Fourteen miles east of Peachtree, Alabama, a secret is hidden. That secret’s name is Annabel Lee Truckson, and even she doesn’t know why her mysterious uncle has stowed her deep underground in a military-style bunker. He’s left her with a few German words, a barely-controlled guard dog, and a single command: “Don’t open that door for anybody, you got it? Not even me.”
Above ground, a former Army sniper called The Mute and an enigmatic “Dr. Smith” know about the girl. As the race begins to find her, the tension builds. Who wants to set her free? Why does the other want to keep her captive forever? Who will reach her first?
Private investigators Trudi Coffey and Samuel Hill need to piece together the clues and stay alive long enough to retrieve the girl–before it’s too late.
With its stunning writing and relentless pace, Annabel Lee will captivate readers from the first page.
~ Excerpt ~
“Uncle Truck,” I say, but he cuts me off again.
“No time, Annabel. No time.”
He’s breathing hard. I watch his eyes sweep over the wide-open room and can also see his mind deciding what he has time to say.
“Stay here,” he says quickly to me. “No matter what. Even if you’re here for days. Or weeks. Stay here. There are enough supplies for four adults to last ten days. With just you and a dog, you should last more than a month. Maybe two months if you’re careful. So stay here until I come back for you.”
Uncle Truck reaches into his pocket and produces a key. He points to the steel-reinforced door. “Three dead bolts on that door,” he says. “One key. My key. Understand?”
Truck presses his key into my palm. “When I walk outta here, you lock all three bolts on that door. Got it?”
Now Truck makes his head level with mine, eyes boring deep into me, searching. I watch his nostrils flare when he speaks. “Don’t open that door for anybody, you got it? Not even me, not unless you hear me say the safe code. You remember the code?”
Ever since I could first talk, on my birthday each year, Uncle Truck would give me a safe code, a catchphrase for emergencies. If one of us said the code, that meant things was okay, that he or she could be trusted. I remember the code.
He nods. “You’ve studied your German, right? You know German?”
“Ja,” I say, and this time he really does grin.
“Good. You’ll need that for the dog.”
Protect! I think suddenly. That’s what schützen means. Truck told the dog to protect me? But will the dog still obey that command when Uncle Truck is gone? I shiver in spite of myself.
“Trust that dog like you would trust me. Understand?”
Trust that filthy, finger-eatin’ animal? Is he serious?
“Annabel.” His voice is urgent.
“Yes, sir,” I say out loud. But even I don’t believe it. Truck nods at me anyway.
“You’ll have to figure out the rest for yourself. At least until I get back.”
There’s a split second of silence and I feel the weight of all the things Truck ain’t telling me. Then he nods again and stands to full height. A soldier now, ready for battle.
“I’ve got to go, Annie-girl. What you going to do.” It’s a command, not a question.
I feel the tears comin’ again. Sheesh, maybe I am just a baby girl after all.
“How long.” Again, a command.
“Until you come get me. Until I hear your voice say ‘love that was more than love’ at me through that door.”
He nods. He looks proud. And now I see he might be crying too. Not honest-to-goodness tears, no, but wetness around the edges of his eyes. That’s good enough for me.
He don’t say good-bye. He just turns and steps into the tunnel, pulling the heavy door behind him until it slams into place.
~ Review ~
When a story opens with, “Uncle Truck keeps a German shepherd on his farm that’ll eat human fingers if you feed ‘em to it just right,” you’re either hooked, or you’re going to throw the book to the side; I was hooked. It’s not that I’m a particularly blood-thirsty person (even watching medical procedures makes me queasy), but you have to wonder, “Where on earth is this story going to take me?” The answer, as it turns out, is, “For quite a ride!”
This thoroughly engrossing story was told from the point of view of three very different characters: Annabel Lee Truckson, an eleven year old girl who lives with her Uncle Truck; Trudi Coffey, a private investigator who is still bitter over her divorce from ex-husband Samuel Hill; and The Mute, a former Special Forces sniper in the Army who can no longer speak after an IED blew up under his Humvee and damaged his throat.
The beginning of this story tended to get a little bogged down in filling in the character’s backstory, particularly Trudi’s, but even so, my curiosity was piqued; firstly with that opening about the dog; secondly, by the one-word ad that Trudi looks for each morning in the paper; and thirdly, by what The Mute witnesses from his sentry point in the trees on the border of Truck’s farm. As a result, Annabel is quickly removed to a bunker on Truck’s property, left with enough food to last more than a month and guarded by a dog that’ll eat human fingers if you feed ‘em to it just right. Plan B has been initiated.
Trudi Coffey has read the same one-word ad in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for the last three years, and it’s become a part of her morning routine to check it each day to see if the author still has the same message to send. Little does she realise how she will be impacted the day that single word changes, or that it will involve working so closely with her ex-husband, Samuel Hill – a man for whom her feelings give new meaning to the phrase, “It’s complicated.”
As for The Mute: He’s the strong, silent type, if you will forgive the pun! He’s been ready for this day for years. He knows what he needs to do. But a little ex-lovers’ payback has put a kink in the road. Can he complete Plan B without getting himself and Annabel, and now possibly even Trudi and Sam killed in the process?
There was a palpable sense of urgency and danger throughout this novel, but more than that, I was also curious. Why was Annabel Lee so important? Even in my wildest imaginings I wouldn’t have come up with the answer. The other drawcard for me was the intriguing characters – particularly Annabel, The Mute, and even the finger-eatin’ German shepherd. I have to confess I didn’t warm to Trudi quite as much as I did to the other characters, largely due to the bitterness in her attitude towards her ex-husband. I could understand her feeling of betrayal, but she frequently referred to Sam as ‘the pig’ in her thoughts, and he was often referred to as ‘her ex-husband’ instead of ‘Sam’ in the narrative. It just rubbed me up the wrong way and seemed at odds with her professed Christianity, although maybe this is an area she will grow in later in the series as they continue to work together.
Despite a few times when I thought the writing was not quite as good as it could have been, this was generally a well-written, fast-paced thriller, and there was plenty to suggest that Nappa’s writing will only get stronger as he becomes more settled in the fiction genre. There was plenty of action, but also a fair bit of violence, particularly during the climax (including fatalities). The violence is not gratuitous, at least on the part of the ‘good guys’, nor is it overly descriptive, but there were one or two times where I grimaced a little at the thought of what was happening.
When all is said and done, this was a thrilling ride. I look forward to the next book in the series, releasing in September 2016.
I received a complementary copy of this novel from Revell Books in exchange for my honest review.
Release date: 1 March 2016
Publisher: Revell Books
Author’s website: http://www.nappaland.com/MikeNappa/
Coming in September 2016 – #2 in the Coffey & Hill Series
As part of his regular street performance, a deception specialist who goes by the name The Raven picks his audience’s pockets while they watch. It’s harmless fun–until he decides to keep the spare wallet a city councilman doesn’t seem to miss, hoping for a few extra bucks. When he finds not money but compromising photos of the councilman and his “personal assistants,” The Raven hatches a plan to blackmail the man. However, he quickly finds himself in over his head with the Ukrainian Mafia and mired in a life-threatening plot code-named, “Nevermore.”
Private investigators Trudi Coffey and Samuel Hill must scramble to sort out the clues–and their complicated feelings for each other–to rescue The Raven and save hundreds of lives from a wildcard bent on revenge.