Welcome to the book blitz for EVO, a stand-alone adult thriller by Diane May. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway. For a limited time, you can pick up the ebook for just $2.99.
A covert CIA operation that involves genetic engineering.
A serial killer nicknamed “The Hypnotist”.
And the most terrifying threat humanity has to face.
What if someone could take complete control over your mind?
And what if that someone was a serial killer?
Discover EVO, a gripping crime thriller that reviewers and readers describe as “spellbinding”, “high-energy” and “impossible to put down”.
Langley, Virginia, twenty years earlier:
John Blake, a CIA special agent, stumbles upon an illegal genetic experiment within the agency, conducted on unborn babies and officially presented as a fertility program designed to help couples get pregnant. When he realizes that his very own daughter is a product of this sinister plot and that she is in grave danger, he vows to do everything it takes to make sure Maya will be safe and the people behind the experiment will all pay. With their lives.
Verona, Italy, present time:
Livio Marchiori, a homicide detective with the highest rate of solved cases in Verona, is faced with The Hypnotist, a serial killer the likes of which he’s never seen before. He never touches his victims and he leaves no evidence behind, except for the detailed videos of his murders. And what Marchiori and his team see on those videos is more disturbing than all their other cases combined. Because this one is different. This one defies all rational thinking and borders the impossible.
Then The Hypnotist gets personal and threatens to kill Dr. Abby Jones, the chief medical examiner and the woman Marchiori is in love with. Caught in a cat-and-mouse game with the elusive killer, Marchiori knows he is quickly running out of time.
So when Captain Victor Miller from Interpol walks into town, Marchiori is more than happy to partner again with the man who two years ago helped him put an entire mafia clan behind bars. But Miller has his own agenda, and Marchiori soon discovers that there is more to these crimes than meets the eye, an entire thread of things way beyond his pay grade – illegal experiments, secret agencies, and the most terrifying threat humanity has to face.
A gripping serial killer thriller with a “hit-the-brakes-with-both-feet plot twist that may leave even the most jaded among us feeling good about humanity.”
“He stripped down, threw his clothes in the blue hamper behind the door, and got in the shower. He turned his body away from the faucet and placed his hands on the wall, letting the hot water beat down his back. Doing this usually relaxed him, but now it somehow amplified this weird restlessness, this foreboding feeling he couldn’t shake off. Annoyed at himself, he quickly washed his body, turned off the faucet and reached for the brown towel on the hook.
A heavy silence filled his apartment. A few drops of water from the shower head splashed onto the ceramic tiles below, the sound deafening to his ears. His heart started beating faster. All of a sudden he wanted to hear human voices, his neighbours yelling at each other, their baby crying, anything but this dead silence and the rhythmic tapping of the water drops.
An icy shiver rippled down his spine and his body started shaking. Unseen walls were sliding down around him, trapping him. Suffocating him.”
Marchiori took his gun, a 9mm Beretta 92FS – perfect for his hands because of its ample grip – from his shoulder holster, put it on the brown wooden desk in front of him, and then sat down. The big swivel chair squeaked under his weight. Not that he was fat. But he was tall and muscular, the body of a man who exercised regularly, just not in the perfect conditions of a gym. He strongly believed that if you wanted a hard body and a tough mind you needed to go hand-to-hand with Mother Nature. He ran and exercised in the forest and up the hills behind his house, and he did it in all weather conditions. Rain, ice, or the fires of hell, it made no difference to him. He rolled out of bed and into his training gear every morning, never past six am, no matter how late he had hit the sack the night before. The only exception to this rule was when he slept in his office. The police headquarters had an underground space where there were two gyms, showers and locker rooms, and he had no choice then but to train there. Because no exercise was just unacceptable. He had made a pact with himself. The day he was out of breath while chasing a perp would be his last day as a police officer. And he sure as hell did everything in his power to keep that day in the very distant future.
