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Released: November 2015
ISBN: 9781311566508
ASIN: B015OTRZXQ
Kindle US, Kindle UK
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Print Released:
ISBN: 9781910234235
Amazon US, Amazon UK

MARRED
Series: Grafton County Series, book 1
Author: Sue Coletta
Length: Novel
Genre: Thriller
Digital Price: $4.99
Print Price: $10.99

When a serial killer breaks into the home of bestselling author, Sage Quintano, she barely escapes with her life. Her husband, Niko, a homicide detective, insists they move to rural New Hampshire, where he accepts a position as Grafton County Sheriff. Sage buries secrets from that night—secrets she swears to take to her deathbed.

Three years of anguish and painful memories pass, and a grisly murder case lands on Niko’s desk. A strange caller begins tormenting Sage—she can’t outrun the past.

When Sage’s twin sister suddenly goes missing, Sage searches Niko’s case files and discovers similarities to the Boston killer. A sadistic psychopath is preying on innocent women, marring their bodies in unspeakable ways. And now, he has her sister.

Cryptic clues. Hidden messages. Is the killer hinting at his identity? Or is he trying to lure Sage into a deadly trap to end his reign of terror with a matching set of corpses?

Excerpt
Saturday, September 20, 2003

Even the weather betrayed me. Aqua-blue sky, not a cloud in sight. Niko and I sat in silence during the two-and-a-half hour trip north. Next week offered a new beginning, a chance to leave Boston and never look back.

I lowered the back passenger window. A light breeze ruffled farmland acres, and a full, round sun shined, burned, blazed as though this was an ordinary day. The limousine tires hit cracked asphalt, the road worn from a brutal New Hampshire winter. Birds whistled serenades. Preteens played basketball within the confines of school grounds. Young, adolescent voices carried in the crisp morning air, rustling hues of burnt orange, scarlet, and burgundy through autumn leaves. Mountains stood proudly as if they could protect us. Here, perhaps, but not in Boston, where my nightmare began eight days and six hours ago.

We drove by the Minot Sleeper Library, and my gaze narrowed on the patrons. A middle-aged woman clutched my latest novel close to her heart like a coveted treasure. Scorching heat jagged up my chest. Soon she’d enjoy my words while I endured the harshest committal.

Didn’t she know? Couldn’t she feel my pain, my anguish? Pure evil enveloped my life and then spit me out like bitterness on a delicate palate, leaving me reeling in torment.

The hearse carrying our dreams, our endless devotion, veered right through tall, iron gates and followed a winding road to the back of the cemetery.

My fingers curled around the armrest, and I shifted my sight to Niko.

Splayed hands on his knees, he turned only his head and offered a weak, faint smile. “You okay?” His voice was barely above a whisper.

To demonstrate what I thought of his stupid question, I shot him a cutting glare.

Palms up, Niko opened his arms. “What? I only asked if you were okay.”

“Seriously?” I said. “How could anyone be okay with this?”

Two funeral employees in dark suits dragged a tiny coffin from the back of the hearse. Stark white, the casket rode in their hands as the men marched over burnt, dead grass. Lowering the coffin onto two bands, they stepped away. My baby lingered above the mouth of an awaiting grave—displaying my shame, announcing my cowardice.

“We’ve gotta go.” Niko’s words churned the sickening feeling deep in my gut.

I peered through the side window, the cemetery dark and gloomy through tinted glass. The world now appeared as it should, mourning along with me.
Niko said, “Babe?”

The limo driver opened my door and startled me. He reminded me of a prison guard, hands clasped behind his back, eyes focused straight ahead. Behind him, rows and rows of ghosts, shattered lives buried deep with nothing left but a headstone to mark their existence. In the distance, an emerging sea of blue soldiered toward the grave—Niko’s fellow detectives, the ones who did nothing.

I twisted toward my husband, and a stabbing pain stole my breath. I bit my upper lip, waiting for the pang to subside. “Why are they here?”

“To pay their respects, Sage. Look, if you wanna blame someone—”

“Don’t,” I warned.

My crutches in hand, he dashed around the back of the limo to my door. Jaw clenched, I sneered at my new mode of transportation and steadied my balance with the toe of my splinted leg. I dropped my chin to my chest. Dammit. Why didn’t I fight? Why didn’t I do something, anything?

