Disgraced ex-cop Sloane Donovan has relied on her job as a fitness instructor to keep her mental illness and PTSD in check--until she finds a close friend dead, apparently by her own hand. Obsessive demons triggered and doubtful of the official narrative, she teams up with Wayne Capson, a PI willing to bend the law, to find out who really killed her friend. The search leads Sloane from Vancouver's wealthiest enclaves to the street's darkest corners, questioning millionaires, tennis instructors, sex workers, former police colleagues--anyone who might provide answers.
J.T. Siemens's To Those Who Killed Me is a debut that provides a heavy dose of hardboiled suspense and introduces a fiery new heroine in crime fiction.
About the author
J.T. Siemens grew up in Vernon, BC, and moved to Vancouver to pursue a career as a personal trainer. A longstanding love of books and movies led him to study screenwriting and creative writing, and he has been published in Mystery Weekly, Down in the Dirt, CC&D, and Vancouver Magazine.
After a murder occurred outside his workplace, he was inspired to write a novel, To Those Who Killed Me, which was nominated for the Arthur Ellis Unhanged Award. The novel introduces the character of Sloane Donovan and is the first in a series about a bipolar ex-cop turned PI. He recently completed the second Sloane Donovan novel, The Call of the Void. He lives in Vancouver's West End with his girlfriend and two cats.
Excerpt: To Those Who Killed Me (by (author) J.T. Siemens)
Thursday, October 10, 2019
The brunette in the silver Audi convertible was dead. Even from thirty feet away, I knew from the stillness and the angle of her slumped head, down and to the right. I had seen that angle before. As I approached the rear of the vehicle, blood slammed through my neck and temples, my body still buzzing with endorphins from my twelve-mile run up and down the hills of West Vancouver. As I came closer I saw the small woven dream catcher hanging from the rear-view mirror. My throat made a strangled sound as I stopped breathing.
It was my friend Geri's car, and she was in the driver's seat.
Geri, oh my God.
I sprinted to the convertible, shouting her name as I reached in and shook her shoulders. Her head lolled further down and her skin was pale where normally it was olive. I pushed my fingers through her thick hair to check for a pulse that wasn't there.
Bringing my face near hers, I couldn't feel any breath, though the smell of wine was strong. An open S'well bottle sat in the centre console.
The car's digital clock read: 4:24 PM.
An unsealed white envelope and an iPhone sat on her lap. On the floor mat of the passenger side was an open bottle of prescription pills, some of which had spilled out. Zolpidem. Sleeping pills.
I pulled out my phone and called 911. "My name is Sloane Donovan. I found a woman in her car who seems to have OD'ed on sleeping pills. No vitals. Hillside Country Club. 930 Crosscreek Road, West Vancouver. End of the south service road."
Yanking open the driver's door, I got my hands under her armpits and dragged her onto the road. Her phone clattered onto the gravel nearby. As I knelt to begin CPR, everything around me constricted, swirled, and blurred: the trees, the car, my friend on the road. A second later, reality came roaring back. Impossible. I'd spoken to her only a few days earlier. This was wrong, a waking nightmare, a sick joke. Interlacing my fists together, I pumped her sternum.
After thirty compressions, I tilted her head back, pinched her nose, lowered my lips to hers, and gave two breaths. Following three more cycles of CPR, I thought I saw her facial muscles twitch. Another cycle. One of her brown eyes was partially open.
In the polished chrome rim of the rear wheel, I caught a distorted reflection of myself, eyes wild, red ponytail bobbing up and down. In the branches of a hemlock above, a crow mocked me and flew off.
Give up, it seemed to say.
A drop of sweat from my face splashed onto Geri's blue lips, rolled down her cheek before getting lost in the twisted gulley of her ear. After countless rounds of CPR, I got dizzy and had to stop and breathe and shake out my hands. Only then did I take in the tight red and black silk cocktail dress she wore, its pattern like angry Japanese characters. Her fingernails were painted the same red as her dress. Her wedding ring was off. So was one of her black leather pumps, probably still in the car.
Twenty feet in front of us sat a rusty blue shipping container. Beside it were several stacks of old tires and a pile of discarded lumber. Country club junkyard.
I continued CPR.
Blink. My sister, Stephanie, her nails bitten to the quick. Blink. Little Charlie, blond hair neatly parted, purple Barney dinosaur beside him. Blink. Blue-faced baby Emma, snuggled into Steph's cold bosom. Blink. Steph's head cocked down at that same final angle Geri's had just been.
The phone buzzed on the gravel nearby. As I pumped her chest, I glanced over. The display read: PAYPHONE 604-615-6761.
From habit, I quickly recited the number under my breath before going back to mouth-to-mouth, running the digits through my head a few times so they stuck.
Sirens howled beyond the trees. I saw the envelope a few feet away.
Praise for To Those Who Killed Me:
"This gritty crime tale, which snakes through Vancouver's squalid backstreets, plunges the fearless, at times reckless heroine into a surfeit of horrific encounters with addicts and abusers, rapists, and killers. This isn't for the faint-hearted."
"A scorching debut. Donovan is a sleuth to be reckoned with."
~ Sam Wiebe, award-winning author of the Wakeland novels
"An exhilarating white-knuckled thrill ride that blasts out of the gates and doesn't let up for a moment. In his debut crime novel, Siemens brilliantly weaves together gripping tension and page-turning twists while showcasing a penchant for depicting the glamour and grit of Vancouver and introducing one of the most complex heroines I've ever read. Sloane Donovan is a compelling force not to be missed."
~ A.J. Devlin, award-winning author of Cobra Clutch and Rolling Thunder