In this thrilling story Maximum Exposure, New York Times bestseller Allison Brennan introduces tough-as-nails investigative reporter Maxine Revere, the compelling feature character of Notorious
Two years before the events in Notorious, Max travels to Colorado Springs to investigate the disappearance of a college student. Frustrated over the lack of interest from both friends of the victim and campus authorities, Max tags along with the leader of search and rescue and his dog through the beautiful and deadly Rocky Mountains in the hopes of finding answers. Every answer she finds leads to more questions—questions neither the police nor the college want Max asking.
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About the Author
ALLISON BRENNAN is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty novels and many short stories. She is the author the Lucy Kincaid Novels, including Cold Snap and Dead Heat. A former consultant in the California State Legislature, she lives in Northern California with her husband Dan and their five children.
Allison Brennan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over thirty novels, including the Max Revere Novels (Abandoned, Shattered) and the Lucy Kincaid Novels (Cut and Run, Nothing to Hide) She was nominated for Best Paperback Original Thriller by the International Thriller Writers and is a two-time winner of the Daphne du Maurier Award by Kiss of Death.
Married for more than a quarter of a century, Allison and her husband Dan raised five children. They recently relocated from California to Arizona with their two youngest where they are looking forward to baseball's Spring Training and exploring the Grand Canyon.
Read an Excerpt
A Max Revere Story
By Allison Brennan
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2014 Allison Brennan
All rights reserved.
Investigative reporter Maxine Revere couldn't explain what drew her toward a particular investigation. She couldn't articulate why she wasn't interested in a cold case across the city, but would jump on a cross-country flight to pursue an even colder case.
She appreciated the fact that she didn't have to explain herself to anyone.
Independently wealthy, she could pursue any lead that caught her attention. For her news articles, she'd conduct a preliminary investigation to decide if she wanted to spend the time solving the case, then write a proposal and send it to one of three editors she liked to work with. They'd give her the flexibility and the credentials to follow through, and she'd submit her report when she was done. Sometimes — most of the time — she went ahead with the full investigation even before anyone wanted the story. For her books, she immersed herself in a community with the people who were affected, hoping not only to tell the story of the crime — victims, survivors, perpetrators — but also understand everyone involved.
She couldn't imagine doing anything else with her life.
Because of the success of her true crime books and the popularity of her in-depth reports, she received hundreds of letters every month from families and friends of victims who wanted her to look into a violent crime, most often a disappearance or a homicide. Letters from killers claiming they were innocent rarely appealed to her, nor did the claims of innocence by loved ones who believed — or wanted to believe — that their mother/husband/boyfriend/daughter/friend was railroaded by the system.
Though she couldn't explain to anyone else why she was going to Colorado to investigate the disappearance of Scott Sheldon from his college campus, as soon as she read the letter from his mother, she knew she was going.
First, she called Scott's mother, Adele Sheldon. She rarely pursued an investigation without the blessing of one of the family members. In this case, Adele was both surprised and relieved that Max had called her. Max listened to the mother talk about her son and his disappearance, repeating most of the information from the letter, but adding an important detail: search and rescue had only last week actively started to look for his body. Adele gave her the contact information of a detective in Colorado Springs, someone at the Park Service, the head of campus police, and Scott's former college roommate. It was a good start.
Max made contact with the detective, who wasn't helpful, because both the college and the campground Scott went missing from were out of her jurisdiction. The campus security chief didn't take her call — supposedly out of the office — but Max left her contact information. She briefly spoke to the head of the park service search team, Chuck Pence, who confirmed the pertinent details. She wanted to talk to him further when she arrived in Colorado Springs. Max read all newspaper and online reports on Scott's disappearance, but there wasn't much written.
After the preliminary research, Max called Adele again to confirm that Scott's mother still wanted her help. The woman sobbed.
"Y-yes," she said. She took a deep, audible breath. "I need to know what happened to my son. I need the truth."
Truth. Most people thought they were strong enough for the truth, but sometimes they resented Max for digging into their life, their family, their friends. Max always believed the truth was better than not knowing, and not everyone concurred with her philosophy.
"It might not be what you think, Mrs. Sheldon. We might learn things about your son you wished you didn't know."
"I don't care," she said. "Not knowing what happened, not having his body to bury, is worse than anything you might learn. My son was a good boy. Smart. Shy. Trusting. He never forgot my birthday; he cared deeply for his sister, Ashley. I love him. I want to say good-bye. Maybe you don't understand."
She understood exactly how Mrs. Sheldon felt. Max hadn't lost a child, but she'd lost people close to her.
She said, "I'll be there."
Max booked a flight without checking her calendar. When she looked at her schedule the next morning, she saw that she was supposed to have lunch with Ben Lawson.
