Praise for J.T. Ellison’s debut novel
ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS
“A terrific lead character, terrific suspense, terrific twists…
a completely convincing debut.”
—Author Lee Child
“Creepy thrills from start to finish.”
—Author James O. Born
“[All the Pretty Girls]] has the attention to detail, unexpected twists and puzzles that are vital to topflight crime fiction.”
—Nashville City Paper
“Relentlessly paced and intricately plotted—
and it features a villain who will have readers looking over their shoulders, even in the daylight.”
—Romantic Times BOOKreviews (four stars)
“With this debut thriller, Ellison puts her mentoring by Lee Child to good use.”
“Complex and sharp-tongued, Taylor Jackson is destined to become an icon in crime fiction.”
—Author Kristy Kiernan
“The book is taut, tense and suspenseful. The best part of All the Pretty Girls, though, is its breathless pace.”
“A turbocharged thrill ride of a debut.”
—Author Julia Spencer-Fleming
“Ellison hits the ground running with an electrifying debut.”
—Author J.A. Konrath
“Southern readers will find All the Pretty Girls a thrilling ride through a well-known locale, and the rest of the country will get a closer view—
and a different perspective—of Music City.”
“Fast-paced and creepily believable.”
—Author M. J. Rose
“A spine-tingling thriller you will not want to miss.”
—Romance Reviews Today
“Ellison’s talent is evident not only in her ability to create nail-biting suspense, but also in her vivid characters.”
—Author Tasha Alexander
“J.T. Ellison’s fast-moving debut is as smooth as fine Kentucky bourbon.”
—Romance Reader at Heart
“Ellison’s characters—whether major players or quiet students—will stay with you long after you close the book.”
—Author Pari Noskin Taichert
Also by J.T. Ellison
ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS
To Del Tinsley,
without whom none of these books would see the light of day. And for my Randy,
without whom I would be lost.
While the execution of the words belongs to the author, we can’t make the books come alive without our research, our cheering sections and our inspirations. Thanking people is truly one of the most exciting steps in writing these books. So please indulge me while I wax poetic about my team.
My incredible agent Scott Miller, of Trident Media Group, who always knows exactly what to say and when to say it, and Stephanie Sun, who makes every exchange a pleasure. My extraordinary editor Linda McFall, the woman who makes these manuscripts into coherent books. I couldn’t do it without you. And a special thanks to assistant editor Adam Wilson, who makes the business end so much fun. Between the two of them, they turn my words into magic, for which I will be forever grateful.
The entire MIRA Books team, especially Heather Foy, Don Lucey, Michelle Renaud, Adrienne Macintosh, Megan Lorius, Marianna Ricciuto, Tracey Langmuir, Kathy Lodge, Emily Ohanjanians, Alex Osuszek, Margaret Marbury, Dianne Moggy and the brilliant artists who create these fabulous covers: Tara Kelly and Gigi Lau.
My independent publicist Tom Robinson, who is truly a master at finding just the right spot to place me. Thank you for everything!
The librarians across the country who’ve seen fit to order my books—it warms my heart every time someone says they found me in their local library!
Detective David Achord of the Metro Nashville Homicide Department, my go-to, my first resource, my friend. He helps Taylor come to life in ways I never could. Dr. Vince Tranchida, Manhattan Medical Examiner, who makes sure Sam does everything right.
Duane Swierczynski, for not knowing Polish. Elizabeth Fox, who stunned me with an e-mail—“I’m Taylor!”—and has since become a cherished friend. My amazing critique group, the Bodacious Music City Wordsmiths—Del Tinsley, Janet McKeown, Mary Richards, Rai Lyn Woods, Cecelia Tichi, Peggy O’Neal Peden and J.B. Thompson, who don’t ever hesitate to tell me when I’ve mucked it up, and are the first to cheer when I get it right. I love you guys!
And an especial thanks to J.B., who always helps me get these pages ready for New York’s eyes.
Laura and Linda, my goddesses at Borders—Cool Springs, who welcomed a new local author with open arms, and staff recommendations! Thanks, ladies!
First reader Joan Huston needs a special thanks this time as well, for making me worry about my opening in this book. It’s stronger because of her concerns. My dear Tasha Alexander, the only woman who can actually keep me on the phone instead of at the keyboard, though many times we can do both at once. I love you, honey!
My esteemed fellow authors Brett Battles, Rob Gregory-Browne, Bill Cameron and Dave White, for the IMs; Toni Causey, Gregg Olsen, Kristy Kiernan for constantly cheering me on and making me laugh, and all my Killer Year mates for being such amazing influences on me.
My fellow Murderati bloggers, who inspire me daily, especially Pari Noskin Taichert, the best sounding board out there.
Lee Child and John Connolly, for making me think about every word, and John Sandford, who needs thanks for inspiring me every time.
My parents are the most enthusiastic cheerleaders for my novels, and need to be paid a commission on their book sales. Their love and support is phenomenal. My wonderful brother Jay, and Kendall, Jason and Dillon, for putting up with their wayward aunt. My other wonderful brother Jeff, who always, always makes me laugh. And where would I be without my darling husband to keep me grounded? Thank you, baby, for not letting me float away. You make all of this worthwhile. Nashville is a wonderful city to write about. Though I try my best to keep things accurate, poetic license is sometimes needed. All mistakes, exaggerations, opinions and interpretations are mine alone.
It was everywhere. The floor, the walls, the body. All over the jeans and T-shirt too. Damn, how was that going to come out? With a grimace, the killer set down the weapon and stood over the now inert body. No more arguments. No more screaming about failure, lost promise, disappointments. The wail of a child built in the distance, drowned out by the fury humming in the killer’s ears. A smile broke.
“You horrendous bitch. This is exactly what you deserve.”
Ten hours later
“Mama, Mama. Hungy. Cookie, Mama. Cookie.
“Wake up, Mama, wake up.
“Went potty, Mama. Good girl.
“Mama owie? Owie? Boo-boo? Mama fall down?
“Night-night, Mama. Bye-bye.”
Michelle Harris sat at the stoplight on Old Hickory and Highway 100, grinding her teeth. She was late. Corinne hated when she was late. She wouldn’t bitch at her, wouldn’t chastise her, would just glance at the clock on the stove, the digital readout that always, always ran three minutes ahead of time so Corinne could have a cushion, and a little line would appear between her perfectly groomed eyebrows.
Their match was in an hour. They had plenty of time, but Corinne would need to drop Hayden at the nursery and have a protein smoothie before stretching in preparation for their game. Michelle and Corinne had been partners in tennis doubles for ages, and they were two matches from taking it all. Their yearly run at the Richland club championship was almost a foregone conclusion; they’d won seven years in a row. Tapping the fingers of her right hand on the wheel, she used her left to pull her ponytail around the curve of her neck, a comfort gesture she’d adopted in childhood. Corinne hadn’t needed any comfort. She was 16