Peter Leonard showed remarkable maturity for a first-time novelist in his debut novel Quiver. In Trust Me, he reaches for new heights as he crafts a classic noir thriller loaded with double- and triple-crosses.
The first mistake Karen Delaney made was entrusting $300,000 to her boyfriend, Samir, the head of an illegal bookmaking operation. The second was breaking up with him---because Samir holds a $300,000 grudge. A few months later, Karen sees a way to get her money back when two thieves break into her house in the middle of the night. She proposes a scheme to steal Samir's safe, but Karen soon realizes she's in way over her head as things begin to spin out of control.
Trust Me moves at breakneck speed through the affluent suburbs of Detroit and Chicago as Karen is pursued by O'Clair, an ex-con/ex-cop who works for Samir and wants the money for his own retirement; by Ricky, Samir's nephew, who sees the money as a way to pay off his own escalating gambling debts; by the thieves who've been double-crossed; and by two ruthless hit men who view the money as their stake in the American dream.
With relentless suspense, striking characters, and plot twists that will leave you white-knuckled, Trust Me marks the continuation of a powerful new voice in crime fiction and more than delivers on the promise of Peter Leonard's talent.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|File size:||299 KB|
About the Author
Peter Leonard lives in Birmingham, Michigan with his wife and four children. He is a partner in the ad agency of Leonard, Mayer&Tocco, Inc. He is the author of Quiver and Trust Me.
Read an Excerpt
Lou Starr was in bed reading, covered to the waist by a sheet. He'd set the air at sixty-eight and heard the compressor kick on outside. He pushed up the glasses that were falling off the end of his nose and stared at the signature hole of a new Robert Trent Jones PGA golf course called Whispering Palms.
He fondled the medallion that was hanging from a gold chain around his neck, resting on a sweater of chest hair. Lou said, "Want to see the best-looking new hole in golf?" He tilted the magazine toward Karen on the other side of the king-size bed, two feet of mattress between them.
Karen didn't say anything. She was propped up on pillows, the bedsheet angling across her chest revealing the pale white skin of her shoulder and the round curve of a breast. She was watching a sitcom on a Sony flat screen that hung on the wall a few feet away.
"It's a six-hundred-yard par five," Lou said. "Longest one in golf." He grinned now, imagining himself on the tee looking down the fairway. He took a couple practice swings with his Fusion FT-3 driver and blasted the ball three hundred and twenty-five yards straight down the pike. Hey, Tiger, beat that.
Lou hit his second shot over a bunker and a water hazard — on in two. He lined up the putt and sent the ball forty feet over a swale — left to right — for an eagle. He grinned big and closed the magazine and placed it on the table next to the bed. He took off his reading glasses, put them on top of the magazine and turned off the light.
Lou slid over next to Karen, touched her shoulder with his index finger, tracing a line down her arm to her elbow. He was horny. She'd been putting him off for a couple of weeks. First it was her period. What could he say about that? Then her allergies kicked in. What allergies? She'd never mentioned them before. And the past few nights she'd been too tired. From what, Lou wanted to know? All she did was go to the mall while he worked his ass off. He was wondering what he'd gotten himself into. They'd been living together for eight months and he was sure there were monks who got laid more than he did. Well he was going to get some tonight. He'd demand it.
Lou moved his hand under the covers, stroked Karen's thigh, her hip, the smooth round point of her pelvis under the nightie.
Karen pushed his hand away. "Come on, Lou. Not now."
"Not now," Lou said, "when?"
She was watching Pardon My French, this stupid fucking sitcom.
Karen said, "Chuck's getting married."
She sounded like she knew him. "Well, we're engaged," Lou said, "in case you forgot. How about my right to a piece of ass every couple months whether I need it or not?" He slid away from her, rolled over on his side.
A few minutes later it was over. He could hear the announcer's voice say: "Pardon My French has been brought to you by Levitra. The more you know about ED, the more you'll want to know about Levitra."
