Series: San Diego Case Files Book #1
Author: Karen Rose
Length: Mass Market Paperback 528 pages
Review Format: ERC
Date Of Publication: February 27th, 2023
Rating: 5 Stars
Please enjoy this excerpt from
Cold Blooded Liar
She’s gone. Katherine’s hand trembled as she gripped the barn door handle. Her whole body trembled. Her stomach churned so violently that she thought she’d be sick. She’s gone. And it’s all my fault. So many things she could have done. Should have done. Will do. But she didn’t know where to start. However, she did know where she needed to be. Alone. In the barn. In the place where they’d first huddled together as frightened twelve-year-old runaways to get out of the cold night. In the place where—much later—they’d come to talk about . . . everything. Well, Wren would talk. Katherine would listen. Katherine was a good listener. She’d had to be. She’d learned to hear the nuances in a person’s speech. To know if they’d help. Or hurt. To know if they were lying or telling the truth. She didn’t want to listen now. She wanted to be alone where she could scream her fury, where she could unleash her rage. Where she couldn’t hurt anyone else. Because Wren was gone. Her eyes burned and she swallowed the sob that rose in her throat as she slid the barn door open just enough to slip inside. She was so skinny, she didn’t need it to open much and she knew just how far she could slide the door before it creaked. She didn’t let it creak. It would be all right if she did, but she still found something satisfying about sneaking in where she wasn’t supposed to be. At least not right now. She was allowed to be in the barn anytime she wished, but she was supposed to be sleeping right now. Except she hadn’t slept in nearly two weeks. Tonight would be no different, so she’d given up trying. Someone had turned the night-light on, its soft glow spreading through the barn, leaving shadows lurking in the corners. She wasn’t afraid of the shadows. She knew every one. This was her place. This was where she came to think. Now it was where she came to grieve. She breathed deeply, drawing in the scents of horses and fresh hay—and even fresher motor oil. The latter was unexpected. Usually the motor oil smelled old. Tools were strewn on the floor around the old tractor that sat parked along the far wall. It had been broken for months. No one had had the time to fix it. Looked like someone had been working on it tonight. Someone who was still here. She tensed, hearing the labored breathing coming from one of the empty stalls. No, not breathing. Someone was crying. She started to turn and run, but the cries became sobs. Deep, racking sobs that ripped at her heart. At least someone else is missing Wren. Which wasn’t fair, she knew. Everyone in the big house missed Wren. How could they not? She crept farther into the barn, listening intently, ready to flee at a moment’s notice, but now needing to know who’d come to her private place to grieve, even though she thought she knew. The tuned-up tractor had been her first clue. A big, burly man sat on the floor of an empty stall, back against the wall, shoulders heaving as he cried. In one of his massive hands was a piece of wood. In the other, his carving knife. Harlan McKittrick. Her foster father. She’d never seen him cry, not in the three years that she’d lived here, not even at the funeral today. He’d been stoic, his expression immovable, like a statue’s. He’d held his arm around Mrs. McK as she’d cried her eyes out. He’d spoken a few words over Wren’s coffin in his deep, gravelly voice, about peace and eternity and God. Katherine had wanted to scream then. She’d wanted to hit someone. She’d wanted to hit Mr. McK for being so . . . together. For being unfeeling. But she could see now that she’d made a big mistake. The man was not unfeeling. He’d just saved his grief for when he was alone. Just like I did. She took a step back, intending to leave him in peace, to find somewhere else to scream her rage, but his head shot up and he met her eyes in the dim light. For a long moment, neither of them moved. His tears continued to fall and she was poised to run. Finally, he wiped his face with his shirtsleeve. “Kit,”he said gruffly. “I’m sorry,”she whispered. “I’ll go.”He shook his head. “No, you don’t have to. This was your place, hers too. I should have known you’d come here tonight.”Her cheeks heated. She’d been caught out of bed at three a.m. There were rules, even here. “I’ll go.”“No, honey. I’ll go. Mrs. McK is probably wondering where I’ve got myself off to. You can stay.”He rose, wincing as he stretched his back. “I’m too damn old to be sitting on barn floors. I came out here to do some whittling, but . . .”He trailed off with a sigh. “It kind of hit me. You know how it goes, huh, Kitty-Cat?”He always called her Kit or Kitty-Cat. Not ever Katherine, and she’d often wondered why. But she didn’t hate it. She might have even liked it. A little. Talk to him. Say something to make him feel better. Because Mr. McK was a nice guy. And McKittrick House was so much nicer than any other place she’d ever lived. And she’d lived in a lot of places. Mr. and Mrs. McK were good people. They never yelled, never hit. Never . . . took advantage of the girls or the boys, like so many of the other fosters had. They’d let her stay even though she was not . . . good. They’d let her stay and they’d told her to call them Mom and Pop McK if she wanted to, just like all the other kids did who’d come through their big, warm house that always smelled like apple pie and clean laundry and lemon furniture spray. She never had, though. She’d stuck with “Mr.”and “Mrs.,”anything to keep them at arm’s length. They’d never made her feel bad for doing so. Now she wanted to make him feel better, because he was crying and it shook her hard. He was big and rough and gruff, but he was crying. For Wren. She pointed to the carved wood in his hands. “What are you making?”He seemed surprised that she’d asked. Which was fair. Katherine didn’t talk much. She never asked anyone anything remotely personal. Never answered any question with more than “Fine”or “Okay.”And when they’d offered to adopt her, to make her an official McKittrick, she’d said only “No, thank you.”Because nobody was that nice. Nobody really cared. It would end. They’d grow tired of her and make her leave, and then she’d be even worse off. Mr. McK stared down at the carving in his hands. “A wren. You know, like the bird.”A