SUICIDE OR HOMICIDE?
A determined daughter…
A skeptical detective…
A deadly secret…The police say her father’s death was suicide. Kelly Warren says it was murder—and she has new evidence to prove it. Detective Cole Taylor doesn’t put much credence in her claim, and nothing in his case review suggests foul play. But when Kelly ends up in the ER with a life-threatening medical condition, Cole digs deeper—and discovers a startling information linking her to a long-buried secret, escalating the danger. Is history repeating itself? And does someone want Kelly silenced?
Read Chapter 1:
Six Months Later
“So what was up with your solo act at Jake and Liz’s wedding on Saturday?”
At the question, Detective Cole Taylor stifled a groan. He did not want to start his week by rehashing his brother’s wedding. Especially with his colleague Mitch Morgan, who had gotten engaged to his sister at said wedding.
“What do you mean?” He didn’t look up from his desk. Maybe if he acted busy, Mitch would move on.
“I mean, where was the hot date you usually bring to social events?”
Coming alone had been a tactical mistake. One Cole had recognized five minutes into the reception. He should have brought someone. Anyone. With a woman on his arm, he would have avoided all the kidding from his relatives and the questions about when it was going to be his turn. The grilling had gotten so bad, he’d taken to hiding behind some potted plants—and drinking champagne.
Lots of champagne.
“I wasn’t in the mood to bring a date.”
“Yeah? How come?” Mitch settled onto the edge of his desk.
So much for getting rid of his future brother-in-law.
Resigned, Cole forced his lips into a cocky grin, swiveled his chair, and folded his hands across his stomach. “The pickings were slim for that night, and I’m particular. I want looks and intelligence.”
“Since when? That wasn’t exactly a rocket scientist you brought to the party at Doug’s house two weeks ago.”
“That sounds like something Alison would say.” Cole’s grin morphed into a frown. “Did my sister put you up to this?”
“Nope. But she was surprised you came alone too.”
“You know, I appreciate how everyone is taking such an interest in my social life all of a sudden.” He laid on a healthy dose of sarcasm. “But trust me, I have it under control.”
“I’m glad to hear that. I wouldn’t want you to lose out on the chance for wedded bliss.”
Cole snorted. “How do you know it’s going to be blissful? You only got engaged two days ago.”
“Because I know your sister.” He grinned at Cole. “And if you need more proof, ask Jake when he and Liz get back from their Bermuda honeymoon.” Standing, he stood and stretched. “So you want to go get some lunch?”
“No. Too busy.”
“Want me to bring you back a burger?”
“No. I’m not hungry.”
Mitch shot him a surprised look. “You’re always hungry.”
“Big breakfast.” He waved his colleague away and swung back to the desk. “I’ll hit the vending machines later.”
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Mitch hesitate. Cock his head. Then, with a shrug, his fellow detective walked away.
Once Mitch exited, Cole leaned back in his chair and stared at the photo on his desk, a family shot taken at his mom’s birthday party not long after Jake had returned to St. Louis from a stint in Iraq with the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group. It had been just the four of them since his dad died six years ago. But now there was a sister-in-law to add. Soon, there’d be a brother-in-law. And not long after that, Cole suspected nieces and nephews would come along. His sister and brother would be busy with their families. His mom lived in Chicago with her sister now; not that far from St. Louis, but far enough. He’d be the odd man out.
And playing the field was starting to lose its allure.
Annoyed by a sudden empty feeling in the pit of his stomach, Cole straightened up. Must be a case of weddingitis. It was hard not to think about the lack of romance in his life when he was surrounded by cross-eyed lovers and the air was filled with matrimonial vibes. But if it was supposed to happen, it would. No sense fretting about it.
No sense missing meals, either.
Debating what to get for lunch, he stood, snagged his jacket off the back of his chair, and slid his arms into the sleeves. Maybe he’d take Mitch up on the burger offer after all. If he hurried, he should be able to catch him at the elevator or in the lobby.
But he only made it two steps away from his desk before his phone rang.
As he paused, it rang again.
“You gonna get that or what?” Luke Adams looked up from a computer screen at an adjacent desk in the shared office, his expression frazzled. The man was a stellar detective, but he hated computers. And Cole didn’t relish being the outlet for his irritation.
“I’m getting it, okay?”
Luke grunted and went back to hunting and pecking while Cole returned to his desk and picked up the phone.
“Are you in the middle of anything?”
At his unit supervisor’s clipped query, Cole sank back into his chair.
He was now.
“Nothing that can’t wait.”
