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Last Words: A Novel of Suspense Mass Market Paperback – June 26, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Mariah Stewart is the bestselling author of numerous novels and several novellas. She is a RITA finalist for romantic suspense and is the recipient of the Award of Excellence for contemporary romance, a RIO (Reviewers International Organization) Award honoring excellence in women’s fiction, and a Reviewers’ Choice Award from Romantic Times magazine. A native of Hightstown, New Jersey, she is a three-time recipient of the Golden Leaf Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the New Jersey Romance Writers, of whose Hall of Fame she is an honoree. Stewart is a member of the Valley Forge Romance Writers, the New Jersey Romance Writers, and the Romance Writers of America. She lives with her husband, two daughters, and two rambunctious golden retrievers amid the rolling hills of Chester County, Pennsylvania.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

1

Two years later

The sun was just rising, hot and round, tentacles of color wrapping around the early morning sky like fingers around an orange. From his kitchen window, Gabriel Beck watched the pinks turn coral then red.

Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.

“Oh, yeah,” he grumbled under his breath. “This sailor’s taking warning . . .”

The coffeepot beeped to announce its brew was ready, and he poured into the waiting St. Dennis Chamber of Commerce DISCOVER SAINT DENNIS! mug. He unlocked the back door then stepped onto the small deck and inhaled deeply. Early June in a bay town had scents all its own, and he loved every one of them. Wild roses mixed with salt air, peonies, and whatever the tide deposited on the narrow stretch of coarse sand that passed as beach overnight. It was heady, and along with the coffee he sipped, was all he really needed to start his day off right.

His cell phone rang and he patted his pocket for it, then remembered he’d left it on the kitchen counter. He went back inside, the screen door slamming behind him.

“Beck.”

“Chief, I hate to do this to you so early in the morning, but we have a two-vehicle tangle out on Route 33,” Police Sergeant Lisa Singer reported.

“Injuries?”

“One of the drivers is complaining of back pain. We’re waiting for the ambulance. Traffic’s really light right now, but if we can’t get these cars out of here within the hour, we’re going to have a mess. I’ve got Duncan directing traffic around the accident but it’s going to get hairy here before too much longer.”

“Christ, the Harbor Festival.” So much for starting the day off right. “I’ll call Hal and see if he can come in a little early today.”

Beck tossed back the rest of the coffee and set the mug in the sink. “You called Krauser’s for a tow truck?”

“Yeah, but I didn’t get an answer. I called the service and asked them to page Frank, but I haven’t heard back yet.”

“I’ll have Hal stop by on his way in, see if he can shake someone loose. Chances are Frank left his pager on the front seat of his car and he and the boys are outside shooting the shit and no one’s opened the office yet.”

“That’s pretty much what I was thinking.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

Beck turned off the coffeepot and the kitchen light, then headed out to his Jeep, his phone in his hand. Once behind the wheel, he punched in the speed-dial for Hal Garrity as he backed out of his driveway. Hal, one-time chief of police in St. Dennis, Maryland, was now happily retired but always agreeable to working part-time hours in the summer when the tourists invaded the small town on the Chesapeake Bay. At sixty-five, he was still in fine shape, still took pride in being a good cop, and had no problem taking direction from his successor. After all, he’d been instrumental in hiring Beck.

Hal answered on the first ring. He was already on his way in to the station, but was just as happy to head out to the accident scene, and wouldn’t mind a stop at Krauser’s Auto Body to check up on that tow truck. Beck smiled when the call ended. As much as Hal loved retirement, he sure did love playing cop now and then.

The narrow streets of St. Dennis were waist-high in an eerie mist that had yet to be burned off by the still rising sun. Wisps of white, caught in the headlights, were tossed about by Beck’s old Jeep, the ragged pieces floating across Charles Street, the main road that ran through the village, from the highway straight on out to the bridge over the inlet that led to Cannonball Island. Here in the center of town all was unbroken silence. No other cars were on the street, no shops opened, no pedestrians passed by. All was still. Peaceful.

This was the St. Dennis Beck loved, the one he remembered when he thought about moving back two years ago. But, with all the renovations, and every available building being bought up and fixed up and turned into one fancy shop or another, the St. Dennis he’d known would someday be little more than a fond memory. Now, though, in the early morning hours, before the tourists came out and the shop lights went on, the village was his home again. Peaceful, the way it was supposed to be.

Except for that damned traffic accident out on the highway, and knowing that by nine this morning the first of the tourists would arrive. They would be eager to spend their money in the picturesque boutiques and crowd his peaceful streets as they did every day starting in the middle of April and going strong right on through till Christmas. Today would be especially lively.

