A midshipman's six-story fall onto a plaza at the United States Naval Academy is classified initially as an accident. The Academy's administration-none-too-affectionately called the 'Dark Side' by the midshipmen-attempts to brush the ensuing controversy under the rug. But a bizarre twist complicates what might otherwise be a tidy cover-up, and pulls Midshipman first class Julie Markham into the incident in a highly embarrassing manner. Suddenly there are rumors of homicide. Julie's flawless reputation, high academic standing, and athletic achievements make her an unlikely suspect, but her father, Ev Markham, an Annapolis graduate who is now a professor there, knows the extremes to which the Dark Side will go to protect the Academy from scandal. Fearing Julie will be sacrificed to appease the rising public outcry, he hires high-powered attorney Liz DeWinter as the Naval Criminal Investigative Service begins an investigation. Meanwhile, Jim Hall, the Academy's civilian security officer, explores a trail of violent pranks in the locked subterranean tunnels connecting the Academy to Annapolis proper-tunnels that lead to an unsolved murder.
Deutermann's latest-a tense mystery set in and around the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis-is sleek, sharp and scary. The author (Sweepers; Hunting Season; etc.) has strong connections to the Academy, and seasoned reader Hill deftly showcases Deutermann's expertise. When a plebe at the Academy mysteriously falls out of a sixth-story window and dies, energetic Midshipman First Class Julie Markham, an acquaintance of the dead, is placed under scrutiny. While she scrambles to clear herself of blame, the plot thickens, and the Academy reels from the possibility that there's a murderer on the loose. Hill expertly brings to life a variety of characters, including Markham; her father, Ev, who teaches history at the Academy; Annapolis security chief Jim Hall; and tough defense lawyer Liz DeWinter, who gets some of the book's best lines as she goes up against the Academy's "dark side"-the cadre of super-loyalists anxious to protect and defend the institution from scandal at any cost. Simultaneous release with the St. Martin's hardcover (Forecasts, Oct. 21). (Dec.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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St. Martin's Press
October 18, 2003
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Excerpt from Darkside by P. T. Deutermann
The ashen-faced cook was close to hyperventilating. He was sitting at the first table inside the mess hall, hands clamped down on spread knees, eyes bulging wide open, staring straight ahead, as if not wanting to see the red stains all over his whites.
"Hey, man, it's okay," Jim Hall said. "Just take it slow. Breathe. No, slower. Deep breaths. Slower. Yeah. That's it. Take a minute. It's gonna be okay."
The cook, a pudgy white guy in his forties, didn't respond, but he began to get his breathing under control. Jim looked at his shoes. He, too, did not want to dwell on the cook's gore-spattered uniform. He imagined he could smell it, and felt his stomach do a small flop. Finally, the cook looked up at him.
" 'Okay'? Okay? Hell it will," he croaked. "It was like... like he was trying to fly."
"The guy? It looked like he was trying to fly. I saw him. One split second. Arms wide, like one of those high divers, you know? His eyes were closed, though. Like he knew."
Well, no shit, Jim thought. Of course he knew. Doing a swan dive from six stories onto flagstone? Yeah, the dude probably knew.
"Young guy?" Jim asked. He'd seen the body. It was actually a reasonable question.
"Yeah, probably a plebe. I mean, like, a really young face."
Jim nodded. He tried again to shut out the image of the wreckage out there in the plaza between the mess hall and the eighth wing. Wait till the breakfast formation gets a load of that. He felt his stomach twitch. People had no idea.
He made a couple of notes, waiting to see if the cook had anything more to add. Then he heard one of the EMTs outside call in the DOA code. Got that right, he thought. The semirigid cook now had beads of sweat all along his forehead, and his lips were turning a little blue. Jim stepped over to the double doors and called the EMTs to come over. One pushed through the doors of what was formally called King Hall, the Naval Academy's hangar-like mess hall. The cook looked like he was about to flop and twitch on them.