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A SHATTERED LENS
A Detective Preach Everson Novel
BY LAYTON GREEN
“Layton Green is a master of intellectual suspense.” — JT Ellison, New York Times bestselling author of EDGE OF BLACK
Adetective investigates the murder of a teenage golden boy that has rocked a small town–and the chief suspect is the victim’s mother.
Annalise Stephens Blue is a Creekville high school student with plans to become a world-famous filmmaker. As she begins filming an exposé of the town called Night Lives, she uncovers more than she bargained for: on the very first night of filming, she stumbles upon a murder in the woods, and flees the scene steps ahead of the killer.
Detective Joe “Preach” Everson is called to investigate the murder. The victim, David Stratton, is the town’s golden boy and high school quarterback. A modern version of what Preach used to be. Not only that, the boy’s mother is Claire Lourdis, a beautiful divorcée who Preach fell for in high school. She is also the main suspect in her son’s murder.
Despite the cloud of suspicion hanging over her, old feelings resurface between Claire and Preach, straining the detective’s relationship with his girlfriend Ari, a prosecutor in nearby Durham. As Preach delves into the secrets lurking beneath the surface of the town and searches for a missing girl who may have witnessed the crime, he must put his own feelings aside and pursue the answer to a terrible question: is a mother capable of murdering her own child?
“Dostoevsky and Poe would be proud” — Knoxville News Sentinel
“5/5 … This smart mystery by Layton Green [is] a real page turner.” – San Francisco Book Review
“Written with Profound Elegance” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Starred Review
“Relentless” – Publishers Weekly
“Smart, tense, and mystifying … one of the best new mysteries I’ve read this year.” – Critical Mass Blogspot
“A fascinating new protagonist” – Kirkus Reviews
“Written in Blood provides the delights of a whodunit, with esoteric clues that refer cleverly to classic literary works, while, at the same time, offering the gritty sense of place and the kind of psychologically complex characters ordinarily associated with noir. These elements combine to make a smart page-turner, as dark and deep as the Carolina woods.” —Gordon McAlpine, author of the Edgar-nominated Woman with a Blue Pencil
“Fast-paced and braided with twists, it’s terrific entertainment.” – Andrew Pyper, bestselling author of The Only Child and The Demonologist
“[A] story that will move you to the edge of your seat.” — Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“Stirring and imaginative… the reader [is] in for a wild ride.” — Steve Berry, New York Times bestseller
The camera felt so right in her hands. So natural. The sheer heft of it made her feel important, as if she were already more visible to the world. Everybody everywhere needed something to help them belong, Annie knew. For some it was obvious: money, drugs, guns, sex, power. For others, it could be something as simple as a pet, or a child, or a single friend.
Something no one else could claim.
Something to make you feel alive and special.
What Annalise Stephens Blue wanted, what she had craved since she had first seen ET and The Goonies and The Princess Bride and count- less other movies sitting on her daddy’s lap before he left home, was a camera. Not just any old transmitter of encoded images, but a real camera. A vehicle for Blue to realize her dream of becoming a film- maker. A caster of magic spells, a chronicler of her generation, an artist who would throw a light in dark corners and speak for voices unheard.
Guided by the pewter light of a full moon, she trod down the forested path behind her trailer park, pine needles swishing under her feet once she got past the soda cans and beer bottles and fast food wrappers clotted with dried ketchup. The stench of garbage bins faded, replaced by earth and pine and an explosion of insect chatter.
A few hundred feet in, she stopped to peer through the night lens. What she saw gave her chills. Not just the clarity of the images, but the way the experience made her feel. Though Blue had lived in the trailer park for fourteen of her sixteen years and knew these woods like she knew her own face in the mirror, seeing the forest through the high- powered lens made her feel like someone new and beguiling, a stranger in a strange land, a pioneering explorer in the wilderness of life.
She was no longer Blue from the trailer park, Blue with the Good- will clothes and the mother who cleaned roach motels, Blue the shop- lifter, Blue the Alley Cat, Blue the Anorexic who loved to eat but couldn’t gain weight and had no curves, Blue the high school junior who was held back a year because of behavioral issues.
All that was behind her now. She had taken the first step on her journey. Now she was someone full of curiosity and discernment, a budding filmmaker, a sculptor of popular culture. Someone clever and funny, wise in the ways of the world, destined for great things.
Someone who mattered.
Despite her giddy thoughts, her new acquisition made her nervous. Resembling some kind of advanced alien weaponry, the Canon EOS C100 was a prince among cameras, a piece of equipment so beautiful it had taken her two days to work up the nerve to touch. What if she pressed the wrong button and broke it?
In her head she knew her fears were unfounded, because she had read everything she could find on the camera. She knew it was made for a European market and was hard to get in the United States, that it had a Digi DV 4 processor, an EF-L series lens, and weighed only 2.2 pounds without accessories. She knew the extended ISO range allowed filmmakers to shoot under low light conditions, essential for low-budget filmmakers like herself.