He loved his job more than anything in the world, which was why at thirty-seven he’d already been divorced for more than five years. The fighting had started shortly after they got married. You’re never at home when I go to bed, his wife used to yell at him, we don’t even have breakfast together because you always go to that lousy police bar. Sleepy hellos and good-byes didn’t qualify as communication apparently. And then came the ultimatum. Me or your job, she calmly announced one night, you have one week to decide. He could have given her the answer straight away. It wasn’t that he didn’t love her. Because he did. But his job was an integral part of his being, encoded in his DNA and impossible to live without. Of course he never actually told her this, but she was a smart woman, and by the end of that week she had packed her bags and wished him and his job a happy life together.
While sitting in his chair with one hour until midnight, Marchiori realized he had no idea what he was supposed to do the next day. His first day off in years. A whole day off.
The nice old lady in the Personnel Office had threatened to make him take two weeks off at a time if he didn’t reduce the obscene amount of paid holiday he had accumulated over the years. And Colonel Sanese, chief of The Homicide and Burglary Division of the Verona Police Department, had been on her side. Marchiori had muttered something about how bullying employees was illegal, but realised he had no choice in the matter. So unless he wanted to die of boredom two weeks at a time, he had agreed to take one or two days off every now and then.
And the first one was tomorrow.
He switched off his computer and was about to stand up, when he heard a soft knock on the door. He sighed loudly. There was only one person in the entire building who did that. His new partner. A young man who had no business being a police officer. But whether he liked it or not, the guy had been forced down his throat and he had to work with him. Because the young man’s father was a well-connected, well-known general in Rome.
The door opened slowly.
“Giusto, how many times do I have to tell you not to act like a girl on her first date when you come into my office?”
A red patch stretched up from under the lieutenant’s shirt collar and quickly reached his cheeks. He cleared his voice. “Sorry, Sir.”
“So, what is it then?”
“We’ve just received a 112 call reporting a murder.”
For a few moments Marchiori was quiet. He couldn’t believe his luck. If one could call the killing of another human being luck. But Sanese had made it loud and clear that unless someone got killed, he was to stay at home tomorrow, or do whatever the bloody hell he wanted to, but under no circumstances show his face inside the police headquarters.
And someone had been killed.
He pushed his chair back and stood up. “Let’s go then,” he said, as he grabbed his crumpled suit jacket off the back of his chair and slipped it on.
The nice old lady in the Personnel Office would not have her wish come true today. And through no fault of his own.
He put his gun back in the shoulder holster and marched out of his office, quickly followed by Giusto.
Twenty minutes later, Marchiori parked the unmarked black Alfa Romeo between two Carabinieri cruisers next to the kerb on Via Delle Argonne, right outside a posh and elegant building painted in warm shades of café-au-lait. An apartment here must cost more than he could ever afford on a public servant’s salary.
A Croce Rossa ambulance was parked not far from where they were, its blue lights piercing the moonless night. Two carabinieri and one paramedic stood at the back of the red and white van.
He and Giusto got out of the car and were about to head towards the ambulance, when one of the carabinieri saw them and sauntered in their direction.
“Captain, lieutenant,” the man greeted them.
“What do we have here, sergeant?” Marchiori asked him.
“Victim’s name is Niccolò Pasetto, and from what the paramedics have been saying, he was one of the finest virologists at Borgo Trento Hospital.”
“Who called it in?”
“Anonymous, but the call was made from the victim’s mobile phone.”
Which meant it may have very well been the killer himself.
“ID every single person entering or leaving the building, ask them to give you their contact details and start knocking on doors and see if anyone’s seen or heard anything suspicious this evening.”
“Some of the folks living here won’t like it. From what I’ve seen it’s full of doctors, lawyers and such. I think I might’ve recognised a judge’s name on the intercom outside.”
“I don’t care if the Pope himself lives here. This is a police investigation and until further indication we’re treating this as reported. Murder.”
Marchiori turned on his heels and marched towards the building. A police officer posted in the lobby let him in.
“First floor, door on the left,” the man informed him.
“Thanks,” he said and climbed the steps two at a time, Giusto in tow.
