Evening Lake: an idyllic, peaceful, western Massachusetts getaway with a close-knit community of families. Detective Harry Jordan sees his lake home as a respite from solving crimes on the streets of Boston...until crime comes to Evening Lake. Harry Jordan is out for a walk when the night is rocked by an explosion: the Havnel house is engulfed in a conflagration and Bea Havnel is seen fleeing, hair on fire, plunging into the lake. Mysterious, rough-around-the edges, and private, Bea and her mother Lacey are newcomers to Evening Lake and nothing like the well-heeled families of the community. Bea survives the fire, but her mother does not, and Harry is pulled into the investigation. As is young Diz Osborne, who, unbeknownst to any of them, carries a weighty secret about who else he saw rowing on the lake that night. When it's discovered that Lacey Havnel died not from the explosion but from a knife wound, it's clear that a murderer is on the loose. And this murderer is poised to strike again, and again. Told with Elizabeth Adler's inimitable style, illuminating descriptions, and intricate family dynamics, Last to Know is the definition of a page-turner.
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ELIZABETH ADLER is the internationally acclaimed author of twenty-nine novels. She lives in Palm Springs, California.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
EVENING LAKE, Massachusetts, 3 A.M.
Harry Jordan’s wooden vacation house was certainly the smallest, as well as one of the oldest, on Evening Lake, a resort where nothing bad, like murder, ever happened, but which in recent years had become a little too smart for Harry’s style: too cocktail-partyish; too many lonely blond wives with hungry eyes; too many miniature dogs peeking out of Range Rover windows. Mind you Harry’s own car, a classic ’69 souped-up E-type, British racing green with tan leather seats, was certainly a head-turner, but then Harry owned that car because he loved it with a passion, not for show. And the dog usually to be seen gazing from its windows was a large silver-gray malamute-mix that looked remarkably like a wolf, but with astonishingly pale blue eyes.
The dog’s name was Squeeze and it went everywhere with Harry. Which, since Harry was a homicide detective on the Boston squad, meant that Squeeze had seen a cross section of hard life on the streets as well as the plusher environment of Harry’s own Beacon Hill apartment. Not only did Squeeze know that the best place to eat in town was Ruby’s Diner near the precinct, he also knew the locations of the best bars. Squeeze had it pretty good and so, Harry had thought, did he, until last week when the woman he was going to marry left him and went to Paris instead. Which was the reason he was here at Evening Lake. Alone. But for the dog.
Squeeze was Harry’s alarm clock. At five thirty every morning, even on Harry’s infrequent days off, it waited, eyes fixed on the flickering green digital display of the clock, zapping it with a fast paw at the first ring. Usually all that happened was that Harry would roll over onto his back. After another couple of minutes the dog would leap onto the bed and lay its massive head on Harry’s chest, staring fixedly at him. Another couple of minutes and Harry would groan under the dog’s weight, open his eyes and stare straight into the dog’s. It would not move and Harry had no option but to get up. That was their morning routine. The difference now was that it was not yet morning.
It was 3 A.M., the darkest hour of the night. And they were on vacation at the lake. So what, Harry wondered, was up with Squeeze anyway. He always left the door leading to the porch open so the dog could push in and out as needed. Something must be wrong.
He sat up and looked at the dog, standing by the door, taut as a hot-wired spring, staring intently back at him. Knowing he had no choice he got out of bed and went in search of his pants.
At forty Harry looked pretty good, six-two, muscular despite a lack of serious exercise and his erratic diet of junk food eaten on the run. There were a few furrows on his brow now and his dark hair was beginning to recede a bit at the temples and somehow never looked as though it had been combed, and maybe it hadn’t if he was in a hurry, which he mostly was; his level gray eyes under bushy brows seemed to notice everything about you in one sweeping glance and he never seemed to have time for a decent shave, so sometimes he had a rough beard. Stubble became him. At least that’s what women thought. They found him attractive. His colleagues did not agree. They called him “the Prof” because of his Harvard Law degree, earned the hard and, for Harry, bitterly boring way. He’d given it up years ago and become a rookie in the police department instead. The reason he’d used was that he didn’t want to waste his time getting criminals off on legal technicalities for large fees; he would rather be out on the streets catching them.
Harry had worked his way up from patrol cars to senior detective. And he was good at what he did.
What very few of his colleagues knew about Harry—because to him it was not important, and besides it was nobody’s business—was that at the age of thirty he’d inherited a trust fund set up by his grandfather that made him rich. At least, rich enough to buy the brownstone on Boston’s Beacon Hill, which he’d converted into apartments. He rented out the three top floors but kept the apartment on the garden floor for himself. He redid this to his own specifications, walled in the garden, and later bought himself a pup. The malamute.
Harry’s fiancée had not enjoyed sharing her man with a very large, very present dog. She objected when Squeeze jumped first into the Jag and sat shotgun next to Harry, while she was expected to struggle into the small space in the back that almost could be called a seat. She also had not liked Harry’s hours, especially the nocturnal ones. “You never take me out to dinner anymore,” she’d complained, though she did like it when Harry cooked.
