Special Agent Karen Vail “is a knockout, tough and brilliant” (Tess Gerritsen). As lead profiler for the FBI, Vail is spearheading the task force investigation into a serial killer known as “Dead Eyes,” who’s been terrorizing Fairfax County, Virginia.
What separates this psychopath from the others is a peculiar savagery, and an intimate knowledge of the FBI’s detailed strategy of pursuit. What separates Vail from her peers is a life that has made her hard and uncompromising. Recently divorced from an abusive husband, and in the throes of an ugly custody battle, she’s also helpless against her mother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s. But little by little, as Vail’s personal baggage begins to consume her, the investigation threatens to derail.
Now she’s weighing her last hope on a controversial profile. It suggests that the one key to solving the case lies with the seventh victim. But that key will also unlock secrets that could destroy Vail’s career, and expose a truth that even she might not be strong enough to survive.
In compiling his research for The 7th Victim, Alan Jacobson was allowed wide-ranging access to the FBI’s behavioral profiling unit over several years. Named one of the top five books of the year by Library Journal, it’s “a quantum leap in terror and suspense . . . A masterpiece” (New York Times–bestselling author James Rollins).
About the Author
Jacobson’s books have been published internationally, and several have been optioned for film and television. A number have been named to Best of the Year lists.
Jacobson has been interviewed extensively on television and radio, including on CNN, NPR, and multiple ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox network affiliates.
Alan Jacobson is the national bestselling author of the critically acclaimed FBI profiler Karen Vail and OPSIG Team Black series. Jacobson’s years of extensive research and training while embedded with federal and local law enforcement agencies have influenced him both personally and professionally, and have helped shape the stories he tells and the diverse characters that populate his novels.
Read an Excerpt
The 7th Victim
By Alan Jacobson
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2008 Alan Jacobson
All rights reserved.
FAIRFAX COUNTY, VIRGINIA
Wisps of vapor hung in the frigid night air like frightened ghosts. He shooed away the apparitions, then checked his watch as he huffed down the dark residential street. He'd chosen this house, this victim, for a reason.
Within a few hours, pale-faced neighbors would be staring into news cameras, microphones shoved in their faces for commentary and insight. Tell us about her. Stir our emotions, make us cry. Make our hearts bleed. Make our hearts bleed just like the victim bled.
His right hand was toasty warm, curled around the leather FBI credentials case inside his coat pocket. But his suit pants were too thin to fight off the biting cold that nipped at his legs. He shivered and quickened his pace. In a moment, he'd be indoors, comfortably at home with his work.
At home with his victim. Flowing brunet hair and clear skin. Long legs and a turned up cute-as-a-button nose. But buried beneath the allure, the evil was there—he'd seen it in her eyes. The eyes were always the key.
Strong fingers palpated his fake moustache to ensure it was properly placed. He repositioned the small pipe holstered to the inside of his coat, then placed the loose-leaf binder beneath his left arm before stepping up to the front door. He'd been here a number of times over the past few days, inspecting the area. Watching the comings and goings of the neighbors. Measuring the arcs thrown by the streetlights. Gauging the visibility of the front door to passersby. Now it was a matter of flawless execution. Execution! Indeed.
He pressed the doorbell and brightened his face for the peephole. Rule number one: look pleasant and nonthreatening. Just a friendly FBI agent out to ask a few questions to keep the neighborhood safe.
An eye swallowed the small lens. "Who is it?"
Sweet voice. How deceiving these women-slut-whores can be.
"FBI, ma'am. Agent Cox." He had to keep himself from smiling at the irony of the name he'd chosen. Like everything he did, there was a reason. Everything for a reason and a reason for everything.
He unfurled the credentials case the way agents are taught to do, then leaned back a bit, helping her take in the whole package. A clean-cut FBI agent in a wool overcoat and suit. How easy could it be?
A second's hesitation, then the door opened. The woman wore an oversize sweatshirt and a pair of threadbare jeans. She held a spatula in her right hand, a dishrag in the left. Cooking a late dinner. Her last supper, he cackled silently.
"Ms. Hoffman, we've had some reports of a rapist in your area. His attacks are escalating. We were wondering if you could help us."
"A rapist?" pretty little Melanie Hoffman asked. "I haven't heard anything about it."
"We haven't released it to the press, ma'am. We work differently than the police. We believe it's best to keep it quiet, so we don't tip him off that we're on to him." He shifted his feet and blew on his right hand as he hugged the binder close to his chest with his left. It's cold, he was telling her. Invite me inside.
"How can I help?"