A young policeman he’d never seen before stood guard outside the door and asked them to ID themselves.
“I’m Captain Livio Marchiori, the detective in charge of this case and this is my partner Lieutenant Giusto,” Marchiori answered and flashed his badge.
“Yes, sir, you can go in. The crime scene guys have just arrived as well.”
“Really?” Marchiori arched his eyebrows. “How the hell did they get here so quickly?”
The policeman shrugged and opened the apartment door for them.
“What the fuck!?” Marchiori cursed when a wave of stinking hot air hit him.
“It’s the heating, sir,” Lieutenant Bernini, one of the CSU techs, said and handed both him and Giusto a pair of blue shoe covers and gloves.
“No kidding! And here I was, thinking it was the AC… Well, turn the damn thing off then!”
He took off his jacket, loosened his tie knot and undid the first two buttons on his shirt. He was already drenched in sweat and hadn’t even seen the crime scene yet.
“The body’s in what appears to be the victim’s office, the second door on your right,” Bernini added, his face strained, his jaw set tight.
“That bad, huh?” Marchiori muttered and headed in that direction.
The rancid smell of decaying flesh was getting stronger now. He fished out a handkerchief from the pocket of his trousers and covered his nose, then focused on the room in front of him. A floor-to-ceiling bookcase covered the wall to the left, and right across from it a big cherry wood desk took up almost half the space, standing on a thick green rug covering a portion of the polished wooden floor. A pile of folders, haphazardly stacked, a room thermometer on one corner of the desk and a telephone were the only items on it.
Then his gaze settled on the body in the centre of the room. The victim was dressed in a pair of boxers and looked like he had been dipped in boiling water before sitting in the big black leather armchair where he was now.
But it was the man’s face that made Marchiori’s mouth go dry. His eyes were wide open and sunk deep into his skull, and looked so terrifyingly empty as if the man’s very soul had wrenched itself free from that tortured body without leaving any trace of its presence there. A mask of unseen horrors, his face was red like blood, his mouth twisted in a silent scream.
Marchiori took a few steps closer to the body.
Who did this to you?
“The medical examiner is here,” he heard Bernini’s voice in the hallway.
“Send him in.”
“Her. Send her in,” a feminine voice chimed from behind him.
Marchiori turned around. A woman somewhere in her mid-thirties stood in the doorway and looked at him, her eyes a deep blue, her lips wearing a polite smile.
“You’re not Gianluca Farinati,” he blurted, and as soon as the words were out he wanted to kick himself.
It was plainly obvious she was a woman and not a sixty-year old balding man.
“Dr. Abbigail Jones,” she said and extended her hand, “but you can call me Abby, captain.”
He almost felt more shocked by her presence here than by the victim in the armchair. Without a word, he shook her hand, feeling her firm hold and smooth skin.
This was one complication he didn’t need in his life.
“I’m the new chief medical examiner in Verona,” she added, “just transferred from Milan. Dr. Farinati grew tired of always being among the dead and decided to take early retirement and live a little.”
“Can’t say I blame him,” Marchiori said, thinking of the body behind him.
He had a flash about a memo he’d received about a month ago regarding Farinati’s retirement and the arrival of a new medical examiner.
He should pay closer attention to his memos.
“You’re not Italian, Dr. Jones,” Marchiori tried to fill the silence.
He hated small talk. And whenever he had to work with a woman he felt compelled to engage in some sort of conversation. If she’d been a man, after they had finished with the introductions they would have focused on the body.
“And… is that a problem, detective?”
“No, of course not, Dr. Jones, just curiosity.”
“First of all, it’s Abby. Dr. Jones is my father. And second, yes, my name’s not Italian. I’m Italian-American, mother from Sicily, father from Atlanta, USA.”
“Interesting… Well, welcome on board, Dr. Jones,” he said with an emphasis on the words Dr. Jones.
Why would anyone request a transfer from Milan to Verona? It was usually the other way around.
