The perfect moment is here at last. The humiliation and pain he put her through is about to be repaid. Soon Rick Bentz will know the torment of losing the person he loves most--and better yet, he'll have to watch. . .
"Gripping. . .Jackson heightens the creep factor." --Publishers Weekly
Since the accident that nearly claimed his life, New Orleans detective Rick Bentz has been on edge. That must explain why his mind is playing tricks, making him think he sees his first wife, Jennifer. His dead wife. He can't bring himself to tell his new wife, Olivia, about the sightings, or his fears that he's losing his sanity. To find answers, he has to return to Los Angeles, where Jennifer died. And it's there that the murders begin. . .
"Plenty of clever plot turns. . .the suspense builds from the beginning." --Fresh Fiction
Each victim is linked to Jennifer's past, and each corpse points to Bentz as the prime suspect. But the worst is yet to come. Because now Olivia is missing, and the only way to save her is to uncover the terrifying truth about a woman he never really knew--and a hatred that runs deep enough to kill. . .
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By LISA JACKSON
Copyright © 2009
Susan Lisa Jackson
All right reserved.
Chapter One "Talk to me in six weeks." Melinda Jaskiel's voice was firm. Clear. Propped on his good leg on the back veranda, his cell phone nearly stuck to his ear in the sweltering bayou heat, Rick Bentz realized his boss wasn't going to budge. Sweat dripping off his nose, he balanced on one crutch, the thick rubber tip wedged between two flagstones. His back ached and walking was a strain, but he wouldn't admit it to a soul-especially not to Jaskiel. As head of the homicide division in the New Orleans Police Department, she had the authority to put him back on active duty. Or not. It was her call.
Once again, Melinda Jaskiel held the fate of his career in her hands.
Once again, he was begging. "I need to work." Jesus, he hated the desperation in his voice.
"You need to be at a hundred percent, maybe a hundred and ten to be back on duty."
His jaw tightened as the intense Louisiana sun beat down on the back of his neck and a fine mist rose from the swampland that backed up to the cottage nestled into the woods. Jaskiel had given him a job when no one else would touch him after the mess he'd left in L.A. And now she was shutting him down.
He heard her mutter something under her breath and thought for a split second she was reconsidering. "Look, Rick, I don't see you pushing papers at a desk from eight to five."
"I've been in P.T. for a couple of months now, strong as ever."
"Strong enough to chase down a suspect? Wrestle him to the ground? Break down a door? Hit the deck, roll, draw your weapon, and cover your partner?"
"That's all TV BS."
"Is it?" Jaskiel's voice was skeptical. "Seems to me you were doing just that kind of 'TV BS' when you ended up in the hospital." She knew him too well. "You know the drill. Bring in a doctor's release and we'll discuss your reinstatement. Discuss. No promises. You know, retirement's not a bad idea."
He snorted. "Gee, Melinda, I'm getting the idea you're trying to get rid of me."
"You're still in physical therapy and you're wound too tight. End of subject. I'll talk to you later." She hung up.
"Son of a bitch!" He flung his crutch across the flagstones of the veranda, where it skidded, clattering noisily and startling a mockingbird from a nearby magnolia tree into flight. "Son of a goddamned bitch." His fingers clenched over his cell and he considered hurling it into the swamp, but didn't. Hell, he didn't want to explain that. So far, the department only questioned his physical ability. He didn't want to give the powers that be an insight into his mental state.
No shrinks. No soul searching. No pouring out his heart. No thank you.
He stood with difficulty, his balance not what it had been before the accident, despite what he'd told Jaskiel. And sometimes his leg hurt like hell. He knew he wasn't really ready for active duty, but he was going out of his freakin' mind staying at home. Hell, even his relationship with his wife Olivia was beginning to wear thin. Her biological clock was ticking like crazy and she was pressuring him to have a kid. His own daughter, Kristi, was in her twenties. He wasn't sure he wanted to start over.
No, what he needed was to get out of the house and back to work. It had been nearly three months since the accident and he couldn't take sitting around another second.
"So do something about it," he ordered himself.
Gritting his teeth, he took a step unaided.
First one foot, then the other.
