A Deeper Darkness

A Deeper Darkness

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As a medical examiner, Samantha Owens knows her job is to make a certain sense of death with crisp methodology and precision instruments.

But the day the Tennessee floods took her husband and children, the light vanished from Sam’s life. She has been pulled into a suffocating grief no amount of workaholic ardor can penetrate — until she receives a peculiar call from Washington, D.C.

On the other end of the line is an old boyfriend’s mother, asking Sam to do a second autopsy on her son. Eddie Donovan is officially the victim of a vicious carjacking, but under Sam’s sharp eye the forensics tell a darker story. The ex-Ranger was murdered, though not for his car.

Forced to confront the burning memories and feelings about yet another loved one killed brutally, Sam loses herself in the mystery contained within Donovan’s old notes. It leads her to the untouchable Xander, a soldier off-grid since his return from Afghanistan, and then to a series of brutal crimes stretching from that harsh mountainous war zone to this nation’s capital. The tale told between the lines makes it clear that nobody’s hands are clean, and that making sense of murder sometimes means putting yourself in the crosshairs of death.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781536618600
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication date: 11/01/2016
Series: Samantha Owens Series , #1
Edition description: Unabridged
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

J.T. Ellison is the bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Taylor Jackson series, including All The Pretty Girls, 14, Judas Kiss and The Cold Room. She is the bi-monthly Friday columnist at the Anthony Award nominated blog Murderati, and was named "Best Mystery/Thriller Writer of 2008" by the Nashville Scene.

Read an Excerpt

Washington, D.C.
Edward Donovan

Eddie Donovan didn't like crowds. Crowds were unpredictable, dangerous. Crowds held a multitude of malcontents, any one of which could be the death of him, in the most literal way. He was surrounded by people, and sweating. Despite the aviator-style Ray-Bans perched on his nose, the sun shone brightly in his eyes, making it even harder to see. Even in his car he felt unsafe.

Donovan, formerly Major Edward Donovan, 75th Ranger Regiment, couldn't help himself. He scanned the pedestrians incessantly as he looked for a place to park. Susan said she'd meet him at the carousel behind the Smithsonian and they'd walk the girls over to the Tidal Basin together. He'd thought it better for her to get off at the Smithsonian Metro stop and cut through the back streets, where there would be fewer people, but she'd insisted. The day was fine, spring sun yellow and sharp, and she wanted the exercise. The girls needed it too—the more they got during the day, the easier it was to put them down at night.

He was running late. He finally found a spot on Seventh. He pulled in, dropped a handful of quarters into the meter, and took off at a jog, down the Mall, away from the Capitol.

They weren't alone in their planned endeavor. It seemed every family in the Washington metro area, plus oodles of tourists, had decided to meet on the Mall and walk down to the Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossoms together. There were hundreds ofjolly people milling about.

Police ringed Independence Avenue, wary and watchful. Despite the beautiful day, terror threats were always paramount in law enforcement's mind, especially when it came to large gatherings. Just plain common sense was needed. But for a former Ranger, the authorities' lack of common sense was teeth-grindingly aggravating. As he moved swiftly through the crowds, Donovan spotted at least five points of ingress, holes in the watch. Of course, this was his world now, his job. He was a civilian in clothing only—his mandate was to protect. Only his paychecks were printed and signed by multinational corporations instead of the U.S. government.

The Gothic spires of the Smithsonian appeared to his left, and the music of the carousel floated to his ears. He spotted Susan, her blond hair up in a ponytail under a Redskins baseball cap, matching aviator Ray-Bans on her face. She looked like an incognito movie star, daintily lean and trim, and for the hundredth time he congratulated himself on landing her. She was the daughter of his former mentor, the man who'd shown him how to be a soldier. A good man now rotting under a white stone at Arlington, lost not to battle, but cancer, like too many others who'd served in Vietnam and Korea. The last thing Stewart had asked was for Donovan to take care of his little girl, a mission Donovan was only too happy to undertake.

Susan spied him and a smile spread across her face. Alina and Victoria—Ally and Vicky—were attached to either end of Susan's arms like limpets, dragging her forward. He smiled in return and crossed the remaining few feet to them, grabbing the baby, Vicky, by the waist and swinging her up onto his shoulders. The five-year-old squealed in frightened pleasure, and Ally smiled indulgently at her little sister. In a perfect imitation of Susan, she crossed her little arms and said, "You know she just ate, right Dad? You do that and she might throw up."

Eight, going on thirty.

"I've been barfed on before by lesser women." He swung Vicky around his shoulders, the helicopter, they called it, and she laughed and laughed. Her giggles were infectious, and soon the whole family chimed in. Donovan felt his heart constrict. This—making his daughters and wife laugh—this was sheer perfection.

