By Kate E. Stephenson
In this fourth week of November 2012, I hereby call to order the 10th meeting of Kate’s Book Club. Every week, we shall be reading a tome either (a) penned by an author named Kate or (b) that includes a character named Kate. If you missed our last meeting, no worries—check it out.
This week we continue the horror theme with a review of Kate Brady’s new thriller Where Angels Rest. Released just a week ago, this book is already attracting major attention and there’s absolutely no doubt as to why. It’s a cozy up to the fireplace, snuggle under the blankets, ignore the smartphone and social media, must read.
First a taste from the Prologue of Where Angels Rest:
Alonely room, naked wires clawing from the outlets and a heap of cold ash huddled in the fireplace.
The ceiling joists crisscrossed in a matrix ten feet up, the floors and walls stripped to bare concrete and plaster, making the tiniest sound ricochet in the rafters. Even the faint moans of a woman nearly dead echoed like whispers in a cathedral.
The Angelmaker studied the woman, faceup on a wooden table with duct tape binding her wrists and ankles. Her eyes stared at nothing in the rafters.
What do you see now, bitch?
Nothing, of course; she was almost finished. It rankled, actually. She should have held up better.
But it was too late to worry about that now. The clock was ticking, lives counted in minutes. A week ago, who’d have thought the grand finale would come so soon, or be so exhilarating? And yet, here she lay, ready for her transformation.
The Angelmaker pried a hunk of cold earth from a pile, kneaded it like artist’s clay, then smeared it onto her jaw. Got another handful and pushed it over the edge of the first, thumbing it smooth with practiced strokes—not too thick and not too thin. Over the slender nose, over the high cheekbone, over the seam of ugly stitches at her temple. The Angelmaker smiled at that. On the inside of this mask would be something special: the imprint of stitches and the swell of a nasty welt on the side of her face. When the authorities found this mask, there would be no doubt whose face had provided the mold.
The mighty Erin Sims. Her death would come just in time to join her brother in hell. A twofer.
That thought brought a snicker and the Angelmaker worked faster. Tick-tock, Dr. Sims.
From the very first page, it’s impossible to put Where Angels Rest down. Flashlight in hand, reading the final installment of Kate Brady’s trilogy was the only thing that kept me from going stir crazy in the pitch black aftermath of super storm Sandy. But it certainly didn’t let me rest any easier. Even as Brady unfolds an electrically-charged love story, the centerpiece of this novel is an evil so ugly it haunts the imagination long after you close the book. The Angelmaker is on a mission to kill those who see.
Mythical creatures that ensure your safety and foster your good are in my mind welcome and encouraged to sit on my shoulder. For the Angelmaker those do-gooders see too much and give too little. There is something deeply wrong with a guardian angel slayer, and the Angelmaker is particularly twisted. But the sickness doesn’t end there.
All seven deadly sins are in attendance here, and anyone of them could be the fatal misstep for our heroine Erin Simms as she races against the clock to save her brother condemned to death row. The clock is constantly ticking: Erin fighting to find the real killer who framed her brother. The Angelmaker stalking the angels that haunt him. The crossing of their paths is inevitable, and someone must die. The laws of spellbinding suspense demand it.
I must admit that I was content to hold my breath as the tension mounted. And satisfied to all but salivate over the sexy supporter Erin finds in widower Nick Mann, the small town sheriff with a tragic urban past. Reluctant hero à la Bruce Willis, Nick is the knight in tarnished armor that women of the Sex and the City era dream about (me included). Mr. Mann is exactly that—all man. But the question is will he be a help or a hindrance?
Did you expect me to answer that question—Get real! You’ll just have to crack open the book same as I did. And trust me, you want to. Some serious chronologists may find a few holes in the timeline here and there; but in the interest of entertainment, it really doesn’t matter. Kate Brady hits all the right notes, mixing classic ingredients together to create a spicy new spin on the psychological thriller.
