Four days after Abigail Browning's wedding, her life changed unimaginably: her husband was shot, meeting his death along the rocky Mount Desert Island coast. Was it a random act of violence, or could someone have wanted Christopher dead?
That's the question that has haunted Abigail, now a homicide detective, for the past seven years. Determined to fi nd her husband's killer, she returns to the foggy Maine island after receiving an anonymous tip. Is it just another false lead, or can she fi nally prove that Chris was murdered?
As the search-and-rescue worker who located Chris too late to save him, Owen Garrison still carries guilt from that fateful night. Right from the start, Abigail's presence on Mount Desert Island ruffl es feathers, but Owen sees she's not the same woman she was seven years ago. As he helps her unravel the mystery, they learn that the layers of deceit and lies are even thicker than they could have imagined. Now it's up to Abigail and Owen to keep pushing for the truth--and stop a killer from striking again....
Bestseller Neggers (Dark Sky) keeps the reader guessing "whodunit" to the end of her intriguing novel of romantic suspense. Seven years after Boston homicide detective Abigail Browning's FBI Special Agent husband, Chris, was shot dead on their honeymoon on Mt. Desert, Maine, 32-year-old Abigail returns to the resort island to try to find Chris's killer so she can move on with her life. The relentless detective risks both physical and emotional pain as she searches for the truth among the local people and the wealthy summer families who were her late husband's friends. A multitude of well-drawn suspects and the rugged Maine setting help offset some unrealistic initial interludes between Abigail and a potential new love interest, Owen Garrison, a neighbor who was the first to inform her of Chris's murder. (Oct.)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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November 19, 2007
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Excerpt from The Widow by Carla Neggers
Abigail Browning squirted charcoal lighter fluid on the mound of papers she'd torn up and piled into her backyard grill.
She had more pages to go. Another two spiral notebooks.
She set her lighter fluid on the little wooden shelf next to the grill and picked up the top notebook from the plastic chair behind her. When she opened the cover, she tried not to look at her scrawled handwriting, as pained as the words she'd written, or at the stains of long-spent tears that had smeared the ink as she'd forced herself to recount the tragic story of her honeymoon.
Each journal--there were fourteen, two for each year of loss--began with the same litany of facts, as if the re-telling itself might produce some new tidbit, some new insight she'd missed.
It's the fourth day of my Maine honeymoon, and I'm napping on the couch in the front room of the cottage my husband inherited from his grandfather.
Two loud noises awaken me. Tools clattering to the floor in the back room. A hammer. Perhaps a crowbar. I'm startled, but also amused, because I'd spent the morning helping Chris repair a leak.
As I get up to investigate the noises, I think it must be an unwritten rule--newlyweds aren't supposed to fix leaks on their honeymoon.
Abigail tore off that first page by itself and ripped it into quarters, setting them neatly atop her pile, the lighter fluid seeping into the cheap paper and old blue ink as if it were fresh tears.
Last night's anonymous call had changed everything. She needed a cover story to explain her actions--what she planned to do next.
She also needed clarity and objectivity.
Seven years of journals. Seven years, she thought, of trying to restore her emotional life.
I smell roses and ocean as I get up from the couch. A window must be open.
Even now, at thirty-two, no longer a young bride, no longer a law student with a handsome FBI special agent husband, no longer inexperienced in matters of violent death, Abigail could feel herself walking into the back room, convinced the wind had knocked over tools she and Chris had left haphazardly that morning, when they gave up their leak-fixing to make love upstairs in their sun-filled bedroom.
She noticed the slight tremble in her hands and swore under her breath, tensing her fingers as she tore more pages and set them atop her pile. There was no wind, and the grass--what there was of it in her postage stamp of a backyard--was damp from an overnight rain. Adequate conditions for burning, although she was in a tank top and shorts. If her bare skin got hit with sparks, it'd serve her right.
As I step into the back room, I see not a cracked window but the door to the porch standing wide open, and for the first time I feel a jolt of real fear.
I didn't leave the door open. "Chris?"
I call my husband's name just as I hear the floor-boards creak behind me.
Just as the blow comes to the back of my head.
Her chest tightening, Abigail dropped the partially torn spiral notebook back onto the chair and quickly struck a wooden match, tossing it onto the pile of ripped pages.
