Edge of Black

Edge of Black

by J. T. Ellison


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Dr. Samantha Owens is starting over: new city, new job, new man, new life. She's trying to put some distance between herself and the devastating loss of her husband and children—but old hurts leave scars.

Before she's even unpacked her office at Georgetown University's forensic pathology department, she's called to consult on a case that's rocked the capital and the country. An unknown pathogen released into the Washington Metro has caused nationwide panic. Three people died—just three.

A miracle and a puzzle…

Amid the media frenzy and Homeland Security alarm bells, Sam painstakingly dissects the lives of those three victims and makes an unsettling conclusion. This is no textbook terrorist causing mayhem with broad strokes, but an artist wielding a much finer, more pointed instrument of destruction. An assassin, whose motive is deeply personal and far from understandable.

Xander Whitfield, a former army ranger and Sam's new boyfriend, knows about seeing the world in shades of gray. About feeling compelled to do the wrong thing for the right reasons. Only his disturbing kinship with a killer can lead Sam to the truth…and once more into the line of fire.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780778313724
Publisher: MIRA Books
Publication date: 11/20/2012
Series: A Samantha Owens Novel , #2
Edition description: Original
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 371,137
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

J.T. Ellison is the NYT and USA Today bestselling author of more than 20 novels, and the EMMY-award winning co-host of A WORD ON WORDS, Nashville's premier literary show. With millions of books in print, her work has won critical acclaim, prestigious awards, and has been published in 26 countries. Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband and twin kittens.

Read an Excerpt

Washington, D.C.

A single beam of light illuminated the path ahead, hovering and bobbing against the concrete walls. The tunnel was narrowing, growing tighter across his shoulder, forcing the joints to compress, pushing on his lungs. His breath came fast. He reminded himself to calm down, inhale through his nose. The mask was making it difficult to see, to smell, anything that might give him a sense of where he was. He paused, counted the number of times his limbs had moved forward. Once, twice, three times, twenty. Roger that. Five more evolutions and he'd be in place.

He squeezed forward, slithering like a snake along on his belly, his legs bunching up behind him, his arms forward, the Maglite in his left hand, his right feeling for the way. Slowly. Slowly.

There. He felt the hinge. Turned it gently, sensed the cooler air blowing up into the vent from below. Reached down into his shirt and pulled out the canister. The gloves made his hands clumsy, but he couldn't risk contact. He'd die stuck in this shaft, wedged in above the vent, stinking and rotting until someone finally sought the source of the smell.

No one would think to look for him if he were to go missing.

He had no one. He was alone.

He double-checked his mask, made sure he was breathing clean. All systems go.

The clock in his head ticked away, closing down to the final moments.

Five. Four. Three. Two. One.


With sure hands, he opened the cylinder and depressed the button. The can discharged, spraying silently into the vent. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Empty.

He shook it lightly, but there was nothing else to release. It was done.

He tucked the cylinder back into his shirt and started to move away. He needed to get out of the shaft and back onto the platform, all while avoiding the cameras.

He could do it. He had faith. He'd done three dry runs, and all went according to plan.

He moved out, reversing the slither, arms bunching, forcing his body backward until the resistance ended and he could move his shoulders and hips without constriction. The pipe grew larger, big enough that he crawled onto his knees, turned and faced the exit. He fed a mirror mount down the shaft. No one was around.


He dropped lightly to the ground, took three steps to the right to make sure he didn't accidentally get caught on film, found the metal ladder and began to climb. Higher and higher, his heart lighter and lighter. Success was his.

Below, he felt the first blast of air that indicated a train was coming. The rumbling grew louder, the ladder began to shake. He could have sworn he heard a cough. He paused his climb, held on and breathed into his mask.

This was a better high than you could pay for.

The train passed below him, streaking silver in the dark, rushing the air from the vent toward the platform. He let the rumbling shake his body for a few moments, counting off again, then continued to climb. The exit would be deserted, he'd made sure of that. He had a two-minute window during the shift change to get out.

