It’s a thin line between love and murder…
A murder that shocks a city…
Shots ring out on one of Savannah’s most famous streets. A beautiful law student lies dead.
A case full of secrets and lies…
Three men close to the victim are questioned. All of them claim to love her. All of them say they are innocent of her murder.
An investigation that could prove deadly…
As crime reporter Harper McClain unravels a tangled story of obsession and jealousy, the killer focuses on her. He’s already killed, one woman. Will he kill another?
Extract from A Beautiful Corpse – Christi Daugherty
‘Eight ball in the corner pocket.’
Leaning over the edge of the pool table, Harper McClain stared across the long expanse of empty green felt. The cue in her hands was smooth and cool. She’d had four of Bonnie’s super-strength margaritas tonight, but her grip was steady.
There was a delicate, transient point somewhere between too much alcohol and too little where her pool skills absolutely peaked. This was it.
Exhaling slowly, she took the shot. The cue ball flew straight and true, slamming into the eight, sending it rolling to the pocket. There was never any question – it hit the polished wood edge of the table only lightly, and dropped like a stone.
‘Yes.’ Harper raised her fist. ‘Three in a row.’ But the cue ball was still rolling.
Lowering her hand, Harper leaned against the table. ‘No, no, no,’ she pleaded.
As she watched in dismay, the scuffed white cue ball headed after the eight like a faithful hound.
‘Come on, cue ball,’ Bonnie cajoled from the other side of the table. ‘Mama needs a new pair of shoes.’
Reaching the pocket lip, the ball trembled for an instant as if making up its mind and then, with a decisive clunk, disappeared into the table’s insides, taking the game with it.
‘At last.’ Bonnie raised her cue above her head. ‘Victory is mine.’
Harper glared. ‘Have you been waiting all night to say that?’ ‘Oh my God, yes.’ Bonnie was unrepentant.
It was very late. Aside from the two of them, the Library Bar was empty. Naomi, who had worked the late shift with Bonnie, had finished wiping down the bar an hour ago and gone home.
All the lights were on in the rambling bar, illuminating the battered books on the shelves that still covered the old walls from the days when it had actually been a library. It could easily hold sixty people but, with just the two of them, the place was comfortable – even cozy, in its way, with Tom Waits growling from the jukebox about love gone wrong.
Despite the hour, Harper was in no hurry to leave. It wasn’t far to walk. But all she had at home was a cat, a bottle of whiskey and a lot of bad memories. And she’d spent enough time with them lately.
‘Rematch?’ She glanced at Bonnie, hopefully. ‘Winner takes all?’ Propping her cue against a sign that read: ‘Books + Beer = LIFE’,
Bonnie walked around the table. The blue streaks in her long blond hair caught the light when she held out her hand.
‘Loser pays,’ she said, adding, ‘Also, I’m all out of change.’ ‘I thought bartenders always had change,’ Harper complained, pulling the last coins from her pocket.
‘Bartenders are smart enough to put their money away before they start playing pool with you,’ Bonnie replied.
There was a break in the music as the jukebox switched songs. In the sudden silence, the shrill ring of Harper’s phone made them both jump.
Grabbing the device off the table next to her, Harper glanced at the screen.
‘Hang on,’ she said, hitting the answer button. ‘It’s Miles.’ Miles Jackson was the crime photographer at the Savannah Daily News. He wouldn’t call at this hour without a good reason.
‘What’s up?’ Harper said, by way of hello.
‘Get yourself downtown. We’ve got ourselves a murder on River Street,’ he announced.
‘You’re kidding me.’ Harper dropped her cue on the pool table. ‘Are you at the scene?’
‘I’m pulling up now. Looks like every cop in the city is here.’ Miles had her on speaker phone – in the background, she could hear the rumble of his engine and the insistent crackle of his police scanners. The sound sent a charge through Harper. ‘On my way.’ She hung up without saying goodbye. Bonnie looked at her enquiringly.
‘Got to go,’ Harper told her, grabbing her bag. ‘Someone just got murdered on River Street.’
Bonnie’s jaw dropped. ‘River Street? Holy crap.’
‘I know.’ Harper pulled out her notebook and police scanner and headed across the room, mentally calculating how long it would take her to get there. ‘If it’s a tourist, the mayor will absolutely lose her shit.’
River Street was the epicenter of the city’s tourism district – and the safest place in town. Until now.
Bonnie ran after her.
‘Give me a second to lock up,’ she said. ‘I’ll come with you.’ Harper turned to look at her. ‘You’re coming to a crime scene?’
The music had started up again.
‘You’ve had four margaritas,’ Bonnie reminded her. ‘I made them strong. You’ll be over the limit. I’ve only had two beers tonight.’
Behind the bar, she opened a concealed wall panel and flipped some switches – in an instant, the music fell silent. A second later, the lights went off one by one, until only the red glow of the exit sign remained.
Grabbing her keys, Bonnie ran to join Harper, the heels of her cowboy boots clicking against the concrete floor in the sudden quiet, short skirt swirling around her thighs.
Harper still wasn’t convinced this was a great idea. ‘You know there’ll be dead people there, right?’
Shrugging, Bonnie unlocked the front door and pulled it open. Steamy southern night air poured in.
‘I’m a grown-up. I can take it.’
She glanced over her shoulder with a look Harper had known better than to argue with since they were both six years old.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Authentic, fast-paced, with an absorbing plot and a likeable protagonist, A Beautiful Corpse’ is the second book in the Harper McClain series, the crime reporter investigates the murder of someone she knows and uncovers a web of fear, lies and privilege.
This story works as a standalone read and there is enough backstory on the main characters and previous events for this to be enjoyable. However, it’s so good, you’ll want to read the first book too.
The setting is atmospheric and bought to life by the details of the buildings, people and the social ethos. The characters are vividly portrayed and their motivations and interactions with each other believable. The life of a crime reporter is intrinsic to the story and is expertly written.
I like Harper she is driven and skilled at her job and hides her vulnerability well. Her relationship with the police officers, whose cooperation she needs to succeed, is explored and provides some important conflict in the story.
There is an overriding theme to this story, the search for Harper’s mother’s murderer, more clues are discovered in this book but it ends with new questions that may lead the crime reporter into personal danger if she pursues the truth.
The exciting ending is ultimately satisfying, tieing up the plot, but posing further questions for Harper, presumably to be resolved in the next book.