Flames shot two feet into the hot, still air.
"Whoa, there. That's some fire you've got going."
She looked up at Bob O'Reilly trotting down the last of the steps from his top-floor apartment in the triple-decker they and Scoop Wisdom--all three of them detectives with the Boston Police Department--had bought together a year ago, pooling their resources to afford the city's sky-high real estate prices. Bob, a twice-divorced father of three, lived alone. Scoop, who worked in internal affairs and had a well-earned reputation with the women of Boston, occupied the middle floor. Abigail, a homicide detective and widow, had the first floor. She got along with Bob and Scoop partly because they understood she had no intention of sleeping with either of them.
"Outdoor burning's illegal," Bob said.
"I'm getting ready to throw some hot dogs on the grill."
"You don't eat hot dogs."
At six-two, the veteran detective had nine inches on Abigail in height, and, although he was pushing fifty, he could run ten miles and still move the next day. He'd taught her how to use free weights properly, and he'd taught her crime scene investigation. She'd taught him what it was like to lose someone to violence.
She'd taught him that seven years was the blink of an eye.
A page, filled with bloodred ink, went up in flames.
As I regain consciousness, I feel the ice pack on the lump on the back of my head and almost vomit from the raging pain of my concussion.
"Don't move," my husband tells me quietly. "An ambulance is on the way."
I try to tell him that I'm fine, but I become very still as I notice the anger in his face. The knowledge. The awful sense of betrayal.
He knows who did this to me.
Bob pointed at the five-pound Folgers coffee can that she had set on the plastic chair, behind the stack of spiral notebooks. "What's that for?"
"I'm performing a cleansing ritual."
"A firebug I arrested ten years ago said the same thing."
"This is different," Abigail said, watching the pages blacken and burn. Once Bob left, she'd finish tearing up the last two notebooks, burn their pages, rid herself of their raw emotion.
Detective Bob O'Reilly of the BPD wouldn't understand cleansing rituals. He had pale skin and freckles and red hair that was graying gracefully; only his cornflower eyes suggested the work he'd done for almost thirty years ever got to him. His second wife had walked out on him two years ago, telling him he was an emotional basket case and recommending therapy. Instead, Bob got drunk with cop friends, packed up his stuff, and, swearing off marriage forever, moved out, eventually buying the triple-decker with Scoop and Abigail.
"Is that your handwriting? The purple ink?" he asked.
Abigail glanced at a scrap that had just caught fire. "I used different colored inks depending on my mood."
"How's a purple-ink mood different from, say, a blue-ink mood?"
"I don't know. It just is."
"What are these, journals or something?" He seemed to have to struggle to keep the disbelief out of his tone.
"I started keeping a journal after Chris died. My therapist suggested it."
"She said to write stream-of-consciousness, without thinking, but to try to use all five senses and the present tense. She wanted me to write about our time together...what happened when he died."
Bob scratched the back of his thick neck. "It helped?"
"I don't know. I guess. I haven't thrown myself off Cadillac Mountain."
She grabbed the partially torn notebook and opened it up to the middle, tearing a hunk of pages, trying not to look at the words.
Chris leaves me with the ambulance crew, who will take me to the emergency room at the hospital in Bar Harbor. He doesn't say where he's going. He doesn't promise to be back soon. He doesn't promise anything.
I have no premonition of anything bad about to happen.
I just don't want him to leave me.
Bob unhooked a pair of tongs from the side of the grill and stirred the blackened pages, rekindling the dying fire. "You never thought about killing yourself, Abigail," he said, not looking at her. "Only thing you thought about was finding out who killed your husband."
She flung more pages on the fire.
By nightfall, I'm worried. So are Doyle Alden, a local police officer, and Owen Garrison, Chris's rich neighbor. I can see it in their faces.
Chris should be back by now.
"Abigail? You're not breathing."
She made herself exhale and smiled at Bob, who, initially, hadn't even wanted her in the department, much less working at his side in homicide. Too much baggage, he'd told everyone, including her. It wasn't just her husband. It was quitting law school, it was her background. She'd had to earn his trust. "I'm okay. I should have done this sooner. It feels good."