The Prey: A Novel Mass Market Paperback – Dec 27 2005
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About the Author
Allison Brennan is the author of ten bestselling romantic thrillers, including The Prey, Speak No Evil, Killing Fear, and Playing Dead. For thirteen years she worked as a consultant in the California State Legislature before leaving to devote herself fully to her family and writing. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. She lives in Northern California with her husband, Dan, and their five children.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Rowan Smith learned about Doreen Rodriguez’s murder from the reporters camped out in her front yard Monday morning.
A car door slammed and she awoke with a start. Instinctively, she reached for the gun that was no longer under her pillow, searching the cool cotton sheet before remembering it was in her nightstand. Hesitating briefly, she retrieved the cold Glock. She couldn’t think of a good reason for needing her gun, but it felt right in her hand.
She’d slept in sweatpants and a T-shirt, an old habit of being ready for anything, and padded down the stairs in bare feet to look out her den window and see who was visiting so early in the morning. The grating sound of a sliding van door shutting told her she had more than one visitor. She used her index finger to bend down the blinds a mere inch to peer out.
She could tell from their rumpled attire and notepads they were print reporters. Television hounds were far more concerned with appearance. Three vans and two cars crammed the driveway of her leased beachfront home. She despised reporters. She’d had more than enough of them while working for the Bureau.
The doorbell echoed, startling her. Though she could see the driveway from her den, she couldn’t see the door. Presumably one of the bolder reporters had summoned the courage to ring her doorbell.
What did they want? She’d just given an interview about the premiere of Crime of Passion two days ago; surely they didn’t need a group session.
She started for the door, then remembered she was carrying her gun. She imagined the headline: Paranoid Former Agent Armed for Interview. She slid the gun into the top drawer of her desk and briskly walked to the front door, barely registering the coolness of the tile under her bare feet.
Her phone rang at the same time the doorbell repeated its obnoxious ding-dong. Great. Reporters coming at her from every direction. She’d dealt with them before; she’d have to again. It was only as she opened the door that she feared something bad had happened and that maybe she shouldn’t talk to them.
“Do you have a comment on the murder of Doreen Rodriguez?”
“I don’t know Doreen Rodriguez,” she said automatically, even as alarm bells went off in the back of her head. The name was familiar, but she couldn’t place it. A sick feeling ate at her gut as she tried to connect the dots. As she was shutting the door, another question rang clear:
“You don’t know that a twenty-year-old woman named Doreen Rodriguez was killed in Denver Saturday night in the same manner as the character Doreen Rodriguez was murdered in your book Crime of Opportunity?”
Rowan slammed the door shut. She didn’t fear reporters walking in uninvited; she’d have them arrested for trespassing without a qualm. She simply wanted the resounding finality of her “no comment” to ring loud and clear.
The phone finally stopped ringing. Then, thirty seconds later, the incessant ring-ring started again. She ran back to her den and glanced at the caller ID: Annette. Her producer.
Picking up the receiver she said, “What in the hell is going on?” She heard yet another car screech to a halt in her driveway.
“I have a bunch of reporters on my doorstep, more arriving as we speak.” She peered out the blinds again. Television van. She pressed a hand to her stomach. Something was very wrong.
“I got the details from a reporter in Denver.” Annette said rapidly, emphasizing some of her words. “A twenty-year-old waitress named Doreen Rodriguez was killed Saturday night. They found her body yesterday in a Dumpster outside of, and I quote, ‘a small Italian café off South Broadway that could have been called quaint if not for the blood drying on the white brick façade.’ ”
Rowan listened to the words she’d penned years ago. Rubbing her temple, she craved a cigarette for the first time since she’d quit the FBI four years ago. “This is some kind of sick joke.”
“I’m so sorry, Rowan.”
“Dear God, I don’t believe this is happening.” She squeezed her eyes shut in an effort to absorb what Annette had told her. Her breath caught, and she placed a hand over her mouth. It had to be a coincidence. Some idiot reporter taking a violent crime and trying to sensationalize it by comparing it to one of her novels.
The image of Doreen Rodriguez’s bloody, dismembered body flashed in her mind. She opened her eyes immediately, her vision of the murder far too real because she had created it. It couldn’t have been a similar crime. Just the name was the same.
