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Sean O’Brien couldn’t remember the last time he made a promise and then broke it. He has every intention of keeping the promise he makes to his wife, Sherri, right before her death. O’Brien quits his career as a homicide investigator with the Miami PD and relocates to a remote section of Florida wilderness on the banks of the St. Johns River. He’s restoring an old home and trying to rebuild his life when he discovers a young woman badly beaten and left for dead near the alligator-infested river. “A darkly suspenseful, atmospheric thriller. Absolutely relentless. I refuse to believe that this is a first novel. It’s just too damned good.” - Steve Hamilton, Award-Winning Author of the Lock Artist The injured woman whispers a cryptic message in O’Brien’s ear, and he makes a promise to her. But when authorities drag their feet during the investigation, O’Brien finds the vow he made to his dead wife is about to conflict with the guarantee he made to the woman who was savagely attacked. Soon O’Brien is plunging deep into the dark world of human trafficking and sexual slavery. He is tossed into a deadly cat-and-mouse game where the only pledge he can make now is to stop an evil antagonist with a twisted, Godlike complex that’s hellbent on sacrificing O’Brien to a greater cause. “A False Dawn makes good reading for anyone longing to stumble upon an unpublished John D. MacDonald Florida mystery.” . - Steve Glassman (Booklist)(less)
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About the AuthorWhen Tom Lowe writes his novels, he draws from a long background as a former journalist and filmmaker. His mystery/thriller series featuring Sean O'Brien, has an international following. The latest and seventh book in the series is CEMETERY ROAD. Tom's first stand-alone novel is DESTINY. Tom is an avid sailor and SCUBA diver. He lives in Florida.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Max saw him first. Then I saw him out of the corner of my eye. A hundred yards downriver from my dock was a man chest-deep in the river. He held a long pole, prodding underwater as if searching for something. Maybe it was because I'd clocked too many years in law enforcement, but it looked like he was searching for a body. He was coming my way.
"Think a gator will get him before he can make it to the dock?" I said to Max as she cocked her head and trotted to the end of the dock. Max, my nine-pound dachshund, let out a slight whimper as she watched the man in the distance. He didn't look our way as he poked and prodded the riverbed.
I turned and got back to the work I was doing, searched through my open toolbox for four-inch nails and found a hunting knife under my hammer. I glanced back at the man. He was still a good ninety-five yards downriver. I saw him put something in the pouch he carried.
After sniper training, after my time in the first Gulf War, I still calibrated distance in trajectory—what I had to do to make sure a .50 caliber rifle bullet hit a target the size of a grapefruit a quarter mile away. I looked at the river's surface. There was no wind. The man walking in the river wore a wide-brim hat. From where I stood, I could aim with a scoped rifle, if I had one, for the middle of the hat, right above the brim. From this distance, the bullet would hit him dead center in the forehead.
I blinked hard. Enough. Not everybody is a hostile. Not everybody is homicidal or a homicide suspect. I swatted a deerfly and inhaled deeply. It was spring, and the river carried the smells of renewing life. Alligators building nests out of sand, sticks, and river mud. Spoonbills and herons feeding live fish to squalling young. Honeysuckles sand wild roses blooming.
I removed the knife from the toolbox and laid it on the wooden bench. I looked over my shoulder at the man in the distance and began driving a nail into the wood as I replaced worn and broken planks on the long bench. The morning was already hot, near eighty, I guessed. I was shirtless, wearing jeans. Sweat rolled down my back as I hit the nails.
My uncle Bill, a World War II vet who never spoke of the war, only the demons he fought after it, used to say that anger drives the nails into your own coffin. He also said that every man has his breaking point. After a thirteen-year career as a homicide detective, I began to understand what Uncle Bill meant.
It's gut rot of the soul, and it was the most pervasive part of the job in fighting crime. In homicide, I didn't fight crime. The crime had happened before we arrived. I fought the motivation, the detached switch that allowed someone to derail another person's life. And it fought back. It had pierced the scab covering a dark ember in my marrow, and the buried ash smoldered beneath the surface of night sweats.
I pounded another nail so deep into the wood I couldn't see the head. After my wife, Sherri, died of ovarian cancer six months ago, I moved here to this remote spot on Florida's St. Johns River, with Max. Sherri had bought the miniature dachshund when I'd been away on a three-day stakeout. She named her Maxine and allowed her sleeping quarters at the foot of our bed on her own "doggie blanket." When I'd returned home, my wife said that Maxine was the only other warm body she'd let in our bed. I couldn't argue that, and so this little dog, with her soft brown eyes, permanent eyeliner, and the heart of a lion, became our companion.
Now it was just the two of us, and Max was sleeping under the blanket on her side of the bed. I'd sold everything with the house in Miami. My new home was an old Florida cracker house with a large tin roof, plenty of rambling rooms, a huge screened-in porch, and a generous view of the river. The house sat on one of the few high banks overlooking the river. Most of them were bluffs of ancient Indian shell mounds. The native people had lived off the river, eating fish, clams, and oysters. They piled the shells and bones into mounds up and down the river.
"Dog's gonna be a meal for a gator if it gets too close to the edge."
I whirled around and saw the man, now less than fifty feet from my dock. How had he walked that quickly? Had I been pounding the nails so hard I didn't hear Max bark? Did she bark? She stood there, little paws at the edge of the dock, tail wagging, looking at the man in the river.
He wore an Australian outback hat that looked as old as Ayers Rock. He walked along the river bottom, water up to his chest, the pole tapping the unseen. Max finally uttered a low growl.
"It's okay, Max," I said. She looked back at me like she didn't believe me. I glanced at the knife on the bench and looked at the man.
He held his hat and slowly dropped down into the river, the dark water covering him. Within seconds, he was gone.
Excerpted from A FALSE DAWN by TOM LOWE
Copyright © 2009 by Tom Lowe
Published in April 2009 by St.Martin's Press
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.
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