FBI Special Agent Dillon Savich teams up with new agent Lacey Sherlock in a case that leads them back to the murder of Sherlock's sister seven years ago-and put both their lives on the line.
The strengths Coulter evidenced in her bestselling paperback, The Cove, are also showcased in this new romantic suspense novel. San Franciscan Lacey Sherlock was just a teenager, dreaming of studying piano at Berkeley, when her older sister's life was brutally ended by the serial murderer that the media dubbed the String Killer. Now, seven years and one brief mental breakdown later, her career plans have changed. Having completed FBI training and learned to be addressed by her surname, she's assigned to agent Dillon Savich's Criminal Apprehension Unit, which, utilizing Dillon's specialized computer program for profiling, is responsible for pursuing serial killers. This places the obsessed Sherlock exactly where she wants to be when the String Killer strikes again, this time in Boston. It also puts her in position to become romantically involved with her attractive superior. Coulter renders computer technology clearly and even interestingly, makes the Quantico training scenes absorbing and keeps the action moving fast. When Sherlock and Dillon apprehend the String Killer, they begin to doubt whether he really murdered Sherlock's sister, and though it's pretty easy to guess who the real villain will be, a lot of action occurs while Sherlock figures it out. Given Sherlock's vengeful mindset regarding the death penalty, the quality of mercy is definitely strained here. There are too many jokes concerning her surname; and Coulter's overuse of the adjective "plummy" to describe Dillon's voice can get on one's nerves. Otherwise, however, the book is gripping enough to establish Coulter firmly in this genre, even while she continues to attract a loyal following for her paperback historical romances.
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March 31, 1998
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Excerpt from The Maze (An FBI Suspsense Thriller Series: #2) by Catherine Coulter
She was in Hogan's Alley, the highest crime rate city in
the United States. She knew just about every inch of every
building in this town, certainly better than the actors who
were paid eight dollars an hour to play bad guys, and better
than many of the bureau employees who were witnesses,
robbers and cops every day in Hogan's Alley.
Today she and three other trainees were going to catch a
bank robber. She hoped. They were told to keep their eyes
open, nothing else. It was a parade day in Hogan's Alley.
There was a crowd of people around, drinking sodas and
eating hot dogs. It wasn't going to be easy. Chances were
that the suspect was going to be one of the people trying to
blend in with the crowd, trying to look as innocent as an
everyday guy, she'd stake a claim on that. She would have
given anything if they'd gotten just a brief glance at the
robber, but they hadn't. It was a critical situation, lots of
innocent civilians milling about and a bank robber who
would probably run out of the bank, a bank robber who was
She saw Buzz Alport, an all-night waiter at a truck stop
off I-95. He was whistling, looking as if he didn't have a
care in the world. No, Buzz wasn't the bad guy today. She
knew him too well. She tried to memorize every face, so
she'd be able to spot the robber if he suddenly appeared. She
slowly worked the crowd, trying to look calm and unhurried.
She saw some visitors from the Hill, standing on the sidelines,
watching the agents role-play crimes and catch criminals.
She couldn't kill a visiting congressman. It wouldn't
look good for the Bureau.
It began. She and Porter Forge, a Southerner from Birmingham
who spoke beautiful French without a hint of a
drawl, saw a man dash from behind a side door of the bank,
followed by a bank employee frantically waving and yelling
at the top of his lungs at the fleeing man. She and Forge got
no more than a brief glimpse. They went after the robber.
He dove into the crowd of people and disappeared. Because
there were civilians around, they kept their guns holstered.
If any of them hurt a civilian, there'd be hell to pay. It didn't
matter. Three minutes later they'd lost him.
It was then that she saw Dillon Savich, an FBI agent and
computer genius who taught occasional classes here at Quantico,
standing next to a man she'd never seen before. Both
were wearing sunglasses, blue suits and blue-gray ties.
She'd know Savich anywhere. She wondered what he was
doing here at this particular time. Had he just taught a class?
She'd never heard of him being at Hogan's Alley. She stared
at him. Was it possible that he was the suspect to whom the
bank employee had been waving? Maybe. Only thing was
that he didn't look at all out of breath and the bank robber
had run out of the bank like a bat out of hell. Savich looked
cool and disinterested.
Nah, it couldn't be Savich. Savich wouldn't join in the
exercise, would he? Suddenly, she saw a man some distance
away from her slowly slip his hand into his jacket. Dear God,
he was going for a gun. She yelled to Porter.
While the other trainees were distracted, Savich suddenly
moved away from the man he'd been talking to and ducked
behind three civilians. Three other civilians who were close
to the other guy were yelling and shoving, trying to get out
of the way.
What was going on here?
''Sherlock! Where'd he go?''
She began to smile even as agents were pushing and shoving,
trying desperately to sort out who was who. She never
lost sight of Savich. She slipped into the crowd. It took her
under a minute to come around him from behind.
There was a woman next to him. It was a very possible
hostage situation. She saw him slowly reach out his hand
toward the woman. She couldn't take the chance. She drew
her gun, came right up behind him and whispered in his ear
as she pressed the nose of the 9mm SIG pistol into the small
of his back, ''Freeze. FBI.''
''Ms. Sherlock, I presume?''
