Friday, June 5, 2015

Review - What Lies Behind #4 Samantha Owens Series by JT Ellison

How do I love JT Ellison, let me count the ways. She's one heck of a storyteller, she keeps me on the edge of my seat guessing the outcome, usually incorrectly and she packs a powerful punch of a plot.

  • ISBN-13: 9780778316503
  • Publisher: Mira
  • Publication date: 5/26/2015
  • Series: Samantha Owens Series, #4
  • Pages: 400


Critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author J. T. Ellison delivers another riveting novel featuring the incomparable Dr. Samantha Owens
Waking to sirens in the night is hardly unusual for Samantha Owens. No longer a medical examiner, she doesn't lose sleep over them, but a routine police investigation in her neighborhood has her curious. When her homicide detective friend, Darren Fletcher, invites her to look over the evidence, she jumps at the chance and immediately realizes the crime scene has been staged. What seems to be a clear case of murder/suicide—a crime of passion—is anything but.

Read an Excerpt:

Georgetown Washington, D.C.
Tuesday morning
They'd drunk too much, gotten too loud, too boisterous. Mr. Smith's kicked them out a few minutes past midnight, and they stumbled into the Georgetown night, dragged themselves up Wisconsin and loped across M Street, tripping and clutching each other to stay upright, cackling hysterically, their heels an incoherent tattoo on the sidewalks. People watched them, their antics greeted with amusement or derision, depending on the mood of the observers.
"I can't go on, I can't. Stop, Emma, please, stop."
Emma, ponytailed, blonde and lanky, fiddled with her tights with one hand, tugged on Cameron's arm. "I gotta pee. We can't stop now, Cam, it's just a few more blocks."
"My feet hurt. And my head." Cameron slipped, landed hard against the plate-glass window of Starbucks. "Bump!" That set them off again, the giggles turning into guffaws.
Emma yanked on the door to the darkened store. "Nuts. They're closed."
"Why are they closed?" Cameron whined.
"'Cause it's midnight. The witching hour. And you're not a witch, you're just a bitch. Tommy's place is just ahead. Can you make it there?"
Cameron squeezed her eyes closed, chanting the rhyme under her breath. "Not a witch, just a bitch, not a witch, just a bitch."
"You really are screwed up, aren't you? Come on." Emma dragged her to her feet, off down the darkened street.
Georgetown never truly sleeps. Even when the bars close, there are still people about—joggers, the ubiquitous construction workers, musicians and homeless, dog walkers and students, lovers and mistresses. A stew of incessant liveliness, perfect for the college-aged and the cuckolded. The romantics and the hardened.
They made it a block before Cameron stopped dead. She grabbed Emma's arm, nails digging into the soft flesh. "Did you hear that?"
Emma strained, but one block up from M Street and two blocks over, all she heard was the tittering of the night birds and the whooshing of tires on pavement, maybe some faint, masked music. "Hear what?"
Cameron shook her head. "I thought I heard something. Someone shouted. I'm drunk. Where are we?"
Emma glanced at the sign on the corner. The numbers and letters weaved together. She shut one eye and the familiar N floated into range.
"We're on N Street. One more block up. Come on already."
They started off again. "How are you going to get in? I thought you two broke up. Didn't he take back his key?"
"We're not broken up. Just on a break. There's a difference. He's so busy now, with school and working. He just took on another new project. He needed some space. I understand."
"Oh. I see. You understand why you're not important to him anymore. Big of you."
"Bitch." But there was no heat behind the word.
She heard footsteps. Straightened in time to see a jogger cross the street in front of them, legs pounding out a steady rhythm. Chick could move. Emma wasn't a runner. She played tennis, quite well, but the idea of running for the sake of running was boring to her. At least on the courts there was a tangible goal.
She realized she was alone, looked over her shoulder. Cameron had stopped again, was leaning woozily on a trash can.
"Come on," Emma said, her tongue getting stuck on the words. She bit back a giggle and held out her hand. "We're almost there."
"Gotta rest."
"Fooocuuuus, Cameron. Don't make me leave you behind in the dark, all alone. Whooooo. Big nasty dark gonna eat you alive."
Cameron flipped Emma the bird and stumbled back to her feet. "Lesgo."
A car turned the corner, engine purring as it disappeared behind them. Now they were truly alone.
