Lisa Gardner

The Killing Hour

Each time he struck, he took two victims.

Day after day, he waited for the first body to be discovered-a body containing all the clues the investigators needed to find the second victim, who waited … prey to a slow but certain death.

The clock ticked-salvation was possible.

The police were never in time.

Years have passed; but for this killer, time has stood still. As a heat wave of epic proportions descends, the game begins again. Two girls have disappeared … and the clock is ticking.

Rookie FBI agent Kimberly Quincy knows the killer’s deadline can be met. But she’ll have to break some rules to beat an exactingly vicious criminal at a game he’s had time to perfect.

For the Killing Hour has arrived …

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THE KILLING HOUR, debuted at #9 on the New York Times list.

THE KILLING HOUR was also on the bestseller list of USA Today, Toronto Star, Publishers Weekly and the Mid-South Independent Booksellers Association.

“With tight plotting, an ear for forensic detail and a dash of romance, this is a truly satisfying sizzler in the tradition of Tess Gerritsen and Tami Hoag.” – Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A gripping ride from start to finish, THE KILLING HOUR is chock full of thrills and suspense. The obvious amount of research it took to produce a knowledgeable and believable story of the FBI, the GBI, and a serial killer, results in another stunner from New York Times best-selling author Ms. Gardner.” -Vivian Outen,

“The return of characters from earlier books makes this creepy and terrifying story all the more compelling. Gardner has firmly established herself as one of the hottest suspense talents around. Awesome!” – Romantic Times

“The breathtaking, heart-pounding suspense never lets up. Her characters are complex. Her narrative is extraordinary. The reader suffers through the constant heat and humidity that is as big a foe as the clock. As you read this book on a hot July afternoon, look around you, because ‘Clock ticking … planet dying … animals weeping … rivers screaming. Can’t you hear it? Heat kills.’ In my opinion this book should become #1 on the best seller list.” – Rendezvous

“A wickedly riveting novel …” – St. Petersburg Times (Florida)

“Gardner keeps us guessing … She also keeps us on edge.” – LA Times

“Gardner is a skilled storyteller … She ratchets up the tension.” – Orlando Sentinel

“THE KILLING HOUR is the perfect book to read on a July night when it’s too hot to sleep.” – Deseret News (Salt Lake City)

“Gardner works in some genuinely creep moments …” – Booklist

“[THE KILLING HOUR] will keep you up all night rapidly turning the pages and have your heart in your throat throughout.” – Terrie Figueroa, Romance Reviews Today, who scored the book a perfect 10

“It started in Georgia during the height of a heat wave in 1998. Two young women went out one evening and never came home. The body of the first girl was found almost immediately near a major highway. The second girl’s body was found months later, and almost one hundred miles away in a remote wilderness area. It happened again in 1999. Then two sets of girls were kidnapped in 2000. By this time, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) was beginning to understand that the first body was a map to the second girl. Of the eight girls kidnapped, only the last girl was found in time, alive. Then, for three years, it all stopped. In 2004, Kimberly Quincy is halfway through her FBI training at Quantico . Her father is the renowned profiler, Pierce Quincy. Her mother and sister were victims of violent crime. Kimberly is utterly, almost dangerously focused on becoming an FBI agent. One morning during a run, she leaves the training path and finds the body of a young woman. According to GBI Agent Mac McCormick, who is at Quantico for training as well, this body fits the profile of the killer in Georgia . There are plenty of questions. Why the three-year break? Why would the killer leave Georgia for Virginia ? And, perhaps most importantly, who is this woman and is there another woman out there awaiting rescue? The narrative hits the ground running in the prologue, which details the earlier cases in Georgia . Kimberly is truly a tortured individual. In previous volumes, she’s seen her mother and sister brutally murdered. Her complete obsession with becoming an FBI agent is as understandable as it is painful to watch. In addition, she’s learning to relate to her father as a professional, rather than as a father. Although this story is related to other books by the same author, this one works fine as a standalone. The story itself is gripping, as the author shows events through the eyes of law enforcement, victims, and killer. The pacing is fast and even, and will keep readers turning pages as the clock ticks down on another life. Not for the faint of heart, the grimness of some scenes is offset by black humor and sarcastic wit. I’m looking forward to reading a lot more from this talented author.” – Review by Deborah Hern on

