A Wicked Snow

A Wicked Snow

by Gregg Olsen

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"Wickedly clever! Genuinely twisted." --Lisa Gardner

"Olsen will scare you--and you'll love it."--Lee Child

Hannah Griffin was a girl when tragedy struck. She still remembers the flames reflected against the newly fallen snow and the bodies the police dug up--one of them her mother's. The killer was never found. . ..

Twenty years later Hannah is a talented CSI investigating a case of child abuse when the past comes hurtling back. A killer with unfinished business is on the hunt. And an anonymous message turns Hannah's blood cold:

Your Mom called. . .

"A TAUT THRILLER." --Seattle Post-Intelligencer



Includes a bonus excerpt from Gregg Olsen's newest thriller!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780786036585
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 10/07/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 46,948
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

#1 New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author GREGG OLSEN has written over twenty books. He has received numerous awards and much critical acclaim for his fiction and nonfiction. He’s been a guest on Good Morning, America; Dateline; CBS Early Show; Entertainment Tonight; CNN; Fox News; 48 Hours; and other national and international TV programs. The Seattle native and his wife live in rural Washington State, where he’s now at work on his next thriller. Readers are invited to connect with him via Facebook and twitter and to visit his website, www.greggolsen.com.

Read an Excerpt

A Wicked Snow

By Gregg Olsen


Copyright © 2007 Gregg Olsen
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780786018291

Chapter One

The sun cut over the jagged edge of the San Gabriel Mountains. Sharp and bright, its rays hacked through the haze from the millions who crawled to work on the hot, gummy freeways of the Los Angeles basin fifty-five miles away. Magenta clouds of bougainvillea softened the chain-link fences corralling the cinder-block homes lining Cabrillo Avenue, the busiest street into Santa Louisa. As Hannah Griffin drove to work on a sunny August morning, a newsman's voice droned on about the date being the anniversary of President Nixon's resignation. Even at that hour, Hannah was not the first to pull into the parking lot of the Santa Louisa County Courthouse where she had worked in the crime investigations unit for the past five and a half years. She guided the burgundy Volvo wagon into a spot east of a stand of eucalyptus that ran along the median. Messy trees, ugly trees, she thought. But when the temperature hit the ninety-degree mark as had been warned by the weatherman, shade would make a difference before the day was over. Hannah craned her neck and reached for a cardboard shield her husband had bought her to prevent the dashboard from cracking in the heat. On one side was a pair of cartoon sunglasses with eyebrows arched over the lenses. On the other, foot-tall letters: Call 911! Emergency!

Santa Louisa County was an hour and a half northeast of Los Angeles. It was a world away from California's most imitated and chided city. Santa Louisa, the county and the town that shared the same name, was nothing but a Southern California footnote. Santa Louisa's biggest industry was agriculture. Flower seeds grew in a zigzag afghan that gave the monotony of the landscape a Crayola jolt with strawflowers and bachelor's buttons. A welcome sign into town invited tourists to have a BLOOMING GOOD TIME. Hannah, her husband, Ethan, and their daughter, Amber, made the pilgrimage to the flower fields every spring. Amber looked like her father-at least Hannah thought so as she studied her profile. Amber's nose was a slight ski jump, like Ethan's. Her blond hair was wavy, as was Ethan's. Whenever Hannah told Ethan their daughter resembled him, he'd exaggerate a cringing reaction. It was, Hannah knew, an act. In reality, Ethan was very handsome, and if Amber looked like him, she'd grow up to be a good-looking woman. That spring, as in the others, the couple took turns snapping photographs of their eight-year-old, up to her waist in yellow and blue.

"I promise this'll be the last year," Hannah lied as she framed Amber in one more gorgeous exposure. Then a quick second shot, too.

Of course, there will always be a next year. Hannah had an old Life magazine she had kept for years ... the reason why it has followed her for two decades was not important, not now. In the back of the magazine there was a photo spread of a little girl posed in her father's fireman's uniform. Boots nearly swallow her stubby limbs; the helmet, an awning over her face. But as the years pass, the little girl grows into the uniform. By the end of the series, a pretty young woman stands next to her mother and father, helmet askew, grin as wide as the pages allowed. Hannah liked that kind of continuum. She'd always wanted that for Amber because it had eluded her.

Before getting out of her car, Hannah caught her reflection in the mirror. Her eyes were puffy, and she rubbed them with her forefinger. In her early thirties, she knew that popping out of bed after four hours' sleep exacted a price. And yet with her dark blond hair streaked by the California sun, freckles across the bridge of her nose, and enormous brown eyes, she was lovely even on a bad day. Even so, she thanked Max Factor for cover-up stick as she walked across the lot. Ted Ripperton, CSI lead, met her by the door.

