Memphis-born Detective Sergeant Reid is in her element cruising for crime in one of Southern California's most exclusive enclaves. . .until a shocking murder rouses San Carmelita from its star-studded stupor—and places Savannah in the center of a sensational case that soon erupts into a media feeding frenzy.
With suspects abounding—and a cast of characters that includes an ex-CIA agent and a computer genius with the technology to take the case into the 21st century—Savannah finds herself sifting through a nasty mess of sex, adultery and down-and-dirty politics that could prove the creme de la creme of her detecting career. If she can use her own appetite for justice to unmask a cunning killer.
In Savannah Reid, G.A. McKevett has created a vibrant new sleuth in a spicy, suspenseful mystery that's sure to keep readers devouring every page.
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"There's just gotta be a better way to spend a Friday night." Setting the bottle of "Flaming Desire" red nail polish on her partner's dashboard, Savannah Reid spread her fingers and studied her manicure in the dim light of the yellow halogen streetlight. "Freezing my bee-hind off in an old Buick," she drawled, "waiting for a fugitive pervert to show his ugly face isn't exactly my idea of a good time."
Dirk Coulter slid lower in his seat and propped his forearms on the top of the steering wheel. "Well, I have to tell you, I'm hurt," he said. "I've done my best to entertain you for the last hour with my scintillating conversation, my dry but sophisticated wit, my — "
"Oh, can it, Coulter. Until five minutes ago, when I started doing my nails, you were snoring like a bulldog with a sinus infection."
"And I would have gotten a nice nap if you hadn't started that stupid nail polish routine of yours. That crap stinks. Reminds me of ether ... of my operation. Makes me wanna barf."
"Yeah, yeah, so I've heard, darlin'. The old war injury, right?" She paused to blow on each nail.
He rolled down his window several inches and waved his hands around to circulate the pungent acetone fumes. "When are you gonna find another way to occupy yourself on a stakeout? I'm telling you, breathing this stuff is killing me."
"I'll quit when you stop smoking."
He said nothing, but glowered at her.
She continued to puff on her nails. "I've never heard of anyone getting cancer from secondhand 'Flaming Desire' fumes. Have you?"
He rolled the window back up and opened a thermos of coffee. The aroma mingled with the residual polish fumes and the stale odor of cigarette smoke. "You can be a real pain sometimes, Reid."
She chuckled. "Yeah, I know. But I've got great nails."
"And your priorities in order," he muttered.
Holding up her hands for his inspection, she sighed. "I can always tell how an investigation's going by my manicure. If it's going lousy, I've got perfect nails ... too much time on surveillance."
"And when it's going well?"
"I usually break off two or three during a bust."
He gave her outspread hands a sideways glance and snorted as he took a sip of coffee. "Then I guess it's time we nailed this creep."
"Yep, high time." She turned away from him to look out the window and hide her satisfied smile. In their years of working together, that was the closest thing to a compliment on her physical appearance she had received. Even though she had grown a tad overweight in the past couple of years — okay, thirty pounds, give or take — and turned forty, she was still pretty good-looking, in her own estimation. Receiving attention and flattery from the opposite sex was something she had always taken for granted.
But Dirk was definitely not the mushy type. Other than an occasional "Good bust, kid," he had kept his praise to himself. He was as thrifty with his compliments as with his cash.
Though he was cheap, sarcastic, stingy and cynical, even by cop standards — Savannah loved him anyway. She didn't always like him, but he had grown on her when she wasn't looking. Spending hundreds of nights together in tough areas like this one, watching, waiting, hoping for the best, trying not to fear the worst – it either drove two people apart or drew them closer. Thankfully, their long, sleepless nights in Dirk's old 1962 Buick Skylark had done the latter.
For the hundredth time in the past hour Savannah looked out the car window and studied their surroundings. To the far west, she could see that the nightly Southern California coastal fog had rolled in from the beach, drifting through the affluent waterfront areas of San Carmelita and up the equally exclusive hillsides. Finally, it had worked its way into the valley on the east end of town where they sat – the not-so-affluent or exclusive section of the city, the area most of San Carmelita's upper-crust citizenry would like to forget. And usually did.
All was quiet in front of the apartment house in question. Down the block in front of the next building, a flock of teenaged boys in grungy T-shirts and baggy shorts zipped up and down the handicap ramp on skateboards. Across the street a couple were making out in an old Ford that was approximately the same vintage as the Skylark; half an hour ago they had disappeared below window level and hadn't come up for air since.