Beck checked the time. It was not quite six. The third annual Harbor Festival officially began at two that afternoon, but soon the first cars would begin to pull into the free parking lots across from the municipal building, and the early arrivals would descend on one of the three eateries in town that opened for breakfast.

He made a left onto Kelly’s Point Road and eased slowly down the narrow stretch to the municipal building. He parked in front of the sign that read reserved: g. beck and got out of his car. The tightly compacted crushed clam and oyster shells that covered the parking lot and served as fill crackled under his feet as he walked toward the building.

Beck entered his department through double glass doors off the lobby and was greeted by the dispatcher.

“Morning, Chief.”

“Morning, Garland. You’re in early. Who was on night dispatch?”

“Bill Mason. He had an asthma attack around five and called me to come in.”

“Mason called you at five and asked you to come in?” Beck frowned.

“I didn’t mind. I was already awake. He filled in for me when my car died in Baltimore a few weeks back.”

“Glad you guys get along.”

“Two peas in a pod,” Garland replied before turning all business. “You heard about the accident out on thirty-three?”

“Lisa called a while ago. She’s out there with Duncan. Hal should be out there by now, too.” Beck looked through a short stack of phone messages that had come in overnight. “Give Lisa a call and tell her to come on in. And tell Duncan to make sure he’s back in town before nine. I want him on foot patrol. By then, Hal ought to have the accident scene cleaned up, and we can put him on parking.”

“Will do.” Garland Hess, a thirty-five-year-old transplant from Boston three years earlier, went to work.

A long hall separated the quarters assigned to the police department exactly in two. Beck’s office was at the end of the hall, and ran the width of their end of the building. On the opposite side of the lobby were the town’s administrative offices, and a combination of meeting rooms and conference rooms, with storage on the second floor. The basement was a damp black hole that invited mold to grow on anything placed down there, and the attic was hot in summer and cold in winter. Some old police files and council meeting records going back decades were packed away in fading boxes tucked under the eaves, though no one ever ventured up there. Beck suspected that if examined, many of the boxes would be found to have been gnawed on by mice or covered with bat droppings.

Every once in a while Beck thought about climbing the open stairwell to the third floor to see just what-all had accumulated up there over the years, but he hadn’t made it yet, and wasn’t likely to any time soon. The “archives,” as Hal liked to refer to the stored files, would have to wait until the tourist season had come and gone. This weekend’s Harbor Festival, slated to run from Friday through Sunday night, was just one of many weekends planned by the mayor and the Chamber of Commerce to bring in crowds and revenue. The merchants, understandably, all thought it was swell. The old-timers, like Hal and some others, thought it was all a pain in the butt.

“These narrow little streets weren’t designed for so much traffic,” Hal complained to Beck when he made it back to the station after having directed traffic out on the highway for two hours.

“That’s why the powers that be had those parking lots put in behind the shops on Charles Street,” Beck said, and took the opportunity to remind him, “Rumor has it that you were one of the powers who thought it was a good idea.”

“That was six years ago. Harbor Day was barely a gleam in the mayor’s eye back then.” Hal shook his head. “Who’da figured this sleepy little town was about to wake up?”

“It has done that,” Beck muttered, and leaned across his desk to pick up the ringing phone. At the same time, he motioned to Hal to take a seat in one of the empty chairs.

Beck’s call was short and he hung up just as Lisa poked her head in the door.

“First of the onslaught is just starting,” she told the chief. “What do you want to do about traffic control?”

“Put Duncan out on the highway till eleven”—Beck pulled his chair up to his desk and sat—“then call Phil in and ask him to take over out there until two. Things should have eased up a lot by then.”

“What about here in town?”

“I expect the only real problem will be where Kelly’s Point runs into Charles Street, there at the crosswalk,” Beck said.

“I’ll take that until noon,” Hal told him.

“Then I’ll take over from you from twelve to four,” Lisa offered.

“Aren’t you supposed to be off today?” Beck frowned and sea...

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (June 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345492234
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345492234
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #283,064 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mariah Stewart is the bestselling author of ten novels and three novellas. A RITA finalist for romantic suspense, she is the recipient of the Award of Excellence for contemporary romance, a RIO (Reviewers International) Award honoring excellence in women's fiction, a Reviewers Choice Award from Romantic Times magazine, and a two-time recipient of the Golden Leaf Award for contemporary romance. A native of Hightstown, New Jersey, she lives amidst the rolling hills of Chester County, PA, with her husband, one geriatric gold retriever and one rambunctious mixed breed rescue dog. She's currently neglecting her garden and working on her next book. In past lives, she's been a teacher and an insurance executive, but firmly believes she's found the perfect job: sitting in her sunny office in old sweats and J. Crew flip flops, making up stories and the characters who live in them, and getting paid for it. Could life be sweeter?