"You're here early," he said, a paper coffee cup in hand.

"No more than any other day this summer. Make that this year," she said. "Glad you came in early yourself. I'm going to see Joanne Garcia this morning."

"She expecting you?" Ripp asked, tilting his coffee awkwardly to suck the nipple-lid for the last drop.

"We talked last night," Hannah answered. "At least, she listened." She unloaded her briefcase and spread out the Garcia case file. The fourty-four-year-old investigator's eyes darted around the room, more indicative of a person who couldn't focus on a damn thing than a man who didn't have the skills to do so. Hannah had gone to county attorney Bill Gilliand twice to register complaints about Ripp's work-two times more than she had ought to have. Both complaints had been made in her first two weeks of service. She felt so foolish. She didn't know Ted Ripperton's wife's maiden name was Gilliand. Geneva Ripperton had been born Geneva Gilliand. Ripp's job was a family favor.

"I'm between things," he said. "You want me to go out to Taco Trench with you?"

"Her home is in Valle los Reyes," Hannah said, without giving Ripp the satisfaction of a glare.

He shrugged. "Well, they should raze the whole damn place."

"Not everyone marries well or is handed a good job."

"Don't go there, Hannah."

"Or you'll tell?" She let a beat pass. "You know I'm only kidding," Hannah lied as she studied the photo on the top of the file once more. A little girl's eyes stared from a Polaroid. Mimi Garcia was five. She had sullen hazel eyes.

"We're leaving at nine thirty," she said, taking off an earring and reaching over to the phone. That was her signal to Ripp that he was to leave. Thankfully, he took the hint. Hannah watched him turn down the hall to the little room where coffee was brewed and lunches consumed by the lab staff and a few of the clerks who hadn't learned that in the various legal professions everything is about association. Of course, Ripp didn't care about that. He had a job for as long as voters kept his brother-in-law in office. And for as long as Geneva put up with him. Hannah knew it was only a matter of time and he'd be a school crossing guard on the west side of town. Maybe he'd even end up in Valle los Reyes? That, she thought, would be so sweet.

Hannah took a Dr Pepper from the vending machine, a bad habit she'd started when a case kept her coming into the lab in the wee hours before Lotta Latte on Cabrillo opened its drive-thru window for the morning commute. Her eyes scanned the break room's notice board. A rental cabin at Big Bear beckoned, but the idea of the mountains chilled her so much she shuddered. A flyer for a cat that had been homeless had met with success. It had "Thank You, Katie Marino," scrawled across it. Hannah smiled, flipped the top on her soda can, and shuffled off to her cramped office. She was beat, but resolute. The Garcia case was just the kind she loved to work. It would suck her in like a whirlpool until justice was done. She had some calls to make and reports to scrutinize-the benefit of being promoted into a supervisory job that no one else had really wanted.

Before taking her chair, Hannah saw a small box atop her heaping pile of incoming mail. It was addressed to her, but with a middle name that caused her pulse to jackhammer.


She tore at the brown wrapper with a nail file she retrieved from a tidy desk drawer. Logan. No one called her that. No one knew. Carefully, but quickly, she turned back the sealed edges of the box. A musty odor and a glimpse of dark, nearly winy, color startled her so much, that the container slipped from her hands and fell to the floor.

For a second, she could not take her eyes off the carton. She averted her gaze only long enough to glance through the narrow glass window that ran the full length of her office door and provided a view of the county crime laboratory. Please, no one come in. In one rapid movement, she swiveled her chair and picked up the brown wrapper that had enclosed the contents for shipping. The address was written in permanent marker in an odd combination of printed letters and cursive script. There was no return address. On the backside of the brown paper, Hannah could see that the sender had simply cut apart a grocery bag to cover the box for mailing. Red ink spelled out S-a-f-e-w. For a second, she wondered how the box could have been delivered to her desk in the first place. It could be anything, from anyone. Even a bomb.

But the instant she saw it, she knew. The package was not a bomb. It was something far worse.

Hannah brushed wisps of dark blond hair from her forehead. The office was warm, though she could hear the air conditioner hum through the overhead ducts. As tears rained from her eyes, she fumbled for a tissue. She blotted and then studied the tissue as though the tears had been blood.