He set the stopwatch in his head. Two minutes. Mark.

He opened the hatch and climbed onto the deserted platform. Three steps to the right, two steps forward. He'd left his backpack in the trash receptacle. He worked quickly. The mask, canister and gloves went into a sealable plastic bag. His clothes were next: he exchanged the black running suit for jeans and a white cotton T-shirt, pulled on yellow Timber-lands. He used hand sanitizer on his arms to eliminate any traces that might have been left behind.

He zippered the bag, tossed it on his shoulder and started walking.

One minute.

The giant disposal catchall was nearly full. As he passed it, he tossed the bag into the depths. He knew they'd be around to empty it in two hours, and all tangible evidence of the crime would disappear into the vast chaos that was the dump.

Now unencumbered, he made better time.

Thirty seconds.

He could hear voices, ahead in the gloom. Twenty seconds.

He stretched his stride, long legs eating up the pathway. The elongated shaft of the tunnel appeared before him. His senses were overloaded—orange and blue and white lights, people milling about, yellow hard hats obscuring peripheral vision, getting ready to go back into the tunnels and hammer for the next several hours. He ducked around a column, reversing direction, and slid into the last of the line with the rest of the workers. Ten seconds.

The first shift ended with a shrieking whistle, and a subway train arrived, rumbling to a stop on the platform. He followed the crowd into the metal tube, took a seat. The rest of the workers filed in behind him, exhausted after their long overnight.


The train pulled away, building speed, taking him farther and farther from the scene, away, in the other direction, from the canister's contents.

He was safe.

He risked a small smile. Around him, men's heads nodded in time as the train rushed along the tracks. He started counting forward, and at ninety-eight, the train began to lurch to a stop.

At exactly one hundred, the doors opened, and he stepped out into the brilliant early-morning sunshine.

Only one thing left to do, then he could depart. Leave this cesspool of a city behind.

Glory was his. Glory be. Glory be.


Washington, D.C. Dr. Samantha Owens

Dr. Samantha Owens walked into her lecture hall at exactly 7:00 a.m. The students were already arranged in the chairs, some sitting upright, some obviously wilting. Sam placed her notes on the lectern and turned to the class.

"Perk up, buckaroos. I know it's early, and I realize the ice-cream social last night involved more ethanol than frozen coagulants, but we have work to do. Who can tell me what Locard's Exchange Principle is?"

There was quiet laughter, the rustling of paper and laptops opening. Despite the obvious hangovers of many of the students, hands shot up all over the room. Sam called on the closest.

"First row, blue shirt. Go."

The boy didn't hesitate. "Any time you come in contact with an object or a space, you take something away and leave something behind."

"Very good. So when you're thinking in terms of a crime scene?"

The class chanted together, "There are no clean crime scenes."

"Exactly." Sam turned to the whiteboard and wrote Lo-card's Theory at the top.

Sam was two weeks into her first teaching gig, and loving every minute of it. She missed the hands-on work that came with being a medical examiner, sure, but this was almost like vacation. Eager, happy, excited, sometimes—okay, often—hungover kids, all dying to learn the tricks of the trade so they could rush out and become the latest and greatest forensic investigators. Once the fall semester began, she'd be teaching at Georgetown University, heading up their new forensic pathology program, but in the meantime, her boss, Hilary Stag, the Georgetown University Head of Pathology, had volunteered Sam for the summer science continuing education program, which included a week of guest lecturing at their rival medical school, George Washington.