"I have a book of mug shots here. All I need you to do is look over the photos and let me know if you've seen any of these people in the neighborhood the past two months. Shouldn't take more than a few minutes."
Her eyes bounced from the binder to his face, on which she seemed to linger for just a bit longer than he would have liked. He decided to press ahead. He had a knack for creating a window of opportunity, and the window was now open. He had to move, and move fast.
"Ma'am, I don't mean to be impolite, but I've still got a number of other houses to visit tonight, and it's getting kind of late." He shrugged a shoulder. "And the longer it takes to find this guy, the more women he's going to attack."
Melanie Hoffman lowered her spatula and stepped aside. "Of course. I'm sorry. Please, come in."
HE SNAPPED HIS SHEARS CLOSED and lopped off a lock of brunet hair. He leaned back, admired his work, then grabbed Melanie Hoffman's limp head by her remaining hair and clipped off another handful. Then another. And another.
Snip. Snip. Snip.
The sweet scent of blood was everywhere. He sucked it in and shivered. It was an intense feeling, a sudden euphoric rush.
When he finished with her hair, he moved on to her fingernails. Down to the quick, and beyond. Blood oozed a bit, and he licked it, like a lover slowly lapping off the chocolate from his companion's fingers. He repositioned Melanie's hand, got it just the way he wanted it, then brought the shears up again.
Clip. Clip. Clip.
Blood oozed again, and he drank some more.
An hour must've passed, the need to make things right driving him to perfection. He'd always been like that, for as long as he could remember. Besides, he was in no rush to go back out to the cold. He snatched a sesame seed bun from Melanie Hoffman's kitchen counter and slapped on some cream cheese, peanut butter, and ketchup from her fridge. He squirted on a generous helping—the symbolic affection for the red stuff wasn't lost on him—and he took a large bite, careful not to leave any crumbs, saliva, or other identifiable markings behind.
A soft, tan leather couch that still smelled new sat in the living room. He sunk down into it and flipped on the television, surfed the channels for a bit and found wrestling. Such senseless violence. How could they allow this junk on TV?
He left the tube on and sauntered through the rest of the house, munching on the sandwich and admiring the pictures hanging on the wall. He liked Melanie's taste in artwork. It had a looseness to it, abstract yet somehow structured. Organized, but with a randomness inherent in creative expression. He stood in front of one of the paintings and noticed her signature in the corner. She had created these herself. He clucked his tongue against his palate. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Too bad. He wondered what other works of beauty she might have created had she not been so damned evil.
He stood in the bedroom doorway admiring his work. He finished off the sandwich, then crossed his arms and tilted his head from side to side, finding the right perspective, sizing up the room. Taking in the whole view. Yes, it was a masterpiece. As good as anything Melanie had painted. The most complex work he'd ever created.
He moved to Melanie's side and looked down at her eyes, frozen open, staring at the ceiling. No, at him. They were looking at him.
The evil had to be purged. Had to be. Had to.
He lifted the serrated knife and felt its weight—its power—in his hand. Melanie Hoffman had paid dearly, for sure. Just payback for an unjust crime.
It was, it was, it was.
Like a master painter inscribing his name at the bottom of a canvas, he brought back the knife and drove it through Melanie Hoffman's left eye socket.
She must not see.
She must not.
She must.CHAPTER 2
What is it with me and banks?
Supervisory Special Agent Karen Vail's weapon was aimed at the loser, who just stood there, his .38 Special pointing right at her. Sweat pimpled his greasy forehead, matting dirty black hair to his skin. His hands were shaking, his eyes were bugged out like golf balls, and his breathing was rapid.
"Don't move or I'll blow your goddamn head off!" Vail yelled it a bit louder than she'd intended, but the adrenaline was pumping. She wanted the message to get through the perp's thick skull that she meant business. The frightened patrons of Virginia Commonwealth Savings Bank got the message. Those who were still standing hit the ground with a thud.
"Drop the fucking gun," the man screamed back. "Drop it now!"
Vail smirked. That's exactly what I was going to say to him. As he shuffled his feet and held the hostage in the crook of his left arm, Vail flashed on Alvin, a skel she'd busted sixteen years ago while a member of the NYPD. It wasn't Alvin—he was doing time at Riker's Island—but, nonetheless, she thought he could be the guy's twin.
"I'm not putting my gun down till you put yours down, pal," Vail said to the perp. "That's the way it's going to work."
"I call the shots here, bitch. Not you!"
Great, she thought, I got one who wants to fight. It'd been six years since she'd been a field agent, eleven years since she'd camped behind a detective shield. Though she still trusted her instincts, her skill-set was in the crapper. It wasn't like putting on pantyhose every morning. Dealing with hostage situations took practice to know you'd do the right thing under pressure, without thinking. As Vail had often been kidded by the others in her squad, the "without thinking" part came naturally to her.
