Authors: Lynn Hightower
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PRAISE FOR THE WRITING OF LYNN HIGHTOWER
“Lynn Hightower is a major talent.” âJonathan Kellerman,
New York Times
“Hightower is a writer of tremendous quality.” â
PRAISE FOR THE SONORA BLAIR MYSTERIES
“Diabolically intriguing from start to finish.” â
“Miraculously fresh and harrowing.” â
“Rings with gritty authenticity. You won't be able to put it down and you won't want to sleep again. Riveting.” âLisa Scottoline,
New York Times
“Hightower has invented a heroine who is both flawed and likeable, and she knows how to keep the psychological pressure turned up high.” â
The Sunday Telegraph
“What gives [
] depth and resonance is the way Hightower counterpoints the murder plot with the details of Sonora's daily life in homicide.” â
No Good Deed
“Powerful, crisply paced.” â
“Refreshingly different â¦ A cracking tale told at a stunning pace.” âFrances Fyfield
The Debt Collector
“Hightower builds the suspense to an almost unbearable pitch.” â
“Well-written and satisfyingly plotted. Best of all is Sonora herselfâa feisty babe who packs a red lipstick along with her gun.” â
PRAISE FOR THE ELAKI NOVELS
“The crimes are out of
The Silence of the Lambs
, the cops out of
, and the grimy future out of
â¦ Vivid and convincing.” â
“One of the best new series in the genre!” â
Science Fiction Chronicle
“Hightower takes the setup and delivers a grittily realistic and down-and-dirty serial killer novel.â¦ Impressive â¦ A very promising first novel.” â
“Brilliantly entertaining. I recommend it highly. A crackerjack novel of police detection and an evocative glimpse of a possible future.” âNancy Pickard, bestselling author of
“[The] cast of characters is interesting and diverse, the setting credible, and the pacing rapid-fire and gripping.” â
Science Fiction Chronicle
“An exciting, science-fictional police procedural with truly alien aliens â¦ An absorbing, well-written book.” â
Aboriginal Science Fiction
“Truly special â¦ Original characters, plot twists galore, in a book that can be enjoyed for its mystery aspects as well as its SF â¦ A real treat.” âArlene Garcia
“Hightower shows both humans and Elaki as individuals with foibles and problems.
provides plenty of fast-paced action.â¦ An effective police drama.” â
“Hightower tells her story with the cool efficiency of a Mafia hit man.â¦ With its lean, matter-of-fact style, cliff-hanger chapter endings and plentiful (and often comic) dialogue,
moves forward at warp speed!” â
“A great story â¦ Fast and violent â¦ Difficult to put down!” â
“An intriguing world!” â
Science Fiction and Fact
is a page-turner.â¦ Fun, fast-moving â¦ A police procedural in a day-after-tomorrow world.” â
“Hightower takes elements of cyberpunk and novels about a benevolent alien invasion and combines them with a gritty realism of a police procedural to make stories that are completely her own.â¦ A believable future with a believable alien culture â¦ Interesting settings, intriguing ideas, fascinating characters [and] a high level of suspense!” â
“Complex â¦ Snappy â¦ Original.” â
Asimov's Science Fiction
“The sequel to the excellent
[is] a very fine SF novel.â¦ I'm looking forward to the next installment!” â
Science Fiction Chronicle
A Lena Padget Mystery
This book is dedicated
to my sister, Rebecca
We're poor little lambs
Who've lost our way.â¦
We're little black sheep
Who've gone astray.
Ballads and Barrack Room Ballads
Lambs could not forgive â¦ nor
, Charles Dickens
Lena knew the doorbell was going to ring. Mendez would come. He would tell her in person. She said “Thanks” softly to the woman on the other end of the phone, then hung up and waited.
She sat sideways, legs hanging over the arm of the chair, eating potato chips. Reddish brown crumbs had settled in the fur of the cat who slept in her lap when the doorbell rang.
