The idea of a doppelgänger, or identical look-alike, is something I’ve read about, heard about, and thought about—so much so that it sparked the idea for A FACE TO DIE FOR. What could be more fascinating than the existence of another human being who is your “identical stranger” living somewhere else in the world right […]
It’s May 17th and that means that THE MURDER THAT NEVER WAS is officially on sale! With that comes excitement, anticipation, joy… and more butterflies in my stomach than you can count. You’d think I’d be over that extreme reaction. After 27 published novels, you’d think that the release of a new book would bring […]
I’m often asked how long it takes me to write a first draft. The answer? I’ve never written one. Let’s start with the basics. Every author’s writing process is different. Some write detailed outlines. Others let their muse carry them in the direction that feels right. Many set a daily word count for themselves, not […]
Former FBI Special Agent Sloane Burbank has seen her share of danger. She’s faced down a serial killer and survived life-threatening injuries ... but she never expected that danger to invade the lives of her family.
Then her mother is viciously attacked in the posh Manhattan apartment her parents share and it quickly becomes clear that this is no ordinary robbery. The thieves were too clever, too knowledgeable, and so obviously after something of her father’s. But what could a respected art dealer have done to merit such violence? When a mysterious message is left for him, Sloane knows her father’s in over his head. Determined to find out the truth, Sloane discovers a deadly secret buried in his past that has made him the target of a power-hungry mobster with a lethal agenda and nothing to lose.
Sloane is desperate to save her father, but to do so she must hold onto secrets of her own—especially from FBI Special Agent Derek Parker, the man she has grown to love deeply. She knows she must tell him everything, but how can she betray her father’s confidence? Can a couple who’s faced so much survive this ultimate test of trust? Will they survive at all?
As the decades-old secret claims the lives of her father’s oldest friends and the killer closes in on him, Sloane finds herself in foreign territory: alone, facing escalating personal danger, and hunting a moving target in a world where memories are long and loyalties are drawn in blood.
The front door of the apartment was opened a crack. That meant Matthew was home.
Generally, Rosalyn Burbank preferred being the first one through the door at
night. It gave her time to unwind, to transition from work to home. To savor a
glass of wine and a hot shower before starting to think about dinner.
But tonight she was just as happy her husband had beaten her to their Upper East Side apartment. The two of them needed to talk.
Something was weighing on her husband's mind, and had been for weeks. She'd
waited for him to approach her and broach the subject. He hadn't. That was way
out of character. Matthew wasn't big on secrets. Neither was Rosalyn. It was
probably one of the reasons their marriage had endured for thirty-three years.
And what made this situation worse, was that whatever Matthew was keeping from
her was significant. He wasn't himself. He was quiet and pensive, and he tossed
and turned all night, every night.
Rosalyn was really starting to worry.
Tonight she planned to clear the air.
"Matthew?" She elbowed the front door open the rest of the way, and stepped
inside, shutting it behind her. "It's me. You forgot to close the door behind
you again. Not the smartest idea. One day, someone's going to—"
She never finished her sentence.
She heard the footsteps rush up behind her a split second before a pair of
strong arms grabbed her. A rag was stuffed in her mouth, and a rough sack was
pulled over her head.
Instinctively, Rosalyn fought back. Enveloped by darkness, she struggled like a
wild animal, even when she was backhanded so hard that her head snapped around
and she lost her footing, nearly toppling to the floor. She managed to stay
upright, regained her balance, and swung out blindly with her fist.
Her knuckles connected with what felt like her attacker's jaw, and she heard his
grunt of stunned surprise.
She took advantage of the moment, delivering a second punch, hoping to do some
serious damage. But this time she missed, and her attacker grabbed her arms,
pinning them behind her and anchoring them so her movements were restricted. She
still didn't cave, but continued to battle him with sharp defensive jerks of her
body, and as many clumsy kicks as she could manage.
When her knee connected with his groin, she knew she'd gone too far.
He swore, viciously, then barked out a terse, unintelligible command in another
language— some Asian tongue. Pounding footsteps ensued, and a second intruder
burst out from wherever in the apartment he'd been. The two men started arguing
in a guttural Chinese dialect. An instant later, Rosalyn was dragged through the
foyer and into another room— Matthew's office, if her sense of direction wasn't
completely off. There, she was shoved into a chair, her wrists were bound behind
her, and her ankles were tied together on the floor.
She tried to let out a scream, but only succeeded in gagging on the rag that was
crammed in her mouth. The garbled sound that emerged was muffled by the burlap
sack. Before she could try again, a heavy, solid object struck her head, and
pain exploded through her skull.
She saw stars, and heard herself whimper. Pinpoints of light flashed behind her
eyes. The voices... just two? No, maybe three. Male voices. All speaking in the
same rapid Chinese. Dazed, she found herself wishing she'd joined Matthew and
Sloane all those years ago when they'd taken their trips to the Far East. Then
maybe she could have deciphered what was being said. As it was, all she could
make out was the urgency of their tones, mixed with the sound of slamming
drawers and what was probably a lifetime of possessions being hauled off.
With her tongue, she managed to maneuver the rag to one side— far enough so she
That was a mistake.
A drawer thudded to the floor. A whiz of motion. And then another blow that
connected solidly with the side of her head.
This one was too much.
Blinding pain. Then, dark silence.
It had started to drizzle when Matthew got out of the taxi and paid the driver— a cold autumn drizzle that left you feeling chilled, inside and out.
Matthew didn't notice it.
He didn't notice anything.
He was paralyzed with shock and worry.
He'd walked into a Chinatown restaurant to meet his partners, men who also
happened to be his oldest friends. It wasn't a social dinner. It was a strategy
session. All their necks were on the line— even the two of them who hadn't been
at the crime scene-- and it had been crucial that they nailed down the details
of the story they'd be giving to the FBI during their individual interrogations.