"Since you won't tell me your name, I'm going to call you Alvin," she said.
"Is that okay, Alvin?"
"I don't care what you call me, just drop the fucking gun!" He shuffled his feet some more, his eyes darting from the left side of the room to the right, and back. As if he were watching a table tennis match.
Alvin's hostage, a thirty-something stringy blond with a sizable rock on her ring finger, began whimpering. Her eyes were bugged out, too, but it wasn't from drugs. It was raw fear, the sudden realization that, FBI or not, Vail might not get her out of this alive.
And Vail had to admit that so far it was not going well. She'd already blown protocol about as well as any rookie could her first day on the job. She should've yelled "Freeze, scumbag, FBI!" and he would have then just pissed his pants and dropped the gun, surrendering to law enforcement and ending the nightmare before it started. At least, that's the way it always happened in the old TV shows she watched as a kid.
But this was reality, or at least it was for Vail. For the Alvin look-alike standing in front of her, it was some speed-induced frenzy, a dream where he could do anything he wanted, and not get hurt.
That was the part that bothered her.
She kept her Glock locked tightly in her hands, lining up Alvin's nose in her sight. He was only about twenty feet away, but the woman he was holding, or rather choking with his left arm, was too close for Vail to risk a shot.
The other part of protocol she'd screwed up was that she should've been talking calmly to Alvin, so as not to incite him. But that was according to the Manual of Investigative and Operational Guidelines—known throughout the Bureau as MIOG, or "my-og." In Vail's mind, it should've been called MIOP, short for myopic. Narrow-minded. And if there was one thing Vail was sure of at the moment, it was that the guy who wrote MIOG didn't have a crazed junkie pointing a snub-nosed .38 at him.
So they stood there, Alvin twitching and shuffling, doing what looked like a peculiar slow dance with his hostage, and the level-headed Karen Vail, practicing what was sometimes called a Mexican standoff. Was that a politically correct term? She didn't know, nor did she care. There was no backup outside, no tactical sniper focusing his Redfield variable scope on Alvin's forehead, awaiting the green light to fire. She'd just walked into the bank to make a deposit, and now this.
She let her eyes swing to Alvin's left, to a spot just over his shoulder. She quickly looked back to him ... making it seem as if she'd seen someone behind him, about to sneak up and knock him over the head. She saw his eyes narrow, as if he'd noticed her momentary glance. But he didn't take the bait, and for whatever reason kept his ping-pong gaze bouncing to either side of Vail. She realized she needed to be more direct.
She turned her head and looked to his left again and, reaching into her distant past as a one-time drama major, shouted (deeply, from the abdomen), "No, don't shoot!"
Well, this got Alvin's attention, and as he swiveled to look over his left shoulder, he yanked the hostage down and away, and Vail drilled the perp good. Right in the temple. As he was falling to the ground in slow mo, she was asking herself, "Was this a justified shooting?"
Actually, she was telling herself to get the hell over there and kick away his weapon. She couldn't care less if it was a justified shooting. The FBI's OPR unit—Office of Professional Responsibility, or Office of Paper-pushing Robots—would make the final call on that. The hostage, though frazzled and rough around the edges, was alive. That was all that mattered at the moment.
Once Vail knocked aside Alvin's weapon, she took a moment to get a closer look at his face. At this angle he didn't look so much like Alvin. Could've been because he had the blank deer-in-headlights death mask on, or because of the oozing bullet hole on the side of his head. Hard to say.
Vail suddenly became aware of the commotion amongst the tellers and security guards, who had emerged from their hiding places. The hostage was now shrieking and blabbering something unintelligible. A man in a gray suit was by her side, attempting to console her.
"Don't just stand there," Vail yelled to the closest guard. "Call 911 and tell them an officer needs assistance."
It wasn't entirely true, but it wasn't exactly a lie, either. Still, she thought the cops would come faster if they thought it was one of their own who needed help instead of an FBI agent. Sometimes they don't like fibbies much, the locals. But with banks, the police had to share jurisdiction with the Bureau, so she didn't anticipate much of a tiff over it.
As she stepped away from Alvin's body, her BlackBerry's vibrating jolt made her jump. She yanked it from her belt and glanced at the display. Her intestines tightened. Her heart, still racing from adrenaline, precipitously slowed. The brief text message sucked the air from her breath.
She had hoped she'd never see another day like this. She had hoped it was over.
