Stalker by Lars Kepler | @AAKnopf @crimebythebook | #blogtour #LarsKepler #extract

Happy Friday and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Stalker by Lars Keppler! My thanks to Abby Endler for the invitation to join! Today, I’m sharing an extract with you but first, here is what Stalker is all about.

Author : Lars Kepler
Title : Stalker
Series : Joona Linna #5
Pages : 560
Publisher : Knopf
Publication date : February 5, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

The Swedish National Crime Unit receives a video of a young woman in her home, clearly unaware that she’s being watched. Soon after the tape is received, the woman’s body is found horrifically mutilated. With the arrival of the next, similar video, the police understand that the killer is toying with them, warning of a new victim, knowing there’s nothing they can do.

Detective Margot Silverman is put in charge of the investigation, and soon asks Detective Joona Linna for help. Linna, in turn, recruits Erik Maria Bark, the hypnotist and expert in trauma, with whom Linna’s worked before. Bark is leery of forcing people to give up their secrets. But this time, Bark is the one hiding things. 

Years before, he had put a man away for an eerily similar crime, and now he’s beginning to think that an innocent man may be behind bars–and a serial killer still on the loose.

| EXTRACT |

Chapter 1

It’s a quarter to nine on Friday, August 22. After the magical sunsets and light nights of high summer, darkness is encroaching with surprising speed. It’s already dusk outside the National Police Authority.

Margot Silverman gets out of the elevator and walks toward the security doors in the foyer. She’s wearing a black cardigan, a white blouse that fits tightly around her chest, and long black pants whose high waist is stretched across her expanding stomach. She ambles toward the revolving doors in the glass wall. Margot’s hair is the color of polished birch wood and is pulled into a thick braid down her back. She has moist eyes and rosy cheeks. She is thirty-six years old and pregnant with her third child.

She’s heading home after a long week. She’s worked overtime every day and has received two warnings for pushing herself too hard. She is the new police expert on serial killers, spree killers, and stalkers. The murder of Maria Carlsson is the first case she’s been in charge of since her appointment.

There are no witnesses and no suspects. The victim was single and had no children. She worked as a product adviser for Ikea and had inherited her parents’ unmortgaged town house after her father died and her mother went into a nursing home.

On most days, Maria traveled to work with a colleague. They would meet down on Kyrk Road. When she wasn’t there that morning, her colleague drove to her house and rang the doorbell, looked through the windows, and then walked around the back and saw her. She was sitting on the floor, her face covered in knife wounds, her neck almost sliced through, her head lolling to one side, and her mouth strangely wide open. According to the postmortem, there was evidence to suggest that her mouth had been so arranged after death.

When Margot was appointed to head the investigation, she knew she couldn’t seem too aggressive. She has a tendency to be overeager. Her colleagues would have laughed if she’d told them she was absolutely convinced that they were dealing with a serial killer.

Over the course of the week, Margot has watched the video of Maria Carlsson putting her tights on more than two hundred times. All the evidence suggests she was murdered shortly after the recording was uploaded to YouTube. Margot can’t see anything that makes this video special. It’s not unusual for people to have a tights fetish, but nothing about the murder indicates that sort of inclination. The video is simply a brief excerpt from an ordinary woman’s life. She’s single, has a good job, and takes cartoon drawing classes at night.

There’s no way of knowing why the perpetrator was in her garden, whether it was pure chance or the result of a carefully planned operation, but in the minutes before the murder, he captured her on video. Given that he sent the link to the police, he must have wanted to show them something. He wanted to highlight something about this particular woman, or a certain type of woman. Maybe it’s about all women. But to Margot’s eyes, there’s nothing unusual about the woman’s behavior or appearance. She’s simply concentrating on getting her tights on properly.

Margot has visited the house on Bredablicks Road twice, but she’s spent most of her time examining the video of the crime scene before it was contaminated.

