New York Times bestselling author Sandra Brown returns with a tale of corruption and betrayal, revenge and reversal - where friends become foes, and heroes become criminals in the ultimate abuse of power.
When newswoman Britt Shelley wakes up to find herself in bed with Jay Burgess, a rising star detective in the Charleston PD, she remembers nothing of how she got there...or of how Jay wound up dead.
Handsome and hard-partying, Jay was a hero of the disastrous fire that five years earlier had destroyed Charleston's police headquarters. The blaze left seven people dead, but the death toll would have been much higher if not for the bravery of Jay and three other city officials who risked their lives to lead others to safety.
Firefighter Raley Gannon, Jay's lifelong friend, was off-duty that day. Though he might not have been a front-line hero, he was assigned to lead the investigation into the cause of the fire. It was an investigation he never got to complete. Because on one calamitous night, Raley's world was shattered.
Scandalized, wronged by the people he trusted most, Raley was forced to surrender the woman he loved and the work to which he'd dedicated his life. For five years his resentment against the men who exploited their hero status to further their careers -- and ruin his -- had festered, but he was helpless to set things right.
That changes when he learns of Jay Burgess's shocking death and Britt Shelley's claim that she has no memory of her night with him. As the investigation into Jay's death intensifies, and suspicion against Britt Shelley mounts, Raley realizes that the newswoman, Jay's last sexual conquest, might be his only chance to get personal vindication -- and justice for the seven victims of the police station fire.
But there are powerful men who don't want to address unanswered questions about the fire and who will go to any lengths to protect their reputations. As Raley and Britt discover more about what happened that fateful day, the more perilous their situation becomes, until they're not only chasing after the truth but running for their lives.
Friends are exposed as foes, heroes take on the taint of criminals, and no one can be trusted completely. A tale about audacious corruption -- and those with the courage to expose it -- Smoke Screen is Sandra Brown's most searing and intense novel yet.
At the start of this scorching if somewhat formulaic thriller from bestseller Brown (Play Dirty), Charleston, S.C., TV reporter Britt Shelley wakes up in bed next to the dead body of police detective Jay Burgess. While Jay had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, the authorities suspect foul play. Jay's former best friend, ex-fireman Raley Gannon, suffered a similar shock five years earlier, waking up next to party girl Suzi Monroe's naked corpse after a party at Jay's home. Raley had been investigating a fire at a local police station that took seven lives, despite the heroic efforts of Jay and several other cops, one of whom is now South Carolina's attorney general. Cleared of Suzi's death, Raley eventually teams with Britt to look into a nasty arson coverup. Brown laces her dependable romantic fireworks with a solid action-filled plot, though readers should be prepared for a few stereotypes, including a limp-wristed gay, a macho skinhead and a power-mad female politician. (Aug.) Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Simon & Schuster
August 11, 2008
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Excerpt from Smoke Screen by Sandra Brown
CHAPTER 1 Raley pulled open the rusty screen door, its hinges squealing. "Hey! You in here?" "Ain't I usually?" A curl of faded red paint flaked off when the wood frame slapped closed behind Raley as he stepped into the one-room cabin. It smelled of fried pork and the mouse-gnawed Army blanket on the cot in the corner. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the dimness and find the old man. He was sitting at a three-legged table, hunched over a cup of coffee like a dog guarding a hard-won bone, staring into the snowy screen of a black-and-white television. Ghostly images flickered in and out. There was no audio except for a static hiss. "Good morning." The old man snorted a welcome through his sheaves of nasal hair. "He'p yourself." He nodded toward the enamel coffeepot on the stove. "Can't recommend the cream. It curdled overnight." Raley stepped over the three hounds lying motionless on the floor and went to the refrigerator that was jammed between an antique pie safe, which served as a pantry, and a drafting table, which served no purpose whatsoever except to collect dust and further reduce the floor space in the crowded cabin. The handle on the fridge door had broken off, probably decades ago, but if you pressed your fingers just right into the soft rubber sealant in the crack, you could pry it open. "I brought you some catfish." Raley set the newspaper bundle on one of the rusty wire shelves, then quickly shut the door against the mingled odors of cream gone bad and general spoilage. "Much obliged." "You're welcome." The coffee probably had been boiled several times and would be the consistency of molasses. Without cream to dilute it, Raley thought it better to pass. He glanced at the silent TV. "You need to adjust your rabbit ears." "Ain't the rabbit ears. I turned off the sound." "How come?" The old man replied with one of his customary harrumphs that said he couldn't be bothered to answer. A self-proclaimed recluse, he had lived in voluntary exile ever since "the war," although which war had never been specified. He had as little as possible to do with otherHomo sapiens. Shortly after Raley had moved into the vicinity, the two had come upon each other in the woods. Raley was staring down into the beady eyes of a dead opossum when the old man came crashing through the underbrush and said, "Don't even think about it." "About what?" "About taking my possum." Touching the bloated, flyblown, limp body with the pink, hairless tail and horrible stench was the last thing Raley intended to do. He raised his hands in surrender and stood aside so the barefoot old man in stained overalls could retrieve his kill from the metal jaws of the small trap. "Way you been stampin' 'round out here, it's a wonder to me it ain't you caught in this trap 'stead of the possum," he grumbled. Raley wasn't aware that anyone lived within miles of the cabin he'd recently purchased. He'd rather not have had a neighbor of any kind, but especially one who kept track of his comings and goings. As the old man stood up, his knees protested in loud pops and snaps, which caused him to grimace and mutter a string of curses. With the carcass dangling from his hand, the old man looked Raley over, from his baseball cap and bearded face to the toes of his hiking boots. Inspection complete, the old man spat tobacco juice into the dirt to express his opinion of what he saw. "Man's got a right to walk in the woods," he said. "Just don't go messin' with my traps." "It would help me to know where they are." The old man's cracked lips spread into a wide grin, revealing tobacco-stained stubs that once were teeth. "Wouldn't it though?" Still chuckling, he turned away. "You'll find 'em, I'm bettin'." Raley could hear his laughter long after he disappeared into the dense foliage. Over the ensuing months, they'd accidentally bumped into each other in the woods several times.