Murder in Paradise (Library Edition)


By James Patterson

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A lawyer survives an attempt on his life, a medical examiner uncovers murders in Napa Valley, and a woman hunts down a killer with her drone in this collection of three pulse-pounding thrillers.

The Lawyer Lifeguard with Doug Allyn: Are you the lawyer who got blown up with his girlfriend? Defense lawyer Brian Lord survived the car bomb that killed his fiancée. Out of work and out of his mind, he takes on a lifeguard job at the beach. But there’s one wave he’ll never see coming . . .

The Doctor’s Plotwith Connor Hyde: Abi Brenner is the new medical examiner in the Napa Valley, a dream job in a dream location. But her fairy tale will take a terrifying turn when she uncovers a series of murders — with one sinister thing in common.

The Shut-In with Duane Swierczynski: A woman who has solar urticaria, an uncommon allergy to the sun, watches the outside world through a flying drone as she is confined to her studio apartment. But when her high-tech toy records a vicious murder, she’s determined to track down the killer — a killer who knows she’s being watched.


Chapter 1

It was a clear afternoon on the Lake Huron shore during the last weekend in May, so there weren't many swimmers. Whitecaps slapped against the sand, goosed in by a mild breeze. Gulls keened in the sky overhead.

Down the beach, a kid was throwing a softball for his dog. The big yellow Lab was having a blast, splashing through the shallows, snapping up the ball, and fetching it back to the boy.

Farther out, three teens were waist deep in the breakers, tossing a Frisbee around. A lifeguard in a tower chair was on duty—sort of. He seemed to be more interested in chatting up a gaggle of summer girls in micro-bikinis.

It was a gorgeous afternoon on the darkest day of my life.

And it was going to be my last.

I was sitting on a low sand hill behind my family's beachfront cottage, still dazed, dressed for court in a three-piece Armani pinstripe suit. It was scorched and torn, and spattered with blood.

I had a pistol in my lap.

I wasn't sure whose blood was on me. My fiancée's? Or mine? It didn't matter. The blood was on me.

Hours ago, my fiancée died in a car bombing. I'd managed to escape, yet I knew one thing for certain. Her death was my fault.

And I couldn't live with myself because of it.

Immediately after the accident, I came here. As a boy, the Port Vale shore was my favorite place on the planet. I spent my summers here, swimming, running with my buds, and combing the beach for soda cans to earn ten cents a pop.

In high school, I was a lifeguard. It was a magical job. I got twelve bucks an hour to tone my tan, and scope out the summer girls from my tower chair. At sunset, I enjoyed beers and bonfires on the beach. I was Lord of the Shore in those days.

They were the best times of my life.

And this was the perfect place to finish things up.

I looked down at the pistol again. It was a battered Japanese Nambu automatic my grandfather brought home from Vietnam. "Imagine the stories it could tell," he used to say. Now it would have one more.


Guns leave a god-awful mess. My first week as an assistant DA, I was called to an Iraq vet's suicide. The poor guy did his best to go out clean. He parked a kitchen chair on a tarp in the middle of his garage, then wrapped himself in a plastic sheet before putting the muzzle of a 12 gauge in his mouth…


He'd overlooked the laws of physics. The blast sprayed the garage ceiling with his blood and brains. The cops, the coroner, the EMTs, and I all had to do our jobs in a steady drip, drip, drip of red goo and gray matter.

I burned my suit afterward.

Here on my hill, the sand would soak up most of the blood, but…a body's an awful thing for a little kid to find.


Forget the gun. The surf would do. I'd walk out in the breakers, slip under and breathe in deep.

Maybe they'd never find me at all.

Laying the pistol aside, I rose on shaky legs, swaying slightly. I couldn't focus. I knew I was forgetting something big. Was it the laws of physics? No. But something just as important. My head was thumping like a bass drum. I couldn't remember…

Drawing a ragged breath, I took a last look down the shore…

And in that moment, I swear I saw Death. Not the guy with the scythe, wearing the cowl. More like a dark distortion, hovering above the waves, in deep water.

Crouched, poised, ready to strike.


But not for me.

Chapter 2

The boy's softball had splashed down near one of the Frisbee players, who tossed it farther out. Naturally, his Lab chased after it, dog-paddling into deeper water, and into deep trouble.