Otherwise, the street and sidewalks were empty. Unusually empty, Savannah thought, for a Friday night in the projects. That was fine with her. It had been a hard week, and she didn't mind collecting a little of the city's money, just sitting here, painting her nails and doing her best to irritate Dirk.
Dirk took a sip of coffee from his mug. "Do you think he'll show?"
"Sure, he will." She picked up the polish bottle and began a second coat. "I don't know if it'll be tonight, but he's going to come see his old lady. A guy breaks out of prison after seven years ... he's gotta be hornier than a twelve-peckered 'possum on a Saturday night."
Dirk shook his head. "Sometimes your Southern heritage just comes shining through, Reid."
"Like the top of your head when you don't get all of them itty-bitty hairs lined up just right, darlin'?" She gave him a smirk that deepened the dimples on either side of her mouth. Ordinarily that particular smile worked its charm on him, but this time it did little to dilute the insult. His ever-increasing baldness was a sore spot these days. Dirk's wife, Polly, had just left him for a younger guy ... one with shoulder-length blond hair who played bass in a rock band.
"Sorry," she said. "Low blow."
"Very low. I'll be singing soprano for a week."
Suddenly he sat up straight and prodded her with his elbow. "Hey, look!" he said, nodding to the building across the street. For a second Savannah stared at the long streak of "Flaming Desire" that now decorated the back of her hand. "Thanks," she mumbled.
But when she saw the object of his attention she forgot the mishap. A skinny blond woman hurried down the sidewalk toward them, wearing a halter top and a short denim skirt. Her feet were bare in spite of the cool night. Looking happy but anxious, she walked with a shaky be-bop to her step. Drugs had obviously taken a permanent toll on her nervous system. Savannah guessed she was probably around twenty — but closer to fifty in street years.
"It's her," she said. "The girlfriend."
"Looks like she's been shopping."
"Sure does." Savannah retrieved a pair of small binoculars from the floorboard and zeroed in on the bags the young woman was carrying. "Joe's Liquor. Looks like a bottle of champagne, some flowers, and ..." She stared harder at the small pink bag. "... and something from the Naughty Lady's Nook. Hmm-m-m. The in-laws must be dropping by."
"I don't think so," Dirk replied dryly. "But she's gonna be having a visitor."
Savannah trained the binoculars on the woman's face. Skeletal, pale, and gaunt, only her eyes were alive. Even in the dim light of the street lamp, Savannah could see the excitement registered there. As the woman approached the front of the complex, she stared up at a corner window on the third floor. Savannah noted the look on her face ... anticipation, mixed with apprehension.
Night after night, Savannah saw that expression in the eyes of abused women — women from the affluent waterfront, the exclusive hillsides, and here in the east valley. The look of love, fear, hate and dependence, all mixed into one.
"She's not expecting a visitor," Savannah said softly, lowering the glasses.
"He got by us somehow. He's already up there. Come on; let's nab the sonuvabitch."
* * *
"Those bleeding-heart liberals at City Hall spend all that money on these places, and for what?" Dirk huffed and puffed and turned a deeper shade of red as they climbed the second set of stairs. "It still looks and smells like an outhouse in July."
Savannah followed him through the door at the top of the stairwell and into a dim, narrow hallway. "It's better," she said, trying, as always, to counteract at least some of Dirk's negativity. The man absolutely radiated pessimism and, codependent that she was, Savannah couldn't resist trying to brighten his world. Whether he wanted it brightened or not. Nobody should be allowed to wallow in fatalism to that degree, she thought, even if they enjoyed it.
"Beverly Winston has done a good job on housing renewal," she said as they walked down the hall, which was now illuminated with intact lightbulbs and boasted walls that were very nearly graffiti-free, thanks to the controversial councilwoman's efforts. "The toilets and stoves work, and the playground has more grass than used hypodermic needles. I call that an improvement."
"You're easily impressed." Dirk referred to the scribbles in his little black notebook and pointed to the door bearing the numbers 347.
"Shall I do my usual?" Savannah asked with a tense smile.
The fugitive inside definitely qualified as a bad guy. While serving a ten-year term for brutally raping a twelve-year-old girl, he had attacked a doctor in the prison infirmary and escaped. He wouldn't be thrilled about being picked up.
Dirk nodded. "Go for it ... Betty."
"The guy's name is Jim, right?
