Author: Carla Neggers
Release Date: August 29, 2017
A murder in a quiet English village, long-buried secrets and a man’s search for answers about his traumatic past entangle FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan in the latest edge-of-your-seat Sharpe & Donovan novel.
As a young boy, Oliver York witnessed the murder of his wealthy parents in their London apartment. The killers kidnapped him and held him in an isolated Scottish ruin, but he escaped, thwarting their plans for ransom. Now, after thirty years on the run, one of the two men Oliver identified as his tormentors may have surfaced.
Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan are enjoying the final day of their Irish honeymoon when a break-in at the home of Emma’s grandfather, private art detective Wendell Sharpe, points to Oliver. The Sharpes have a complicated relationship with the likable, reclusive Englishman, an expert in Celtic mythology and international art thief who taunted Wendell for years. Emma and Colin postpone meetings in London with their elite FBI team and head straight to Oliver. But when they arrive at York’s country home, a man is dead and Oliver has vanished.
As the danger mounts, new questions arise about Oliver’s account of his boyhood trauma. Do Emma and Colin dare trust him? With the trail leading beyond Oliver’s small village to Ireland, Scotland and their own turf in the United States, the stakes are high, and Emma and Colin must unravel the decades-old tangle of secrets and lies before a killer strikes again.
New York Times bestselling author Carla Neggers delivers the gripping, suspense-filled tale readers have been waiting for.
The pair were familiar enough with each other they’d never bothered with “Mr. York” and “Ms. Balfour.” Oliver didn’t answer. Instead, without a word or so much as a grunt, he gave a curt wave, spun around and shot back out to the narrow lane that ran along the southern edge of the farm. It was a gray morning but it wasn’t wet, although there was talk of rain later in the day.
Henrietta rolled back onto her heels and frowned, hands deep in the bag of soil. “He can be like that, can’t he?”
Martin knew there was no point denying the obvious. “He can.”
“The lads down the pub say he can be dashing and sweet, too.”
Not in Martin’s experience, but he let it go. “What kind of flowers do you have in mind?”
“Depends where we decide to put the pot. It’s a gem, isn’t it? I do like the idea of having it out here.”
“You love old rubbish, do you?”
She smiled, her eyes lighting up despite Oliver’s rudeness. “Especially if it has sentimental value. Does Oliver remember his great-grandmother?”
“It’s possible. She died when he was three.”
“I don’t remember her but you must.”
Martin nodded. “I do. She was a lovely lady. She expanded the gardens here, although it was her daughter-in-law, Oliver’s grandmother, who converted the dovecote into a potting shed.”
“I remember Priscilla, of course. She and Aunt Posey were friends.” Henrietta dumped two heaping handfuls of soil into the pot, atop what he’d dug from the hillside. “We’re not going to discover Oliver bought this pot at a white-elephant sale and forgot about it, are we?”
“I’m sure we won’t. I can vouch for it. I remember his great-grandmother planting flowers in this very pot.”
“It’s a forgotten family heirloom, then. What kind of flowers were they, do you recall?”
Martin managed a genuine smile. “Dahlias. Peach-colored dahlias.”
Henrietta smiled again, wispy curls escaping her hair clip. “Perfect. Consider it done.”
Martin left her to her work. He didn’t see Oliver, or anyone else for that matter, on the lane, part of one of the marked, public walking trails that crisscrossed the Cotswolds. He could hear Henrietta humming now that she was rid of both him and Oliver. Continuing simply to tend the gardens was no longer sufficient but the process of overhauling them would take time. Martin had seen her in recent years on her visits with her aunt, but he knew little about her life in London. She was friendly and amusing, but she didn’t invite that kind of intimacy. Although charming and delightful in many ways, she was all about her work.
These days discovering old pots was Henrietta Balfour’s idea of excitement.
Martin walked up the lane toward the farmhouse. After a spell of warm, clear days, he appreciated the cloudy sky and looked forward to a shower. The gray weather brought out the smells of early summer and suited his mood. He hadn’t missed joining Oliver in London, but he had to admit to a certain uneasy restlessness. It wasn’t like Oliver to go this long without getting into some kind of trouble. Even MI5 hadn’t contacted him in weeks. Oliver hadn’t acknowledged he was working with British intelligence—and he never would—but Martin knew better. There were subjects between them that were understood but never discussed and that was one of them.
A scream penetrated his brooding. He jumped, nearly tripping. His first thought was an accident involving one of the farm workers. Then he realized it was Ruthie Burns, Oliver’s housekeeper. In another moment, he spotted her at the lane’s intersection with a path up to the main house. She was running madly toward the dovecote, her arms pumping at ninety degrees at her sides as she picked up speed.
“Help! He’s dying. Dear God. Help!”
Although not one of Martin’s favorite people, Ruthie wasn’t prone to hyperbole or overreacting. He felt a jolt of adrenaline. Did she mean Oliver? Was he the one who was dying?
Henrietta burst up the lane from the dovecote. “What’s happened?” she asked, intense but steady. She’d removed her garden gloves and didn’t seem impeded by her long skirt.
