Duplicity by Ingrid ThoftDuplicity by Ingrid Thoft


byIngrid Thoft

Hardcover | January 10, 2017

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Gutsy Boston P.I. Fina Ludlow returns with a case that puts her faith to the test—in the latest addition to the critically acclaimed series by Ingrid Thoft.

When Ceci Renard hires Ludlow and Associates to sue the hip new church that she believes has brainwashed her daughter, Fina Ludlow is assigned to the case. Covenant Rising Church has all the trappings of a less-than-holy organization: a slick young pastor and his comely wife; fancy houses and luxury cars; and devoted congregants who seem eager to part with their money. Fina wonders if Ceci disapproves of Covenant Rising’s theology or the pastor’s ability to solicit generous donations—until a prominent church member dies unexpectedly. Fina’s investigation requires her to delve into the woman's life—both in and out of Covenant Rising—and ask a host of difficult questions. Is the pastor leading his flock astray? Did the church have a hand in the death or were there less savory elements in the woman's life outside the parish?
            The case proves to be a complicated morass of misplaced loyalties and questionable motivations, rivaled only by the current state of the Ludlow family. The return of eldest brother Rand sets in motion an explosive showdown that threatens the very fabric that holds the family together, forcing Fina to confront the true meaning of faith.
Ingrid Thoft, Shamus Award-winning author of the critically acclaimed novels Identity, Loyalty, and Brutality, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and is a graduate of Wellesley College. Her desire to create a believable P.I. character led her to the certificate program in private investigation at the University of Washington.
Title:DuplicityFormat:HardcoverDimensions:448 pages, 9.31 × 6.31 × 1.38 inPublished:January 10, 2017Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0399171193