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Discussion Questions/FAQs

Questions Recommended by Book Club Readers

  1. Early in the novel the kidnapper/murderer is dubbed “The Eco-Killer.” Is this an appropriate title? Why or why not?
  2. In order to give the second victim a “sporting chance,” the killer leaves obscure clues to her location on the first victim. What are some examples? Do you think they really give the second victim a chance? Why or why not?
  3. How does Kimberly’s character evolve over the course of the book? Why does she start so closed, and what causes her to open up?
  4. Both the killer and Kimberly had tragic childhoods. Do they have anything else in common? How might this make him easier for her to track down?
  5. Why do you think the killer has progressed to using more victims and a new location as compared to his Georgia crimes? From the killer’s perspective, was it a good or bad strategy (i.e. did it make him more difficult, or easier to stop)?
  6. The killer leaves clues, and even calls Mac with information. Do you think he wants to get caught, knowing what he’s doing is wrong, or is he just playing a game?
  7. Do you see any symbolism regarding the emphasis of Heat/Fire throughout this story? What event leads the killer to keep repeating the line “Heat kills?”
  8. Based on his past, do you see the killer in any way was a victim himself? Can his string of killings be attributed to his “tumor” or childhood? Despite the fact that he no longer had a tumor during the events of the book, he still continued to get blackouts. What might the killers “blackouts” have been caused by? What might they symbolize?
  9. Do you see a correlation between Tina and Kimberly and the struggles both have been through?
  10. Do you see a correlation between Mac and Quincy and does this affect Kimberly’s relationships with both?
  11. Rainie springs a surprise request on Quincy near the end of the novel. How might this affect the relationship between the two in the future? More importantly, how might this affect the already strained relationship between Quincy and his daughter Kimberly?
  12. Each chapter begins with a location, time, and temperature. Why are each of these three things so important? How would you have titled the novel to incorporate each of these three things?
  13. Which character can you most identify with and why?
  14. What do the following lines from the book mean? “Everything of beauty betrayed you. Everything of beauty lied. All you could trust was the flame.”

Tell us a little bit about THE KILLING HOUR.
THE KILLING HOUR features a self-proclaimed, Eco-Killer, a man who feels he is forced to commit murder to call attention to the desecration of the world’s environment. In this case, he kidnaps women in pairs, leaving the first woman’s body as a “map” bearing clues to the second victim’s location. These clues include soil samples, water samples, rare flora and fauna, etc. Bring in the right experts, trace the evidence and find the second woman still alive-if you’re in time. Over the course of four years, the Eco-Killer struck in Georgia four times. Only the last woman did the police find in time and then… the Eco Killer never struck again.

Now, however, years later, another heat wave has descended. And FBI New Agent Kimberly Quincy is out for a run on Quantico grounds. She stumbles upon a dead body, and finds herself in the middle of an investigation of a lifetime. For the Eco-Killer has started up again, and this time, he has Kimberly in his sights.

This sounds like a very complex idea. Is there any particular source that inspires your novels?
It seems like almost all of my book ideas have their roots in true crime. In the case of THE KILLING HOUR, I literally went crime shopping. I already knew the heroine for the story-Kimberly Quincy from THE KILLING HOUR who I felt had a good story to tell. And I knew the location-the FBI Academy at Quantico, which I thought would be very neat. But what type of villain? I wanted someone really chilling and diabolical. Someone unique.

Basically, I spent the spring researching crimes. I read books, watched TV, dug into history and then ran across a creepy little story that clicked everything together in my mind, courtesy of the French. Who knew? But apparently, in between making champagne and baking croissants, they ran a truly evil penal colony called Devils Island.

The French used the island as a penal colony starting in 1852. Nicknamed, “the Green Hell,” Devil’s Island was reserved for political prisoners and considered the worst punishment possible. By day, the men hacked down giant trees while trying to survive on meager servings of gruel. At night, they were herded into concrete bunkers deep in the jungle where they awaited an even worse fate. Poisonous snakes. Venomous spiders. Vampire bats. The prisoners wrote in their journals of waking up to find bats feasting on their emaciated arms and snakes curling up their legs. Ewwww, I thought. And then I knew I had a book idea.

What about the research in THE KILLING HOUR? It’s a very complex story with a lot of science. How did you go about researching that?
For THE KILLING HOUR, I started by visiting Quantico and interviewing some of the New Agents. It was actually my second trip to the Academy, and I really enjoyed my time there. So location wasn’t much of an issue.
The real dilemma for me was creating the proper “clues” for the Eco-Killer to use in his crime spree. To be true to the Eco-Killer’s character, I needed to outline a series of dual kidnappings, where the first woman’s body would serve as a “road map” to finding the second woman, who has been abandoned in a geologically dangerous location. But what locations to use? What clues? I’m an avid outdoorswoman, but I know New England, not Georgia or Virginia.