The perpetrator’s film almost looks like a lovingly created work of art compared to the police’s crime scene video. The forensics team’s minutely detailed recording of the evidence is relentless. The dead woman is filmed from various angles as she sits with her legs stretched out on the floor, surrounded by dark blood. Her bra is in shreds, dangling from one shoulder, and one white breast hangs down toward the bulge of her stomach. There’s almost nothing left of her face, just a gaping mouth surrounded by red pulp.

Margot stops as if by chance beside the fruit bowl, glances over at the guard, who is talking on the phone, then turns her back to him. For a few seconds, she watches the guard’s reflection in the glass wall, then takes six apples from the bowl and puts them in her bag. Six is too many, she knows that, but she can’t stop herself. It’s occurred to her that Jenny might like to make an apple pie that evening, with lots of butter, cinnamon, and sugar.

Her thoughts are interrupted when her phone rings. She looks at the screen and sees a picture of Adam Youssef, a member of the investigating team.

“Are you still in the building?” Adam asks. “Please tell me you’re still here, because we’ve—”

“I’m sitting in the car on Klarastrands Road,” Margot lies. “What do you need?”

“He’s uploaded a new video.”

She feels her stomach clench and puts one hand under the heavy bulge. “A new video,” she repeats.

“Are you coming back?”

“I’ll stop and turn around,” she says, and begins to retrace her steps. “Make sure we get a decent copy of the recording.”

Margot could have just gone home, leaving the case in Adam’s hands. It would take only a phone call to arrange a full year of paid maternity leave. Her fate is hanging in the balance. She doesn’t know what this case will bring, but she can sense its gravity, its dark pull.

The light in the elevator makes her face seem older in the reflection of the shining doors. The thick, dark line of mascara around her eyes is almost gone. As she leans her head back, she realizes she’s starting to look like her father, the former commissioner.

The elevator stops at the eighth floor, and she walks along the empty hallway as fast as her bulging stomach will allow. She and Adam moved into Joona Linna’s old office the same week the police held a memorial service for him. Margot never knew Joona personally and had no problem taking over his office.

“You have a fast car,” Adam says as she walks in, then smiles, showing his sharp teeth.

“Pretty fast,” Margot replies.

Adam joined the police force after a brief stint as a professional soccer player. He is twenty-eight years old, with long hair and a round youthful face. His short-sleeved shirt is untucked.

“How long has the video been up?” she asks.

“Three minutes,” Adam says. “He’s there now. Standing outside the window and—”

“We don’t know that, but—”

“I think he is,” he interrupts.

Margot sets her heavy bag on the floor, sits down on her chair, and calls forensics.

“Margot here. Have you downloaded a copy?” she asks. “Listen, I need a location or a name. All the resources you’ve got. You have five minutes—do whatever the hell you want—just give me something, and I promise I’ll let you go so you can enjoy your Friday evening.”

She puts the phone down and opens the pizza box on Adam’s desk. “Are you done with this?” she asks.

There’s a ping as an email arrives, and Margot quickly stuffs a piece of pizza crust into her mouth. A worry line deepens on her forehead. She clicks on the video file and maximizes the onscreen image, pushes her braid over her shoulder, and rolls her chair back so Adam can see.

The first shot is an illuminated window shimmering in the darkness. The camera moves slowly closer through leaves that brush the lens. Margot feels the hair on her arms stand up.

A woman is in front of a television, eating ice cream from a carton. She’s pulled her sweatpants down and is balancing on one foot. One of her socks is off. She glances at the television and smiles at something, then licks the spoon.

The only sound in police headquarters is the computer fan.

Just give me one detail to go on, Margot thinks as she looks at the woman’s face. Her body seems to be steaming with residual heat. She’s just been for a run. The elastic of her underwear is loose after too many washings, and her bra is clearly visible through her sweat-stained shirt.

Margot leans closer to the screen, her stomach pressing against her thighs, and her heavy braid falls forward over her shoulder.

“One minute to go,” Adam says.

