Thursday, October 10, 2013
Alan Jacobson - No Way Out is featured in the HBS Mystery Reader's Circle today.
Author Genre: Mystery & Thrillers
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My literary career has been marked by a number of events, but none more significant than an accidental meeting nearly 20 years ago. While researching "False Accusations" at the Department of Justice's crime lab, I met FBI agent Mark Safarik, who was awaiting promotion to the FBI's Behavioral Analysis (profiling) Unit--the one popularized by TV's Criminal Minds. We hit it off, stayed in touch, and Agent Safarik invited me out to Quantico to tour the FBI Academy and profiling unit. Thus began my immersion in the world of serial killers, rapists, bombers and arsonists.
Seven years later, my education had reached critical mass: I'd made numerous trips to the Behavioral Analysis Unit, had countless hours of conversations with Agent Safarik and his partner, Agent Mary Ellen O'Toole; I'd edited four published FBI research papers on serial offenders and attended numerous FBI training courses; I'd shot submachine guns with the head firearms instructor at the Academy; and I'd parsed serial killer interviews with Agent Safarik. I felt that I owned the material well enough to use this knowledge and experience in writing my third novel, the first featuring FBI Profiler Karen Vail.
Vail had an explosive debut, bursting onto the scene in the national bestseller "The 7th Victim." Sporting a vibrant personality oozing sharp wit and sarcasm, Vail is a woman bucking the odds in a unit geared toward men, someone who always means well but, like you and me, makes mistakes. She has fears, loves, and vulnerabilities--and despite being very good at what she does--suffers perpetual unease about the decisions she makes. Because lives are on the line. Errors prove costly.
No Way Out
Karen Vail Series
Author: Alan Jacobson
When a potent firebomb destroys part of an art gallery in an exclusive London district, FBI Profiler Karen Vail is dispatched to England to work with Scotland Yard on drafting a threat assessment to head off future attacks. But Vail soon discovers that at the heart of the bombing lies a 440-year-old manuscript that holds clues to England's past—with dramatic political and social implications. The manuscript’s content is so explosive that a group of political radicals is bent on destroying it at all costs.
Or is it the work of someone else? The trail leads Vail to a notorious fugitive who has escaped law enforcement for decades, and who appears to be planning a major attack on London and the United States. When Hector DeSantos, banished from the US Department of Defense and now a rogue covert operative, turns up in England and takes actions that threaten Vail’s life, she finds herself on the run from the British security service, Scotland Yard, and a group of internationally-trained assassins—all determined to silence her…all tightening the net to ensure that she’s got no way out.
With his trademark spirited dialogue, page-turning scenes, and well-drawn characters, National Bestselling author Alan Jacobson (“My kind of writer,” per Michael Connelly) has once again crafted an intelligent, twisting thriller destined to be talked about long after the last page is turned.
“Jacobson mixes rocket-paced suspense with fascinating history in this thrill ride of a book.”
—Joseph Finder, New York Times Bestselling Author
“Alan Jacobson is a wonderfully vivid writer, with a sharp, dark eye for detail. No Way Out captures the vagaries of English society with humor, while not breaking stride from what is a thrilling and uniquely British story.”
—Peter James, International bestselling author
“No Way Out goes beyond being a great summer read, and may be one of, if not the best, thriller of 2013. Fans will love it, and brand new readers will also. Jacobson explains any necessary back-story, escorting the reader along on one wild ride that the reader wishes partly to never end, but at the same time wanting to find out how it all ends.”
“Alan Jacobson knows how to write suspense. What fun to read! ...Don’t say you weren’t warned.”
—New York Journal of Books
“The complexity of the plot mixed with the well-researched setting and Vail’s signature style, make for a fast-paced, thrilling read where Jacobson offers you the best ticket in town. No Way Out is explosive!”
"Jacobson has written the thriller of the year—fast plot, incredible character development, and chilling atmosphere. No Way Out has everything you can ask for in a thriller, plus the bonus of reading a book which you'll re-read and which will never turn up in a second hand bookstore."
—The Strand Magazine
“Could really do with a fag about now.”
A number of responses flooded Karen Vail’s thoughts—and not all of them politically correct. The one she chose was borderline, yet biting.
“I don’t do fags,” Vail said, knowing full well that the British man was talking about bumming a cigarette off her.
The homicide detective squinted, unsure of what to make of the feisty redhead—let alone her comment.