One block, turn right. Twenty steps more, then the basement apartment railing appeared on her left. Emma fished the key out of her bra. She'd known they were going to be drunk tonight. Thought a little booty call would be appropriate, even though she and Tommy had, in essence, broken up. Not because he didn't dig her; he did, she knew it. It was just school was tough on him.
She knew Tommy would be home studying, late into the night, working on some random epithelial cell or DNA splicing theory, as he always seemed to be. Medical school was hard. Hell, undergrad was hard. Harder than she'd expected. Life was hard, too, especially for a pretty young thing with just enough smarts to make it into Georgetown, but maybe not quite enough to stay there. Her parents would freak if she failed out.
Tomorrow, I'll stop drinking and partying and really study.
But for tonight, everyone needed to blow off some steam, get a little nookie. Sex was good for the brain. Raised the levels of oxytocin, serotonin, melatonin, all those tonins Tommy liked to talk about.
Emma shook her hair free of its ponytail so it would fall in a sultry mass about her shoulders, sloppily freshened her lip gloss, licked her lips and shot Cameron a look. Cam seemed like she was about to pass out. Her eyes were half-shut, the smile on her face dreamy and stupid.
Emma slipped as she went down the five stairs to Tommy's front door. She grabbed the railing with both arms, clung on, the metal biting cruelly into her rib cage. She managed not to drop the key, but one sky-high platform peep-toe clattered toward the door, hitting it with a thump.
"Whoops," she said, laughing. Cameron hooted like it was the best trick she'd ever seen.
Emma put a finger to her lips. "Shhh. God, you're gonna wake the whole street." She righted herself with dignity, squared her shoulders and put the key in the lock.
"Aren't you going to knock?" Cameron asked.
"Why?" Emma replied, jiggling the key, then turning the knob. The door swung open into darkness.
"Darn it. He's asleep," Emma said, looking back over her shoulder. "Better be quiet, Cam. Can you be quiet?"
"Go in, for Chrissakes. I need a drink."
Emma took off her other heel and stepped inside, the straps looped on her index finger. It was dark, so dark she couldn't see anything. She ran her hand along the wall by the door, found the light switch. The lamp in the foyer cast its yellow glow into the hallway. Tommy's bike was leaning against the wall. Careful not to knock it over, she pulled Cameron inside and shut the door. Made her way down the hall into the living room.
Turned on the light. Saw red, and it took a moment for reality to penetrate her margarita-fogged brain.
Not red.
Blood, everywhere. The sofa, the floor, the wall by the two-seater bar.
Emma stood frozen, unable to move. Cameron was busy getting sick behind her, gagging and choking. Only then did the smell of the blood hit her, meaty and raw, like steaks left too long in the refrigerator, their surface shiny and green.
Want to run, want to hide, want to go away.
Something kept her rooted to the spot. "Tommy?" she called.
There was no answer.
"Stay here," she told Cameron, an unnecessary direction. Cam was on her hands and knees, moaning, trying and failing to scrabble backward away from the living room and the vomit. She bumped up against the hallway wall and ducked her head into her hands, eyes squeezed tightly shut. She wasn't going to be of any help.
Careful to avoid stepping in the blood, Emma moved along the edges of the living room. Tommy's bedroom was down the hall. It was dark. There were no sounds but Cameron's low keening, which sent shivers down Emma's spine.
"Please," she said, uncertain to whom the plea was directed. Please don't let this be Tommy's blood. Please don't let him be hurt. Please don't let him be dead. Please please please please please.
His door was shut. She steeled herself, took two deep breaths. The smell was worse here, tighter, fresher. Almost alive in its awfulness.
She opened the door, flipped on the light.
Over and over and over again. Screams.
• *
The wailing jolted Dr. Samantha Owens from sleep. She listened for a moment, heard them growing louder. They were close. Too close. Several of them, caterwauling through the night as they came near. Instead of peaking and fading, blue lights suddenly flashed on the opposite wall of her bedroom, rotating frantically. The sirens ended with a squawk, but the lights continued their alternating strobes. Based on the angle of the flashes, they'd stopped on O Street.
