Twenty-three years ago, Misty Banner was brutally slashed to death in her home in Virtue Falls, Washington. Her husband was convicted of the murder. Their four year old daughter Elizabeth witnessed the crime, but has no memory of the killing. Now, two decades later, Elizabeth is back in Virtue Falls. She soon discovers her father is innocent. The real killer is still out there. And her investigation has stirred dark and deadly resentments that could provoke in another bloody murder—her own—in this riveting novel from bestselling author Christina Dodd.
About the Author
Christina Dodd is the author of many New York Times bestselling romance novels, including the Virtue Falls series. She has won numerous awards: Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart and RITA Awards.
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By Christina Dodd
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2014 Christina Dodd
All rights reserved.
Virtue Falls, Washington State
If Elizabeth Banner noticed the interest with which the townspeople talked about her in low tones behind her back, she gave no indication. And in fact, she didn't notice. For as long as she could remember, she had always been the girl who had watched her father kill her mother with the scissors.
Although Elizabeth hadn't set foot in Virtue Falls for twenty-three years, the memory of Misty Banner's murder was still fresh in many people's minds. That made Elizabeth a local celebrity of sorts, and the news of her return swept the small community as vigorously as the tsunami those crazy scientists were always predicting.
Townsfolk speculated that Elizabeth had come back to reunite with her father, but after one brief visit to the Honor Mountain Memory Care Facility, she hadn't gone back. Instead she spent her time at the ongoing study of Pacific Rim tectonic plates and subduction zones, researching alluvial deposits.
Which made sense — her father was Charles Banner, the man who had pioneered the study, and now here she was, a chip off the old block, a respected geologist at age twenty-seven with lots of official-sounding letters after her name.
A few nasty people in the town darkly muttered that they hoped she didn't follow in her father's footsteps in any matter beyond the sciences.
Most folks didn't think she would; Elizabeth resembled her mother, not her father, with the same white-blond hair, the same wide blue eyes, the same curvy body and a walk to make a man abandon all sense.
Every straight guy in Virtue Falls had tried to catch her attention; she stared at them blankly, and talked about igneous rocks and cataclysmic earth events until even the most determined would-be lover conceded defeat.
Her online profile said she was divorced.
Most men said they knew why; she was boring.
Perversely, most men considered the guy who had let Elizabeth Banner get away to be the biggest dumbshit in the history of the world. It didn't matter what she said. It was the way her full lips formed the words when she said them.
Now she sat at her usual table by the window at the Oceanview Café — when she first arrived, she had noted with interest that the ocean was nowhere in view from this part of town — reviewing her notes from the dig and occasionally sipping on a Fufu Berry Jones soda and wondering why she had ordered it.
She thought she had ordered a root beer. And what was a fufu berry, anyway? Something pink ...
"Here you go, Elizabeth." The waitress slid a plate under Elizabeth's elbow. "Eat up while it's hot."
Elizabeth had finished work at the dig, gone home and showered, and changed into her brand-new Tory Burch sandals and her baby blue cotton jersey summer dress that was one size too big. She wore it like that on purpose. If she didn't, men had a tendency to stare at her boobs.
Well. Men had a tendency to stare at her boobs no matter what, but when she wore loose-fitting clothes, they were sometimes able to meet her eyes.
Rainbow wiped her hands on her apron. "Are you missing your team?"
Elizabeth paused, a fry halfway from the ketchup to her mouth. "Why would I?"
"They've been gone for three days to that conference in Tahoe, and you've been working alone at the site. Three days in that isolated canyon with no one to talk to. Don't you get lonely?"
"No." Elizabeth shook her head for emphasis. "At any rate, the team will soon be back covered with accolades for their research. Andrew is a very capable, if not brilliant, scientific leader."
"I don't know that I would tell him he's not brilliant," Rainbow said.
"He knows that, or he wouldn't lean so heavily on the intuitive suggestions of others." With great precision, Elizabeth spread mustard to the edges of the homemade bun.
"Trust me on this one, honey. There's a world of difference between knowing it and admitting it, and Andrew Marrero is already touchy about the fact he worked for your father and stands in his shadow."
Elizabeth considered that. "Yes. I have read my father's work. Charles Banner was, in fact, a gifted scientist, and I say that without prejudice of any kind. But why that would influence Marrero's opinion of himself, I do not understand."
"I know you don't, honey. But take my word for it, I'm right."
Elizabeth observed Rainbow, head tilted.