I confess, I got very lucky. On the plane ride down to the FBI Academy, I happened to introduce myself to the man next to me, who happened to be a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey team in Richmond, VA. Not only did he know how I could use water as a clue, but he put me in touch with the entire team of experts. And that’s what it took to write THE KILLING HOUR-the entire U.S. Geological Survey team of Richmond, VA. The team was amazing, not just helping me understand the science involved, but taking my husband and me on a week-long tour of Virginia, where we selected the best places for people to die.

Maybe it’s not everyone’s idea of a summer vacation, but we loved it.

How is THE KILLING HOUR different from your other suspense novels? Did you always mean to bring a character from THE NEXT ACCIDENT back as a lead investigator in this new book?
I never intend half of the stuff I do in my novels. That’s part of the magic of writing. Kimberly really grew on me while I was writing THE NEXT ACCIDENT, so I decided she needed her own story. In that way, THE KILLING HOUR is unique. It’s truly about Kimberly’s journey. I’ve crafted the plot as a sort of Kimberly Quincy boot camp-to break her down and build her up again as a better, truer person. This is a woman who lost half of her family to violent crime. She’s young in years, but old at heart. She feels most comfortable when armed, and hopelessly vulnerable when not. I’ve given her a villain who’s just as bad as she’s always imagined. But then I’ve also given her a partner who’s nothing like she’s expected. Special Agent Mac McCormack is warm, funny, and sexy-basically everything Kimberly’s never known how to handle. He sees hers as a woman, whereas she’s only ever seen herself as a law enforcement machine. We’ll see how Kimberly does with both of her challenges, but I’m counting on her not to disappoint.

Why is it so important for Kimberly to become an FBI investigator like her father?
Like most children, Kimberly has always wanted her father’s attention. In her case, that meant competing with his job for his time. Unfortunately, given the urgent nature of her father’s work, that wasn’t a war Kimberly won very often. So, in a classic case of “if you can’t beat them, join them,” Kimberly got involved in law enforcement as well. By sharing her father’s world, she is finally getting his attention-and his respect.

How does taking on the Eco-killer change Kimberly over the course of the novel?
As someone who lost her mother and her sister to a psychopath, Kimberly is haunted by death. Violence in her world isn’t an abstract concept, but something that can happen to her at any time. She is more aware of her surroundings than an ordinary person, more obsessed with personal security, body language, the stranger in a crowd. While she is training to be an FBI agent-someone who hunts predators-she inherently feels hunted. By taking on the Eco-Killer, Kimberly gets to rise to the challenge. She wants to prove to her peers, but mostly to herself, that she is strong, capable and powerful. She is shedding the mantle of victim, for the shield of law enforcement. I think her mother would be very proud.

THE KILLING HOUR also features FBI profiler Pierce Quincy and his partner, Rainie Conner, from your two previous novels, THE THIRD VICTIM and THE NEXT ACCIDENT. Was that planned?
It’s never planned. Ideas come to me, and I follow them where they lead. I’ve always loved Quincy and Rainie, so it was great to work them into a story again, see where they are and how they have grown.

Do you consider there to be a theme in the novel?
I’m a sucker for survivors. I like people who’ve gone the distance. And I’m fascinated by what makes them tick. What makes one person triumph and another crumble? What makes one person rise to the occasion and another turn and run? So if there’s a theme in the novel, that’s probably what it’s about. Every character in the book has the power to save themselves. But they have to believe, they have to push themselves to go the distance. We are all braver than we think.

And finally, do you think we’ll see Kimberly, Mac, Rainie and Quincy again?
As a matter of fact, all four characters will return in January ’06 in GONE. Again, I never really plan on writing a series with continuing characters, but on the other hand, I can’t seem to help myself. Bottom line: it’s as much fun for me to write about the characters as it is for readers to read about the characters. So here we go again…a new Quincy/Rainie/Kimberly/Mac book in 2006.

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What Lisa had to say developing THE KILLING HOUR prior to its publication in July 2003

Most novels start with a Really Good Idea. Unfortunately, after completing THE SURVIVORS CLUB in January of 2001, I didn’t have one. So, I did what any good suspense novelist would do. I watched “Law & Order.” I worked on my tennis game. I had long discussions with my assorted pets about what sort of book they might want to read. And then one night I watched a show on the History channel regarding Devil’s Island.