Her home in Georgetown was generally quiet and calm in the darkness. A few drunk kids every once in a while, hollering as they wound their way back to campus, but rarely something like this.
Clearly, something terrible had happened.
Sam was used to sirens. Living in the city meant they were a regular, nightly, daily occurrence. Sirens used to be the precursor to her part in the festivities, so she always registered their noise. Sirens used to mean her phone was going to ring, and she'd have to drop everything and rush to a crime scene. But that was another life, in another city. One she tried very hard to put behind her.
Her phone wasn't going to ring, but habits die hard. She glanced at the clock—one in the morning.
She got up, pulled a brush through her shoulder-length brown hair, slipped a warm cashmere sweater over her thin T-shirt, pulled on black leggings and a pair of leather ankle boots. Grabbed a pashmina and tossed it around her shoulders.
Autumn was in full swing, and the late-September temperatures had dropped precipitously over the past week, making D.C. shiver. The bedroom, too, was cold, empty of Xan-der and his internal furnace. He was on assignment, a close-protection detail with one of his old Army buddies, Chalk. Trevor Reeves Worthington III on his driver's license, but Chalk forever to his Army mates, named for his propensity to write everything down.
It had only been three weeks since Xander and Chalk had hung out their shingle, made the business official, and they'd already been in high demand. She was glad to see Xander reengage with the world, though she had to admit, it was a bit of a shame. She liked the idea of him up in the woods with Thor at his side, doing his best Thoreau, leading the occasional fishing party, hiking solitary through the woods. The new gig was intense, all-hours, and took him away too much for her liking. Plus, his main job was to throw himself in front of a bullet should the need arise, and she wasn't at all comfortable with the thought.
She started down the stairs, whistled for Thor. The German shepherd was waiting for her already, ears pricked. She knelt beside him, buried her face in his fur. He was warm, like his daddy, had been curled in a ball in his sheepskin bed, dreaming doggy dreams. He nuzzled her and licked her on the nose gently, then went to stand by the door, alert and ready.
"Let's go out the back, baby."
He hurried to her side, and she fastened his lead. She opened the back door, was rewarded with a gust of chilly air, and the voices that carried from the other side of her privacy fence.
You have stooped to a new level, Owens, trying to eavesdrop on a crime scene.
But she went to the far fence, skirting the eternity pool, Thor stuck to her leg like glue. Put her head against the wood. If she turned slightly sideways, she could see through the double slats.
It was so familiar, the shouts and calls. The first responders were there, the police, too. An ambulance was parked on the corner. As she watched, EMTs scrambled toward it with a stretcher. One was kneeling on the gurney itself, straddling a body of indeterminate sex, performing CPR with single-minded intensity.
The open doors of the ambulance blocked the rest. Moments later, they slammed shut and it left in a hurry, sirens wailing. The fire trucks followed, calm now, big beasts rumbling into the night.
The police stayed.
Definitely not a good sign.
She wondered if her friend Darren Fletcher, the newly minted homicide lieutenant, would show. She didn't know why she assumed it was a homicide, or an attempted homicide, given that someone had been brought out at a rush. It could be anything. More than likely, at this time of night, it was a simple domestic dispute. Someone was punched, had a bloody nose, a black eye, then things got out of control. She ran through the neighbors she knew on O Street, people she'd waved to when walking Thor, imagining them in various states of fury and undress.
Maybe a heart attack. Or a stroke. Embolism, aneurysm, overdose.
God, you are cheery, aren't you?
She heard one of the cops say, "Hernandez, while you're at it, go ahead and call the OCME. We'll need them."
And she knew. Something inside her gave a little buzz. Death comes in all forms, from all directions. Expected or by surprise, it was the greatest common denominator, the great equalizer. She felt an affinity with the grimness, couldn't help that. But she had a choice, now. A choice to walk away from the carnage, from the horror. To face death on her own terms, especially since she'd agreed to work with the FBI on their more esoteric cases. A deal made all the more tantalizing because they wouldn't be dragging her out of bed in the middle of the night to parade, yawning, to a crime scene, where she'd face death in all its incarnations, as she had for so many years as a medical examiner.
