Spilled Blood

Spilled Blood

by Brian Freeman


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Award-winning standalone thriller from master of psychological suspense Brian Freeman about a small town rocked by the murder of a teenage girl.

"Freeman proves once again he's a master of psychological suspense." —Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

"Suspense doesn't get more excruciating than this . . . Don't miss it." —Booklist, (Starred Review)

On a March night outside the river town of Barron, Minnesota, three teenage girls gather in a ghost town to play a terrifying game of Russian roulette.

By morning, one girl will be dead, and another in jail. Olivia Hawk claims she didn't pull the trigger on Ashlynn Steele, but no one believes her.

Olivia's best hope is her estranged father, an attorney from the city, who she barely knows anymore. And if he's going to prove Olivia's innocence, he's going to have to learn everything about her public—and private—life, however much she might like to keep hidden.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781623651275
Publisher: Quercus
Publication date: 03/04/2014
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 216,234
Product dimensions: 5.62(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Brian Freeman is an internationally bestselling author of psychological suspense novels, including his franchise Jonathan Stride series about the exploits of the stoic Duluth PD detective. His books have been sold in 46 countries and 20 languages.

Read an Excerpt

Christopher Hawk drove west on Highway 7 into the emptiness of rural Minnesota, leaving civilization behind him with each mile away from the city. Staring at the horizon between his windshield wipers, he could have sworn the world was flat, and he hoped there was a sign ahead to warn him before he sped off the edge of the earth. Long, empty miles loomed between towns. There were no buildings, other than the occasional desolate farm. He drove beside endless fields ruled by King Corn, but it was too early for planting season, and the land resembled a rutted moonscape. He didn’t feel welcome.

The weather made it worse. March was going out like a lamb, freakishly warm and wet. It had started raining almost as soon as he cleared the western edge of I-494, and the dreary spattering had continued nonstop for nearly two hours and a hundred miles. He passed swollen drainage ditches where the water looked ready to spill across the lanes of the highway. The bumpy gray clouds were like a thick hood thrown over his head.

An amateur billboard mounted in the midst of farmland caught his eye. The message had been painted in bold black letters on a plain white background. It said:


The message was signed, "Jesus."

Chris didn’t think he belonged in a place where God felt the need to advertise. Even so, when he asked himself if he was ready, the answer was easy. No. He wasn’t ready at all. He was nervous about this journey, because he was on his way back into the lives of two strangers.

The first was his ex-wife. The second was his daughter.

That morning, Hannah had called at six o’clock, waking him up. He hadn’t spoken to her in months, but he could see her face as clearly as if she’d been sleeping beside him. There were still days when he reached for her in bed, hoping to take her hand, hoping to fold her against his body. He still had dreams where the three of them lived together as a family. Chris. Hannah. Olivia.

She didn’t give him a chance to dream.

"Our daughter has been arrested for murder," she announced.

Just like that. No small talk. Hannah never wasted time. She had a way of cutting to the chase, whether it was in college when he wanted to sleep with her (she said yes), or three years ago when she wanted a divorce (he said no, but that didn’t change her mind).


Chris didn’t ask for details about the crime she had supposedly committed. He didn’t want to know the victim’s name, or what happened, or hear Hannah reassure him that she was really innocent. For him, that wasn’t even a question. His daughter didn’t do it. Not Olivia. The girl who texted and tweeted him every day – Send me a pic of a Dunn Bros latte, Dad. I miss it. – was not a murderer.

"I’ll be there this afternoon," he replied.

The silence on the phone told him that his answer surprised her. Finally, Hannah said, "She needs a lawyer, Chris."

"I’m a lawyer."

"You know what I mean. A criminal lawyer."

"All lawyers are criminals."

It was an old joke between them, but Hannah didn’t laugh. "Chris, this is serious. I’m scared."

"I know you are, but this is obviously a misunderstanding. I’ll straighten it out with the police."

Her hesitation felt like a punch to the gut. "I’m not so sure that’s all it is," she said. She was silent again, and then she added, "It’s ugly. Olivia’s in trouble."