“Good. I need you to talk with a woman whose father died five months ago. We ruled it a suicide. However, the daughter claims she has new information that could change our minds.”
“Who handled the case?”
“Alan. But she doesn’t want to wait until he gets back from vacation. And FYI—she wasn’t happy with our resolution. Even though she couldn’t point us to any suspects or motives, she claims somebody was out to get her father and believes his death was a homicide.”
Cole stifled a sigh. Great. A conspiracy theorist. He’d run into them before. And since Alan had just left on a two-week trip to the Caribbean, this woman could be bugging him for fourteen days.
“Okay. I’ll meet her out front. What’s her name?”
“Kelly Warren. Her father’s name was John.”
“Got it.” Cole replaced the receiver, picked up a notepad, and stood.
So much for lunch.
Okay…maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But she was one of the honorees in a complete-the-story contest conducted by a national children’s magazine. And she likes to think of that as her “official” fiction-writing debut!
Since then, she has written more than 35 romance and romantic suspense novels. Her books have been honored with two RITA awards—the “Oscar” of romantic fiction—and she is a five-time finalist for that prestigious honor. Her books have also won a Daphne du Maurier award, a Carol award, a HOLT Medallion and two Reviewers’ Choice awards from RT BOOKreviews magazine. One of her novels was also named by Booklist as one of the top 10 inspirational fiction books of 2011.
Irene, who holds a B.A. in psychology and an M.A. in journalism, juggled two careers for many years until she gave up her executive corporate communications position with a Fortune 500 company to write full-time. She is happy to say she has no regrets!
In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, gardening and singing. A trained vocalist, she has sung the leading role in numerous musicals, including “South Pacific,” “Brigadoon,” “Oklahoma” “The King and I” and “Anything Goes.” She is also a soloist at her church.
When not otherwise occupied, Irene and her husband enjoy traveling, Saturday mornings at their favorite coffee shop and spending time with family. They make their home in Missouri.
When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
I can’t remember ever not being a writer. I really believe people are born writers. It’s a gift, just like any other talent. I did toy with the idea of becoming a psychologist, but in the end, writing won out. However, my psychology degree is a great background for writing about relationships—a key ingredient in romantic fiction!
Until 2009, you wrote contemporary romance only. Why did you branch into suspense?
The truth is, the very first book I ever wrote was a romantic suspense novella. It was SO bad, however, that I stashed it in the deepest, darkest corner of my closest, where it will forever remain. I just didn’t have the necessary technical background to make it work, and in those days (20+ years ago), it was far more difficult to do research. So I focused on contemporary romance. But as an avid Nancy Drew reader in my younger days, I guess it’s no surprise that I eventually found my way back to suspense!
What inspires you to write?
Writers write. They have to write. It’s almost a compulsion. I can’t imagine my life without writing in it. As for what compels me to sit down every day at my computer—I like how one well-known writer once responded when asked if he waits for inspiration to strike before he writes. He said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Yes, I do. And I make sure I’m inspired every day at nine o’clock.”
What is something your readers might be surprised to learn about you?
While researching my Heroes of Quantico series, I enrolled in the local Citizen Police Academy. As part of that experience, I did a heart-pounding ride-along with a patrol officer that included a tense domestic violence call and a high-speed burglary response. The poor guy had to practically peel my fingers off the dashboard when we finally stopped. What I quickly learned is that I prefer to experience my suspense vicariously—safely tucked in the pages of a book!
What is your favorite book?
I don’t have one favorite. I’ve read many books I’ve liked. A few that come to mind are Five Smooth Stones by Ann Fairbairn, Mila 18 by Leon Uris and A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford. I’ve also enjoyed the Mitford series by Jan Karon, as well as books by LaVyrle Spencer and Dee Henderson.
What is your favorite movie?
Again, no single movie. But I do like happy endings! And for pure enjoyment, it’s hard to beat a Cary Grant flick. The Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer is fabulous if you like romantic comedy. And it’s timeless. Of more recent vintage, I enjoyed While You Were Sleeping and Return to Me.
What is your favorite Bible verse?
Matthew 6:21—“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Who has had the most influence on your life?
My parents. They have always been my ardent fans, encouraging me every step of the way in any venture I undertook. They believed in me, and because they believed, I believed, too. There’s an old saying about the two gifts parents can give their children—roots and wings. My parents gave me both. They created a home where I was accepted without question, loved without conditions and encouraged without restraint. With that kind of foundation, it’s easy to take on the world. I give thanks every day for the gift of their continued presence in my life.
Name one of the bravest things you’ve ever done.