As she lunged for the ball, a wave broke over her. And with the ball in her jaws, she couldn't close her mouth.

Gagging, in a panic, the Lab thrashed about wildly, attempting to keep her head above water, and then she slipped below the surface.

That's when something in me snapped.

On pure reflex, I went reeling down the beach, barely able to keep steady on my feet. I staggered into the surf after the drowning dog.

The kid was screaming now. The lifeguard looked up, baffled by the racket. He clearly had no freaking idea what was happening.

After splashing through the shallows, I plunged into the surf, swimming desperately toward the spot where the Lab went under. The icy water cleared my foggy mind as I bulled through the waves, fighting the breakers and the drag created from my sodden business suit.

When I popped my head above the water, I'd lost sight of the dog. She'd disappeared completely.

Damn it! If she'd sunk to the bottom, there was a chance I'd never find her—

Suddenly, she exploded to the surface of the water. She was hacking and gagging, but she still had the damned ball clamped in her jaws.

Desperate to reach her before she went down again, I sprinted toward her. But the dog started frantically snapping her head back and forth, trying to spot the shore. She kept paddling farther out and as I raced after her,  I felt my strength fading fast. With a last, despairing surge, I lunged for the Lab's collar.

Grabbing it, I yanked her head around, trying to swing her toward the beach, and the ball popped out.

But she was out of her mind with fear and rage. The moment I touched her, she whirled on me, savagely snapping. She bit down on my arm, sending a sharp blaze of pain through my body.

Sweet Jesus, she was going to drown us both! Cursing, I pushed at her with my free hand, trying to break her hold, but she clamped down even harder.

And that's what saved her life.

With her jaws locked on my arm, she couldn't swallow any more water. But I couldn't swim, either.

Rolling over, I managed to support her as I side-stroked back to the shallows with my free arm, hauling her with me until my feet brushed the bottom.

Even then, she wouldn't let go, so I gathered her up. I staggered ashore with the exhausted dog cradled in my arms, her jaws still clamped on me.

Not a soul came to help me. They were all too busy filming the whole episode with their phones.

I dropped to my knees in the sand. The second the Lab's paws touched solid ground, she squirmed free of my arms, and went tearing off to the boy and a woman who were both crying and yelling.

Suddenly the lifeguard was in my face, hauling me to my feet by my lapels.

"Are you out of your freakin' mind?" he shouted. "What the hell were you doing out there?"

"Your damn job!" I roared back. Pushing him off me, I took a wild swing at his jaw that missed the muscle-bound clown by a foot and dropped me to my knees in the sand.

As I struggled to rise, I realized the Lab had ripped my arm open. Christ, blood was everywhere.

I felt my body sinking.

Then the sun winked out…

Chapter 3

I woke in a world of white. White ceiling tiles, sterile white walls, white machines beside my bed. One was for oxygen, I think. The others were…complicated. I had no idea what they were for.

My bracelet was silver, though, because my right wrist was handcuffed to the bed frame.

A heavyset woman in blue hospital scrubs was swabbing down my left arm with disinfectant. She was a big woman with legs like tree trunks and no waist at all. A black flat-top buzz cut, kept boot camp short, adorned her head. She had a tattoo on one bicep and an LGBT tattoo on the other. Three more icons decorated her skin, proclaiming: Man, Woman, Equal. It worked for me.

I tried to sit up, but it was a bad mistake. I sagged back into the pillow, stifling a groan.

"Stay still, sport," she said without looking up. "Mess up my handiwork and I'll bite open your other arm. What happened to you? A big dog tear you up?"


"But that's not all that happened." It wasn't a question.

"No ma'am," I admitted. "Not all."

"In addition to the dog bite, we treated you for a dozen contusions and lesions, plus third-degree burns. I've seen injuries like yours before in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Car bomb?"

I managed a nod.

"But not in Helmand, right?"

"In Detroit. Where the hell am I?"

"You're in the Port Vale Samaritan ER, sport. I'm Dr. Lucille Crane. My friends call me Lucy, but you'll call me Dr. Crane. You're Brian Lord, aren't you? The lawyer who got blown up with your girlfriend a few days ago? It's been all over the news."

I nodded.

"I thought so. The police are waiting outside, dying to talk to you. You might want to put that conversation on hold."