Vicky attached herself to his back like a monkey, and they started walking west.

"How are you, chickens?" he asked.

"We're fine," Susan answered. "I got the oil changed on the way to the Metro—apparently we need new wiper blades."

"They always say that," he muttered, and she smiled.

"I know. The danger of sending a woman to do a man's job. I told them I'd let you know and the kid looked at me like I was an idiot. Have you eaten? I packed us some sandwiches. Vicky had half of hers already, she couldn't wait. I thought we could stop in front of the monument and have a little picnic."

"Sounds great."

It sounded like a perfect chance for a sniper to pick them all off one by one, but he wasn't about to share that with Susan. She was hardly delicate, his wife. After years of being the daughter of a soldier, then the wife of one, she was battle-hardened herself. But once the girls had come along he'd felt an overwhelming need to protect her, to keep her ignorant of all the dangers surrounding them.

It only took a few minutes to get to the grassy knoll the monument rested upon. Donovan stared at the obelisk, shaking his head. He'd lived in the District his whole life, yet had never gone up in the monument.

For a time it had been under renovation, and, of course, September 11 meant it had been closed, and the elevators didn't run except for visiting dignitaries. But it was back open now, more than a symbol of the geographical heart of Washington, D.C. It was a symbol of power. Phallic. Soaring. White marbled. Like a flawless compass pointing north, not to the magnetic pole, but to the heavens. To the only real masters of the brethren beneath.

He really needed to schedule a time and take the girls. He'd heard the view was amazing.

They found a spot on the hill and settled in, the buffalo-checked stadium blanket warm underneath them, both girls serious about eating their sandwiches but shivering in excitement, like racehorses in the gates. Donovan understood their anticipation, but for different reasons. He wanted to get down to the cherry blossoms and take their stroll, watch the festivities, and go home. Get them out of harm's way. Home was the only place he could truly relax. These milling masses of people were too much for him. He chided himself—marking time was one of his worst faults—but blamed it on the crowds. And the feeling that something was wrong. He'd learned the hard way never to ignore his gut.

Ally was staring at him, and, almost as if she could read his thoughts, set her half-eaten sandwich on the plastic bag and said, "Can we go, Mommy?"

"Finish your sandwich, baby."

"I'm done. Look, Daddy's done too."

"Eddie," Susan scolded. "Eat."

He glanced at her, then to Ally. With a sly grin, he shoved the rest of the sandwich into his mouth. Ally responded with giggles and tried to do the same, wedging the Wonder bread sideways, smearing peanut butter on her cheeks. Vicky, now eating cheerios from a sandwich bag, proceeded to upend the plastic into her mouth, spilling little Os down her shirt. She looked festooned for a party, and Donovan laughed out loud.

"Finished," they cried together, and Susan shook her head at them.

"I didn't think I'd ever raise such savages. Fine. Fine. We can go."

They stood, wiped the girls down, tidied their things, and Susan folded the blanket and tucked it into her backpack.

"Carry Vicky," Donovan said, lifting Ally into his arms. There was no way he was going to chance losing one of them in this crowd.

They strolled to the Tidal Basin, where the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. Some had already begun to fall, slowly dying on the ground, creating a blanket of pink and white, fairy tale snow. The girls oohed and aahed, wriggling like puppies in their parents' arms. Donovan and Susan set them down and they immediately rained themselves in the crushed petals.

Susan snapped photos, immortalizing their antics.

They were down by the paddleboats when Donovan's cell phone rang. There was only one reason for Donovan's phone to ring today, of all days, the day he'd arranged to take off in order to spend time with his family, as if they were regular people, in a regular world.

"Shit," he said.

"Daddy, you owe a quarter!" Ally said.

Fumbling in his pocket, he pulled out a quarter and handed it to her, then, ignoring Susan's basilisk glare, answered the phone.

He recognized the voice immediately. "We need to talk."



He clicked the off button on the cell and glanced at Susan. He resisted the urge to close his eyes to avoid forever being turned to stone, instead bent close, as if talking tenderly might help.

"Honey, I'm sorry. I have to go. You and the girls have fun, and I'll see you at home tonight."

"Eddie, you promised them." She flung her hand to the right, where Ally was studiously avoiding his gaze, showing her sister the intricate bark of a weeping cherry tree.

"Don't do that, Susan. Please."

"You promised me," she said, softer this time.

He heaved a breath in, his mind already five miles away. He didn't do guilt. Guilt was for the weak. Susan rarely pulled it on him, either. He couldn't help himself; his tone changed. He straightened up, the calm, cool demeanor back in place.

