• Publisher: Grand Central
  • Release Date: Sept 2012
  • ISBN: 1455501492
  • ISBN-13: 978-1455501496
  • Available Formats: Audio, e-Book, Print

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The forecast calls for murder!

Bellamy Lyston was only 12 years old when her older sister Susan was killed on a stormy Memorial Day. Bellamy’s fear of storms is a legacy of the tornado that destroyed the crime scene along with her memory of what really happened during the day’s most devastating moments.

Now, 18 years later, Bellamy has written a sensational, bestselling novel based on Susan’s murder. Because the book was inspired by the tragic event that still pains her family, she published it under a pseudonym to protect them from unwanted publicity. But when an opportunistic reporter for a tabloid newspaper discovers that the book is based on fact, Bellamy’s identity is exposed along with the family scandal.

Moreover, Bellamy becomes the target of an unnamed assailant who either wants the truth about Susan’s murder to remain unknown or, even more threatening, is determined to get vengeance for a man wrongfully accused and punished.

In order to identify her stalker, Bellamy must confront the ghosts of her past, including Dent Carter, Susan’s wayward and reckless boyfriend — and an original suspect in the murder case. Dent, with this and other stains on his past, is intent on clearing his name, and he needs Bellamy’s sealed memory to do it. But her safeguarded recollections -once unlocked-pose dangers that neither could foresee and puts both their lives in peril.

As Bellamy delves deeper into the mystery surrounding Susan’s slaying, she discovers disturbing elements of the crime which call into question the people she holds most dear. Haunted by partial memories, conflicted over her feelings for Dent, but determined to learn the truth, she won’t stop until she reveals Susan’s killer.

That is, unless Susan’s killer strikes her first…

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Excerpt


“You were terrific!”

“Thank you.” Bellamy tried to maintain the rapid pace set by the publicist for the publishing house, who functioned as though her breakfast cereal had been laced with speed.

“This show is number one in its time slot.” Her rapid-fire speech kept time with the click of her stilettos. “Miles ahead of its competition. We’re talking over five million viewers. You just got some great, national exposure.”

Which was exactly what Bellamy wished to avoid. But she didn’t waste her breath on saying so. Again. For the umpteenth time. Neither the publicist nor her agent, Dexter Gray, understood her desire to direct the publicity to her best selling book, none to herself.

Dexter, his hand tightly grasping her elbow, guided her through the Manhattan skyscraper’s marble lobby. “You were superb. Flawless, but warm. Human. That single interview probably sold a thousand copies of Low Pressure, which is what it’s all about.” He ushered her toward the exit where a uniformed doorman tipped his hat as Bellamy passed. “Your book kept me up nights, Ms. Price.”

She barely had time to thank him before being propelled through the revolving door which emptied her onto the plaza. A shout went up from the crowd that had gathered to catch a glimpse of that morning’s interviewees as they entered and exited the television studio.

The publicist was exultant. “Dexter, help her work the crowd. I’m going to get a photographer over here. We can parley this into more television coverage.”

Dexter, more sensitive to his client’s reluctance toward notoriety, stood on tiptoe and spoke directly into Bellamy’s ear to make himself heard above the Midtown rush hour racket. “It wouldn’t hurt to take advantage of the situation and sign a few books. Most authors work their entire professional lives – ”

“And never receive this kind of media attention,” she said finishing for him. “Thousands of writers would give their right arm for this. So you’ve told me. Repeatedly.”

“It bears repeating.” He patted her arm as he steered her toward the eager people straining against the barricades. “Smile. Your adoring public awaits.”

Readers who had become instant fans clamored to shake hands with her and have her sign their copy of Low Pressure. Being as gracious as possible, she thanked them and smiled into their cell phone cameras. Her hand was being pumped by an enthusiastic fan when she spotted Rocky Van Durbin out of the corner of her eye.

A writer for the daily tabloid newspaper, EyeSpy, Van Durbin was standing slightly apart from the crowd, wearing a self-congratulatory smirk, and giving instructions to the photographer accompanying him. It was Van Durbin who had uncovered and then gleefully disclosed that the writer T.J. David, whose first book was generating buzz in book circles as well as in Hollywood, was, in fact, Bellamy Price, an attractive, thirty-year-old woman.