ISBN - 13:9780399171192


Read from the Book

one “He just boarded a flight to Boston.”Fina Ludlow swore under her breath and pulled the comforter up to her chin with her free hand. The ringing phone had awoken her. “Did he check any bags?” she asked.“Four big ones,” the PI in Miami said. “Looks like he’s planning to stay awhile.”“Thanks for the update, Bobby.”Fina placed the phone on her bedside table and weighed her -options. She could curl up in a ball or kick off the covers and get the job done.Choosing option B, Fina walked into the bathroom and turned on the shower. Standing under the hot water, she could think of just one thing:How the hell would she get the job done?How the hell was she going to get rid of her miscreant brother?“Did you break up with Ceci or did she break up with you?” Fina asked her father.Carl Ludlow sat next to her in a matching wingback chair, his ankles crossed, exposing a black silk sock with tiny plum-colored dots.“I’m not going to answer that.”“Come on, Dad.” She grinned. “Humor me.” The situation was like a car crash: Though it made her queasy, she couldn’t look away from her father’s romantic past.“Leave it alone, Fina.” He rose and walked over to the fireplace before circumnavigating the room. Fina watched as he gazed out the French doors to the expansive yard, perused the titles on the bookshelves, and studied an abstract painting that anchored the wall opposite the fireplace before returning to his seat.“Why so antsy?” she asked. “Nervous about seeing your first love?”Carl grimaced.“You don’t want to talk about it? How about Rand?” She consulted her watch. “I heard he left Miami this morning. How can you let him come back?”“I don’t want to discuss this, Fina. Your brother is coming back, and you just need to deal with it.”Before she could respond, Ceci Renard came into the room. “I’m sorry I’ve kept you waiting.”In her early sixties, Ceci was the picture of understated wealth, the kind of woman featured in pharmaceutical ads for the worried well. Her hair was chin length, shiny, and a variegated blond that can only be achieved at great expense in an upscale salon. She wore black trousers and a light blue silk blouse under a gray cashmere sweater.Carl and Fina stood, and Ceci and Carl embraced stiffly. “Carl, I can’t thank you enough for coming.”“Of course. Happy to be of assistance.”“And this must be Josefina?” Ceci extended her hand. “I haven’t seen you since you were a little girl.”“All grown up, and please, call me Fina.”Ceci gestured for them to sit down as she took a few steps closer to the fire. She stretched her hands toward its warmth. “Hard to believe it’s spring and there are flowers blooming somewhere.”“That’s New England in March,” Carl commented.“Elaine and the rest of the family?” Ceci asked. “They’re well?”At the mention of her mother, Fina’s back tightened. Not too long ago, she’d dropped a bombshell on Elaine, and their already strained relationship would put the Cold War to shame.“Everyone’s great,” Carl said. Fina could detect a note of impatience in his voice. Her father wasn’t much for small talk.Ceci took a seat on the sofa facing them and crossed her ankles. “I wish I could say the same for the Renards. We have a situation, and I need help.”“Of course,” Carl said, shifting forward in his seat. Her father was a problem solver at heart—he liked to get stuff done. “My assistant said that you sent a retainer, so anything you say to me is protected by privilege.”Ceci glanced at Fina, a question on her face.“She’s covered by attorney-client privilege,” Carl assured her. “Just think of Fina as an extension of me.”Fina fought not to roll her eyes.Ceci pushed a strand of hair behind one ear. “I’m very concerned about my daughter Chloe. She’s recently become involved with a church, and I think they are having undue influence on her.”“In what way?” Carl asked.“She’s drifting away from our family, and her judgment has been compromised.”“Is she in danger?” Carl asked.“No, but I’m worried—I’m actually starting to feel panicked, truth be told.” Ceci looked away. “I’m not sure how to best describe the situation.”“Why don’t you start at the beginning,” Fina suggested. “How old is Chloe?”“Thirty.”Fina and Carl exchanged a glance.“I know she’s not a child anymore, but this isn’t like her, and there’s a great deal at risk.” Ceci’s gaze drifted to the family photos on the mantel. She focused on one of a young woman in cap and gown, her hands clasping a diploma.There was rustling in the hallway, and Ceci looked toward the door. “I’ve been so rude. I didn’t even offer you coffee or tea.” She pushed herself out of the deep couch.“We’re fine,” Carl said. “Your housekeeper already made the offer.”“Oh, good.” Ceci settled back into the cushions.“So this church,” Fina prompted.“It’s called Covenant Rising Church, and it’s based in Framingham. It’s a born-again evangelical organization.”“And you’re not evangelical?” Fina asked.“No. I was raised as a Methodist and my husband, Victor, was raised Catholic. He’s from France. I didn’t like Covenant Rising’s theology from the outset,” she continued, “but I tried to be supportive. I worried that if I were critical, Chloe would resent it and that would only strengthen her commitment to the church.”“What’s your relationship with your daughter like?” Fina asked.Ceci met her gaze. “We’ve always been close, but she’s become distant as her involvement with the church has grown.”“Has something changed recently?” Carl asked. “What’s happened that’s made you so worried?”Ceci adjusted the delicate gold watch on her wrist. “My husband and I created trusts for Chloe and her older sister, Veronique, which pay out money to them at various milestones. We’ve also deeded property to them. I recently learned that Chloe is in the process of turning over a significant holding to Covenant Rising.”