She had a more immediate choice, as well. She could open the gate, walk around the block, stand with the crowd of neighbors who'd come to watch the show. Or she could go back inside and return to bed. She'd be able to get several more hours of sleep if she went inside now.
You're not the M.E. anymore, Sam. She stepped away from the fence.
Thor took advantage of the nocturnal walk to do his business, then she followed him into the silent house, feeling strangely hollow. As she closed the door behind her and watched Thor scoot back to bed, something made her pull out her cell phone and send Fletcher a text.
What's up on O Street?
She knew it wasn't too late for him; he was a night owl, especially now that he was seeing FBI Agent Jordan Blake. He'd be up, one way or another. She sent another, this time to Xander.
Miss you.
She poured herself a finger of Ardbeg, thought about it, brought the bottle with her to the couch. Sat down. Took off her boots.
Didn't know exactly what she was waiting for.
She spared a glance at the file folders on the coffee table in front of her. She'd left them scattered carelessly in frustration before climbing the stairs to bed. Crime scene and autopsy photos spilled out of the manila folders, coupled with her notes and Baldwin's notes and toxicology reports, all jumbled together on the smoky glass. She'd pulled all the autopsy reports from the files and stacked them neatly on the side table; they were her reading material and were proving to be an even bigger frustration than the case itself. This massive, sprawling, unnamed and unacknowledged case.
There were so many pathologists, coroners, methods, regulations, jurisdictions. No one did a postmortem exactly the same, much less were handling several of the individual cases as if there was a criminal component. She'd begun to feel she was interpreting without a Rosetta stone.
When John Baldwin had talked her into coming on board the FBI as a consultant to the behavioral analysis unit, BAU II, to work with his infamous group of profilers, he'd promised she could pick her cases. True to his word, he'd brought her to Quantico, gotten her set up with passes and emails and paperwork galore, then set her loose in the BAU file room. They had so much work, and so few people to handle it, any help was welcome.
And whether she was trying to prove her worth to her new team, or to herself, she'd chosen the big daddy of them all. A stack of files that were getting dusty, because no one could manage to link them, even though there was a single similarity between each victim—every woman was from the same hometown. New Orleans.From experience, because this wasn't her first endurance race, Bex knew they could be right. Mile nineteen was where you just wanted to chuck it all and quit, but if you got past it…you were home free.
Her phone, clipped to her shorts, beeped.
A text.
She could read it as she ran; however, she couldn't answer, not without stopping, and she wasn't going to stop now.
It was from one of her best friends, Melody, recently married, so now Mrs. Spencer Hogan.
Meet us at the ranch for lunch? Hadleigh and I want to talk to you.
It was, according to her high-tech pedometer, a manageable time frame as long as they meant around noon. She was able to type K without breaking stride.
There was definitely a shower in her future before she sat down with other human beings to eat—as a favor to them. Despite the cool temperature, Bex was perspiring, as she should be, or she wasn't trying hard enough.
"Bex? Bex Stuart?"
Male voice. Familiar.
The sound jarred Bex out of her endorphin haze, brought the world around her back into focus.
She'd just reached the second loop around Pioneer Park, and the place was filled with small, noisy kids celebrating life in general. The male voice belonged to Tate Calder, she saw with dismay, his two young sons among the crowd of children crawling all over the playground equipment.
Tate looked, as usual, put together and handsome with his clean-cut features, wavy chestnut hair and dark eyes. He wore a leather jacket and nice jeans, while she was arrayed in the scruffiest outfit she owned—and, naturally, sweaty, as well.
"Hi," she said. Not exactly brilliant, but polite at least. A little breathless, Bex ran in place, her body on autopilot. Keep that heart rate up.