After a moment, he rocked back on his heels and said, “Your theory of finding signature within MO was quite intriguing.”
FBI profiler Karen Vail, in Madrid as part of the Behavioral Analysis Unit’s effort to provide instruction on criminal investigative analysis to the world’s police force, held out her hand. “Karen Vail.”
“Ingram Losner.” The thin man paused, then said, “You did know I was talking about a cigarette, a smoke. Not a back tickler.”
Back tickler? “I did,” she said. “But that wasn’t the first thing that crossed my mind. I don’t know a whole lot of British expressions, but isn’t that one outdated?”
“Old habits die hard. Kind of like smoking.”
Vail looked across the tourist-filled plaza at a mime who was clad in thick green metallic paint, standing rock still and holding a broom. “I stopped smoking a while ago. Shitty habit.” She faced Losner. “You do know what shitty is, right?”
“I’m just saying. You people say ‘pissed’ for drunk, ‘fag’ for cigarette, ‘football’ for soccer—personally, I think we Americans have improved the English language.”
“Agent Vail,” said a suited man with a thick Spanish accent.
Vail turned. “Oh, Detective—” She snapped her fingers. “Heredia.”
“Very good, yes. I found your discussion of sexual homicide fascinating. It reminded me of a case I had four years—” His two-way radio chirped and he frowned. “Excuse me.” He yanked it from his belt. “Estoy fuera de servicio.” I’m off-duty. But a woman’s staccato speech erupted from the speaker, and Heredia’s expression hardened. He responded, “Sí, sí, estoy aquí.” Yes, yes, I’m here.
Vail struggled to follow the exchange. Her conversational Spanish was poor and the brushup audio course she listened to in the weeks before her departure required more time than she had to give.
Vail picked up a few words and missed several others, but she got this much:
Two murder suspects. Your location. Gray and blue backpacks.
Heredia’s head moved left and right as he scanned the crowd in front of him. “There!” He brought the radio to his mouth. “Los veo.” I see them.
Vail followed his gaze to two men a dozen feet away. They were carrying colored rucksacks like the ones the dispatcher had described.
“Policia,” Heredia called out. “Necesito hablar contigo.” I need to talk with you.
They turned to look, saw Heredia moving toward them, and took off.
Heredia followed, as did Vail. Losner’s voice receded behind her as she charged into the throng: “You’ve got no jurisdiction—you’re just a citizen!”
No, I’m a cop. And those are fleeing murder suspects.
Navigating through the dense horde of tourists and college students crowding the massive square, Vail saw the men running toward a side street. She did likewise, headed in their direction through the plaza’s archway exit onto Calle del Siete de Julio.
“You see them?”
Heredia. Behind her, slightly to her left—and suddenly blocked by a heavyset woman with a stroller.
“Got a visual!” she said without taking her eyes off the fleeing men.
Whether or not this was her jurisdiction, Vail was an officer of the law down to her bones. True, she was unarmed, and in Spain her FBI creds were worth less than the brass alloy her badge was made from—but none of that mattered as she sprinted ahead, darting around, and into, passersby.
Something deep down—the inner voice she sometimes ignored—Come on, Karen, admit it: you ignore me all the time!—told her to back off, to remember what she was here for. No matter how she parsed it, she was not in Spain to engage murder suspects in a foot race through the streets of Madrid.
Yet here she was, pushing forward, hurtling toward…who knew what.
She followed the men as they turned left onto Calle Mayor, through the flow of tourists and city dwellers, although the crowd had thinned considerably as she and Heredia put distance between them and the plaza.
As she crossed Calle del Duque de Najera, one of the men peeled left down the side street.
“I got him,” Heredia shouted.
Vail took the gray-backpacked man who continued straight. He slowed along Calle del Factor to dodge a passing taxi, its angry horn blaring.
On her left stood the imposing, brick Pallacio de Uceda. A soldier was stationed at one of the main entrances, a fully automatic machine gun slung over his shoulder. Asking him for assistance was out of the question; she had walked by the building two days ago and tried to chat him up about the best place to grab a taxi. He would not divert his attention to even talk with her, let alone join a harebrained chase.
Vail passed a Museo del Jamon restaurant on her left—with wrapped pig parts hanging in the window—and a cell phone store to her right.
The suspect dodged traffic and crossed the large avenue, Calle de Bailén. Slightly to the right and down the street was the massive complex of the Palacio Real de Madrid—the Royal Palace of Madrid.