The woman sets the carton of ice cream on the coffee table and leaves the room, her sweatpants still dangling from one foot.The camera follows her, moving sideways past a narrow door until it reaches the bedroom window, where the light goes on and the woman comes into view. She kicks her pants off. They fly through the air, hit the wall behind an armchair with a red cushion, and fall to the floor.

Eek. Creepy! If this extract has left you wanting more, then Stalker is available to buy!

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Wordery

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

LARS KEPLER is the pseudonym of the critically acclaimed husband and wife team Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril and Alexander Ahndoril. Their number one internationally bestselling Joona Linna series has sold more than twelve million copies in forty languages. The Ahndorils were both established writers before they adopted the pen name Lars Kepler and have each published several acclaimed novels. They live in Stockholm, Sweden.

Translated by Neil Smith.

Safe Houses by Dan Fesperman @DanFesperman @AAKnopf @crimebythebook #blogtour #extract

It’s a pleasure to join the blog tour for Safe Houses by Dan Fesperman today! My thanks to Abby Endler at Knopf for the invitation to join and for providing the fab extract I’ll be sharing with you, right after I tell you what Safe Houses is all about.

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Author : Dan Fesperman
Title : Safe Houses
Pages : 416
Publisher : Knopf Publishing Group
Publication date : July 3, 2018

aboutthebook

West Berlin, 1979. Helen Abell oversees the CIA’s network of safe houses, rare havens for field agents and case officers amidst the dangerous milieu of a city in the grips of the Cold War. Helen’s world is upended when, during her routine inspection of an agency property, she overhears a meeting between two people unfamiliar to her speaking a coded language that hints at shadowy realities far beyond her comprehension. Before the day is out, she witnesses a second unauthorized encounter, one that will place her in the sightlines of the most ruthless and powerful man at the agency. Her attempts to expose the dark truths about what she has witnessed will bring about repercussions that reach across decades and continents into the present day, when, in a farm town in Maryland, a young man is arrested for the double murder of his parents, and his sister takes it upon herself to find out why he did it.

extract

Chapter 1

Berlin, 1979

The older man sat down at the kitchen table in the back of the safe house and recited the words for a second time. His monotone made it sound like a lesson, or maybe an incantation— some spell he was trying to cast over his listener:

“To swim the pond you must forsake the bay. You may touch the lake, but you must never submerge, and you must always return to the pond.”

The younger man, with his arms crossed, nodded.

“And the zoo?”
“Dry. To all of us, anyway. The pond is also dry, to the zookeeper.”

A pause, a wheezing intake of breath. “All of their people believe it to be long since drained, and its waters shall forever be invisible. Except of course to those of us with special eyewear. And that’s what we’re offering, if you’re interested.”

“Eyewear?”
“So to speak. A new way of seeing. And access, opportunity. More than you’ve ever dreamed of.”

The older man poured some whiskey. He swallowed and set down the glass sharply, like he was knocking for entry.

“You don’t understand a word of it, do you?”
“Some of it. Not all.”
“We’re inviting you in. But before that can happen we have to dry you off.”
“From my swim in the bay?”
“Of course.”

The younger man frowned and shuffled his feet. But the tilt of his head, the narrowing of his eyes, betrayed heightened interest. He uncrossed his arms and spoke again.

“First you have to tell me more.”
“No. First you have to tell me the route you took to get here.”
“Just like you said.”
“You were alone? No shadows, start to finish?”
“You saw the finish. There was no one at the start, either.”
“Positive? Even on the S- Bahn?”
“I took every precaution. The route was clean. I have done this before, you know.”

A long pause, followed by another gurgle of whiskey, a second knock of the glass.

“Come here, then.” The wheeze, yet again. “Sit down.”

The younger man took a step forward and then stopped, as if something else had just occurred to him.

“What if it’s no sale? This isn’t one of those things where if you tell me then you have to kill me, is it?”

The older man laughed, choppy notes from an old accordion.

“Come. Have a drink.”
“Was that a yes or no?”

“It wasn’t a yes-no question. Sit down and I’ll explain. People are dying out there, Lewis. They’re drowning with no one in the whole damn bay to save them, and you can change that overnight. As that Polish girl of yours likes to say, time’s a- wasting.”