The postmark indicated the package had come from Los Angeles. Jesus Christ, L.A. was only the second largest city in the country. Anyone could have dumped it into a bin and walked off to a job, a bus station, LAX. She felt the burning warning of bile rise in her throat, telling her to fight the urge to vomit, swallow hard, or look for a trash receptacle. Extending the tip of her shoe, Hannah peeled back the rest of the tissue concealing the contents of the box. She did so gingerly, the way one might gently kick a dead rattlesnake to ensure that the venomous reptile was no longer a threat. A swatch of black and brown caught her eye. Her stomach knotted. Her first glance had not misled her. Dear Jesus, sweet Jesus.

Just then Ted Ripperton pushed open the door and burst in, with all the grace of the interloper he was and always would be. Blank-eyed and reeking of cigarette smoke, he was oblivious to her tears.

"Ready?" he asked.

Hannah had barely caught her breath. "Don't you knock?"

Ripp made a face. "Don't you act like a bitch," he said. "Kidding," he added as quickly as he could, evidently recalling the time he'd been turned into Human Resources for saying something inappropriate to a surly file clerk. Surly was his adjective. "I mean, you look upset."

It was true the color had drained from her face, but Hannah shook off his half-baked attempt at compassion and gave him some slack. That cobra basket on her floor had scared the hell out of her, and she didn't wish to discuss it with the likes of Ted Ripperton.

"Let's go. I'm fine and you're stupid," she said, letting a beat pass before she returned the favor: "Kidding."

She reached for her briefcase, hoping that Ripp hadn't noticed her slightly trembling hands.

Berto and Joanne Garcia's mobile home was set amid the squalor of human-inhabited aluminum loaf pans called a "trailer-made community" by the owner/operator of the ten-acre tract that had once been a birdhouse gourd farm. Because the plant had readily reseeded, most of the hot boxes that residents called home were festooned with the bulbous gourds cut with portholes for swallows and, for the luckier, purple martins. It was flat land-the bottom of a broad valley. It had, at most, seven or eight palm trees to bring up the vertical space. They were the spindly kind of palms, each collared with aluminum bands to stop rats from nesting in their fernlike crowns.

Ripperton lurched his two-year-old Town Car in front of Space 22. They knew Joanne was home alone; Berto was a guest of the county-in jail on suspicion of child abuse.

"I'll go in first," Hannah said, swinging the passenger door open and brushing against a Big Wheel tricycle bleached to pale amber by the Santa Louisa summer.

Ripp pulled out a smoke. "I'll sit tight and play radio roulette. Better not be long."

As if his advice mattered. The fact was she wouldn't be long regardless of Ripperton's demands. Hannah wanted to interview Mrs. Garcia about her daughter and husband, and she knew if Mrs. Garcia was indeed ready to talk, Ripperton would be called inside anyway. He was as good a witness as she had to ensure the woman couldn't back out of her story later. He provided the kind of pressure they'd need to take her into the courtroom.

A woman met Hannah at the door. She peered through the wire mesh of a tattered screen and introduced herself as Joanne Garcia. She was thirty years old, unemployed, a few months pregnant. Mascara clumped at the tips of her spiky eyelashes. She pressed her face close to the aluminum doorframe and warily regarded her visitor.

"Mrs. Garcia, I'm Hannah Griffin. I'm with the county, here to investigate your daughter's case."

"Oh, Miss Griffin," Garcia said, pausing before muttering something that went nowhere. Her eyes traced Hannah from head to toe, lingering on a jade silk blouse and creamy white linen skirt that was the well-dressed CSI's summer uniform. Not that it mattered. Inside the confines of the lab, Hannah was shrouded with a dingy lab coat anyway.

"I don't think I have anything to say to you," Garcia finally said.

Hannah inched closer. "That surprises me," she said. "Yesterday you told me you had a lot to say. I understand that this is very, very difficult. But you know," she paused, "you-more than anyone-can ensure that what happened to Mimi never happens again."

Joanne Garcia's tongue ran over cracked lips. "Yeah, but-"

"Don't you realize that you are running out of options here? You have no choice but to do the right thing. I think you know that. Can I come in?"

Joanne Garcia hesitated as if she didn't want to say much, but Hannah knew the woman in the trailer wanted to spill her guts. She knew it from all of the child rapes, the molestations, the neglect and abuse cases-the "chick cases," as the jealous in the lab called them to demean her work. Guys like Ripp figured no case was worth working on unless it was murder with special circumstances-the grislier the better. Throw in a few sexual elements and they'd be in CSI nirvana, stomping around the lab like sand-kicking macho men.

