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The Sinner (18) (The Black Dagger Brotherhood series) Mass Market Paperback – September 29, 2020
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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Caldwell, New York
Behind the wheel of her ten-year-old car, Jo Early bit into the Slim Jim and chewed like it was her last meal. She hated the fake-smoke taste and the boat-rope texture, and when she swallowed the last piece, she got another one out of her bag. Ripping the wrapper with her teeth, she peeled the taxidermied tube free and littered into the wheel well of her passenger side. There were so many spent casings like it down there, you couldn’t see the floor mat.
Up ahead, her anemic headlights swung around a curve, illuminating pine trees that had been limbed up three-quarters of the way, the puffy tops making toothpicks out of the trunks. She hit a pothole and bad-swallowed, and she was coughing as she reached her destination.
The abandoned Adirondack Outlets was yet another commentary on the pervasiveness of Amazon Prime. The one-story strip mall was a horseshoe without a hoof, the storefronts along the two long sides bearing the remnants of their brands, faded laminations and off-kilter signs with names like Van Heusen/Izod, and Nike, and Dansk the ghosts of commerce past. Behind dusty glass, there was no merchandise available for purchase anymore, and no one had been on the property with a charge card for at least a year, only hardscrabble weeds in the cracks of the promenade and barn swallows in the eaves inhabiting the site. Likewise, the food court that united the eastern and western arms was no longer offering soft serve or Starbucks or lunch.
As a hot flash cranked her internal temperature up, she cracked the window. And then put the thing all the way down. March in Caldwell, New York, was like winter in a lot of places still considered northerly in latitude, and thank God for it. Breathing in the cold, damp air, she told herself this was not a bad idea.
Nah, not at all. Here she was, alone at midnight, chasing down the lead on a story she wasn’t writing for her employer, the Caldwell Courier Journal. Without anyone at her new apartment waiting up for her. Without anyone on the planet who would claim her mangled corpse when it was found from the smell in a ditch a week from now.
Letting the car roll to a stop, she killed the headlights and stayed where she was. No moon out tonight so she’d dressed right. All black. But without any illumination from the heavens, her eyes strained at the darkness, and not because she was greedy to see the details on the decaying structure.
Nope. At the moment, she was worried she was about to provide fodder for True Crime Garage. As unease tickled her nape, like someone was trying to get her attention by running the point of a carving knife over her skin—
Her stomach let out a howl and she jumped. Without any debate, she went diving into her purse again. Passing by the three Slim Jims she had left, she went straight-up Hershey this time, and the efficiency with which she stripped that mass-produced chocolate of its clothing was a sad commentary on her diet. When she was finished, she was still hungry and not because there wasn’t food in her belly. As always, the only two things she could eat failed to satisfy her gnawing craving, to say nothing of her nutritional needs.
Putting up her window, she took her backpack and got out. The crackling sound of the treads of her running shoes on the shoulder of the road seemed loud as a concert, and she wished she wasn’t getting over a cold. Like her sense of smell could be helpful, though? And when was the last time she’d considered that possibility outside of a milk carton check.
She really needed to give these wild-goose chases up.
Two-strapping her backpack, she locked the car and pulled the hood of her windbreaker up over her red hair. No heel toeing. She left-right-left’d it, keeping the soles of her Brooks flat to quiet her footfalls. As her eyes adjusted, all she saw were the shadows around her, the hidey-holes in corners and nooks formed by the mall’s doorways and the benches pockets of gotcha with which mashers could play a grown-up’s game of keep away until they were ready to attack.
When she got to a heavy chain that was strung across the entry to the promenade, she looked around. There was nobody in the parking lots that ran down the outside of the flanks. No one in the center area formed by the open-ended rectangle. Not a soul on the road that she had taken up to this rise above Rt. 149.
Jo told herself that this was good. It meant no one was going to jump her.
Her adrenal glands, on the other hand, informed her that this actually meant no one was around to hear her scream for help.
Refocusing on the chain, she had some thought that if she swung her leg over it and proceeded on the other side, she would not come back the same.
“Stop it,” she said, kicking her foot up.
She chose the right side of the stores, and as rain started to fall, she was glad the architect had thought to cover the walkways overhead. What had been not so smart was anyone thinking a shopping center with no interior corridors could survive in a zip code this close to Canada. Saving ten bucks on a pair of candlesticks or a bathing suit was not going to keep anybody warm enough to shop outside October to April, and that was true even before you factored in the current era of free next-day shipping.
Down at the far end, she stopped at what had to have been the ice cream place because there was a faded stencil of a cow holding a triple decker cone by its hoof on the window. She got out her phone.
Her call was answered on the first ring.
“Are you okay?” Bill said.
“Where am I going?” she whispered. “I don’t see anything.”
“It’s in the back. I told you that you have to go around back, remember?”
“Damn it.” Maybe the nitrates had fried her brain. “Hold on, I think I found a staircase.”
“I should come out there.”