With a supportive arm around my waist, Niko coaxed me toward the gravesite. I passed him one of the crutches and rested my head against his strong chest. If only he could sweep me away, so I didn’t have to face this devastation.

I squeezed my eyes closed. I couldn’t look, couldn’t witness the finality. It wasn’t fair. I had no memories to savor. No first touch, no tiny fist gripping my finger. No first steps, first word. I never had the chance to admire a newborn’s searching eyes, gazing at the world as a wondrous place. Instead, I had the harsh reality that wicked men roamed free, leaving destruction in their wake.

I had nothing, except the faint recall of precious feet kicking my insides, yearning to break free and experience life. My baby’s lungs never had the chance to expand with oxygen-infused air. He would never know the magic of Christmas, or admire glorious lights dancing on tree limbs. My boy would not have the honor of placing a brilliant star on the top branch as his daddy lifted him so his delicate hands could reach.

For God sake, he didn’t even have a name. The headstone was marked only with, “Baby Quintano.” This was so cruel. Why did we have to endure such torture? There wasn’t much I wouldn’t do for my unborn son. But this? Dear God, not this.

Bob Jordan, the funeral director, recited the opening remarks. I cocked an ear, my grip tightening around the crutch. I slid my gaze toward Niko. Did he notice slight nuances in Bob’s pitch, the unspoken truth I insisted he conceal?

Beneath gauze bandages, sweat seeped through the multitude of stitches zigzagging across my forearms. Pain throbbed from a dislocated knee, and broken ribs labored my breath—my injuries refusing to allow a moment of repose. Thanks to a mass murderer who slipped through Niko’s grasp, tranquility no longer existed.

Tears brimmed in my husband’s red-rimmed eyes and he offered me a reassuring squeeze. “It’s almost over, babe.”

I swallowed, averted my gaze. I didn’t deserve his kindness, his love.

We huddled together opposite six Boston detectives in department dress blues. Cold stares in my direction, foreheads rippled in accusation.

Bob Jordan asked if we wanted to speak. Niko swept my hair out of my face, but I kept my head down, staring at the ground.

“I think we’re all set,” he said, tears hitching his voice.

Bob gave a slight nod and cranked a handle that lowered our child into the maw of nevermore. Hot tears slipped down the sides of my face, salt biting jagged wounds on my cheek, upper lip, and neck. The cemetery became eerily quiet. Soft gasps and muffled cries from my heart fracturing beyond repair pierced a cool September wind.

Inside I screamed, “No! Don’t take our baby! Please, stop! I can’t survive this!” Verbally, as usual, I remained silent.

As we rode through the cemetery gates, I swiveled to peer out the back windshield, a piercing ache deep in my empty womb. If only, somehow, this was just a bad dream.

What the reviewers are saying
Couldn't put the book down!!!
I pre-ordered this book and, as soon as it downloaded to my Kindle, I began reading. I couldn't stop reading. I finally finished it in the middle of the night and enjoyed every page. Ms. Coletta's forensic details are superb. She gives us well-developed characters we care about. Good job, Sue! When can we expect more from you? ~ Renee Benzaim, Amazon

• • •

Marred by Sue Coletta is a nail-biting serial killer thriller that, once started, was hard to put down. You immediately feel drawn to the protagonist, Sage Quintano, who writes books about crime for a living and has experienced a horrendous crime herself . . . Told from Sage's first person point of view and alternating with chapters in the third person from Nico's and Frankie's (the deputy sheriff) viewpoints, Marred is an intense and suspenseful thriller. The vivid descriptions of the settings and the information on the forensics were fascinating. Incredibly, Marred is Sue Coletta's debut novel. This author knows her stuff and has a very engaging style of writing and creating dialogue. I enjoyed the different points of view and particularly liked Frankie, Nico's deputy, whose viewpoint introduced a slightly lighter side to an otherwise very dark and scary story. I enjoy thrillers that surprise me and Sue Coletta has definitely managed that with the unpredictable turns and developments that I did not see coming. The ending left potential for a sequel, and I will certainly seek out future publications by this author. ~ Petra Ayling, Readers Favorite