Not that it was a problem. Just looking at this man seemed to have an aerobic effect on her.
She'd encountered Tate two or three times before, since he was a friend of Hadleigh's husband, Tripp, both men having flown for the same company as charter pilots back in the day, before Tripp decided it was time to sell the firm and come home to Mustang Creek.
Tate's dark eyes were amused, missing nothing. "How've you been?"
"Good." Now there was a snappy answer. Yes, she was on a conversational roll, all right, a regular genius with words.
Tate grinned. "You seem to be in a hurry, so I won't hold you up. Tripp tells me you're training for a marathon." A brief, measured pause. Meaning what? "Really?"
"Really," Bex replied. She managed a small smile, friendly enough, but wobbly. "Nice to see you," she said, trying to distance herself from him, still running. Still going nowhere fast. "What can I say? Guess I'm a glutton for punishment." Terrific. More snappy repartee. Annoyed with herself, she sprinted off, probably improving her time slightly, since she didn't particularly want him to remember her with a shiny face and a messy ponytail.
Of all the luck.
Make that bad luck.
Tate was tempting as hell, no denying that, but Bex got the nearly subliminal impression that he was as wary of involvement as she was. His wife had died, and she'd lost Will in Afghanistan—it wasn't hard to do the psychological math.
Thoughts in a muddle, Bex finished her run and headed for home. There, she took a hot shower, put on her favorite red sweater and black jeans and, perhaps as a nod to the cosmic forces that governed vanity, she spent a few extra minutes doing her hair and adding lip gloss.
Satisfied that she looked okay, Bex left the house, got into her sporty SUV and, after making a brief stop downtown, zipped off to meet Mel and Hadleigh.
Reaching the Galloway ranch minutes later, Bex felt a twinge, a bittersweet sensation somewhere in the back of her heart. Tucked among the looming mountains, crystalline streams and venerable trees, the house and barn and other outbuildings—even the fences and corrals—seemed to belong there, organic to the landscape itself.
Tripp had taken over the place after his stepfather, Jim, long a widower, had finally remarried and moved into town. The house itself wasn't fancy, but it was spacious and solid and homey, with a welcoming air.
Secretly, Bex had always wanted to live in the country. She loved her work, felt she was making a genuine contribution to people's health and all-around well-being by furthering the cause of fitness through her ever-expanding business. And, if not actually country, Mustang Creek was certainly no clamoring metropolis. There was something…nurturing about being out here, with all this unspoiled nature.
Before she could even get out of the car, Mel and Hadleigh stepped onto the side porch, smiling and waving.
Both her friends were pregnant, and both of them were more beautiful than ever.
Bex felt a pang of affection, tinged, alas, with mild envy.
Hadleigh was farther along than Melody, her baby bump more pronounced. She'd married first, and she and Tripp had been eager to start their family.
All systems go.
Melody, running a close second, was just starting to show, a bit rounder than usual, her loose shirt disguising her pregnancy. If you didn't know her, you'd never guess, but they'd all been friends since they were six years old, so Bex was attuned to every change. She was living this with them, sharing the experience in a way, and she couldn't have been more pleased by their obvious happiness. They really did glow.
They knew Bex felt slightly left out—there wasn't much Melody and Hadleigh didn't know about her—and they not only understood, they were also convinced her turn at marital bliss and motherhood would come. Soon.
When Bex's own hopes flagged, these two never failed to notice and offer encouragement. She was so lucky to have them in her life.
That choked her up for a moment, brought the sting of tears to her eyes. Romantic flings, career highs, fun times—all those things came and went, but friendships like theirs were as permanent as bedrock.
She paused, took a breath and squared her shoulders.
"I brought dessert," she announced cheerfully. "Don't kill me, but it's those puff pastries from Madeline's. You guys can't drink wine or coffee, so you need some sort of vice." She paused, chuckling. Some fitness guru she was, she thought wryly. "One pastry won't hurt." This was true enough, in her opinion. One pastry wouldn't do any harm. The problem arose when the rate of consumption ratcheted up to three or four tasty treats—or ten. Feeling cocky, she added, "Considering that I just ran eighteen miles, I can afford a reasonable level of indulgence."
