Cover image for Alone at night
Alone at night
Erickson, K. J.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Minotaur, [2004]

Physical Description:
260 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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FICTION Adult Fiction Popular Materials-Mystery
FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Mars Bahr and his partner are assigned to investigate the sixteen- year-old case of a missing girl, but their search uncovers the subsequent death of the girl's best friend and the disappearance of the two primary witnesses.

Author Notes

KJ Erickson worked at the Federal Reserve in Minneapolis for many years before retiring to write full-time. Born in Chicago, she now lives in Minneapolis.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Erickson scores another winner in her series featuring Minneapolis homicide detective Mars Bahr. As a burned-out Mars and his dynamic (but not romantic) partner Nettie Frisch start new jobs as part of the Minneapolis PD's Cold Case Unit, each has a different goal: Mars hopes to get the adrenaline flowing again, while Nettie plans to test her crime-database systems. Their first case, involving convenience-store abductions, leads them to the town of Redstone, where a teenage clerk disappeared in 1984. Erickson handles the backstory expertly, switching viewpoints between Mars and former cop Sig Sampson, who originally investigated Andrea Bergstad's disappearance. As they learn more about the case, Mars and Nettie realize that they are opening Pandora's box--but there's no turning back. Among several things that make this series work is Erickson's ability to infuse a well-plotted police procedural with believable, emotionally charged characters. Readers respect Mars because he is a great cop but love him because of his warm relationships with son Chris and partner Nettie. A superb entry in an outstanding series. --Jenny McLarin Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

In Anthony Award finalist Erickson?s compelling fourth mystery to feature Marshall ?Mars? Bahr (after 2003?s The Last Witness), the former Minneapolis homicide detective has joined ?the State of Minnesota?s Cold Case Unit.? Bahr and his new partner, Nettie Frisch, begin their first investigation by looking at a series of convenience store murders. They end up focussing on a single case involving a young woman clerk who disappeared in 1987. With Nettie providing computer skills and Mars handling the legwork, they rework the case from multiple angles. Skillfully, the author merges the tale of a small-town police chief coping with an unexpectedly exacting crime and Mars?s follow-up. Erickson not only creates substantial individual portraits but credible and moving relationships between Mars and his teenage son Chris and between Mars and Nettie. By the end, Mars has a pretty good understanding of what happened but no proof. Facing a powerful and resourceful foe, he has to decide whether to pursue the killer and endanger himself and others with no guarantee of winning-or drop the case and still leave others in possible jeopardy. Erickson is in command all the way in this taut, suspenseful and cleverly conceived twister. (July 30) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.