“Ahh,” Carl said, nodding. “But she’s thirty . . .”Ceci shook her head. “I know what you’re going to say, Carl. That she’s an adult, and she can do what she wants with her money, but if she were thinking straight, she wouldn’t give away this property. Chloe went through a very difficult breakup about a year ago, and I think that is influencing some of her choices.”“In what way?” Fina asked.“I think she’s been having a quarter-life crisis. The man she thought would become her husband and the father of her children was not, in fact, ‘the one.’ She was at sea trying to figure out what was next, and a friend introduced her to the church. They’ve given Chloe free rein to develop an arts therapy outreach program, which has been a dream of hers.”“But just to be clear, you don’t have control over the property, correct?” Carl asked.“That’s correct.”They were quiet for a moment, contemplating the limits of Ceci’s influence.“And there’s no point in calling the cops,” Carl commented, “because there’s nothing illegal going on.”She nodded. “Lest you think I haven’t tried to deal with this on my own, I was in touch with the church leadership, but no one will speak with me or at least tell me anything substantive.”“They’re stonewalling you?” Fina asked.“Yes.” Ceci was literally wringing her hands as she recounted her experience. “Even though no crime has been committed, they are, in essence, stealing from Chloe.”Fina looked at her father. That was a bit of a stretch.“I found some articles on the Internet,” Ceci said, moving to a small desk in the corner of the room and picking up a file folder. She shuffled through the papers before handing a small sheaf to Carl. “I want to sue them for alienation. I know it’s a difficult prospect, but there have been other cases.”He scanned the papers, and Ceci returned to the couch.“This sort of case is very difficult to win, Ceci.”“I know, but I’m desperate. It’s not just about the money and the bequest. I feel like I’m losing my daughter, Carl. We’ve always been so close, and now there’s a wall between us that I can’t seem to breach.”“She doesn’t live with the group, does she?” Fina asked. Carl passed the printouts to her.“No, and she has a job unrelated to Covenant Rising. Believe me, I would hire an extraction expert if that would help, but it’s not like that.” Ceci rubbed her temple as if massaging away a headache. “It seems like she’s not making her own decisions anymore: The lead pastor is. He’s only in it for the money and the power, but Chloe doesn’t see it that way. I know you think I’m overreacting, but I’m telling you this is a dangerous situation.”“Nobody joins a cult,” Fina murmured. Her father looked at her. “Nobody signs up thinking they’re joining a cult,” she clarified. “They only figure it out when it’s too late.”“Exactly,” Ceci said. “I don’t want it to be too late.”“A lawsuit becomes very public, very quickly,” Carl cautioned. “Are you and Victor prepared for that?”Ceci swallowed. “Victor spends most of his time in Paris.”Carl considered that for a moment. “But the world is a small place these days, Cee. He won’t be immune to publicity and gossip, even on another continent.”“I’m not happy about the possibility, but if that’s what it takes to get Chloe away from this organization, that’s what we need to do.”Carl massaged his knuckles. “Maybe there’s a chink in the armor we can use,” he said, “and a suit won’t even be necessary.”“I can do some digging,” Fina offered.“And I’ll research our legal options.”“Does Chloe know how you feel about the church and her bequest?” Fina asked.“We’ve had numerous discussions about my objections to both the church and the property transfer, but she won’t budge. There’s no point in continuing to have the same dead-end conversation. I’ve let her know that I’m hiring some people to perform due diligence, and my hope is something will come up that will change her mind.”“And that’s okay with her? Due diligence?”“She didn’t object. We’ve always impressed upon our children the need to take care of their assets,” Ceci said. “Obviously, Chloe didn’t learn that lesson. That’s the thing about my daughter: She’s extraordinarily trusting, which is both an asset and a liability.”“But she won’t be surprised if I contact her?” Fina asked.“No. I’ve told her to expect a call,” Ceci said. “I would just ask that you not discuss the possibility of a lawsuit. Not yet, at least.”“I’m sure Fina can navigate the situation,” Carl said.“Of course,” Fina said. She appreciated the vote of confidence, but worried that Carl was making a promise she would have to keep.“Can you start right away? The bequest is already in motion.”“I’ll get right on it,” Fina said, while her father nodded.Ceci exhaled loudly. “You don’t know what a relief this is. I’m at my wit’s end.”“You should have called me sooner,” Carl said.“I know. It didn’t occur to me, until I saw one of your ads.” Ceci dipped her head sheepishly. Fina wasn’t sure if she was embarrassed on her own behalf or on behalf of Carl. He starred in his own TV ads that aired with alarming frequency, touting the benefits of Ludlow and Associates, the family’s personal injury law firm. The TV ads were cheesy and seemingly ubiquitous, but obviously effective.Carl smiled. “I know that my ads aren’t your style, Cee, but they get the job done.”Ceci smiled briefly, and they sat for a moment in awkward silence.Fina spoke, hoping to break the weird spell between the former flames. “Depending upon how cooperative Chloe is, I may need more information from you.”“Of course. Just let me know.” Ceci stood, and Fina and Carl followed her to the door of the living room.“That’s a beautiful painting,” Fina said, pointing to a large canvas. It depicted a man and woman sitting in a crowded restaurant, the man leaning toward the woman as if to whisper in her ear. She looked distracted, her hand reaching toward the candle on the table.