Rainbow sighed. "Okay, look. Marrero is a good-looking son-of-a-bitch. Dark hair, dark eyes, swarthy skin, the image of a Latin lover. But he's short. He says five-nine, but he's five-seven, maybe five-eight. Maybe. He's well hung, but he can't tell everybody that, so he wears lifts in his shoes. Short guys just have this attitude."
Elizabeth was fascinated with this unsuspected side of Rainbow. "You've slept with Andrew Marrero?"
"He's not my usual type, but it was interesting. I used to put him on and spin him." Rainbow's eyes half-closed in satisfied remembrance.
Elizabeth blurted, "I thought you were ..." She stopped herself barely in time.
Rainbow's eyes snapped open. "Gay?"
So ... not barely in time.
"Hey, when you're bi, you double your chance for a date on Saturday night." Rainbow chortled, patted Elizabeth's arm, and headed toward the lunch counter.
Elizabeth sank her teeth into the burger while she watched Rainbow charm three sunburned tourists who chattered with great excitement about their day at the beach.
Rainbow had apparently been the waitress here at the Oceanview when Elizabeth was a child. Twenty-three years later she was still the waitress, a fate Elizabeth considered worse than death. Of course, she couldn't even remember whether she'd ordered a root beer or a fufu berry soda, so that was part of it, but being around people all day filled her with horror.
She liked rocks.
She didn't like people. In her experience, most of them were spiteful, or thoughtless, or cruelly curious, and always, always impatient with her lack of interest in them.
But Rainbow interested her, because Rainbow seemed to be an entirely different species of human. For one thing, Rainbow was tall, with big bones, broad shoulders, and a head full of salt-and-pepper gray hair. She was hearty, cheerful, and she seemed honestly fascinated by her customers, tourist or local, always chatting, asking questions, giving unwanted advice.
At first Elizabeth hadn't known what to do with her; every time Rainbow came to the table she would tell Elizabeth stuff. Stuff Elizabeth didn't want to hear because it distracted her from her work.
But Rainbow never needed an invitation to talk. The first time Elizabeth came in for dinner, Rainbow told her, "A lot of people think my name is unfortunate for a woman my age. You know — I was born in sixty-eight in Haight-Ashbury, after the Summer of Love." She paused and seemed to be waiting for something.
Elizabeth belatedly picked up her cue. "Your parents were hippies?"
"Hippies? God, yes. The original hash-smoking, psychedelic-music-playing, free-love-practicing hippies." Rainbow shook her head like a disapproving mom. "Still are, for that matter. After I was born, they decided the city wasn't a good place to raise a baby, so they went into the Sierra Nevadas and learned weaving from a Native American woman who'd learned techniques from her great-grandmother. They're pretty good at it. You've probably heard of them."
"I don't think so."
"They've got one of the temporary exhibits in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. My parents are Alder and Elf Breezewing."
Elizabeth's head was spinning. "Which one is Alder and which is Elf?"
"He's Alder and she's Elf, of course. It's the Breezewing exhibit!"
Rainbow put her broad hands on her broad hips. "You really don't know a damned thing about anything except rocks, do you?"
"That is not true. I also understand alluvial deposits and am studying the recently mapped ocean floor off the coast of Virtue Falls for an understanding of why tsunamis are so massive in this area." Elizabeth thought it an intelligent answer.
Rainbow stared at her as if she was speaking a foreign language. "Right. You're like your father. I'll get your dinner. I had the cook put an extra order of fries on the plate."
Elizabeth wanted to ask what she meant about her father. Had Rainbow known him when they lived here?
But Elizabeth had learned, the hard way, never to talk about Charles, so instead she asked, "I asked for mashed potatoes. Didn't I?"
"They're coming, too. You need fattening up."
Elizabeth knew for a fact she didn't need fattening up. She was curvy. Very curvy. For a girl growing up in California, land of the svelte, being built like her was a disadvantage, not to mention it was hard to find clothes. If pants fit her hips, they were loose around her waist, and she hadn't worn a button-up shirt since she was eleven and developed a C-cup. Her aunt said she was built like her mom. Her uncle said she was built like an exotic dancer. But he didn't realize she'd heard him, so she would acquit him of malice. Her uncle wasn't mean; he was overworked and didn't have time for his own kids, much less a niece who never talked much even after she recovered her power of speech.
Elizabeth realized she had a bit of a disconnect from the rest of the world caused by the knowledge that humanity could turn on her in an instant. She recognized the fact she sabotaged her own relationships, and sometimes she really tried to join in with the general populace and talk about the weather. She just never got it right. Not even with Garik.
Especially not with Garik.
Best not to think of Garik.
