“Terrifying…A Creepy Thriller.” –Publishers Weekly
When New Orleans detective Reuben Montoya is called to investigate a murder with his partner Rick Bentz, he’s shocked to recognize the victim. Camille Renard, an old high-school friend, was found on the altar of St. Marguerite’s cathedral, dressed in a yellowed bridal gown and viciously garroted…
“Will Satisfy Series Fans As Well As Readers Who Enjoy Lisa Gardner And Linda Fairstein.” –Library Journal
Valerie Houston’s younger sister, Camille, had a knack for making bad choices. She left Texas after falling for Val’s soon-to-be ex-husband, Slade. But as Val digs deeper into Camille’s death, she realizes how little she really knows about her sister and their shared past.
“A Nail-Biting Tale Of Dangerous Secrets And Deadly Passions.” --Booklist
Soon more bodies are found brutally slaughtered. No one is beyond suspicion. No one is safe—least of all Valerie, whose connection to a twisted case is closer, and more dangerous, than she ever could have imagined. For this killer knows all, forgives nothing, and will not rest until Valerie becomes the next to pay for her sins…
“The plot machinations are wonderful and emotional turmoil akin to the work of James Lee Burke and Tony Hillerman helps make Devious a stunning success.” –The Providence Journal
“Explosively riveting.” –The Providence Journal Chapter One
“It’s time.” The voice was clear.
Smiling to herself, Camille felt a sublime relief as she finished
pushing the last small button through its loop. She stared at herself
in the tiny mirror and adjusted her veil.
“You’re a vision in white,” her father said.
But he wasn’t here, was he? He wasn’t walking her down the aisle.
No, no, of course not. He’d died, years before. At least that was what
she thought. But then her father wasn’t her father . . . only by law.
Right? She blinked hard. Woozy, she tried to clear her brain, wash
away the feeling of disembodiment that assailed her.
It’s because it’s your wedding day; your nerves are playing tricks
on your brain.
“Your groom awaits.” Again, the voice propelled her, and she
wondered if someone was actually speaking to her or if she was
Silly, of course it’s real!
She left the small room where she’d dressed and walked unsteadily
along the shadowed corridor, lit by only a few wavering
sconces. Dark, yet the hallway seemed to glisten.
Down a wide staircase with steps polished from thousands of feet
scurrying up and down, she headed toward the smaller chapel where
she knew he was waiting.
Her heart pounded with excitement.
Her blood sang through her veins.
What a glorious, glorious night!
One hand trailed down the long, smooth banister, fingertips gliding
along the polished rail.
“Hurry,” a harsh voice ordered against her ear, and she nearly
stumbled over the dress’s hem. “You must not keep him waiting!”
“I won’t,” she promised, her voice reverberating from a distance,
as if echoing through a tunnel. Or only in her head.
She picked up her skirt to move more quickly, her feet skimming
along the floor. She felt light, as if floating, anticipation urging her
Moonlight washed through the tall tracery windows, spilling shadowed,
colored patterns on the floor, and as she reached the chapel,
her legs wobbled, as if she were wearing heels.
But her feet were bare, the cold stone floor penetrating through
Poverty, chastity, obedience.
The words swirled through her brain as the door to the chapel
was opened and she stepped inside. She heard music in her head,
the voices of angels rising upward through the spires of St. Marguerite’s
Cathedral on this, her wedding day.
Night... it’s night.
Candles flickered at the altar, and overhead a massive crucifix
soared, reminding her of Christ’s suffering. She made the sign of the
cross as she genuflected, then slowly moved forward.
Poverty. Chastity. Obedience.
Her fingers wound around the smooth beads of her rosary as the
music in her head swelled.
As she reached the altar, the church bell began to toll and she
knelt before the presence of God. She was ready to take her vows, to
give her life to the one she loved.
“Good . . . good . . . perfect.”
Camille bowed her head in prayer, then, on her knees, looked up
at the crucifix, saw the wounds on Christ’s emaciated body, witnessed
his sacrifice for her own worldly sins.
Oh, yes, she had sinned.
Over and over.
Now she would be absolved.
Closing her eyes, she bent her head with difficulty. It seemed suddenly
heavy, her hands clumsy. The chapel shifted and darkened, and
the statuary, the Madonna and angels near the baptismal basin, suddenly
stared at her with accusing eyes.
She heard the scrape of a shoe on the stone floor, and her lightheartedness
and joy gave way to anxiety.
Don’t give in. Not tonight...
But even her wedding dress no longer seemed silky and light; the
fabric was suddenly scratchy and rough, a musty smell wafting from
The skin on the back of her neck, beneath the cloying veil, prickled
No, no, no...this is wrong.
“So now you know,” the voice so near her ear reprimanded, and
she shrank away from the hiss. “For the wages of sin are . . .”
“Death,” she whispered.
Sheer terror curdled her blood. Oh, God! Scared out of her mind,
Camille tried to scramble to her feet.
In that instant, Fate struck.
The rosary was stripped from her hands, the beads ripping over
her fingers and flesh, only to scatter and bounce on the floor.
Camille tried to force her feet beneath her, but her knees were
weak, her legs suddenly like rubber. She tried to stand, pushing herself
upright, but it was too late.
A thick cord circled her throat and was pulled tight.
NO! What is this?
Needle-sharp shards cut deep into her flesh.
Panic surged through her.
No, no, no! This is all wrong.
White-hot pain screamed through her body. She jerked forward,
trying to throw off her attacker as her airway was cut off. She tried to
gasp but couldn’t draw a breath. Her lungs, dear Jesus, her lungs
strained with the pressure.
Oh, God, what was happening?
The nave seemed to spin, the high-domed ceiling reeling, the
monster behind her back drawing the deadly cord tighter.
Terror clawed through her brain. Desperately, Camille tried to
free herself, to kick and twist again, but her body wouldn’t respond
as it should have. The weight against her back was crushing, the cord
at her throat slitting deep.
Blood pounded behind her eyes, echoed through her ears.
Her fingers scrabbled at the cord around her neck, a fingernail
Her back bowed as she strained.
She fought wildly, but it was useless.
Please, please, please! Dear Father, spare me! I have sinned, but
Her feet slipped from beneath her.
Weakly she flailed, her strength failing her.
No, Camille. Fight! Don’t give up! Do not! Someone will save you.
Her eyes focused on the crucifix again, her vision of Christ’s haggard
face blurring. I’m sorry. . .
She was suddenly so weak, her attempts frail and futile.
Her strong body grew limp.
“Please,” she tried to beg, but the sound was garbled and soft, unrecognizable.
The demon who dared set foot in this chapel, the monster who
had defiled this holy ground, held her fast. Pulling on the cord. Unrelenting.
Strong with dark and deadly purpose.
Camille’s lungs were on fire, her heart pounding so loudly she
was sure it would burst. Through eyes round with fear, she saw only
a wash of red.
Oh, Dear Father, the pain!
Again, she tried to suck in one bit of air but failed.
Her lungs shrieked.
Brutal strength, infused by a cold, dark wrath, cinched the garrote
Agony ripped through her.
“Whore,” the voice accused. “Daughter of Satan.”
Eyes open, again she saw the image of Christ on the cross, a film
of scarlet distorting his perfect face, tears like blood running from his
I love you.
The deluge of sins that was her life washed over her, quicksilver
images of those she had wronged. Her mother and father, her sister,
her best friend . . . so many people, some who had loved her ...the
This was her punishment, she realized, her hands falling from her
neck to scrape down her abdomen and linger for a second over her
Zzzzt. Snap! A bright light flashed before her eyes; then all was
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, wash my
soul clean.... Forgive me, for I have sinned....