None of the namby-pamby putting one foot forward with the walker and dragging the second one up to it. No way. He was going to walk across this damned patio one foot in front of the other if it killed him. He'd show them all. In a month he'd be running across these stupid stones. A crow sat on one of the roof's gables and cried noisily, its raspy caw echoing through the scrub oak and pine.
Bentz barely noticed.
A third step.
He was sweating now. Concentrating hard. The heat was oppressive, sun beating down, the dank smell of the swamp heavy in his nostrils. The crow kept up his incessant, mocking caw. Irritating bastard.
Another step and Bentz looked up, away from uneven stones and to the bench, his destination. He was crossing his patio on his own two feet.
Just as he would have if he hadn't been injured.
Just as he would have if he hadn't nearly lost his life.
Just as he would have if he hadn't been forced to consider early retirement.
He moved forward again, more easily, more confidently.
And then he felt it.
That cold certainty that he was being watched.
His gut tightened as he looked over his shoulder. Dry, brittle leaves rustled on the windless day.
The crow had disappeared, its scolding cries silent.
A flicker of light between the branches. Something in the thicket, just on the other side of the veranda, moved. A shadow passed quickly, darting through the undergrowth.
Oh, sweet Jesus.
Instinctively, Bentz reached for his sidearm.
His hand came up empty as he rounded to face the woods. He wasn't wearing his shoulder holster.
Not in his own house.
What the hell was it?
Sunlight played through the lacy canopy of needles and leaves. His heart thumped crazily. The spit dried in his mouth.
It was just his imagination.
But the goose bumps crawling over his flesh and the tightening of every muscle in his body told him otherwise.
Idiot! You're in your own damned backyard.
He turned slightly, trying to make out if the intruder were an opossum, or a deer, or even an alligator crawling up from the swamp, but he knew deep in his soul that this was no wild creature wandering too close to his house.
The shivering leaves stilled on this hot, breathless day.
Bentz squinted into the forest. He had no doubt that he would see her.
He wasn't disappointed.
Through the shimmering heat her image appeared. Dressed in that same sexy black dress, flashing him the barest of smiles, she stood between the bleached bark of two cypress trees.
His first wife.
The woman he'd sworn to love through all his days.
The bitch who had betrayed him ... And she was as sensual and gorgeous as she had been all those years ago. The fragrance of gardenias wafted through the air.
Or real flesh and blood?
The woman, a dead ringer for his first wife, stood deep in the woods, staring at him with wide, knowing eyes and that sexy little smile ... God, that smile had turned him inside out.
His heart went still as death.
An eerie chill slid through his veins.
"Jennifer?" he said aloud, though he knew his first wife was long dead.
She arched a single eyebrow and his stomach dropped to his knees.
"Jen?" Bentz took a step forward, caught his toe on an uneven rock, and went down. Hard. His knees hit first. Bam! His chin bounced against the mortar and stone, rattling his jaw, scraping his skin.
Pain exploded through his brain. The raven cackled, as if laughing at him. His cell phone skittered across the flagstones.
"Shit!" he muttered under his breath as he lay still for a second, taking in a couple of breaths, telling himself he was a goddamned idiot, a freak who was seeing things that didn't exist. He moved one leg, then the other, mentally assessing the damage to his already racked-up body.
Not that long ago he'd been paralyzed, the result of a freak accident in a lightning storm. His spinal cord had been bruised, not severed. Slowly he'd recovered to this point and he hoped to hell that he hadn't reinjured his damned back or legs.
Painfully he rolled over and pushed himself onto his knees while staring over the edge of the veranda toward the spot where he'd seen her.
Jennifer, of course, had vanished.
Like a ghost in an old cartoon.
Using a bench for leverage, he pulled himself to his feet and stood, solid and steady. Gingerly, ignoring the pain, he walked closer to the edge of the veranda. Squinting into the shadows, he looked for something, anything to indicate she'd been out there. Tempting him. Teasing him. Making him think he was going crazy.
But nothing moved in the forest.
No woman hid in the deep umbra.
No drop in the temperature indicated a ghost had trod upon his soul.
And, beyond all that, Jennifer was dead. Buried in a plot in California. He knew that as well as his own name. Hadn't he identified her himself over twelve years ago? She'd been mangled horribly in the accident, nearly unrecognizable, but the woman behind the wheel in the single-car accident had been his beautiful and scheming first wife.
