Deed to Death

by D.B. Henson

{ 2010 | Amazon Kindle | 311 pgs }

Ok, I’m in a hurry to get through the rest of the books on my list. There are a few more books I want to read this year but until I finish my 26 books, I’m not going to repeat any letters. So rather than waiting until I’m back home to get a H book from the library, I paid $1 to buy this book for the Kindle.

It might interest you to know that Deed to Death was only released as an ebook. Is that the equivalent of direct-to-dvd?

Speaking of movies, have you ever seen a film that was so bad it was good? The Romgi says Ghostrider is like that (I really have something against Nicolas Cage). I feel that way about Alien vs. Predator. And that’s exactly how Deed to Death was – so terrible that I loved every bit of it. I’m going to tell you the plot so you can be part of the suffering (and enjoyment)! If you prefer, you can skip down to the quotes section. It’s really good, although I didn’t find the energy to look up all of the best ones. Sorry.

Here goes!

Toni Matthews is a real estate agent who’s engaged to Scott Chadwick. At the beginning of the novel, the morning after the rehearsal dinner, Scott (an architect and partner of a successful company) is found dead at one of his construction sites, having fallen from several stories up onto the concrete landing below. The police rule his death a suicide, but Toni knows with every fiber of her being (no, they didn’t actually say those words) that Scott wouldn’t kill himself.

Toni decides to investigate.

In the elevator of the construction site, she finds Scott’s monogrammed pen caught in the corner. From this she makes the logical deduction that Scott had a scuffle with someone in the elevator, then was pushed off the upstairs balcony. Murdered. But who would kill her beloved?

Enter Brian Chadwick, Scott’s estranged brother. Although they hadn’t spoken for 12 years before the rehearsal dinner, Brian is contesting Scott’s will, which leaves everything to “Toni Chadwick.” Brian contends that because the marriage never took place, Toni is not entitled to inherit the millions of dollars included in Scott’s estate.

Again, Toni decides to investigate. She finds two interesting articles – one written about Brian, who is a reporter for a magazine in Washington, D.C., and one written by him. The first concerns a lawsuit filed by a Midwest meatpacking company against Brian for slander after he wrote an article accusing them of falsifying records and knowingly shipping contaminated meat. The company won, and a judgment was issued against Brian in the amount of $2.1 million dollars. There you have it: motive. The second article is about an ex-CIA agent and includes details about his training. Another logical deduction: Brian hired a hit-man to kill his brother. He obviously has access to such people.

But what is Toni to do about this? When she tries talking to the detective assigned to the case, he’s firm – both evidence at the scene and statements from people close to Scott indicate that it was suicide. Toni sneaks a peek into the case file to find out who gave such statements. There’s Clint, Scott’s business partner and close friend; Mark, Scott’s attorney and best friend; and Gloria Keith, a woman Toni knows nothing about.

Clint and his wife Jill have known Toni since she started dating Scott about a year ago, and they, too, are insistent that Scott took his own life. Jill, Toni’s closest friend, confides that the company was facing some financial trouble and Scott was worried that a collapse might soon come. He must have preferred suicide to facing the downfall of the company he helped build.

Of course, Toni knows that Scott would have been brave and strong enough to withstand the possible destruction of his career, so she turns to Mark. As a nice extra to the plot, Mark has been in love with Toni since he met her. And he’s planning how to woo her after she gets over the death of her fiance. That’s a little awkward, huh? He tries his best to console Toni but admits he was aware that Scott was going through a difficult time.

At this point, there’s really no reason to concede that all signs point to suicide or that Toni is running out of leads. Her next strategy is to track down the two construction workers who were at the site on the morning Scott died. One is a supervisor who admired Scott and was the man to find the body. The other, Nico, was a subcontractor who was hired a few days prior to Scott’s death. He gave a statement to the police but hasn’t been back to work since the day, although the supervisor says that with subcontractors this is not uncommon.