She'd been back in D.C. for just a month now. The move had gone smoothly, almost too smoothly. Her house in Nashville had sold quickly despite the depressed market, so instead of rushing into another mortgage, she'd decided to rent on N Street in Georgetown, a beautiful three-story Federalist townhouse that had been gutted inside and completely redone in nearly severe modernism, all glass and stainless and open stairwells, with an infinity lap pool in the backyard. It was as opposite from her snug home in Nashville as she could find, and she quickly realized the minimalist aesthetics pleased her. The only pricks of color were from the flowers she brought in and a few Pollock-like paintings on the walls. Everything else was black and white. She'd sold the vast majority of her furniture anyway, keeping just a few things she couldn't bear to part with, including a supple white leather couch and her rolltop writing desk—it had been her grandmother's. She purchased a bed, a small glass table and Eames chairs for the eat-in, and left the rest to chance.

Once the house was set up to her liking, she'd ventured west, into the mountains, to another aesthetically pleasing home nestled in the Savage River State Forest. Alexander Whitfield—Xander—a former first sergeant in the Army Rangers, held a similar outlook: less is most definitely more.

She'd spent a month on the mountain with him, fishing, hiking, sitting in companionable silence in front of his huge fire pit, listening to him play the piano, scratching his gorgeous German shepherd Thor's ears in languorous time with the music. He wrote songs for her, and with each new note, she could feel the pieces of her soul slowly knitting back together. She treaded gingerly but purposefully into the new relationship, finding surprising compatibilities in many areas, intellectually and physically.

Running away from Nashville had been the smartest move she'd ever made.

D.C. greeted her with warm, sunny days, white marble-columned buildings, grassy expanses and gray-blue waters flowing quickly under the majestic bridges. Xander greeted her with himself. The city paled in comparison.

She realized heads were cocked, awaiting her next bit of wisdom. Anytime Xander got into her thoughts, she got distracted. She figured that was a good thing.

With a smile, she apologized, then ran the class through a typical homicide crime scene, from the job of the death investigator to investigation and collection of the body to the postmortem. A few faces pinched when she started with the autopsy slides, but most hung on her every word.

She was nearly to the last slide when a low murmur began in the back of the room.

She turned to see what the issue was. No one was looking her way. Instead, they were staring at one of the students, a slight blonde who was clearly not paying attention.

"Are my slides boring you?" Sam asked.

The girl didn't look Sam's way. She was slumped in her chair. Sam could immediately see something was wrong, though her first thought was, Wow, she's completely hungover. Hope she doesn't puke.

A brunette four rows back raised her hand. "Um, Dr. Owens? I think she's really sick."

The room began to titter. Sam glanced at her teacher's assistant. "Reggie, hit the lights."

The room brightened immediately, and she could see concern written on the students' faces.

She walked up the stairs to the student and started to take inventory.

Her eyes were glassy. She was shivering, a fine tremor that moved on a loop through her body. Her breathing was shallow and labored, and a sheen of sweat glistened across her face. Her lips were even tinged blue.

Respiratory distress. Hypoxia. Fever.


"What's your name, sweetie?"

Sam felt terrible that she didn't already know the answer to the question; she'd only learned a few names so far. The students had a month of different classes, and this group had only rotated in a couple of days before. The girl didn't answer, just stared at the floor and coughed a bit.

"Her name is Brooke Wasserstrom. She's in my dorm." The brunette who'd alerted Sam was standing over her friend, worry etched on her face.

Sam put her fingers on the girl's pulse, which was weak and thready. Her skin was terribly warm.

"Was she drinking last night?"

"Yeah, maybe a little bit. She left early—she was going home to spend the night and the Metro closes at midnight. She came back this morning, I saw her come out of Foggy Bottom when I went for coffee."

"Do you know if she has any preexisting conditions? Is she diabetic?"

"Not that I know of. I've never seen her take anything other than, like, Advil. I don't know her that well, she lives on my hall is all."

Brooke's breathing was getting worse. She needed medical attention immediately. And thankfully, there was a hospital less than half a block away. It would be faster to take her there than call EMS to come to the school.

Decision made, Sam stood up and announced, "I need someone to carry her."

Reggie came to her side. "I'll carry her. What's wrong? Do we need to alert the school?"

