Spectrum Book Cover | Alan JacobsonNorwood Press, 2014 (hardcover)
Open Road (trade paperback)
Open Road (eBook)

It’s 1995, the NYPD has just graduated a promising new patrol officer named Karen Vail—and the rookie cop is immediately put to the test: A young woman has been murdered. There are no forensics. No witnesses. And the manner in which she was killed is unlike anything the department has seen before. The offender shows no signs of stopping, however, and over the ensuing 19 years, the case that becomes known as “Hades” takes many unexpected twists and turns—as does Vail’s career.

Now a skilled FBI profiler, will she be in a better position to catch a killer who has terrorized New York City for three decades? Or will Hades prove to be Karen Vail’s hell on earth? This is the character that James Patterson, Michael Connelly and Nelson DeMille have referred to as one of the most compelling heroes in suspense fiction. Find out why–in Spectrum.

“Authoritative, compelling and crisp, Spectrum moves with a velocity that seems to make the pages turn themselves. Alan Jacobson creates a textured narrative which satisfies the reader on every level, placing vivid characters in an utterly convincing and dangerous world. A pleasure to read.”

Richard North PattersonNew York Times Bestselling Author

“During my 40 years with the NYPD, I knew the streets of New York and the challenges a detective faces solving crimes in the big city. Alan Jacobson’s Spectrum put me back on the street by bringing a gritty realism and noirish perspective only a fellow New Yorker can provide. Spectrum’s authenticity enhances a riveting, well-told story.”

Captain Edward Mamet, commander of detectives, NYPD (Ret.)

“Alan Jacobson handles multiple timelines with equal skill and aplomb in the scintillating Spectrum (Open Road, $17.99, 438 pages). The opening chapters not only take his formidable Karen Vail out of wine country, they take her back twenty years in time to her early days in law enforcement as a New York cop. Just as serial killers seem to keep finding her in the present, one especially persistent one finds her in the past. Persistent because the killer who becomes known as Hades, it turns out, is still at it in 2014 and now it becomes personal. Toward that end, Jacobson fashions a brilliant cat-and-mouse game that enjoys an epic quality birthed in their conflict now spanning nearly a generation. With Thomas Harris apparently retired, Jacobson has become the indisputable king of the serial killer form, having mastered every facet of this sub-genre and Spectrum is a pulse-pounding exercise in white-knuckle storytelling.”

 Providence Journal

“Alan Jacobson has written the perfect balance between the present and the past lineage of Karen Vail’s career in Spectrum. …Alan Jacobson does not just tell us a story, he pulls us into the lives of the characters and leaves us breathless until the very last page. ‘Spectrum’ could not be better titled. As the reader, you get to ride along as Alan takes you on a high-speed chase that encompasses the spectrum of the lives of the characters. You will be as committed as our heroes, as they search for a killer who has eluded them for decades. And you will run the spectrum of emotions from fear to anger, from laughter to tears, and from sympathy to disgust as you witness how one tiny misstep in one person’s life can forever alter the lives of many. For fans of Alan Jacobson, this is the book you’ve been waiting for. For those of you who have not had the privilege of reading him yet, Spectrum is the perfect jumping-in point!”
 Suspense Magazine

“For those readers who have yet to read any of Alan Jacobson’s books in the Karen Vail series, Spectrum is number six, yet it would be an excellent novel to begin with. This action packed tale describes Vail’s first days as a New York City cop, and later, her transition from the police department to the FBI… The author, well known for his thorough research before writing his novels, continues his practice in Spectrum. He takes the reader on a journey of NYC and its iconic tourist attractions, restaurants, and landmarks. The locations, cop dialogue, and tactics are spot on, due to the relationships Jacobson has forged over the years with various law enforcement and medical professionals… Readers will enjoy learning that Vail isn’t the perfect cop or agent. Her personal life is often times in tatters, and professionally speaking, she doesn’t always make the right decisions. These flaws actually make her character more credible and endear her to the reader. Spectrum has more twists and turns than a corn maze. Just when you think you have it all figured out, Jacobson throws up a dead end sign and you have to back out of what you thought was the right path to turn down. That’s good writing. Kudos to the author for his focus on even the little things while describing how the police and feds operate. He has truly done his homework.”
 New York Journal of Books

“Jacobson takes the reader into the past so we can follow Vail’s life in law enforcement up to the present, providing a more enriching profile of his series heroine. The final result is a compelling and chilling thriller that continues to showcase the author’s talent for great characters and plots.”
 Library Journal

“Jacobson’s intriguing sixth Karen Vail novel (after 2013’s No Way Out) chronicles the first case that his heroine handled as a rookie NYPD patrol officer….Series fans will appreciate the extensive background information that details Vail’s growth as an investigator.”
 Publisher’s Weekly

“Bestseller Alan Jacobson’s sixth Karen Vail novel is his best work to date. SPECTRUM is an epic origin story that spans decades, tracing not only Vail’s path from rookie cop to top FBI profiler—but also the makings of the killer she’s been tracking for nearly twenty years. …Longtime Vail fans will relish in learning about her early years to say nothing of how Jacobson seamlessly weaves in references to cases from past Vail novels. At the same time, the book is a great entryway for newcomers to the series, since it provides a full picture of the beloved Vail in a story that stands alone. As always, Jacobson’s research on law enforcement procedure is impeccable and brings an authenticity few can match. But in SPECTRUM he also crafts a period piece, vividly taking readers on a journey from 1970s New York to the haunting events of 9/11 to present day. Just when you think you know how it will end, Jacobson throws in a shocker. Without giving anything away, it is fitting that it took Vail’s evolution—her two decades studying the human mind—to bring a resolution to the Hades case. SPECTRUM is as ambitious as it is exceptional.
 The Strand Magazine

“Since the first Karen Vail adventure – The 7th Victim – took the reading world by storm in 2008, Jacobson has provided regular updates on the career of his damaged and dangerous FBI profiler. This book starts with a leap back in time to her days as a rookie cop with the NYPD in 1995. A killer known as Hades tormented the law agencies then, and nearly 20 years later he’s still out there – a clear and present danger. Vail tries to juggle her complex family life and her near obsession with the Hades killer. Her greatest challenge is to bring to justice the serial murderer without losing either her sanity or any of her loved ones.”
 Crime Fiction Lover

“Like a gripping case, Spectrum has all the pieces and evidence there, and if the reader does some good detective work, they will put it all together and know who the killer is by the end, or be pleasantly surprised. Spectrum is the best Karen Vail novel yet and whether you’re familiar with the series or this is the first one you’re reading, you’ll be hooked from cover to cover.”

