BY: TJ O’CONNOR
Murder, like history, often repeats itself. And, when it does, it’s the worst kind of murder.
Detective Richard Jax was never good at history—but, after years as a cop, he is about to get the lesson of his life. Ambushed and dying on a stakeout, he’s saved by Captain Patrick “Trick” McCall—the ghost of a World War II OSS agent. Trick has been waiting since 1944 for a chance to solve his own murder. Soon Jax is a suspect in a string of murders—murders linked to smuggling refugees out of the Middle East—a plot similar to the World War II OSS operation that brought scientists out of war-torn Europe. With the aid of a beautiful and intelligent historian, Dr. Alex Vouros, Jax and Trick unravel a seventy-year-old plot that began with Trick’s murder in 1944. Could the World War II mastermind, code named Harriet, be alive and up to old games? Is history repeating itself?
Together, Jax and Trick hunt for the link between their pasts—confronted by some of Washington’s elite and one provocative, alluring French Underground agent, Abrielle Chanoux. Somewhere in Trick’s memories is a traitor. That traitor killed him. That traitor is killing again. Who framed Jax and who wants Trick’s secret to remain secret? The answer may be, who doesn’t?
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In New Sins for Old Scores by Tj O’Connor, Detective Richard Jax is shot and almost killed while meeting his partner for a stakeout. His partner is also killed—with Jax’s gun, so he is the prime suspect. The doctors manage to save Jax, but not before he gets a visitation from Trick, a ghost who died in the same place and on the says day, nearly seventy years earlier. Together Trick and Jax attempt to solve both murders: Trick’s and Jax’s partner’s. At first it seems unlikely that the two murders are connected, but as Jax digs for the truth, he uncovers a secret dating back to World War 2—one that could cost him his life.
The story is clever, intense, and exciting. You won’t be able to put it down.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: New Sins for Old Scores by Tj O’Connor is the story of greed, betrayal, and the abuse of power for personal gain. Richard Jax is a homicide detective whose partner is murdered at a meet where Jax himself is seriously wounded. Since his partner was killed with Jax’s gun, he’s the main suspect. He’s suspended, pending the investigation, and his friends and colleagues desert him. But Jax isn’t really alone. While lying on the ground, waiting for help, and bleeding out, he is befriended by a ghost who was killed on the day at the same place some sixty-seven years ago. Trick is a former OSS agent who was betrayed and killed in 1944. His body was buried and his murder concealed so everyone thought he had betrayed the mission and disappeared. Thus, he can relate to Jax’s situation and is determined to help the detective clear his name—in return for Jax finding out who killed Trick.
While the plot is unique and clever, it’s the character development that impressed me. O’Connor’s characters are so realistic and well developed, you could swear they were real people. You can’t help caring about what happens to them and will be turning pages from beginning to end.
October, 2011, Loudoun County, Virginia:
Murder, like history, often repeats itself. When it does, that kind of murder isn’t the byproduct of some psychotic break or an unintended emotional frenzy. That kind of murder is conscious and considered. It is deliberate.
History is full of that kind of murder.
Richard Jax was never a good student of history—but he knew murder well. He was more pragmatic than philosophical, and except for watching the History Channel and old movies, the past occupied little of his time. His time was reserved for murder and violence. Yet, history taught him a very important lesson—an axiom of parents with teenagers—that nothing good ever happens after midnight.
Jax wasn’t married and had no children. But it was after midnight and he was alone.
He sat in the darkness, huddling behind his steering wheel, wishing for another cup of coffee. The book he’d brought along to read sat beside him half-read—biographies bored him even if they were about military heroes. He checked his watch—twelve thirty-nine a.m.—and then tapped the number three on his cell. And just as he had the last five times, he got voicemail. “You’ve reached Leo Carraba. Leave a message.”
It was mid-October and the night air was crisp with the musky-scent of fallen leaves. He was chilled and tried to brush his brown hair over his ears to keep them warm but it wasn’t quite long enough. On a good day, he was one-ninety after a hardy meal—sturdy and strong. This was not a good day, or night, and he hadn’t eaten since breakfast. His stomach growled and he considered driving to the convenience store three miles up the road for a slice of pizza and a coffee.
No, that would have to wait.
A vehicle turned off County Route 15, heading east toward him. It slowed near the entrance to the inn, turned off its headlights, and rolled down the long drive. Crunching gravel and the occasional glare of starlight off its windshield betrayed its path until it disappeared behind the two-story stone carriage house beside the inn.
Jax pulled his Glock-22 out and took a long breath, listening. His stomach growled again—this time from nerves.
“Who said, ‘If strength were all, tiger would not fear scorpion,’” he said to no one. “Charlie Chan’s Secret, 1935. Warner Oland played Chan.”
Movie trivia calmed his nerves.
Slipping out of his car, he maneuvered through the darkness to the rear of the carriage house. The cold night air and half-empty trees would allow sound to travel and give him away if he were careless. At the corner of the building, he stopped and caught his breath before he inched to the corner and peered out.
There was a dark cargo van thirty yards away.
Someone was heading toward him. He didn’t see the threat but the footsteps grew louder with each gravel-footfall.
He flattened himself into the carriage house’s shadows and didn’t move. He tried to calm his breathing and hide the billowy clouds of breath.
What detective was murdered in the opening of The Maltese Falcon?
He took a step into the darkness.
The first shot took him by surprise. It seared fire and pain into his shoulder. He stumbled sideways, off balance. The second shot slapped his head sideways. He careened into the carriage house’s stone wall. The ground rose and took him. Warm dampness spread over him, the ooze poured life onto the damp ground. He tried to rise but his legs wouldn’t obey. He was unmoving but still falling—spinning away.
Footsteps stopped as someone hovered overhead, waiting, perhaps contemplating a third shot, perhaps waiting for him to bleed out.
A voice exploded in his head. “Get up. Fight back. It’s not over. It can’t be—fight.”
Jax looked across the driveway. Someone lay on the gravel a dozen feet away. The figure stared wide-eyed back at him. Then, in strange, freeze-frame movements, the man stood. He looked around and brushed himself off. He gave Jax a nod, picked something up off the ground, and placed it on his head.
“Come on, Mac, fight. Don’t quit. You can’t.”
Jax tried to focus but knew he was already done.
“Come on, Ricky. You have to do this yourself. Until you do, I can’t help.”
Jax watched the man across the parking lot as warmth pooled beneath his cheek. His vision blurred, and he wasn’t sure what he saw was right—a cone of light engulfed the man—just him. Everything surrounding the light was black and murky. The man was tall and lanky. He wore a hat—a fedora—and a dark, double-breasted suit. Behind him was a 1940s Plymouth with wide, squared fenders and a dark green, four-door body.
Was he dead and Heaven was playing a film noir festival for his arrival?
“Shoot ’em, Ricky. Shoot or he’ll kill you.”
Jax looked up at the silhouette standing over him. The warmth that flowed from him minutes ago now left him cold and spent.
The silhouette raised his gun for the final shot.
“No,” Jax grunted. “No—”
A flash of light. A deafening crack.
“Miles Archer, Ricky,” the fedora-man said, leaning over him. “Bogart’s partner was Miles Archer—ya know, in The Maltese Falcon. I saw it open in ’42 at the Capitol Theatre in DC. You did good, Ricky—real good.”
© 2017 by Tj O’Connor