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True Evil: A Novel [Hardcover]

Greg Iles
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (435 customer reviews)


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Smooth prose, psychological depth and crafty plotting lift bestseller Iles's latest suspense thriller, which puts a fresh twist on a familiar theme-the cat-and-mouse game between an FBI agent and a fiendishly-clever serial killer. One personal tragedy after another has struck Alexandra Morse, a rising star in the FBI who specializes in hostage negotiation: her father's shooting death in a robbery, her mother's diagnosis of advanced ovarian cancer, and a misstep on the job that left her face scarred and a fellow agent dead. Now Alex's sister, Grace, lies dying in a Jackson, Miss., hospital after suffering a stroke. Alex arrives from Washington just in time to hear Grace say that her husband has murdered her. After Grace's death, Alex learns that Dr. Eldon Tarver, a brilliant scientist in need of funds for research into developing a biological superweapon, has teamed with a Mississippi divorce attorney who offers select clients the opportunity to avoid a protracted court fight by arranging for their spouses to die. When Alex identifies the next intended victim, Dr. Chris Shepard, she goes undercover as one of the idealistic doctor's patients and soon finds herself in a race against Tarver as well as her own superiors, who have not sanctioned her investigation. This pulse-pounder is sure to be another bestseller for Iles (Turning Angel).
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The new novel by the author of, among others, Mortal Fear (1996), 24 Hours (2000), and (most recently) Turning Angel (2005)begins with a big surprise. Dr. Chris Shepard, a doctor in Natchez, Mississippi (where the author lives), is visited by an FBI agent who tells him two things: a local divorce lawyer has a series of clients whose spouses have all died suspiciously, and Dr. Shepard's wife paid this lawyer a visit about a week ago. Now agent Alex Morse wants Dr. Shepard to help her trap a killer. If Iles has a trademark, a single literary feature that identifies him, it's his intriguing, ordinary-people-in-extraordinary-situations premises that hook readers immediately, forcing us to read on. How will Chris Shepard, a successful doctor in a seemingly happy marriage, react to the news that his wife may be planning to have him killed? Will Alex Morse, the deeply troubled FBI agent (she's still recovering from her own brush with death), confuse professional responsibility with personal interest? Before you know it, you've reached the last page, and you're all out of breath--but you've had one hell of a ride. Plot-driven is too often used as a pejorative term; Iles shows the other side. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

"Engrossing...[A] lush, full-tilt thriller." - The Washington Post --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

About the Author

Greg Iles was born in 1960 in Germany. He founded the band Frankly Scarlet, plays guitar for the Rock Bottom Remainders, and is the New York Times bestselling author of nine novels, including Blood Memory and 24 Hours. He lives in Natchez, Mississippi. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter One

Alex Morse charged through the lobby of the new University Medical Center like a doctor to a code call, but she was no doctor. She was a hostage negotiator for the FBI. Twenty minutes earlier, Alex had deplaned from a flight from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Jackson, Mississippi, a flight prompted by her older sister's sudden collapse at a Little League baseball game. This year had been plagued by injury and death, and there was more to come -- Alex could feel it.

Sighting the elevators, she checked the overhead display and saw that a car was descending. She hit the call button and started bouncing on her toes. Hospitals, she thought bitterly. She'd practically just gotten out of one herself. But the chain of tragedy had started with her father. Five months ago Jim Morse had died in this very hospital, after being shot during a robbery. Two months after that, Alex's mother had been diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer. She had already outlived her prognosis, but wasn't expected to survive the week. Then came Alex's accident. And now Grace --

A bell dinged softly, and the elevator opened.

A young woman wearing a white coat over street clothes leaned against the rear wall in a posture of absolute exhaustion. Intern, Alex guessed. She'd met enough of them during the past month. The woman glanced up as Alex entered the car, then looked down. Then she looked up again. Alex had endured this double take so many times since the shooting that she no longer got angry. Just depressed.

