Crooked Lane Books (October 11, 2022
In hardcover and ebook!
From the cover:
Long-buried secrets come back with a vengeance in a cold case gone red-hot in Agatha Award-winning author Alicia Beckman’s second novel, perfect for fans of Laura Lippman and Greer Hendricks.
For decades, the unsolved murder of Father Michael Leary has haunted Billings, Montana, the community he served. Who summoned the priest late one autumn night, then left his body in a sandstone gully for the ravens and other wild scavengers?
And it’s haunted no one more than Lindsay Keller, who admired and confided in him as a teenager. Compelled by his example to work for justice, she became a prosecutor. But after a devastating case left her shattered, she fled the rough-and-tumble for the safety of a desk, handling real estate deals and historic preservation projects. Good work, but not what she’d dreamed of.
Now Lindsay finds herself in possession of the priest’s wallet, the photo of a young girl tucked inside. She’s sure she knows the girl, and that it’s tied to his death. But how?
Detective Brian Donovan, a hot-shot Boston transplant, would like nothing more than to solve the county’s coldest case. Probing the life and death of Father Leary takes Lindsay and Donovan deep into long-simmering tensions in this seemingly-peaceful place.
Then another woman far away digs up unexpected clues about her own family’s past—a history rooted in a shocking truth—and her questions bring her to Lindsay and the detective. But the dangerous answers could rock the community to its very core.
“The past is hauntingly present in Alicia Beckman’s affecting new thriller Blind Faith. Seemingly disparate lives come together as the discovery of a wallet belonging to a long-dead priest proves the tug that unravels decades of secrets and betrayal. Beckman combines edge-of-the-seat tension with enormous compassion. Suspenseful and satisfying.”
—Gwen Florio, award-winning author of The Truth of it All
“Suspenseful and poignant, BLIND FAITH is a twisting, atmospheric mystery that pulled me in deep.”
—Meg Gardiner, award-winning author of the UNSUB series
Monday, February 29, 2016, Billings, Montana
Sometimes change happens where you least expect it.
Lindsay Keller scanned the deed to the Rainbow Bar, the longest continuously operating bar in Billings, one more time. The redbrick building had anchored the Montana Avenue business district almost since the city’s founding, and it had been an anchor of her life, too. On summer Sundays when she was a kid, her parents had dragged her along when they stopped for a beer after fishing on the Yellowstone, and old Pete Stenerud had made her a Green River or a cherry Coke.
She’d sat at the Rainbow’s gleaming mahogany bar for her first legal drink, home from college on spring break and brandishing her driver’s license with the magic date as though it were an Academy Award. When the boy she was with had one too many, she’d called her dad to come get her. Not something a girl did back then. Not something she would have done, before the accident.
The intercom buzzed: Carla with a call from the city attorney on another matter, another old building with a checkered past, this one a theater. Finally, she was working with an investor who had the experience to match his vision, if the city could pony up a little money. They went back and forth, the legal details clicking into place. Yes, she would write up the deal. Next on her list.
If people would stop interrupting her.
She hung up the phone and picked up the deed again.
Ole Stenerud, long since gone, had signed the 1935 contract for purchase from the Hamm Brewing Company, though everybody knew both the beer hall and the hotel upstairs were his mother’s domain. In those days, Montana law required a man’s name on the documents, and even the old lady couldn’t fight that. The law was the law. Ole had left the place to his son, Pete, ignoring his daughter, Rose. Hadn’t been hard to tell being passed over still galled Rose, but she was getting the last word. By week’s end, the Rainbow would belong to her, her son, and her grandson.
There was a certain sweetness to helping make that happen, wasn’t there?
“Hamm’s, the beer refreshing.” The jingle began to play in Lindsay’s head, not for the first time.
She heard the outer office door open and heavy footsteps squeak across the old pine floor. She wasn’t expecting anyone. Let Carla handle it.
She reached for the next document in the file, the property tax calculations. Not just a spreadsheet; to her, the rows of figures were men on bar stools. Bottles of whiskey lined up just so. Glasses old Pete polished till they shone. Would young Thomas, soon to be the face of the new Rainbow, uphold the same standards? You never knew what might happen, did you, when one generation gave way to the next.
You never knew about your kids. She pushed that thought aside.
“From the land of sky-blue waters,” the jingle continued. In law school, everyone was a plaintiff’s lawyer or a criminal lawyer in the making—on the side of right and justice. And she had worked as a prosecutor for a few years, in the courthouse only a few blocks away.
But that door was closed.
The liquor license transfer had finally made it past the eagle-eyed bureaucrats of the Liquor Control Board, but where was the file? She pushed back her chair. Carla would know.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Keller is on a deadline,” she heard her secretary say. “If you’d like to make an appointment—”
Both Carla and the visitor turned their heads at her approach. Lindsay took in the man’s worn brown Carhartts flecked with drywall mud, the hammer loop stretched from use, the dusty tan work boots. “A man who worked an honest day,” her father would have said. But what was his name?
She stepped forward, the name bubbling up as she held out her hand. “Trevor. Nice to see you. What can I do for you?”
“You remember that house we bought on a tax sale—you put all the details together,” the man said. “The one we moved to a vacant lot over on North 24th.”
They were made for the home and garden channel, Trevor Morris and his business partner. Two young, hunky guys who bought up houses sinking halfway into the earth and turned them into charmers. She nodded and he went on.
“A bunch of old wooden crates were stashed in the basement. We hauled them to our shop, but one got mixed in with our stuff. Cracked it open the other day and found this.” He reached into a pocket and pulled out a black leather wallet. “It’s got a guy’s ID and a photo, some cash, and a couple of cards.”
“Cash? That’s strange. Just drop it off at the police station.”
“I meant to, but we’re racing the bank’s clock on this job, so when I drove by your office and a parking spot opened up, I figured you’d know how to handle it.”
“Sure,” Lindsay said. “Carla can drop it off. No charge.”
He handed her the wallet and she thumbed it open, the dust coating her fingers. From behind the plastic window, next to a gold medal the size of a nickel, a face stared at her. Stared through the clouded film, through the years, and right into her gut.
“We’ve got our eyes on an old warehouse down on Second,” Morris was saying. “Any luck, we’ll make an offer in a week or so, soon as we get the specs on the structural steel. I’ll call you about the contracts.”
“Good. Yes. Do that,” she replied. He closed the heavy oak door behind him, satisfied with himself, his problem solved.
She could feel Carla watching her as she studied the face of a man she had admired, even loved. The man who had set her drive for justice in gear, whose disappearance and presumed murder still cast a shadow over the Magic City.
Her fingers wrapped around the dry leather and snapped the wallet shut.