Hannah sketched out the facts for him, and he realized that she was right. It was ugly. In the early hours of Saturday morning, a pretty teenage girl had been shot to death, and Olivia had been at the scene, drunk, desperate, pointing a gun at the girl’s head. It hadn’t taken long – it was Tuesday now – for the police to conclude that his daughter was guilty.

"What did Olivia tell you?" he asked. "What happened between them?"

"She won’t talk to me. She said I should call you."

"Okay, tell her I’ll be there soon."

Hannah didn’t protest further. "Fine. You’re right, she needs you. Just remember that you don’t know this girl, Chris. Not anymore."

"We talk all the time."

"That’s not the same thing. Believe me. You see the girl she wants you to see."

As his ex-wife hung up, he’d wondered if that were true.

A lifetime had passed – three years – since Hannah left him to go back to the small farm town called St. Croix where she’d been raised. He saw his daughter every few months, but to him she would always be a girl, not a woman. He didn’t know anything about the mix-up of emotions a teenager faced. She hadn’t said a word to him about what was in her head. She talked about meaningless things. Easy things. He should have realized there was much more to her than a girl who missed her father.

It didn’t change what he had to do. Olivia needed him, and he had to go.

Now, hours later, he was deep in the western farmlands of Minnesota, with the rain coming down, with Jesus on a billboard asking if he was ready. It could have been Antarctica; it could have been Mars. Every mile here looked like the next. This part of the world wasterra incognita to him. He was a creature of the noise, asphalt, and people of downtown Minneapolis. He owned a two-bedroom condominium near Loring Park, which he used mostly to sleep. He didn’t cook, so he ate fish and chips and drank Guinness at The Local and ordered take-out pho from Quang. He spent his days and nights negotiating contracts for industrial parks and strip malls. Steel and concrete – those were things that were real, things he could touch and measure.

In the city, he was an insider. Not here. Out here, he was an alien.

Ahead of him, through the sheets of rain, Chris saw a highway sign for the Spirit Dam. The town of Barron, where Olivia was being held in the county jail, was on the river side of the dam, three miles to the south. He drove his decade-old silver Lexus onto the roadway, but he stopped in the middle of the bridge. For some reason, he found himself hesitating. He got out of the car and shut the door behind him. Rain lashed across his face, and he squinted. He didn’t care about getting wet.

Chris looked down at the wild water squeezing into whirlpools through a dozen sluice gates. Downstream, the Spirit River settled into a mucky brown calm as it wound toward Barron, feeding a web of narrow streams, including one that flowed behind Hannah’s house in the tiny town of St. Croix a few miles to the southeast. On the north side of the dam, the water sprawled like a vast octopus into miles of man-made lake. The river pushed toward the valley, and the dam pushed back and said,Stop. That was exactly what he had to do. That was his mission. Olivia was in the path of a flood, and he had to stop it.

Still, Chris lingered on the bridge, staring at the water.

He was a tall man, almost exactly six feet. At forty-one, his hair was still thick and brown, without any gray to remind him of his age. He wore contacts over his dark eyes; years of poring over realestate contracts had killed his eyesight. Since the divorce, he’d had no excuse for avoiding the gym. He’d dropped twenty pounds and added several inches of muscle to his chest. He looked good; the various women who chased him told him that. It wasn’t just his lawyer’s wallet that attracted them. Even so, he hadn’t agreed to a date in seven months, hadn’t had sex in over a year. He told himself that it was his busy schedule, but the truth was more complicated.

The truth was Hannah. He’d never stopped loving her. Her voice on the phone was enough to awaken the old feelings. She was what was holding him back.

Ready or not, Chris drove across the dam and turned south toward Barron. The river followed the highway, winking in and out behind trees that grew on the shore. Houses appeared. A school bus pulled in front of him. The city sign advertised the population: 5,383. Out here, that was a metropolis, a hub for the whole county. As he neared the town, he felt as if he had crossed back into the 1950s, as if decades of progress had hopscotched over this section of land. Maybe that was a good thing. Maybe this place would not be as intimidating as it seemed.