"2003" CHAPTER ONE A door with height charts running either side of the frame is a door you should think twice about walking through. Not that anybody does. The last thing people going into a convenience store think about is that they've just got up close and personal with the possibility of real trouble. The kind of trouble their car alarms and home-security systems aren't going to help them avoid. Marshall Bahr thought about trouble every time he went into a convenience store. He knew what every law enforcement officer knew: anytime a guy walked into a convenience store with a gun, anybody else in that store was one wrong move away from injury if you were lucky or death if you weren't. Mars did more than think about trouble when he went into a convenience store. He thought about how lousy convenience-store security systems were. Not enough security cameras. Crummy video quality. Inadequate lighting. No hidden panic systems wired to police dispatchers. No security cages for employees. And his personal favorite. A convenience-store clerk working alone at night. Just the thought of a convenience-store clerk working alone at night made Mars grind his teeth, made bile rise in his throat. He was counting on that bile in his throat to give him the energy he needed to be an effective cold case investigator. Energy that had been missing since he'd left his job as a special detective in the Minneapolis Police Department and joined the State of Minnesota's Cold Case Unit. After all, it had been a convenience-store murder his first day on the job as a uniformed patrol officer that had begun his career and that had confirmed for him that law enforcement was a i0job worth doing. He thought about that for a minute. About how it had felt years ago to solve that case. It hadn't just been about solving the case. Just as much, it had been about Hannah Johnson. Three hours and forty-three minutes into his shift on his first day as a sworn officer, he'd gotten a call to a convenience store. Robbery in progress. What he remembered about that call was until that moment, there'd never been a time in his life when he'd been more conscious of his body. Of how hard his heart was pumping, of how hyperalert his senses were. Most surprising, how unafraid he'd been. It was obvious when he'd pulled the squad car to an abrupt stop in the convenience store's parking lot that the robbery in progress was now an after-the-fact event. A half-dozen people, some crying, milled around outside the store. One heavyset woman came at the squad car like a banshee. "She been shot, you hear me? You get in there, now!" The convenience-store clerk's body was behind the counter. Mars could hear the ambulance sirens behind him as he knelt next to the woman. He'd put his hand at her neck, knowing before his fingers touched the skin he'd find no life. He lifted his gaze and found himself looking level into the eyes of a little girl. Hannah Johnson was, in her own words, eight years and three days old. The convenience-store clerk was her babysitter and had taken Hannah with her while she worked what turned out to be her last shift as a SuperStore clerk. Never mind that the shift was from eleven o'clock at night until seven the next morning. This was not the time to start making judgments about the way people lived their lives, especially about the way kids got tangled up in the way adults lived their lives. Hannah Johnson had been sitting on a box behind the counter, reading a book, when the shooter had entered the store. Sitting on that box, where she'd been unseen, had probably saved her life. Mars called Child Protection for somebody to come out until they could locate Hannah's dn0 family. He asked a woman who'd come into the store to sit with Hannah until Child Protection showed up, then he'd gotten Hannah an Orange Crush out of the cooler. Department policy prohibited interviewing a minor without a guardian present, so before Homicide arrived and as the Crime Scene Unit collected evidence, photographed and measured the scene, Mars had started to interview other witnesses. This did not go well. He wasn't getting any consistent stories or useful descriptions. All the while, he could feel Hannah's eyes on him. As a child protection worker took Hannah by the hand, Hannah and Mars made eye contact again. Mars hesitated. It made sense to leave talking to Hannah to the Homicide suits. Probably tomorrow instead of tonight. "Just a minute," Mars had said, acting against the grain of what made sense. He'd walked over to Hannah, putting a hand on her shoulder. "Hannah, can you tell me what you saw?" The Child Protection worker had pulled Hannah closer to her. "Not now, Officer. This has been traumatic. Give us a call in the morning..." Hannah said, "I know. I can tell..." Mars looked at the Child Protection worker, who looked down at Hannah. "You don't have to, honey. Not now. You can talk to the policeman later." Hannah said again, "I know. I can tell..." She could and she did. She described the shooter's height relative to a marketing display next to the cash register. She described the part of the gun that had been visible over the countertop. She described a tattoo on the shooter's wrist. "When he ran out," she said, "I went to the front door and looked. It was a tan car that had a big dent on the trunk. The numbers on the car were FXL six-one-three. I couldn't see which state." Hannah Johnson had gotten a second can of Orange Crush for the road. She'd earned it. Everything Hannah Johnson told Mars held. They arrested the shooter in less than twenty-four hours. All these years later, his first day on the job stood as the most satisfying, gratifying twenty-four hours in Mars's professional life. Mars had stayed in touch with Hannah Johnson, always feeling hopeful about the human condition after he'd seen her or talked to her. Hannah's mother was available on an unpredictable basis and Hannah's uncle, with whom she'd lived when Mars had met her, had problems of his own. Hannah spent a substantial part of her life after Mars had met her moving from one relative to another, with occasional pit stops in foster care. Mars kept track of Hannah through Child Protection Services, and when those checks revealed that she'd moved to another shirttail relation or a new foster home, he'd call her at the new home. And he always, "always," sent her birthday cards. Mars wanted to be sure that wherever Hannah Johnson was, she knew that there was one adult in her life who stayed constant and who thought she was a special kid. Later, when Mars began working partners with Nettie Frisch, Nettie had asked him who he was writing the birthday card to. So he'd told Nettie the story about his first day on the job. "How do you know when her birthday is?" Nettie had asked. "Because," Mars said, "it was three days before my first day on the job. When I asked her how old she was, she said, `Eight years and three days.' Easy to remember." Every once in a while, Nettie would ask him, "How's that kid--Hannah Johnson? How's she doing last you talked to her?" The answer was that the circumstances of Hannah's life went up and down. Mostly down. None of which had prevented Hannah from graduating from high school with honors. Hannah Johnson had been a great start to a career in law enforcement. Copyright (c) 2004 KJ Erickson Excerpted from Alone at Night by K. J. Erickson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.