Motormouth, her inner moderator gibed.
"Give me that bag." Hadleigh grabbed for it as Bex came up the steps. "I'm having mine beforelunch, so no lectures on nutrition, please. And if Tripp has the gall to say a word—he has the metabolism of a shark, the rat fink—I consider it your solemn duty as my friends to drop him in his tracks." Paper rustled as she peered inside the bag. Sniffed appreciatively. "Oh, dear heaven," she lamented happily, in a near moan, nudging Melody lightly with one elbow as she spoke, "it's the ones with lemon whipped cream."
"Yep," Bex confirmed with a twinkle. Judging by the current reactions, if she hadn't surrendered the bag willingly, one or both of these watermelon smugglers would have tackled her for it.
Melody, feigning greed, made a comical effort to snatch the fragrant sack from Hadleigh's hands, and Hadleigh, in turn, pretended to dodge the move.
"Hey, share and share alike," Melody said with a grin. "If you think you're going to snarf up my share right along with your own, sister, think again."
Hadleigh laughed, still employing diversion tactics, an awkward endeavor under the circumstances, and Bex wondered if the third pastry, intended to be hers, would survive this good-natured tussle.
Hadleigh correctly read Bex's expression. Yes, she was fit and yes, she ran a fitness empire, but she loved Madeline's lemon-cream dreams as much as anybody did. "You can drink wine," Hadleigh continued, cheerfully accusatory. "We can't. Coffee?" She waved one hand in a dismissive gesture while holding the pastry bag just out of Melody's reach with the other. "Gone. A distant memory."
Bex had to giggle at her friend's histrionics.
Hadleigh took in her friend's trim figure with a mock glower. "Laugh if you want, Becca Jean Stuart, but one of these days, you'll be pregnant and craving all kinds of things you can't have, and we'll be the ones rubbing it in."
"Yeah," Melody agreed staunchly, making another grab for the bag.
For all the joking around, a whisper of sadness brushed Bex's soul.
If Will, Hadleigh's older brother and the love of Bex's life, had made it home from Afghanistan, everything would be so different.
She'd loved Will Stevens so much.
Maybe the phrase, "better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all," was poignant, but it really didn't offer much comfort in reflective moments like this one.
Tough up, woman, Bex told herself. Then, after a beat or two, when she could trust her voice again, she went on. "Once you two get a handle on dessert, what's on the menu for lunch?" she teased. "I heard a rumor that we were going to eat an actual meal, and I could use some sustenance here."
Hadleigh closed the bakery bag and rolled it shut with a little sigh of resignation. "I made spinach lasagna," she answered. "Garlic bread, too. The guys will be here soon, so maybe we ought to fill our plates before they get back with the boys."
"Boys?" Bex asked cautiously. Guys usually meant Tripp and Spence. Boys implied someone else.
"Tate and his sons," Hadleigh explained airily.
It figured, Bex thought, unsurprised. She was going to have to deal with Tate Calder twice in one day? Just one more indication that God had a sense of humor.
Cosmic complaints department? This is Bex Stuart and I—
Please hold for the next available operator. Your call is very important to us…
There she was. Again.
Tate had spotted Becca right away, back at the park. With looks like hers, she would've been hard to miss. She was trim, compact, with the kind of curves that drew a man's eye, even beneath baggy sweatpants and a faded T-shirt. And then there was all that silky hair, trying to fight its way out of a crooked ponytail.
At the time, he'd hesitated to say anything because he was rusty, to say the least, when it came to the whole man-woman interaction thing. Out of practice.
This particular woman stirred him, deep down, in ways he couldn't quite explain, rational thinker that he was. She made him want to take chances again, live for himself as well as his children.
But what if he fell for Becca—Bex, as the others called her—and his young sons got their hopes up, let down their guard, started to believe they might have a mother again, only to see the whole thing crash and burn? Would there be survivors?
He had no choice but to be philosophical.
Like it or not—Tate both did and didn't like it—he and Bex were face-to-face again.
