||Ink Water Press
||Jan 15, 2011
Caryn Deaver survived a nightmare...and now it's back.
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Meet Author Jean Hackensmith
Caryn’s Deaver’s abusive ex-husband bound her and their children hand and foot, locked them in the bathroom, and set the house on fire. They managed to escape with their lives, and Dan Hamilton was sentenced to eighteen years in prison for the crime. He’s out now and the rules in his sadistic game allow Caryn only twelve “moves” before she will die.
Zach Riker, Cheyenne’s Fire Chief, was the first paramedic on the scene eighteen years ago. He saved Caryn’s life. Now she is his life and he’ll stop at nothing to protect the woman he loves.
Caryn’s gaze strayed to a small, unmarked cardboard box that sat in the recessed console area between the two bucket seats. “What’s in the box?”
“Nothing,” Zach returned vaguely. “Just something I picked up.”
A mischievous smile curved her lips. “Is it for me?”
He shook his head. “No, it is definitely not for you.”
Her brow furrowed. “What is it?” she repeated.
He sighed. “Promise you won’t freak out?”
“Why would I freak out?”
“Because it’s a gun.”
Caryn’s eyes widened in horror. “A gun! Zach, are you crazy!”
“No, Dan is crazy, Caryn. He knows where we live now, and I’m not going to take any chances.”
“Where—” she swallowed convulsively “—did you get it?”
“From a gun store, where do you think? The damn thing holds fifteen rounds.” He looked at her again. “Even I couldn’t miss my target with that many bullets, and I’ve never fired a gun.”
“Nope. My dad was never into hunting, so I’m not either.”
“Do you know how to use it?” she asked softly.
He nodded. “The basics, anyway; the salesman showed me how to load it and stuff. Brian’s going to come out this weekend and we’re going to go out to a firing range and practice.” He sent another glance in her direction and added pointedly, “All of us.”
Her eyes almost popped out of her head this time. “You want me to learn how to shoot that thing, too!”
“I want you to be able to defend yourself if the need ever arises, Caryn.”
Zach glanced in the rearview mirror just as a rusted Ford F150 pulled onto Hynds Boulevard off of Cattle Drive and barreled toward them. He let up on the accelerator to make it easier for the speed demon to pass. “Look, don’t argue with me, okay? You don’t have to like owning a gun anymore than I do, but—what in the hell is this guy doing?”
“Who?” The question bounced from Caryn’s lips when the SUV was rammed from behind.
Mika jumped up from her prone position on the back seat and began to bark wildly.
“Zach, what in the world—!”
“Hold on!” He floored the gas pedal and shifted the manual five-speed transmission down one more gear. The eight cylinder engine roared to life. The truck behind them did the same and, once again, a rear impact sent them flying back against the seat, then lunging forward again. Only their seatbelts kept them from hitting the dash. Mika wasn’t so lucky. The dog landed on the rear floorboards with a thump and a yelp.
“Mika!” Caryn cried. She started to undo the restraining harness so she could turn and check on the dog, but Zach’s next barked order halted her.
“Don’t undo your seatbelt! Grab the radio! Call dispatch!”
“Is it Dan?” Caryn cried.
“I don’t know. Just grab the damned radio!”
Caryn snatched the microphone from the dash. “How do I work it!”
“Just press the button—watch out! He’s going to ram us again!”
The words were barely out of Zach’s mouth before the other vehicle smashed into the rear side panel of the SUV. The collision was enough to make Caryn lose her grip on the mic. She scrambled to retrieve it from the floor of the vehicle.
“Tell them where we are and that we need the police!” Zach yelled as he swung the wheel to the right in an attempt to avoid another clash with the truck.
Caryn pressed the button and screamed into the microphone. “This is Caryn Deaver. I’m with Chief Riker. Someone’s trying to run us off the road! We’re on Hynds Boulevard—28th Street! We need the police . . . !”
“Get the gun, Caryn!”
“Get the damned gun! The clip is already loaded. All you have to do it slide it into the hand grip.”
“Just do it and give me the damned thing!”
Caryn dropped the microphone and scrambled to pull the box out of the console. She laid it on her lap and opened it just as a particularly fierce impact jarred the vehicle. Caryn’s head bounced to the left, then was flung right again. It bashed against the window, the box hit the floor, and she slumped in the seat. The Beretta, and the full clip, tumbled out onto the floorboards.
It is almost 3 a.m., and I am still up. It is all Jean Hackensmith’s fault. Checkmate is one of those books that you do not want to put down. From the opening page to the last page, the action does not stop. The plot will keep readers gripping the edge of their seat. Hackensmith’s style is simple yet captures the reader’s attention.
Checkmate sheds light on child and spousal abuse. Evan is a second grader that witnessed the repeated abuse of his sister, Megan. Caryn was repeatedly beaten for years. The fear did not end with her ex-husband’s imprisonment. He continued to create fear in her life. The emotional scars ran so deep that Caryn hesitated to make a commitment to Zach, a man that would willingly give his life for her. The love story between Caryn and Zach is nicely developed.
It is refreshing to read a story where the lead characters are in their 40’s. This is the first of a new series. In subsequent installments, Brian Koski will leave the police force and become a Private Investigator that specializes in stalkers. The end of this book has a surprise. Fans of romance and suspense do not walk; RUN to the nearest bookstore for your copy of Checkmate!
The Long and Short of It Reviews
Wow. Okay... so just... wow.
This was one of the BEST suspense novels I’ve read in I don’t know how long. I’ll state right off that this is not so much a romance as a suspense. Caryn and Zach meet when he testifies at her ex-husbands parole hearing. They hit if off and, though she is understandably hesitant to get involved, it seems that everything is rosy, right up until Caryn gets a threatening note from her ex-husband, Dan, newly released from prison for almost killing Caryn and their two children eighteen years before.
I was nearly as nervous as Caryn! The reason behind the notes from Dan is simply to terrorize Caryn, Zach and the two (now-grown) children. Each note is accompanied by increasingly escalating and threatening activities leading to the inevitable murder of Caryn and everyone she loves.
Checkmate: Eleven moves left.
Zach does everything he can to protect the woman he loves. His best friend, Brian (who is also the police chief) helps as well. But Caryn’s ex-husband is also an ex-cop, and he knows how things work. Despite all the various protections, Dan still manages to get through, still manages to frighten them, still manages to get close enough they believe they are in danger of being murdered.
Caryn’s children move. Phone numbers are changed. Guards are placed at her work. And, yet, Dan still gets to her, time and again.
Checkmate: Four moves left.
Do NOT pick up this book unless you want to finish it in one sitting. This book is non-stop excitement. Even when things aren’t happening, you expect them to be, and it’s frightening to think of what these people are going through.
Is it a perfect book? Of course not, and that's why it's not a "Best Book", but it's darn close. The author head hops (though, it’s fairly seamless, to the point where even I – a POV purist – wasn’t thrown from the story), there are some bits of dialogue that sounded a little “off”. Sometimes I think character motivation didn’t ring entirely true. But despite these small glitches (and they ARE small), this was absolutely the most enthralling book I’ve read in months. If I were a Hollywood executive, I’d option this book for a movie immediately. It’s really that good.
If you’re a fan of non-stop action with enough romance to satisfy your heart, I highly recommend you give this book a chance.
The Book Connection -- Checkmate, by Jean Hackensmith
With Checkmate--the first book in the Brian Koski "Stalker" Series--Hackensmith has added another dimension to her writing career. I got totally caught up in the last book of hers I read, The Ultimate Passage--which I reviewed here. Typically a writer of time travel and historical romance, this is Hackensmith's first attempt at romantic suspense. Hopefully she'll continue.
In addition to the full slate of realistic and complex characters found within Checkmate, Hackensmith has written a novel that pulls you in from the first word to the last. The subplots compliment the main plot and all are pulled together at the end--which is superbly done.
The reader can both understand Caryn's hesitation to get too involved with Zach after trusting her ex-husband the way she did and sympathize with the frustration Zach feels over Caryn's lack of commitment to him. And Dan's game puts these two characters through the ringer. Hackensmith pushed these characters to every limit they had.
The high level of research Hackensmith performed is obvious in her realistic portrayal of Dan, who as an ex-cop manages to use his on the job training to keep eluding Brian and members of the Sixth Precinct. Hackensmith also performed thorough research on the training and usefulness of protection dogs, and made Mika (Zach and Caryn's protection dog) into a wonderful canine character who readers will also fall in love with.
What a powerful start to a series! I eagerly anticipate the next book.
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