“How do you know about her?”
“Rule one, Lewis. Always assume we know more than you think.”

Upstairs, in the room with the equipment, Helen Abell took note of the name “Lewis” as she leaned forward on stocking feet, straining to listen through the headset. A cryptonym, no doubt, but something about it was familiar. He wasn’t part of Berlin station— or, as the old-timers still called it, the Berlin Operations Base, or BOB—but maybe she had come across his name in a memo, or the cable traffic.

For the next few seconds all she heard was the sound of the younger man’s footsteps crossing the kitchen floor—clop, clop, clop, as loud as a Clydesdale— and the scrape of a chair as he sat at the table. It made her recall his polished black shoes, clunky, like the ones the East Germans wore.

The men had arrived a few minutes earlier. Helen had peeked out the window the moment she heard the rattle of a key in the lock, and she’d spotted them on the doorstep out front. Unexpected visitors, and neither looked familiar. But the mention of “Lewis” was a thread she could work with.

The wheels of the tape recorder kept turning, twin planets in rotation, absorbing every word. She was afraid to move lest the floor creak, giving her away. Too late to announce her presence. Was she wrong to leave the recorder on? To be listening at all? Probably. Undoubtedly. The whole thing was almost certainly way above her clearance. But she’d never heard any conversation like it.

From her brief observation she’d discerned that both men carried themselves with an air of competence and seniority—experienced hands in a special order, one which she aspired to join. It was like eavesdropping on a conversation of the gods. Nonetheless, she was off-limits and it was time to bow out. She should switch off the recorder, remove the headphones, and quietly wait for them to leave.

With a sigh, she reached for the off switch.

Then the needles flicked on the dials as the younger man spoke, and her hand stopped in midair. He’d lowered his voice, and Helen, unable to help herself, squinted in concentration to make out the words.

“Do the effies know?”
“Not a thing, or not since Jack kicked the bucket in ’72.”
“Jack? You mean . . . ?”
“Of course.”
“He was a friend?”
“Of a sort. The enemy of my enemy, that whole business. Last of his kind. Here, drink up.”

A splash of whiskey, then silence.

Helen was transfixed. What in the hell were they talking about? The effies. The zoo. The pond, the bay, and the lake. And now a reference to a former power figure named Jack— probably another cryptonym. Everything about the conversation was baffling, and not just because she didn’t know the lingo.

For starters, why speak in code? The whole point of a safe house was to make you feel secure enough to dispense with the mumbo jumbo. You kicked back, put your feet up, traded all the secrets you wanted in the plainest possible language. Safely, and with absolute confidence. That’s how she’d rigged these houses, four of them in all across the zones and neighborhoods of West Berlin, available at any given moment for privileged access and secret consultation. Each house was clean, unobtrusive, and practically soundproofed against the curiosity of neighbors, due mostly to her own efforts during the past year.

She was particularly proud of the job she’d done at this location, a crumbling brick townhouse a block south of Alt-Moabit. She had labored zealously to craft the most secure possible environment for the Company’s case officers and their agents, or for whoever else among their friends might temporarily need shelter from the cold and lonely hazards of their profession.

Why, then, this strange collection of buzzwords? Unless it wasn’t so much a code as a special language— and, yes, there was a difference—an exclusive lexicon for some obscure fraternity of operatives. Perhaps for someone with a higher security clearance this would be no mystery at all.

She also wondered how the men had gotten a key. Helen knew the identities of all six key holders for this house. Someone had given them a key without telling her. That in itself was a serious breach of security.

In addition, the meeting was unscheduled. When people wanted to use one of her facilities—okay, one of the Agency’s facilities—the rules said they were supposed to provide at least six hours’ notice, so she could ensure that no one else would barge in on them, and that conditions would be welcoming and ready. Before she took over, embarrassing run-ins and overlaps had been infrequent but not at all unheard of, a state of affairs that the chief of station had seemed to accept as an occupational hazard. Helen had taken pains to eliminate such snafus. It was all in the details— controlling the leaseholders, managing traffic, making the places easy to use, clean, and functional.

