What you don't know can kill you . . .
FBI Special Agent Sydney Fitzpatrick knows nothing about the Devil's Key, except that her father was involved in its theft twenty years ago and was murdered as a result. The Devil's Key, a list of seemingly random, supposedly indecipherable numbers, poses an immediate threat to national security—and anyone caught with this code in their possession is terminated with extreme prejudice. Sydney, unaware of the standing kill order, only just recovered the list and turned it over to her superiors—but not before making a copy.
What you do know can kill you . . .
Now the hard drive containing the list's data has been compromised and two civilians are dead. But Sydney's not the only one in danger. When a young woman with eidetic memory sees the numbers, Sydney and her partner, Zachary Griffin, must protect her—and what she knows—at all costs. For if the code falls into enemy hands, it could devastate the entire country's infrastructure—and even ignite a world war.
About the Author
Robin Burcell is an FBI-trained forensic artist who has worked in law enforcement for over two decades as a police officer, detective, and hostage negotiator. A two-time Anthony Award winner, she is the author of four Sydney Fitzpatrick novels—The Black List, The Dark Hour, The Bone Chamber, and Face of a Killer—as well as four novels featuring SFPD homicide detective Kate Gillespie: Every Move She Makes, Fatal Truth, Deadly Legacy, and Cold Case.
Read an Excerpt
The Kill Order
By Robin Burcell
HarperCollins PublishersCopyright © 2013 Robin Burcell
All rights reserved.
South San Francisco, California
Piper Lawrence eyed the cigarettes in the pocket of
the man sitting next to her on the bus. She'd given up smok-
ing a year ago, because she couldn't afford it and commu-
nity college. Or anything else for that matter. Books cost a
fortune. Food wasn't exactly cheap, either. But sometimes
people tucked money in their packs—she used to. Besides,
pickpocketing kept her skills sharp, and in this case it wasn't
really going to harm anyone.
Her stop was coming up, and she waited for the bounce
that always occurred as the bus crossed this particular in-
tersection . . . Then, “Sorry,” she said, accidentally bumping
into the man as she rose from her seat. She moved toward
the front, holding on to the handrail. As the bus slowed, then
stopped, she hurried down the steps, and the door swished
closed behind her, sending a slight gust of air at her back as
the bus took off.
The cigarette pack felt slightly heavier than it should, and
she was curious, but figured it wasn't wise to open it there,
2 Robin Burcell
in case the guy discovered it missing too soon. She quick-
ened her pace, turned the corner, and walked the two blocks
to her destination, a small business park filled with ware-
houses, most subdivided into small shops. It was located in
the city of South San Francisco, on the east side of Highway
101. Her friend's shop wasn't in the nicest of areas, but this
time of night it was quiet.
About to open the pack, she hesitated when she saw a
black sedan parked near the corner. The streetlamp cast
just enough light for her to see two men sitting in the front
seat, and a third man with gray hair standing at their open
window. Apparently the conversation had concluded, and he
started to walk away, but the driver called him back, saying,
“Hey, Brooks.” The man returned to the car.
The vehicle faced the direction she was headed, and she
couldn't see the two men he was talking to, or hear what
they were saying. For a moment, though, she thought this
Brooks guy was the gray-haired man from the bus, wait-
ing with undercover detectives to arrest her for pickpocket-
ing. Then again, she'd been in the back of a few cop cars.
Around here they drove those big Fords, she thought as the
gray-haired man turned, looked right at her. She realized
then that he was not the same person at all, and she chided
How stupid to think they'd send out detectives over a pack
of smokes, and she wondered why these men were here at
all. This time of night, everything in the area was closed.
Drugs? Probably not. They didn't look the type.
Since none of them seemed interested in her, she ignored
them, crossed the street, and opened the cigarette pack,
thereby discovering it contained a few cigarettes and a
lighter, which was probably why it felt heavy.
Waste of talent, she thought, then pushed open the door
of her friend Bo Brewer's shop. Bo fixed things for a living.
Today it was copy machines. Tomorrow it would be some-
THE KILL ORDER 3
thing else, depending on what he bought from the govern-
ment surplus auctions. In the most recent lot, he'd purchased
seven copy machines, all the same model, all in various
states of repair. The fact he was able to buy perfectly good
office equipment for so cheap was, in his opinion, why the
government was broke. He'd quickly fixed two machines by
swapping out parts, estimating that he could sell the pair
for what he'd paid for the lot, which meant that he'd already
recouped his investment.
