In her latest thriller, New York Times bestselling author Tami Hoag takes readers on a suspense-filled ride of shocks and twists leading to an explosive finish. It is the story of an ex-cop, a missing girl, and a killer locked in a race where there can be only one winner--and the losers die trying. In a trailer in a Florida swamp, time is running out for eighteen year-old Erin Seabright. A pawn in a kidnapper's terrifying game for a ransom no one can pay, her last hope is a washed-up ex-cop who has already lost it all-not once, but twice. The wealthy world of the Palm Beach horse set seems a long way from a cop's world in the narcotics division. A lifetime ago, undercover sheriff's detective Elena Estes worked the mean streets and BackTop alleys, living by her wits and playing the long odds until she took one risk too many. Now Estes lives on the ragged edge of lost hope and self-hatred, hiding from the past and believing she doesn't deserve to have a future.
The professional horse world, as seen through Hoag's eyes, is full of intrigue, glitter and skullduggery. Elena Estes is a former cop whose bravado on the force resulted in a colleague's death; it also cost her her job and her self-esteem, not to mention the psychological and physical fallout from nearly being shot. She's been keeping a low profile at a friend's Florida ranch, but her world is disrupted when 12-year-old Molly Seabright, wise beyond her years, attempts to hire Elena to find her older sister, Erin, who has been missing for two days. As Elena digs deeper into Erin's disappearance, the dark side of the horse-show set is revealed. Hoag (Night Sins; Dust to Dust), herself an experienced equestrian, shows off her dressage-to-showing knowledge of the sport as she weaves behind-the-scenes tidbits about the training, competitions, horse brokers and grooms into a plot that gallops along. Though she is a master of suspense, the story falters when a major secret about the kidnapping is exposed. There are too many bad guys who may be in on the scheme, and readers will feel cheated by the improbable 11th-hour revelation. It's too bad Hoag felt the need to undercut her plot with schemes and counterschemes, since she finds plenty of tension in the equestrian world she examines here and doesn't need the contrivance. Nonetheless, she has enough skill and drawing power to propel this, her 10th book, onto bestseller lists. Major ad/promo. (Aug. 27) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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May 31, 2004
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Excerpt from Dark Horse by Tami Hoag
[FADE IN: EXTERIOR: PALM BEACH
Flat, open fields of scrub stretching to the west. A dirt road running north onto equestrian center property and south toward small horse farms some distance away. No one around.The fields are empty. No people, no horses. Sunday night: everyone has gone home.
ERIN stands at the back gate. She ' s waiting for someone. She ' s nervous. She thinks she ' s here for a secret purpose. She thinks her life will change tonight.
She looks at her watch. Impatient. Afraid he won ' t show. She ' s not aware of the camera filming her. She thinks she ' s alone.
She ' s thinking: maybe he won ' t come, maybe she ' s wrong about him.
A rusted white van approaches from the south. She watches it come toward her. She looks annoyed. No one uses this back road this time of day.The gate to the show grounds has already been chained shut for the night.
The van stops.The side door opens. A masked ASSAILANT leapsout.
She starts to run toward the gate.He catches her arm from behind and spins her around. She kicks him. He backhands her across the face, knocking her sideways. She wrenches free of his grasp as she stumbles, and she tries to run again but can ' t get her feet under her.The assailant knocks her down from behind, coming down on top of her, his knee in her back.
He pulls a hypodermic needle from the pocket of his jacket and rams the needle into her arm. She makes a sound of pain and starts to cry.
He pulls her to her feet and shoves her into the van.The door slams shut.The van turns around and drives away.
Life changes in a heartbeat.
Life can change in a heartbeat. I ' ve always known that. I ' ve lived the truth of that statement literally from the day I was born. I sometimes see those moments coming, sense them, anticipate them. I see one coming now. Adrenaline runs through my bloodstream like rocket fuel. My heart pounds like a piston. I ' m ready to launch.
I ' ve been told to stay put, to wait, but I know that ' s not the right decision. If I go in first, if I go in now, I ' ve got the Golam brothers dead-bang.They think they know me.Their guard will be down. I ' ve worked this case three months. I know what I ' m doing. I know that I ' m right. I know the Golam brothers are already twitching. I know I want this bust and deserve it. I know Sikes is here for the show, to put a feather in his cap when the news vans arrive and make the public think they should vote for him in the next election for sheriff.
He stuck me on the side of the trailer and told me to wait. He doesn ' t know his ass. He doesn ' t even know the side door is the door the brothers use most. While Sikes and Ramirez are watching the front, the brothers are dumping their money into duffel bags and getting ready to bolt out the side. Billy Golam ' s 4 X 4 is parked ten feet away, covered in mud. If they run, they ' ll take the truck, not the Corvette parked in front.The truck can go off-road.
Sikes is wasting precious time.The Golam brothers have two girls in the trailer with them.This could easily turn into a hostage situation. But if I go in now, while their guard is down . . .
Screw Sikes. I ' m going in before these twitches freak. It ' s my case. I know what I ' m doing. I hit the button on my radio. ' This is stupid. They ' re going to break for the truck. I ' m going in. '