Lou got a kick out of that, Levitra for all the losers who couldn't get it up. He was fifty-six and still had a hard-on like a steel post. He glanced at Karen — hoping she'd slip her nightie off and attack him — this good-looking woman who was more interested in TV than sex. What was wrong with this picture?
He watched her yawn and close her eyes. The switcher slipped out of her hand and fell on the bed. Her eyes flickered open. She yawned again, picked up the remote and turned off the TV. It was dark, the room was quiet except for the ticking of his clock.
He'd been asleep for some time — he was sure of it — when he heard the noise. It was loud too, like something breaking, a window maybe, he couldn't tell. He looked at the clock. It was 2:48. He turned toward Karen. She heard it too, her eyes were big, a nervous look on her face.
"What was that?" Karen said.
She sat up and opened the drawer of her bedside table, took out her Airweight .357 and turned toward him. He was bringing the .45 out of his drawer, racking it. They got up with their guns and moved around the bed and went through the doorway into the living room.
Bobby saw them come in the dark room, holding guns, barrels pointed up like TV cops. They didn't go together, Bobby was thinking. The guy was short and hairy like a little gorilla. The girl was something though — lean and pale with skinny arms and nice jugs he could see hanging under the thin fabric of her nightie. He knew their names, Lou and Karen.
Bobby made his move coming in behind them, pointing the .32, telling them, if they moved, he'd blow their fucking heads off. Delivering the line like he meant it, surprised by the sound of his voice in the quiet room. They bent down and placed their guns on the carpet, and now Lloyd entered from the other side of the room.
"Folks, step back here, have a seat, will you?" Bobby said it friendly and polite, no reason to be rude now that he had their attention. He waved the gun motioning them toward the couch.
Lou said, "What the hell do you want?"
"Have a seat over here, we'll let you know," Bobby said.
Lloyd picked up the .357 and the .45. Bobby was wondering why these suburbanites were armed in the first place, not to mention with large caliber handguns. Lou grabbed an afghan off the couch wrapped it around Karen's shoulders and they both sat down.
"Come with me," Bobby said to Karen. She didn't hesitate, got up and headed toward the bedroom.
Lou said, "Hey ... where you taking her?"
Lloyd sat in a chair across from the guy, pointing the .45 at him.
Lloyd said, "We catch you and the little lady getting after it?" "What the hell business is it of yours?" He was mad letting Lloyd know it.
"I'm making it my business," Lloyd said. "I got the gun. You didn't wimp out maybe you'd be holding on me. But you froze like an amateur." He glanced around the room, checking things out. It was dark, but his eyes had adjusted and he could focus now. The furniture looked like it should be on a porch, not in somebody's living room, but he liked it. Real comfortable too, bent wood frames with khaki cushions.
Neither of them said anything for a while, sitting in silence like strangers on a bus until Lloyd said, "Nice place you got here. Is that a real one," pointing to the zebra skin rug on the floor.
"What do you think?"
Lloyd said, "Where'd you get it at?"
"I shot it," Lou Starr said.
Lloyd said, "You mean like on safari?"
"No, in the backyard."
"I hunt too," Lloyd said, "with a bow and arrow."
Lou Starr said, "Congratulations."
"What kind of gun you use?" Lloyd said.
"You don't give up, do you?"
"I was just wondering," Lloyd said, "that's all."
"A 30.06, okay? You happy?"
Lloyd wondered if the guy was always this grouchy. He was making a real effort to be friendly and it wasn't working.
In the dressing room, Bobby fixed his gaze on Karen. She was a knockout, red hair and pale creamy skin. He'd always had a weakness for girls like her.
"Do you think I'm going to overpower you?" she said.
"Huh?" He wasn't paying attention, his eyes staring where the afghan didn't cover her.
"The gun," Karen said. "You don't have to point it at me. I'm not going to try anything."
He was surprised she was so relaxed, like people broke in her house in the middle of the night on a regular basis.