“Rowan, she was killed with a machete against the restaurant wall, her body thrown in a Dumpster!” Annette’s voice took on a feverish pitch. “She worked in Denver and was born in Albuquerque. Some crazy person copied the crime exactly as you wrote it.”
Rowan pressed fingers deeper into her right temple. Someone had copied her fictional crime? It couldn’t be possible. How had the killer found someone so exactly like her fictional character?
More important, why?
She sunk to the floor next to her desk and buried her face in her arms, holding the phone with her shoulder. She took another deep breath and held it. She had to get hold of herself; then she’d get to the bottom of this.
There had to be a mistake.
“Are you okay?” Annette’s voice was full of concern.
“What do you think?” Her voice came out a raspy whisper.
“I’m worried about your safety, Rowan.”
“I can take care of myself.”
“I’ll come right over.”
She almost grinned at the thought. Petite fifty- something Hollywood producer Annette O’Dell rushing over to protect her star screenwriter from a pack of vicious reporters. Rowan shook her head. “No, after my run I have to go to the studio and talk to the director about reworking a scene.”
“The reporters will follow you. They’re probably staked out there now.”
“Damn the reporters! I have no comment. Period. Nothing, nada, zero. I don’t want you saying word one about this to anyone. I am going to the studio and going to do my job. I’m not a cop; let them take care of this.” She didn’t want to play cop anymore. She didn’t want any more blood on her hands.
But there it was. She wiped her hands on her sweats until Lady Macbeth came to mind, madly scrubbing her hands of blood that wasn’t there.
Doreen Rodriguez. Rowan didn’t kill the poor woman, but she had somehow caused her death just the same.
“Rowan, let me hire a security—”
Rowan cut Annette off with a click as she replaced the receiver in its cradle.
She took a minute to gather herself before getting up from the floor. Outside, another car drove up, more vultures ready to pounce. It made great copy, she thought wryly. Real-life murder mystery: The Fiction Copycat. The Copycat Killer. The press seemed to actually like murders. Especially high-profile, gruesome crimes. Nothing exciting in a typical domestic dispute, a hit-and-run, or a routine gang drive-by. But being sliced and diced by a machete against the side of a quaint Italian café . . .
She shook her head. Was she any better? She wrote violent murder mysteries. Even if her corpses were fictionalized, didn’t she do the same thing as the reporters? Capitalizing on people’s interest in gruesome crime? The human fascination with death went back thousands of years. Violent Greek and Roman myths had relieved people’s fear of the unknown. Similar gruesome entertainments could be found in every generation since.
Doreen Rodriguez. Could the murder possibly have been the same as Rowan had written it? Her heart beat double-time as she imagined the pain and horror that poor young woman had suffered.
It would do her no good to dwell on the victim now. Rowan mentally summoned more than ten years of training to distance herself. When it got personal, that’s when mistakes happened.
Ignoring both the door and phone, on her laptop she logged onto the local Denver newspaper website. She hoped against hope there was a mistake, some misunderstanding. But the press was on top of the story. Bad news travels fast, evidence of which was parked in her driveway.
Everything Annette had told her was there on the screen. Rowan wondered what details had, in fact, been withheld. She wondered how long it would take for the police to come and interview her. With the press already showing an interest in the coincidence, the police wouldn’t be far behind. She’d get more details from them once they tracked her down.
No. No, she couldn’t get involved. She had a meeting at the studio in two hours. She had made a new life for herself, a quiet life. Damn if she was going to let a murdering lunatic control her future. Again.
She started for her bedroom to dress for her run when a familiar pounding on the front door interrupted her. Cops.
That was fast.
“Ms. Smith!” a mumbled voice called. “Ms. Smith, this is the police. We need to talk.”
She turned toward the door. It had started.
They sat at the dining room table, in front of the picture window that framed the blue-green Pacific Ocean. From here, twenty feet above the beach and a good hundred feet inland, one could still see the individual waves and whitecaps, tossed up by a light wind. The tide was out, the beach empty of people.
Rowan placed two mugs of hot black coffee in front of the detectives, then opened the window. The tangy, salty sea air relaxed her as she breathed in deeply. She needed to be calm and alert, but above all else, she needed to maintain control.
