(Book 2 —Guardians of Justice)
Revell, ©2011, ISBN 978-0-8007-3457-2
2011 Booklist Top 10 Inspirational Fiction
RITA® Award finalist
Retailers Choice Award
Carol Award finalist
As a social worker with the Department of Social Services, Alison Taylor has a passion for protecting children and seeing that justice is served on their behalf. But now it seems she needs protecting. Someone is making harassing phone calls and sending her bizarre gifts. When her tormentor’s attentions take a violent turn, she calls in reinforcements. Her brother, Cole, comes to her aid, along with his new partner, Detective Mitch Morgan. As her relentless stalker turns up the heat and the danger intensifies, Mitch takes a personal interest in the case. Because protecting Alison has become more than a job; his future depends on keeping her safe.
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Compelling characters and an emotionally engaging plot powered by a surfeit of nail-biting suspense.
Full of action, suspense and just the right amount of romance.
RT Book Reviews
The strong character development and suspenseful story line here will win over readers of Lynette Eason, Dee Henderson, and Terri Blackstock.
Hannon's ability to keep ratcheting up the suspense and tension is unparalleled. Deadly Pursuit exhibits her writing skills at their finest, with pacing worthy of the best television crime procedural, heart-pounding tension, swoon-worthy romance, and a subtle thread of faith—a heady, addictive mix that will leave you eager for her next release!
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That was all she could hear.
No background noise.
Just a palpable presence on the other end of the line.
Despite the warmth of the early May breeze wafting through her kitchen window, an icy shiver snaked down Alison Taylor’s spine.
She glanced at the number displayed on caller ID. Compared it to the one thumbtacked to the small corkboard beside her phone. The one she’d jotted down after the second call.
It didn’t match. But it looked vaguely familiar.
She grabbed a pen and wrote down the new number.
“Who is this?” She tried to sound poised. Unruffled. In control. But the tremor in her words betrayed her.
A sudden click as the line went dead was the only response.
I do not need this!
As she slammed the portable phone back into its holder, a startled yelp at her feet summed up Bert’s reaction to her frustrated—and futile—gesture.
Bending down to pick up the fourteen-pound mutt she’d rescued from the animal shelter last summer, she winced as a twinge of pain radiated down her leg. Lately she’d begun to forget about the steel rod inside. And that was a positive sign. It meant her recovery was progressing. But moments like this reminded her it wasn’t yet complete.
And maybe never would be.
As Bert wriggled and stretched his neck to lick her face, his unrestrained affection helped chase away her sudden dejection—and uncoil the knot of tension in the pit of her stomach.
“Missed me while I was at work, did you, big guy? How does a walk sound on this beautiful St. Louis afternoon?”
The word walk set off another round of ecstatic slurping.
Chuckling, she set him on the floor again, moving more carefully this time. “Okay, okay, I get the message. Let me grab your leash and we’ll…”
The phone rang again, cutting her off midsentence.
Her heart stuttered, then tripped into double time as she edged toward the counter to check caller ID. She should have done that before answering the last call too. But Bert’s enthusiastic welcome-home greeting had distracted her.
One glance at the display, however, set her mind at ease. Her two brothers had a tendency to be annoyingly overprotective, but she could handle them better than she was handling the anonymous calls. Especially Cole.
Bert nudged her leg when she picked up the phone, and she gave him a pat. “In a minute, big guy. Be patient.” As if. A rueful grin tugged at her mouth. Bert had many virtues, but patience wasn’t one of them.
“Hi, Cole.” She grabbed the leash draped over a coat hook by the back door. “What’s up?”
“Not much. Just checking in. How’s my favorite sister?”
“I’d take that as a compliment, except I’m your only sister.”
“Are you evading my question?” Concern sharpened his tone.
She let out an exasperated sigh. “No. I was making a joke. The accident was a year ago, Cole. I’m fine, as I keep telling you and Jake. Although I have to say, our big brother hovers less since he and Liz got engaged three weeks ago. Maybe I need to find you a good woman too.”
“I’m serious. You’re thirty-five. You ought to have a wife and family by now.”
“You’re thirty-four, as of a couple of weeks ago.”
She clicked the leash on Bert’s collar, fighting back a wave of melancholy. If all had gone as she’d expected, she might have been married by now—as they both knew. Instead, her dreams of a husband and family had been shattered that fateful night a year ago.
“Alison…I’m sorry.” Contrition and self-reproach etched Cole’s words. “Sometimes I speak before I think.”
“No kidding.” She took a deep breath and lightened her tone. “However, my experience with David is ancient history. Besides, I have Bert now. Not a bad trade-off, if you ask me.”
Hearing his name, the dog gave her a hopeful look and began vigorously wagging his stubby tail, his whole body quivering in anticipation.