She bent her head to her reports again, and didn't notice when one of the town's elderly inhabitants held court in the corner, pointed her out to the tourists, and regaled them with the tale of how Elizabeth Banner had seen her father kill her mother with a pair of scissors.CHAPTER 2
"Virtue Falls Resort has already celebrated its hundredth birthday."
The tourists said, "Ooh."
"Built in nineteen-thirteen by John Smith Sr., this elegant four-story boutique hotel and spa perches on a rocky precipice over the Pacific Ocean, and was a profitable addition to the immense Smith fortune, which consisted of a thousand wooded acres, a sawmill, and the mountaintop mansion in which the family lived." Margaret leaned on her cane and listened as the dozen newly arrived guests now said, "Ahh."
They stood in the great room of the resort, on the next to the last stop of the tour. Margaret had probably told this tale to resort guests at least five thousand times — and she loved it. It was her Irish blood that made her a storyteller, and her own self that made her love dealing with people.
She didn't mind that the guests craned their necks to look up at the massive rustic Douglas fir beams supporting the high knotty pine ceiling, or ran their hands over the restored early-twentieth-century furniture. She wanted them to admire the great room. More than that, she wanted to give them the feeling that they were part of the Smith family.
When that happened, they would return. Even now, she recognized one couple; Mr. and Mrs. Turner had first come as honeymooners. Now they brought their teenage son.
That was the kind of connection Margaret liked to see. She continued, "Unfortunately, World War One took the oldest Smith son into battle and he died in the fields of France. Grief killed John, Senior. Mrs. Ida Smith and her son Johnny had not been trained to manage properties, and surviving the Great Depression required more skill than the two of them could provide. By the time Mrs. Ida Smith visited Ireland in nineteen thirty-eight, the Smith fortunes were well on their way to vanishing. Luckily, Mrs. Smith met me." Margaret nodded while her guests laughed. "I was sixteen years old" — a lie, she'd been fifteen — "and Mrs. Smith brought me back to work for her. Eventually, I married her son Johnny" — he'd never had a chance, she'd married him within three months — "and we made a marvelous team."
"How long were you married?" Aurora Thompson was middle-aged and vacationing alone, with a white, untanned line across her wedding ring finger.
Margaret diagnosed her as recently divorced, poor dear, still wallowing in self-pity. "Not quite thirty years," Margaret said. "But no other man has ever tempted me to revisit the marital state."
"I'll bet a lot of men have tried." Josue Torres was no more than thirty, handsome as the devil and with a twinkle in his brown eyes.
"Ah, you are a charmer." Margaret smiled at him and checked for a ring. Married. Where was his wife? Why was he here? Was he one of the philandering bastards she despised? "Are you applying for the job?"
"If I were single ..." He sighed dramatically. "But my wife is joining me tomorrow."
Margaret put her hand on her chest, and she deliberately deepened her Irish brogue as she said, "Ah, you've broken me heart." She straightened, and speaking toward Aurora, she said, "Actually, I find my life without a man of my own quite enjoyable. But then, I'm a pigheaded old woman who likes to do what she wants, and marriage is all about compromise and giving."
Aurora nodded, and the worry line between her brows lessened.
Yes, remember the bad times in your marriage and think on what your life can be now. You'll be happier. Satisfied she'd given the discarded wife something to consider, Margaret continued, "When I arrived here in Virtue Falls, the Smiths' wooded acres and the sawmill had already vanished, but we made the resort world-famous and when Mrs. Smith died in nineteen sixty-seven at the age of eighty-eight, she had the gratification of knowing we had saved the family's fortune. I had lost my dear Johnny the year before, our children were grown and gone, so I donated the family mansion, now a historical home, to the state of Washington, and moved here where I live in a suite of rooms overlooking the ocean. The view is spectacular, but as you've discovered, at Virtue Falls Resort, every view from every room is spectacular."
The guests murmured and nodded.
"Are there any questions before we move on to our last stop on the tour, the Virtue Falls deck, and enjoy a glass of wine?"
The drive up the coast at this time of year was always gorgeous, and one retired couple from the South had been lavish with praise for the scenery and the inn. Now in her warm, soft voice Mrs. Daniels said, "I noticed several prints on your walls that looked as if they had been painted by Bradley Hoff, and I know he says Virtue Falls is his inspiration. Have you met Bradley Hoff?"
"I have not only met him," Margaret said, "I've had him dine here many a time. And those are not prints — those are originals."
Mrs. Daniels turned to her husband. "I told you so."
Mr. Daniels sighed. "Yes, yes, you're right. I still don't want one of those slick paintings stuck on the wall of my office." He seemed to realize he might have offended Margaret, and said, "I hope my opinion didn't offend you, ma'am."