"We need to get her over to the emergency room. She needs oxygen. We can worry about the school after she's stabilized. Let's go. Kids, class is dismissed."

The students poured forth from the room, quiet and somber. A few were crying, including Brooke's dorm mate, who stood frozen on the steps. Sam reached back and touched her arm.

"You need to come with us. Sorry, what's your name?"


"Elizabeth. I know you're concerned. But we need your information about Brooke's activities over the past few days. So tag along, okay?"

"Yes, Dr. Owens."

Reggie lifted Brooke into his arms. She folded into him, lethargic and coughing, and Sam grew even more concerned. Elizabeth grabbed the girl's backpack.

Sam led the way, out the doors, down the hallway and out onto the street. The thin wail of sirens rose in the background, and she felt a chill crawl down her spine. Premonition. Deja vu. Something.

They exited the building on 22nd and crossed the street to the GW Medical Center. Sam walked them directly into the emergency room entrance, and right up to the triage window. There was a lot of activity behind the glass. Sam glanced around and realized the emergency room was full. Strange for this time of day—they usually filled up at night, when people were ill and couldn't see their primary doctor, or got themselves involved in a brawl or had too much to drink or took too many drugs. Ten on a Tuesday morning wasn't exactly peak time.

She pounded on the glass until she got the attention of the harried triage nurse, who flung the glass window open and said, "Have a seat, we'll be with you in a minute."

"I have a hypoxic teenager here in acute respiratory distress. She needs oxygen immediately."

"Jesus, another one?" The nurse slammed the window closed and came around the desk to open the door. "Bring her in."

Another one? What the hell?

They brought Brooke into the triage station. The nurse took one look at her, opened the door to the back and yelled, "Stretcher, oxygen, STAT."

Two seconds later a gurney rolled up to the door. Reggie deposited Brooke on the white sheet. She was looking even worse, her eyes closed, her breath coming in little pants. Sam could hear the laboring breath, wheezing in and out, knew the girl was most likely developing rales, the first steps to pulmonary edema. But without a stethoscope, she couldn't be sure.

This was maddening.