The French used the island as a penal colony starting in 1852. Nicknamed, “the Green Hell,” Devil’s Island was reserved for political prisoners and considered the worst punishment possible. By day, the men hacked down giant trees while trying to survive on meager servings of gruel. At night, they were herded into concrete bunkers deep in the jungle where they awaited an even worse fate. Poisonous snakes. Venomous spiders. Vampire bats. The prisoners wrote in their journals of waking up to find bats feasting on their emaciated arms and snakes curling up their legs. Ewwww, I thought. And then I knew I had a book idea.

I called Bantam. I want to do a book, I said, where a man kidnaps women in pairs. He leaves the first woman’s body as a map filled with vital clues. Interpret these clues in time, and the police can find the second woman still alive. Fail, and well, see what happens when a young woman in party clothes is abandoned in the middle of gator infested waters. Oh, and I want the book to feature Kimberly Quincy and I want to start the novel at Quantico, because I think that would be very cool. Bantam agreed. And all was good.

Except I had a problem. The logical clues for my killer to use should be neat geological stuff-say water that could be traced back to one specific pond, or maybe the leaf from a rare plant found in only one yard in the entire state. That would be very slick, very “CSI.” Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about forensics tests, let alone unique geological indicators. I’m a former business consultant for heaven’s sake. I can barely read a compass, let alone start a fire by rubbing together two sticks.

I decided not to mention this to my publisher. You learn early in this business that the publisher doesn’t need to know everything. In fact, everyone’s happier that way.

So I went about researching what I did know. I had the unique opportunity to visit the FBI Academy several years ago, but I wanted to see it again before using it as a primary location. So, with a mere handful of phone calls, half a dozen official memos, and two months of nail biting, I secured permission to visit Quantico and interview an agent on Academy life. Perfect information, I thought, to prepare Kimberly Quincy for her role as a New Agent.

But what to do about the geological data? Can you teach a former business consultant new tricks?

I confess, I got lucky. On my plane ride to Quantico , the man beside me introduced himself as a hydrologist with the US Geological Survey team. And I pounced on the poor guy as if he were the last bag of peanuts on the flight. Hydrologist? Would he know how to analyze water, then perhaps trace it back to its source? What if I, say, put water on a dead body? Could he trace that back to a specific stream or lake?

Believe it or not, the man answered my questions-and yep, you can do some pretty nifty things with water. Better yet, at the end of the flight, he agreed to put me in touch with other members of Virginia’s USGS team, providing me with a virtual think tank of geologists, botanists, hydrologists, karst experts and palynologists. And if you think I’m bloodthirsty, wait ’til you’ve spent time with some federal employees.

I had two wonderful days at the FBI Academy. It’s the kind of place that holds you in awe and never lets go. From visiting the BSU offices and the esteemed Hogan’s Alley, to walking the PT course and outdoor firing ranges, the place is amazing. The people are also extremely nice, and unfailingly patient with a writer’s endless questions. Food’s not bad either. Let’s just say Kimberly’s going to have some fun.

After my interview with the FBI, I called up my newfound friends in the Richmond USGS office. I arranged to return to Virginia with my husband, where we conducted a weeklong tour of good places to hurt nice people.

I told you those government types were dangerous. I’m not kidding. In the course of one breakfast, the USGS guys mapped out all the really scary places in Virginia. Then they dreamt up wonderfully horrible ways people could die in those places. And then they thought of all the good clues that would lead a smart investigator right into the trap, er, place. I’ve never taken so many notes.

Then, because seeing is believing, they took my husband and I on a short tour of their recommended sites. (You see why I brought my husband now? When meeting complete strangers to look at potential crime scenes, I think a woman should always bring her spouse. Consider it a Lisa Gardner tip for longer living.)

By week’s end, I was proud owner of six new friends, five pounds of reference books and three legal pads of notes. Now there was nothing left to do but go home and write.

And this is where our story ends. Because let’s face it, there are no witty anecdotes involved in writing a novel. You simply plant your butt in front of the computer and do it. The fun is along the way when you think of that Really Good Idea, and then you happen to get the right seat on a plane.

So hang on for THE KILLING HOUR, available July 2003 from Bantam Books, where Kimberly grows up, joins the FBI and learns a little too much about rattlesnakes.

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Bantam Dell
Hardcover July 15, 2003
Paperback September 28, 2004
Cover Art © 2003 Alan Ayers

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