"Not at all. When it comes to art, individual taste rules, and the critics certainly are not kind to Bradley. But as he always says, he cries all the way to the bank."
Everyone laughed, even Mr. Daniels.
"Is he as nice as he seems to be on television?" Mrs. Turner asked.
"He is a lovely person, as is his wife, Vivian." Although Margaret found Vivian a little thin and sharp, like salad dressing with too much vinegar. But Bradley seemed devoted to Vivian, and as Margaret knew, every ass had a seat. "Vivian is his manager and is very protective of Bradley, his time, and his talents. Otherwise, I think, he would paint all the time. So they are the perfect couple."
"She was on the Atlanta morning show with him one day," Mrs. Daniels said, "and she said he has contributed a lot to Virtue Falls."
"He has indeed. You probably heard that he raised funds to rebuild the gym at the high school when it burned down. They named it the Bradley Hoff Facility." Which peeved Margaret more than a little, for over the years she had put a fortune into various causes and charities in Virtue Falls, too. In fact, right now, she was supporting the tiny public library, and no one had named even a brick after her.
Excerpted from Virtue Falls by Christina Dodd. Copyright © 2014 Christina Dodd. 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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
VIRTUE FALLS is Christina Dodd's newest release. It is a different direction from her usual writing, but every bit as good. This novel is loaded with suspense, mystery and romance. It kept me guessing all the way to the end.
Love, murder, mystery, relationships lost then found and natural disasters, oh my!! This is the recipe for a very good book. Ms. Dodd combines it all and ends up with a story that I wanted to continue as I turned the last page. One of my favorite aspects of the book was how she weaved Alzheimers into the main story line and did it poignantly and realistically. It never became an overpowering theme, yet felt its presence throughout the book. It's a heartbreaking condition brought into the spotlight. I felt that I was experiencing it right alongside Elizabeth. I enjoyed Ms. Dodd's novel and look forward to the next installment of the series. I would liked to have given the book 4.5 stars, but gave it 4 since it took me a little while to truly get into it.
Christina Dodd has out done herself. The romance, suspense, drama, natural disaster with a touch of paranormal. It will keep you glued to the book. I just love how this book pulls you into the story and you feel you are living it with them. Want more info? GO BUY THE BOOK. You won't be disappointed. Tammy Cooper
As always, Christina Dodd NEVER fails to deliver!! I was so enthralled with this book that I couldn't put it down. This book hooks you from the very beginning to the last page which leaves you with great anticipation of the next book. I will be re-reading this book many, many, many times!!!
I really like the way the book is setup, where Christina Dodd uses the first few chapters, so that it is easier to follow along better as the story unfolds. The story captures your attention right from the beginning and holds your interest to the very end. I find the writing style to be somewhat different, yet still bears Christina Dodd stamp of attention to details and descriptions to paint vivid pictures in your head so you can be there right with the characters trying to find/hid the truth about the killer, than her other books that I have read in the past. You will enjoy reading this book and it will keep you guessing throughout it, right up to the ending. I look forward to reading the rest of her books in this series. Marisa Knecht
This book surprised me. I bought it because I have enjoyed Ms Dodd's recent works, but suspense isn't usually my thing. It is now -- at least as written by Christina Dodd. The setting is spectacular, the secondary characters are well written, and I love the main characters. This is a definite "must read."
I inhaled this book. Once I started I didn't want to put it down. I love that Elizabeth and Garik were able to open up to each other and repair their relationship. I am a sucker for a strong woman who is not afraid to stand up for herself. Can't wait to see what the next book brings them.
Loved it! Will be sure to read the next one.
Ms. Dodd takes you on an amazing journey in this book! Romance, suspense, intrigue & triumph - you get it all with this wonderfully crafted tale. Her characters have depth, and a uniqueness that is thought provoking! I have always loved a good mystery, especially involving an FBI agent - but this story also grabbed me because of the science/geology story line. Quite an adventure to read! You have to know a story is excellent when it makes you want more, and I can't wait until the next tale!
To be honest, when I heard Christina Dodd had decided to venture into a new genre, I was a little nervous. My first choice is usually a historical romance and I love hers! My next choice is contempary romance and I've been slightly let down in some recent books. When I'm in the mood for a mystery, it is usually along the lines of Mary Higgins Clark and I wondered if this could compare. Yes, it could! I am certainly glad that I decided to venture out, take a chance and read this. The book was smart and obviously written by an intellegent woman! It kept me guessing who the murderer was until the very end. It was never predictable. In places it was Intense and suspenseful. The characters where well written and I enjoyed their flaws. Oh, I hate when smart characters make bad but real decisions! I enjoyed the instances of comedy and the description of the town and earthquake. I cannot wait for the next one! Gqqfier15
First book I have read by this author. I would recommed. Can't wait to read more of her books.