But the guy toting the gray backpack was not headed toward the royal’s home—too much security there.
He swung left toward a sizable gray and tan structure, sharply spiked wrought iron fencing rising behind what appeared to be a statue of Pope John Paul II. A dozen crosses sat atop spires of varying heights, the most prominent being the building’s bell tower.
Vail’s suspect turned left down the steeply sloped side street, then ran up some stone stairs and through the church’s side door, the entrance to the Crypt of the Almudena Cathedral—a place one of the detectives had told her she “had to visit.”
This didn’t really qualify as a visit, but what the hell—she wasn’t going to have time to see the place otherwise.
As she entered the cathedral, a short man with frizzled gray hair was on his feet, looking to his right, pointing beyond the entryway. He turned to Vail and yelled, “Él no pagó!”
“Yeah, and I’m not paying either, buddy,” she said as she shouldered past him into the crypt. But the view immediately stopped her. “Holy shit—er, holy mother of God.” Please, God, don’t strike me down. I meant no disrespect. But the view is kind of breathtaking.
Charcoal-veined ivory marble tiles stretched a hundred yards down a long corridor lined with dozens of ornate columns and gold light fixtures. Strategic spotlights buried in the floor and accent lighting atop the columns lit the arching, atriumed ceiling, providing a dramatic aura in the dimly illuminated interior.
Vail couldn’t decide if the place was exquisite or gaudy.
But one thing was clear: her suspect was nowhere in sight.
She moved forward cautiously, down the corridor, passing open rooms to her right—private crypts with carved mantles, religious figurines and some of the most complex stained glass windows Vail had ever seen. Angel-themed murals made of inlaid tile formed the backdrop for works of ancient porcelain pottery set on elaborate pedestals.
“Yo sé que estás aquí,” Vail shouted. I know you’re here. “Policía! ¡Salga!” Police! Come out!
At least, I think that’s what I said. Should’ve paid more attention to that audio course.
Footsteps, twenty feet away, in the crypt off to her right.
Vail moved in the direction of the sound, reaching for her absent Glock. Shit. What am I going to do, spit on him? Yell at him? Well, I’ll definitely yell at him, but what’s that gonna get me?
As she passed the area where she had heard the noise, the clunk of something heavy striking the wall off to her left echoed in the corridor. She flinched and swung her head in that direction—but someone grabbed her from behind, locking the crook of his elbow into her larynx and yanking her backward. Vail pried at the man’s wrist, attempting to leverage his arm off her windpipe, but the pressure against her neck only increased.
She slammed her heel into his foot— and he released his hold enough for her to turn her head to the side and squirm down, out from under his grip. But then he brought his left knee up and swung it around, slamming into her side and sending her sprawling deeper into the crypt.
She landed face down on the slick tile floor and was trying to get up when he grabbed the back of her shirt and flung her into the stone wall. Her shoulder absorbed most of the impact, and she bounced back enough to give her the momentum to stumble forward, toward the opening that led to the corridor.
But he fisted her blouse and yanked her back toward him, then cupped a hand across her mouth. She wind-milled her elbows, striking him sharply in the nose and cheek—yet his grip remained firm.
He clamped a hand over her eyes and tried to force her to the ground.
Vail reached out blindly and grabbed for something—anything—and felt two objects. She took one in each hand and heaved them behind her, above her head.
They struck her attacker in the face.
He froze on impact—and she drove the point of her elbow into his abdomen. As he released his grip, she spun around, put her head down and struck him in the stomach, driving him backward like a linebacker doing tackling drills.
He grabbed her hair and pulled—but momentum and adrenaline propelled her forward several steps until they both struck the wall. It knocked the wind out of him and he lost his hold on her. She fell to the floor, landing on her bottom.
Vail got on her feet, ready to strike if he came at her again. And that’s when she realized that it was not the wall that had taken away his breath, but the wrought iron gate.
That, and the curved, razor-sharp pointed arrows atop the metal fencing.
As she advanced on him, it became clear that the murder suspect with the gray backpack was no longer a threat: the prongs had punctured the back of his skull, killing him instantly.
Footsteps. Running, echoing.
Shouting voices: “Policia! ¡Salga ahora!” Police! Come out now!
Now there’s a new one. Wish I’d thought of that.
Two cops appeared with handguns, pointed not at their dead suspect, but at her.
