"Nancy Pickard pushes at the presumed limits of [crime fiction]" said the Los Angeles Times Book Review, praising the award-winning creator of the Jenny Cain mysteries. Now, Pickard blurs the line between fiction and reality in a novel of gripping intensity, and premieres a superb new heroine: true-crime author Marie Lightfoot. For her next surefire bestseller, Marie is covering the trial of a Florida killer -- a case that penetrates her own life, layer by disturbing layer.
Whether real like Ted Bundy, or imagined like Hannibal Lecter, few killers of our time are in the same league as Raymond Raintree. And as he stands flanked by lawyers in a Florida courtroom, waiting to be convicted for the murder of Natalie Mae McCullen, Marie Lightfoot is taking it all in. A small, gutsy blonde renowned for her true-crime bestsellers, Marie knows the graphic and disturbing case will make her best book yet -- because Raintree's shocking crime, vile beyond imagining, is also impossible to turn away from. But there is something about the case -- and Raintree's involvement -- that bothers her.
No one knows where Raintree, a man as slight and immature as a preteen boy, took Natalie after he abducted her. No one knows how Natalie -- bright, independent, and with no fear of the dark -- could be lured into a stranger's boat on a lonely waterway. And only one witness saw a man who may have been Raintree motoring along in a water taxi on the night Natalie disappeared.
Even if the police can't provide answers, Marie intends to leave no loose ends. Starting with a prison meeting with Raintree, the steely-nerved writer follows a twisted path that leads to Natalie's parents, to a coincidence that doesn't quite gel, and to a place she has resisted all her life: the dark recesses of her own soul, where she hides the secrets of her own lost past.
When Raymond escapes, Marie -- a curious contradiction of celebrity author and introspective loner -- becomes a sitting duck for a killer who just might be smart enough to outwit her. And evil enough to take her to hell before she dies.
A masterpiece of psychological suspense, The Whole Truth is a compelling look at our fascination with the horrific crimes of our time. Nancy Pickard's characters are as close to flesh and blood as fiction can get -- and her writing is as close to perfection.
In a sensational change of pace, Anthony Award-winner Pickard sets aside her Jenny Cain series (Twilight, Confession, etc.) for a fast-moving thriller that literally starts with a bang. True-crime writer Marie Lightfoot is covering the murder trial of Raymond Raintree, accused of kidnapping and killing, and extracting the pineal gland of, a six-year-old girl in Maria's hometown of Bahia Beach, Fla. When convicted, Raintree charges the judge, who whips out a pistol and shoots him. Feigning unconsciousness, Raintree manages to escape. The story then seamlessly alternates between Marie's narration of the manhunt for Raintree and chapters of Marie's book, The Little Mermaid, about the background to the trial. Raintree is a cipher, a seemingly illiterate but clever outcast with no past. Pickard delves deeply into the personality and psyche of this repellent yet sympathetic monster who was kidnapped and abused as a child. After finding and arresting the fugitive, the police never question the anomalies in the case (how could an uneducated man perform a delicate surgical procedure ) nor do they respond to calls from a retired Kansas sheriff who believes Raintree is John Kepler, who was kidnapped 22 years ago. Because of her fame, Marie is contacted by Kepler's parents, and the course of the novel shifts dramatically as Marie becomes personally involved. Mrs. Kepler's wish to see her son again spurs the frightening climax to this stunning synthesis of psychological suspense and commentary on our culture of celebrity. Featured alternate of the Mystery Guild; 9-city author tour. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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May 31, 2000
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Excerpt from The Whole Truth by Nancy Pickard
Chapter One: Raymond
The courthouse in downtown Bahia Beach, Florida, seems a pale, cool place to hold the evidence of so much passion. Divorces. Rape. Murders. Arson. Assault. Abuse of all kinds, by all sorts of people, upon all sorts of people. Daily, it parades past these bland, blond walls of the Howard County Courthouse, in Florida's Twenty-first Judicial Circuit. This is a place of stark contrasts and painful paradoxes, of quiet ironies and violent surprises. Outside the long narrow windows of the courthouse, the south Florida sun burns hot enough to scorch a tourist's skin, but inside, it's all shade and air-conditioning.
My fingertips feel dipped in ice water as I write these words.
They seem to promise a surprise or shock of some kind, although nobody in this courtroom is expecting one. We're expecting the jury to deliver a guilty verdict today, and we're all expecting to troop back in here in a couple of weeks to hear this same jury recommend the death penalty.
And yet, my own words seem to foreshadow something else.
Strange, but I don't have any idea of what that could be.
For the ten days of the trial of Raymond Raintree for the kidnapping and murder of Natalie Mae McCullen, I have scribbled notes with stiff, cold fingers. Now, as we await the verdict, I press my fingers into my palms to warm them, before moving my pen again. I'm not using a laptop because the soft tapping of fingers on keyboards drives the judge crazy, and so she has forbidden computers.
Judge Edyth Flasschoen's courtroom -- number three, second floor -- is especially chilly, because she keeps the thermostat turned down exceptionally low. It's so cold in here I can smell the air-conditioning, a metallic aroma that gets up in my nose and stays there until I overpower it with garlic for lunch from one of the restaurants down on Bahia Boulevard. The judge takes good care of her jurors, though: no air-conditioning blows directly on them.
High on her bench, seated in her brown leather chair on rollers, the judge taps her microphone with a pink fingernail. She's a tough old broad, sixty-two years old, with a beauty-shop hairdo and the metabolism of a Florida mosquito. When I interviewed her for the true crime book I'm writing about this case, she said, "It's always too damned hot to suit me. I could go naked under my robes, and I'd still sweat like a pig in the brush."