Signing up for voice lessons in college—and going to auditions for musicals. I’d always wanted to sing, but had zero confidence in my abilities. Taking the first step of committing to voice lessons was tough…and going to those first auditions in front of a roomful of competitors who wanted you to fail was even tougher. But I wanted it badly enough to persevere—and it paid off. Kind of like getting published!
You juggled two careers concurrently for a long time. How did you manage that?
In the beginning, it wasn’t difficult. The demands of my entry level job in corporate communications were reasonable and I had regular hours. By the time I left the corporate world, however, I’d risen to the executive ranks. I was a senior group director in a Fortune 500 company, managing three departments and overseeing major projects like the annual report. I was also managing editor of the company’s worldwide magazine and the speechwriter for the CEO and president, as well as for other executives. When the job became 24/7, I knew I had to pick between the two careers. Winning the RITA award and being offered a three-book contract made the decision much easier, though.
Sounds like your corporate job was interesting—and a little glitzy!
It had its moments. My favorite memories include skimming over an Alaskan glacier in a float plane, flying first-class to a prestigious spa to get the full treatment as background for a magazine article I was writing, jet-setting with the CEO on the corporate plane to a cruise ship in the Caribbean for a business lunch, visiting a remote island in Ireland and soaring over the Grand Tetons in a hot-air balloon. Plus, I met some wonderful people along the way.
How did you make the adjustment from such an exciting, high-powered career to the rather solitary life of a writer?
The truth is, there was no adjustment. I’m perfectly happy spending my days with the fascinating characters who people my novels. And I definitely don’t miss the rush-hour commute, corporate politics or a relentless BlackBerry that never slept!
Any advice for aspiring writers?
Learn as much as you can about how the industry works. Read exhaustively in the genres that interest you. Target your work carefully. Join a professional writers organization like Romance Writers of America. Master the basics (spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc.). Listen to criticism with an open mind. Set aside time to write on a regular basis. Believe in yourself. And don’t give up your day job!
Have you received a particularly memorable reader response?
Every reader letter touches me, and many have been memorable. A few stand out. With my contemporary romances, I recall one from a very atypical romance reader—a 23-year-old man who stumbled across my book, read it because he was bored, and told me it inspired him, taught him some valuable life lessons and gave him the guidance he’d had trouble finding himself. And I love the reader who wrote, “No one but Nicholas Sparks can grab me and get my attention after reading only a few pages—until YOU!”
With my suspense books, I’m getting feedback from both men and women, and I’m loving the letters that contain lines like this one: “I bought your book this past Tuesday evening and spent the entire day today reading it! I did have to put it down a few times just to breathe.” And I was thrilled with this comment: “I have been a Nora Roberts fan for a few years now and have just worked my way through all of her romantic suspense books. Your book was just as captivating.”
Do you have a pet peeve about the writing business?
One of my biggest pet peeves is how commercial fiction—and the romance genre in particular—is often considered less worthy than “literary” fiction. Not long ago, I read a review about a romance novel that said readers must pick between mental nourishment and romance—snarkily suggesting that stories about two people working to overcome formidable obstacles in order to build a life together can’t engage the reader’s mind as well as the heart. The reviewer also denigrated what she called “the best romance tradition” of an ending suffused with “a sense of almost religious redemption and possibility.” What a sad commentary on our world when a hope-filled ending seems so implausible that it renders a book too unrealistic to be taken seriously.
What has surprised you most about being a published novelist?
I didn’t realize how much making that first sale would change the complexion of writing. When you’re seeking that first contract and writing for the pure joy of following your muse, all you have to worry about is creating your best story. Once you’ve landed that contract, however, you realize that publishers don’t want one-book wonders—they want authors who can produce regularly. The first sale isn’t the summit; it’s the start of a whole new journey. And in addition to being expected to continually create new books, you now also find yourself doing promotion, creating/maintaining a website, answering reader mail, keeping accounting records, proofing galleys…the list keeps growing. So the pressure is on, and writing becomes a business as well as a passion. It’s still fun, but it’s a job—with deadlines. Which means you now have to plunk yourself in front of the computer even when you’d rather be doing something else. And that’s an adjustment.
What is your average writing day like?