He glanced again at the notebook. "Yep, James Robert Barnett."
Savannah pulled her Beretta from the shoulder holster under her linen blazer and held it up before her, while Dirk drew his Smith & Wesson and positioned himself on the other side of the door.
Standing with her back against the wall, she leaned over and pounded on the door. "Hey, Marco! It's Betty. Open up, you jerk!" she yelled in a slurred tone that suggested she had spent the evening romancing a fifth of cheap whiskey.
Silence from inside.
She hammered again. "Damn it, I know you're in there. Gotta talk to you about the 'bortion. It's your kid. Least you could do is pay for it, ya no-good bum!"
A door farther down the hall opened a crack, but nothing from 347.
Savannah kicked the door a couple of times. "You don't come to the door this minute, I'm gonna call your ol' lady – tell her what you and me's been up to. I swear, Marco, I'm not takin' this layin' down! Open up!"
They heard soft footsteps approaching the door and both raised their weapons, pointing them toward the ceiling.
"There ain't no Marco in here," said a female voice. "Go away before I call the cops."
Savannah grinned at Dirk and lifted one eyebrow. "Good one," she whispered. Then she yelled, "You got a woman in there with you, Marco? Who is she? I'm gonna knock down this here door and stomp a mud hole in her, I swear!"
She pounded again, until the sound echoed up and down the hallway. A couple of other doors opened. Everyone on the third floor appeared to be intrigued by the "Betty / Marco Affair."
Finally, the door began to slowly creak open. The blond woman's nose and one eye appeared in the crack. "Look, bitch," she said. "I told you, there ain't no Marco in this apartment. Now, if you know what's good for you, you'll get the hell outta here – now!"
Savannah moved in front of the door and showed the woman her gun and badge. "Don't say a word," she whispered, slowly pushing the door open a bit wider. "Let me see your hands."
The young woman appeared stunned for a moment, then understanding dawned in her eyes. "No," she said, shaking her head. "Please, don't."
"Shh-h-h. We want Jim, not you." Savannah beckoned her to come out. "Step into the hall. Hurry!"
The blonde hesitated as her fear seemed to fade into relief. Quickly she slipped through the door and entered the hall, her hands held high in surrender.
One look told Savannah she didn't need to frisk her. The woman was already wearing the costume from the Naughty Lady's Nook — a black lace teddy and thigh-high stockings with garters. The see-through fabric wasn't sufficient to conceal even her bare necessities, let alone a weapon.
"Who else is in there, besides Jim?" Dirk asked her, averting his eyes as he pulled her away from the door and down the hall a few feet.
"My daughter," she said, her teeth chattering. "She's on the couch. Jim's in the bedroom."
"Is he armed?" Savannah asked.
She nodded. "Yeah. He's got a shotgun."
Savannah cringed; she hated shotguns. A pistol, even a rifle, could leave a nice little hole, a fairly neat corpse under the right circumstances. But she had never gotten over the damage a shotgun could do to a person. In the course of her career she had seen half a dozen shotgun victims, and each one only served to remind her of how much liquid was contained inside a human body – until a shotgun blast splattered it all over a room or the inside of a vehicle.
Like any other cop, Savannah had entertained the thought that she might be killed in the line of duty. And no matter what, her mama and siblings in Georgia would insist on an open casket. It was just the Southern way. If she had to be shot, she prayed it wouldn't be with a twelve-gauge.
"You stay right out here," Savannah said. The door across the hall opened and an elderly lady peeked out. "We're going to send your daughter out to you," she continued, "and then I want the two of you to go into that apartment right there and wait until this is over. You got that?"
The blonde nodded; so did her neighbor.
"If you make any sound at all, or try anything funny, it could get your daughter or you killed. Understand?" Dirk said, shoving his face close to hers.
"But if everything goes all right, you're off the hook," Savannah added.
Tears of relief flooded the woman's eyes, and Savannah watched as several of the street years slipped away. Maybe there was hope for this one after all.
Savannah turned to Dirk and nodded toward the door. "Ready?"
"Ready." He resumed his position beside the door.
Savannah did the same, then slowly pushed the door open. Thankfully, it didn't creak. From her vantage point, she could see half of the small room; she knew Dirk could see the other half.
"The girl?" She mouthed the words to him.
He nodded. "Clear," he whispered.
Gun drawn, she entered first, keeping her eye on the two doors at the rear of the room. Familiar with the layout of the apartments, she knew the right one led to the bedroom, the other to a small broom closet.
