Deeper than the Dead
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California, 1985. Three children, running in the woods behind their school, stumble upon a partially buried female body, eyes and mouth glued shut. Close behind the children is their teacher, Anne Navarre, shocked by this discovery and heartbroken as she witnesses the end of their innocence. What she doesn’t yet realize is that this will mark the end of innocence for an entire community, as the ties that bind families and friends are tested by secrets uncovered in the wake of a serial killer’s escalating activity.
Vince Leone, a pioneering FBI investigator called in from Washington to consult on the case, is charged with interpreting those now-revealed secrets. He’s using a new technique, profiling, to develop a theory of the murders, a strategy that pushes him ever deeper into the lives of the three children, and closer to the young teacher whose interest in recent events becomes as intense as his own.
As new victims are found and the media scrutiny of the investigation bears down on them, both Vince and Anne are unsure if those who suffer most are the victims themselves—or the family and friends of the killer, blissfully unaware that someone very close to them is a brutal, calculating psychopath.
Note: The excerpt of Deeper Than The Dead provided on this website is from an uncopyedited, non-final draft of the manuscript.
“One of the most intense suspense writers around.”
“Hard to put down.”
—The Washington Post on The Alibi Man
“Stunning . . . [Hoag] stands above the competition, creating complex characters that evolve more than those in most thrillers. The breathtaking plot twists are perfectly paced.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Prior Bad Acts
“A snappy, scary thriller.”
—Entertainment Weekly on Prior Bad Acts
“Hoag’s cliff-hanger scene endings and jump cuts leave the reader panting and turning the pages as fast as possible.”
—The Boston Globe on Prior Bad Acts
“A no-holds-barred, page-turning thriller . . . Readers beware: Don’t begin this novel unless you have plenty of time to finish it, because you likely won’t be able to put it down.”
—The Philadelphia Inquirer on Prior Bad Acts
“Demonstrates once again why [Hoag is] so good at what she does.”
—San Francisco Chronicle on Kill the Messenger
“Hoag’s usual crisp, uncluttered storytelling and her ability to make us care about her characters triumphs.”
—Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale) on Kill the Messenger
Tami explains why she wrote Deeper Than The Dead in this author’s note which appears in the book.
Do you remember 1985?
In 1985 I was working at the Bath Boutique in Rochester, Minnesota, selling designer toilet seats and ceramic rabbit toothbrush holders. I was two years away from selling my first book (THE TROUBLE WITH J.J.), and three years away from its publication.
In 1985 Ronald Regan was in the first year of his second term as President of the United States. Real women wore shoulder pads, permed their hair, and lusted after Tom Selleck and Don Johnson. Cell phones were the size of bricks and had to be carried around in a case with a handle. The Go-Go’s disbanded, Madonna was the hot new thing, and Bruce Springsteen was Born in the USA.
As I began to develop the idea for Deeper Than The Dead, I knew the book would be set in the past. I thought this would be fun. Maybe I would dredge up some nostalgia for leg warmers and heavy metal hair bands (as in Van Halen and Motley Crue). It wasn’t until I got into the book that I realized something very inconvenient about 1985: in terms of forensic science and technology, it was the freaking Stone Age.
Imagine a sheriff’s department without computers on every detective’s desk. I can actually remember seeing law enforcement agency wish lists in the late ‘80’s longing for such exotic items as fax machines and photocopiers.
Imagine no DNA technology. The first case adjudicated in the US where DNA evidence was presented was in 1987, and the science was considered controversial still for years after that. That’s hard to grasp today, in the days of the CSI effect, where juries expect DNA evidence and are often reluctant to convict without it.
In 1985 fingerprint examples were still matched by the human eye.
Now I am by no means gifted in the technological sense. If it had been left up to me to harness electricity, we would all still be reading by oil lamps. I have no clue how my computer works. I still haven’t figured out how all those tiny little people get inside my television.
And yet, compared to 1985 Tami, I am a technology junkie. I am never without my iPhone or iPod. Have laptop, will travel is my motto. My DVR records every rerun ofHouse. I even occasionally Tweet on Twitter.
So used to all this modern convenience, I found it a major inconvenience when I couldn’t have my detectives jump on the information super highway to gather information. And no cell phones for instant contact? How did we live?
In fact, criminal profiling—so commonly used today, and so familiar to law enforcement and civilians alike—was still something of a fledging science in the mid-‘80’s. That was what we think of now as the Golden Age of the FBI’s Behavioral Sciences Unit. Those were the days of The Nine: nine legends in the making (Conrad Hassel, Larry Monroe, Roger Depue, Howard Teten, Pat Mullany, Roy Hazelwood, Dick Ault, Robert Ressler, and John Douglas) who came together in three or four different groups over that time span to bring profiling and the BSU to the forefront of law enforcement.
In 1985 the unit was housed at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, in offices sixty feet below ground—ten times deeper than the dead—in what agents referred to as “The National Cellar for the Analysis of Violent Crime.”
Setting Deeper Than The Dead in 1985 gave me the opportunity to write about those days, and to insinuate a character into that mythical circle of The Nine. It also gave me a chance to walk down memory lane and remember the days of DALLAS and DYNASTY, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and Member’s Only jackets.
We were all happenin’ in the ‘80’s, and if anyone would have suggested then we were living in an age of innocence, we would have thought them crazy. So much has happened in the decades since. Not all for the better, to be sure. Still, I’ll definitely take the advances made in forensic sciences, and I’ll definitely take my cell phone.