No hesitations. No deviations. It was the only way.
Matthew had arrived late and on edge.
But he'd left panicked, punched in the gut with the very basis for this meeting,
and sucked into a memory he'd long since buried— or had tried to. Suddenly, the
past was the present. No. Worse. Because now what he feared for was his life.
He'd stepped out for a smoke. The Mercedes had pulled up to the curb, parking
directly in front of the Cadillac Escalade, not fifteen feet from where Matthew
stood. Two Mediterranean guys, who looked like thugs and were built like
linebackers, had gotten out of the Escalade and waited on the sidewalk, as the
driver of the Mercedes, burly and Asian, hurried around to open the back door
for his passenger.
The man had emerged, emanating power, despite being dwarfed in size by the
linebackers. He'd greeted them with a nod, waited for his driver— who was
clearly a bodyguard— to be glued to his side, and then led the way, keeping his
head down as he walked.
He raised it just as he reached Matthew. He stopped. A long moment of eye
contact. The recognition had been mutual and indisputable.
It was more than enough to tell Matthew he was living on borrowed time.
He was barely aware of greeting the doorman at his building, or entering the
high-rise on York Avenue and Eighty-second Street. On autopilot, he summoned the
elevator, then rode upstairs as he berated himself for being a prisoner to his
The elevator doors slid open, and he headed toward the apartment. Never had he
needed a drink more than he did right now.
He unlocked the front door and flipped on the light as he stepped inside. His
gaze swept the living area, and he froze in his tracks.
The place was trashed, furniture shoved aside, empty recesses left where the
flat screen TV and entertainment center had been. Kitchen drawers were dumped
upside down, minus all the unique Art Deco silverware they'd contained. Two
handcrafted sculptures that Matthew had bartered for in Thailand were missing,
as was the Monet that had hung over the sofa, and the one-of-a-kind ivory chess
set he'd bought in India. And one of Rosalyn's diamond stud earrings was lying
in the corner, clearly having been dropped. That meant they'd been in their
bedroom and cleaned out her jewelry box.
None of that meant jack. It was the other painting. That's why they'd come. The
rest was just bonus. They'd broken in because of the painting.
Not the Monet. It was one of his lesser known works, not one of his
masterpieces. But the Rothberg. Not the painting itself, but its paperwork. That
was what was invaluable. And timely. Especially after Matthew's encounter
He flung down the portfolio he'd been holding, and raced to his office— where
he'd find his answer.
He found a lot more than that.
Rosalyn was crumpled on her side in a corner of the room. She was bound to a
toppled chair— hands and feet— and her head was half-covered by a cloth sack.
One of the heavy wooden bookends he kept on his mantle lay beside her. A pool of
blood was oozing from inside the sack, staining the Oriental rug beneath his
wife's head. She wasn't moving. Her unnatural stillness was terrifying.
"Roz." Wild with panic, Matthew dashed over, squatting down and easing the sack
off her head, dreading what he'd find.
She was breathing. He released his own breath when he saw that. Thank God. She
was alive. The shallow rise and fall of her breasts confirmed it. So did the
thready but definite pulse at her wrist.
To hell with the Rothberg.
He pulled the rag out of her mouth and untied her wrists and ankles,
scrutinizing her as he did. There were nasty gashes just above her ear, where
the blood was seeping from. Whoever had done this had struck her at least twice
with the bookend. Hard.
"Roz!" Matthew gripped her shoulders and shook her, realizing he was being an
ass. He shouldn't be jarring her, shouldn't be wasting precious seconds before
calling 911. But he needed a sign— any sign— a word, a flicker of
recognition—anything that told him she was okay.
He got both.
After his second "Roz! Honey, can you hear me?," she cracked open her eyes.
"Matthew?" she managed, blinking up at him. She stirred, then moaned, sinking
back into the carpet and squeezing her eyes shut at the pain.
"Don't talk. Don't move. I'll get help. It'll be okay." Matthew knew he was
reassuring himself more than his wife, who'd slipped back into unconsciousness.
Groping in his jacket pocket, he snatched his cell phone and punched in 911.
"This is Matthew Burbank," he announced the instant the emergency operator
answered. "I live at 500 East Eighty-second, at the corner of York. Apartment
9B. My home's been broken into. My wife is hurt. I need an ambulance— fast."
His gaze was darting around, taking in the wreck of his office as he spoke. "She
was struck on the head. At least twice. I don't know how bad it is. She's
bleeding, but she's alive. Please... hurry." Dazed, he supplied the other
customary answers, then hung up.
He forced himself to scan the room, taking in the ransacked drawers of his
myriad file cabinets. Even though he didn't label the cabinets themselves, he
had a system, and he knew which cabinets were which. So he knew exactly where to
direct his scrutiny. The cabinet that was thoroughly trashed, with a specific
drawer pulled out to the max, was the one holding his pre-electronic business
records of promising modern artists.
Neatly placed across the open drawer was a now-empty file folder. No surprise as
to which one. A. Rothberg's Dead or Alive was printed on the tab. And resting on
top of the folder like some kind of menacing paper weight was a fortune cookie.
He picked it up. The fortune was sticking out from inside the cookie. Matthew
eased it free.
Devote tomorrow to silent reflection, it read.
Bile burned Matthew's tongue. It wasn't a suggestion. It was a threat. This is
what they'd come for. Not his possessions.
Matthew stared at the objects in his hands. Then, he shoved the empty file
folder, fortune cookie, and fortune, into the inside pocket of his trench coat.
The cops couldn't see these. If they did, the whole situation would explode wide
It was already too late for him.
But now his whole family was in mortal danger.