"You're letting all the air conditioning out of the house. Come inside for a minute," Joanne said, flinging the screen open with her foot pressing against the metal spring that kept it shut. Light fell on her features with a blast of white. "Then you'll have to go."

Joanne wore a halter top with black-and-white cows printed on it, blue jean shorts that were doing battle with her fleshy thighs. Hannah didn't doubt that the fabric-that odd kind of denim that looks too thin to be the real thing-and the woman's increasing girth would be fighting to the finish. She led Hannah into an overloaded family room separated from the entry by a turned-knob room divider resembling Early American furniture. A spider plant spilled variegated green-and-white foliage over the salmon-colored laminate countertop. A shiny yellow Tonka truck positioned on a shelf served as magazine holder. Old issues of Dirt Biker filled the back end of the toy.

"Sit here," Joanne said, pointing to a pillow-strewn sofa. "But only for a minute. Like I said, I don't have anything to say."

Photos in Plexiglas frames lined a shelf behind the fake log fireplace that served as the focal point of the small room. Hannah recognized the face of the little girl with corkscrew pigtails. All of the photos were of Mimi.

"She's a very pretty girl," Hannah said. "How is she?"

Joanne made a face. It was a hard, angry visage, and it made her look older than her years. "How should she be? You've taken her from her home! Her father is in jail!"

The words were familiar to Hannah. A few said them with more conviction than Joanne Garcia did that morning in her mobile home. Some recited the words as though they'd rehearsed them in front of a mirror and knew that practiced indignation and outrage were but a small and necessary step in the direction toward a defense of some kind.

"How in the hell should she be? Her daddy didn't do nothin' and you've taken her away, lady!"

"To save her life."

Joanne's face was now blood red. "Her life didn't need saving. It was an accident."

"I'm sorry, but I don't think so. Listen to me very carefully," Hannah said, fixing her eyes on Joanne's. "Woman to woman, mother to mother-I am a mother, too-your daughter's life is in danger. Your job is to protect her."

Joanne stood and spun around, grabbing a photograph of her daughter.

"You don't know me, my husband, or anything about us." She punched her empty fist into the air and held the photo to her bosom.

Hannah felt her stomach flutter slightly as though the woman was going to hit her. Instead, Joanne started to cry and held out a picture of the little girl that had brought Santa Louisa criminal investigators into her life.

"She is all I have. All we have! Don't do this to us. Do not ruin this family. People like you are always trying to judge people like us."

She set the picture back on the top shelf of the room divider.

"We're not trying to ruin anything. We're trying to help you and your daughter."


Excerpted from A Wicked Snow by Gregg Olsen Copyright © 2007 by Gregg Olsen. 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.