His stomach twisted a bit as a cloud passed over the sun. High in the sky jets streaked, leaving white plumes to slice the wide expanse of blue.
Why now had she returned-at least in his mind? Had it been the coma? He'd lain unconscious in the hospital for two weeks and he remembered nothing of those fourteen lost days.
When he'd finally awoken, staring through blurry eyes, he'd seen her image. A cold waft of air had whispered across his skin and he'd smelled the heady aroma of her perfume, a familiar scent laced with gardenias. Then he'd caught a glimpse of her in the doorway, backlit by the dimmed hall lights, blowing him a kiss and looking as real as if she were truly still alive.
Which of course she wasn't.
And yet ...
Now, as he stared into the shaded bayou where shadows lengthened and the steamy scent of slow-moving water filtered through the leaves of cypress and cottonwood, he second-guessed the truth. He doubted what he'd been certain was fact; he questioned his sanity.
Could it be the pain pills he'd been taking since his accident as his daughter-their daughter-had insisted?
Or was he just plain going nuts?
"Crap." He glared at the woods.
She was all a part of his imagination.
Something that had been triggered by nearly half a month of teetering on that razor-sharp edge between life and death.
"Get a grip," he told himself.
Man, he could use a smoke right now. He'd given up the habit years before, but in times of stress nothing gave him a clear sense of what needed to be done like a hit of nicotine curling through his lungs.
Grimacing, he heard a series of sharp barks. The dog door opened with a click, followed by the scratch of tiny paws flying across the stones and a high-pitched yip. Hairy S, his wife Olivia's terrier mutt, streaked across the veranda, sending a squirrel squawking loudly up the bole of a scraggly pine. Hairy, who had been named in honor of Harry S. Truman, Olivia's grandmother's favorite president, was going nuts. He leaped and barked at the trunk of the tree, his mottled hair bristling as the squirrel taunted and scolded from the safety of an upper limb.
"Hairy! Shh!" Bentz wasn't in the mood. His head was beginning to pound and his pride had already suffered a beating with the fall.
"What the hell are you doing?" Montoya's voice boomed at him and he nearly tripped again.
"I'm walking without a damned cane or crutch. What's it look like?"
"Like a face plant."
Bentz turned to find his partner slipping through the side gate and striding across the flagstones with the irritating ease of a jungle cat. To add insult to injury, Olivia's scrappy little dog diverted from the squirrel to run circles around Montoya's feet, leaving Bentz to dust off his pride. He tried not to wince, but his knees stung where his skin had been scraped off. No doubt bruises were already forming. He sensed the ooze of warm, sticky blood run down his shins.
"I was watching from over the top of the gate. Looked to me like you were attempting a swan dive into the concrete."
"I thought so."
Bentz wasn't in the mood to be ridiculed by his smart-assed partner. Make that his smart-assed younger partner. With hair that gleamed black in the afternoon light, reflective sunglasses covering eyes that were as sharp as they had ever been, Montoya was younger and more athletic than Bentz. And not afraid to remind his older partner of it.
When he walked, Montoya damned near swaggered and the diamond stud in his earlobe glittered. At least today he wasn't wearing his signature black leather jacket, just a white T-shirt and jeans. Looking cool as all get-out.
It bugged the hell out of Bentz.
"Olivia at work?"
Bentz nodded. "Should be home in a couple of hours." His wife still worked a couple of days a week at the Third Eye, a New Age gift shop near Jackson Square that had survived Hurricane Katrina. She'd completed her master's in psychology a while back and was considering starting her own practice, but she hadn't quite made the transition to full time. Bentz suspected she missed the hustle and bustle of the French Quarter.
Montoya found Bentz's cell phone near a huge ceramic pot filled with cascading pink and white petunias. "Looking for this?" He dusted off the phone, then handed it to him.
Glowering, Bentz muttered, "Thanks," then jammed the damned phone into his pocket.
"Bad news?" Montoya asked, suddenly sober.
"Jaskiel doesn't think I'm fit for duty."
Bentz bit back a hot retort as a dragonfly zipped past. Considering his current state, he couldn't argue. "Is there a reason you came all the way out here, or did you just want to give me a bad time?"