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Edge of Black 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 35 reviews.
lanalucy More than 1 year ago
This was a solid mystery. I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley. Former ME Sam. Boyfriend Xander. Terrorist attack on subway, airborne. Dead congressman. I liked the way all the pieces came together, and the way the bad guy didn't have everything go his way the whole time  - the glimpses into his thought processes were interesting. Extremely serendipitous that Xander's sister is the exact same size as Sam, right down to shoes. That's a bit outside the range of believability. I liked how the murders of the girls turned out to be related - nice twist. I have read J.T. Ellison before and enjoyed the books. I definitely enjoyed this one and look forward to reading more by this author.
Helen_Ginger More than 1 year ago
The Edge of Black by J.T. Ellison is fast-paced. It moves from Washington to Colorado and back, as Samantha, "Sam", and Xander try to find out who released a pathogen into the Washington Metro, killing three people. Sam and Xander are dating, so they're juggling the start of their relationship with this case that has to be solved before more people die. This is the second in a series starring Samantha Owens, a forensic pathologist. I, however, felt this book had duo lead characters -- Sam and Xander. The two of them work well together and complement each other with their viewpoints and skills. They have to find out who's behind the release of the pathogen and why.  They also have to determine whether this was a mass attack or an assassination. And heating on the back burner is the question of whether their relationship will go to the next level. The Edge of Black is a fast read. Not because it's short, because it's not. It's a fast read because I kept picking it up and reading instead of doing other things that needed to be done.  It has a lot of interesting side characters, action, twists, and just a tad of a growing romance.I give The Edge of Black a rating of Hel-of-a-Situation
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the first book I have read by this author. It was very good. I am now going to purchase and read the first book in the Samantha Owens series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a great book! Kept me guessing until the end! madicnm
dhaupt More than 1 year ago
Dr. Samantha Owens is settling into her new life in DC. She still mourns her losses but she’s made new friends, has a new career path and has a new love. And now she also has another disaster on her capable hands. What looks like a terrorist attack on the DC subway is taking a new and devious turn. It seems an unknown substance has been released, one that has killed not hundreds not thousands but three, with no apparent relationship to each other. Her friend detective Darren Fletcher needs a favor, needs her to don her medical examiner persona and find answers to some disturbing questions. The authorities are headed in one direction, but is it the right direction. Will there be more attacks, will more die or is this heinous crime something very different than what it looks like at face value. Sam will use her extensive knowledge as a forensic pathologist to search for answers. It will put she and her lover, former Army Ranger, Xander Whitfield in imminent danger from not only a most allusive and deadly villain but from detective Fletcher and the authorities too. JT Ellison just keeps getting better and better. She turned a co-star from her bestselling Taylor Jackson series, Samantha Owens, into a superstar in her own right. This time she takes us deep into a terrifying ordeal that’s not too far removed from what we all fear today. She gives us a storyline not only realistic, but feasible. Her impeccable research is evident as she takes us through this non-stop action packed terror filled tale using her customary no nonsense narrative in which she deposits some well placed prose which gives more dimension to the novel and to her characters. Her stars we’ve met before but she’s giving us more in depth information about them now, more secrets revealed, more dreams uncovered, making them more approachable and she introduces us to many more characters some good, some bad and some we wonder which side of the fence they’re on. If you love the thrillers of Lisa Gardner or Lisa Jackson, Nelson DeMille or John Sandford you’ll love this new explosive thriller by JT Ellison. JT you never cease to amaze me as you delve into topics that make me shiver and I can’t wait until the next chill.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
All her books deserve 5 stars. They are hard to put down. Wish she could write faster.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SpeedSD More than 1 year ago
ANOTHER GREAT READ FROM ELLISON! I wasn't sure when I started this series (A Deeper Darkness) whether I would like a series dedicated to Sam's character. Forever a fan of the Taylor Jackson series, I was worried Samantha would not do very well as a lead character. I do believe I was worried for nothing. A fabulous author is a fabulous author regardless of her main character. Ellison is a master of suspense and she just keeps getting better and better. If you never read the Taylor Jackson series, that is OK. You can read this series and not be lost; however, should you be interested, it is an extraordinary series and will give you an insight into who Sam was before tragedy struck her life. In this second book of this series, you get the idea that Sam is working through the worst part of her grieving (with a little help from that handsome devil, Xander). Ellison has really hit in on the head with how grief can truly affect people. Ms. Ellison can get a little graphic in detail at times, so if that kind of thing bothers you, please keep it in mind. Aside from that, this is a fast-moving, plot-twisted, exciting read that will keep you guessing till the very end. Thanx Ms. Ellison for hitting another one out of the park. Please keep them coming! -- SPeeD
SequimSue More than 1 year ago
Smart characters and good story. It was my first of her series and I appreciated how easy it was to follow with her technique of assigning a character to a chapter. I'll read more of her books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'll probably read more by this author. Enjoyed this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