Top Customer Reviews
When another murder happens, her producer, Annette hires a security firm. Michael Flynn, ex-cop, is on the case, determined to protect her. But he's also falling for her, and his brother, John, ex-DEA, wonders if it's a repeat of a past case that went horribly wrong. Their sister, Tess, makes up the entire security firm, she's their computer expert. When more events occur, John believes Rowan's hiding something, and believes Michael's too smitten to properly protect her. He wonders if what she's hiding could get them killed.
As more and more murders occur, and her books left behind at the scene, FBI and the Flynn brothers agree that someone is after Rowan. But who could it be? Someone she put away, a family member of someone she put away or a victim? And then she begins to wonder if it's someone from her past. But who? Everyone but herself, her brother Peter and her father are alive. Who could it be?Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Rowan Smith left the FBI after she was assigned to a case very similar to her own childhood violence. No one really knew she left to preserve her sanity. She began a writing career and had astounding success. In fact, one of her books is being made into a movie in Hollywood. Rowan thought she had left her past behind her at last. Then a dismembered body is found in Colorado. The victim had the same name, occupation, and looks as a character Rowan wrote in one of her novels. This is followed by a second victim, again eerily similar to a character in one of Rowan novels.
Michael Flynn is an ex-cop. John Flynn is a former DEA agent. The two brothers own and operate a security firm. They are hired to protect Rowan. John believes there is more to it all than they currently know. He also has some secrets of his own that he wants no one to learn of. Yet even he will be astounded as the truth comes out. And the only way to reach the truth is for Rowan to revisit the violence in her past, a past that just may kill them both.
***** It is hard to believe that this is Allison Brennan's debut novel. It is fantastic! This title is the first of a trilogy. Each woman from the academy will get her own story told. You will not have to wait a long time between the stories either. The three books come out with only a month between each. (The other two titles will be "The Hunt" and "The Kill".) I could not read fast enough to find out what was going to happen next. Highly recommended reading! *****
Reviewed by Detra Fitch of Huntress Reviews.
As the death toll accumulates, everyone searches frantically for a clue to help them stop the killer. But it's Rowan who must stifle the terrors of her past and avenge the victims of these brutal murders...by going after the killer herself.
If you're looking for a book you can't put down, this is it. Brennan's debut is a "killer" and this reader can't wait to read THE HUNT.
The fast paced story is woven with gripping emotion, high action and tense scenes as Rowan, her hot Delta Force bodyguard and the FBI try to find the murderer before an end game is played out with Rowan as the final prey. The ending of THE PREY is terrific and the ride to get there intense. I've already ordered THE HUNT and THE KILL.
Rowan Smith is a former FBI agent turned best-selling author. She's temporarily left her Colorado home for Malibu and the world of Hollywood screenwriting.
After leaving the FBI some four years earlier, Rowan believes she's outrun and outwitted the demons that have chased her since childhood. But when someone begins murdering people in eerily similar manners as the murders in Rowan's books, and possesses information about her that few people in her life know, she is frightened enough to accept the protection of a bodyguard.
The only way Rowan can stop the killer is to face her own tormented past. But even then, can she save others from a horrendous death? Can she save herself?
Allison Brennan has written a scintillating and frightening novel where she invites us into the mind of the prey and the predator. And while we might want to look away, we're compelled to watch because we have to know how it ends.
The plot of The Prey is ingenious. I however like my suspense/thrillers free from romance. It's distracting to me to have a serial killer on the loose and people "falling" for each other. I also understand that others enjoy the mix and that it's a personal choice. I also figured out "what was going on" fairly early in the book but that didn't dissuade me from continuing because the plot was so interesting that I wanted the explanation. I wasn't disappointed.
Armchair Interviews says: A good thriller with some romance. If you like that combination you'll want to read her previous books and be on the lookout for her February 2006 release, The Hunt. I know I'm going to read it.
Breaking Rowan's spirit is the murderer's goal. After that, he wants to take her life and finish the horror that began when she as a child.
John Flynn is climbing out of his own darkness. Guarding Rowan is just a job until he can end a greater evil from his days as a DEA agent. But his objectives change when he falls in love with her. Nothing is as important as preventing her death from one of the smartest villains he's come across.
Once I started reading THE PREY, I couldn't stop. The characters spring to life, even the minor ones, and something unexpected happens in each scene. I kept turning the pages to find out what was going to happen next.
It's hard to believe this is Allison Brennan's first book. I want more! I'm eagerly awaiting THE HUNT and THE KILL.