“That’s one of Chloe’s,” Ceci said with a wide smile.“She painted that?” Fina took a step forward to examine it more closely. “I’m no expert, but it’s beautiful.”“She’s very talented,” Ceci said.Fina offered Ceci her card, and they shook hands. Her father and Ceci reenacted the fumbling embrace that had kicked off the meeting.Back on the street, Fina and Carl stood next to their cars. “Remind me,” she said, “when did you guys stop dating?”“A long time ago. Around college.” He clicked his keys, and his car started remotely.“Huh.”“What’s that supposed to mean?”“It just seems like it was more recent than that. Usually after forty years, people loosen up a little.”“We’re from a different generation.” Carl opened his door. “I want you to give this your full attention.”“Okay.”“Top priority.”“Yeah, I get it, Dad.”“Good. I expect results.” He ducked into the car.“You always do. Dad! Wait! We never finished our Rand conver-sation.”“It’ll have to wait, Fina. I’m late for a meeting,” Carl said.“This is bullshit! What the hell is going on?”“We will discuss it later,” he said before slamming his door. He took off in the direction of Harvard Square.“Dammit,” she exclaimed, watching him drive away. Fina climbed into her car and turned the key in the ignition.She didn’t know exactly what Rand’s return portended, but one thing was sure: It was nothing good.Fina pulled into the parking lot of her niece’s school and scrolled through her e-mail. Haley was due out of her after-school activities at any moment.It had been nearly a year since her brother Rand’s wife, Melanie, had been murdered, and since then things with their daughter, Haley, had been touch and go. Fina’s brother Scotty and his wife, Patty, had become her de facto parents. Haley was adjusting to their household and to her role as an older sister to their three young sons, but Fina didn’t underestimate how difficult such a change could be.Haley emerged from the school five minutes later and scanned the parking lot. When she started back toward the front door, Fina called her cell phone.“Don’t go back inside,” she told Haley. “I’m here to pick you up.”“Why are you picking me up? I thought it was going to be Aunt Patty.”“Since when do I need a reason to see my favorite niece?” Fina watched Haley start back into the lot.“Your only niece. I don’t see your car.”“Walk to your right.”Haley did a slow turn and started walking in her direction. “Why don’t you ever drive something fancy?” Haley asked. It was odd watching her lips move as she approached, but only hearing the words through the phone.“Because of my job. I don’t want to be conspicuous. I need to blend in.”Haley ended the call and slipped her phone into her pocket before reaching for the car door.“Hey. What’s shakin’ bacon?” Fina asked, leaning over to give her a kiss.Haley rolled her eyes and reached for her seat belt. “Nothing.”“What do you want to do?”The girl shrugged and studied the scenery going by. “Whatever.”“We could get something to eat. We could go shopping.” Fina felt the shopping offer truly demonstrated how much she loved Haley. She didn’t like shopping, but was willing to brave the hordes at the mall if Haley wanted to.“Let’s just go home.”“You don’t want a frappe or some pizza or something?”Haley looked at her. “I kind of have a headache. I think I’d rather go home and take a nap.”“Okay. Whatever you want.”Fina’s attempts at small talk were unsuccessful, and the car ride was awkward.“Thanks, Aunt Fina,” Haley said when they pulled up in front of the house. “Sorry I’m a party pooper.”“It’s okay, sweetie.”Haley reached for the door handle.“Is everything okay?” Fina asked. “Within reason?” She didn’t know if Haley was aware of her father’s return and if that was the reason for her demeanor.“It’s fine.”“You know, if you ever need to talk, I’m here for you. So are Aunt Patty and Uncle Scotty.”“Yes, and I have a shrink, too,” Haley replied impatiently. “I’m fine. I wish you guys would stop bugging me.”She pushed open the car door and slammed it behind her.Fina watched her enter the house and wondered if she should follow her in and report the failed outing to her sister-in-law. That would probably annoy Haley even more, so she pulled away from the curb instead and made a mental note to mention it to Patty.How did parents figure out when to push their children and when to back off? If you were too involved, you could alienate your kid, but if you weren’t involved enough, they might drift off for lack of solid ballast.Did Haley really want to be left alone or was that her way of asking them to come closer?

Editorial Reviews

“A winning addition to an entertaining series….Thoft’s fourth Fina Ludlow outing (after Brutality, 2015) finds the tenacious Fina in fighting form, juggling personal and professional demands to attain justice despite the cost. A winning addition to an entertaining series.”—Booklist“Engrossing.” –Seattle Times“Thoft gracefully delivers an action-packed plot loaded with realistic dialogue and believable characters…weaves in several well-devised twists…[illustrates] the complexity of family relationships.” –Associated PressPraise for Brutality “Exciting . . . The multilayered plot of Brutality excels with believable twists and realistic characters. One could imagine Fina becoming fast friends and colleagues with Sara Paretsky’s V. I. Warshawski, Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone and Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan.” —Associated Press “Not only do readers have a bird’s-eye view of Fina’s sleuthing activities, but they also are given carte blanche access to the relationships with the dysfunctional family that nurtured Fina. Thoft’s latest title is worthy of the acclaim its predecessors have garnered.” —Library Journal (starred review) “Thoft is an entertaining storyteller, and her quirky protagonist’s the equal of any male gumshoe.” —Kirkus Reviews