From three-time New York Times bestselling author Christopher Rice -- whose novels have been called "bold and ambitious" by The New York Times, "chillingly perverse" by USA Today, and "shocking, sexy...intricate" by Glamour -- comes this startling psychological thriller about an Iraq War vet who seeks redemption and revenge when a fellow Marine he failed to protect during the war is brutally murdered. John Houck became a Marine to become a hero. But his life changed when he failed to notice an explosive device that ended up maiming the captain of his Force Recon Company, a respected Marine who nearly sacrificed himself to save John's life. Home from Iraq, John pays a visit to his former captain, only to discover the captain has been gruesomely murdered. John pursues a strange man he sees running from the scene, but he discovers that Alex Martin is not the murderer. Alex is, in fact, the former captain's secret male lover and the killer's intended next victim. When it becomes clear that local law enforcement has direct connections to the murder itself, John realizes that to repay his debt of honor, he must teach Alex Martin how to protect himself, even if that means teaching Alex to kill. In the process, John confronts the painful truth about the younger brother he was unable to protect and the older sister he always felt he failed. Blind Fall is a story of honor and integrity, of turning failure into victory. It is a stunning departure for Christopher Rice: the story of two men, one a Marine, one gay, who must unite to avenge the death of the man they both loved -- one as a brother-in-arms, one as a lover -- and to survive.
Rice's fourth thriller (after 2005's Light Before Day) clumsily mixes the plight of gays in the military with an unlikely murder investigation. John Houck, a former marine sergeant, returns to the States from Iraq, determined to make amends with his commanding officer, Capt. Mike Bowers, who was gravely injured due to John's negligence. But when he tracks Mike down at home in Owensville, Calif., John discovers Mike gruesomely murdered in his bed. John, who had no idea Mike was gay, reluctantly joins forces with Alex Martin, Mike's live-in boyfriend, to bring the killer to justice. After John and Alex learn that local law enforcement played a role in Mike's death, they must go on the run to save their own lives. A subplot involving John's brother's suicide distracts in a subpar effort that lacks the complexity of Rice's earlier novels. 10-city author tour.(Mar.)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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March 10, 2008
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Excerpt from Blind Fall by Christopher Rice
The dog was sprawled under the rear bumper of an abandoned Opel sedan, its left leg bent at an impossible angle. There was no gore to suggest that it had been run down by the car that now concealed its forequarters, so Sergeant John Houck moved in for a closer look. Then he heard the slap of bare feet hitting pavement and looked up to see someone strangely familiar running toward him down the sidewalk. His younger brother looked just as he had when he was sixteen years old, back when he and John still lived under the same roof -- bright freckles and narrow blue eyes crowding the bridge of his button nose, a thick cap of nappy red hair that moved like cake icing under even the toughest hairbrush. Dean Houck ran past the other men in John's recon team, past Captain Mike Bowers, who was scanning the empty doorways on the other side of the street.
Only later would John come to realize that the true definition of a ghost was a hallucination so powerful it could distract you from a task of monumental importance.
Within seconds, John became oblivious to the flies swarming the dog's carcass several yards away. He also forgot about the M-4 he held in a two-handed grip, and he no longer felt the biting snakes of sweat that slithered down his body, tracing the edges of his Kevlar vest and looking for tender spots in his groin to sink their tiny fangs into. His brother wore one of those sack dresses the boys in Iraq always wore. There was an Arabic term for them, but it was Lance Corporal Dickinson who called them "'raqi sacks." The men in his unit called him Panama Dick because he informed any Marine who would listen that his hometown of Panama City had the "prettiest goddamn motherfuckin' beaches in the whole U.S. of A." Panama Dick was walking point, as their team proceeded on foot toward a location at the town's northern border, where they had been ordered to establish a guard station, a station that the Army wusses who controlled this area were too damn lazy and disorganized to set up themselves.
Panama Dick and Lightning Mike Bowers both seemed miles away suddenly as John Houck watched his younger brother turn into a break between buildings that held an abandoned well. His brother turned his back to him, reached up, and unwound the length of rope that held the cracked bucket to the singed metal frame that arched over the well's mouth. Whip-fast, he let out the bucket's rope between both hands, bending forward to watch the bucket's progress, rising up onto the balls of his feet, which John could now see were dark brown, not the freckled, milk white shade of his dead brother's skin.
A deep clang echoed up from the well, followed by another. The boy was swinging the bucket deliberately, playing it like a bell inside the well's shaft. John felt a presence behind him suddenly; then he heard the familiar voice of Lightning Mike Bowers say his last name in a terse whisper. Bowers went silent for a few seconds as he assessed the scene in front of them.
"Shit!" Bowers hissed. Bowers realized how badly John had fucked up before John did.
The dog's impossibly bent carcass positioned conspicuously with its lower half exposed...
The boy's dark skin and tight cap of ink black hair, nothing like his younger brother's...
The expectant look in the boy's pale eyes when he looked back at them over one shoulder, his arms splayed over the opening of the well, rope clasped in his hands as the bell rang out its death knell...
And then the dog's carcass vanished in a blinding flash.
The back end of the Opel sedan rose into the air on a bed of jagged white flame. At the precise second when he expected the shrapnel to tear into him, John ate dust and felt the weight of Mike Bowers come down onto him. The blast deafened him, but he could feel Bowers's breath against his right ear, could even feel the guy's lips moving. Mike was trying to tell him something, but it had been lost to the initial explosion. Then the weight pressing down on John got heavier.
Once Bowers was pulled off him, John still found himself unable to move and deafened by the blast. Thick black smoke blinded him. In a vague way, he knew that he had no sense of time, that he was fading in and out without losing consciousness.
Something hot flowed down the back of both of his legs. Blood? Still flowing with too much force to have come off Bowers, and Bowers had been lifted off him...who knew how long ago? He could feel a deep pounding in his chest and suddenly the smoke around him started to clear. The medevac. Another sidestep into the darkness that hovers at the edges of every reality, and then he was back, pushing himself up onto his knees, struggling to his feet.
Convinced blood was pouring down his back, he grabbed furiously at his pack, pulled it down his right arm, and hurled it to the dirt at his feet. Not blood. Water! Leaking all over the place. He tore open his pack, which had searing holes all through its skin. The torn remnants of what had once been eight water bottles tumbled to the dirt, shredded by shrapnel.