It seems now that Toni needs to focus on finding Gloria Keith and Nico, and building evidence against Brian. She manages to sneak into Brian’s hotel room, where she discovers something disturbing: photographs of her inside her house, apparently taken with a telephoto lens. It dawns on her that Brian must think she knows too much and is trying to kill her too! What to do?! It will take too long to get a firearm to protect herself; she could be dead within the next few days. She decides on a hunting knife she finds among Scott’s things, because it has a holster that she can conceal under her clothing.

A large portion of the book now centers around Toni’s increasing paranoia, although she feels she’s being rational and understandably cautious. She realizes that if Brian has hired someone to kill her, it could be anyone – the parking lot attendant, a waiter, a sniper on a roof. But this just means that Toni has to hurry to find proof that Brian is a murderer.

Through a series of shady dealings, most of them involving personal use of real estate databases, Toni finds an address for Gloria Keith. Can you guess what’s coming? Gloria turns out to be a young, blonde, enhanced twentysomething who gleefully and viciously tells Toni that she (Gloria) was Scott’s lover. Taking joy in Toni’s pain, Gloria adds that Scott told her all about his business problems and specifically asked her for a gun so he could end his own life. Toni is firm in her belief that this woman is a liar, that Scott never cheated, and that his “suicide” was in reality a homicide. She continues looking for Nico.

In the meantime, she still has work to do as a real estate agent. She gets a call late one afternoon from a wealthy entrepreneur who wants to sign papers for a mansion that has been privately listed. Toni has a personal policy against showing homes without first meeting potential buyers in her office, but because of the large commission that would be involved, she agrees to meet the entrepreneur at the home later that evening. A complicated series of improbable events occur, and Toni decides to cancel the appointment; her ambitious coworker (who also happens to have red hair) goes instead, without anyone knowing, and is killed.

Toni feels justified in her paranoia.

She also discovers something useful – a cd that Scott left her, disguised as a mix of ballads she created for him, that contains a spreadsheet with unintelligible information. While she doesn’t understand exactly what Scott was trying to tell her, she is able to figure out that Clint and Jill were involved with illicit activities somehow related to the company. And as she looks through vacation pictures on the computer in a moment of sentimentality, Toni sees Gloria in the background of a photo taken in Mexico.

The next evening, as she’s driving home in the rain, a dark green Audi rams her car repeatedly and then forces her to drive off a bridge. Toni manages to break a window and get out of the car – barely. Deciding that it’s best if her would-be murderer thinks she’s really dead this time, she walks a few miles to a friend’s house. The friend is out of town and will has instructed Toni to put his house on the market when he returns in a few weeks, so Toni has a key but the address doesn’t appear on any of her real estate files. Which is good, because by now Brian is at Toni’s house, looking through her files to figure out where she went.

While he’s there, he hears a voicemail left by one of Toni’s coworkers giving the address for Nico Williams. Knowing that Toni will eventually check her messages remotely and go to Nico’s house, Brian goes to wait at Nico’s.

Luckily, Toni has bought a blonde wig and a pair of sunglasses by now. The garage door is open at Nico’s and inside is…the dark green Audi! Nico must be the hit-man! Hearing a car drive up, Toni hides in the garage; it’s Nico and his daughter coming home. Plot twist: Toni recognizes Nico from photos in Gloria’s apartment! They’re both in this together somehow! After Nico and his daughter go inside, Toni escapes, only to be grabbed outside by Brian. Aren’t you glad she brought her hunting knife? Toni slashes Brian in the arm and drives off in her car as quickly as possible.

Back at her own house, she finds more secret files Scott left for her, but these are clear and to-the-point: he was on to the duplicity and shady dealings of Clint and Jill, and he was going to go to the police after the honeymoon. Sadly, he never got the chance. Sigh.

