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About The Book

Detective Joe Bashir enters the glittering world of San Francisco society…and what he discovers will shatter three families.

The discovery of a murdered teenager disrupts a fundraiser given by Napa Valley vintner Hale Francesci at the Montair Country Club. While Hale and his wife entertained their guests, their seventeen-year-old daughter Courtney was the last person to see her best friend Ashley Cole alive in a nearby strip mall parking lot.

When Detective Joe Bashir begins interviewing Ashley’s friends, neighbors, and teachers, suspicion splinters in every direction. Courtney hints of an affair with an older man; rumors fly of a missing sex tape; and Joe discovers troubling details about Ashley’s relationships with her addict mother and absentee father. Meanwhile, the Francescis threaten to disrupt the investigation, and Joe struggles to navigate the waters of their elite circle all while fielding his mother’s attempts to fix him up with a nice Pakistani girl. Will he bring a killer to justice, and peace to Courtney at last?

Shattered Bond is the second Joe Bashir novel from the Edgar-nominated Sophie Littlefield.


Shattered Bond


COURTNEY FRANCESCI took a sip from her water glass and grimaced. Her father had personally refilled their glasses with a flourish moments earlier, and the water had diluted the vodka she’d discreetly added to their drinks from the bottle in her purse. No matter; she and Ashley would be out of here as soon as all of the guests moved into the country club’s dining room, which shouldn’t be much longer.

“Nineteen-sixty,†Ashley murmured, languidly twisting the ends of her long hair around her fingers. Courtney followed her best friend’s gaze, watching the slender woman make her way a bit unsteadily out of the ballroom into the private dining room, where dinner would soon be served.

“I don’t think so,†she said. Ashley had a special contempt for older women who dressed young—appearing nineteen from the back, sixty when they turned around. “She’s forty-five, tops.â€

“Seriously?†Ashley exhaled impatiently, grabbed her cell phone off the table, and pushed back her chair. “Excuse me? Excuse me, ma’am?†she called, her voice shifting effortlessly into the cadence she and Courtney used with adults—the “make-’em-happy†voice, as they’d been calling it since middle school, the one that convinced teachers and coaches and perfect strangers that they were nice girls, good girls.

The woman turned, a brittle smile on her lips. “Yes, honey?â€

“I’m sorry to bother you, but is this yours?†Ashley said, holding up her cell phone. Its case featured a graphic of a naked pinup girl; Ashley held her hand strategically over the cartoon breasts, whose nipples, if you looked closely, were pierced with tiny gold rings. “I think you dropped it when you went by.â€

The woman retraced her steps, bringing with her a faint cloud of expensive perfume. Up close you could see that her pale blond hair was stiff and unnaturally shiny. Her eyes were expressionless, her forehead Botox-smooth, and there were tiny fissures along her lips. A closet smoker, probably. And yes—Ashley had been right: the woman was around sixty years old, trying to look much younger, with her bleached hair and careful makeup, her Bebe dress and platform heels.

“Not mine,†she said, pleasantly enough.

“Oh,†Ashley said, faking disappointment. “I’ll give it to Mr. Francesci. He’ll be able to find out whose it is, I bet. I hope you have a nice evening.â€

“You girls did such a nice job.†The woman was slurring her words slightly, speaking with the exaggerated care of someone who was well on her way to intoxicated, but still self-aware enough to want to hide it. “All of your parents should be proud.â€

Courtney waited until the woman had wandered into the dining room, which was beautifully lit with candles and the soft glow of the crystal chandeliers turned down low. Missa, one of her father’s employees, who had been tasked with keeping an eye on them while they poured the ’09 Merlot for anyone who wanted a taste, was over by the pinot table counting the remaining bottles. Courtney’s parents were standing in the doorway between the rooms, greeting their guests as they wandered in to dinner. Her mother offered her limp, cool hand and once-dazzling smile to the men and kissed the women’s cheeks, while her father clamped the arms of the men he liked and clamped harder the arms of those he didn’t.

“Proud,†she echoed softly. “Sure. Let’s go while we can.â€

She slipped in front of a slow-moving elderly couple, catching her mother’s thin smile of disapproval, and kissed both her parents quickly. “I know, I know, home by midnight,†she said, and then she and Ashley were out of there, leaving her parents’ silent protests behind them.

Courtney remembered the boy who went to get the car. He’d been in her English class freshman year, before the Francescis left the Foothills and moved to Sonoma. He’d had acne then; he had faint scars now. An improvement, but not enough to merit acknowledging him. If he recognized Courtney, he didn’t let on; he undoubtedly recognized Ashley, but wisely pretended not to.

Ashley could be brutal. But so could Courtney—at least, before she’d had to move away and start over. Now, after a year and a half at a new high school, she was still the new girl, and in the spring she’d graduate without ever having fought her way to the top. In Sonoma, she’d endured the snubs and offhand cruelty of the popular girls, the same treatment she’d once dished out without a second thought. That was why these trips back to the Foothills were so important: they reminded her what it was like not just to be someone who mattered, but to be untouchable, riding the wave that crushed everyone else beneath it. Only now it was Ashley and Sienna’s wave, and Courtney was just along for the ride.

“Henry’s?†she asked, slicking on another layer of lip gloss.

