Detective Jack Murphy never met a cold case he couldn't crack. This one's been on ice for 37 years. The prime suspect in a decades-old unsolved murder is about to be named Evansville's next Chief of Police. The Mayor wants the top cop's name cleared-and that's why Murphy and his partner, Liddell Blanchard, are ordered to re-open the investigation. But when the victim's sister and mother are targeted for violence, troubling new questions arise. Is this the work of the same killer, or is someone else playing a deadly game? The answers lie buried in the past. But no one digs through the dirt like Jack Murphy . . .
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"Reed gives the reader a story worth every minute and every penny spent."
"Rick Reed knows the dark side as only a real-life cop can, and his writing crackles with authenticity."
"A jaw-dropping thriller."-Gregg Olsen
"Reed thrusts his story forward to bring us along on a ride we won't soon forget!"
Read an Excerpt
Thirty-seven years ago
It was two days before Thanksgiving and the championship game. Maximillian Alexander Day, varsity wide receiver for the Rex Mundi Monarchs, stood behind the bleachers before practice. This weekend would be the playoff game against their rival, the Central Bears. While the rest of the team was in the locker room, checking equipment, gearing up, grunting and yelling inane slogans, he stood at the mouth of the tunnel, wearing his varsity jacket, well-worn blue jeans, and Western boots. The cheerleaders had taken the field. Practice could wait.
Max watched Ginger lead a cheer and his little Max was cheering right along with her. Ginger was the head cheerleader; Dick was the captain and quarterback of the team. Because of that, Dick thought Ginger was his property. Max hoped he got to play defense in tonight's practice, so he could knock that idea right out of Dick's head. He'd been warned by the coach a couple of times for using excessive force to sack his own quarterback, but it was funny. Dick never saw it coming. Truth was, Max didn't care who he creamed on the field. He didn't even care for sports. He just liked hitting people — hard — and he liked the varsity letter jacket. It was a chick magnet.
He was still dating two other girls but the girl he currently had his eye on was Ginger Purdie. Her copper-colored ringlets bounced around her shoulders and swept across perfect breasts as she led the cheers, urging them to victory. Max felt an urge too.
Part of his interest in her was that she would undoubtedly be queen of the prom. No surprise there. She was the prettiest girl in school. And of course, the king of the prom would be the quarterback of the varsity team: her longtime boyfriend, Richard Dick, aka Greased Lightning. Max was determined to change the buffoon's name to Greased Monkey because Ginger would slip right through the quarterback's hands and be picked off by defensive cornerback Mad Max.
The cheers ended. There was clapping and shouts and hoots from the bleachers above. Max stepped forward in time to watch Ginger bounce and jiggle and whip her curls around until she spotted him. She smiled at him and scurried off the field with every blue-blooded male's eyes following her, but she only flirted with Max. She ran to the sidelines and became part of the usual team enthusiasts. Max waited for her to turn around so he could motion her over. He would chat a few minutes and then change out for practice. When she saw him cut through Dick's offense like a knife through butter, she would see who the real man was.
The tunnel leading from the locker room to the field was right behind him, but Max wasn't worried about Greased Lightning. In fact, he hoped the arrogant asshole was watching Ginger as she brazenly flirted with him. He waved his arms over his head and Ginger turned. She stopped bouncing, her smile faded, and she pointed one of her pom-poms toward him. Max smiled and was motioning to her when something hard struck him in the back of the head. He fell to the ground, but he cushioned his fall with his hands and arms. He'd taken harder hits both on and off the field.
Max pushed himself up to his knees and saw Richard "Greased Lightning" Dick looming over him, helmet in one hand, the other hand bunched into a fist.
Dick was tall with blond hair combed into bangs down into his blue eyes, patrician features, perfect teeth, and always dressed preppy, not even wanting to soil his uniform. For a quarterback, he appeared less strong and solidly built than he did stringy and rangy. He had earned the name Greased Lightning because of his uncanny ability to hit the receiver with every pass while slipping through any defense. Max had watched him throw the ball away to avoid being tackled. And he never tried to run the ball. That made him a coward in Max's thinking.
"Better stay down, Max-e-pad," Dick said. "You and your sister have some lame ass names. Your mom must've been on drugs."
Carl Needham piped in. "Have you seen his mom? I wouldn't let my dog do her. She's a sow."