Bo looked up as she walked in. “Hey,” he said, then bent
back down over his keyboard, typing something into his
“You realize there's two guys sitting in a car out there?
Some guy talking to them. Kind of strange, don't you think?”
“Saw it there earlier. Probably the cops. I think the auto
repair shop next door is dealing in stolen car parts.”
“Doesn't look like a cop car.”
“If they're undercover, it wouldn't.”
“I brought you something.” She set the cigarettes and
lighter on his desk.
“Who'd you steal that from?”
“Some guy on the bus.”
He went back to work.
After a long stretch of silence, she said, “Let's go some-
where. A movie.”
He didn't answer. It wasn't that Bo was ignoring her. It was
more that he was intent on what he was doing. A week ago
after he'd finished breaking down the remaining machines,
determining which could be used for parts and which would
be repaired, he made the unfortunate-for-her discovery that
the federal government had left the hard drives in the copy
machines. The moment he tapped into a few, he'd become
obsessed with reading what was on them. Especially one
machine from the San Francisco FBI office because it had
something on it besides the usual reports on bank robberies
4 Robin Burcell
and white-collar crimes. A page filled with nothing but a list
of numbers. Bo figured it was a code of some sort. Because
he was a semidecent computer geek, it was now his mission
in life to learn what it was, and he'd searched every which
way on the Internet, even running it past one of his geekier
He balked when the guy wanted to see the whole thing.
He was paranoid. Nothing was safe on the Internet in his
opinion, and so he never showed the entire list.
He did, however, give it to her to read, but it meant noth-
ing to her. Numbers just sat in her head, literally and figura-
tively like dead weights, refusing to go away.
And tonight, he was still at it. Piper watched him for a
few minutes, bored to tears, hoping he would have moved
Excerpted from The Kill Order by Robin Burcell. Copyright © 2013 Robin Burcell. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
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
You might say destiny brought this book and me together. I certainly didn’t discover it in the usual manner. Instead of purchasing it online, discovering it in a conference gift bag, requesting it on NetGalley, or snapping it up for free online via some form or fashion, it stared up at me from a pile of books next to the sink in the men’s bathroom in Albany, NY. Crazy, right? Well, I didn’t have to think too long and hard about it, since free books and I go about as well together as sugar and cocoa beans. This book proved to be more thriller than suspense, and it certainly managed to hold my attention with a heroine that has a bit of a backbone and a quirky nature. Sydney Fitzpatrick may fail at relationships, but she’s not going to fail when it comes to protecting colleagues and individuals, and that’s why it was rather easy to rally behind her, even if she did make a mistake or two along the way. The world may have Armageddon on its doorstep, but she’s not about to back off. And I wasn’t about to back down from THE KILL ORDER. It captured my attention right away, and I managed to hold on to the side of the cliff with what was left of my fingernails. Dangling on the side of a precipice, I could have used a string of random numbers and possibly a rope and a woman with more than a bit of gumption on the other end who has enough wherewithal to accept the challenge of pulling me back to safety. Piper Lawrence proved to be an intriguing character. Saddled with eidetic memory, this allows her to remember strings of random numbers as soon as she reads them, more than a dozen license plates with effortless ease, or recite entire pages from Shakespeare after one perusal, which makes her an absolute hit at drinking parties. Even if she has few friends and even fewer people who understand her true talents, it’s hard not to soften your heart when she enters the picture and rally behind her with both hands placed firmly in front of you. The dialogue punched and sang and clanged together effortlessly and easily; the story railed away at my senses; the characters fit together rather seamlessly. But I did find myself questioning the likelihood of the storyline, and I would have preferred more jagged edges, instead of the pieces fitting together a bit too easily. I received this ARC for free at Bouchercon (via the men’s bathroom). Robert Downs Author of Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private Investigator
I started reading Robn Burcell by chance when I purchased the first book Face of a Killer. And I haven't put them down till I just finished The Kill Order. I am not a strong reader of heroine novels but Sydney captured my attention and kept through all the books. I checked the authors website and waiting for the sixth one to hit the streets. Hopefully it is soon.
Well developed characters, fast-paced action, a highly intelligent & well thought out plot with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing, right up till the end! Robin Burcells' books draw you in deeper to Sydney Fitzpatrick's world with each new offering. I am really looking forward to the next book!