Random House: Bringing You the Best in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Children's Books
Authors
Books
Features
Newletters and Alerts

Buy now from Random House

  • Missing Mark
  • Written by Julie Kramer
  • Format: Paperback | ISBN: 9780307388520
  • Our Price: $7.99
  • Quantity:
See more online stores - Missing Mark

Buy now from Random House

  • Missing Mark
  • Written by Julie Kramer
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780385530316
  • Our Price: $7.99
  • Quantity:
See more online stores - Missing Mark

Buy now from Random House

  • Missing Mark
  • Written by Julie Kramer
    Read by Bernadette Dunne
  • Format: Unabridged Audiobook Download | ISBN: 9780307714510
  • Our Price: $17.50
  • Quantity:
See more online stores - Missing Mark

Missing Mark

    Select a Format:
  • Book
  • eBook
  • Audiobook

Written by Julie KramerAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Julie Kramer



eBook

List Price: $7.99

eBook

On Sale: July 14, 2009
Pages: 240 | ISBN: 978-0-385-53031-6
Published by : Anchor Knopf

Audio Editions

Read by Bernadette Dunne
On Sale: July 28, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-307-71451-0
More Info...
Visit RANDOM HOUSE AUDIO to learn more about audiobooks.


Missing Mark Cover

Bookmark,
Share & Shelve:

  • Add This - Missing Mark
  • Email this page - Missing Mark
  • Print this page - Missing Mark
ABOUT THE BOOK ABOUT THE BOOK
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ABOUT THE AUTHOR
PRAISE PRAISE
READER'S GUIDE READER'S GUIDE
Tags for this book (powered by Library Thing)
mystery (14) minnesota (5) fiction (4) murder (4) suspense (4)
mystery (14) minnesota (5) fiction (4) murder (4) suspense (4)
Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

From the award-winning author of Stalking Susan, TV reporter Riley Spartz returns in another breathtaking, furiously-paced thriller.
 
When Riley Spartz sees a want ad reading “Wedding Dress for Sale: Never Worn,” she finds a jilted bride unsure whether her groom got cold feet or has become a cold case himself.  Her betrothed, Mark, last seen at the rehearsal dinner, never showed up for the wedding, humiliating his bride, Madeline—and her high-strung, high-society mother—in front of 300 guests. When Riley’s curious missing person case leads to a dangerous murder investigation, she discovers a startling motive for Mark’s disappearance.  Riley now has a TV exclusive guaranteed to win the ratings . . . if she lives to report it.

Excerpt

CHAPTER 1


My past sold quickly, despite the down market.

Of course, no one actually died under my roof. Just a couple of near-miss murders that my real estate agent assured me didn't need to be disclosed to potential buyers.

But now I needed to move fast and she promised me this was the place. "I have a feeling about you and this remodeled bungalow," Jan Meyer said. "The owner is anxious to leave town and just dropped the price twenty grand."

Jan enjoyed playing matchmaker between buyer and seller. Especially since she knew I'd made a killing on my own real estate deal and had plenty of cash to put down. So she took the key out of the lockbox and prepared to give me the tour.

"You might just fall in love with the kitchen," she said.

Not love at first smell. The house had a definite odor. And it didn't seem to be coming from the kitchen.

While Jan went to open some windows, I followed my nose to a closed door where the smell seemed strongest. Journalists prefer open doors. So I turned the knob and peeked inside. Then quickly slammed it shut before any flies could escape.

"What is that horrible smell?" Jan asked.

"I think it might be the owner."

"Is he dead?" she gasped.

I nodded as I headed back outside to call the police from my cell phone.

"Did he have a heart attack?" Jan followed behind, anxious for details.

"In a manner of speaking."

I hadn't gotten close to the man on the floor. But I could see the congealed pool of blood around his body and the knife sticking out of his chest.

That's when I decided to keep renting.


CHAPTER 2


Some days I wish I could just write about sweaters. After all, sweaters never hurt anyone. And no reporter ever got kidnapped, blindfolded, and paraded in front of Al Jazeera's audience for writing for Vogue. Of course, no sweater ever got a gold-medal 40 share in TV ratings either. Except perhaps Kathleen Sullivan's figure-hugging crew necks during the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo.