Carl and his pal Dennis hurled more insults, one grunting like a pig, the other repeatedly making motions like he was rooting in the mud. Needham hawked up a glob of snot and spat it on the ground beside Max.
You had your chance, Dick. Now it's my turn.
Max got to his feet, brushed some grit from the sleeves of his letter jacket, smiled, and deftly broke Dick's nose.
Only Dennis James made a move forward, but was halted by a shake of Max's head.
"Dennis, you're such a numbnuts. If you talk about my mother again I'll tear your head off and shit down your neck."
Max walked away without a challenge while Dick was bent over, hands covering his nose, blood running between his fingers and down the front of his red football jersey. A small crowd had gathered around, pretending sympathy and shock, while some in the crowd mocked Dick and danced around, hands over their own noses.
Max knew he'd be kicked off the team for punching Dick out and wouldn't be played in the championships. Hell, he'd be lucky if he wasn't kicked out of school. If that happened, his parents would ground him for the rest of the year and take away his one pleasure, his Camaro.
He was nearing the edge of the parking lot when he felt a strong hand grip his shoulder, pulling him around. He spun around and kicked Dick in the crotch. Dick fell to the ground. Squeaks like air leaking from a balloon came out of his mouth. Carl and Dennis stood with their mouths hanging open like dutiful minions and Dennis's hands went to his own genitals. Max stared at each of them, daring them to step up. They didn't move.
Max headed for his car. He would at least have one last night of freedom, knowing he'd be grounded for a month. He made it to his car, put his key in, and mimicked a sports commentator. "Oh my! The quarterback has been sacked! The quarterback is down, folks. Dick's dick and his nose are broken. The game is over. Score: Max, one; Greased Monkey, zero."
He unlocked the car and a hand grabbed his wrist. He instinctively ducked, turned, arm cocked, ready to trade punches when he recognized his sister.
"Are you going to hit me too?" Reina asked.
"Let go," he said and removed her hand.
"You can't leave, dummy," Reina said.
"Come on, sis. I'm going for a little ride to cool off. I'll give you a lift home."
Reina's arms crossed her chest. "You're going to be in big trouble. Mom and Dad are gonna kill you, Max. Why do you always do this?"
"Do what?" He sounded hurt. "You mean defend myself?
Should I let him knock me down and make fun of me? Let them insult Mom? He had it coming and you know it."
"And you know what I mean, Maximillian Day,"
Reina said. She was seriously pissed. "You go back and talk to the coach. Maybe you won't be kicked off the team or out of school if you —"
Ginger Purdie interrupted her and caressed Max's face and shoved her ample breasts against him. "Are you okay, Max? Did he hurt you?"
Max grinned at her, keeping a cautious eye on Reina. "I'm not hurt, but thanks for asking. You'd better get back. The team needs you."
Pouting, Ginger said, "Don't you need me?"
Max laughed. "Of course. I'm fine. The team needs your particular talents to give them encouragement, babe. And I think Dick needs some TLC." He gave her a firm slap on the rear.
She giggled and bounced away, breasts jiggling, butt swaying, and all legs.
Reina said, "You'd better stay away from that one, Max. Mom won't approve and you're already going to be grounded for the rest of your life."
"Grounded works only if you get caught, Reina."
"Uh-oh!" She pointed across the parking lot, where Dick, Needham, and James were jogging toward them. Two or three other football players had joined them. "You can't fight all of them, Max. Get out of here." She moved off toward the approaching boys. "I'll slow them down," she said. "As usual."
"Thanks, sis," Max said, got in his car, fired up the Hemi engine, and threw a rooster tail of gravel and dirt behind as he accelerated out of the lot.
Max took back streets to Kratzville Road where he stopped, debating where he would go. Home was northwest. He could take Kleitz Road, but he didn't want to go home. He decided to go downtown, to the riverfront. He could sit in his car, watch the water, calm his mind, consider what he would do with all of his free time now.
His thoughts turned to Ginger. She was pretty, but he didn't really care for her. She was just a way to get at Dick and the rest of the "popular" kids. Snobs, every one. And he truly hated that smug asshole, Richard Dick. Punching him in the nose was worth missing the championship. Kicking him in the balls was priceless. He only wished Needham had stood up for his best buddy. Needham was smart not to go another round.