But the Dead Eyes killer had claimed another victim.CHAPTER 3
In six years as an FBI profiler, Karen Vail had not experienced anything quite like this. She had seen photos of decomposed corpses, eviscerated bodies, bodies without heads or limbs. Seven years as a cop and homicide detective in New York City had shown her the savages of gang killings and drive-by shootings, children left parentless, and a system that often seemed more interested in politics than in the welfare of its people.
But the brutal details of this crime scene were telling. A thirty-year-old woman lost her life in this bedroom, a woman who seemed to be on the verge of a promising career as an accountant. A box of new business cards from the firm of McGinty & Pollock was sitting on her kitchen counter, the toxic odor of printing press ink burning Vail's nose.
She curled a wisp of red hair behind her right ear and knelt down to examine a bloody smear outside the bedroom doorway.
"Whoever did this is one sick fuck." Vail said it under her breath, but Fairfax County homicide detective Paul Bledsoe, who had suddenly materialized at her side, grunted. The baritone of his voice nearly startled her. Nearly startled her, because there weren't many things that did surprise her these days.
"Aren't they all," Bledsoe said. He was a stocky man, only about five-eight, but plenty wide in the shoulders to make anyone think twice about screwing with him. Deep-set dark eyes and short, side-parted black hair over an olive complexion gave him the look of Italian stock. But he was a mutt, some Greek and some Spanish, a distant Irish relative thrown in for good luck.
His trained eyes took in the large amount of blood that had been sprayed and smeared, just about painted all over the walls of Melanie Hoffman's bedroom. Melanie Hoffman, former newcomer, now dearly departed, recently of the firm McGinty & Pollock.
All Vail could do was nod. Then, as she crouched down to get a different perspective on the scene, she realized that Bledsoe was only partially correct. "Some are more screwed up than others," she said. "It's just a matter of degree."
The photographer's flash flickered off the mirrors in the adjacent bathroom and drew Vail's attention. Without walking through the crime scene, she glanced up and saw that blood had also been smeared on the bathroom walls, at least the parts of them she could see.
Profilers didn't usually get to visit fresh crime scenes. They did most of their work secluded in a small office, poring over police reports, photos, written or transcribed suspect interviews, victim histories culled from relatives, friends, acquaintances. VICAP forms—short for Violent Criminal Apprehension Program—that were completed by the investigating homicide detectives provided background and perspective. Having as much information as possible was crucial before beginning their work ... before beginning their journey into the depths of a sick mind.
Excerpted from The 7th Victim by Alan Jacobson. Copyright © 2008 Alan Jacobson. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Alan is on the same plateau as John Grisham. Hard to put the book down. It was very easy to get to know the characters by his thorough description of each. The story was gripping and very descriptive. I am looking forward to reading his next novel, Velocity.
WOW!This book sucked me in from the very first page.Found myself up until 3:00 in the morning for 2 nights because I could not put it down.Everytime I thought I knew what was going to happen next I was wrong.It kept my attention til the very end with some unexpected twist thrown in for good measure.For a free book this is worth every second of your time.Was a little sad to be done with the book!This is one of those books I felt was glued to my hands,I did not want to put it down!
This book had so much going on that it was like several mysteries rolled into one. But it all came together at the end to make a very satisfying thriller.
Alan really pushed the limit in the most boring book since the dictionary. After reading the first chapter I wished that I was the first victim.
downloaded another one by Alan Jacobson. I don't like his style or his storylines.
I got this on a free Friday so I am not complaing. I had a lot of problems with the characters in this book. The main character is the most selfish mother I have ever read about. Her son is in a coma so she has to get away, with her future boyfriend, to her mother's house, who is getting senile. She then finds out she her real mother makes her a relative to the killer she is trying to capture. That is just the beginning of a whole lot of unbelivable plot twists they want us to believe,
To make fiction work, one must suspend disbelief. I know this. I go into every novel hoping to be entertained and I don't spend a lot of time picking apart the "inaccurate" details of the story. But this book had me saying, "Oh, come on!" entirely too much. The lead character, while trying to profile a serial killer, had SEVEN personal tragedies. The "surprising" tie-ins between characters piled on, one after another. Just when I couldn't take any more, the author actually surprised me with the ending. This helped to make me feel like I hadn't wasted my 400+ pages.
Great read. Kept me guessing at every turn
FOOLED YA! AIN'T NOTHIN' HERE! XD
The headline says it all. There is far to much discussion of profiling and other law enforcement procedures. Great plot, but just too much info. Should have been 100 pages less.
This was my first by this author and I really liked this book.
Enjoyed the read
This book was very good and alot of things was going on. I was surprised that a at the end they all came togather. This book had 431 pages.