The boys had both scrambled out of the truck the minute he pulled to a stop. He was grateful that they enjoyed visiting the ranch so much, and were distracted, as always, by the dogs and horses and all that space to run wild in. It meant the kids probably hadn't noticed that their dad had been flash frozen before their very eyes.
Tate worked up a smile, acknowledging Tripp and Hadleigh and Melody and Spence's existence with a slight wave of one hand as he approached them. Odd, how, just a moment before, he'd been so focused on Bex that she might've been standing all alone on the ranch house porch.
In fact, she might have been the only other human being on the planet.
Still, he was nothing if not a left-brained realist, and his attention had slowly widened, after that first weird instant, to include the others.
The cognitive dials in his head began to click, registering further details. Construction had started on the new house, for one thing.
Tripp and Spence looked like what they were—happily married men. Satisfied men, maybe even a little smug.
Their wives, he noted, were downright radiant, the way women tended to be when they were not only cherished by their husbands, but gloriously pregnant, too.
And all the time he was formulating these observations, his sons were tearing around the yard with the dogs, overjoyed, high on blue skies and green grass and every blessing in between.
Of course, part of this boyish exuberance was for his benefit; Ben and Adam had been actively engaged in a campaign for a furry friend of their own for quite a while now. Although Tate wasn't averse to the idea—he'd always loved animals himself——they lived in a rented house, and the landlord didn't allow pets. So for the time being, anyway, adopting a critter was out of the question.
In the meanwhile, Muggles and Ridley filled the canine-companion bill.
Tate shifted mental gears, centering himself in the now. It was a beautiful afternoon, Ben and Adam were healthy, balanced kids and they were having fun.
Plus, they had a decent meal to look forward to. Tate's version of Saturday lunch was usually something along the lines of canned tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. He had the feeling that they'd get something a little more appealing from Hadleigh Galloway.
Inevitably, since Tate was flesh and blood, reasonably young and completely normal, his gaze strayed back to Bex. Ms. Stuart had looked two notches above terrific in her jogging clothes. Now, in a pair of well-cut jeans and a red sweater that showed off her feminine figure, she was downright distracting.
Just a few yards from the casual gathering on the porch, Tate almost froze again—so much for getting centered—but an amused, all-too-knowing glance from Tripp kept him moving forward.
"Hello again," he heard himself say, his voice suddenly husky. Damned if the Galloways and Hogans hadn't evaporated once more, leaving him and Bex alone on the planet. He gravitated toward her, like a passing asteroid yanked into the orbit of some strange new sun, and then—then he literally collided with the woman, for God's sake, right there at the top of the porch steps.
What the hell? he thought, but what he said was, "Sorry. I was thinking about the boys."
Flustered, Tate looked back over one shoulder, trying to lend some credence to his fib, and saw no sign of the kids or the dogs.
Bex pointed in the direction of the barn and said, "They went thataway."
He gave a muffled laugh, realized he'd gripped Bex's shoulders at some point, and that he was still holding her, as though he'd expected her to fall. He let go. "Thanks."
After that brief expansion, the universe zoomed in again, with a swiftness that left Tate's head spinning.
She smiled, which only increased the sensation, and her voice seemed far away. "Good luck catching up with them, though. All parties were moving fast. They could be in Canada by now."
Tate struggled to regain his equilibrium. "That's a definite possibility," he agreed. "They're both a little hyper."
This was a routine, even mundane, conversation. So why did everything seem so awkward?
Bex appeared to be at ease, but that could've been an act, he supposed. The air around them practically pulsed with electricity, and if Tate knew one thing, it was that the invisible charge was flowing both ways. "Don't worry about the kids," she said lightly. "Mel and Hadleigh are both in mama-tiger mode, which means nothing bad would dare happen—not on their watch."
Mel and Hadleigh? Oh. Yeah. He remembered who they were now. Two of the other people populating the earth, in addition to him and Bex and, somewhere in the immediate vicinity, his children.
Get a grip, Calder.

