I thought it might be fun to post the first chapter of my upcoming novel, The Library at the Center of the Earth, as a teaser for potential readers.

The book drops next Tuesday on Kindle, which you can preorder here, so if you dig this little teaser, please go ahead and get your pre-order in so you can dive right in when it’s finally released.

And if you’re into thrillers about cults, feel free to check out my previous book, The Prophet, also available on Kindle and wherever fine eBooks are sold.

Kat’s thumb scrolled along the side of the note her dad had handed her as she worked it out in the cereal aisle. The googly eyes of rabbits, leprechauns, and sea captains watched her from the shelves. Jack Krueger never wrote a simple grocery list. Items like “chicken” or “butter” were always buried within puzzles and brain teasers. Today, her supply run was halted by a particularly tough breakfast food.

What Neil Diamond might start his day with.

She scanned the aisle for something with “Caroline” or “America” in its name. Then she saw it—and rolled her eyes. Cracklin’ Oat Bran.

“Cracklin’ Rosie? Really, dad?” she muttered as a tired mom pushed past her. The woman’s screaming toddler, buckled into the seat in front of her, kicked his pasty legs into her stomach.

Kat pursed her lips and sighed. She forced attention back to the list, away from what might have been. Catching a whiff of her scrubs, she focused harder, wanting to get home quickly and squeeze in a shower while her dad prepped the meal. Her double shift at the hospital had worn her down. Though she was the one with the nursing degree, her father had the kind of illegible chicken scratch rivaled only by the penmanship of a seasoned neurosurgeon. The letters blurred under the store’s harsh, fluorescent lights. She slammed her eyes shut and opened them again. Better.

By the time Kat had filled her cart, a headache had moved itself in at the base of her skull thanks to all her squinting and eye-rolling.

What came first? Either way, you’re right. Chicken and eggs.

Seinfeld’s puffy shirt has nothing on these salty snacks. Ruffles chips.

I. Am. Iron Man. But I’m also zinc deficient. Centrum Silver.

Why couldn’t he have been a normal dad? Then again, he’d never been normal. Ever since her mother died when she was little, Jack had made life a game. A puzzle.

“The world is going to throw things at you when you grow up, Kitty Kat. You wanna be able to throw ‘em back,” he used to say.

Hence, the mind games. They’d often sit at the kitchen table together and work on different crossword puzzles, lobbing clues back and forth when the words wouldn’t come to them. On weekends, they’d sit in the living room and work on a five thousand piece puzzle of Van Gogh’s Starry Night while James Taylor played on the stereo. And every Friday, Mr. Krueger presented Kat with a list of clues for her to decipher at the grocery store after her shift.

She hurried to the checkout line and helped the clerk fill the two reusable bags she’d brought with her. Her rideshare showed up minutes later. The driver noted how pretty she was and that she should smile more. She ignored him for the duration of the trip, her jaw clenched until he’d pulled up a block from her building and let her out. As she exited the vehicle, she gave him the smile he’d wanted as well as a one-star rating. Asshole.


The eggs exploded out of their carton onto Kat’s scrubs with a decisive splat. Their yellow insides seeped into the cracks in the apartment floor. She hadn’t felt her fingers slipping, the paper bag’s weight pushing them farther apart until it free fell to her feet. An apple rolled away. Her body stiffened, then snapped like a bungee cord.

He didn’t look like her father at first. His body was slumped over the top of his desk, his left arm hanging over the front as though he’d been reaching for something when it happened. Kat thought he was a dummy placed there in some sort of horrifying prank. Then she saw the blood, a river whose mouth began at the pen-sized hole in his temple. She ran to him, unsure of where to place her hands. Her education and training dissipated as panic boiled inside her. Two fingers found their way to his neck. She knew what they’d find.

They came up tinged with red. The same red that had dripped onto the wheels of her father’s wheelchair. His desk was bare, save for the sea of darkness that had pooled in the corner of his blotter. A harsh right angle had been left behind where something was removed. Kat had never seen his desk so stark. He always had a changing skyline of books and papers surrounding him, a half-finished crossword in the corner, a few classic novels, maybe a book of poetry or philosophy.

“If my body is going to recover, my mind needs to stay sharp,” he’d said after returning home from the hospital.

The stroke had nearly paralyzed him two months ago, but Kat promised to escort him to and from his physical therapy classes three times a week until he no longer needed her to get around. He’d never pushed her into his interests. Puzzles and books had been left out to influence the goings on in the apartment. “Potpourri for the mind,” he’d called them. Now they sat splayed open on the floor, gruesome victims of a crime like her father.

Kat fished in her purse for her phone. Her hands trembled as she dialed. Her fingertips felt every sensation, as though the nerves beneath the skin had been shocked to life that second. The crack in the display widened under the pressure.

“H…hello? Yes, my father. He’s been shot. Or he killed himself. I don’t know.” Her words sputtered out drenched in grief.

The tinny and distant voice on the other end told her to remain calm. It asked her for her address, which Kat couldn’t remember for several seconds.

“Police were dispatched to that location two minutes ago. Did you call already?”

