Outfox: A Thriller

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Release Date: 
August 6, 2019
Grand Central Publishing
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“With over 80 million books in print worldwide Sandra Brown is a publishing icon, and Outfox may be her best book ever.”

With over 80 million books in print worldwide Sandra Brown is a publishing icon, and Outfox may be her best book ever. Noted for her skillful blend of suspense, romance, and complex plots, Brown delivers an entertaining and satisfying story every time.

FBI agent Drex Easton has been hunting a serial killer, one he believes killed his mother when Drex was a child.

The murderous conman Drex believes was originally known as Weston Graham, is a master of disguise, changing his name and appearance as he swindles lonely wealthy women out of their money and their lives, then vanishes without leaving behind a single clue.

“He was a chameleon, exceptionally good at altering his appearance and adapting to his environment . . . he could have turned up enjoying a Frosty at the Wendy’s across the freeway or burning incense in a monastery in the Himalayas, and neither would have surprised Drex.”

Nor does the elusive killer leave behind any bodies to be found, hiding his victims so skillfully that only Drex and his two partners, Mike Mallory and Gif Lewis, believe that the eight missing women are his victims. All were wealthy, all vanished without a trace after beginning a relationship with a new man, all their bank accounts were drained, and their new man was nowhere to be found.

Special Agent in Charge Rudkowski is convinced that Drex is obsessed with the idea of a serial killer and is breaking laws and violating procedures to hunt a fantasy.

Drex is indifferent to what Rudkowski thinks, whom he considers to be incompetent and lacking in imagination. He certainly does not intend to tell Rudkowski that finally there is a lead in the case.

Mike, the computer geek of the three partners, believes he has discovered how Weston Graham finds his victims. He posts his profile on an online dating site. Three to six months before the disappearance of each of the eight women the same profile almost word for word is posted again on an online dating site.

The only negative about the man calling himself Jasper Ford is that he is married, and Weston Graham was widowed 30 years ago, and had not remarried. The positive that cancels out the anomaly of marriage is the fact that the wife is wealthy.

There is also the unexpected fact that Jasper Ford’s wife, Talia Shafer, was a friend of Marian Harris, Graham’s or Ford’s last victim. So the question becomes whether Talia is an accomplice or the next victim.

To find evidence that Jasper Ford is suspected serial killer Weston Graham, Drex rents an guest house next to Jasper’s and Talia’s luxurious home and plants microphones in the house.

“If Jasper Ford was the man Drex had first come to know by the name of Weston Graham, then this woman would be the next of many whom Jasper had befriended, wooed, and robbed of millions before they disappeared without a trace.”

If Talia is an innocent woman, then Drex must save her. If she knows of Jasper’s real identity and murderous career, then Drex must know that also.

Drex’s investigation is complicated by his immediate attraction to Talia Schafer. At least 30 years younger than her husband, Talia is an unhappy woman. For some reason she is unable to understand, Jasper has changed. She feels she no longer knows him.

She “needed to isolate a reason for the vague uneasiness that had plagued her for several months now. A premonition of doom was her constant companion . . .”

When workmen unearth a wooden box containing the remains of Marian Harris, Drex is sure there must be some clue to connect Weston Graham to the murder, but there seems to be no evidence at all.

Then a body washes up on the beach believed to have drowned after a boating accident. The body is identified as Elaine Connor, best friend of Talia Schafer. Drex and his partners immediately suspect that Elaine didn’t drown as the result of a boating accident. Jasper Ford murdered her.

After studying crime scenes photographs of Elaine Connor and those of the remains of Marian Harris, Drex believes he has found evidence of the type of keepsakes that Weston Graham or Jasper Ford collects from each victim. If Drex can find the killer’s stash of collectibles, then his old nemesis will be on his way to death row.

Suspense and romance blend together in Brown’s signature way. But one does wonder why Talia would marry a man more than 30 years her senior in the person of Jasper Ford when she seems not to have been deeply in love. However, this inconsistency in the character of a shrewd businesswoman does not detract from the novel’s fast-moving story that will please her millions of fans.