My Review
What Lies Behind by JT Ellison

Former medical examiner, newly minted FBI agent, Dr. Samantha Owens along with her friend DC homicide detective, Lieutenant Darren Fletcher have just been handed the most baffling, bloody case by her new boss, John Baldwin, also her best friends fiancée. What at first appears to be a domestic dispute gone deadly is really something all together different. They discover the victims; a dead undercover FBI agent and an expelled medical student barely hanging on to life apparently unlikely partners on an anti-bioterrorism unit for the US State Department, and whats meant to look like a murder suicide is in reality all staged by the killer. What the murder was about and what the killer was looking for is what Sam and Fletch need to find out because theyre afraid the body count could rise. Unfortunately the red tape and smoke and mirrors DC is famous for is tying their hands and adding questions instead of supplying answers.
Meanwhile Sams love, former Army Ranger, Xander Whitfield and his new partner  are on their first personal protection assignment, theyre protecting a British industrialist in the states for business  and find themselves involved in taking out a sniper with a long ranged gun pointing at their client. Its a good thing they stopped the bad guy because the alternative would be very bad for business. But now they need to see if the sniper was working alone and just who wants their client dead and why.

Where do I start telling how wonderful this was, do I start by giving it the 6 out of 5 stars it deserves? Do I start by saying what an adrenalin rush this nail biting, page-turning, one-sitting tale is so that by the end readers will need to breathe into a brown paper bad to stop hyperventilating? Or do I start by saying how incredible the characters are, how three dimensional, how vividly each one portrays his or her, good guy or bad guy roles? Maybe I should start by saying how the fast paced, in-your-face dialogue, a mix of cop & doc speak adds not only to the excitement but gives it that indelible authentic feel too. Or maybe it's the author I should start with, how everything that comes out of her fervent, incredibly creative, albeit a bit morbid brain never ceases to amaze me and that she gets better with each story she tells. Or I know Ill say how incredibly explosive the ending is, how the entire book happens in one event filled day and how theres a mind blowing cliffhanger right before; The End! Yeah thats what Ill say!
JT, wow, you amaze me, utterly and unbelievably!!!

Other books in the Series

Praise for the Samantha Owens Series
"You want compelling characters, warp-speed action, a complex, terrifying plot, then When Shadows Fall is for you."
-Catherine Coulter, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author
"Shocking suspense, compelling characters and
fascinating forensic details."
-Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times bestselling author on A Deeper Darkness
"Fans of forensic mysteries, such as those by Patricia Cornwell, should immediately add this series to their A-lists."
-Booklist on When Shadows Fall, starred review
"Exceptional character development distinguishes Thriller Award–winner Ellison's third Samantha Owens novel (after Edge of Black), the best yet in the series."
-Publishers Weekly on When Shadows Fall, starred review
"Full of carefully mastered clues...a true thrillfest that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the very end."
-Suspense Magazine on When Shadows Fall
"A gripping page turner...essential for suspense junkies."
-Library Journal on When Shadows Fall
"Bestseller Coulter (Bombshell) teams with Ellison (Edge of Black) on a thriller that manages to be both intricate and full of jaw-dropping action sequences."
-Publishers Weekly on The Final Cut
"Mystery fiction has a new name to watch."
-John Connolly, New York Times bestselling author

JT & Catherine Coulter
A Brit in the FBI series
Praise for a Brit in the FBI Series
“[A] compelling thriller.”—The Associated Press
“Action-packed...Readers will be terrified and on the edge of their seats throughout the book.”—Crimespree Magazine
“A thriller packed with nonstop action, real-life name-dropping, and enough cutting-edge science to make you wonder how much of it could be true.”—Kirkus Reviews
“This engaging and suspenseful thriller will entertain readers with impossible nail-biting situations that are resolved by ingenious means.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“The authors’ sophisticated third-person narration smoothly propels the action to the exciting climax.”—Publishers Weekly
“A fast-moving technothriller that proves the collaboration of Coulter and Ellison to be a serendipitous one.” —Booklist
“A thrill ride worthy of two such great writers.”—Suspense Magazine

JT's Latest Anthology


In 2014, the boxed set curated by Brenda Novak’s Online Auction for Diabetes Research (title A SWEET LIFE), raised almost $100 000. This year we’re back for a second helping, and you can indulge, too! This fascinating limited edition collection features thirteen BRAND NEW thrillers by New York Times and USA Today Bestselling authors...

Meet JT:J.T. Ellison is the New York Times bestselling author of 12 critically acclaimed novels and co-writes with #1 NYT bestseller Catherine Coulter. THE COLD ROOM won the ITW Thriller Award for Best Paperback Original. Visit

Today's gonereading item is:
perfect for a glamorous book rest
for any type of book 
Click HERE for the buy page


  1. Well dang, Debbie! That sounds like a great feeling for a read. I've seen these but not tried them yet. I think I even have one or two of them on my shelf. Ahhh must learn to read faster! Glad to see you had such an awesome read :)

    1. Yeah, Anna you must read faster LOL
      Thanks it was awesome!

  2. It has been awhile since I have read a good solid adult mystery and this series sounds wonderful Debbie! Fantastic review! Have a wonderful weekend and thanks so much for putting this on my radar. :D

  3. Books that makes you want to extend the normal rating system is always a good sign. Happy weekend, Debbie!

  4. Wonderful review Debbie, I love how intense this sounds and have enjoyed this author, I really should begin this series.

    1. Oh Kim, you know I loved the Taylor Jackson series of JT's and when she hinted around that she was taking off in another direction I didn't know if I'd like it and when I learned that Sam, Taylor's BFF was going to be the new star I wondered how she'd pull it off. Let me tell you, you're in for one shocking, ride!