Alan Brenham Plays With Our Minds in “Game Piece”

in Thrillers by

A killer is messing with Barry Marshall’s head — and with everything he holds dear. That sets the stage for Alan Brenham’s chilling, twisting, rocketing thriller, Game Piece (Black Opal Books), in which Marshall is the game piece that the killer is coldly, cruelly maneuvering.

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A smart, tough, capable guy, Marshall is a detective on the Temple, Texas police force.  He’s married to Erin.  They have a five-year-old daughter, Cailey.  It’s a good marriage.  And it’s threatened…as is Marshall’s career, his reputation and his family.  What Marshall doesn’t know is that 12 years ago, the killer dated Erin and thinks Marshall stole her.

The killer is enraged and the killer is smart.  He’s learned things that aren’t public knowledge: learned that Marshall is investigating a stolen truck, learned its make and model.  Now he phones Marshall and tells Marshall where to find it, in a local park.  Marshall demands, “Who is this?”  No answer.  So all Marshall can do is go to the park.  When he arrives, there’s no truck.  But there are two corpses: a young man and a young woman, their throats slit.

From a distance, watching the scene through binoculars, the killer thinks the better part of the last 12 years searching for Marshall.  Now he had Mister Badass right where he wanted him. He’d savor every minute watching Marshall twist in the wind.  “Payback’s gonna be a motherfucker,” he thinks.

But what’s the endgame?  And can Marshall turn the game?  Can he stop being used, being played?  Can he find the killer before…

Before what?

Hard on the heels of the couple with their throats slit, the killer again phones Marshall, says meet me at a local cemetery.  Marshall goes, and finds a third corpse: another man – most recently a defense lawyer, before that, an assistant county attorney – with his throat slit.  Is there a connection to Marshall?  Marshall can’t find it.

But, at the same time, the killer is also uneasy.  He’s learned the police may have a witness to the killings in the park.  He thinks…“Who the hell could the so-called witness be?  Are they screwing with my head?  Trying to make me think it’d be a matter of time before they caught me?  I’m not the bad guy here.  It’s Marshall.”

The uneasy killer is smart.  He learns who the witness is.

When a woman jogger’s throat is slashed, her name strikes a chord with Marshall, but he can’t recall why.  The killer phones Marshall and gloats — and lets Marshall know that he, the killer, has learned something else that isn’t public knowledge.

Author Alan Brenham has given his cop, Barry Marshall, resources.  Brenham has been a Texas law enforcement officer, a criminal prosecutor and a criminal defense lawyer – he knows the databases, the forensics and the other officials that Marshall can draw upon.

But he’s also given his killer resources.  And now the killer uses them to undermine Marshall’s marriage. Marshall’s wife, Erin, gets a letter from a woman who says she’s been having an affair with Marshall.  The letter contains convincing photos.  Then, over the phone, the woman tells Erin intimate details about Marshall: things he does with a woman, things he says and things about his body.

Erin accuses Marshall of cheating on her.  Marshall, who has never cheated on her, figures this is also the killer’s work.  But how does the killer know all this about him?  And where is this game going?

Then another phone call from the killer. He tells Marshall, “Saw your wife.  Real pretty.  Love her curly blond hair. Cute little daughter.”

This case, always personal to Marshall, has become even more so. Now, as this nerve-wracking, who’s-doing-what-to-whom and what’s-coming-next psychological thriller – already fast-paced – ramps up even more, Marshall must draw upon everything he has to find the killer, stop the killer and protect the people he loves.  It’s a deadly game of cat and mouse.

Just as the killer has messed with Marshall’s head, the author has wonderfully messed with ours.

ABOUT ALAN BRENHAM:

Alan Brenham is the pseudonym of Alan Behr. He has been a Texas law enforcement officer, a criminal prosecutor and a criminal defense lawyer. He is the author of three published novels. Two of those novels, Price of Justice and Cornered, have been translated into five foreign languages and published in several countries.

Jim Parry, a Harvard graduate, has had a long career in advertising, including starting two agencies with national accounts (Conoco, Pfizer, Best Western Hotels). His thriller, The Discovery, was published by Crowell, a division of what is now HarperCollins. He has co-written screenplays sold to Columbia and Universal and most recently has blogged for Huffington Post. He is back to writing thrillers and is collaborating with Ron Barrett (co-creator and illustrator of "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs") on illustrated books for adults and children.

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