Vail did what all people are supposed to do when armed law enforcement personnel yell at you: she lifted both hands above her head. The universal sign for “I am so screwed.”
“FBI,” she said, not knowing if they understood English. And there was no way she’d be able to translate Federal Bureau of Investigation into Spanish. But she tried anyway. “Bureau Federale de Investigación.”
They looked at one another, hesitated—and then handcuffed her.
Typical cops. Don’t like fibbies.
As they led her away, she realized she had a problem. Murder suspect or not, she had killed a man in a foreign country. She was, as a buddy of hers liked to say, “in the shit.”
Lucy, you got some ’splaining to do.
VAIL FORCED A SMILE. She had been in the police interview room for thirty minutes, doing her best to explain her actions. But her piss-poor Spanish and their piss-poor English made for a lot of confusion and misunderstood hand gestures. Unfortunately, the one hand gesture Vail preferred to use would not have done her much good.
They finally summoned a translator.
“As I’ve been trying to tell you, I’m a Supervisory Special Agent for the FBI in the United States. I’m teaching a conference on behavioral analysis to your detectives.” She stopped and waited for the man to finish turning her English into Spanish. Accurately, she hoped.
The 7th Victim
Karen Vail Series
Author: Alan Jacobson
Book Trailer: The 7th Victim
Barnes and Noble
The Dead Eyes Killer lurks in the backyard of the famed FBI Profiling Unit. His brutal murders, unlike any others previously seen, confound the local task force, despite the gifted profiling skills of Special Agent Karen Vail. But along with Vail‘s insight and expertise comes considerable personal and professional baggage.
On leave pending a review of her assault on her abusive ex-husband, Vail must battle forces determined to bring her down, as she fights to find Dead Eyes before he murders more young women. But the seventh victim is the key to all that stirs this killer...the key that will unlock secrets perhaps too painful for Vail to bear. These are secrets that threaten to destroy her, secrets that will bring down her storied and promising career. For Karen Vail, the truth rests at the heart of a lie. And uncovering it could get her killed...
With material meticulously researched during seven years of study with the Bureau’s vaunted profiling unit, Alan Jacobson brings refreshing realism and unprecedented accuracy to his pages, as he takes readers behind the scenes of the FBI Academy, where he worked with the actual profilers who have studied and interviewed twenty years’ worth of serial killers.
SIX YEARS AGO
Queens, New York
“Dispatch, this is Agent Vail. I’m in position, thirty feet from the bank’s entrance. I’ve got a visual on three well-armed men dressed in black clothing, wearing masks. ETA on backup? I’m solo here. Over.”
“Copy. Stand by.”
Stand by. Easy for you to say. My ass is flapping in the breeze outside a bank with a group of heavily armed mercenaries inside, and you tell me to stand by. Sure, I’ll just sit here and wait.
FBI Special Agent Karen Vail was crouched behind her open car door, her Glock-23 forty-caliber sidearm steadied against the window frame. No match for what looked like MAC-10s the bank robbers were toting, but what can you do? Sometimes you’re just fucked.
Radio crackle. “Agent Vail, are you there? Over.”
No, I left on vacation. Leave a message. “Still here. No movement inside, far as I can tell. View’s partially blocked by a large window sign. Bank’s offering free checking, by the way.”
Vail hadn’t been involved in an armed response since leaving the NYPD five years ago. Back then she welcomed the calls, the adrenaline rush as she raced through the streets of Manhattan to track down the scumbags who were doing their best to add some spice to an otherwise bland shift. But after the birth of her son Jonathan, Vail decided the life of a cop carried too much risk. She eventually made it to the Bureau—a career advancement that had the primary benefit of keeping her keester out of the line of fire.
“Local SWAT is en route,” the voice droned over the two-way. “ETA six minutes.”
“A lot of shit can happen in six minutes.” Did I say that out loud?
“Repeat, Agent Vail?”
“I said, ‘A lot of sittin’ for the next six minutes.’” The last thing she needed was to have her radio transmission played back in front of everyone; she’d be ridiculed for weeks.
“Unit Five approaching, Queens Boulevard and Forty-eighth.”