Kat’s chest ached. She touched his neck again. Still warm. Rigor had not set in yet. Her father had to have been dead for at least half an hour, yet the police had been called only minutes ago.

Then she saw it. The dispatcher’s voice faded in and out like an ocean tide, the comforting sound of something devoid of judgment. Metal winked at her from the floor, silver with a wooden handle. Threatening. She heaved it from the floor, as though its reputation added 10 pounds. The urge to cry left her. In its place slithered curiosity and anger. When had he bought a gun? Why did he kill himself after everything that had happened? They were going to watch a movie that night.

She turned the revolver over in her hands. The smoky burn of iron hung in the air. Its barrel had gone cold. A gun like this would’ve sounded like a bomb in their tiny apartment. Mrs. Wiley next door would’ve screamed at them to keep it down, or called the police herself. She’d perceived the purple streak in Kat’s hair as a sign of rebellion and swore she’d seen her doing drugs outside the building one time. It had been a Tic Tac. But a gun going off in this apartment with no one hearing it was impossible, so why had the cops been called only a few minutes ago?

At her father’s feet, just under the desk, Kat saw something else. She pulled out a small embroidered pillow that had been with them since before she was born. It bore the stitched image of a Dalmatian puppy with black slits for eyes, curled up on a blue blanket with the caption, Never underestimate the power of a nap. A gaping black void now occupied the space where the puppy’s face had been.

She placed the gun back where she’d found it, fearing any sudden movement might stir it into another murderous frenzy. Her calves burned from resting on them and when she stood, she kept her eyes down and away from her father’s body. She stole glances with her peripheral vision, half-expecting him to get up like some undead killer in a horror movie. Her finger traced the edges of the L-shaped space left in the blood and tried to recall what might’ve occupied it. A book, she thought, but which one?

Stray tears gave way to flowing streams. Her legs betrayed her and she collapsed, her back to the desk, her fists clenched white around the pillow. Her father’s fingers hung to the side, a lifeless, fleshy spider. She screamed.

A knock at the door thundered behind her. She dropped the pillow.

“NYPD. Open up,” said a man on the other side.

Kat’s voice called out like an echo off a distant mountain. Her feet grew long, thick roots that held her firm. There was a bang and then the door swung open. Wood splintered and flurried from the jamb. Officers flooded the apartment, guns drawn, blue soldiers all in a row. The illusion of her isolation shattered. Kat checked her phone: the dispatcher had disconnected. The police yelled for her to place her hands on her head, but the words hit her like barks from a watch dog chasing an intruder, abrasive and disorienting.

Her hands eventually found their way to the back of her head. The world around her moved in slow motion. “Don’t shoot,” was all she could say as two officers approached her and asked her a barrage of questions. What’s your name? Do you live here? Do you know the victim?

An officer placed two fingers on Kat’s father’s neck for sign of a pulse. She shook her head to her colleague in the doorway. Crime Scene Investigators arrived clad in plastic suits, shoe coverings, and face masks so as not to contaminate the scene. One carried a large camera she had to hold with two hands, topped with a flash like a spotlight. Each picture she took lit up the room with a pop of light and a loud chunk.

After the officers had declared the scene a suicide, they escorted Kat to the bedroom where she was told to wait. Detectives would be arriving soon to ask some follow up questions. She sat for an hour clutching a mug of water she never drank. Her eyes stung when she forgot to blink for too long.

Kat knew the sense of grief building inside her. She’d felt it before so many times. It made the back of her neck hot and her ears red. It tightened itself into a small, hard ball in her heart and refused to budge. It was a tumor. Her body fought to reject it with convulsions and tears, but she couldn’t shake it. The shock of her discovery had worn off. She gripped the mug tighter and fell over her knees in an ugly cry. A female officer placed a blanket over her.

Two homicide detectives entered the apartment. They introduced themselves to Kat, but their names slipped away before she could catch them. They tried to talk to her, ask her questions as the officers had done earlier, but she didn’t respond. Detective Smalls, white with a thick mustache, swore under his breath and whispered to his partner. Kat caught words like “cuff” and “questioning.” Something about a murder weapon, a victim, and the suspect all in the same room. Her chest tightened.

Detective Toliver, a bald, muscular Black man in a navy suit and thin goatee, gestured with his open hand for Smalls to calm down. He offered to take Kat away from here, to a quiet room far from the crime scene where she might feel more relaxed. Kat gave him an almost imperceptible nod.

Toliver escorted her out of the apartment. As she shuffled toward the front door she caught a glimpse of a man in coveralls zipping up a black bag. Her gaze fell upon a lock of hair, black with streaks of gray, swallowed as the bag’s mouth closed around it. She said a silent goodbye to her father and another tear fell. Toliver helped her into the backseat of the cruiser. Swirling red and blue beacons around them beckoned neighbors Pied Piper-like to their windows. Kat felt their eyes—Mrs. Wiley’s eyes—watching her as the detectives dropped into their seats. Smalls started the engine and the car took her away from a thousand broken pieces she needed to put back together.