"Little of both," Montoya said. This time his teeth flashed white against his black goatee. "They're reassigning me. Making Zaroster my"-He made air quotes with his fingers-"'temporary' partner."
Lynn Zaroster was a junior detective who had been with the department a little over two years though she was barely twenty-six. Cute, smart, and athletic, Zaroster was filled with enthusiasm. She was as idealistic as Bentz was jaded.
"Change of pace for you."
"Yeah." Montoya's smile faded. "Sometimes I feel like a goddamned babysitter."
"You're afraid this might be permanent." Because Bentz was being pushed out of the department.
"Not if I have my say, but I thought I'd tell you myself. Rather than you hearing it from someone else."
Bentz nodded, wiped the sweat from his face with the sleeve of his shirt. From inside the house, through the open window, he heard the sound of Olivia's parrot, which, like the dog and this little cottage, she had inherited from her grandmother. "Jaskiel's been hinting that I should retire." His lips twisted at the thought of it. "Enjoy what's left of my life."
Montoya snorted. "You're not even fifty. That's a whole lotta 'left.' Thirty-maybe forty-years of fishing, watching football, and sitting on your ass."
"Doesn't seem to matter."
Reaching down for Bentz's crutch, Montoya said, "Maybe you could retire, draw a pension, and then get your P.I.'s license."
"Yeah ... maybe. And you can keep babysitting." Ignoring the preoffered crutch, Bentz started inside, the little dog hurrying ahead of him. "Come on, I'll buy you a beer."
"Have you gone off the wagon?" Montoya was right beside him, hauling the damned crutch.
"Not yet." Bentz held the door open. "But then, the day's not over."
Chapter Two Bentz was slipping away from her.
Olivia could feel it.
And it pissed her off. Yes, she was sad, too, she thought as she tore down the road in her old Ford Ranger, a relic with nearly two hundred thousand miles that she would have to trade in soon.
She loved her husband and when she'd vowed to stick with him through good times and bad, she'd meant it. She'd thought he had, too, but ever since the accident ...
She braked for a curve on the long country road winding through this part of bayou country on the way to her home, a small bungalow built near the swamp, one she'd shared with Grannie Gin before the old lady had passed on. She'd lived in it alone for a few years, but eventually, when she and Bentz had married, he'd moved from his apartment to the bungalow tucked deep into the woods.
His daughter had lived with them for a while, though that hadn't worked out all that great. Kristi was a grown woman and had needed her own space. But they'd been happy here for the past few years.
Until the damned accident.
A freak occurrence.
Lightning had cleaved an oak tree and a thick branch had come down on Rick, pinning him and nearly severing his spine. Even now she shuddered thinking of those dark days when she hadn't been certain whether he would live or die.
He'd clung to life. Barely. And in that time she and her stepdaughter had finally bonded, clenching each other's hands in the hospital when the doctors had given Bentz a dire prognosis.
She'd thought she'd lose him, expected him to die. And in those heart-rending days, she'd regretted not having a child with him, not having a part of him to carry on. Maybe it was selfish. But she didn't care.
She caught a glimpse of her reflection in the rearview mirror. Worried amber-colored eyes stared back at her. She didn't like what was happening.
"So do something about it," she said. She'd never been one to hold back. Her temper had been described as "mercurial" on more than one occasion. By Bentz. The first time she'd met the man, she'd gone toe-to-toe with him, reporting a murder she'd witnessed though her visions. That had set him back a bit. He hadn't believed her, at first. But she'd convinced him.
Excerpted from MALICE by LISA JACKSON Copyright © 2009 by Susan Lisa Jackson. Excerpted by permission.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I waited eagerly for Malice to hit the shelves and I wasn't disappointed. It was un-put-downable. Full credit to Lisa Jackson for writing so eloquently of Bentz's frustration (I know he's not real, but his persistence in the face of enmity was particularly well done!). Lisa Jackson's books are very well plotted and her characterisation is exceptional (hence my complete addiction to the New Orleans crew). My measure of a good book is one where time becomes a concept and not some strident intrusion into my pleasure. Malice made me forget everything else and had me glued to every word. Well done Lisa Jackson, but don't waste time sitting on your laurels.