Long! I’m usually at my computer by 8:30 a.m. First I answer e-mail and check a couple of websites and writing loops. Then I edit the work I wrote the previous day. At lunchtime I take a walk, then I’m back at the keyboard. I write 5-10 new pages a day, minimum. In the first third to half of a book, I’m usually closer to five because the characters and plot are loosely formed and still gelling in my mind. And depending on the subject matter, research can also slow the writing process. But I’m a stickler for accuracy, so I don’t shortchange the research piece. Without distractions, I can hit my page count by 5 or 6 p.m. So that’s my ideal writing day. However, distractions are common. Galleys show up, publicity requests come in, prep has to be done for speaking engagements…you get the idea. So I’m often at my computer well into the evening. It’s a busy life!
What do you hope readers take away from your books?
I have three goals with every book I write. First, I want to entertain. People need wholesome ways to unwind in today’s stressful, fast-paced world, and I do my best to write books that help them put aside their cares for a few hours. Second, I want to leave people with hope; with a belief that no matter how tough life gets, a happy ending is always possible. And finally, I want people to close the last page with a better appreciation for the tremendous power of love—both human and divine—to change lives. To sum up my goal in three words: entertain, enrich, uplift.
Are your books available in other countries?
Many of my novels are available in English-speaking parts of the world, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. I’ve also had books translated into German, Dutch, French and Afrikaans.
How do you integrate faith into the stories and lives of your characters?
For me, the faith element is organic to the story because at least one of my main characters has a strong faith that guides his or her life. But my books aren’t preachy. The faith content is subtle and reflected more in characters’ actions than in words. I prefer to show characters living their faith rather than talking about it.
Any parting words?
I’d like to say a few words about Christian fiction. For years it’s had a reputation as being too preachy and heavy-handed in terms of evangelizing. In truth, some of that is deserved. But the genre has changed considerably over the past few years. Now, Christian fiction refers more to books with a certain worldview. As a result, any reader who likes fiction that features traditional values would enjoy many Christian fiction books. I would love to find a way to convince more secular readers to wander into the Christian fiction aisle at their local bookstore. I think many of them would be very pleasantly surprised.
My Review:Kelly Warren’s father, John Warren, died five months ago, and it was ruled a suicide by sleeping pills and alcohol overdose. Kelly was never able to accept that ruling. What she received in the mail was the proof that she was right. She wanted to approach Detective Alan Carlson with her new evidence, but he was on vacation.
Detective Cole Taylor was thus assigned to Carlson’s case. He’s attracted to Kelly’s wavy, russet-colored hair, emerald green eyes …, but gets caught looking at her when she questions him about what’s wrong. Cole determines to keep business separate from his social life. At least that has always been his rule of operation so he stays sharp and alert.
The evidence Kelly brought in was a box of tulip bulbs she received in the mail with a note from her dad about planting them together for her birthday, a note dated one day before he died. That note shows that Jack wasn’t suicidal, but Cole needed to check the case notes. Given the usual police comment–’I'll be in touch,’ Kelly returned home. However, upon checking the case notes, he determined that the probable evidence didn’t change the ruling, and Detective Cole had to break the news to Kelly. Was he keeping business and social commitments separate by going to her house to give her the news personally?
When an attempt on Kelly’s life occurs shortly after she starts digging into her father’s death, Detective Cole digs deeper and finds a long-held secret, and the danger escalates. Why does someone want Kelly dead? What’s the motive?
Ultimate suspense writer, Irene Hannon, in Lethal Legacy, brings us another high energy, double twisted set of circumstances, and additional evidence that indicates more is involved than first recognized. She does a great job of interweaving the threads of the evidence pointing to murder along with the additional action that is taking place behind the scenes that is initially covered up until further examination.
Irene has compelling characters that seem to take over every page, whether romantically or through perilous situations. Neither Detective Cole and his partners nor Kelly will rest till they find out the truth. Suspects are gleaned through the investigations, but proof is non-existent until a well-known name pops up. I was thrown for a loop when I found out about John Warren’s background. Never saw it coming. Though we know a lot of information, Irene is keenly able to keep up the suspense of proving any connection before Kelly’s life is in danger.
Police procedures, APBs, BOLO alerts, investigations, and sting operations were written with precise detail. Details of the well-know individual are played out superbly and yet painfully when it came to an estranged and strife-filled family relationship.
Kelly’s faith is a major part of her life, and though she is attracted to Detective Cole, she knows he must be a believer if she wants to pursue the relationship, but he has an angry, estranged relationship with God. How the author brings Cole back to his faith is done in such a manner as to expose the reader to the love and mercy of God.
Some of the action seemed to slow down at times, which was a little difficult to keep me interested, but Irene was able to pick up the pace again with new and critical circumstances.
This book was provided free by Donna Hausler of Revell Publishing in exchange for my honest review. No monetary compensation was exchanged.