"Do you mind if I put something on? This thing itches," Karen said. She didn't wait for permission; let the afghan slide off her shoulder onto the floor. She grabbed a robe off a hanger and slipped it on, tying the sash around her waist.
There was a framed sign hanging on the wall that read: "Everybody's a Star at Lou Starr's World Famous Parthenon." There was a photograph of a storefront and the word "Parthenon" in neon surrounded by a silver border of stars. He said, "What's that?"
"It's from Lou's restaurants," Karen said. "You get one when you eat there. Lou thinks it makes people feel special."
"He make you feel special?" Judging by the angry look on her face he would've guessed, no. "What the hell're those for?" He was staring at the wig stands, three of them on a shelf — two had salt-and-pepper hairpieces on them.
"No kidding. I thought they were yours." He glanced at her and felt himself grin. He lifted one of the hairpieces off the stand and studied it. It looked like a furry little creature in his hands. He was going to try it on but didn't want to mess up his own hair. "Is it real?"
"Yeah," Karen said. "It's hair from a fourteen-year-old Chinese girl."
"Does he put it on, and get a yen for chop suey?" Bobby grinned big. He couldn't help it. He surprised himself sometimes.
"He has them custom-made in London," Karen said. "The same place Burt Reynolds gets his."
Bobby said, "Burt Reynolds wears a rug, come on?"
"Are you kidding," Karen said, "his hair looks like it was made by Karastan."
"What's a custom rug cost these days?" Bobby said.
"They start at $700 and go up from there."
"That's a lot of money to look like an idiot. Why's he have three?"
"They're all different lengths so it looks like his hair's growing," Karen said.
"Where's the third one?" Bobby said, eyeing the blank wig stand.
"On his head," Karen said.
"Duh," Bobby said. How'd he miss that?
* * *
Lloyd was staring at a framed picture on the end table next to him. The guy across from him was in a safari outfit and there was a dead animal at his feet. Lloyd turned the frame toward him so he could see it. "Look at you. What is that, a lion?" Lloyd put it back on the end table. "What's a lion weigh?"
"Three fifty, four hundred," Lou Starr said. "This one went four twenty-five."
He finally got the grouch's attention. "Four twenty-five, whoa hoss, that's a big cat, ain't it?" Lloyd grinned at him. "You were in Africa, right?"
"That's been a dream of mine," Lloyd said. "Get some sahibs to carry all the shit, go out every day and hunt. Smoke any of that homegrown they got over there?"
He stared at Lloyd. Maybe he didn't know what homegrown was. Lloyd was just trying to be nice to the guy, making conversation, trying to pass the time and he was being a real dickhead. "Ever hunt whitetail?" Lou Starr said, "Uh-huh."
He wasn't giving him much. "You prefer a tree stand or a blind?"
"Who the fuck cares?"
"Ever got yourself a trophy buck?" Lloyd said. "One that made book? I'm not talking about seeing it while you're up on a limb. I'm talking about nailing it, bringing it home."
Lou Starr looked across the living room to the bedroom, glanced at his watch. "That's it," he said, standing now.
Lloyd aimed the .45 at him. "Don't be a dumbass. Sit down."
He dropped back on the couch, covered his face in his hands. He had a huge diamond ring set in gold on his little finger. Lloyd hadn't noticed it before, too busy looking at other stuff. "I like your ring," Lloyd said. "Always wanted one of those."
"I got an idea," Lou Starr said grinning. "When you get out of prison, get yourself a job and start saving up."
Bobby stared at a hanger-rack-ful of Lou's guayabera shirts: white and blue and yellow, reminding him of the shirts barbers wore, same style with the open collar and little vents on the tails. But these had a decorative quality to them and he imagined a roomful of short compact Latin men in the same kind of shirts, dancing and drinking wine.
Bobby turned and looked at her. "What nationality is he?"
"Take a guess," Karen said.