Life in the city was fast and complex; life in the country was slower and simpler.

A mile later, he realized that he was wrong.

On the outskirts of Barron, he passed an agribusiness facility built on the western bank of the river. It was one-story, white, clean, and almost windowless. The plant looked more like a prison than an industrial site, because it was protected by a nine-foot fence wound with coils of barbed wire to keep intruders from reaching the interior grounds. The single narrow gate in the fence, just wide enough for trucks to pass, was guarded by two uniformed security officers who were both armed with handguns. As he drove by the plant slowly, he noticed their eyes following him with suspicion.

He noticed something else, too. Outside the fence, he saw a dramatic marble sign ten feet in height, featuring the company name in brass letters. Mondamin Research. Its logo was a golden ear of corn inside a multi-colored helix strand of DNA. Two workers in yellow slickers labored in the rain to sandblast graffiti that had been spray-painted in streaky letters across the white stone.Despite their efforts, he could still see what had been written.

The graffiti said: You’re killing us.

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Spilled Blood: A Novel 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Grabbed me and wouldn't let go. Brian Freeman is an amazing writer and this book didn't disappoint. I was so keyed up I stayed up until 2:00 on a work night to finish it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story was good - there was a lot going on and it tied up all the loose ends and provided a satisfying, although unbelievable ending. It has twists and thrills as I expected from what I'd heard about the book. I did not guess who the killer was, or who Aquarius was. But it came across as flat and one-dimensional. There wasn't enough emotion to make me care about the characters, although there were ample opportunities for emotion: a murdered teenager, characters dead or dying from cancer, a man trying to save his daughter from prison. Emotions were mentioned, but the author was telling us about the emotions rather than showing us the emotions. I like a story that makes me feel something, and this story fell short. I also found some portions boring due to dialogue running on for several pages, or the formulaic descriptions given of each person when they were introduced to the reader. I was aware of the author when I read this book, instead of getting lost in the story. I think this may be a great read for a reader who just wants the facts of a story without the emotions, however.
chickey1981 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I won Spilled Blood from the member librarything giveaways in exchange for an honest review.Spilled Blood is a heart pounding psychological thriller by Brian Freeman. The protagonist is Chris, a lawyer but first and foremost a father. He comes to a small town named St. Croix when his daughter Olivia is charged with murder. He believes her to be innocent, but soon he realizes there are many dark underpinnings between this small town and the next, with violence and bloodshed about to tear both towns apart.As I have said in other reviews, one of the most important aspects of a psychological thriller is a likeable and intelligent, but at the same time, complex protagonist. Chris is both-- he is still in love with his ex-wife, he loves his daughter to a fault, but he ends up treading very close to the moral line. All of the characters are fleshed out, even ones that we are expected to dislike. There is one character in particular that I will not talk about as to not give anything away, but let's just say I was extremely impressed. This person's development throughout the book was key to the plot.And wow, what a plot. Each move was deliberate. Secrets were revealed exactly when they were supposed to, and it wasn't clear to me what was going to happen and what the meaning of certain events and facts were. However, when they were presented to me, it made perfect sense. Being able to do this and ramp up the intensity and keep the reader guessing is a difficult skill that Freeman does with ease. I did not rush through his book because I was savoring it page by page, but I still got through it in a day.Very impressive book from start to finish. I will be definitely reading more of his books.
frisbeeguy49 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This one pulled me in right from the start and kept me guessing right to the end. I was sure I had figured out who the killer was but turned out to be very wrong! I found it hard to put this book down and was constantly thinking about it even when not reading - that to me is the sign of an excellent story!
Beamis12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a very good stand alone by Freeman, the tension and hate were palpable and it definitely showed that even in small towns evil exists. Enjoyed the storyline and even liked the character of one of the "bad guys." Many different threads and the story moved quickly. Freeman can definitely write good books.
ewhatley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting characters along with lots of twists and turns. Recommend for thriller fans.