Twelve years ago Rick Bentz divorced his cheating wife Jennifer. Soon after ending his marriage, Jennifer died in a car crash. He identified the corpse. Rick left LAPD taking a job with the New Orleans police and remarried Olivia.
While driving during a storm, Rick is involved in an accident that hospitalizes him. He suddenly smells Jennifer¿s sweet perfume and sees her in his hospital room. After being discharged a package containing a death certificate and photos of a woman who looks like Jennifer arrives with a Culver City, California postmark. Deciding he needs to know the truth but conceals from his wife his fear that he is losing his mind, Rick heads to California wondering how she can be alive when he saw her body. At the same he arrives in the Los Angeles area, his last unsolved case at LAPD is reopened as the Twenty-one Killer apparently returns strangling identical twins on their 21st birthday. Bentz knows somehow he is the link, but not by whom or why.
The key to this action-packed suspense thriller is the viewpoint of the Bentz adversary as the audience sees a different perspective as to what happened a dozen years ago and the target of vengeance may be Bentz, but the avenue of achievement is through Olivia. The story line is action-packed from the first time Bentz¿s olfactory sense kicks in and never slows down as the haunting of the sleuth is by someone overflowing with MALICE towards him and his loved ones tales its¿ toll. (see LOST SOULS for his daughter's thriller).
I have enjoyed all the Lisa Jackson I've read so far. What I really like about this one is that I'm 90% done w/ the book, and I STILL haven't figured out who dunnit!
This is a great suspense novel, I didn't want to put it down. Lisa Jackson has taken what could be just another suspense novel but added a twist that isn't expected. I strongly recommend it.
With an impeccable imagination, great characters and the baddest of bad guys Lisa Jackson gives us one impossible to put down novel. In Malice we re-visit Rick Benz Lisa's New Orleans detective who she features in many of her books. He's being haunted by his dead first wife, his current wife is keeping a secret and his life is in shambles due to his injury at the end of the book Lost Souls which features Rick's daughter Kristi. Malice was a thrill a minute keep you up til you finish it read, with lots of action, great suspense and a mind boggling mystery for you to figure out. This book will appeal to all lovers of great mystery, crime or suspense lovers
New Orleans detective Rick Bentz is recovering from an accident in a hospital when he smells the scent of gardenias, the same perfume that his first wife, Jennifer, wore. Opening his eyes he sees her in the doorway blowing him a kiss. But Jennifer died twelve years ago. Once released from the hospital Jennifer starts appearing unexpectedly while remaining at a distance. Rick follows a trail of information back to Los Angeles seeking answers into the unexplained appearance of Jennifer while trying to reassure his present wife, Olivia.Maybe it¿s because I listened to the audio version, but the story seemed overly long, with too many instances of Jennifer appearing, too many coincidences, too many unexplained happenings. By the time of the big revelation I knew the answer and when it came to the final disc I was wishing to story would finish. I haven¿t read anything else by this author and I¿m not sure I will.
New Orleans detective Rick Bentz has a new job, a new wife and a new life, leaving behind in L.A. his past and his lying, cheating, and now deceased wife. Or at least that¿s what he thought¿When he starts thinking he sees his late wife Jennifer and receives an envelope with recent pictures of her, very much alive, he travels back to California to figure out what¿s going on. That¿s when the murders begin.Lisa Jackson¿s fast-paced, plot-driven novel is a fun read¿a little wordier than necessary, but you can definitely skim over some pages without missing anything (or is that cheating?). A good book for a couple of lazy afternoons.
While I have really enjoyed the New Orleans series, this one is my least favorite. I have enjoyed the characters of Rick Bentz and Oliva I just really had a hard time getting into this book and following this "ghost" storyline.
Great book. Detective Rick Bentz is recovering from an accident that left him in a coma and unable to walk. While he can walk now he may never be 100% and his job with the NOPD is in jeopardy. Meanwhile Bentz begins seeing his Ex-wife who committed suicide 12 years ago and is supposed to be dead. While Bentz is waiting in limbo about his job with the NOPD he is drawn back to LA where his Ex-wife died so many years ago to unravel the truth behind her death, could she really be alive? Or is someone trying to get him back to LA? Very fun read, lots of suspense and thrills. I would like to read more of the series.