"I said I was sorry. I'll be home as soon as I can."

He leaned in and bussed her mouth briefly, then went to the girls.

"Daddy has to run an errand, chickens. But I'll see you at home tonight. Why don't we have…pizza!"

They danced in little circles, all disappointment forgotten. "Pizza, pizza, pizza!"

If only everyone were so easily swayed.

He gave them each a quick kiss, touched Susan on the cheek in apology, and started off at a quick jog down Wallenberg toward Maryland, looking for a cab. His car was parked all the way back by the Air and Space museum, on the meters at the top of the mall. It would be quicker to get a ride.

He was in luck. Within moments he caught the eye of a turbaned man who swerved to the curb to pick him up. The cab smelled of evergreen and cumin, and something else, that indefinable scent that all D.C. cabs seemed to have. Maybe it was fear. Or power. Or greed. Or envy. Regardless, it insinuated itself into the very fabric of the city.

He slid in the back. "Corner of Seventh and Independence, please."

The cab darted from the curb, and deposited Donovan at his car five minutes later, having only been stymied by a single motorcade.

Eddie jumped in the Audi and took off toward Constitution, then swung back around and headed down toward the Navy Shipyards. The radio was tuned to 101.1, a song by one of his favorites, Nine Inch Nails, playing. He turned it up and tapped his fingers in time on the steering wheel.

The sun shone in the corridor today. Streams of people walked down to the Nationals stadium for the season opener. Baseball and apple pie coupled with naval history and pastel row houses.



But there was something Donovan had learned from hard experience.

Appearances could be deceiving.