"What floor?" asked the young woman, raising her hand to the panel and trying hard not to stare.

"Neuro ICU," said Alex, stabbing the 4 with her finger.

"I'm going down to the basement," said the intern, who looked maybe twenty-six -- four years younger than Alex. "But it'll take you right up after that."

Alex nodded, then stood erect and watched the glowing numbers change above her head. After her mother's diagnosis, she'd begun commuting by plane from Washington, D.C. -- where she was based then -- to Mississippi to relieve Grace, who was struggling to teach full-time and also to care for their mother at night. Unlike J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, the modern Bureau tried to be understanding about family problems, but in Alex's case the deputy director had made his position clear: time off to attend a funeral was one thing, regularly commuting a thousand miles to be present for chemotherapy was another. But Alex had not listened. She'd bucked the system and learned to live without sleep. She told herself she could hack the pressure, and she did -- right up until the moment she cracked. The problem was, she hadn't realized she'd cracked until she caught part of a shotgun blast in her right shoulder and face. Her vest had protected the shoulder, but her face was still an open question.

For a hostage negotiator, Alex had committed the ultimate sin, and she'd come close to paying the ultimate price. Because the shooter had fired through a plate-glass partition, what would have been a miraculous escape (being grazed by a couple of pellets that could have blown her brains out but hadn't) became a life-altering trauma. A blizzard of glass tore through her cheek, sinuses, and jaw, lacerating her skin and ripping away tissue and bone. The plastic surgeons had promised great things, but so far the results were less than stellar. They'd told her that in time the angry pink worms would whiten (they could do little to repair the "punctate" depressions in her cheek), and that laymen wouldn't even notice the damage. Alex wasn't convinced. But in the grand scheme of things, what did vanity matter? Five seconds after she was shot, someone else had paid the ultimate price for her mistake.

During the hellish days that followed the shooting, Grace had flown up to D.C. three times to be with Alex, despite being exhausted from taking care of their mother. Grace was the family martyr, a genuine candidate for sainthood. The irony was staggering: tonight it was Grace lying in an intensive care unit, fighting for her life.

And why? Certainly not karma. She'd been walking up the steps of a stadium to watch her ten-year-old son play baseball when she collapsed. Seconds after she hit the stairs, she voided her bladder and bowels. A CAT scan taken forty minutes later showed a blood clot near Grace's brain stem, the kind of clot that too often killed people. Alex had been swimming laps in Charlotte when she got word (having been transferred there as punishment duty after the shooting). Her mother was too upset to be coherent on the phone, but she'd communicated enough details to send Alex racing to the airport.

When the first leg of her flight touched down in Atlanta, Alex had used her Treo to call Grace's husband, whom she'd been unable to reach before boarding the plane. Bill Fennell explained that while the neurological damage had initially not looked too bad -- some right-side paralysis, weakness, mild dysphasia -- the stroke seemed to be worsening, which the doctors said was not uncommon. A neurologist had put Grace on TPA, a drug that could dissolve clots but also carried serious risks of its own. Bill Fennell was a commanding man, but his voice quavered as he related this, and he begged Alex to hurry.

When her plane landed in Jackson, Alex called Bill again. This time he sobbed as he related the events of the past hour. Though still breathing on her own, Grace had lapsed into a coma and might die before Alex could cover the fifteen miles from the airport. A panic unlike any she had known since childhood filled her chest. Though the plane had only begun its taxi to the terminal, Alex snatched her carry-on from beneath the seat and marched to the front of the 727. When a flight attendant challenged her, she flashed her FBI creds and quietly told the man to get her to the terminal ASAP. When she cleared the gate, she sprinted down the concourse and through baggage claim, then jumped the cab queue, flashed her creds again, and told the driver she'd give him $100 to drive a hundred miles an hour to the University Medical Center.

