A chill falls over Christina Hardy's housewarming party when talk turns to a recent murder that has all the hallmarks of the so-called "Interstate Killer" murders from fifteen years before. To lighten the mood, the guests drag out an old Ouija board for a little spooky fun...and that's when things become truly terrifying.
Summoned by the Ouija board, the restless spirit of Beau Kidd, the lead detective--and chief suspect--on the original case, seeks Christina's help: the latest killing isn't a copycat crime, and he wants his name cleared. Back in the real world, cop-turned-writer Jed Braden is skeptical of Christina's ghostly encounters, but his police sources confirm all the intimate details of the case--her otherworldly source is reliable, and the body count is growing.
The spirits are right. The Interstate Killer is still out there, and Christina's life is hanging in the balance between this world and the next.
Bestseller Graham's latest begins with Christina Hardy, writer of commercial jingles and reluctant communicator with the dead, moving into her grandparents' old Victorian home, just outside of Orlando, Fla. After some Ouija board experimentation at a housewarming party, Christina starts hearing from the ghost of a dead police officer, Beau Kidd, believed to be the Interstate Killer whose murder spree came to an end when the officer was shot 12 years ago. A new rash of highway killings has thrown doubt on Kidd's guilt, and the ghost is looking for Christina to clear his name; with the help of ex-cop Jed Braden, they may be able to stop the real killer before he murders again. Graham peoples her novel with genuine, endearing characters and keeps the grisly murders tactfully backgrounded, though more fastidious readers will note some holes in the busy plot. Graham uses the bond between Christina and the intelligent, charming ghost as an intriguing parallel to the evolving Christina-Jed relationship, giving a unique paranormal twist to this able romantic suspense. (Oct.)
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September 24, 2007
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Excerpt from The Seance by Heather Graham
An autopsy room always smelled like death, no matter how sterile it was.
And it was never dark, the way it was in so many movies. If anything, it was too bright. Everything about it rendered death matter-of-fact.
Facts, yes. It was the facts they were after. The victim's voice was forever silenced, and only the eloquent, hushed cry of the body was left to help those who sought to catch a killer.
Jed Braden could never figure out how the medical examiner and the cops got so blase about the place that they managed not only to eat but to wolf down their food in the autopsy room.
Not that he wasn't familiar enough with autopsy rooms himself. He was, in fact, far more acquainted with his current surroundings than he had ever wanted to be. But eating here? Not him.
This morning, it was doughnuts for the rest of them, but he'd even refused coffee. He'd never passed out at an autopsy, even when he'd been a rookie in Homicide, and he didn't feel like starting now.
Even a fresh corpse smelled. The body--any body-- released gases with death. And if it had taken a while for someone to discover the corpse, whether it was a victim of natural, self-inflicted or violent death, growing bacteria and the process of decay could really wreak havoc with the senses.
But sometimes he thought the worst smells of all were those that just accompanied the business of discovering evidence: formaldehyde and other tissue preservers and the heavy astringents used to whitewash death and decay. Some M.E.'s and their assistants wore masks or even re-breathers--since the nation had become litigation crazy, some jurisdictions even required them.
Not Doc Martin. He had always felt that the smells associated with death were an important tool. He was one of the fifty percent of people who could smell cyanide. He was also a stickler; he hated it when a corpse had to be disinterred because something had been done wrong or neglected the first time around.
There wasn't a better man to have on a case. Whenever a death was suspicious, there had to be an autopsy, and it always felt like the last, the ultimate, invasion. Everything that had once been part and parcel of a living soul was not just spread out naked, but sliced and probed.
At least an autopsy had not been required for Margaritte. She had been pumped full of morphine, and at the end, her eyes had opened once, looked into his, then closed. A flutter had lifted her chest, and she had died in his arms, looking as if she were only sleeping, but truly at rest at last.
Doc Martin finished intoning the time and date into his recorder and shut off the device for a moment, staring at him.
He didn't speak straight to Jed, though. He spoke to Jerry Dwyer, at his side.
"Lieutenant. What's he doing here?"
Inwardly, Jed groaned.
"Doc..." Jerry murmured unhappily. "I think it's his...conscience."
The M.E. hiked a bushy gray eyebrow. "But he's not a cop anymore. He's a writer."
He managed to say the word writer as if it were a synonym for scumbag.
Why not? Jed thought. He was feeling a little bit like a scumbag this morning.
Doc Martin sniffed. "He used to be a cop. A good one, too," he admitted gruffly.
"Yeah, so give him a break," Jerry Dwyer told him.
"And he's got his private investigator's license, too. He's still legit."
This time Martin made a skeptical sound at the back of his throat. "Yeah, he got that license so he could keep sticking his nose into other people's business--so he could write about it. He working for the dead girl? He know her folks? I don't think so."
"Maybe I want to see justice done," Jed said quietly.
"Maybe the entire force was wrong twelve years ago."
"Maybe we've got a copycat," Martin said. "And maybe we got the wrong guy," Jed said.
"Technically, we didn't get any guy, exactly," Jerry reminded them both uncomfortably.
"And you feel like shit for having written about it, as if the cop who was killed really did do it, huh?" Doc Martin asked Jed.
"Yeah, if that's the case, I feel like shit," Jed agreed. Jerry came to his defense again. "Listen, the guy's own partner thought he was guilty. Hell, he was the one who shot him. And Robert Gessup, the A.D.A., compiled plenty of evidence for an arrest and an indictment." Jerry cleared his throat. "And so far, no one has been proved wrong about anything. We all know about copycats."
"Thing about copycats is, they always miss something, some little trick," Doc Martin said. "Unfortunately, I wasn't the M.E. on the earlier victims. Old Dr. Mackleby was, but he passed away last summer from a heart attack, and the younger fellow who was working the case, Dr. Austin, was killed in an automobile accident. But don't worry, if there's something off-kilter here, I'll find it. I'm good. Damned good."