Jo started walking again and shook her head even though he couldn’t see her. “I’m fine—yup, I’ve got the cut through to the rear. I’ll call you if I need you—”
“You shouldn’t be doing this alone!”
Ending the connection, she jogged down the concrete steps, her pack bouncing like it was doing push-ups on her back. As she bottomed out on the lower level, she scanned the empty parking lot—
The stench that stabbed into her nose was the kind of thing that triggered her gag reflex. Roadkill… and baby powder?
She looked to the source. The maintenance building by the tree line had a corrugated metal roof and metal walls that would not survive long in tornado alley. Half the size of a football field, with garage doors locked to the ground, she imagined it could have housed paving equipment as well as blowers, mowers, and snowplows.
The sole person-sized door was loose, and as a stiff gust from the rainstorm caught it, the creak was straight out of a George Romero movie—and then the panel immediately slammed shut with a clap, as if Mother Nature didn’t like the stink any more than Jo did.
Taking out her phone, she texted Bill: This smell is nasty.
Aware that her heart rate just tripled, she walked across the asphalt, the rain hitting the hood of her windbreaker in a disorganized staccato. Ducking her hand under the loose nylon of the jacket, she felt for her holstered gun and kept her hand on the butt.
The door creaked open and slammed shut again, another puff of that smell releasing out of the pitch-black interior. Swallowing through throat spasms, she had to fight to keep going and not because there was wind in her face.
When she stopped in front of the door, the opening and closing ceased, as if now that she was on the verge of entering, it didn’t need to catch her attention and draw her in.
So help her God, if Pennywise was on the other side…
Glancing around to check there were no red balloons lolling in the area, she reached out for the door.
I just have to know, she thought as she opened the way in. I need to… know.
Leaning around the jamb, she saw absolutely nothing, and yet was frozen by all that she confronted. Pure evil, the kind of thing that abducted and murdered children, that slaughtered the innocent, that enjoyed the suffering of the just and merciful, pushed at her body and then penetrated it, radiation that was toxic passing through to her bones.
Coughing, she stepped back and covered her mouth and nose with the crook of her elbow. After a couple of deep breaths into her sleeve, she fumbled with her phone.
Before Bill could say anything over the whirring in his background, she bit out, “You need to come—”
“I’m already halfway to you.”
“What’s going on—”
Jo ended the call again and got out her flashlight, triggering the beam. Stepping forward again, she shouldered the door open and trained the spear of illumination into the space.
The light was consumed.
Sure as if she were shining it into a bolt of thick fabric, the fragile glowing shaft was no match for what she was about to enter.
The threshold she stepped over was nothing more than weather stripping, but the inch-high lip was a barrier that felt like an obstacle course she could barely surmount—and then there was the stickiness on the floor. Pointing the flashlight to the ground, she picked up one of her feet. Something like old motor oil dripped off her running shoe, the sound of it finding home echoing in the empty space.
As Jo walked forward, she found the first of the buckets on the left. Home Depot. With an orange-and-white logo smudged by a rusty, translucent substance that turned her stomach.
The beam wobbled as she looked into the cylinder, her hand shaking. Inside there was a gallon of glossy, gleaming… red… liquid. And in the back of her throat, she tasted copper—
Jo wheeled around with the flashlight.
Through the doorway, the two men who had come up behind her without a sound loomed as if they had risen out of the pavement itself, wraiths conjured from her nightmares, fed by the cold spring rain, clothed in the night. One of them had a goatee and tattoos at one of his temples, a cigarette between his lips and a downright nasty expression on his hard face. The other wore a Boston Red Sox hat and a long camel-colored coat, the tails of which blew in slow motion even though the wind was choppy. Both had long black blades holstered handles down on their chest, and she knew there were more weapons where she couldn’t see them.
They had come to kill her. Tracked her as she’d moved away from her car. Seen her as she had not seen them.
Jo stumbled back and tried to get out her gun, but her sweaty palms had her dropping her phone and struggling to keep the flashlight—
And then she couldn’t move.
Even as her brain ordered her feet to run, her legs to run, her body to run, nothing obeyed the panic-commands, her muscles twitching under the lockdown of some invisible force of will, her bones aching, her breath turning into a pant. Pain firework’d her brain, a headache sizzling through her mind.
Opening her mouth, she screamed—
- Publisher : Pocket Books (September 29, 2020)
- Language : English
- Mass Market Paperback : 592 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1982132108
- ISBN-13 : 978-1982132101
- Item Weight : 8.8 ounces
- Dimensions : 4.13 x 1 x 6.75 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #31,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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I am over with this series This story is completely incoherent with what is the spirit and the feel of the Band of Bastards; the fact that they stopped using the old language makes it even more boring.
Having always the same people in the books pissess me off none the less especially the love couple V+B.
Sin was loyal to Xcor and should have always been. This is not who he was in this book. Not at least what the other books were telling about him and the Bastards. I didnt see the link in between them , that should have been there and thinking that his loyalty changed so drastically in so little time, in despite how long he has lived with Xcor and other Bastards makes it so incoherent.