Sweaters are the mashed potatoes and gravy of a woman's wardrobe--the ultimate comfort clothing--unless gravy accidentally drips onto a pricey cashmere. But I was nowhere near the kitchen, so I could safely curl up in a hand-knit sweater of scratchy wool looking out an upstairs window at a narrow view of White Bear Lake. I don't actually live on the lake, but if I angle my chair and crane my neck just right, I can watch the whitecaps and fishermen on the legendary water.

I'm Riley Spartz, an investigative reporter for Channel 3 in Minneapolis. Close to five months ago I fled my highly sought-after urban neighborhood for a fresh start after a TV sweeps story went bad. Lakeshore homes in this northern Twin Cities suburb go for a million bucks plus, but the rest of the town is quite affordable.

My landlord recently moved out, listing this place for rent because his next-door neighbor held perpetual yard sales that attracted traffic at annoying times. Always looking for a bargain, I'd even checked out the inventory myself, but found only overpriced junk.

Today I paged through the weekly White Bear Press, delighted by irksome crimes that wouldn't merit a mention on a major-market TV newscast. Nothing makes a woman living alone feel safer than reading police reports about teens caught smoking behind the school and bicycles stolen from open garages.

A want ad for an item I definitely wasn't looking to buy caught my eye and my imagination.

FOR SALE: WEDDING DRESS. NEVER WORN

Mystery and emotion, all in one line.

Forget sweaters. A wedding dress is much more likely to garner a 40 share. Viewers love weddings. The research proves it.

In the world of television ratings, two weddings stand out. And both brides would probably have been happier if their wedding dresses had never been worn.

In 1969, when Miss Vicki married Tiny Tim on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, 45 million viewers made that episode the highest rated in talk-show history.

That was nothing compared to the wedding of the century. A dozen years later 750 million viewers worldwide watched as Prince Charles and Lady Diana promised to forsake all others. That royal wedding delivered royal ratings, but ultimately royal scandal. The bride and groom learned (as I reluctantly learned from my own brief marriage) no "I do" guarantees happily ever after.

When it comes to TV weddings, happiness and ratings may be mutually exclusive. While Prince Charles's sequel ceremony to Camilla Parker Bowles tanked in the ratings department, the marriage seems to be thriving in the happiness arena.

Now TV weddings are typically interactive events, like the Today show where viewers choose gowns, cakes, rings and honeymoon destinations for the happy couple, or reality shows, like The Bachelor, in which grooms propose marriage before our voyeuristic eyes.

I circled the "Never Worn" want ad with a red pen and pondered whether the story behind the wedding dress might be worth a television news story.

Perhaps a lesson about love and loss, if I could sort through the he said/she said of a broken engagement. Was the big day called off because of a tragic parachuting accident? A philandering groom caught with a bridesmaid after the rehearsal dinner? Or perhaps a wedding guest revealed a juicy secret when the minister inquired whether anyone knew any reason why this man and this woman should not be joined in holy matrimony.

Doubtful that the truth would prove as irresistible as the scenarios in my mind, but maybe the story could be a lesson about second chances if the gown made it successfully down the aisle on the back of a new bride.

As an investigative reporter, I seldom get a chance to tell love stories.

The May ratings book loomed, just on the fringe of the June wedding season. A tantalizing tale of doomed courtship might spike the overnight news numbers. The Channel 3 bosses were always anxious this time of year because the May sweeps were arguably the most important--Christmas holiday ad rates are based on those figures. Jingle all the way.

I had no blockbuster investigation up my sweater sleeve this sweeps. I'd sat out the February ratings book because I was a mess personally and the November book remained an unpleasant reminder of my blood, sweat, and tears.

My hypothetical wedding-dress chronicle was unlikely to require a major investment of time or money, so if the backstory was compelling, Channel 3's news director, Noreen Banks, would probably give me a green light. Another reason: we had a mandate from the suits upstairs to attract more women viewers because advertisers think they control the household cash.

In May, Minnesota ladies also control the TV remote, because fishing season opens and their menfolk flock to boats like ducks to water. Noreen might certainly seize this wedding-dress opportunity to throw the big bosses upstairs a bouquet... I mean a bone.

So I reached for the phone to dial the number in the "Never Worn" newspaper ad to find out who dumped who.


****


"You look beautiful," Madeline Post said as I twirled this way and that in front of a full-length mirror in her little-girl-pink bedroom.