"Something Mediterranean," he said. "Italian or Sardinian."
"I'll give you a hint," Karen said. "Lou's real name is Starvos Loutra."
She was sitting in a chair now, chiseled legs visible, sticking out of the bottom of the robe.
"He doesn't have a brother named Spartacus, does he?" He smiled thinking he was funny and she smiled back telling him she did too. "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts," Bobby said, "and don't bend over and pick up the soap. That exhausts my knowledge of Greek heritage."
"I'm impressed," Karen said. "I can see you're a real scholar."
Bobby said, "Where's the money at?"
"What're you talking about?" Karen said.
"The $9,600 Lou won at the casino."
Karen said, "It's locked in the safe at one of his restaurants."
"I'm not walking out of here empty-handed," Bobby said.
"Do you want to make some real money?" Karen said. "Two hundred fifty thousand, maybe more."
"What do you think I just fell off the back of a turnip truck? Do I look that dumb?" She stared at him and he wondered what she was thinking. "Where's it at?"
"In a house in West Bloomfield," Karen said.
"We can get into all that," Karen said. "Does this sound like something you might be interested in?"
A quarter mill and a shot at her, hell yes he was interested. But he didn't trust her. How could he? You didn't break into someone's house in the middle of the night and expect to get propositioned. He fixed his gaze on her and said, "Are you scamming me?"
"No," Karen said. "I've been waiting for you."
The guy from the dressing room, who looked like he belonged to a fraternity, tied them back to back on the bed, grinning and winking at her while he did it, like they were buds. Lou started twisting and turning as soon as he left the room, trying to untie the ropes that bound them at the ankles, wrists and shoulders. He was pulling at the knots and the rope cutting into her. "Lou," Karen said, "take it easy, will you? You're hurting me."
"What do you want me to do, lay here till Carol and Betty come to clean?"
"Let me help you," Karen said. "If we work together, it'll be easier."
"How do you know?" Lou said. "Are you into bondage now like your freak sister?"
"Lou, don't take this out on me, okay?" Karen said. "It isn't my fault."
"How'd they know I won money?"
"Maybe they saw you cashing out." Like it was a big mystery. Karen pressed the tip of a fingernail into the knot at her wrist, trying to loosen it.
"I didn't see anyone watching me," Lou said.
So if he didn't see anyone then no one could've seen him. He was in his Lou mood now. And when he was like this, you couldn't talk to him.
"I'm going to get those assholes," Lou said. "The ring's irreplaceable."
"It's insured, isn't it?" Karen thought it was a blessing in disguise. It might've been the ugliest ring she'd ever seen in her life.
"You're not listening," Lou said. "It's custom, one of a kind."
She thought it was odd that he didn't ask her what happened in the dressing room. Did the guy molest her or try to hurt her? All Lou cared about was the ring. He cared about it more than her, obviously. She slid a fingernail in the knot and felt it move. She slid the short end of the rope through the knot and freed their hands.
Lou said, "How'd you do that?"
"I've got nails."
Karen undid the rope around their shoulders and sat up and untied their feet. Lou got up and looked at her.
"I'm calling the police."
"It's three-thirty in the morning. Do you really think they're going to get your ring back tonight?" He gave her a dirty look and she got in bed and turned her back to him.
Karen woke up thinking about the scene in the dressing room. She pictured the expression on Fratboy's face. She could see he wanted to believe her, but he wasn't sure. He'd need time to get comfortable with the idea. He sure didn't look like the kind of guy who'd break into somebody's house in the middle of the night, wearing his J. Crew outfit: green button-down-collar shirt and khakis.
They agreed to meet the next morning in Eastern Market. Karen didn't think it made sense. Why drive all the way to downtown Detroit? She'd suggested 220 Merrill in Birmingham, sit at the bar have a couple of drinks, see if there was interest from both parties. But Fratboy didn't like it. She could have the cops there, he said. Karen wanted to tell him she could have the cops at Eastern Market too, but the cops weren't part of the plan.