Usually I don't like stalker stories but this one was very intriguing. Cop on sick leave starts seeing 1st wife who committed suicide 13 yrs earlier. He decides to return to LA to look into her dead while his present wife remains at home in New Orleans and starts getting creepy phone calls. Audiobook was very well done with 2 readers for the different parts.
I've been losing interest in this series for a while now, and this book may be the end of it for me. This is about the 6th book in the series featuring Rick Bentz and Rueben Montoya, detectives on the New Orleans police force. Rick Bentz is still on medical leave from the force for injuries sustained in the last book. In fact, it had not been certain that he would even survive his injuries and spent several days in a coma. Upon regaining consciousness, he had a vision of his dead ex-wife in the hospital room, that he shared with his daughter but no one else. During his rehabilitation, he experienced several instances of feeling he was being watched, and of thinking he was seeing Jennifer, his first wife who died in a car accident in Los Angeles 12 years earlier. When he received a package of current photos of Jennifer in locations near their former home in California, he decides that he must go there and investigate. His current wife, Olivia, is becoming more and more frustrated by Rick's obsession with Jennifer and his refusal to consider her desire to have a baby. Hoping it will clear his head, she sends him to California with her blessing. While in Los Angeles, Rick continues to have Jennifer-sightings, the LAPD is not happy to see him back (he left on less-than-good terms to go to New Orleans), some even suspect that he may be involved in several murders that occur after he arrives and which seem to be connected to his investigation. Olivia, Rick's wife back in New Orleans, begins to get harrassing phone calls about Rick. All this is well and fine, and the mystery is actually a pretty good one. What spoiled the book for me was the repetitive thought-scenes where Rick worries that he is going crazy, that he is responsible for the deaths which have occured, that he should just go back home to the wife who is still alive and forget about the one who is dead, etc. And another whole set of similar scenes where Olivia is obsessing about when and how she should tell Bentz that she is already pregnant. They were just too much and didn't do anything but drag the story out. I think that Jackson has inflicted enough personal hells on this cast of characters, and should consider finally letting them live happily ever after.
After the questionable death of his ex-wife Jennifer, Homicide detective Rick Bentz slides into alcohol abuse and is devastated when he is involved in the shooting death of a twelve year old boy and unable to solve the horrific murder of twin girls. He leaves Los Angeles and takes a job in New Orleans where he gets his life back on track and marries Olivia, an independent and beautiful woman.Fast forward twelve years.While recovering from bruised spinal cord and upon waking from a coma, Bentz has a vision. He sees Jennifer - not once, but several times; and then he gets a manila envelope with recent photos of her and a copy of her death certificate with a red question mark written on it. Shaken, Bentz returns to California and quickly becomes embroiled in the old department politics while fresh bodies start turning up¿all connected to him.Lisa Jackson¿s fast paced and newest thriller Malice hit the stores in April. The plot unfolds quickly and readers do not have to wait long for the thrills. This book is all about plot - not a disappointment to readers of this genre.Although I enjoyed the novel (and it was a very quick read for me), it was not without its faults. There were quite a few typos in my finished copy which always annoys me. Also, at times the plot felt a bit contrived - things were not always believable, and the ending was wrapped up pretty neatly. In fairness to Jackson, this type of genre fiction seems to play on the edges of believability with the evil characters being really bad, the benevolent characters being really good, and the plots being a bit exaggerated. That said, Jackson writes this type of story as good as any, having written more than 75 novels and with more than 10 million copies of her books in print.Malice is good escapism reading - a fast moving plot, lots of dialogue, and menace around every corner. For readers who like to curl up with a book of suspense and let their palms sweat, Jackson¿s book is sure to please.
I enjoyed the majority of this book and spent most of my time while reading trying to figure out who the phantom stalker (ghost?) was....but I have to say that I wasn't happy with the ending. In the end, it didn't seem believable to me.
Held my attention from the beginning !
I didn't want to finish this one, I couldn't put it down.it had me hooked from the beginning to the very end of the book
Great series. More please!
I couldn't put this book down, it kept me guessing to the last page!
Got to know the characters -- highly recommend Lisa Jackson
You just don't see it coming.