She knew all this, yet holding the Canon in her hands, using it, was a different story.
Her destination was just a few hundred yards into the tract of forest that separated her trailer park from the Wild Oaks subdivi- sion. She was going to set up inside the tree line on the far side of the common space, close enough to observe the nighttime activity of the Creekville upper crust. Wild Oaks was New Money, not Old Money. A blend of professors, young professionals, and Creekville’s typical array of progressive oddballs. Modern Family in semirural North Carolina.
Sure, Old Money had scandals and depraved patriarchs, but Blue didn’t care about the dirty secrets of the smattering of business tycoons and trust fund babies in town. Everyone in Creekville hated them and wished they would move to Chapel Hill. New Money was where the action took place. With the movers and shakers, the strivers, the upwardly mobile who professed their allegiance for a litany of trendy causes, but who would rather die than give up a single morning latte.
That would be the name of her first film, an exposé on the noc- turnal activities of the people who lived just across the forest from her, but who thought they were so much better. Not just the parents, but the kids. The popular ones those Wild Oaks parents bred like minks. She imagined they came out of a celestial assembly line, little blond babies wearing Ralph Lauren onesies in the car seats of their BMWs and Mercedes. The Morning Star himself lived there, David Stratton, the high school quarterback and resident golden boy. Despite herself, she fantasized about dating him, though not for his popularity or good looks. No, she recognized something inside him. A darkness like her own, born not of evil but of sadness, a searing aloneness that scraped at the edges of the soul.
How could someone that beloved ever be lonely? Did no one really know him? Was he lost and didn’t know how to escape the trunks of the longleaf pines hemming in his neighborhood like the bars of a giant prison?
When they were kids, she and David used to play in one of the tree houses the Wild Oaks fathers hired someone else to build, until David’s parents found out and banned him from associating with the trailer park kids. In the years that followed, the forest between them became an ocean to cross, a Maginot line, a barrier more mental than physical.
What had happened to that little boy?
The true story of the Morning Star, both devil and angel, was one of the many mysteries she aimed to expose in Night Lives.
David Cronenburg, she thought, watch the hell out.
Halfway through the woods, she heard the murmur of angry whispers, too low to make out the age or gender. Blue froze. She couldn’t be seen with the stolen camera. At first she debated turning back, but teenage trysts took place in these woods—repurposing the tree houses. This could be her first big scene. Why else would anyone from Wild Oaks be out in the woods after dark?
The thought excited her. She scurried off the path and looked for a place to hide, breathing in the damp forest air. She spotted a fallen trunk covered in fungi and tried to step over it, but her foot plunged through the rotten wood and an image of a writhing mass of insects filled her mind, a sinkhole full of centipedes and slugs and fire ants. She resisted the urge to jerk away. An artist had to suffer for her art! Instead she sucked in a breath and plowed forward, not wanting to alert her subjects, stepping over the trunk and then squatting on a rock behind it. She knew the clearing up ahead, where the voices were headed. It was a common meeting spot. After hurrying to focus the camera, she hunkered down, breathless with anticipation. She was Citizen Kane, Lois Lane. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Just before the voices entered the moonlit clearing, a noise in the bushes startled Blue. She jerked her head to the left but saw nothing. After a few tense moments, she realized it had probably been a squirrel. People always thought a noise in the woods must be a snake, but that was because they didn’t know any better. Snakes didn’t make noise unless they wanted to.
Though she had lurched away, the camera remained pointed at the clearing : a subconscious reaction that pleased her. An instinct to always maintain focus on her subject. She bent to peer through the lens when a muted gunshot echoed through the forest, followed by the dull thud of something collapsing to the ground.
Not something, she thought.
Layton Green is a bestselling author who writes across multiple genres, including mystery, thriller, suspense, horror, and fantasy. His novels have topped numerous lists (including a #2 overall Amazon bestseller) and have been nominated for major awards, including two finalists for an International Thriller Writers award. Layton is also the co-editor of International Thrills, the online magazine of International Thriller Writers (ITW).
In addition to writing, Layton attended law school in New Orleans and was a practicing attorney for the better part of a decade. He has also been an intern for the United Nations, an ESL teacher in Central America, a bartender in London and a seller of cheap knives on the streets of Brixton. Currently based in Durham, North Carolina, Layton has traveled to more than sixty countries, lived in a number of them and has a burning desire to see every country, city, beach, moor, castle, cemetery, twisted street and far flung dot on the map.
Layton Green is an international Amazon Bestseller, with his books spending time in the Amazon top 50 in the U.S., Great Britain, France, and Germany. The Shadow Cartel was an Amazon #2 overall bestseller. The Dominic Grey series has been 10 Ten Overall in Mystery/Thriller/Suspense, Top 5 Action/Adventure, and #1 Horror.
Links to Layton’s website, blog, books, etc.
Amazon Kindle: https://amzn.to/2EuHFGv
Amazon Paperback: https://amzn.to/2KcjNea
Thanks, Layton, for sharing your book with us!
Don’t miss the chance to read this book!