Max dialed his number, glad that this time she had a legitimate excuse to cancel. She'd canceled on her old college friend twice already. The first time, he'd been understanding; the second, he was irritated.
Third time? He would be irate.
"Don't you dare cancel on me," he said before she could even get a soothing hello, how are you? out of her mouth.
"It's work, Ben."
"It's always work."
"I'm a busy woman."
"You're an impossible woman. We're having lunch."
"My flight leaves at three, I need to be in a cab by twelve forty-five."
"Meet me right now."
"I need to pack."
"You're not canceling on me again, Maxie."
"Do not call me that, Benji."
He let out an exasperated sigh. "I need to talk to you about something. It's important."
"Everything with you is important." Ben always had something going on. He worked in film, had done something out in L.A. for a few years after he graduated from Columbia, and now worked for a television station here in New York City. Max had no idea what he actually did, only that he had three phones and never stopped talking.
"I'm serious, Max. Please."
Ben never said please. Now Max was curious. "Eleven thirty, same place."
"I'll change the reservation. Thank you." He hung up quickly, as if she might change her mind.
She stared at the phone. A please and a thank you? Now she was not only interested, but suspicious, too.
She didn't have much time before she had to meet Ben. She packed a large suitcase plus her overnight bag, which should be enough for the four or five days she planned to be in Colorado Springs. If she decided to stay longer, she'd ask her neighbors — who took care of her place during her frequent travels — to ship out anything she might need.
Max left her luggage with her doorman so she didn't have to lug it to the restaurant. She lived in TriBeCa, on Greenwich Street, and Ben lived on the Upper West Side. That he would come all the way down here to have lunch at the Tribeca Grill was partly because of the good food, but mostly because he wanted something from her. Ben was a schmoozer and glad-hander, but he was also busy and selfish. He expected people to come to him.
But Ben knew Max; she liked her neighborhood. It was certainly in his favor that he'd made reservations at one of her favorite restaurants. Someone who didn't know her might think that Ben was manipulating her, but when it came to her old friend, she supposed she allowed him to do it. He'd never been able to convince her to do anything she really didn't want to do, but he did have an uncanny ability to see through her bullshit. She admired that.
Ben was already at the restaurant when she arrived. She eyed her old friend before he spotted her. Ben hadn't changed. He was tall and slim, with an intensity about him, as if everything were either critical or top secret, and she'd always wondered why he hadn't gone into politics. He had that Teflon coating that seemed so perfect for politicians and car salesmen, but he combined it with the boyish charm of a high school quarterback. When Max wanted to irritate him, she'd call him "Ken" because he had that too-perfect, polished smile to go with his WASP appearance.
He spotted her almost immediately, which wasn't hard, because she was six feet tall with dark red hair. He looked relieved, as if he'd feared she might not show.
"I said I'd be here." She gave him a light kiss. She and Ben had never had a romantic relationship — the thought made her want to laugh out loud. In fact, they weren't naturally friends. Ben and her college roommate, Karen Richardson, had been close, and Karen's death their senior year ended up bringing Ben and Max closer. Ironic, perhaps, because Karen had once told Max that her life would be perfect if her two best friends actually liked each other.
Max wouldn't say that she liked Ben, but she respected him — and for her, respect was more important than the emotions involved in liking or disliking anyone.
Ben said, "You've been avoiding me."
"Not well enough." She stared pointedly at her watch. "I'm walking out of here at twelve forty. My car service is picking me up at my apartment at twelve forty-five."
She laughed and leaned back as Ben looked over the menu.
"What?" he said.
"No small talk, no how have you been?"
"You hate small talk."
"That never stopped you before when you want something."
The waiter came over and they ordered. Max added a glass of pinot grigio and Ben stuck with iced tea.
"I have a fantastic opportunity for you." He ran a hand through his dark blond hair, which fell immediately back into place across his forehead. His dark eyes were bright with excitement. "Your own television show."
Max stared at him. "A television show," she said flatly.
"Your television show."
"You didn't listen to my pitch."
"I don't need to listen to your pitch."
"Yes, you do. I don't think you understand what an amazing idea this is. It'll be like a news magazine, but better. We'll be integrating all communications media — television, a Web site, podcasts, social media, print. It's cable, more flexibility, more edge. Multiple venues will get your reports out to more people."
The excitement in Ben's voice grew as he spoke. Max was grateful her wine arrived.
"I like my job," she said after sipping her drink.
"You don't have a job."
She snapped her fingers. "Exactly. I investigate the cases I want, write the articles I want, do what I want. Do you sense the theme?"
"You do what you want because you're rich."
"You make being rich sound like it's a bad thing." She sipped her wine and assessed Ben over the rim of her stemware. "You're not exactly collecting welfare, Mr. Lawson, grandson of Tobias Lawson the Third, the self-made and successful businessman who owns half of Boston."