I hadn't intended to try on the gown. But when she insisted, it did occur to me that it would be harder for Madeline to kick me out the door when she learned I was a reporter if the garment was literally on my back.

The dress looked even better up close than on the e-mail fashion photo she'd sent me the previous night. The kind of dress a fairy-tale princess might wear. Satin. White. Strapless. Fitted at the waist with a ball-gown skirt that flared at my hips. Interesting sparkles around the bustline. The dress accentuated my figure, decent but not voluptuous. And it contrasted nicely with my brown shoulder-skimming hair. I'd checked the designer's reputation online and knew this almost bride had spent nearly fifteen grand on her dream dress.

Not exactly. Her mother had actually written the check. Because, according to Madeline, it was her mother's dream dress.

"She wanted me to look like Cinderella," Madeline explained. "But I wanted an outdoor wedding and would have been happy wearing a sundress or even jeans."

"Why didn't you tell her?"

"The big wedding meant the world to her. Because she compromised on having the ceremony outside, I compromised on the dress. And she's done so much to raise me and my brother after our dad died."

Because I was trying to pose as someone other than a reporter--a self-absorbed bride, in fact--I didn't follow up on that nugget, though I was quite curious to learn more about her father's death.

Besides checking out Madeline's dress, I'd also checked out Madeline and her fiancŽ, Mark Lefevre. Or rather, I had Lee Xiong, our newsroom computer geek, check them out with a crime database he'd assembled from several law enforcement and court agencies. Xiong came to the United States as a toddler refugee from Laos. He flourished in Minnesota, despite his parents' poverty and the state's winters, and became a respected producer at Channel 3.

His cyber report showed the bride had a clean record here in the state, while the groom had been picked up on a minor marijuana possession charge a decade earlier that netted nothing more serious than a small fine and the requirement that he attend drug-education classes.

Madeline's place was not far from mine. I'd left her name, phone number, and address with Xiong along with instructions for him to call the cops if he didn't hear from me in three hours.

Normally I wouldn't have hesitated answering her ad alone, but the recent Craigslist nanny murder--in which a disturbed young man posed as a local mother in need of child care before killing the coed who answered the ad--did cross my mind and made me more cautious than usual about meeting strangers in nonpublic places.

Those precautions might not save my life, but they'd make it easier to find my body if things got ugly. And this way my parents could console themselves with the knowledge that at least they were able to give me a Decent Christian Burial. And I could console myself that at least my murder would lead the late news although I wouldn't put it past Channel 3 to bump me down to the second section just so the station had something lurid to tease at the top of the show and again at the first break to hold viewers into the second quarter hour of the newscast.

I'd found Madeline and Mark's engagement announcement and photo online. At twentyfour, she was ten years younger than her fiancŽ. Her face pretty, not stunning. Her most noticeable feature, her splendid golden hair, long and flowing.

The first thing I observed about Mark was an odd, diagonal scar across his forehead. Not a lightning bolt like Harry Potter's, yet still mysterious in this age in which plastic surgery can fix most facial flaws. Mark's hair was dark, frizzy, and shoulder-length, and he had black Groucho Marx eyebrows and mustache.

She was beauty to his beast.

I read that he was a comedian and I wondered if that was supposed to be a joke or a euphemism for unemployed. Especially when I saw that Madeline came from   M-O-N-E-Y. Big money. Old money. Trust-fund money. Her great-great-grandfather on her mother's side had been a founding partner of one of Minnesota's Fortune 500 companies--a maker of countless useful office products and industrial items most folks take for granted. Her mother was sitting on an impressive pile of family money and company stock. So when Madeline spoke of all her mother had done to raise her, well, she wasn't describing working a shift job and stretching a baked chicken over an extra meal.

Which made me mildly curious just why she was selling her never-worn wedding gown. And extremely curious why it was never worn to begin with.

"So what do you think?" Madeline asked, startling me out of my internal dialogue. "How about two thousand dollars?"

It was a steal at that price. But my bridal days were over and it was time to level with her.

"You see, Madeline," I began.

"Okay, fifteen hundred."

While she came from money, it was quite possible the young Miss Post might not have actual access to it yet, or might even have run through her share already. But she clearly wanted the dress gone. And a minute later, after I explained who I was, she wanted me gone, too.

I'm generally considered among the best-known TV reporters in the Minneapolis-St. Paul market, so I was surprised, yet pleased, when Madeline didn't recognize me right away at the door. Not everyone watches the news, I reminded myself, as she now fumed visibly.