“I don’t know yet,” Martin said.
She pointed a slender, dirt-covered hand up the lane. “That’s Ruthie, isn’t it?”
Martin nodded. The stout housekeeper was in her sixties, a few years older than he was, and had worked for the Yorks almost as long as he had. He felt an unwelcome tightness in his throat but forced himself to maintain his poise and equilibrium. Hysteria wouldn’t do anyone a bit of good.
Henrietta started toward Ruthie. “No,” Martin said. “Stay here. I’ll handle whatever’s happened.”
“Not alone, Martin. I’m going, too.”
He took in her natural sense of command, her composure, her directness—and he knew.
He’d been expecting them to emerge. Any suspicions he’d had about her had transformed to certainty.
Henrietta Balfour was MI5.
Martin shook off the thought. Who and what Henrietta was didn’t matter now. They needed to get to Ruthie and find out what had her in a panic. He pushed forward but didn’t break in to a run. Henrietta eased next to him, clearly holding herself back from charging ahead. She was younger and fitter, but it wasn’t just that. She hadn’t hesitated. She’d relied on training, experience—perhaps just her nature but Martin doubted it. It was something more.
In thirty seconds, they intercepted Ruthie. She was breathless and red-faced, barely able to speak. Martin touched her arm. Accidents and crises weren’t unheard of on the farm. She’d dealt with many of them herself over the years. “Ruthie,” he said gently. “What’s happened?”
“A man. I didn’t get a good look at him. There’s so much blood.” Her eyes welled with tears.
“It’s awful, Martin. Just awful. I think he’s dead.”
“Where’s Oliver?” he asked, trying to stem her panic as well as to get information.
“He’s there. He was trying to help him. The man who was bleeding. I don’t know what happened.”
“Have you called for an ambulance?” Henrietta asked.
Ruthie looked stricken, as if she’d done something wrong. “No, no—I didn’t. Oliver, I thought he…no.”
“Call 999 at once, in case Mr. York hasn’t had a chance to ring them,” Martin said.
“I have my mobile…” Ruthie mumbled.
“Shut the door first and lock it,” Henrietta said. “Then make the call.”
Ruthie gulped in air. “You don’t think…surely it’s an accident.”
“We want to be on the safe side,” Martin said softly.
“Of course.” Sweat mixed with drizzle and streamed down the older woman’s temples. “You two take care.”
“We will,” Henrietta said.
Ruthie sniffled and lurched forward, picking up her pace as she ran toward the dovecote.
Henrietta turned to Martin, who knew he had to look both annoyed and shocked. “I’m good in an emergency,” she said, then gestured toward the house. “Shall we?”
Given her uncompromising manner, Martin didn’t consider arguing with her to stay with Ruthie and let him go alone. He didn’t want to waste time on what he knew in advance would prove to be a futile effort. She started off, and he fell in behind her.
Carla Neggers is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 60 novels, including her popular Sharpe and Donovan and Swift River Valley series. Her books have been translated into 24 languages and sold in over 35 countries. A frequent traveler to Ireland, Carla lives with her family in New England. To learn more and to sign up for her newsletter, visit CarlaNeggers.com.
EXCERPT TOUR for Thief’s Mark:Monday, August 7th: Lovely Reads
Tuesday, August 8: Stuck in Books
Wednesday, August 9th: The Sassy Bookster
Thursday, August 10th: Books a la Mode
Friday, August 11th: Mama Reads
Monday, August 14th: Books and Spoons
Tuesday, August 15th: A Dream Within a Dream
Wednesday, August 16th: Book Nerd
Thursday, August 17th: Moonlight Rendezvous
Friday, August 18th: The Book Diva’s Reads
Monday, August 21st: A Holland Reads
Tuesday, August 22nd: From the TBR Pile
Wednesday, August 23rd: Romancing the Readers
Thursday, August 24th: The Lit Bitch
Friday, August 25th: Mama Vicky Says
REVIEW TOUR for Thief’s Mark:Tuesday, August 29th: Clues and Reviews Wednesday, August 30th: Lesa’s Book Critiques
Thursday, August 31st: Reading Reality
Friday, September 1st: Rainy Day Reviews
Tuesday, September 5th: Jathan & Heather
Wednesday, September 6th: Deborah Blanchard
Thursday, September 7th: Staircase Wit
Friday, September 8th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Monday, September 11th: Moonlight Rendezvous
Tuesday, September 12th: Run Wright
Wednesday, September 13th: A Holland Reads
Thursday, September 14th: Novel Gossip
Friday, September 15th: Read ‘Till Dawn
Monday, September 18th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, September 19th: Buried Under Books
Wednesday, September 20th: Books and Bindings
Thursday, September 21st: Ms. Nose in a Book
Friday, September 22nd: A Chick Who Reads
Monday, September 25th: Bewitched Bookworms
Tuesday, September 26th: Mystery Suspense Reviews
Wednesday, September 27th: Book Nerd
Thursday, September 28th: What I’m Reading