She leaned in close, making sure I could read her eyes. "Listen up, Mr. Lord. You are in shock. I suspect you have been since the explosion. You may have sustained a concussion as well. But a minute ago, just before you came to? You were talking to somebody named Serena, like she was actually here. Was that your girlfriend?"

"Serena Rossi was my fiancée, Doc. She's dead. It's my fault and that's the simple truth. So bring on the cops. I really don't care."

"It's your funeral," she shrugged.

But she was wrong about that. It wasn't my funeral.

It was Serena's.

Chapter 4

Three cops came into the room. The first was a slim redhead in a black Donna Karan jacket and matching skirt. It was stylish, but practical. Her skin was pale as alabaster and if she was wearing makeup, I couldn't see it.

She introduced herself as Lieutenant Beverly Hilliard of Detroit Metro homicide. It made sense, since the car bombing happened in Detroit. Though Port Vale is a beachfront community twenty miles up the Lake Huron shore, Motown detectives work with locals all the time.

Her partner, Stan Buchek, was from the Metro bomb squad. He wore a brush cut, a tweed Sears sport coat, and looked as square and dense as a cement block.

A policewoman trailed them in, but stayed by the door. She was tall and lanky, and a bit older. She was dressed like a nun in a blue shirt and navy skirt. Maybe she worked hospital security. Buchek and Hilliard ignored her.

Buchek started the good cop, bad cop show. He played the bully, which suited him. Hilliard played the sympathetic sister. I knew the game better than they did. I've run it a million times myself.

Buchek threatened me with arrest that included a million years in prison. I didn't say anything till he began reading me the Miranda warning. Literally. He had it on a card. "You have the right to remain silent—"

Blah, blah.

"Save it," I managed. "I'm an officer of the court. I know my rights, and I'm waiving them. I'll help you any way I can. Got questions? Fire away."

"Waiving?" Buchek echoed, looking to Hilliard. "Can he do that?"

"He just did," Hilliard nodded, edging him aside. "Can you tell us what happened the day of the bombing, Mr. Lord?"

"I'm—shaky on that," I said, trying to focus. "I was carrying a suitcase out to the car…" I could feel my eyes closing.

"Snap out of it, pal!" Buchek said, prodding my shoulder sharply.

"Whoa up, Sarge," the tall policewoman by the door said. "That's enough of that."

"What? Who the hell are you, lady?"

"That's Chief lady to you, Sergeant. Chief Jean Paquette, Vale County PD. You two are operating in my jurisdiction, or were, anyway. Now I'm thinking we need a word. Outside. Please."

Buchek glanced at Hilliard in exasperation.

"What the hell is this?"

Chapter 5

In the corridor, the chief turned to face them. She was taller than most men at six foot plus and as slender as a riding crop. She wore her silver hair in a loose mane and had gray eyes. Buchek had to look up to meet those eyes, and then he looked away. Staring into her line of sight was like staring into a laser.

"Look, lady, or Chief or whatever you are," he blustered. "You got a quaint little town here, but this beef is out of your league. It's a murder case, and that mutt in there's a suspect—"

"He looks more like a victim to me," Chief Paquette said. "Either way, you don't lay hands on a fella in a hospital bed."

"I was getting his attention—"

"You got mine, instead. Did you two ride up together?"

"What? No," Buchek said, surprised at the question. "We're from different divisions. We drove separately. Why?"

"Good," the chief said. "I won't have to spare a patrolman to drive you home. You're eighty-sixed, Sergeant. I want you out of my town. Sharing jurisdiction is a privilege, and I'm revoking yours. Go back to Detroit. Lieutenant Hilliard can keep you up to speed on any developments."

Buchek opened his mouth to argue, then bit it off. There was no point. He couldn't muscle her. It would be like scrapping with your grandmother; there was no way to win. He closed his mouth and stalked off to the elevators, shaking his head the whole way.

"What about me?" Hilliard asked.

"You're not axed. But let's clear the air. Detroit averages a killing a day. In Port Vale, we get two or three a year, mostly domestic disputes that get out of hand. My perps are usually waiting for me on their front steps, bawling their eyes out when I roll up. So Buchek had one thing right. A car bomb is definitely over my head. I've never worked one. So catch me up. Where are we on this?"