Mike Hartman’s voice sounded unusually confident over the radio. Vail was surprised Mike and his new partner were responding to this call. She’d worked with Mike for six months and found him decent enough, but a marginal agent in terms of execution. At the moment, she’d take marginal execution . . . The more firepower the good guys had, the more likely the gunmen inside the bank would be intimidated, and the greater the odds of resolving this in the Bureau’s favor. Translation: she’d come out of this in one piece and the slimeballs would be wearing silver bracelets . . . Tightened that one extra notch—just enough to make them wince when she ratcheted them down around their wrist bones, for all the trouble they caused her.
Dispatch replied: “Roger, Unit Five.”
Mike’s unit was a block away and would be here in seconds.
With her eyes focused on the bank’s windows, she heard Mike Hartman’s Bureau car screech to a stop to her left, about thirty feet from the front door. But as her head swung toward the BuCar to make eye contact with Mike, she heard the clank of metal on metal and she pivoted back toward the bank—
—where she saw the three armed men in black sweats blowing through the front door, large submachine guns tucked beneath their arms, and damned if she didn’t think she’d called it right, they were carrying MAC10s. But in the next split second, as she ducked down and as glass shattered and rained all over her back, she saw, out of the corner of her eye, Mike Hartman lying on the ground, face up, his right arm tracing the pavement as if searching for something. A glimpse of his face showed raw pain and she knew instantly that he’d not lost anything but rather gained something—a few rounds of lead in his body. Still, Mike fared better than his partner, whose head hung limp, slumped back over the seat.
The bank robbers, machine guns and all, were arrayed in a triangle but not going anywhere, strategically positioned behind a mailbox and a row of metal newspaper dispensers, a pretty damn good bit of cover and a huge stroke of luck for them. But they’d just killed a cop—why weren’t they getting the hell out of Dodge?
Lying on the ground, with a bird’s-eye view of the pavement and Mike’s writhing body, Vail spied the cockeyed tires and sky blue rims of another vehicle, to the left of Mike’s BuCar. A local NYPD cruiser responding to the call. And where the hell was SWAT? Oh, yeah, six lonnnng minutes away. What did that make it, another four before they showed up? I told them a lot of shit can happen in six minutes.
Rounds continued popping all around her. Vail tried to stand— probably not the smartest thing to do while projectiles were zipping through the air at 950 feet per second, but she needed to do something.
As she rose, a couple of thumps struck her in the left thigh. The deep burn of a gunshot wound was instantly upon her, and a wide bloody circle spread through the nylon fibers of the stretch fabric of her tan pants. She didn’t have time for pain, not now. She grabbed the back of her leg and felt two tears in the fabric, indicating the rounds had gone right through. Assuming they didn’t hit a major artery, she’d be okay for a bit. But shit, right time or not, it sure hurt like hell.
She slithered to her left to gain a better view of what was happening in front of the bank—just as two of the slimebags dropped to the pavement… hit by the cops’ fire, no doubt. But the remaining asshole kept blowing rounds from his submachine gun, holding it like fucking Rambo, shooting from his waist and leaning back, hot brass jackets leaping from the weapon like they were angry at being expelled for something as mundane as murder.
The final cop went down—she could see him fall from her ground-level vantage point—and the perp stopped firing. The silence was numbing in its suddenness.
Vail watched as the man bent over and lifted the large canvas bag from his dead comrade’s hand and turned to hightail it down the street.
Well, this wasn’t good. Mike and his partner down, a couple cops dead, and the shithead was about to make it away with the cash. Not on my watch.
Vail rolled left, got prone against the ground and brought her Glock to the front of her body. This would be an insane shot—below the cars and above the curb—but what did she have to lose? With all the shooting, there were no innocents around. She squeezed off several rounds, the weapon bucking violently in her weak grip. And gosh darn it, if the fucker didn’t stumble, then limp—he was hit. Vail grabbed the edge of Mike’s car door and pulled herself up as best she could, her thigh burning like a red-hot poker, her muscles quivering as she groaned and pushed with her right leg to get herself upright.
Hanging onto the sideview mirror with her left hand, she took aim at the limping gunman and screamed, “Federal Agent. Freeze!”
Did that ever work? Nah. Usually not. But this guy wasn’t too smart, because he turned toward her, his submachine gun still in his grasp, and that was all she needed.
Vail fired again and took him out cold, flattened him against the pavement. And then let go of her hold on the mirror and joined him in a heap on the asphalt as she heard the uneven scream of sirens approaching.
She craned her neck back a smidgen and caught Mike Hartman’s pale gaze. He managed a slight smile before his eyes wavered closed. The next morning, after her release from the hospital, she put in for a transfer.
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