Lena switched on the porch light and looked through the peephole.
The man on the steps wore a dark suit and tie, his shirt white and spotless despite the lateness of the hour. His hands were clasped in front of him in a steady formality that Lena secretly found endearing. He wore the ringâblack stone, gold filigree markings. She had focused on that ring many times when she could not bear to see what was at handâher sister, sprawled in the driveway, blood pooling across her belly.
The man was dark complected, his eyes brown and gentle. There was a scar on his left temple that disappeared under thick black hair. His face was drawn and tired.
“Sergeant MendezâJoel, come in.”
He touched his mustache, smiled at the use of his first name. Sometimes she thought he liked her.
She was a striking woman, hair dark, coarse, and curly. Her eyes were brown and intense, almost feverish, the lines at the edges small and barely noticeable. She was pale enough that old ladies pinched her cheeks and told her to get a little sun.
Mendez scanned the living roomâa roving, questing scrutiny. He had not been in the house for seven years, had not seen it without the ropes of yellow tape warning that the enclosed area was a crime scene.
Lena followed his gaze to the floor. The beige carpet, sporting a trail of bloody footprints, had been pulled up and lodged in a police warehouse. There was a new rug now, slate blue, pleasantly framed by the dark wood floors.
She spent a lot of time in this room now, and she kept it nice. If the rest of the house amounted to closed-off doors and rooms full of dust and memories, if outside the grass was weed choked and high, if chains flapped in the wind where a porch swing had once hung â¦ at least there was one room that was pleasant.
Mendez walked past the rocking chair and settled on the edge of the couch.
“Get you something to drink?” She said it because it was the thing to say, and because it would irritate him. Polite chitchat was something he endured.
“No. Thanks.” Mendez picked up Lena's book and read the back cover.
Lena passed him the bag of chips, knowing full well he didn't like them. Her movements were slow and languid, and she gave the impression of one who does not lift a finger unless absolutely necessary. Mendez took a potato chip and crunched it solemnly, then wiped his hands on his knees.
“He got it, Lena.”
“I figured that much when I saw you at the door.” Her voice was husky at the best of times. Right now she sounded hoarse. “Good news and you'd have called.”
“How'd you find out so fast?”
“Called in a favor.”
“A shame it didn't extend to keeping him in jail.”
Mendez was silent, and Lena sat down in the chair.
“Six years don't seem like much.” She stared at the ceiling. “The baby would be in kindergarten now. And Kevinâhe'd be eight. Third grade.”
A white paw slid out from under the couch and patted softly at the side of Mendez's black leather shoe.
“I take it my statement didn't make any difference,” Lena said.
“He had no priors, Lena. He has character references. He had the head sales manager of Finard's Chevrolet promise him a job as a salesman. He wears a suit and tie like he was born in them. He professes to have a renewed faith in God, and his prison record is exemplary.”
“Six years. He gets two twenty-year sentences, and serves six years.” She shut her eyes tight, then opened them. “That judge was an ass. That judge should have given him the death penalty.”
“You can't get the death penalty for first-degree manslaughter.”
. It wasn't manslaughter. It was womanslaughter. Childslaughter. It was
, premeditated. He came with a gun. That Prozac business was bullshit. The Prozac made me do it, the devil made me do itâ”
“Diminished capacity, Lena. The precedent is solid. The DA did what he could.”
“Saved the state some money with a guilty plea.”
Mendez leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. “Don't do this, Lena.”
“Okay, you don't like that subject, how about this? Jeff's not the only one getting out. Archie Valetta is due out of Eddyville sometime in the next couple of months.”
Mendez opened his eyes. “Valetta? How did you find this out?”
“Mice behind the walls, Mendez.”
“One of your many informants?”
“They're not informants, Mendez. Not in the sense you mean. We're talking about a woman who's raising her grandchildren and working twelve-hour days doing scrub work at the prison, so let's not class her with the junkies you talk to, okay?”