“Why this native Texan – blue-eyed, long-legged, and voluptuous – and isn’t that how we like them? – would want to hide behind an innocuous pen name, this reporter doesn’t know. But in spite of the author’s coy secrecy, Low Pressure has soared to the top of the bestseller charts, and now, apparently, Ms. Price has come out of hiding and gotten into the spirit of the thing. She’s eschewed her spurs and hat, abandoned the Lone Star state, and is now residing in a penthouse apartment overlooking Central Park on the Upper West Side, basking in the glow of her sudden celebrity.”

Most of that was a lie, having only filaments of truth that kept it from being libelous. Bellamy did have blue eyes, but she was of average height, not noticeably tall as his description suggested. By no one’s standards could she be considered voluptuous. She did have a cowboy hat, but it hadn’t been on her head for years. She’d never owned a pair of spurs, nor had she ever known anyone who did. She hadn’t abandoned her home state, in the sense Van Durbin had implied, but she had relocated to New York several years ago, long before the publication of her book. She did live on the Upper West Side, across from the park, but not in a penthouse. But the most egregious inaccuracy was Van Durbin’s claim that she was enjoying her celebrity, which she considered more a harsh glare than a glow.

That glare had intensified when Van Durbin wrote a follow-up, front page article that contained another startling revelation. Although published as a novel, Low Pressure was actually a fictionalized account of a true story. Her true story. Her family’s tragic true story. With the velocity of a rocket, that disclosure had thrust her into another dimension of fame.

She abhorred it.

Extras


A Note From Sandra


As you no doubt perceive by the title, the severe weather we’ve recently experienced – and suffered – factored largely into the plotting of LOW PRESSURE. Because I’ve lived in Tornado Alley my entire life, I’ve seen countless funnel clouds.

I vividly recall my mother’s fear that afternoon in 1953 when Waco, Texas, was virtually leveled by a tornado. She was home alone with me and my baby sister. We and our house were spared, but the tornado severely damaged the newspaper office building where my daddy was working. Had he and others not sought shelter in the basement, he might have been injured or worse. I was barely old enough to remember, yet images of the tornado’s devastation on that city remain clear in my mind.

However, those recollections pale in comparison to the photos I saw last year of the destruction in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Joplin, Missouri, when entire neighborhoods were reduced to rubble, when trees were stripped bare of foliage, eighteen-wheelers were tossed about like Tonka trucks, and buildings were ripped from their foundations. Trees can be replanted and structures can be replaced. The loss of a human life is permanent.

Which got me to thinking: What if a tornado destroyed a crime scene? More particularly, a murder scene. What if there was absolutely nothing left intact at the scene except the body of a young woman, at first believed to have been a casualty of the storm? Hold that thought.

Often I’m asked, “Are your books based on people you know and your life experiences?”

I reply with a resounding, “No.”

Several of my friends and acquaintances are somewhat “colorful.” A few of my relatives are downright quirky. Though, basically, they’re too dull to write about. And if I’d lived everything that I’ve put my characters through, I’d be long dead. But say that I did write a book based on people I know and an actual incident in which they played key roles? Odds are good that many of them would be unhappy with the way they were portrayed in the book, especially if they didn’t come off looking all that great.

Okay, now go back to the tornado idea. What if a murder occurred at a Memorial Day barbecue minutes before a tornado swept through a heavily wooded state park and turned it into kindling? What if Bellamy Price (my heroine) was twelve years old at the time, and the victim was her older sister? This would have a profound impact on Bellamy, wouldn’t you say?

Flash forward eighteen years. Still haunted by the tragic event, Bellamy writes a book about it, but publishes it under a pseudonym as a novel entitled – you guessed it – LOW PRESSURE. But since this is fiction, and it’s my job to make bad stuff happen to my protagonists, Bellamy’s “novel” is exposed for what it is: an account of her sister’s murder, the resultant investigation, trial, and conviction of the killer. The book becomes an overnight sensation. Bellamy gains instant – and unwanted – celebrity. The national spotlight is suddenly focused on her.

Also finding themselves in the unwelcome glare of notoriety are: Her family members, who wish to leave their personal tragedy in the past where it belongs; The lead detective who investigated the crime and might or might not have nabbed the right guy; The uber-ambitious and totally corrupt DA who tried the case in court; And Denton Carter (pay attention here), the murder victim’s boyfriend, who was the initial suspect and who still carries a chip on his shoulder for being so. Because of the blockbuster book, all of them are mad as hell at Bellamy…especially the actual killer, who for eighteen years has gotten away with murder.

This is why I don’t write about real people or true events in my own life. In the first place, nothing remotely this earth-shattering has ever happened to me, and, secondly, the consequences of ticking somebody off could be deadly. As they are in LOW PRESSURE.

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