Her attempt at getting under his skin failed. He said, "You're scared."
She laughed again. "Ben, you know me well enough to know I don't scare easily."
"Not by anything out there —" He waved his hand loosely toward the quaint cobblestone intersection. "— but by change. You're not even thirty, but you're an old stick-in-the-mud, as my grandmother would say."
"Then let me stick in the mud here and leave me alone. I don't want a television show."
"Your books are doing fine, but you only write one every two or three years. Newspaper readership is way down, and they're still scrambling to get their online component growing. You pay for your own research, your trips, your investigations. If you had a television show, production would pay all that."
"Because, like you said, I'm rich. If I want to spend my money investigating a cold case in Small Town, USA, I can. If I sell the article, great. If not, I don't care." Except she did. She cared because if she couldn't find anyone interested, the story wouldn't get the exposure it deserved. But that had nothing to do with television.
As if she hadn't spoken, he continued. "Cable television is not the crazy aunt in the attic anymore."
She arched an eyebrow. "Is that even a saying?"
"We'll have an entire team working for you. I would be your producer —"
"Hell no —"
"And you would have a say in what cases we cover."
"Say? I would have a say? My answer was no at the beginning, and now it's 'over my dead body.'"
"I don't accept that."
Their food arrived but neither of them picked up a fork. Usually, Ben amused or annoyed her; today he was pissing her off. "Ben, we've known each other for ten years. Have you ever in your wildest dreams imagined me taking orders from anybody?"
"You wouldn't. You'd be the boss."
"It doesn't sound like it."
He sighed, played with his food. "Max, without you, there is no show. You are the show."
"I don't want to be the show."
"You're blunt, you're beautiful, you have an uncanny ability to see through people's bullshit and get them to spill their secrets. In two years, I can make Maximum Exposure the top news show on the network and the top investigative show on cable television." He held up his fingers in a V. "Two years!"
"You're calling it Maximum Exposure?" Unbelievable. "That's a play off my name, isn't it?"
"It's perfect. You expose the truth. The good and the bad. You're honest. You're driven. You already have a name because of your books, you have a platform. Not just a platform, but stage presence. I've watched every interview you've ever done on television, and —"
"What?" she interrupted. "Why would you do that?"
"I'm a news junkie. You know that. And because of Karen ..." For a second, he hesitated, and she saw the young college boy that he'd once been. Then the producer Ben Lawson was back. "I follow crime. You're a natural. The camera loves you, even if you're in the middle of a swamp with gnats swarming your head."
"You saw that?" She hadn't thought that feed, when she found three boys dead in a Louisiana swamp, was picked up by any station other than the local Baton Rouge affiliate.
"This is the natural next step for you. Or are you going to be satisfied running around the country solving crimes like Nancy Drew on steroids?"
"Now you're being insulting."
"You're good, dammit! You're wasting your talent."
Max stabbed a fork into her salad and stuffed the mix of chicken and lettuce into her mouth before she let loose on Ben. He was right, she was blunt — so much so that she could go for his jugular right now, and just say good-bye to their odd and unnatural friendship.
She didn't want a television show. She didn't want a staff, didn't want to report to anyone or have anyone report to her. She liked her life just the way it was. It was comfortable. She could fly off to Colorado Springs to investigate the disappearance of a college student that may or may not have involved foul play, and not worry that she was going to say or do something that would screw with ratings and cost people their jobs.
She liked being the only one she was responsible for. She liked her freedom. She needed her space. And Ben, of all people, should understand that.
The word no was on the tip of her tongue, when Ben said, "Don't say yes now."
"I wasn't going to." But she smiled. She couldn't help it. Ben had that way about him, making her crazy one minute and laughing the next.
"Think about it, Max. I'll e-mail you my proposal, the one I used to sell the idea to Robert and Catherine Crossman, and maybe it'll explain things better than I have."
"You explained things well enough," she said.
"Go on your trip. Read my proposal. And tell me yes when you come back."
The smile disappeared. "Don't be cocky. I don't want to do this."
"Yes, you do." He visibly relaxed. "We have ten minutes before you have to leave to catch your plane. Tell me about this trek to Colorado Springs. Who, what, why, when, where, how."
"College student Scott Sheldon, missing for six months after walking away while on a camping trip with friends."
He stared at her. "You're going because of Karen."
"No, I'm not." But there was some truth to his observation. Karen disappeared while she and Max had gone to Miami for a wild spring break their senior year. She was definitely dead — the police had found evidence of a violent death with an extensive amount of blood — but her body was never found. Max had spent a year of her life searching for answers, and still no one knew what happened beyond a theory that couldn't be proved. And a killer had walked away.
Excerpted from Maximum Exposure by Allison Brennan. Copyright © 2014 Allison Brennan. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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