Now, for a sneak peek of chapter 1:
Seven days earlier . . . Thursday, November 8
Outside the Florida State Prison, Starke, Florida
“Let me go”
Erin Sims jerked against handcuffs, the metal rings biting into her wrists. Tears rose to her throat but she held them back: Time was almost up. What was it, twenty ’til twelve? Quarter ’til? She couldn’t see her watch but it was late. God, she had to stop them before midnight.
She took a step and a guard snagged her arm. “No,” he said. He was a burly black man with tattoos vining his neck and an earring winking in the darkness. His tag read Collier but people called him Collie. Erin had been coming here long enough to remember when his son made the varsity football team and his wife beat breast cancer. Now he and another guard stood on either side of her, each with a hand on her elbows. Just in case she decided to throw herself at one of the demonstrators or incite a riot.
“Stay back here,” he said. “You’re already hurt.”
She followed his glance to her legs, where her jeans were torn and the skin of both knees ripped open. Sheriff’s deputies had dragged her from the prison entrance. “I won’t do anything this time,” she said. “Just let me go back to the front. I need to see.” I need to be close to him. “There’s nothing more you can do,” the second guard said.
The words brushed a chill over Erin’s skin. There had to be something more. Eleven years of fighting couldn’t end with—
The chant started up again, cycling through thirty friends and relatives of Lauren McAllister, all gathered to witness justice, cheering and crying and waving hand-written signs: Death to Justin Sims, An Eye for An Eye, We Love You, Lauren. Nine reporters, the most permitted at an execution by law, wove among the demonstrators with their photographers trailing behind like cyclopes. On Erin’s side of the drive, three people—strangers—carried worn signs reading Stop the Death Penalty and Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right. Otherwise, Justin had no supporters. He was the murderer of a senator’s daughter.
Erin drew a shuddering breath. “What time is it? ” “Quarter ’til,” Collie said. “Fifteen more minutes.” Illogically, as if to confirm the time, Erin glanced to the sky. It was a night made for tragedy: black clouds grumbling with thunder, security lights casting the air in thin shades of gray. A slivered moon had slunk out of sight, as if cowering from the travesty about to happen.
“They can’t do this,” Erin said, her voice coming out on a thread. “Victor Santos is still with the Attorney General. He’s presenting new evidence.”
Collie shook his head. “That might not matt—”
“It has to matter.” She rounded on him. “Damn it, I found John Huggins. After all these years, I know where he is and gave them more evidence. He murdered Lauren McAllister, not Justin. How can the Attorney General ignore that? He has to listen.”
Her own words stopped her. You have to listen, Mommy. Please. He scares me. She’d learned long ago that people don’t listen to things they don’t want to hear.
A finger of panic touched her heart. Even if Justin’s attorney had gotten a last-minute audience with the Attorney General and convinced him there was enough evidence to warrant investigating John Huggins again, even if just now they were waking up a judge and working through paper or chewing through levels of bureaucracy, what if it was too late? Where was Justin? Strapped to a gurney already, an IV dripping into his arm, awaiting the toxins that would end his life?
The unspeakable passed her lips. “What if it’s not enough? What if—”
She couldn’t finish. She had to save Justin. People didn’t see him the way she did; no one else would keep up the fight. He needed her.
No, he didn’t. And he didn’t want her, either.
Erin cursed. Damn it, she was a shrink, an advocate. She’d made her career unearthing the emotions of people who were victims, and serving as their voice when they couldn’t do it themselves. She ought to understand why Justin had pushed her away.
But she didn’t.
“I should be in there,” she said, tears stinging the backs of her eyes. “He could have had three people in there with him. Why didn’t he let me—? ”
A siren cut her off.
Kate’s Book Club is a column on Kate-book.com featuring interviews with authors named Kate, as well as reviews of books starring Kate characters. It runs on Kate-book.com every other Wednesday at 10:30am, and is written by the self-admitted bibliophile Kate E. Stephenson, who you should follow on Twitter here. Oh, and write to Kate to suggest authors and books we should read for future columns.