
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Once again Mr. Koontz has kept me up turning pages until the sun comes up, but what better way to loss sleep then with a wonderful book you never want to end. This one the third in his Jane Hawk series is full of spine tingling thrills and unexpected turns in plots to which Jane Hawk, her son Travis, family and friends fall into while Jane tries to find the head of the Arcadian Resistance which is responsible for her beloved husbands suicide and who have threatened to kill her son or do worse. The Jane Hawk books just keep getting better, all the characters are super engaging, likable and lovable and the villains are equally deplorable... you so want to see Jane pour out Justice in the worse way! Can hardly wait for book 4 in the series, after this book I will never try to second guess what Mr. Koontz has in store for his characters.
lsmoore_43 More than 1 year ago
I love books by Dean Koontz. I have not been disappointed yet by this series. Though I had no idea it was a series until I started I love it and can’t wait for the next book. He’s right up there with Stephen King. This series will hook you if you like this type. If not then you may not feel the same as I do. I just know it’s one I could not put down. Thank you #NetGalley #Dean Koontz #The Crooked Staircase and #Random House
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am truly enjoying this series. For some reason Ithought it was going to be a trilogy and am so glad it's more than that. Like others who have reviewed, I am having a difficult time putting the story aside and getting on with the day and/or going to bed at night. Also I like a good story that has some length to it, as in 600+ pages. Well done Mr. Koontz.