This is the last book I have bought of this series and I am truly disappointed.
This was one of my best series, but with this book it confirms everything. The Ward doesnt have any other new ideas and the fact that she pushes the characters to be something that is not in their nature just pissess me off completely.
THIS IS NOT THE BOB I WAS LOOKING FOR. THIS IS NOT XCOR'S WAY OF NOT CARING FOR HIS BASTARDS.
I am done. The worst money spent ever!
Where was Xcor ? You would think if one of his key men was losing the plot and killing to satisfy his inner demon, taking the blame for others killings, that Xcor would step in to find out what was going on, but no its Tohr, who sure, for BDB is the mentor of the guys, but not for Band of Bastards. Xcor barely got a mention.
I love B & V , and their relationship, and snippets of them were expected when the end of the war was coming to a head, but we always only see snippets of the same characters, rarely a mention of the others or an update on the state of play on others. A mistake the author continues to make.
The twist of bringing in a new villan and merging the other book series was predictable after the female escaped when Throe failed to become whatever he was planning. I hope that there will be some fun between her and Lassiter in future, they have a similar childish part of their natures that will make the battle interesting.
But this book was about Syn & Jo.... well it was sposed to be. He went from full rage, to suddenly not wanting to fight or kill again, to being back in the battle so fast I got whip lash. These boys are loyal, walking away from the battle and projecting their King isnt an option for any of them, him coming off rotation not wanting to kill, didnt make any sense. Get that he was heart broken and sad, but , come on, none of the boys would do this, not even one of the B@stards.
I loved seeing the Scribe V back, and confirmation she has always been present, giving Wrath the gift at the end was a nice touch as well as the insight into LW's future.
How does Omega manage to get all his power back, and be even stronger than before, then suddenly poof hes all gone.... while it had to end, the story with him was dragging out way too long, still a too soft of an end to his evil. and Mr F .... again, another soft pathetic character, so much potential lost had this character been a complete a hole.
These books have lost the battle , the fight, the passion of earlier books, while I hated how there was a block of chapters about Lessers in the earlier ones and I always skipped those whole sections, the author has changed the writing style thank goodness, but its all gone too soft. These men are fighters , fighting to save humanity and the future of their race. They spend more time talking about sport, TV and smoking & drinking than anything else. While I have no issue with them doing those things, it must be balanced with a good complex battle with the villan.
Stop being soft, give us a good battle, give us a true love story that pulls at the heart. Give us snippets of our other loved characters, updates on their progress, their children. What ever happened to Payne, Phury, Z , Assail & Sola, Bitty, Saxton/Ruhn.... and so many others.
Oh and have a word with your greedy publishers, happy to pay a fair price for a good book, but over $13 for an e book is getting stupid. Just because people love a series and want the next book, they are taking advantage. If the book was amazeballs I wouldnt have a problem but it was just ok.
500 pages of back and forth between Syn & Jo, Butch & V, Omega, Mel (aka Davina) within the same chapters which at times made it difficult to concentrate,the book whiplash was a little annoying.
Under the chaos was a sweeter love story than expected, but I could live with that. What my biggest disappointment centers around is the Dhestroyer's prophecy. I have been reading this series since 2005 with Dark Lover, and the build up to Butch's legacy has been hammered into us in every book since Lover Revealed. To have the prophecy end the way it did to me was a cop-out-(excuse the pun).
Devina could have been used in a different way IMO to become the new "IT" menace. I guess peeps will be orgasmic with the thought of Lassiter vs Devina and yay, more Lassiter.
I miss the good ole days - Book one to The King.
Top reviews from other countries
For me personally i found that side of the book somewhat underwhelming.the fact a character from her fallen angels series is brought in, which i have only read one of and was not keen on, didnt bother me too much as i had a basic idea of who she was and some details were given.however, after waiting so long for this it all seemed very anti-climatic.
Another problem for me with this book was the romance between jo & sin, or more accurately the lack of.also i missed the original bonded behaviour with all the MINE that we used to see.
Also Syns past seemed so glossed over (as did the fact His eyes go red) that it was hard to like him at all.with other characters with tough pasts (zsadist,V,xcor) we have been given more detail and really gotten to understand the complexities of them, which is definitely not the case here.
I will be honest reading the books all back to back probably showed this ones faults up more for me.its definitely lacking the spark of her earlier books for sure.Also i think a lot of it seemed very rushed overall and quite disjointed.yes i quite enjoyed Some of it,but in comparison with what we were once served,the latter books in this series now seem a mere imitation of the earlier ones and at a much heftier price.
Will not say more as I don't want to give away any plot points but this IS a pivotal book in the series and after the events told here nothing will ever be the same again.
But the characters and the storyline are quite flat and only a little interwoven with the other brotherhood characters. The final battle with the Omega was over in a couple of pages and a real anti-climax.
This book clearly was written cery quickly and minimal effort by the author.
There may be more books as there is a new enemy but I don't think I will bother and will rather re-read the old books