“Who wants to go for a walk, by the way.” Alison leaned down to pat him again, favoring her bad leg. “So if there’s no specific reason for your call other than to harass your little sister…” She let the words trail off, preparing to hang up.
“Actually, I do have another reason.”
At the trace of nervousness in his voice, Alison’s antenna went up. Her brothers rarely displayed even a hint of uneasiness. As a deputy U.S. marshal, Jake was a take-charge kind of guy—on and off the job. Cole wasn’t far behind. She’d been the victim of his brother-to-sister interrogations on numerous occasions, and she pitied the suspects who faced his official, on-the-job grilling. Police detectives didn’t come any sharper—or more relentless—than Cole Taylor.
When the silence lengthened, she prompted him. “You mentioned another reason?”
“Right. Here’s the thing. Remember me telling you at your birthday brunch that we were getting a new detective?”
“Well, he started this week. Nice guy. My age. A former Navy SEAL. He’s spent the past four years with the NYPD—two on the SWAT team, two as a detective. His name’s Mitch Morgan.”
Silence fell again, and Alison frowned. Bert was tugging on the leg of her slacks now, his initial excitement over the prospect of a walk giving way to the necessity of a walk.
“Look, Cole, spit it out. Bert’s sending me an urgent message here.”
“Could you let him out in the back yard?”
“Is this going to take that long?”
Huffing out a breath, Alison unclipped the leash and reached for the door knob. “Fine. But I have one disappointed dog here. He was all geared up for a walk.” Bert shot out the instant she opened the door and took off at a gallop for the nearest tree.
“Okay.” She swiveled back to the kitchen. “You have my full attention. Continue.”
“First, promise you won’t say no right away.”
(Warning: Contains Spoilers!)
- The Taylor siblings are very close-knit. Cite some specific examples from the book that demonstrate their bond. Why do you think some families are closer than others? What are some reasons siblings might not be close? How can parents help foster a similar closeness among their children? What role can faith play?
- When Mitch’s father becomes ill, it’s a wake-up call for Mitch, and he re-prioritizes his life. Have you ever been through a similar life-changing experience? If so, why did it have such an impact?
- Alison is very independent. So is Mitch’s father, Walt. Though both have suffered traumatic medical issues, neither wants to be fussed over, and both are loathe to disrupt the lives of the people they love. Has your independence ever been compromised? Describe how that made you feel. What are some steps caregivers and family members can take to help people like Alison or Walt without frustrating them?
- Alison and Mitch feel an almost instant connection—and attraction. Has this ever happened to you? What are the dangers of acting too quickly on these kinds of feelings?
- What qualities did you most admire in Alison? In Mitch? Cite some specific instances where they demonstrated these qualities.
- As a Children’s Service worker, Alison is deeply committed to her work. Her clients recognize—and appreciate—that. As Nicole notes at one point, just knowing she had someone in her corner had given her the strength to tackle her problems. Why is it so important to know you have someone on your side? How does God fit into this picture?
- When Daryl gets out of prison, he plans to start over. But his life once again begins to spiral out of control. Why did that happen? What mistakes did he make? Did your opinion of him change during the course of the story? If so, why?
- Daryl blames Alison for his problems rather than taking responsibility for his life. Why is that attitude so destructive? Have you seen examples of this in your own circle of acquaintances? In society in general? If so, how has it been manifested? What has been the result?
- Mitch has trouble reconciling a loving God with the injustice in the world. Alison counters by saying that she believes God can bring a greater good out of every instance of suffering and evil if we trust him. Do you believe that? How do you grapple with this dichotomy? What counsel does Scripture offer?
- In Silent Stalker, we see how meth addiction has affected the lives of several characters. Why do you think people turn to drugs, even though they recognize their destructiveness? Why did Daryl succumb to that lure? What could he have done to produce a different outcome?
- Bev is a fairly minor character in the book, but she plays a pivotal role. At one point, talking about her stage experience, she says, “It’s like nothing exists except this made-up world, where you can be somebody else. That’s what I wanted to do all the time. Be somebody else.” What does this comment say about her? What factors in her background might have led her to her current life?
- Erik is another key secondary character. What did you think about him? Have you ever known anyone with Down syndrome? Do you think the problems Erik experienced—people ignoring him or treating him in a demeaning manner—are common for those with disabilities? How do you feel when dealing with such people? Do you find it awkward or uncomfortable? Why?
- Who was your favorite character in the book? Why?
- Who was the most interesting character for you? Why?
- Did you find Silent Stalker suspenseful? Did you think the plot was well constructed and the characters believable? Talk about your impressions of the book from a literary standpoint—its strengths and weaknesses. If you were the author, would you have done anything differently?