• • •

Lock your door. Turn up your lights. And be prepared to get thoroughly engrossed in one of the best reading rides you’ll ever have . . . Marred suspends you into a terrifying world through an incredibly well-structured plot. The characters are superbly developed. The dialogue is fast, sharp, and thoroughly convincing. The twists, turns, and hidden clues keep you immersed in pure story right from the heartbreaking prologue to an end that you’ll never see coming. But what impressed me most—and this is coming from a person who spent a lifetime as a real-life homicide detective and forensic coroner—is the accuracy of detail in the crime scenes and how the forensic evidence is woven-in. If there were a six-star rating, I’d give it to Marred. And I’m predicting that Sue Coletta is going to be a household name in the crime thriller genre. She’s just that good a writer! ~ Garry Rodgers, Retired homicide detective, forensic coroner, and bestselling author, Goodreads

• • •

Marred, the debut novel by Sue Coletta, is a brilliant and compelling journey through the dark streets of a woman’s worst nightmare. The mystery is haunting. The suspense is suffocating. The secrets have been buried deep, secrets left behind by a serial killer who threatens to come back and uncover them, an act that may potentially destroy them all. Sue Coletta has burst on the scene with one of the most disturbing and unforgettable novels of the year. Been sleeping good lately? You won’t after reading Marred. – Caleb Pirtle, author of Secrets of the Dead

• • •

Nail-biting fun, from cover to cover. Coletta starts with a bang and doesn't let go of the reader until the very last, chilling sentence. Mind you, it does get dark. In Coletta's world, terrible things do happen to nice people. Still, if you enjoy a well-written, well-researched thriller, then this is the perfect book for you. Nicholas Rossi, Goodreads

• • •

There are two reasons why you should be prepared for sleepless nights when you read Marred by Sue Coletta. Reason #1, it’s a page-turner and you’ll be staying up late to see what happens next. And #2, if you’re like me, you’ll be thinking about Coletta’s chilling story for a long, long time -- especially if your phone rings unexpectedly. Early in the book I became completely invested in the protagonist Sage Quintano and her detective husband Niko’s quest. Coletta’s carefully researched writing style and whip-smart dialogue brings the reader inside a world of unthinkably gruesome murders, crime scene forensics, and criminal psychology as Sage and Niko try to stop a brutal, twisted killer. The intrigue builds through many plot twists and turns, and Coletta’s vivid, heart-stopping descriptions are so jarringly real that there are several scenes I'll never forget. I couldn’t put down Marred until I reached the last page, and it was such a satisfying read that I don’t even mind the hours of lost sleep. I can’t wait to read more by this author! ~ Eliza Cross, Goodreads

• • •

This book is a chilling, thrill a minute, read. Others have addressed the plot and theme, so I'm going to mention some of the background information. The supporting characters are well fleshed out, and I found myself looking forward to one deputy in particular. Coletta's settings are wonderfully described without dedicating a ton of space. This book reads well, and delivers everything it promises and more. I will seek out this author in the future. ~ CS Boyack, Goodreads

• • •

MARRED is a wonderful dark, disturbing ride from beginning to end . . . Sue Coletta delivers a strong debut novel that will keep fans of psychological thrillers and crime fiction riveted to the page. Her scenes are vivid, the crime scene details clearly well-researched, and the plot one that will keep you guessing right up until the end. Her characters are people the reader can easily relate to, right down to the flaws and scars many of them carry. Perhaps that’s why the story feels so intense—a roller-coaster ride of suspense as the reader becomes caught up in the looming presence of evil. The scenes when Sage imagines her stalker lurking outside are particularly strong . . . You won’t be disappointed! ~ Mae Clair, blog

• • •

Nail-biting fun, from cover to cover. Coletta starts with a bang and doesn't let go of the reader until the very last, chilling sentence. Mind you, it does get dark. In Coletta's world, terrible things do happen to nice people. Still, if you enjoy a well-written, well-researched thriller, then this is the perfect book for you. ~ Nicholas Rossi, Goodreads

• • •

Crime writers need to read everything they can find about forensics, and it’s evident Sue Coletta has. Marred is the first published novel by Sue Coletta, a writer to watch. Sue Coletta includes lessons in forensics in every novel. She also includes keen insights on the failure of human communication gleaned from closely observing human interactions . . . Marred is a roller-coaster thrill ride that alternates points of view between Sages’ first person and Niko and Frankie’s third person. Human beings make mistakes, and sometimes they hurt the people they love most. Sage, Niko, Frankie, and Chloe feel hurt, so they hurt others in return. Marred leaves open the possibility of a sequel. I can’t wait to read what happens next. ~ Paul Anderson, Goodreads and website

 

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