For a man who existed on food eaten on the run Harry happened to be a very good cook, though only old-fashioned things like pasta Alfredo, scampi Livornese, spaghetti Bolognese—all recipes taken directly from his rare and treasured copy of the Vincent Price cookbook with its menus and recipes from some of the great restaurants of the world, circa 1970. Exactly Harry’s era, taste-wise. Forget today’s avant-garde chefs and what Harry called tortured food: he liked it simple and, if he was lucky, good. If not then a burger was just fine.
He was fussy about his wine though. Harry enjoyed a good Claret. He never called good red wine “Cabernet,” nor did he trust “Chardonnay”—he preferred a Graves or white Bordeaux.
Anyhow, Harry thought now, swinging his legs out of bed and gazing out the window at Evening Lake, glimmering blackly on this moonless night; anyhow, the fiancée whom he’d loved dearly, Mallory Malone, the girl of his dreams, had had enough. Paris, she had told him, would be more fun than another night alone in Boston waiting for the phone to ring or sharing more takeout fried chicken and a bottle of his good red. “I can share a bottle of good Bordeaux with anyone I like in Paris,” she’d added.
Harry had seen the tears in Mal’s eyes as she walked out the door for the last time, not slamming it, though he guessed she had every right to. He had not gone after her. It would not have worked; he knew it, and she knew it. Not the way things were, with him dedicated to his work. While she had given up her own successful special investigations TV show, which looked further into unsolved crimes of the past, for him.
He’d called his best buddy and colleague, Carlo Rossetti, broken the news, and for the first time in his police career said that he needed to take time off. He needed a break. He wanted time out from stabbings and shootings and killings on the streets. He needed to rethink his life. He needed to be alone and the old gray wooden fishing shack on the lake that had been his grandfather’s was just the place.
It consisted of two sparsely furnished rooms, a corner kitchen with a hot plate and a microwave, a white-tiled shower that needed regrouting—a job Harry promised himself to do while he was there—a porch with an old three-legged orange Weber barbecue with a lift-up lid and several years’ worth of burned-on grease. There was a narrow wooden jetty and a small rowboat with a little outboard motor. Powerboats were not allowed on the lake, only sails and boats like Harry’s. A copse of birch trees, trunks gleaming silvery in the night, protected him from the sandy road that led around the lake, giving him privacy, though he did have an excellent view of nearby houses, much larger and grander than his own, and also of those on the other side of the lake, the largest of which was owned by a flashy blonde with a daughter who looked about eighteen, though when Harry glimpsed them in the mini-market, he thought that with her pale straight hair and elusive blue gaze, she might be closer to thirteen. It occurred to him looking across the lake now, that it was odd, with such a big house, so little entertaining was done. Unlike with the rest of the summer people there were no cocktail parties, no barbecue nights, no boozy laughter. And apparently no friends for the young daughter. Quite different from the Osborne family who lived a couple of houses away. He’d encountered Rose Osborne on his early morning walks. She too, seemed always to be alone. They’d exchanged morning pleasantries. She’d said please come by, they kept open house, but Harry never had. He found Rose attractive: a sumptuous-looking woman, round and full and … welcoming … was the best word he could use to describe her, with her wildly curling long hair, often pulled in a messy ponytail, her intense brown eyes, her long legs and—of course he had noticed—her slender ankles. She always seemed last-minute thrown-together in a sweatshirt, capris, and sneakers, and sometimes she was on her bike: “Getting my morning exercise in,” she’d call cheerfully in passing, throwing him a smile that, lonely man that he was now, Harry really appreciated. Still, maybe because he was attracted to her he had never taken Rose up on her offer, never gone by for that cup of coffee or that evening drink. He respected marriage and married women were not his style. Besides, he was still a man in love. With Mallory Malone. Or at least he thought he was. Thought maybe she was too, in love with him. Maybe a little bit.
Every now and then, though, he would see other members of the Osborne family dashing in and out, a remote-looking college-age son, who gave off “keep away from me” vibes that spelled a problem to Harry; a couple of fluffy teenage girls; and a boy, elevenish, small, skinny, ginger-haired and, unlike the rest of that busy household, always alone. Harry noticed things like that and it made him wonder why the kid was always alone. He also noticed that the boy would hide up in the fig tree where a branch led, he guessed, to his bedroom window. So the kid sat up there and spied on his family and the rest of the world. He would probably make a good detective.
And then there was the husband, Wally Osborne. The famous writer. Wally wrote scary novels that could make the hair stand up on the back of your neck and which were made into films that made you want to shout out loud, “Look behind you, the killer’s there!”
You might expect a writer of evil books to look evil, or at least a bit mad. Wally Osborne looked neither. He was tall, lean, and handsome with permanently tousled blond hair, deep blue eyes, and a light summer tan which, Harry knew, must send the local women into raptures. He thought Rose Osborne probably had a hard time keeping tabs on a husband like that. But that was none of his business.
Anyway, he was at Evening Lake, it was three in the morning, and he was climbing into the sweatpants he wore to the gym and a soft dark blue sweater, a present from his ex, thrusting his feet into sneakers, grumbling as he laced them up, glancing at the dog, still expectantly waiting.
“So, okay, let’s see what’s up, Squeeze,” he said resignedly. He wasn’t sure what it might be but the dog surely knew something, and since he was still a cop, even though he was thinking about quitting, Harry needed to investigate.
Copyright © 2014 by Elizabeth Adler
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