A slight frown had appeared on the woman’s face and her lips weren’t smiling anymore. He chose to ignore that.
“All yours,” he added and stepped aside so she could get a full view of the decaying corpse.
For about a minute she just looked at the dead body without saying a word. She didn’t appear scared or sick or anything. Her face was a mask of detached professionalism, and her hands didn’t hesitate or tremble when she took a camera from her bag and started clicking away.
“Could you tell me the estimated time of death, Dr. Jones?”
The camera stopped clicking and she turned to him. “Either you have problems with your short-term memory detective, or you’re trying to annoy me. But let me make one thing clear: I’m not going anywhere. So the way I see it we only have two options here. We could play nice, or…”
“You know,” she said and shrugged her shoulders, “medical examiners are so busy sometimes, that the results you need could get delayed, or even lost on their way to you. Shit happens, right?”
She then took a few steps closer to the body as if nothing had happened and she hadn’t just threatened him. He couldn’t even see a bead of sweat on her face or neck for fuck’s sake and it was boiling hot in the room. Not to mention the stink. But she seemed oblivious to all of that.
He looked at her closely. She wore elegant clothes and by the look of them he bet they were from the same rack as Gucci or Dolce & Gabbana. Black slim trousers and pumps, and a double breasted trench coat of the same colour, with a belt that flattered her figure, and a pale pink scarf and lip-gloss to add some light to her look. Professional. That would be the correct word to describe her appearance. But there was more to her than met the eye. The way she had threatened him, without any qualms or hesitation, and the way she was now examining the body… well, he got the message loud and clear: Don’t mess with me. Or something to that effect.
He cleared his throat. “So… er, Abby, what can you tell me about the time and cause of death?”
She smiled. “Not so sure about why and when, but I do know who he was having a date with last night.”
“A goddam oven, that’s who.”
He couldn’t help it. The corners of his mouth curled upward. If his colleagues had seen this, they would have teased him about it for a month. The grizzly bear smiled, hell must have frozen over. He could practically hear all the jokes.
Abby started clicking her camera again, taking pictures from all possible angles.
“I don’t know how you did things in Milan, but here we have full time employees who do this.”
“Don’t worry, I’m not trying to steal their job. Got enough on my plate as it is,” she said, without even pausing to look at him, “and I’m not trying to say they aren’t fine professionals either. But I like taking my own photos. It helps me to remember details more easily and concentrate better.”
Well, at least it showed she was thorough, if nothing else, Marchiori thought.
“Hm… It’s strange,” she muttered to herself.
“He seemed to have died of heat stroke.” She put the camera back inside her handbag.
“Well, if you don’t open a window soon, I might die of a heat stroke, too.”
Abby rolled her eyes. “Don’t worry, that’s not gonna happen. Not in this temperature anyway.”
“What do you know?” he muttered. “I bet you sip your afternoon tea with the devil himself. And he’s the one doing the sweating.”
She whipped her head in his direction. “Pardon?”
“Just asking how could the vic have died of a heat stroke if—”
“Sir,” Giusto’s voice interrupted him, “you might wanna come and see this.” He then seemed to realize Marchiori wasn’t alone in the room. “You too, Dr. Jones.”
“What is it?”
“We found a pen drive inserted in the victim’s laptop and there’s a video on it,” the lieutenant said without giving further details. He looked at the body and didn’t even flinch or try to avert his eyes.
Every now and again the young man managed to surprise Marchiori.
“What’s the video about?”
“You need to come and see for yourself, sir.”
About the Authors
Diane May is a crime thriller writer and she lives in Verona, Italy, with her husband. When she’s not in her office writing, she can usually be found curled up on the sofa with a good book in her lap and a cup of green tea next to her.
The only daughter of an army colonel, she grew up on military bases where she learnt about weapons, discipline and the sacrifices of military life. She also worked for many years as a translator and interpreter for the Court of Law on mostly criminal cases.
EVO is her debut novel and she is currently working on her second crime thriller, Till Death Do Us Part, scheduled to be released in 2019.
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