Secrets to the Grave

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Published by: Dutton
ISBN13: 9781101445990



“She lay discarded like a life-sized broken doll—made up, torn up, and cast aside, her brown eyes cloudy and lifeless.”

Marissa Fordham had a past full of secrets, a present full of lies. Everyone knew of her, but no one knew her.

When Marissa is found brutally murdered, her young daughter, Haley, with her head on her mother’s bloody breast, this mystery woman sends the idyllic California town of Oak Knoll into a tailspin. Already on edge with the upcoming trial of the See-No-Evil killer, residents are shocked at reports of the crime scene, which might not have been discovered for days but for a chilling 911 call: a small child’s voice saying, “My daddy hurt my mommy.”

The police face a puzzle with nothing but pieces that won’t fit. To assist with their only witness, four-year-old Haley, they call teacher-turned-child advocate Anne Leone. Anne’s life is hectic enough—she’s a newlywed and a part-time student in child psychology, and she’s the star witness in the See-No-Evil trial. But one look at Haley, alone and terrified, and Anne’s heart is stolen.

As Anne, her FBI profiler husband, Vince, and local sheriff’s deputy, Tony Mendez, begin to peel back the layers of Marissa Fordham’s life, they find a clue fragment here, another there. And just when it seems Marissa has taken her secrets to the grave, they uncover a fact that puts Anne and Haley directly in the sights of a killer: Marissa Fordham never existed at all.


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1986. Ronald Reagan was in his second term as president. On January 28, the space shuttle Challenger disintegrated seventy-three seconds after its launch, killing all seven astronauts aboard, including teacher Christa McAuliffe. Out of Africa won the Oscar for best picture. A mishandled safety test at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukranian SSR, Soviet Union, killed more than 4,000 people and caused 350,000 to be forcibly resettled away from the area. The New York Mets won the World Series, defeating the Boston Red Sox in seven games. The Bangles had a number one worldwide hit with “Walk like an Egyptian.”

It was a year of big hair, big shoulder pads, and spandex.

In 1986, DNA science was still in its infancy with regards to law enforcement and had yet to be presented as evidence in a court of law. Investigators with foresight were holding on to evidence obtained at crime scenes and from crime victims, waiting for the science to advance enough to help them convict killers and rapists.

In 1986, AIDS was only just becoming widely known as killer of near epidemic proportions worldwide and the gay community was under fire. In 1986, it was still considered scandalous for single women to become pregnant and to raise the child on their own. My, how times have changed.

At the end of 1986, I made the decision to put my best effort into becoming a published author the following year. My first book would be published in 1988, and I would purchase my first desktop computer—with black-and-white monitor—with my advance from that book.

When I sat down to the first book of this series, Deeper Than the Dead, it never occurred to me that I would be transporting readers to a simpler time. Nineteen eighty-five didn’t seem all that long ago to me. Then, one night at work an infomercial came on my television—Greatest Hits of the Eighties. As I listened to the sampling of songs, smiling at the memories they evoked, I suddenly came to a shocking realization: Oh, my God, I’ve become nostalgic! I’m old!!

Once I finally accepted that stunning truth, I embraced my trip back in time while also gaining a renewed appreciation for the technology available to law enforcement—and to the rest of us—today.