Karen took I-75 south to the Mack exit and saw the skyline of Detroit spread out in the distance. She took a left over the freeway and a right on Russell, and drove slowly through the bustling, congested streets of the market. Hi-Los were zigzagging, vendors were stocking their stalls: icing down fish, hanging sides of meat, filling bins with fruit and vegetables and flowers. Karen steered around trucks that were double-parked on Market Street, dodging workers that suddenly appeared in front of her, looking for R. Hirt, the wine and cheese place. She saw it at the end of the street, a red-brick building built in the twenties.
Excerpted from "Trust Me"
Copyright © 2009 Peter Leonard.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The comparisons to Tarantino are only true in so far as the book reads like it was written for screen. Unlike Tarantino the dialogue in this book isn't anything to get excited about. There's not much meat to each character and I found myself easliy confused between the different protaganists, and not really caring enough to do anything but skim read the last half of the book.
Quite a complicated book to read and yet the plot wasn't exactly challenging. I kept having to remind myself what I'd read and how each of the characters were linked together. The book got better as I progressed but to be honest, if I hadn't been reviewing it I would have happily left it unfinshed as it was a relief to get to the end. The book shouldn't have been this complicated to follow to be honest, the reader was fully aware all along who was involved in what crime yet it just didn't flow.O'Clair was an odd character who, although I'd warmed to him, didn't seem to ring true with me and I couldn't see him going through the steps he did. I can't say too much here without spoiling the plot. Karen started as an interesting character but then I just went off her and couldn't have cared less what happened to her. After reading both 'Quiver' (which wasn't as bad as this and was a reasonable read) and now 'Trust Me', I won't be giving Peter Leonard's future books another read. Not as good as I was hoping and I'm sorry to say that.
Free books are always a bonus, and I was fortunate enough to receive this through the "Early Reviewers" Giveaway. This book began quite slowly, with lots of different characters being introduced so it was quite confusing to keep up with all the individual people, and how they connected with each other. I think the author may have had the same problem as, on at least one occasion, a character was called a different name - presumably a typo. Having got past that, though, this book does pick up, with characters crossing and double-crossing each other, and things get more exciting, in a seedy world of drugs, gambling and money...
Trust Me is similar in narrative style to Hiassen, however it's definitely imitation not enhancement. The plot involves plenty of revenge, hapless criminals and immense bad luck. Crime and humour are well blended by Leonard, although rarely expertly enough to produce a grin. The plot is a little to linear too and becomes a little repetitive, although Trust Me is only a short read. The pace throughout the novel is frenetic and the characters are well presented, although the central anti-hero doesn't really offer enough reasons to hope she succeeds. An entertaining although forgettable read.
In Detroit Karen Delaney gave $300,000 to her boyfriend Samir Fakir, who runs a book joint. However, when she ends their relationship, he refuses to give her back her money. Upset, she has no way of regaining her cash. Several months later, Bobby and Lloyd break into Karen's house planning to rob the place. Instead she catches the bumbling pair and offers them a deal. She will give them a share of the loot if they rob Samir's safe. Though the plan does not go as smooth as Karen's silky skin, they succeed with the theft. However, several people are interested in the stolen cash. An ex cop who plans to retire on the money; Samir's nephew owes a ton in gambling debts that will mean a knee if he is lucky; Samir's debtors want payment yesterday or they will test the resistance of his joints, other hitmen who want a windfall profit; and of course those incompetent thieves Bobby and Lloyd. Everyone seeks Karen who has disappeared with the money. This is a zany out of control crime caper in which the twists are actually missteps by the competitors. No one comes across as particularly likable as everyone is pulled by avarice and most have the IQ of the Three Stooges. Still fans of Leonard style wackiness will enjoy paraphrasing President Reagan TRUST ME since I'm not government I'm here to help you; that is after I kill you. Harriet Klausner