Then, plot twist again, someone comes into the house! It’s Brian! He restrains Toni (who lost her knife somewhere), and explains that no, he did not kill his brother; he’s been trying to find out who did, and he’s protecting Toni from the real killers – whoever they are. (He has been using GPS to track Toni’s movements, and he tapped her phone, but only because he initially thought that she was behind Scott’s death.) Toni believes him and shares what she’s learned about Clint and Jill, still trying to piece together the connection with Gloria and Nico. Brian offers to get in touch with one of his contacts in Washington who can fill in the blanks for them. When he goes upstairs to shower, his cell phone rings and Toni recognizes Jill’s private number! Yet another twist! Brian must have been faking all along, and what an idiot Toni was to fall for it. She escapes into the rainy night, calls a cab, and goes to Mark’s house.

Oh yeah, remember the car crash into the river? Everyone did think Toni was dead. So Mark is surprised and relieved to see her. She tries to tell him everything, but he insists that she shower and eat first. While he’s in the other room getting food ready, someone comes in and snatches Toni. Of course.

When she wakes up, she’s in the trunk of a car; before long the car stops and she’s pulled out by Jill. They’re at the construction site where Scott died. It’s obvious that Jill plans to murder Toni. Nico, who it turns out is Gloria and Jill’s brother, will be arriving shortly; but soon a car comes up and out steps Mark. Jill tries to shoot Toni, Mark steps in the way and takes the bullet, and twist of all twists, Mark confesses to being part of the money laundering and killing Scott in a fit of revenge. (Mark’s mom was employed for many years as a nanny for Scott’s family. Scott, as an adolescent and teenager, loved to hide in closets and jump out to scare people; he encouraged his younger sister to do the same. One day, his sister jumped out and startled Mark’s mom, who fell down the stairs and was permanently incapacitated. Scott came to mark the morning of his death to show him what he found about Clint and Jill – by the way, Clint wasn’t involved at all – and Mark knocked him unconscious. Then Mark got a call from his mom’s nurse saying she had gotten hurt, and a wave of bitterness washed over Mark. So he did the logical thing: he wrapped Scott in a shower curtain, drove to the construction site, and dumped Scott off the balcony.)

With Mark bleeding to death, Jill drags Toni up several flights of stairs. The ever-resourceful Toni gets the gun away from Jill, but not before being shot in the shoulder. Pandemonium ensues (as much as it can with only two people), and finally, Brian arrives with the police.

Conveniently, Mark was planning on fleeing the country and so he had every piece of incriminating evidence in his car. The authorities had everything they needed.

The bad guys went to jail, Mark died in surgery, Brian and Toni became friends, and…

Toni found out she was pregnant with Scott’s baby! So he’s not really gone!


“‘No, no, nooo!’ She collapsed on the closet floor, weeping uncontrollably, hardly able to breathe. The pain cut through her soul. She felt like a madman had ripped her heart from her body, leaving her hollow and bleeding.”

“The office was equipped with Wi-Fi, so all she had to do was click on her browser icon and she was ready to search the web.”

“The article went into great depth regarding [the agent’s] covert activities, including detailed information on his CIA training. A chill prickled the tiny hairs on the back of her necks. Maybe Brian had learned to kill from a professional.”

“He had just turned thirty, but after hiding out in the trees the night before, and sitting nearly motionless in the car all day, he was starting to think he was getting too old to be doing surveillance. This time though, he didn’t have a choice. It wasn’t a story that was on the line. It was his life.”

“She appeared to have aged ten years in the last few days. She wiped her face with a tissue and then fished around in her purse for her compact. The powder covered her tearstains, but the haunted look in her eyes remained. That was something no makeup could fix.”

Honestly, readers, this was one of the best-worst books I’ve read in a long time. Everything about it was so cliche that it was absolutely a joy to read. Thanks for plowing through the review; I hope you’re inspired to pick up a terrible book sometime soon, just for a laugh!


One Comment on “Deed to Death”

  1. Brian says:

    Delightfully awful! Thanks for including quotes; the Wi-Fi/browser icon one was the best.

Be opinionated! We certainly are.

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