Twenty-three years ago Elizabeth Banner witnessed the murder of her mother, and her father was sent to jail for the crime. Now, Elizabeth is part of a geological team sent to Virtue Falls to continue the research her father had started while living in that area. While there, an earthquake strikes large enough to send a tsunami racing towards the town. Although injured from the quake, Elizabeth races to the cliffs to film the tsunami as it hits town. Garik Jacobsen, Elizabeth's ex husband and FBI Agent, races to Virtue Falls to make sure Elizabeth and his adopted mother are ok. Even though they are estranged, Elizabeth and Garik still have feelings for each other, and when someone begins to attack the citizens of Virtue Falls, they begin to investigate whether her father really killed her mother. This was a fantastic psychological exploration of both Elizabeth and Garik's feelings for each other and their relationships to all of the suspects in that town. Elizabeth was an interesting character. Very bright and totally blunt, she lacks the social skills that a woman with her looks would normally have. When she visits her father at the rest home he is interred at, she is shocked to find that none of the workers believe that he killed her mother. She still has the feelings of a little girl abandoned, and only with Garik's help does she start to open up and care for her father, seeing past the lable of murderer she'd always connected with him. Garik uses the emergency as a reason for living again, connecting with his ex and overcoming past behaviors that may have contributed to his current unhappiness. I did find his wanting of Elizabeth at times baffling. Yes, she's gorgeous, but her lack of common sense was kind of annoying. However, I loved the way the pair who were separated at the beginning of the book, came full circle, solving all of their problems, and all while tracking down a stalker-murderer no less. The mystery was great and the love story emotional. I enjoyed both of the main characters growth, with each other certainly, but most of all I loved how Elizabeth came to care for her father.
The ending will surprise you when the who dunit comes to light. There is quite bit of sex between Elizabeth and Garik, I felt like it would have been excellent book even if there is only one sex scene or none.
I did read the Novella, The Listener, prior to reading Virtue Falls and must admit that it was a great little teaser to get you started and interested in Virtue Falls (stay tuned for a review of The Listener). I do have to admit that the length of this book is what kept me from jumping right to it, as I can get pre-book jitters, especially if it's a long title! I felt that there were great, solid characters in this book, but I did feel like the story was a little more drawn out than it had to be. The premise of the story is wonderful though, a father that supposedly killed his wife, a daughter that was there but can't remember the murder...I mean, you can't go wrong with that! Throw in a little bit of my ex is still madly in love with me and is going to win me back and you've got a winning combination! I just think that winning combination could have been achieved a little quicker! I must admit that the storyline wasn't that of your usual storyline. You have the quirky/nerdy Elizabeth, that lives for her work, who just isn't your every day, run of the mill, suspense character, and I think that was refreshing. She was studying earthquakes, which is another thing that you really don't read much about in mystery novels, so I think Christina Dodd is on to something in trying to keep with traditional mystery but with refreshing new details! I hate when it comes down to actually rating a book, because I do feel like 3 stars is too low, however, I do feel like 4 stars was a little too much. I would probably settle for like, 3.75 stars, if that were possible! I liked that this story was different, that these characters were unique and different, I just wish the story weren't so lengthy. I think there were some parts that were overly descriptive, that could have been left out and wouldn't have taken away from the story at all! With that being said, I will continue on with this series, as I'm interested to see where Dodd is going with it! I see that next in line, The Relative, is another novella, which is absolutely thrilling to me because I can breeze through those, so I look forward to seeing where this goes!
This was drudgery. All those who wax on about how good this book is are obviously not reading the same book. I am a Christina Dodd fan and have her other books. This was boring and I was not invested in any of the characters.
Virtue Falls just sadly reaffirmed why I quit reading Christina Dodd books. The book is over 500 pages in length and about 300 pages too long. This is sad because the story line has potential with good main characters, a mystery from 20 years past, and interesting side characters. But it just drags on. The ending was quite unsatisfactory -- not the ending to the main mystery, but a whole lot of things happen in a short period of time to the surrounding characters that never get resolved -- and they easily could have. I will stick with the older Christine Dodds that were better paced and wrapped up ALL the story lines: The Darkness Chosen series, Thigh High, Danger in a Red Dress, Trouble in High Heels
Loved this book! Couldn't get enough. Diologue was true to life. Best book written by this author.
What a book! This has it all. Love, pain, forgiveness, redemption, and murder!