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Wicked Snow 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 352 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
When Hannah was a young girl, she watched the inferno destroy her family barn with the pure virgin snow making quite an eerie panoramic backdrop to the yellow orange. When the blaze was finally put out and the area cooled enough to investigate, the police find numerous corpses including that of Hannah¿s mother whose pink halo in the snow will be inside Hannah forever The arsonist-murderer was never caught and eventually the case went as cold as the wintry night that it occurred on. --- Her mother¿s homicide was the impetus that led to Hannah becoming a crime scene investigator though she has never worked on trying to uncover who the killer is. Now two decades later in Southern California, Hannah is married to Ethan Griffin and raising their daughter Amber together as she hides what happened that fatal day from even her loved ones. Her current assignment involves a child abuse case when a message from the grave reaches out to her forcing Hannah to begin an investigation before history repeats itself with her and perhaps even Amber being the target. --- The vivid use of contrasting colors provides a powerful background to a deep psychological suspense investigative thriller. The story line is action-packed as the audience wonders whether the heroine has gone over the edge after receiving the dramatic note of ¿Your mom called¿ when she had buried that day deep inside her mind. Gregg Olsen writes a terrific tense thriller that grips the audience once Hannah realizes she must become the predator before the culprit targets her loved ones to get at her. --- Harriet Klausner Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had real trouble putting this book down. I am usually a pretty slow reader, but I got through this novel in just a couple of days. The twists and turns really kept me guessing, and despite my best attempts at figuring things out, I was still utterly surprised at numerous points in the book. I felt the main character was more intriguing than a lot of protagonists I've found in other novels from this genre. Compared to most other thrillers I've read the conclusion was especially fulfilling. I've been a long-time reader of thrillers, along with being a fan of Olsen's true crime books, and was a little hesitant about his jump to thrillers. I couldn't have been happier with the result. I'll be sure to check out Olsen's next novel!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Couldn't put it down. I think Gregg should concentrate more on his fiction now, than the true crime market, as there are a glut of true crime writers now. Ann Rule raves about him - and so do I! Read all of his books, especially the historic 'Starvation Heights' Keep writing faster, Gregg!
cape-cod-guy More than 1 year ago
never read olson before but i will now. great story line and great characters. very good choice
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kept me going back to get to the ending, very good suspense.
Cathy Reynolds More than 1 year ago
The story kind of jumped from present to past and back again but still was an excellent read.
janis geiger More than 1 year ago
Read three of his books and hooked. Interesting book and kept me up night after night
Guest More than 1 year ago
You can't help but feel the pain and fear the the main character goes through. It grabs you and you just want to read chapter after chapter. I haven't read any of his true crime so I can't compare it to his fiction, but I liked the story. It was a little slow in the beginning but picked up after the first couple chapters.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It kept me guessing to the end. The plot was tricky and the characters were believable. I hope Mr. Olson writes a sequel to A Wicked Snow.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. A wicked snow had me from the beginning. I finished it in 3 days. Superb reading. I didnt want to put it down. I will definalty be reading more of Mr. Olsens books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was not suspenseful. It also had no action. It left you hanging. Was that her aunt or not? Who killed the judge and for what reason? I dont recommend at all.
blockbuster1994 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hannah Griffin is the sole survivor of an arson/murder crime committed on the family's Oregon Christmas Tree farm. Twenty years later, her mother remains the prime suspect and although she could have been killed in the blaze, nobody in the novel really believes she is dead. Hannah chases rumor and speculation in an attempt to find her mother. Hannah also struggles to overcome the guilt of surviving the infamous crime and the legacy of her presumed serial killer mother. While the characters are rather predictable, this novel is a consumable, friendly reading mystery with a fun little ending that I never saw coming.
kysmom02 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A Wicked Snow is the story of a young girl, Hannah, who is traumatized by the loss of her brothers and mother in a horrific fire at their Christmas tree farm on Christmas morning. Hannah is sent to live with her aunt. She grows up to be a crime scene investigator and is still haunted by the night so many years ago. When she receives a strange package, and begins getting phone calls from a reporter after so many years, Hannah begins to think that her mother didn't die in the fire, but is alive and well somewhere. She begins searching for her with the lead investigator from the FBI.It took a little bit for me to get into this story. It began to pick up the pace in the later part of the book. Their were many characters involved in the story, but each had their own part of Hannah's past or present. She is portrayed as a tough cookie, but when it comes down to it, she's not as tough as she hopes to be. Her partner Ripp wasn't as developed as I would have liked, but he was only a side character. I just expected more from him. There was an incident in the latter half of the book that really didn't resolve itself for me. I'm a little bummed about it. But overall, I enjoyed the book. I have another of his that I plan to read soon, so I'm anxious to compare them.
mawshimp on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I thought it was good up until the end...the end felt rushed and confusing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Twists stumbled but added leverage.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book was disjointed in a few sections. Not the greatest of endings. Left me wanted more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
otterly More than 1 year ago
This book was okay--about Hannah Griffin, a CSI. I was dismayed to encounter the phrase--"closer proximity" three times--doesn't the author, or her proofreader realize that proximity means nearness, so that closer proximity is redundant. I did not get enthused enough to recommend this
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I Enjoyed this book it was very creepy makes you sit on the edge of your seat to see what happens next. Its different from some books I have read. I will look for this author again to check out more of his books.
LBSC More than 1 year ago
This was my first read of Gregg Olsen and I really enjoyed the book. He kept the story going and me guessing until the end. I have since read another one of his novels and will continue to read him.
Booker13 More than 1 year ago
I was EXTREMELY disappointed in this book. It starts out okay, becomes disjointed then starts to be on a good roll. You start to get involed in the  characters and I was starting to be impressed.  The buildup was getting so good.  THE END IS THE BIGGEST LET DOWN OF NOTHINGNESS  I HAVE EXPERIENCED in a book in a LONG LONG TIME.  I do not like books without end or characters just left.  There was nothing PSYCOLOGICAL as on reviewer wrote...plain cut and dried and let down for an ending.  I will not buy more from this author because I don't want to again be lead to something that becomes a mess of nothing.   It had the premise to be good and very suspensful, but Mr. Olsen, your ending was WAY PAST LAME, UNSATISFYING andas an avid reader, left me feeling EMPTY
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago