INTERVIEW and GIVEAWAY
The Echo Man
(Byrne & Balzano Book 5)
(Byrne & Balzano Book 5)
by Richard Montanari
The Echo Man, the fifth book in the Byrne & Balzano series by Richard Montanari, is currently on tour with Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my interview with the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.
Also in this series: The Rosary Girls, The Skin Gods, Merciless, Play Dead, The Killing Room, The Stolen Ones, The Doll Maker, and Shutter Man.
In this gripping, unforgettable thriller for readers of James Patterson and Lisa Gardner, someone is recreating infamous unsolved murders ... and the killer is closer than anyone could imagine.
Fall in Philadelphia. A man’s corpse is found in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. It’s unmistakably the work of a killer.
But to homicide detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano, it feels familiar. Eight years ago, another body was found in the same place, in the same position ... killed in the same manner. Even the crime-scene photos are identical.
That case was never closed. And now more copycat murders are happening. Someone is recreating the city’s most infamous unsolved killings, victim by victim - with more clues for Byrne and Balzano to unravel ...
For every light there is shadow. For every sound, silence. From the moment he got the call Detective Kevin Francis Byrne had a premonition this night would forever change his life, that he was headed to a place marked by a profound evil, leaving only darkness in its wake.
Byrne glanced at Jimmy. Detective Jimmy Purify sat in the passenger seat of the bashed and battered department-issue Ford. He was just a few years older than Byrne, but something in the man’s eyes held deep wisdom, a hard-won experience that transcended time spent on the job and spoke instead of time earned. They’d known each other a long time, but this was their first full tour as partners.
“I’m ready,” Byrne said.
They got out of the car and walked to the front entrance of the sprawling, well- tended Chestnut Hill mansion. Here, in this exclusive section of the northwest part of the city, there was history at every turn, a neighborhood designed at a time when Philadelphia was second only to London as the largest English-speaking city in the world. The first officer on the scene, a rookie named Timothy Meehan, stood inside the foyer, cloistered by coats and hats and scarves perfumed with age, just beyond the reach of the cold autumn wind cutting across the grounds.
Byrne had been in Officer Meehan’s shoes a handful of years earlier and remembered well how he’d felt when detectives arrived, the tangle of envy and relief and admiration. Chances were slight that Meehan would one day do the job Byrne was about to do. It took a certain breed to stay in the trenches, especially in a city like Philly, and most uniformed cops, at least the smart ones, moved on.
Byrne signed the crime-scene log and stepped into the warmth of the atrium, taking in the sights, the sounds, the smells. He would never again enter this scene for the first time, never again breathe an air so red with violence. Looking into the kitchen, he saw a blood splattered killing room, scarlet murals on pebbled white tile, the torn flesh of the victim jigsawed on the floor.
While Jimmy called for the medical examiner and crime- scene unit, Byrne walked to the end of the entrance hall. The officer standing there was a veteran patrolman, a man of fifty, a man content to live without ambition. At that moment Byrne envied him. The cop nodded toward the room on the other side of the corridor.
And that was when Kevin Byrne heard the music.
She sat in a chair on the opposite side of the room. The walls were covered with a forest-green silk; the floor with an exquisite burgundy Persian. The furniture was sturdy, in the Queen Anne style. The air smelled of jasmine and leather.
Byrne knew the room had been cleared, but he scanned every inch of it anyway. In one corner stood an antique curio case with beveled glass doors, its shelves arrayed with small porcelain figurines. In another corner leaned a beautiful cello. Candlelight shimmered on its golden surface.
The woman was slender and elegant, in her late twenties. She had burnished russet hair down to her shoulders, eyes the color of soft copper. She wore a long black gown, sling-back heels, pearls. Her makeup was a bit garish—theatrical, some might say—but it flattered her delicate features, her lucent skin.
When Byrne stepped fully into the room the woman looked his way, as if she had been expecting him, as if he might be a guest for Thanksgiving dinner, some discomfited cousin just in from Allentown or Ashtabula. But he was neither. He was there to arrest her.
“Can you hear it?” the woman asked. Her voice was almost adolescent in its pitch and resonance.
Byrne glanced at the crystal CD case resting on a small wooden easel atop the expensive stereo component. Chopin: Nocturne in G Major. Then he looked more closely at the cello. There was fresh
blood on the strings and fingerboard, as well as on the bow lying on the floor. Afterward, she had played.
The woman closed her eyes. “Listen,” she said. “The blue notes.”
Byrne listened. He has never forgotten the melody, the way it both lifted and shattered his heart.
Moments later the music stopped. Byrne waited for the last note to feather into silence. “I’m going to need you to stand up now, ma’am,” he said.
When the woman opened her eyes Byrne felt something flicker in his chest. In his time on the streets of Philadelphia he had met all types of people, from soulless drug dealers, to oily con men, to smash-and-grab artists, to hopped-up joyriding kids. But never before had he encountered anyone so detached from the crime they had just committed. In her light-brown eyes Byrne saw demons caper from shadow to shadow.
The woman rose, turned to the side, put her hands behind her back. Byrne took out his handcuffs, slipped them over her slender white wrists, and clicked them shut.
She turned to face him. They stood in silence now, just a few inches apart, strangers not only to each other, but to this grim pageant and all that was to come.
“I’m scared,” she said.
Byrne wanted to tell her that he understood. He wanted to say that we all have moments of rage, moments when the walls of sanity tremble and crack. He wanted to tell her that she would pay for her crime, probably for the rest of her life—perhaps even with her life—but that while she was in his care she would be treated with dignity and respect.
He did not say these things.
“My name is Detective Kevin Byrne,” he said. “It’s going to be all right.”
It was November 1, 1990.
Nothing has been right since.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt. Please note the book has since been reissued with a different cover.]
Praise for the Book
"This tale had me gripped by the throat, unwilling to do anything but anxiously turn the pages. Richard Montanari’s writing is both terrifying and lyrical, a killer combination that makes him a true stand-out in the crowded thriller market. The Echo Man showcases a master storyteller at his very best." ~ Tess Gerritsen, bestselling author of The Silent Girl
"Richard Montanari’s The Echo Man continues his work as a writer whose prose can capture quite extraordinary subtleties. When a man’s facial expression is described as 'not the look of someone with nothing to hide, but rather of one who has very carefully hidden everything', we know we are in good hands, and with The Echo Man, we are in the hands of one of the best in the business" ~ Thomas H. Cook, bestselling author of Red Leaves
Interview With the Author
Richard Montanari joins me today to discuss his new book, The Echo Man.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
The Echo Man is an adult-themed book, somewhere between a PG-13 and an R. I would say sixteen and over.
What sparked the idea for this book?
I’ve always been fascinated with the notion - some would call it a belief - that energy, especially negative energy, stays behind when something evil happens. In every room where murder has been done, on every blood soaked battlefield, there is a psychic residue that defies time. I began to wonder if there are people who could stand in such a spot and hear the screams, weeks and months and even decades later. This is the terrible and terrifying ability of The Echo Man.
Which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
The first step in my process is always to determine the killer’s pathology. Why is he doing what he is doing? There are certain required steps in the writing of all procedurals - a body is found, police are called, investigators show up at the crime scene - so my main series characters need to be on their game early in the story. That’s the prevailing theory, anyway. Kevin Byrne, and to some extent Jessica Balzano, don’t always play by the rules. This is certainly true of my killers. Once I know what motivates my villain, and through what prism he views the world, the story begins to take shape.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
I believe the challenge in writing any long-running series is an obligation an author has to honor the established characters. The Echo Man is the fifth book in my Philadelphia series featuring homicide detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano, and I feel I know them pretty well. That said, they do continue to surprise me. Although it is a series novel, The Echo Man can easily be read as a standalone.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
I hope readers find The Echo Man to be a good story, well told - the interwoven narratives of the past and the present; the lives of Lucinda Doucette, a young hotel room attendant, and Christa-Marie Schönburg, a world renowned cellist; the crimes that forever link their stories; the race to stop a madman on the streets of Philadelphia.
How long did it take you to write this book?
Once the research is in place, it takes about six to nine months to write the first draft. A second draft and a polish takes another three months or so.
What is your writing routine?
Up by six-thirty, a quick workout and breakfast, then off to the iMac by eight. A good day will yield a thousand words. A great one, two thousand. A bad one? This is why I have bird feeders just outside my office window.
How did you get your book published?
I’ve been with the Jane Rotrosen Agency for just over twelve years, since the publication of The Rosary Girls. My agent, Meg Ruley, is the best.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Pay no attention to trends. By the time we notice a trend it has already peaked. Write something you would love to read. Find your voice, stay true to it, and write everyday. One sentence has a way of becoming two. Before you know it ...
Great advice. What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Photography, cooking, theater. As a film buff, I love to discover new directors. I’ve recently begun taking acting classes, so watch out, Broadway! Okay, Off-Off-Off Broadway. In spring and summer, I plant herbs and vegetables that never grow. It’s therapy.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I think my desire to be a storyteller began pretty early. I seem to remember going to birthday parties when I was five or so and trying to grab the spotlight. By the time I got to junior high I realized that the written word was probably a better way to go.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
I think the most influential writers are those whose impact goes unnoticed. As a reader, I like nothing better than to be so consumed by a story, so rooted in a world, that I forget that I am reading a fiction. It is only on a second or third read that, as a writer, I take particular note of style and voice and structure. I’ve always been drawn to suspense, and I think that I’ve been influenced in equal measure by the great suspense and crime writers as I have by the films of Alfred Hitchcock.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
In May, Witness Impulse will release book 6 in the Byrne & Balzano series, The Killing Room, which will be its first North American edition.
I’ve just completed a standalone novel, a tale of small town murder called The Last Girl. Next up, a new, terrifying case for Kevin and Jessica.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by today, Richard. Best of luck with your future projects.
Thanks! It was my pleasure.
About the Author
Richard Montanari was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to a traditional Italian-American family. After university, he traveled Europe extensively and lived in London, selling clothing in Chelsea and foreign language encyclopedias door-to-door in Hampstead Heath.
Returning to the US, he started working as a freelance writer for the Chicago Tribune, the Detroit Free Press, the Seattle Times, and many others. He wrote his first book, Deviant Way, in 1996 and it won the OLMA for Best First Mystery. His novels have now been published in more than twenty-five languages.
Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win one of five ebook copies of The Echo Man by Richard Montanari.