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Elaine C McTyer VINE VOICE on July 8, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Mariah Stewart gives us the second of the tales of the Shields family. Mia is the sister of Brenden who murdered Dylan in one of her previous novels. She has been unable to conquor the feeling that she should have known what was going on and stopped the murders. Her family has been FBI for many yrs and her father and his brother have several children in the FBI.

Mia Shields is the only daughter in a family of five, her other four brothers are FBI also. Now she is living in Conner's house in the country. Conner is her cousin and the brother of Dylan who was murdered by her own brother. Her inability to deal with the stresses caused by the murder have pushed her to the brink of burn-out. Now she is coming off two horrible cases, and she thinks nothing could be as bad as those, however, the murderer killing young women in St. Dennis, Maryland comes very close.

Gabrial Beck, the chief of police, of St. Dennis, has asked the bureau for help and Mia is not quite what he expected. Beck's father was the previous chief and helps part-time now. The first murder is not in his town but the next girl he finds himself, the killer has placed her body encased in plastic in the back seat of his car.

Both he and Mia realize this is no beginner and that there has to be a trail of bodies somewhere. As the bodies mount the evidence of a local killer emerges.

Although there is a romance in the book it does not take away from the horror of the way the victims are killed. I very much enjoyed this book and so far each of her novels has been a keeper.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on July 12, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Mariah Stewart is one of the best writers out there, and I love the ideas of her trilogies, which tie together but also work as stand-alones, so you don't feel as if you've missed something by not reading the previous books.

This one wasn't as good as the first in this trilogy, mainly because I thought the culprit's identity was obvious right from the beginning. But regardless, the book is still a page-turner that you won't be able to put down until it's finished.
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By Dotti Elrick on June 16, 2013
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book. I was a little disappointed by the last couple of FBI books by Mariah Stewart, the mystery/thriller aspect of them was just missing for me. This book has brought it back. It was great.
Gabriel Beck is the police chief of the small bay town of St. Dennis Maryland. When he gets a call from a neighboring towns police chief needing help. What they find is stunning to say the least. The body of a missing girl has been found on her family's front porch. Wrapped in plastic. These small towns have never seen anything like this before. And it becomes evident that this killer is no amateur. With two other young women missing in the general area, the police fear where and how they will turn up.
When the second body turns up in the back of Beck's personal car, he knows he's in over his head. He takes it upon himself to call in the FBI for help.
The FBI sends the only agent within close driving range of the small town. Mia Shields. One of the "Shields Clan". Her whole family has been involved with the FBI. Her father, uncle, her three brothers and her three cousins. Throughout the FBI series' we have met most of the Shields. We've been told the story of the death of one cousin by one of Mia's own brothers who had gone rogue. He not only killed his own cousin but also one of his own brothers wives, before he himself was killed. Mia is still trying to come to terns with how a member of her own family could have gone so bad. She feels responsible, she should have known something was wrong.
Together, Beck and Mia along with a brief appearance from our favorite FBI profiler Anne Marie McCall, piece together a picture of who they are looking for. Annie believes this killer is local, probably living right there in town and watching their every move.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
In the midst of its greatest influx of tourists, the little bayside community of St. Dennis on Maryland's Eastern Shore has suddenly become the site of homicide. The bodies of young women, carefully wrapped in plastic, with a tape recording of each victim's last moments, are turning up. As if to show his contempt for the local police, one body is even placed in a police chief's car and another on his father's boat, said father being the former police chief. Soon Chief Gabriel Beck is checking with surrounding communities, and finding several young women who've disappeared, some not really being missed for one reason or another. Soon, the FBI is called in, in the person of Agent Mia Shields, and the tension and body count rises. Using the agency's resources, Mia brings in a profiler, who tells them the killer is probably a resident, familiar with both Beck and Shields and undoubtedly privy to a knowledge of the efforts they are making to discover his identity. One suspect is arrested but is he the right one? During a press conference, Mia taunts the killer and soon finds herself also a target.

This is a tight, tense story, without the usual sexual titillation or professional animosity between FBI and local constabulary. Both Mia and Gabe have skeletons in their closets and a little too much reference is made to people not in the story and events happening before the story begins, which made me want to know more about them. Is this novel part of a series? Should I get the others to be fully in the know about this book? Some of the things mentioned actually sounded more interesting than what was going on here.

Nevertheless, Last Words is a good read, entertaining and suspenseful. There are few clues to give away who the killer is until the actual capture.
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