Book Excerpt: Thief’s Mark by Carla Neggers

About Thief’s Mark

  • Series: Sharpe & Donovan (Book 8)
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: MIRA (August 29, 2017)

A murder in a quiet English village, long-buried secrets and a man’s search for answers about his traumatic past entangle FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan in the latest edge-of-your-seat Sharpe & Donovan novel. 

As a young boy, Oliver York witnessed the murder of his wealthy parents in their London apartment. The killers kidnapped him and held him in an isolated Scottish ruin, but he escaped, thwarting their plans for ransom. Now, after thirty years on the run, one of the two men Oliver identified as his tormentors may have surfaced.

Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan are enjoying the final day of their Irish honeymoon when a break-in at the home of Emma’s grandfather, private art detective Wendell Sharpe, points to Oliver. The Sharpes have a complicated relationship with the likable, reclusive Englishman, an expert in Celtic mythology and international art thief who taunted Wendell for years. Emma and Colin postpone meetings in London with their elite FBI team and head straight to Oliver. But when they arrive at York’s country home, a man is dead and Oliver has vanished.

As the danger mounts, new questions arise about Oliver’s account of his boyhood trauma. Do Emma and Colin dare trust him? With the trail leading beyond Oliver’s small village to Ireland, Scotland and their own turf in the United States, the stakes are high, and Emma and Colin must unravel the decades-old tangle of secrets and lies before a killer strikes again.

New York Times bestselling author Carla Neggers delivers the gripping, suspense-filled tale readers have been waiting for.

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About Carla Neggers

Carla Neggers is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 60 novels, including her popular Sharpe and Donovan and Swift River Valley series. Her books have been translated into 24 languages and sold in over 35 countries. A frequent traveler to Ireland, Carla lives with her family in New England. To learn more and to sign up for her newsletter,


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As they reached the cottage, Tony Balfour came out the front door. Cassie jumped—she was in easy-to-startle mode—but Henrietta was pleased to see him. He was her father’s first cousin, the only child of Freddy and Posey’s middle sibling, Anthony, who’d died tragically when Tony was a baby. He’d retired in April after a career as a landscaper at various public gardens throughout England. He was living in the Kershaw cottage temporarily, in exchange for overseeing the renovations, a perfect arrangement as he figured out what was next for him. Henrietta suspected gardening was perhaps a stronger Balfour family tradition than intelligence work. Divorced with no children, he hadn’t decided where to settle in retirement. He was in excellent shape and still muscular from decades of physical work, but he was clearly ready to go at his own pace and do other things.

Henrietta, love,” Tony said, taking her by the hand and kissing her on the cheek. He was dressed in his work clothes, and she could smell plaster dust on him on him but saw no sign of it on his gray, paint-stained hoody. He stood back. “I heard the news. What on earth happened?”

It wasn’t the morning I had in mind, but I’ve rallied.”

Thank heavens you weren’t hurt. You weren’t, were you?”

Not at all. No one was, except the man who died.”

Tony nodded, his expression a mix of grimness and curiosity. “We’ve lived quiet lives compared to Oliver York, haven’t we?”

Henrietta’s going to take a look at the painting we discovered,” Cassie said.

Great idea. It’s priceless in its own way. I’m sorry I’m in a rush. I need to pick up a few things at the hardware store.” He shifted again to Henrietta. “Phone me if the adrenaline wears off and you want to talk. Once a worker cut his arm and the resulting mess…” He made a face and held up a hand. “Never mind. It wasn’t a fatal accident but you don’t need have that picture dancing around in your head.”

I imagine not,” Henrietta said. “Thank you.”

I’ll see you later, then.”

He headed up the path toward the Kershaw house. Henrietta had never seen anyone quite so happy to retire. Tony heartily approved of her career change and had assured her Posey would have, too. Of course, he believed she’d worked in a dull London office job.

Henrietta followed Casey into the cottage. The front room was cleared of any furniture while the plastering was being redone. Tony did most of the work, but he’d bring in professionals when needed or grab Nigel Burns or Eugene for easier jobs that needed more than one pair of hands. Since the cottage had once belonged to the Balfours, Henrietta was madly curious about the renovations but tried not to be too nosy.

Eugene emerged from the kitchen. “I was just in the village,” he said. “Everyone’s shocked at the news of the death at the York farm. I suppose it’s natural for our minds to jump to violence rather than an unfortunate accident. Oliver bolting doesn’t help, but one can understand why he might, under the circumstances. After what he went through as a boy, who wouldn’t?”

Best to let the police sort this, Eugene,” Henrietta said.

Yes, of course. You’re right.” He smiled. “You’re sensible like your aunt, Henrietta.”

Posey was thrilled when you decided to take on the farm.”

A late bloomer, I believe she called me.”

Eugene was nine years older than Cassie, a bit grayer and balder these days but in good shape from his farm work and as amiable as ever. He and Cassie had clicked the moment Henrietta had introduced them to each other, the only instance she’d successfully played matchmaker—not that she’d meant to play matchmaker. It was an accident, really. She’d looked up Cassie on a trip to Boston given their family connection, and they’d hit it off. Cassie had come to the Cotswolds to visit and Henrietta had shown her out to the old Balfour farm. Eugene had been there, cutting the grass after work. They’d ended up at the pub together and eight months later, Cassie and Eugene were married at the village church.

Henrietta had known Eugene since her visits with her aunt as a child. Her parents would drop her off in the Cotswolds for weeks while they binged on opera or scooted to Paris without her. Eugene and his younger sister, who now ran a restaurant in Oxford, had spent holidays with their grandparents on the former Balfour farm. For as far back as Henrietta could remember, Eugene had expressed his desire to revive the farm. He’d loved to talk about horses, Cotswold sheep, dairy cows and grain fields. Henrietta couldn’t say it’d ever been her ambition to move into Aunt Posey’s house full-time, but she did love the place. It had seemed like a practical, workable option when she’d quit MI5. Flowers, herbs, shrubs, pots, cutting and watering regimes. Simpler than uncovering schemes to commit mass murder.

She turned her attention to the matter at hand. “Well, what do we have?”

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