"You're a reporter?" Madeline's voice trembled with outrage and her wide blue eyes got wider. "I thought you were interested in the dress."

"I am interested," I assured her. "I think the dress might make a great story."

"A story?" She threw open the door and waved me out of her condo with all the gusto I had anticipated. I turned and asked if she minded unzipping me first.

"Think of it as a free television ad," I said. "Soon as we get that dress on the late news, you'll have a bidding war."

That image stopped her. She shut the door.

"Do you think I care about the money?"

Madeline buried her face in her hands and started to cry. Tears made her engagement ring sparkle like the diamond it was--a real big one, at least two carats. Between sobs, she grabbed me like the sister I wasn't and dripped wet splotches all over the expensive satin dress that still clung to my figure.

I generally don't like people I don't know touching me. But I didn't say anything because I sensed Madeline's embrace meant she would soon share her deepest secret.


From the Hardcover edition.
Julie Kramer

About Julie Kramer

Julie Kramer - Missing Mark
Julie Kramer is a freelance network news producer.  She formerly ran WCCO-TV’s nationally award-winning investigative unit in Minneapolis.  Her debut thriller, Stalking Susan, won the Minnesota Book Award and the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best First Mystery and was a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award and the Anthony Award.  She lives with her family in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. 
Praise

Praise

“A suspenseful story with a wonderful heroine, and it keeps the reader guessing until the final pages. . . . If you enjoy Sue Grafton’s alphabet series with Kinsey Millhone, or Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta books, you will enjoy Missing Mark.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Smart dialogue and a fleet pace make this second outing . . . a crowd-pleaser.” —People
 
“A fast pace, a smart heroine, and fresh voice. Julie Kramer has what it takes to keep readers turning pages.” —Tami Hoag
 
“Entertaining and intriguing. . . . Kramer’s characters, plotting and pace are spot-on.” —RT Book Reviews

“Julie Kramer has proven that she has what it takes. Her books are light but a bit edgy and her heroine is fun, spunky, and completely loveable.” —BookBitch
 
“Riley Spartz is at it again—digging up news and looking for ratings.” —St. Paul Pioneer Press
 
“Kramer fills Missing Mark with wonderful characters and a story that never quits. A new star in the mystery skies, Kramer will be one to watch as she gets better with each book.” —Crimespree Magazine

“The sense of place is wonderful, and Riley is a person it is easy to ‘root’ for. It’s easy to see why this author received first mystery award nominations.” —Deadly Pleasures Magazine
 
“If you liked Jon Hassler’s take on central Minnesota in Staggerford; if you liked Thomas Gifford’s take on Taylor’s Falls in The Wind Chill Factor, if you liked Mary Logue’s picture of river rats along the St. Croix, you’ll enjoy Kramer’s informed look into the nuts and bolts and screw-ups of our news media.” —River Falls Journal

“Kramer has written a very enjoyable mystery. . . . Riley is an interesting character, a woman I think I’d like to know. . . . I am looking forward to reading more about Riley and her adventures.” —P.J. Coldren, Reviewing the Evidence
 
“Slick. . . . [A] fun mystery thriller.” —Publishers Weekly

Nicely done. . . . [Kramer] nails everything from the interaction between on-air talent and producers to all the showbiz hustle that goes into grabbing ratings. . . . [Riley Spartz is] a likable heroine in an intriguing profession.” —Kirkus

“Issues of class, complications of a rare medical condition, and elements of romance add to the interest of this sequel, which has a surprising final twist and a neatly satisfying ending.  Kramer has a winning series here.” —Booklist
Reader's Guide|About the Book|Author Biography|Discussion Questions|Suggestions

About the Book

The questions, discussion topics, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group's discussion of Missing Mark, the page-turning sequel to Stalking Susan by Julie Kramer.

About the Guide

TV reporter Riley Spartz pursues a curious story of a bride left at the altar and finds herself caught in a dangerous missing-person case.

When Riley Spartz sees a want ad reading “Wedding Dress for Sale: Never Worn,” her news instincts tell her that the backstory might make an intriguing television sweeps piece.

The groom, Mark, last seen at the rehearsal dinner, never showed up for the wedding, humiliating his bride, Madeline—and her high-strung, high-society mother—in front of 300 guests. His own mother, eager to spare him further embarrassment, waited weeks before filing a missing-person report and then learned how difficult it is to get police, or the media, interested in missing men.