Max turned south on Kratzville Road. The back of his head was smarting and his fingers found a painful knot where the helmet had hit him. It hurt, but he smiled at the memory of Dick's nose exploding under his fist and the gurgling, wheezing sound after getting his crotch adjusted with a foot. "Bet you didn't expect that, Dick?"
He slowed for a red light approaching Gloria's Corral Club at Allens Lane. The normally bustling crowd was elsewhere on Sunday nights. It was dark-thirty and the streets were deserted.
He considered running the red light, but with his luck tonight, a cop would be sitting in the parking lot of the convenience store across the street, hankering to make his quota.
Headlights flashed in his rearview mirror. He recognized Dick's black Cadillac coming up fast. He let the car come up beside him in the right-turn lane and saw Dick at the wheel, nose still bleeding. Needham was in the passenger seat, leaning across Dick, giving him the bird while Dick laid on the horn. Dennis James was hanging out of the back-passenger window, hurling insults and threats, yelling for him to get out of the car.
Max ran the light, cut a sharp right across the front of Dick's Cadillac, and narrowly missed the left-quarter panel as he blew past and sped down Allens Lane. The Cadillac peeled out and made a sharp right to pursue. But the Caddy was a boat compared to the Camaro and swayed side to side before gaining purchase of the road. Dick stamped on the gas. The Caddy was fast, but it was no match for the Camaro.
Max slowed for the double railroad tracks, the double-dipper, and let the Caddy kiss his rear bumper before he braked hard and swerved left into the oncoming lane. His tires smoked as he skidded forward, coming to rest just before the first set of rails. The Caddy locked the brakes up and whizzed past just as he'd planned. He could see Dick's shocked expression before the Caddy went airborne over the first set of tracks, bottomed out on the lower set of railroad tracks, and went airborne a second time. Some of his classmates had gotten drunk one night and discovered the dangerous railroad crossing the hard way. Max had counted on Dick forgetting in the heat of the chase.
He watched the Caddy fly through the air, all four tires off the ground, bottom out a second time when it hit the asphalt. Sparks of hot metal shot from beneath the Caddy as it flattened out and slewed side to side before the right-side wheels dropped off the side of the road. Dick overcorrected and pulled sharply to the left. The Cadillac's right tires jumped the asphalt, throwing the car into a sideways slide and into a shallow ditch on the left side of the road.
Max slowly drove down the double-dipper and watched his pursuers clamber out of Dick's damaged car. He pumped a fist in the air, yelling, "Yeah! Who's your daddy? Whose mom is stupid now, ya buncha dicks?"
He turned the Camaro around and drove past them again. They threw rocks at him, but their aim was horrible. He made it back to Gloria's Corral Club and turned left. He'd had enough fun. He pulled into Locust Hill Cemetery to check out the front bumper of his car. Even crawling over the tracks at the double-dipper, his front end had scraped the pavement. He pulled to the back of the cemetery near a mausoleum, left the lights on, and got out. He was crouched down, checking the front bumper, when he saw a single headlight coming toward him.
Dick's Caddy screeched to a halt sideways, blocking him in. Max saw the front bumper of Dick's car was canted up into a lopsided grin, with one headlight missing. He laughed. That laugh was what started the fight.
* * *
Car 35 cruised west on Diamond Avenue. Rookie officer Ted Mattingly had worked third shift, west sector for eleven months. He liked the hours, liked the job, and liked being out from under the glare of supervisors. He had a patrol routine and this was part of it: shining the car spotlight on the fronts of the few businesses, checking for signs of break-ins or drunks passed out on the parking lots. He made a circuit going north on First Avenue from Dunkin' Donuts, left on Diamond Avenue, and north on Kratzville. He decided to patrol tonight through Locust Hill Cemetery. Young couples sometimes parked behind the mausoleum to smoke dope and do other things. He could run them off and catch a nap. Working third shift and having two kids at home had really messed with his sleeping patterns.
He wouldn't normally care where people got naked, but there were reports lately of vandalism and break-ins to some of the vaults. Last week someone had started to dig up a grave. They dug two feet down and abandoned the project. That was the problem with kids today. They were too lazy to even finish the job of desecrating a grave. The crazy little bastards were probably doing black magic or summoning up demons in someone's basement with chicken bones.
He was just coming up on Kratzville Road when his radio crackled.
"Car 35. Suspicious circumstance. Locust Hill Cemetery," the dispatcher said.
Mattingly grabbed his microphone. "Car 35 enroute."