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A Deeper Darkness 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
RonnaL More than 1 year ago
Ellison starts a new series with a take-off character from another series.  Dr. Samantha Owens is a Forensic Pathologist in Nashville, Tennessee.  She's been devoted to her job until tragedy struck her.  Her husband and two children are dead and she lives with self imposed guilt daily.  When the mother of her old lover, Donovan,calls and asks for help, Samantha reluctantly agrees.   Donavan's body has been found shot in his car.  The Washington,DC police are calling it a car jacking, but his mom believes there was more to his death.  After the autopsy, Samantha also believes this ex-Ranger's death was a more complicated murder.  Samantha investigates with a couple of interesting policeman, delving into a long held secret of friendly fire and more from the Ranger's service in Afghanistan.  Tensions are taught as Samantha must also work with Donovan's wife, who knows of Samantha's and Donovan's past affair.  This book is psychological, revealing the mind set of everyone involved.  It also becomes fast passed as Samantha finds answers and finds herself in great danger too.  Good start to a new series.  Relationships are set up to continue a few of these characters in this series, which should be exciting reading.  
lsmeadows More than 1 year ago
Dr. Samantha Owens and J. T. Ellison are a winner in my book! A number of my friends have read books by J.T. Ellison, so as an author she has been on my radar for a while. I received the second book of her new series featuring Medical Examiner Samantha Owens as an Advanced Reader book, so decided to start with this series. Samantha Owens is one of those women that we find often in books these days. Smart, sexy, accomplished...in short a strong, successful woman. At least she used to be. That was before tragedy hit her two years ago.  In A Deeper Darkness, the first book in the Samantha Owens series Samantha finds that tragedy has struck again in the form of the death of her college love, Eddie Donavan. The police have ruled his death as a simple car-jacking, but his mother disagrees. Hence her request to Samantha to perform a second autopsy and take a second look.  That is the way Ellison begins this top-notch thriller. From there the plot continues at a fast pace, with enough plot twists and interesting occurrences to keep the reader interested. It is quickly obvious that there is more here than meets the eye. What do a car-jacking, PTSD, a diary of secrets written in Latin, and a ex-Army Ranger turned recluse have in common? That is the central question that keeps the reader turning pages in this thrill ride. One thing missing in this book, though, was the heavy romance angle that is usually prevalent in this type of book. I actually appreciated that as I loved the focus on the mystery part of the story.  The characters that Ellison populates this book with is a definite positive. None of the characters are cookie cutter in any way, least of all Samantha, whose demons have driven her to OCD behavior. As a mom, I don't even want to imagine what it would be like to lose a child, and that fact had me feeling a lot of empathy for Sam. The lead detective on the case is battling his own demons, as is the widow of the deceased who never felt that she measured up to Sam, and Xander Whitfeild, the reclusive ex-Ranger who was one of Eddie's best friends. Yet Ellison is able to take all of these characters and not only makes you care about their personal demons, but she does an excellent job of tying them together into a team of characters that really work.  I did find, however, that I wished I would have read the Taylor Jackson books by Ms. Ellison first. (I plan to remedy that quickly)as I believe the story of the demons that Samantha was haunted by had already been brought to light in those books. As a first time reader of Ms. Ellison's work I was a bit put off by her continued alluding to the tragedy that took Samantha's family without ever really explaining it. She finally did explain, but it was very late in the book. I think if I had read the Taylor Jackson books and been familiar with the character this would not have been an issue.  The good news, though, is that I have another bunch of books from this author to read while I wait for the third book of this series to come out in 2014.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Reading this book is an emotional rollercoaster. Every character has some type of inner turmoil going on in their lives. Samantha, the M.E. and main character, lives a life of pure agony. She is a basket case. You feel her pain and her loss and almost wish you could some how make her life better. This isn't the typical "whodunit" some how it has a different twist to it. You end up feeling sympathy for all the characters, good and bad. The author has you beliving who the killer is and suddenly the story takes a twist and points to someone else. This happens a few times. It becomes a bit confusing. The end was not what I expected, but if it brought some happiness to poor Samantha, then it was a good ending. Try it you'll like it.
rhonda1111RL More than 1 year ago
4 STARS It was moving for me, other wise I cried in parts of the book. Was not sure who the bad guys were till the end. Dr. Samantha Owens is having hard times since the death of her husband and daughters. She is head of medical examiner for the state of Tennessee. She can't be around drowning victims and has developed washing hands as a way to cope. Edward Donovan and Samantha were lovers in collage till he left medical school to go back into the army as a ranger. Edward is now married and has two daughters. He works as a contracter advisor. He was killed by a carjacking. Susan Donovan father was a general and husband was a Major till he got out of army. When late at night their is a knock on the door when her husband was supposed to be home knows its bad news. Eddie mother has kept in touch through the years with Samantha and kept her informed about her son. Now she does not believe her son was killed in a car jacking and asks Samantha if she will come to D.C. and do another autopsie. She knows it will be hard on her but needs her help. Samantha agrees to help. Susan does not want her to help she is jealous of Sam's history with her husband, but finally agrees. Their are more deaths of Edward rangers squad. Sam gets right involved in the case. I stayed up late because I could not put the book down. Look forward to more books like this one. I was given this ebook to read in exchange for honest review from Netgalley. 04/24/2012 PUB Harlequin
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not stop till I finished the story. Great turns and twists!! This is my first J.T. Ellison novel but will not be the last.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. Lots oftwists and turns!
wiccked on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I didn't like this book at the start, but by the time I got to the end I loved it and was left wanting more!I didn't feel like this was the same Sam who was in the Taylor books, but maybe she isn't. Maybe losing her family changed her so much that this isn't the old Sam any more. Not having Sam as a major character in the Taylor books we didn't get to know her intimately, but now we're seeing a side of her that was maybe always there, but we just didn't see it. Despite that, I really enjoyed this book, and I would like more. I'd like to see more of quite a few of the characters too - not just Sam, Xander and Fletcher, who I believe will be back, but Susan and Eleanor too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story! Kept me interested from the first page. The only problem I had was the names - most characters also had a nickname, and it got confusing at points. The author did try to keep reminding us of who was who, but it was still a bit confusing at points. Otherwise, great job!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
otterly More than 1 year ago
Coroner Samantha Owens blames herself for the deaths of her husband and children in a flood. Now she is called to help some friends in Texas. Will she finally find love again? I tried another book by this author, but couldn't get into it. A book club might like to discuss this one.
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SpeedSD More than 1 year ago
LOVED, LOVED, LOVED IT!!!!! Amazing start to this spin-off series. Love how Ellison took an excellent secondary character from the Taylor Jackson series and has truly made her a star! I did notice that on another review, someone wanted to go back and read the Jackson series to get a better idea of what happened to Sam's family. I will let you know that that tragedy occurred after the last Taylor Jackson book. It was new to anyone familiar with that series also. On that note, if you do go back and read that series, it is an absolutely fantastic series and will give you a better understanding of who Sam was before this tragedy occurred in her life. Ellison has a way with murder mysteries/thrillers like no other. She can get a little graphic, so if that kind of thing bothers you, please take it into consideration. Ellison keeps you on your toes with twists and turns to the story line that really keeps you guessing till the end. Just when you think you have it figured out, WHAMMY, she hits you with another bombshell! Love that about this author. I miss Taylor and Baldwin and that whole set of characters, but Ellison has hit it out of the park with this one and I am completely hooked. Thanx for a spectacular read, Ms. Ellison, please keep them coming! -- SPeeD
Anonymous More than 1 year ago