Now here she was, stepping out of the elevator on the fourth floor, sucking in astringent smells that hurled her four weeks back in time, when hot blood had poured from her face as though from a spigot. At the end of the corridor waited a huge wooden door marked neurology icu. She went through it like a first-time parachutist leaping from a plane, steeling herself for free fall, terrified of the words she was almost certain to hear: I'm sorry, Alex, but you're too late.

The ICU held a dozen glass-walled cubicles built in a U-shape around the nurses' station. Several cubicles were curtained off, but through the transparent wall of the fourth from the left, Alex saw Bill Fennell talking to a woman in a white coat. At six feet four, Bill towered over her, but his handsome face was furrowed with anxiety, and the woman seemed to be comforting him. Sensing Alex's presence, he looked up and froze in midsentence. Alex moved toward the cubicle. Bill rushed to the door and hugged her to his chest. She'd always felt awkward embracing her brother-in-law, but tonight there was no way to avoid it. And no reason, really. Tonight they both needed some kind of contact, an affirmation of family unity.

"You must have taken a helicopter," he said in his resonant bass voice. "I can't believe you made it that fast."

"Is she alive?"

"She's still with us," Bill said in a strangely formal tone. "She's actually regained consciousness a couple of times. She's been asking for you."

Alex's heart lifted, but with hope came fresh tears.

The woman in the white coat walked out of the cubicle. She looked about fifty, and her face was kind but grave.

"This is Grace's neurologist," Bill said.

"I'm Meredith Andrews," said the woman. "Are you the one Grace calls KK?"

Alex couldn't stop her tears. KK was a nickname derived from her middle name, which was a family appellation: Karoli. "Yes. But please call me Alex. Alex Morse."

"Special Agent Morse," Bill said in an absurd interjection.

"Has Grace asked for me?" Alex asked, wiping her cheeks.

"You're all she can talk about."

"Is she conscious?"

"Not at this moment. We're doing everything we can, but you should prepare yourself for" -- Dr. Andrews gave Alex a lightning-fast appraisal -- "you should prepare for the worst. Grace had a serious thrombosis when she was brought in, but she was breathing on her own, and I was encouraged. But the stroke extended steadily, and I decided to start thrombolytic therapy. To try to dissolve the clot. This can sometimes produce miracles, but it can also cause hemorrhages elsewhere in the brain or body. I have a feeling that may be happening now. I don't want to risk moving Grace for an MRI. She's still breathing on her own, and that's the best hope we have. If she stops breathing, we're ready to intubate immediately. I probably should have done it already" -- Dr. Andrews glanced at Bill -- "but I knew she was desperate to talk to you, and once she's intubated, she won't be able to communicate with anyone. She's already lost her ability to write words."

Alex winced.

"Don't be shocked if she manages to speak to you. Her speech center has been affected, and she has significant impairment."

"I understand," Alex said impatiently. "We had an uncle who had a stroke. Can I just be with her? I don't care what her condition is. I have to be with her."

Dr. Andrews smiled and led Alex into the room.

As she reached the door, Alex turned back to Bill. "Where's Jamie?"

"With my sister in Ridgeland."

Ridgeland was a white-flight suburb ten miles away. "Did he see Grace fall?"

Bill shook his head somberly. "No, he was down on the field. He just knows his mother's sick, that's all."

"Don't you think he should be here?"

Alex had tried to keep all judgment out of her voice, but Bill's face darkened. He seemed about to snap at her, but then he drew a deep breath and said, "No, I don't."

When Ale... --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From AudioFile

As FBI Special Agent Alexandra Morse's sister lies dying in the hospital, she whispers that she has been attacked and that her husband is responsible. Alex's investigations lead to a handful of suspicious deaths, all tied to one divorce lawyer. By staking out his office, she identifies the killer's next victim, Dr. Chris Shepard. Together Alex and the doctor try to unravel the multilayered scheme that has been set into motion. Dick Hill delivers a dramatic performance with voices that both menace and soothe. There is little relief from the tension and drama, and Hill's performance compels listeners through it. S.S.R. © AudioFile 2007, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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