“Change of plans. His parents came back to town early, so we’re going to meet by the SaveMore.†Ashley turned her long-lashed eyes to Courtney and smiled with a faint trace of genuine happiness that caused something inside Courtney to turn over. She remembered that expression, sort of—the way they both used to look, happy and kind of goofy, before they grew up. But it had been a long time. “I brought sparklers.â€

The SaveMore was a convenience store that anchored a strip mall less than a mile from the gates of the Foothills. It had been wedged into the twisting road before Montair had managed to get the zoning straightened out. Now there was nothing else along that road but million-dollar homes on two-acre lots.

Across the street from the SaveMore was a footpath that took a wandering route up the steep hillside to an abandoned farmhouse that dated back to when Montair was ranch land. There was little left but the foundation and the remains of a few crumbling walls, and a blackened pit in the center where a couple of generations of kids had built fires around which to drink and get high. The site had a couple of things to recommend it: because of the slope of the land, you couldn’t see it from the road, or from any of the neighboring estates; and the view was nice, the flatlands of Montair laid out below. At night, Ashley liked to light sparklers and make dizzy loops in the darkness.

“I didn’t really dress for that,†Courtney said, keeping her expression carefully neutral. She was wearing boots with high wedge heels. The weather had been warm for the last week, climbing into the high fifties each day, and the path wasn’t steep, since it zigzagged up the hill. But she had been looking forward to Henry Jasper’s house, where back in freshman year she’d once danced to G. Dep’s “Let’s Get It†and everyone stopped what they were doing and watched, just watched her, and it was like she got all the way out of her body for a few minutes. What that felt like—if it wasn’t joy, it was close, and she wanted to see if any of the feeling was still there, in the Jaspers’ great room with the lights down low.

“Well, if you want, I could call Jack, we could go to his place . . .â€

Ashley didn’t finish the sentence, but Courtney saw the choice she was being offered: Sophomore year, they’d partied with some older kids. Jack Lee was a senior back then. He’d gone to Santa Cruz and flunked out, and now he lived in an apartment building his parents owned and folded towels at a gym. Jack and his friends—ever changing, all strangely similar; the evening would end in the party room, not unpleasantly, because there would be a rainbow of pearly little pills on offer, not to mention liquor and the hot tub. She would strip to her underwear and slip into the warm nothing of the hot tub, or not. She would let some boy find the clasp to her bra, or not. She’d go chasing numb, and she would find it.

Or, wait in the parking lot in front of the SaveMore convenience store, squint at the Pinky’s Pizza sign, and pretend it was fifth grade after a softball game, and Coach Joan was buying because they made the championships. Let that memory fade away as the cars pulled up and the girls who had been her friends spilled out, perfumed hugs and breath laced with liquor like her own, boys she’d known when they were far from grown. Everyone would pretend to be so excited to see her and she would be grateful, and they’d cross the road and climb the hill and gather around the fire fed with broken branches that the boys dragged over, and she would spend the evening clinging to the edges of the conversation, content to be silent, drinking up the dregs of what they’d once meant to her, like medicine. Ashley would flit about, lacing everyone together with her words and laughter until they made a tangled knot—Ashley was outrageous and Ashley could be cruel, but with her real friends, the ones she chose to love, she could be surprisingly generous. She’d fan up the party into full flame and then, when it got late, she’d find Courtney and they’d leave without saying goodbye, and people would remember that everything had been best when they were there, and they’d still be home by midnight.

That was one of the only rules: home by midnight, which in this case meant Ashley’s house, since Courtney was staying over. In the old days, her dad would insist on talking to Mr. Cole to be sure they were really in the house. Now, with Mr. Cole gone and Mrs. Cole’s boyfriend living there, everything was different. They could probably stay out as late as they wanted. Who would ever know? More importantly—who would care?

“Let’s go to the SaveMore,†she said suddenly. “Not Jack’s. I mean, if you don’t mind. I haven’t seen Sienna in ages.â€

Ashley narrowed her eyes, her mouth tightening, and Courtney regretted mentioning Sienna. Maybe the two of them weren’t getting along again. It was like that sometimes, since Courtney had moved away. “I mean, and everyone else. I just—†Courtney let out a breath made cloudy by the cold. “I just want it to be us tonight, okay? Like it used to be . . .â€

Ashley nodded. If she was disappointed, which she probably was, she didn’t show it. Jack would be there tomorrow, the next day, the next; it wasn’t like Jack was going anywhere. And Courtney would be gone. By eleven tomorrow morning, when her parents pulled up in Ashley’s driveway, showered and shellacked, smug with the success of their kickoff Winemaker Series Dinner—because it had clearly been a success, even before the dinner was served, judging by the lines forming at the order station—Courtney would already be leaving, in bits and pieces. When it was tomorrow, even while she and Ashley lay in bed and talked, ate their raisin bagels, listened to music—the minute she woke up, Courtney would already be on her way to gone.

It was always like that. Whenever she came back to the Foothills it hit her hard, her old home reclaiming her, reminding her of everything. And when she had to leave, she felt the loss all day long, dragging out the pain of saying goodbye again.

About The Author

Gigi Pandian

Sophie Littlefield grew up in rural Missouri, the middle child of a professor and an artist. She has been writing stories since childhood. After taking a hiatus to raise her children, she sold her first book in 2008, and has since authored over a dozen novels in several genres. Sophie’s novels have won Anthony and RT Book Awards and been shortlisted for Edgar, Barry, Crimespree, Macavity, and Goodreads Choice Awards. In addition to women’s fiction, she writes the post-apocalyptic Aftertime series, the Stella Hardesty and Joe Bashir crime series, and thrillers for young adults. She is a past president of the San Francisco Romance Writers of America chapter. Sophie makes her home in northern California.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Pocket Star (October 28, 2013)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781476710129

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