She had carefully vetted the current cover tenant for this house, a Pan Am stewardess with Agency connections whose work schedule meant she was home only on Wednesdays and Sundays, and even on those days could clear the premises at a moment’s notice.

There were contingencies for unannounced meetings, of course, and also for use by operatives and agents who weren’t regular customers. Espionage emergencies were hardly uncommon in Berlin. But the meeting Helen was hearing downstairs had none of the snap or crackle of an urgent rendezvous.

This chat was unrushed, collegial, and despite the age difference she suspected that these men were on roughly equal footing, meaning it probably wasn’t a meeting between a case officer and his local agent. Their English was flawless, no trace of a foreign accent. They were either American or very practiced at pretending to be American.

Of course, technically speaking, Helen wasn’t supposed to be there, either. That was the rub, and the reason for her deathly silence. Unbeknownst to the Agency, she had begun making surprise weekly inspections of her four properties. It was the most efficient way to uncover shabby upkeep and lax practices. She kept the visits off the books or they wouldn’t have worked. Yet another way in which she went the extra mile, a trait she’d become known for since her arrival in Berlin fourteen months earlier.

The job certainly hadn’t been her top choice. Not even close. She’d always suspected that the chief of station, a randy old mossback named Ladd Herrington, made the assignment to demean her, to put her in her place.

“You’re only twenty-three?” he’d said on that first day, peeping above the frames of reading glasses as he pawed through her file. His eyes wandered quickly from her face to her breasts, where he let them rest long enough to make her uncomfortable.

“You do know you’d be happier as an analyst, don’t you? In the long term, anyway. Much better prospects for advancement. For marriage, too, although perhaps that doesn’t interest you. Here, on the other hand . . .”

He flapped a hand dismissively, as if they were assessing her chances of discovering a new comet, or of recruiting Leonid Brezhnev as a double agent. Analyst. The default assignment for any Agency female, except the ones exiled to records, or to some other “special branch” of this or that department as long as it was well behind the scenes.

Hardly any made it into the field. Nonetheless, there she’d been, arriving on Herrington’s doorstep with only two years of experience for a posting to the city that had defined the Cold War, and he’d responded by slotting her in a position that until then had been largely clerical, staffed by someone two steps below her pay grade. To make it sound less offensive, or perhaps to heighten the joke, he’d come up with a new title: Chief of Administration for Logistics, Property and Personnel Branch, Berlin Station.

Helen had sulked for a week before deciding to make the most of it. She explored and then exploited the job’s opportunities, which turned out to be more expansive than anyone had realized. She revetted the tenants, rescouted the locations. Finding all of them lacking, she replaced them several months ahead of the usual rotation. She tightened hiring practices for support staff, upgraded the facilities at minimal cost, and instituted greater accountability among users. Overlaps and screwups disappeared, as did the mice and bedbugs. Complaints from field men dwindled. She made connections, widened her niche, found a lover, and settled in to Berlin’s cold, grim majesty with a sardonic viewpoint worthy of a lifer.

And now, here she was, caught in the middle of one of her surprise inspections, silent and still and, for the moment, trapped upstairs on a gray October Monday at mid- afternoon as she wondered what the hell she’d stumbled onto.

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Well, I don’t know about you but I’m very intrigued! If you are as well and you’d like to read more, Safe Houses is available to buy!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Bookdepository | Kobo | Wordery | Goodreads

abouttheauthor

Dan Fesperman’s travels as a writer have taken him to thirty countries and three war zones. Lie in the Dark won the Crime Writers’ Association of Britain’s John Creasey Memorial Dagger Award for best first crime novel, The Small Boat of Great Sorrows won their Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for best thriller, and The Prisoner of Guantánamo won the Dashiell Hammett Award from the International Association of Crime Writers. He lives in Baltimore.

Author links : Twitter

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