Now Riley is up against a boss who thinks that finding a famed missing fish will net the station higher ratings, a meth cartel trying to assassinate a K-9 dog because of his powerful nose for drugs, and a neighbor who holds perpetual garage sales that attract traffic at odd hours.

When her missing-person case leads to a murder investigation, Riley discovers a startling motive for Mark's disappearance—and a TV exclusive guaranteed to win the ratings . . . if she lives to report it.

About the Author

Julie Kramer is a freelance network news producer.  She formerly ran WCCO-TV’s nationally award-winning investigative unit in Minneapolis.  Her debut thriller, Stalking Susan, won the Minnesota Book Award and the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best First Mystery and was a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award and the Anthony Award.  She lives with her family in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.

Discussion Guides

1. Which missing people cases catch your attention? Are you more interested in cases involving missing men or missing women? Do you think the media covers too many cases, or not enough? How important is it to the storyline that Mark is the central focus of the case, rather than Madeline?

2. What do you think about the use of face blindness as a character trait for Madeline?  How does it contribute to her grief over Mark's disappearance?  Were Madeline not to have suffered from prosopagnosia, do you think she still would have been attracted to Mark? What did they have in common?

3. How might prosopagnosia hamper your own ability to function socially? Madeline seems to value her independence more than her mother–did Vivian make herself a crutch for Madeline, especially with Mark? Why do you think Vivian really killed Mark—love, hate, or jealousy?

4. Have you or someone you know ever sold a wedding dress, or ever thought about it? What might make you do so? Would you ever wear a wedding dress worn by someone else? Would you wear Madeline’s dress after knowing the circumstances of it never being worn?

5. What do you think of the use of a TV newsroom as the setting for MISSING MARK? Does learning how a newsroom works make you distrust reporters or sympathize with them? Does the first-person insight into Riley’s personal life influence your reaction?

6. Do you think that it is a good idea for Riley to become so friendly with Madeline? From the beginning, Riley seems to be entering the friendship under false pretenses (just to get more scoop for her story), but as their relationship progresses, do you think that Riley really wants to be friends with Madeline? Does Madeline need Riley as a friend just as much or more so than Riley needs Madeline for her story?

7. What is the significance of Garnett’s re-appearance in MISSING MARK? Is he a missed opportunity or a regret for Riley? Do you think Riley knows what kind of relationship she wants with Garnett? What is your reaction to this romantic thread in the narrative?

8. If one of the regular supporting characters in the Riley Spartz series—Noreen, Garnett, Shep, Toby, Xiong–had to be killed off, who do you think would be the most appropriate to sacrifice? Is it because you see a definite end to their plotline or do you think that their death would cause the start of another thrilling case for Riley?

9. Does Riley Spartz remind you of any well-known news reporters or fictionalized investigative reporters? How do you respond to her tenacious reporting style? Does Riley’s no-holds-barred attitude lead her into unnecessary trouble and comprising situations or is it what makes her so successful?

10. Riley doesn’t seem to have a lot of strong female friendships. At times, her relationship with Shep seems to be stronger than those she has with actual people. Do you agree? If so, why do you think this is so? Is Riley’s career to blame?

11. If you could choose a character in this book to be named after you, which would you choose?  Do you particularly identify with any of the characters? Is there one you'd definitely not want your name associated with?

12. In a mystery novel, how important is the “Why Done It” in a “Who Done It?”

13. Does the disappearance of Big Mouth Billy Bass mirror Mark’s disappearance in any way? What similarities and differences in motive are there? Why do you think animal cases are always on file with Riley? Do they carry more of a human interest factor? As you learn more about Mark’s character, do you find that you are more concerned about both the well being of Shep and Big Mouth Billy than about Mark?


(For a complete list of available reading group guides, and to sign up for the Reading Group Center enewsletter, visit www.readinggroupcenter.com)

Suggested Readings

Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich; Lethal Legacy by Linda Fairstein; Stalking Susan by Julie Kramer; The Spellmans Strike Again by Lisa Lutz; Undone by Karin Slaughter; Die For You by Lisa Unger

Your E-Mail Address
send me a copy

Recipient's E-Mail Address
(multiple addresses may be separated by commas)

A personal message: