The Third Victim
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THE PAST ISN’T OVER
An unspeakable act has ripped apart the idyllic town of Bakersville, Oregon, and its once peaceful residents are demanding quick justice. But though a boy has confessed to the horrific crime, evidence shows he may not be guilty.
Officer Rainie Conner, leading her first homicide investigation, stands at the center of the controversy. It’s hitting too close to home, bringing back her worst nightmares, threatening to expose her secret sins. But with the boy’s life at stake, she won’t let anything stop her from finding the real killer.
With the help of FBI profiler Pierce Quincy, Rainie comes closer to a deadly truth than she can imagine. Because out there in the shadows a man watches her and plots his next move. He knows her secrets. He kills for sport. He’s already brought death to Bakersville and forever shattered the community. But what he has really come for is Rainie-and he won’t leave until he has destroyed her.
“Riveting, hold-your-breath suspense” – Iris Johansen
“In her new thriller (following THE OTHER DAUGHTER), Gardner deftly probes the psychology of school shootings while developing a cast of complex, compelling characters. Rainie Conner initially joined the small-town police force in Bakersville, Ore., to escape the ghosts of her past. When she responds to a call from the local school and discovers students screaming, bodies lying inert in the rooms and one young boy holding two guns, however, Rainie finds herself leading a controversial investigation and struggling to contain her childhood memories. The fact that the boy is the son of the town sheriff, Rainie’s superior and friend, only intensifies the pressure Rainie endures from members of the community, the FBI and the media. Although she tries desperately to do her work amid the growing criticism, Rainie begins to question her own fragile psychological stability. Fortunately, she finds solace in the arrival of the gentlemanly Pierce Quincy, an FBI profiler with a sharp mind and a soft shoulder. The duo eventually reach the conclusion that someone else must be responsible for the massacre, someone who may have recruited the boy to do the shootings. A suspenseful, curl-up winter read, this thriller teems with crisp, realistic dialogue and engaging characters. Forecast: Even though Gardner has only three titles under her belt, her adept use of language and her strong characterizations will ensure her a broad, loyal following. Readers won’t be disappointed to learn that Special Agent Pierce Quincy will reappear in her next offering, which is still untitled.” – Publishers Weekly (starred review)
What did you enjoy most about writing THE THIRD VICTIM?
I really enjoyed creating Rainie’s character. She is such a wiseass, saying all the things you think in the back of your mind, but don’t have the guts to say out loud. Rainie has the guts. I like that!
Did you have any particular inspiration for her?
No. I had done one mousy heroine and one cultured heroine, so it was fun to try something different. Rainie just became Rainie.
Is it difficult writing about such gripping subject matter, i.e., school shootings?
Writing THE THIRD VICTIM was tough. I started the novel before the Columbine school shooting, when the incidents were absolutely sad and shocking, but not yet at that intense level of national focus. Then, one hundred pages into the novel, Columbine happened.
I had to take a month off. In many ways, Columbine was harder for me as a writer than 9/11, because this time I was covering the topic. In fact, I was writing specifically about these shootings so I felt compelled to study and examine and analyze what happened over and over again. And that left me feeling a lot of anger and helplessness that took a while to overcome. Knowledge is power, but sometimes it still makes you weep.
Why a small town in Oregon?
I grew up in Oregon, and love the area, so naturally I wanted to use it for murder. Also, when I was thinking about using a small, neighborly community, my first thought was Tillamook, Oregon where my grandparents live. Tillamook is a small coastal community and one of the most beautiful places on earth. They also make the best cheese in the world. So, that town became the model for Bakersville.
If you ever get a chance to visit Oregon, go to the Tillamook cheese factory and eat lots of cheese and fudge. Trust me, it’s heaven.
Do readers ever notice that Quincy magically has children now?
Yeah. I actually thought I’d get more mail than I have. For the record, in THE PERFECT HUSBAND, Quincy never says he doesn’t have children, he just says he knows nothing about them. But yes, you got me. When I introduced Quincy in THE PERFECT HUSBAND, I wasn’t planning on turning him into a series character; I just needed an FBI profiler. Then I received so much mail on Quincy, I decided to do more. Hence, THE THIRD VICTIM, and Quincy’s sudden family. All’s well that ends well, right?
So Quincy was the inspiration for THE THIRD VICTIM, but you ended up loving Rainie?
Pretty much. Books don’t come with road maps. That’s what makes them fun.
Paperback January 30, 2001
Cover Art © 2001 Alan Ayers