"Since the Towers and with ISIS, every bombing triggers Federal attention," Hilliard said. "TSA, ATF, the whole alphabet shows up whenever they happen. The teams checked the car, did the forensics, and then went back to Quantico or DC or wherever they came from. This one wasn't a terrorist attack."

"How do they know that?"

"The mope who crafted the bomb is already doing triple life in Jackson Prison, but a few of his builds are still on the market. Strictly local street gang stuff."

"So this is a gang thing?"

"We don't know what it was," Hilliard shrugged. "Brian Lord's fiancée was killed. It looks like he was flattened, roughed up pretty good. He's a defense attorney with a lot of low-rent clients. There's a good chance he pissed one of them off."

"So they might try again? Terrific. That's all we need to kick off tourist season. Fireworks. When a bomb goes off in Motown, it barely makes the papers, but not here. Port Vale's a resort town. Peace and quiet's what we sell. Lord's a local boy. His family is here. Whatever he got himself into in your city, I don't want it showing up on my streets like a stray cat. Are we clear?"

"Crystal," Hilliard nodded.

"Good. Then let's try to get something useful out of him."

"What do you have in mind?"

"Definitely not muscle. I don't mind bouncing a perp off the walls if he's got it coming, but Lord's an Afghan vet and an attorney. Tick him off, and all we'll get is his name, rank, and serial number."

"So?" Hilliard asked cautiously.

"Let's try making nice instead," Paquette said sweetly. "We'll feed that boy a whole lotta rope. See if he hangs himself with it."

Chapter 6

"Brian?" the older woman said, pulling a plastic chair up beside my bed. "How are you, son? Do you remember me?"

"I should," I said. "You look fam—you're Chief Paquette's wife, right?"

"I was," she nodded. "Arlo blew out his pump a few years ago chasing down a crack dealer. As head of the 911 division, I was next in line. I believe you were in Afghanistan at the time with my Bobby Ray. Thank you for your service, son."

"You're welcome."

I felt my eyes closing…

"Stay with us, Mr. Lord," Hilliard said. "Can you tell us what happened the day of the bombing?"

What happened? I tried to think. My head was throbbing and—

"Serena was going to the beach," I said quickly, before I faded out. "She wanted to stay at my family's cottage over the weekend."

"Alone?" the chief asked.

"We'd been squabbling, so we thought taking a break might help, but—" I shook my head and pain flashed across my eyes.

"Mr. Lord," Doctor Crane sighed, "you really should wait awhile before you—"

"No," I managed, "I can do this. I need to. Serena had packed enough crap for a European tour and I was late for court. I was griping about her luggage as I hauled her suitcase to the car, and—"

I stopped and stared up at the chief and the lieutenant.

"That's all I've got. Everything's a blur after that."

"That suitcase saved your life," Hilliard said. "It absorbed most of the blast. The explosion shattered every window on the block. You were thrown backward twenty feet, and landed behind a garden wall. It shielded you from the secondary blast."


"When the gas tank blew up," she added. "The car was on fire."

"Fire? My god, was Serena—?"

"The coroner's report was inconclusive," Hilliard said quickly. "Her family took her body home to LA. The ceremony is tomorrow. Closed casket. You, um, you are specifically not invited, Mr. Lord."

I didn't say anything to that. There was nothing to say.

"That's enough," the doc said. "This man has multiple contusions, third-degree burns, and may be concussed. He needs rest. Don't you people have hearts?"


"Hearts," I echoed, wonderingly. That was it! For a swirling moment I could actually see one. A big red heart, on a card. And then…it vanished like mist.

"What is it, Mr. Lord?" Hilliard asked.

"I had it. Just for a second. Couldn't hold on to it."

"Steady down, son," the chief said. "It'll come back."

"You really should stop this now," the doc said.

"No," I said. "I want to help. I need to."

"Go on, Mr. Lord," Hilliard prompted. "Anything at all."

"Um, after the blast? I woke up in a hospital in Detroit. Henry Ford, I think. It was the middle of the night and nobody was around. A bedside TV was on, and I realized from a newscast that days had passed and Serena"—I swallowed—"had been killed. But it seemed impossible—I mean, she had been leaving for the goddamn beach!"

I broke off, about to lose it completely. Dr. Crane started to interrupt, but the chief waved her off. After a moment, I pulled it together and went on.

"I guess I wasn't thinking straight—"

"Which is symptomatic of a concussion, sir," Dr. Crane said.

