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  • Edition: Reprint
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  • Copyright: 2009-08-25
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
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Philadelphia police detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano are working a new beat: the Special Investigations Unit, aka the cold case squad. Ironic, given that it's the height of a blazing hot August. But even these hardened homicide veterans are chilled to the bone as a dormant murder case stirs to lifeleading Byrne and Balzano into the dark heart of their city, their souls, and a psyche of pure evil. Months before, a teenage runaway's body was found in the desolate, dangerous North Philly district dubbed the Badlands. Dead runaways were no novelty on these mean streets, but the Caitlin O'Riordan case was different. Her corpse was found in the basement of a rancid tenement apartment, the inexplicable cause of death: drowning. In the end, nothing was solved and the case was closed. Now a confession to the bizarre murder on the police tipline sends Byrne and Balzano rushing to make an arrest. But instead of a killer, they discover a ghastly scene: a jar containing human remainsalong with a cryptic clue leading to an unlikely witness. Laura Somerville lives far from the squalor of the Badlands, and seemingly light-years from any connection to a murdered runaway. But moments after discussing the case with this elegant lady, Byrne and Balzano make another grisly discovery, and find an enigmatic word spelled out in Scrabble tiles. Across town, another victim's shallow grave reveals deeper mysteries. Her secret diaries portray a woman haunted by a shocking past, and obsessed with finding a depraved killer. Now, as the body count grows, a terrifying design literally takes shape. Pieces of a gruesome puzzle are being set into place by the cruel hands of a madman using the city as his game board. His playthings are the innocent, and his opponentsand pawnsare Byrne and Balzano, who must, before time runs out, decipher the truth about a shadowy house of horrors and its elusive master. Internationally acclaimed author Richard Montanari works his black magic to spine-tingling perfection in Badlands, conjuring all the relentless suspense, dark twists of intrigue, and full-throttle action that make his brilliant, engrossing novels required reading for thriller fans. From the Hardcover edition.

Author Biography

Richard Montanari is a novelist, screenwriter, and essayist. His work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Detroit Free Press, Cleveland Plain Dealer, and scores of other national and regional publications. He is the OLMA-winning author of the internationally acclaimed thrillers Merciless, The Skin Gods, The Rosary Girls, Kiss of Evil, Deviant Way, and The Violet Hour.


From the Hardcover edition.


Chapter One

The dead girl sat inside the glass display case, a pale and delicate curio placed on a shelf by a madman. In life she had been beautiful, with fine blond hair and cobalt blue eyes. In death her eyes pleaded for benediction, for the cold symmetry of justice.

 The last thing they had seen was a monster. Her tomb was a stifling basement in an abandoned building in the Badlands, a five- square- mile area of desolate terrain and destroyed lives in North Philadelphia, running approximately from Erie Avenue south to Girard, from Broad Street east to the river. 

Her name was Caitlin Alice O’Riordan. On the day of her murder, the day her brief story came to a close, she was seventeen. 

For Detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano of the Philadelphia Police Department’s Hom i cide Unit, Caitlin’s story was just beginning. 

There are three divisions in Philly Homicide— the Line Squad, which handles new cases; the Fugitive Squad; and the Special Investigations Unit, which handles, among other things, cold cases. To the detectives of SIU, all of whom were members of the Five Squad, an elite group of investigators handpicked by the captain based on their abilities, their closure rates, and their investigative skills, a cold case investigation represented a second chance to right a wrong, an ultimatum to the killers who arrogantly walked the streets of Philadelphia, a statement that said the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the City of Brotherly Love, were not done with them. 

The Caitlin O’Riordan investigation was the first SIU case for Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano. 

When the detectives arrived at the Eighth Street address there was no yellow tape ringing the property, no sector cars blocking traffic, none of the blue and white Crime Scene Unit vans, no officer guarding the entrance, crimescene log in hand. All this was long gone. 

They had read the reports, seen the autopsy protocol, viewed the photographs and video. But they had not yet followed the path of the killer. 

Both detectives believed that their investigation would truly begin the moment they stepped into the room where Caitlin O’Riordan had been found. 

The building had been sealed four months earlier at the time of the initial investigation, the doors replaced and padlocked, the plywood over the windows secured with lag bolts. Originally a single- family row house, this corner building had been bought and sold many times. Its most recent incarnation was as a small grocery, a narrow, slipshod emporium hawking baby formula, chips, diapers, canned meats, magazines, lottery dreams. Its stock- in- trade, its lifeblood, had been the Holy Trinity of crack addiction: Chore Boy scouring pads, disposable plastic lighters, and individually packaged tea roses. The roses came in long, narrow glass tubes that, within a minute or two of leaving the store, became straight shooters, a fast and easy way to fire up a rock, the ashes from which were caught by the steel wool of the scouring pad. Every con ve nience store in the Badlands carried tea roses, which probably made this part of North Philly the most romantic place on earth. Hundreds of times a day someone bought a flower. 

The bodega had closed more than three years earlier, and no tenant had moved in. The building’s façade was still a Day- Glo green, with a strange sign painted over the front window: 

open 24 hours. days 12 to 8 pm. 

Jessica unlocked the padlock on the corrugated metal door, rolled it up. They stepped inside and were im

Excerpted from Badlands: A Novel of Suspense by Richard Montanari
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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