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Authors: Lynn Hightower

Flashpoint

BOOK: Flashpoint
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PRAISE FOR THE WRITING OF LYNN HIGHTOWER

“Lynn Hightower is a major talent.” —Jonathan Kellerman,
New York Times
–bestselling author

“Hightower is a writer of tremendous quality.” —
Library Journal

PRAISE FOR THE SONORA BLAIR MYSTERIES

Flashpoint

“Diabolically intriguing from start to finish.” —
Publishers Weekly

“Miraculously fresh and harrowing.” —
Kirkus Reviews

“Rings with gritty authenticity. You won't be able to put it down and you won't want to sleep again. Riveting.” —Lisa Scottoline,
New York Times
–bestselling author

Eyeshot

“Hightower has invented a heroine who is both flawed and likeable, and she knows how to keep the psychological pressure turned up high.” —
The Sunday Telegraph

“What gives [
Eyeshot
] depth and resonance is the way Hightower counterpoints the murder plot with the details of Sonora's daily life in homicide.” —
Publishers Weekly

No Good Deed

“Powerful, crisply paced.” —
Publishers Weekly

“Refreshingly different … A cracking tale told at a stunning pace.” —Frances Fyfield

The Debt Collector

“Hightower builds the suspense to an almost unbearable pitch.” —
Publishers Weekly

“Well-written and satisfyingly plotted. Best of all is Sonora herself—a feisty babe who packs a red lipstick along with her gun.” —
The Times
(London)

PRAISE FOR THE ELAKI NOVELS

“The crimes are out of
The Silence of the Lambs
, the cops out of
Lethal Weapon
, and the grimy future out of
Blade Runner
… Vivid and convincing.” —
Lexington Herald-Leader

“One of the best new series in the genre!” —
Science Fiction Chronicle

Alien Blues

“Hightower takes the setup and delivers a grittily realistic and down-and-dirty serial killer novel.… Impressive … A very promising first novel.” —
Locus

“Brilliantly entertaining. I recommend it highly. A crackerjack novel of police detection and an evocative glimpse of a possible future.” —Nancy Pickard, bestselling author of
I.O.U
.

“[The] cast of characters is interesting and diverse, the setting credible, and the pacing rapid-fire and gripping.” —
Science Fiction Chronicle

“An exciting, science-fictional police procedural with truly alien aliens … An absorbing, well-written book.” —
Aboriginal Science Fiction

“Truly special … Original characters, plot twists galore, in a book that can be enjoyed for its mystery aspects as well as its SF … A real treat.” —Arlene Garcia

“Hightower shows both humans and Elaki as individuals with foibles and problems.
Alien Blues
provides plenty of fast-paced action.… An effective police drama.” —
SF Commentary

“Hightower tells her story with the cool efficiency of a Mafia hit man.… With its lean, matter-of-fact style, cliff-hanger chapter endings and plentiful (and often comic) dialogue,
Alien Blues
moves forward at warp speed!” —
Lexington Herald-Leader

“A great story … Fast and violent … Difficult to put down!” —
Kliatt

“An intriguing world!” —
Analog Science Fiction and Fact

Alien Eyes


Alien Eyes
is a page-turner.… Fun, fast-moving … A police procedural in a day-after-tomorrow world.” —
Lexington Herald-Leader

“Hightower takes elements of cyberpunk and novels about a benevolent alien invasion and combines them with a gritty realism of a police procedural to make stories that are completely her own.… A believable future with a believable alien culture … Interesting settings, intriguing ideas, fascinating characters [and] a high level of suspense!” —
Turret

“Complex … Snappy … Original.” —
Asimov's Science Fiction

“The sequel to the excellent
Alien Blues
[is] a very fine SF novel.… I'm looking forward to the next installment!” —
Science Fiction Chronicle

Flashpoint

A Sonora Blair Mystery

Lynn Hightower

For Matt Bialer, world's best agent.

1

FLASH POINT
: the temperature at which vapor from a flammable substance will ignite.

—
World Book Dictionary
, Volume One

Sonora was not asleep when the call came in. She was curled sideways, a blanket over her head, vaguely aware of the wind blowing the phone cables in tandem against the back wall of the house. She caught the bedside phone on the second ring, thinking it was going to be a bad one. This time of night, people meant business.

“Homicide. Blair.”