Peripherally, she saw the girl, maybe four or five years old, huddled on a ragged sofa to Savannah's left. She wore faded pink Beauty and the Beast pajamas and a frightened look on her grubby little face.
This was the kind of situation Savannah hated most, one with kids. She despised the fact that she had to scare these children half out of their minds and, by invading their home and arresting their parents, prove everything they had been taught about cops being lowlife scum. With the perpetrators, she didn't mind being the villain; they could look at it any way they wanted to – whatever made them most comfortable with their rationalizations. But she hated being the bad guy to a kid.
"Come here, sweetie," she whispered, concealing her weapon behind her thigh and motioning to the girl. "It's okay. Just go on out there with your mommy."
With a sophisticated mistrust beyond her young years, the child studied Savannah with a wary eye.
"Go now," Savannah said sternly. "Hurry!"
As she had anticipated, the girl responded more quickly to harsh words than kind ones. She bounded off the sofa and ran through the door.
Savannah waited until she heard the door close across the hall. Mother and child were safe for the moment; two less to worry about.
From beneath the bedroom door she could see a thin beam of light. Good. When the bad guys were dumb it only made their job easier. She turned out the one lamp in the room. By the dim hallway light, coming through the partly open front door, she watched Dirk move into place beside the bedroom door, gun ready.
She had no doubt that good ol' Jim Bob — child rapist, prison escapee — was positioned, shotgun aimed, on the opposite side of the door.
Neither she nor Dirk were interested in committing suicide by bursting into the other room. And she didn't need her years of experience on the force to tell her that Jim wasn't going to come waltzing out for a breath of fresh air any time this century.
That meant one thing; it was show time, again.
Moving well back from the door and to the side, she dropped to one knee and braced her elbow on the other. Holding the Beretta in her right hand, she cradled the butt in her left palm, Weaver style, and sighted down the barrel.
She gave Dirk the look. Ready?
He nodded. Ready.
Excerpted from "Just Desserts"
Copyright © 1995 G. A. McKevett.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I am always on the hunt for a good "fun mystery" series. I picked this book up on a whim while searching for another book. I was NOT disappointed! This was a great story with interesting twists and turns. It was enjoyable to share in the characters' lives. Savannah is a great sleuth/heroine and a wonderful role model. I would recommend this book to anyone, and I can't wait to read the next book in the series!
I first started reading this series YEARS ago, and not disappointed now, getting back with Savannah Reid.. Silly and questionable storylines, still good to have an enjoyable group of characters to think about. DaU from Cudahy, Wisconsin (the other East side by the Lake)
I liked the characters in this book. I am looking forward to following this series.
Enjoyed characters and plot.
lots of fun highly readable
First in a series I decided to check out after seeing McKevett's latest in a recent batch of ER book offerings. I was not disappointed and will continue on with the series. The characters were very likable, and a offers such an eclectic group that I look forward to getting to know better. The story moved along quickly and provided a quick escape.
Detective Savannah Reid and her partner, Dirk, are just celebrating catching a fugitive when a shocking murder rocks the San Carmelita, CA area. Put on the case solo, Savannah finds herself immersed in a sensationalized case that causes a media frenzy. Will she be able to mark this case solved or will she be sent packing before the killer can be caught? Ok. I admit it. After about page 188, I pretty much skimmed this book more than I actually read it. I couldn't help it. Everything from the dirty cops to the fact that I was looking for a cozy and this was so not it, annoyed me. Even the main character, who is the most likable in the book, got on my nerves. She's supposed to be tough and sarcastic. At least that's what I think the author was going for. I didn't find her to be either one really. Then there was the sister, Atlanta. Ugh. Luckily by the time her entrance took place I was already skimming pages so skipping over her parts (a must if you opt to read this) was easy. The mystery was bland. The writing style was ok. And the rest of the characters ranged from forgettable to "I'd love to punch them in the face" annoying. When it got to the "too fat" part of the story, I just about gave up completely. I don't really know why I even continued to skim at that point since I really didn't even care who the killer was. The only reason I gave it 2 stars is because I liked the cover. I would hope future novels in this series (I hear there's 22 of them) are better than this one, but I won't be bothering.
Savannah Reid is a Southern Belle who doesn't take no poop from anybody! The stories are inviting and fun to read. I am hooked!
Really good. I am looking forward to more stories in the series.
Really enjoyed it.