He stepped on the gas and turned north on Kratzville. The cemetery was less than a quarter-mile ahead just over the hill. He turned in and called dispatch. "Car 35 arriving on scene."
Mattingly saw the back of a red 1970s model Camaro SS with a wide white stripe painted front to back. It was parked in the middle of the cemetery drive with its headlights on. Mattingly flipped on his side spotlight and his takedown lights to illuminate the interior of the Camaro, but the windows were heavily tinted. The takedown lights caught a shape in the driver's seat that might have been a person. The driver didn't move, so he tapped his siren a few times. Still nothing. He hoped the guy wasn't passed out drunk. He'd just had his car cleaned by a jail trustee from the last go-around with a vomiting drunk.
Mattingly picked up the mic again. "Car 35."
"Car 35, go ahead with your traffic."
"Car 35. I'm in the back of the cemetery near the mausoleum. I've got a subject passed out in a red Camaro. Ten-twenty-eight on Indiana personalized plates." He gave the dispatcher the Camaro's license plate number. A 10-28 was police code for vehicle registration.
"Do you need backup?" dispatch asked.
Before he could answer, cars 32 and 37 advised they were enroute.
He considered giving them a signal 9, which meant he didn't need backup, but he knew they'd come anyway. He had just left Dunkin' Donuts on First Avenue before driving to the cemetery. He suspected he was being set up. This was some type of prank.
Mattingly kept an eye on the Camaro for any movement. Nothing. He flipped the high beam of his headlights on and off and tapped his siren several times. Still no movement.
He heard sirens in the near distance and the screaming of the big Ford Interceptor engines heading his way. He got out of his car, flashlight in one hand, model 10 Smith & Wesson .38 revolver in the other and eased up to the driver's side of the Camaro. Bits of matter mixed with blood coated the driver's window. It wasn't a prank. He tapped on the window with his flashlight and opened the driver's door.
"Jesus," Mattingly said and vomited on the Camaro, on the body, and down his uniform pants.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Cleanest Kill"
Copyright © 2019 Rick Reed.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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
This is the 8th outing for Detective Jack Murphy and this time he has a dangerous and baffling cold case to solve. Someone clearly does not want this case solved after 37 years and is going too great lengths to make sure it isn't, putting Jack and his pal Liddell in the line of fire....as they tend to be in most of these books! There is not a slow moment in the book and the fact that Rick Reed, the author, is a former real life cop adds to the authenticity and grittiness of the story. While you don't need to read these in order it does help to explain much of the background of these two so find some time and go back and read The Cruelest Cut, the first in the series. You won't be sorry! Thank you NetGalley for the advanced reader copy for review.
In the eighth book of the Jack Murphy series an excellent cast of characters return to investigate a cold case. The stakes are a little higher than normal, but not out of reach in this enjoyable whodnit.
Should Richard Dick become the next chief of police of Evansville, Indiana or is he did murder Max and escape justice for 37 years? That the question Jack Murphy and his partner Liddell Blanchard have to answer and it's not pretty. Talk about a cold case. Also one that's entwined with Murphy's own life. His digging sets off a villain who goes after Max's remaining family, who always insisted that Dick was guilty. I'd not read the earlier books in this series but was fine with this as a standalone. It's a well done procedural that clearly shows Reed's background in law enforcement. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. A good read.
The Cleanest Kill by Rick Reid Jack Murphy #8 Jack Murphy and Liddell Blanchard have been tasked with cleaning up a 37 year old cold murder case to make sure Deputy Chief of Police, Richard Dick, is either exonerated or found guilty of the murder of Max Day. Richard and Max were on the same football team, had a fight before a big game and by morning Max was dead. A murderer was never found and there was rumor that it was swept under the rug by Richard’s father who was on t he police force at the time of the murder. Jack and Liddell continue in this book much as they have in previous books with their friendly and irreverent back and forth as they work to solve the case. There is a bit of information shared on the personal lives of the two men and supporting characters make appearances. As they try to find out what is what there are assaults, murders and more that happen before the final showdown when the murderer is finally revealed. I enjoyed this story but it was not quite as gripping as the previous two books that I have read. I was less invested in this book for some reason but it was well written and well done...just liked the other two books in the series that I have read a wee bit better. Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington-Lyrical-Underground for the ARC – This is my honest review. 3-4 Stars