“Blair, you always answer your phone like you're at work?”

“Only when it's you, Sergeant. Anyway, Sam's on call, not me.” She rubbed the back of her neck. Her head ached.

There was a pause. “You're catching it together. It's a nasty one, Sonora. Guy burned up in his car.”

Sonora turned on the bedside lamp. The bulb flared and went out. “Sounds like insurance fraud getting out of hand. Why not let arson catch it?”

“Arson called us. Vic, name of Daniels, Mark, handcuffed to the steering wheel of his car, and doused with accelerant.”

Sonora winced. “Sounds pointed. Where?”

“Mount Airy Forest. Couple miles in, be a uniform there to direct. Delarosa's headed out to the scene now, E.A.T. four-fifty.”

Sonora looked at her watch. Four-twenty
A.M
.

“Vic's still alive, unconscious, but he may come to, and if so, it might not be for long. He's over at University, which is where I want you. See if he comes around any, maybe even get a deathbed statement. Could be a gay thing, you know? Those are the usual ones in the park, weeknights this time of year. Get him to spill who done it. Any luck, we can clear the books by morning.”

“It is morning.”

“Do it right, Blair.”

Sonora dressed quickly—sliding on a pair of black cotton trousers that satisfied the dress code, barely. She ran a pick through the tangles of her hair, took a glance in the mirror, and gave up. Too curly, too slept on. Definitely a bad hair day. She gathered the ends back and slipped them through a black velvet band. Her eyes were dark shadowed and red rimmed. She wished she had a moment for the miracle of makeup, but if Daniels was just hanging on, she didn't have time. And he wasn't likely to complain.

She turned on the hall light and peeped in at the kids. Both sleeping soundly. She maneuvered through the maze of laundry, clean and dirty, filed on the floor in an obscure system only her son understood. He was sleeping at the wrong end of the bed, a booklet on
Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
splayed on the pillow.

“Tim?”

His eyes flickered open, then closed. Asleep, he looked younger than thirteen, fine black hair cropped short.

“Come on, Tim, wake up.”

He sat up suddenly, eyes wide and confused.

“Got to go to work, hon, sorry. I'll leave you locked up, but keep an ear out for your sister, okay?”

He nodded, blinking painfully, too young and too tired to be wakened in the middle of the night.

“What time is it?” he said.

“After four. You got a while to sleep. Be sure and get up with the alarm. You'll have to get Heather off to school.”

“'Kay. Be careful, Mom. Load your gun.” He slumped back down on the bed, turning his back on the bright shaft of light from the hallway.

Sonora left his door open and went to her daughter's bedroom. An explosion of nude Barbie dolls, some of them headless, littered the dingy yellow carpet. Sonora made her way to the bed, noting the neat pile of clothes and shoes carefully laid out in the stuffed animal bin. It was September, just a few weeks into the school year, and the excitement of first grade had yet to wear off.

A reddish blond dog groaned and lifted his head from the pillow where he'd been sleeping next to the tiny, black-haired girl. He was a big dog, three legged, thick fur coat, wise brown eyes.

Sonora patted his head. “Guard, Clampett.”

The dog wagged his tail. Sonora noticed three cotton hair holders beside her daughter's lavender tennis shoes. That meant braids, only Mommy wouldn't be around to fix them.

Sonora grimaced. “Thank you, I
will
have some guilt with my homicide.”

She kissed her daughter's soft plump cheek, double-checked the house locks and alarms, and left.

It was raining again, softly now, the windshield wipers doing a second-rate job. Sonora squinted through the fogged windshield and winced at the glare of headlights on the rain-slick road. Her night vision wasn't what it should be.

University Hospital was nestled amid scaffolding, piles of dirt, stacks of lumber. Health care, at least, was booming. Sonora passed a sign that said
MESNER CONSTRUCTION
.

The emergency entrance was brightly lit, two ambulances parked under the overhang, a smattering of patrol cars in the circle drive. The parking structure was dark. Sonora scraped by the ambulances and parked on the side of the road. She reached into the glove compartment for a flowered tie that didn't exactly match her shirt, but at least didn't clash, slid the loosely knotted loop over her head, and tucked the back band under the collar of her tailored shirt. The blazer lying on the backseat was wrinkled, but Sonora decided it would pass. She locked her car.

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