thehistorychic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Requested from EdelweissOverall Rating: 3.75Story Rating: 4.00Character Rating: 3.50First Thought when finished: What a great way to wrap up this fantastic thriller!What I Loved: Brian Freeman weaved a thriller full of twists and turns that made me question almost everyone involved. I really didn't figure this one out till about 3/4 of the way through and then I loved watching the characters figure it out for themselves. So much about this story was compelling and moving. The fact that a death of the a teenager is what started this tale of two towns was both sad and very poignant. How far would you go to prove that your child was not a killer? How far would you go if you felt something truly wrong was happening? How much does group thinking play into violence? All of these things come into play with Spilled Blood.What I Liked: The characters that Brian Freeman created were all multi-faceted and interesting. I didn't connect with all of them but each of them played a role in the story. There were no "unimportant" people and each had a story to tell.What made me go huh?: I really wish there would have been more of the story involving how the murdered girls parents were feeling/what they thought. They were part of the "villains" (the feuding in the town was caused because of their company) but I felt they were too one-dimensional. I don't want you to think they are the "who did it" because that was not what I was referring too.Final Thought when finished: I will read more Brian Freeman. The thriller part of this story was outstanding. I love great twists and turns--this story was full of them!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome!! Awesome
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Exciting mystery
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent read even for a second time. Great writing and storyline. I really hate when fairly recent books get a cover change due to republishing / re-release. I just read this book last year and bought it again thinking it was a new book for $10. That is the biggest Nook e-book drawback. I will have to pay better attention going forward. I' ve been burned three times.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brian Freeman has, once again, kept me glued to my seat until I finished the story. This book was well written with just the right amount of intrigue and suspense. Being a father myself, I was caught up in the thoughts and actions of the characters. Storyline was good and the plot was laid out very well. The characters were believable and " human" to a point that I was able to connect with some. Good job Mr. Freeman.
Scoshie More than 1 year ago
Christopher Hawk, an attorney, is called to defend his teenage daughter for murder. He believes that she is innocent but not a whole lot of others people in the small town his ex-wife moved to do. There is an on going war between the towns on both side of the river and the Hawk family is caught in the middle. Well written and hard to put down and was a great way to spend an afternoon on the sun.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I haven't finished reading the book yet because this isn't as easy a read as Brian Freeman's previous books. This book is much more violent and aggressive. I am, however, enjoying the book and looking forwartd to the outcome.
Lynnesota More than 1 year ago
Jonathan Stride fans will have to wait until the next Freeman book to see him in action again, but SPILLED BLOOD is another nail-biting, suspense-filled page-turner. As usual, Freeman develops the depths and passions of his characters and the conflicts among them, but in a new way this time,swirling around environmental issues and small-town rivalries. Also as usual, he kept me guessing until the very end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brian Freeman has great gripping ideas for plots but his one problem is that he tells us too much about some characters and not enough about others and moralizes too much. His main character, who is quite flawed is allowed too many actions and is too condescending as we get to the end.In this story the whole concept of marco and his vendetta, a polluting company, and Chris and his love for his family work well together but Chris uses his daughter to move so many plotlines that Olivia, the daughter, becomes quite unlikable .
lrrd More than 1 year ago
Always alot of twists and turns so it keeps you interested throughout the book. He writes in a way that you really feel like you know the characters and since I'm from the Northern MN area its fun to read about places you can actually visualize.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fantastic read...love Brian Freeman's books!
usmc_brat More than 1 year ago
I really like Brian Freeman, but this one was just okay.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Why we fight?: We have too. Hey, Don't challenge me! I've lost Clanmates! just Clanmates! And a mate... *growls* btw im Unicornstar. Made leader last summer, *madeup* I've only had one battle while leader. Youll see the story Greenleaf Summertime: A epic battle. We were powerful but little by little confused about battling the dogs! Well, Kits do the wrong thing. They think BATTLING is all a warrior wants to do. And has better do. But boy are they wrong! We fight when we have to! Stop teasing! (Next res)