She felt a moment of uncertainty, then quashed it. She had
the robber. He was just trying to rattle her. ''Listen to me,
that's not part of the script. You're not supposed to know
me. Now, get your hands behind your back, buddy, or you're
going to be in big trouble.''
''I don't think so,'' he said, and began to turn.
The woman next to them saw the gun and screamed at the
top of her lungs. ''Oh my God, the robber's a woman! Here
she is! She's going to kill a man. She's got a gun! Help!''
''Damn you, get your hands behind your back!'' But how
was she going to get cuffs on him? The woman was still
yelling. Other people were looking now, not knowing what
to do. She didn't have much time.
''Do it or I'll shoot you.''
Savich moved so quickly she didn't have a chance. He
knocked the pistol out of her hand with a chop of his right
hand, numbing her entire arm, bulled his head into her stomach
and sent her flying, wheezing for breath into a mass of
petunias in the flower bed beside the Hogan's Alley Post
He was laughing. The bastard was laughing at her. She
was sucking in air as hard and fast as she could. Her stomach
was on fire. He stuck out his hand to pull her up.
''You're under arrest,'' she said, and slipped a small Lady
Colt .38 from her ankle holster. She gave him a big grin.
''Don't move or I'll do something mean to you.''
His laughter died. He looked at that gun, then at her, up
on her elbows in the petunia bed. There were a half dozen
men and women standing there, watching, their breaths held.
She yelled out, ''Stay back, all of you. This man's dangerous.
He just robbed the bank. I didn't do it, he did. I'm FBI.
''That Colt isn't bureau issue.''
''Shut up. No, don't twitch or I'll shoot you.''
He'd made a very small movement toward her, but she
wasn't going to let him get her this time. Into martial arts,
was he? She knew she was smashing the petunias, but she
didn't see any hope for it. Mrs. Shaw would come after her
because the flower beds were her pride and joy, but she was
only doing her job. She couldn't let him get the better of her
She kept inching away from him, that Colt steady on his
chest. She came up slowly, keeping her distance. ''Turn
around and put your hands behind you.''
''I don't think so,'' he said again. She didn't even see his
leg, but she did hear the rip of his pants. The Colt went flying
onto the sidewalk.
''How'd you do that?''
Where were her partners?
Where was Mrs. Shaw, the postmistress? She'd once
caught an alleged bank robber by hitting him over the head
with a frying pan.
''Damn,'' she heard him say, then he was on her. This
time, she moved as quickly as he did. She knew he wouldn't
hurt her, just disable her, jerk her onto her face and humiliate
her in front of everyone. She rolled to the side, came up,
saw Porter Forge from the corner of her eye, caught the SIG
from him, turned and fired. She got him in mid-leap.
The red paint spread all over the front of his white shirt,
his conservative tie, and his dark blue suit.
He flailed about, managing to keep his balance. He
straightened, stared down at her, stared down at his shirt,
grunted, and fell onto his back into the flower bed, his arms
''Sherlock, you idiot, you just shot the new coach of Hogan's
Alley High School's football team!'' It was the mayor
of Hogan's Alley and he wasn't happy. He stood over her,
yelling. ''Didn't you read the paper? Didn't you see his picture?
You live here and you don't know what's going on?
Coach Savich was hired just last week. My God, you killed
an innocent man.''
''She also made me rip my pants,'' Savich said, coming
up on a graceful motion. He shook himself, wiping dirt off
his hands onto his filthy pants.
''He tried to kill me,'' she said, still pointing the SIG at
''I'm already dead, remember? Although you might as
well shoot me again; the clothes are ruined.''
''He was only defending himself,'' said the woman who'd
yelled her head off. ''He's the new coach and you killed
She knew she wasn't wrong.
''I don't know about that,'' Porter Forge said, that drawl
of his so slow she could have said the same thing at least
three times before he got it out. ''Suh,'' he continued to the
mayor who was standing at his elbow, ''I believe I saw a
wanted poster on this big fella. He's gone and robbed banks
all over the South. Yep, that's where I saw his picture, on
one of the Atlanta PD posters, suh. Sherlock here did good.
She brought down a real bad guy.''
It was an excellent lie, one to give her time to do something,
anything, to save her hide.
Then she realized what had bothered her about him. His
clothes. They didn't fit him quite right. She reached her
hands into Savich's pockets and pulled out wads of fake one
hundred dollar bills.
''I believe ya'll find the bank's serial numbers on the bills,
suh. Don't you think so, Sherlock?''
''Oh yes, I surely do, Agent Forge.''
''Take me away, Ms. Sherlock,'' Dillon Savich said and
stuck out his hands.
She handed Porter back his SIG. She faced Savich with
her hands on her hips, a grin on her face. ''Why would I
handcuff you now, sir? You're dead. I'll get a body bag.''
Savich was still laughing when she walked away to the
waiting paramedic ambulance. He said to the mayor of Hogan's
Alley, ''That was well done. She has a nose for crooks.
She sniffed me out and came after me.''
Savich walked away, unaware that his royal blue boxer
shorts were on display to a crowd of a good fifty people.
Then there was rolling laughter. Even a crook who was
holding a hostage around the throat, a gun to his ear, at the
other end of town looked over at the sudden noise to see
what was going on. It was his downfall. Agent Wallace
conked him over the head and laid him flat.
It was a good day for taking a bite out of crime in Hogan's