sob flew from Katherine’s throat before she could shove it back in. “A wren?”she asked, her voice breaking. He nodded, his eyes on the little bird. “I put one in her coffin, y’see. In her hands, so she’d have something to hold.”His smile was wobbly. “To maybe remember us by. So she wouldn’t be alone.”Katherine pressed her hand to her mouth. Keep it in. Keep it all in. “You did?”she asked, the words muffled. “I did. And, um, this one is done.”He held it out to her. “It’s for you. To remember her.”For a moment she didn’t move. Couldn’t move. Just stared at Mr. McK’s outstretched hand holding the small bird. She could see it clearly now, delicate and beautiful. Like Wren had been. Mr. McK was still holding the carving on the flat of his palm, so that she could take it without touching him. They knew that she didn’t like to touch anyone. Wren had been the exception. Her sister, even though they’d shared no blood. Katherine’s hand crept forward, one finger extended. She stroked the little bird, expecting a rough surface but feeling only smooth wood. Mr. McK simply stood there, the bird on his palm. She gingerly picked it up and held it tightly against her chest. “To remember her,”she whispered. Like she’d ever forget. Wren was all the good, sweet things. Everything that Kit was not. Mr. McK smiled down at her, so sadly. “We’ll always remember her, Kit. She was so special and deserved to have the best life.”“But now she’s dead,”Kit choked out, clutching the little bird so tightly that even the smooth edges cut into her hand. “Someone killed her and no one cares.”“We care,”Mr. McK whispered back fiercely. “Nobody else does,”she snapped, her voice echoing off the barn walls. “None of those cops who came and asked questions. None of them cared.”“I don’t know. I can’t see their hearts. I only know my own and Mrs. McK’s.”Now the rage was back. Now the rage was building. She wanted to throw something, but the only thing she could throw was the little bird and she clutched it even tighter. She’d never throw the bird away. She’d never throw Wren away. “They said she was a runaway. That she’d come back!”Katherine was shouting now and couldn’t stop herself. The horses shifted in their stalls, one whinnying in dismay, but Katherine couldn’t stop herself. “They said she wanted to go. They said she was probably on the streets, taking drugs. They didn’t care!”Katherine took a step back, then another. Mr. McK continued to stand there, watching her with eyes so brokenhearted that she wanted to scream at that, too. “Then they found her body in a dumpster and didn’t even tell us for five days!”she screamed. “Like she was trash and it was okay that she’s dead!”“They said,”he said calmly, “that it took them five days to ID her.”“That was five days too long! Five days that she lay there in the cold morgue all alone.”Her shouts became choked and finally, finally the tears came. Like a dam had burst and she couldn’t stop the flow. “They said they were busy. That they were backed up. That they were sorry for our goddamn loss.”Mr. McK wiped his eyes again. “I know, Kit.”“They’re not even looking for who did this. No clues. Case has gone cold. It’s been a week since they found her, and they’re not even pretending to look.”She dropped her gaze to the little wooden bird in her hand. “Well, I’m going to look. I’m going to find out who did this. Who took her from us.”From me. Mr. McK opened his mouth, then closed it, saying nothing. She stared up at him defiantly. “What? Not gonna tell me it’s too dangerous? Not gonna tell me that I’m too young? That I’m only fifteen? Not gonna tell me it could be me next?”He exhaled quietly. “Why should I tell you any of those things? You already know them.”She looked away, knowing that he was right and hating it. “I should have watched her better. It should have been me.”He sucked in a harsh breath. “No, Kit. No. It shouldn’t have been either of you. It should never be anyone’s child. Please. It should never have been you.”She shook her head, all of her words gone now. All used up. “You’re ours,”he said, his voice ringing so true that she almost didn’t doubt him. She didn’t want to doubt him. “You might not think so or you might not want it official on paper, but you are ours, Kit Matthews. You are ours to protect. Ours to love. Whether you want that love or not. That we didn’t protect Wren will haunt
Kit McKittrick, the SDPD, and poor Dr. Sam Reeves.
All he wanted to do was to be the good guy. After sitting through one too many sessions with his pathological liar of a client. Who may or may not be dropping hints about the murders of young blonde girls. When he isn't claiming to lunch with the Queen of England.
With one phone call...
Sam Reeves offers all the information that he has. And himself as the prime suspect.
Until Sam's client is fingered as the killer and his suicide the answer to everyone's prayers.
Except that it isn't.
And the murders don't stop.
And all the evidence seems to point to the one person trying so hard to help.
This book has it all. Kit and her backstop will draw readers in from word one.
The hunt for the killer, coupled with Sam's likable nature is enough to tear at the heart of readers. Because while you want to see the killer brought to justice. You just don't want it to be Sam.
The twists and turns that Sam and Kit go through while investigating this case bring them closer together. And make you want to see them as a couple. Often implying the possibility of the pairing. Without allowing that implication to interfere with the very serious nature of the overall plot.
Adding to the gripping nature of this read?
The addition of characters from the couple's personal lives.
Right down to Sam's ex.
Whose role can best be described as 'surprising'.
This book is nothing less than procedural suspence at its best.
And this reviewer can't wait for book two in what promises to be a stellar series.
Thank you Berkley and Netgalley for providing the review copy upon which this honest review is based.
|Author Karen Rose
Karen Rose is the award-winning, #1 international bestselling author of some twenty novels, including the bestselling Baltimore and Cincinnati series. She has been translated into twenty-three languages, and her books have placed on the New York Times, the Sunday Times (UK), and Germany's der Spiegel bestseller lists.See Her Socially: Web / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter
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