CherylM-M More than 1 year ago
I liked the fact the author didn't have the characters dance around the issues of grief. Sam is presented in a realistic way. She suffers from anxiety attacks, OCD and almost compulsive coping mechanisms, which she tries to control when she remembers her dead family or when she is under extreme duress.  Not sure the way Fletcher, Xander and Sam interact with the authorities is completely plausible. They seem to come and go and do whatever they want when they want. There also isn't much forensic pathology going on, so it lacks the factual detailed descriptions that might appeal to some readers.  What it does have is a lot of action even if the timeline of events seems a little construed or convenient at times. One of the sub-plots I found particularly interesting was the survivalists and prepper element.  In the story there is mention of cult like communities that are obsessed with what happens when or if the end of the world is upon us. The author makes the distinction between someone who is prepared for natural catastrophes, national emergencies or worst case scenarios and someone who lives as if the end is nye right here right now.  Nothing wrong with being prepared, I guess the author is saying it matters what lengths you’re willing to go to for scenarios which may never happen.   There are militant sub-groups who count as domestic terrorists and mention is made of hackers whose goal it is to combat capitalism. Fringe movements who sell take-downs to the highest bidder or infiltrate for gain are becoming more frequent but are not to be mistaken for more well-known protesters, who hack to force greedy governments and companies to change their policies. I guess my point is it felt as if all survivalists were being thrown into one big pot of national threat.  It was a fast paced enjoyable read and I wouldn't hesitate to read the next in the series.  I received a copy of this book courtesy of Harlequin UK and MiraUK.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read all of Ellison's "Lt. Taylor" books and this one of the Sam the coroner is right in line!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
arlenadean More than 1 year ago
Author: J.T. Ellison Published by: Harlequin MIRA Age Recommended: Adult Reviewed By: Arlena Dean Book Blog For: GMTA Series: Dr. Samantha Owens #2 Rating: 5 Review: "Edge of Black" by J.T. Ellison was a excellent contemporary story of mystery,suspense, thrills, and romance. The author is truly a master at being able to present it all ....'fear, love and hate' all in one outstanding fast paced read. We find from this series that Samantha (Sam) and Xander will be trying to find out who released this pathogen into the Washington Metro area that killed three people. Sam and Xander are dating and working together trying to find out who is'behind the release of the pathogen and why.' Be ready for a lots of action along with twist that will keep you turning the pages. The characters were all well portrayed and so colorful in this well developed series. I found "Edge of Black" was well written story that I would recommend as a excellent read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
lsmeadows More than 1 year ago
This one is even better than the first Samantha Owens book  Having just read the first book in J.T. Ellison's Samantha Owens series, I was really glad that I had the ARC of the second book, Edge of Black to read next. In this book we find that Sam has sold her house and left her ME job in Nashville to move to DC and take a job as the head of the pathology department at George Washington University. As she begins her first teaching assignment during summer school, fate again intervenes. One of her students becomes ill and when Sam takes her to the hospital for treatment, she becomes involved in the investigation of an act of domestic terrorism.  The first Samantha Owens book that I read was the first book I had ever read by Ellison, and I found it fascinating. I had heard that the second book of the series was even better. Given how much I liked the first book, I found myself doubting that. They were right, though, this book is marginally better than A Deeper Darkness. The plot of this book was more to my liking. I love big, global conspiracies and a home grown domestic terrorism plot caught my attention immediately. The plot of this book seemed to flow just a bit better for me. As often happens in a series while the stories and characters progress, there is more focus on the plot and less time spent defining the main characters, their backgrounds, and the relationships between them.  I was ecstatic here to see that Ellison not only brought back Sam, but Xander was still a major player, as was DC Detective Fletcher. They were by far my three favorite characters from the first book. Once again, Xander is at the heart of this book's mystery. I would imagine that the author can't keep this up for more than a few books, but I am interested to see how she develops Xander's participation in the mystery solving collaboration of Detective Fletcher and Sam.  Along with these three, Ellison again populated this story with an interesting cast of supporting characters. My favorites in this story were Xander's hippie parents and the other inhabitants of the small town in Colorado where he grew up. Like his town nickname, Xander Moon, the people in the town are a wonderful mix of hippy and small town America. I really hope some of them continue to play a role in future books, especially his parents, and the Sheriff and his wife, who are high school friends of Xander's. The next installment in this series can't appear quick enough for me. 
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trabri89 More than 1 year ago
I loved the Taylor Jackson books and wasn't sure how a series with Dr Owens was going to be but I shouldn't have worried -- this is the 2nd book with Dr Owens as the main character. This book took off from page 1. It was hard to put it down. I would recommend ANY of JT ELLISON's books
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm always excited to read a new J.T. Ellison book and thoroughly enjoyed reading this one!