"All I could think was, it was all a mistake. That if I could get to my folks' cottage at the beach, Serena would be there…" I trailed off again, realizing how loony that sounded.

"How did you get here?" Hilliard asked.

"Uber. Hired a ride."

"With your suit all splattered with blood?"

"It was a Detroit hospital," I said.

That explained the situation. Even the chief smiled.

"Do you have any idea who planted that bomb, Mr. Lord?" Hilliard asked. "An enemy? A disgruntled client, or—" She stopped speaking because I was staring at her.

"A client," I said. "That's it."

"What is it?" Hilliard asked.

"Just before," I said. "The image of a heart came to mind. A valentine. This is about Valentine."

"What kind of a valentine?" the chief asked.

"Not a what," Hilliard said. "Valentine's a who."

Chapter 7

"Jimmy Valentine is a loser of a client," I explained. "When I left the prosecutor's office to work for Garner and Mackey, Jimmy was on the list of castoffs that came with the job."

"Garner's offices are on Cadillac Square," Hilliard said, nodding. "Big step up for an ADA."

"I didn't make it on my own. Serena was a paralegal with Garner for years. When we started dating, she got me in. But new hires are bottom of the food chain so I inherited the shit list, the clients nobody else wanted. Jimmy Valentine topped that list."

"Who is he?"

"Nobody. Jimmy's a small-time loan shark out of Warsaw Heights. Got busted in a gambling raid in Dearborn. His case is an open and shut loser. Unfortunately for him, it's also his third fall."

"So he's facing a stiff sentence as a repeat offender," the chief said. "That's his fault, not yours. Why would this Valentine have a beef with you?"

"He doesn't. But he thought I could get him a deal with the DA's office. Offered to swap some evidence against Bruno Corzine."

That got their attention.

Hilliard's eyes widened. "Jesus," she said. "Corzine's an underboss with the Zeman crime family. How is Valentine connected to him?"

I almost said "a murder," but caught myself in time. I shook my head. "Sorry. Valentine's information falls under attorney–client privilege. Corzine's not a client, so I can give you what I know about him, but that's as far as I can go."

"What about your late fiancée?" Chief Paquette asked. "Does she get a vote in this?"

"Serena's death is on me," I conceded, "but I can't compromise Valentine's rights without spitting on everything I believe in."

"Lawyers are bound by legal restrictions," Hilliard said. "We get that, Counselor. So what can you tell us?"

"My old boss, Assistant DA Leon Stolz, caught Jimmy's case. I called Leon, offered to trade what Jimmy knew for a plea bargain. He said he'd get back to me. But word must have leaked out. Next day, Corzine and two thugs were waiting by my car. He warned me to blow off Valentine's deal, or I'd be sorry. And he was right. I am sorry I ever heard of Jimmy Valentine."

"Where did this confrontation with Corzine happen?" Hilliard asked.

"My firm's parking garage, off Cadillac Square."

"Were there any witnesses?"

"Only the thugs with Corzine."

"Did they lay hands on you? Rough you up at all?"

"Bruno's goons held him back. Thank God, or he would have torn my arms off. Why are you wasting time with this crap? You want to know who planted that bomb? I'm telling you who planted it."

"No, son," the chief said mildly. "You're telling us about a dust-up between you and a couple thugs in a parking garage. With no witnesses to back your story, and no hard evidence it happened at all."

"Your evidence is being buried in LA tomorrow, lady. She's my deceased fiancée."

"You were an ADA, Brian," Hilliard put in. "How many cases did you prosecute?"

"I'm…not sure. I was second chair to Stolz for…maybe a hundred. I flew solo on forty or fifty more after that."


On Sale
Jun 26, 2018
Page Count
448 pages

James Patterson

About the Author

James Patterson is the world’s bestselling author, best known for his many enduring fictional characters and series, including Alex Cross, the Women’s Murder Club, Michael Bennett, Maximum Ride, Middle School, I Funny, and Jacky Ha-Ha. Patterson’s writing career is characterized by a single mission: to prove to everyone, from children to adults, that there is no such thing as a person who “doesn’t like to read,” only people who haven’t found the right book. He’s given over a million books to schoolkids and over forty million dollars to support education, and endowed over five thousand college scholarships for teachers. He writes full-time and lives in Florida with his family.

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