“In Spectrum, Alan Jacobson takes us back in time to the roots of Karen Vail in a way that brings more life to her not only as a cop but as a person. While we know who she is in the present day, Spectrum shows us how she got there through the events and misfortunes that made her the driven FBI agent we’ve come to know. Spectrum is rare in that it’s an excellent entry point for readers new to the Karen Vail series, but also serves as a perfect sixth installment. It’s not just one of Jacobson’s finest novels to date, but one that must have been his hardest to write. He does it so well that it has taken him to new heights as the best of the best in suspense fiction.”
 Mysteries Galore

“Jacobson presents a well thought out and balanced novel, which grabbed me immediately and would not let go. Because he’s an expert at using psychology that twists and turns behind behavior for all of his major characters, and does it in a way that makes perfect sense, the story in Spectrum takes on a dimension and layered effect that makes it fascinating to read. Just be sure to get a good night’s sleep before you start it because you won’t want to stop reading once you start it!”
 Popcorn Reads (Read the entire review here.)


Spectrum | A Karen Vail Novel (#6)

Copyright (c) 2014 Alan Jacobson. All Rights Reserved.

Chapter 1



Something was wrong. FBI profiler Karen Vail felt it more than she knew it, but there were times in her career when intuition was all she had to go on. And this was one of those times.

Seated next to her on the Airbus A319 due to take off for Dulles International was her boyfriend, or very significant (and sometimes underappreciated) other, Roberto Umberto Enrique Hernandez, his right arm and hand encased in a hard plaster cast. At six foot seven, he was more than a little cramped in the seat. But Vail did not seem to notice.

“I know that look,” Robby said. When he did not get a response, he said, “That look. I’ve seen it before. You’re worried. And still pissed off.”

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.” Unlike Vail’s demeanor, the flight attendant’s voice was calm, almost uninterested. “Welcome aboard. This is a full flight, so we need everyone in his or her seat as soon as possible so we can close the door and push back from the gate.”

Vail looked over at Robby—and noticed him for the first time since they left the homicide squad. “Yeah, I’m pissed off. Frustrated. Hurt. But what’s bothering me most is that I might’ve made a mistake. I’m not sure. I can’t be sure. And it’s killing me.”

“So you said. Twice. On the way over here.”

Actually, it was five times. Weren’t you listening?

“What’s changed in the last fifteen minutes?”

Vail closed her eyes. “We’re sitting on a plane about to leave town. And I know that once that door closes, I’m not coming back.”

“The way you and Russo left things, I don’t think you’d want to go back even if we got off the plane right now.”

Vail thought about that. Robby’s probably right, but how can I just go home? I pissed off one of the biggest supporters I’ve ever had in my career. My mentor, the guy who put his reputation on the line for me. She opened her eyes and examined the bulkhead. Am I right? Am I wrong? Am I missing something?

She had thought that she was too close to this case, was not seeing it objectively. Maybe it would’ve been better to hand it off to another profiler. But that would mean the NYPD would have to make an official request to the Behavioral Analysis Unit, and she doubted that was going to happen now.

At the moment, there was no time to take a step back and reassess. She was still in New York and they had a suspect in custody.

Vail watched the stewardess talk with the gate attendant. What should I do? Stay or go?

“Maybe I didn’t approach it the right way,” Vail said.

“Wouldn’t be the first time.”

She looked at Robby, her brow knitted in annoyance. “Thanks.”

“Just saying. Yeah, it’s possible. But I don’t think it matters now.”

“I still feel like I should go back.”

“Karen, I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

Since when did that ever stop me?

Robby nodded toward the front. “Either way, I think the train has left the station. They’re about to close the door.”

“I can’t do this,” Vail said. “I can’t just leave. I can’t live with that.” She yanked open her belt buckle and bolted for the exit.

“Karen, wait!”

But Vail did not wait. She ran down the aisle, her FBI creds dangling from her left hand. “Don’t lock that door!”

The flight attendant spun around, her face knotted in confusion—and alarm. “What?”

Vail shoved her brass badge into the woman’s face. “FBI, I need to get off the plane.”

“But—I’m sorry, miss. I just locked her down.”

“It’s agent. And I don’t care if you just closed the door. Open it.”

“I can’t. It’s against FAA—”

“I’m not interested in whatever regulation you’re going to quote. Open the goddamn door or you could be responsible for—”

“Is there a problem here?”

Vail turned—a second flight attendant had come up behind her. She glanced down at his name tag. “As long as she lets me out, Ed, no. There’s no problem.”

Robby cleared his throat, now lined up behind Ed. Robby gave Vail a dubious look. She ignored it and turned back to the woman.

“I’m going to call the captain,” Ed said.

Vail pulled out her BlackBerry and offered it to Ed. “I’ve got a better idea. Why don’t you call Douglas Knox? He’s listed on my speed dial under ‘FBI director.’”


VAIL AND ROBBY caught a cab and headed back into the city. She had already placed a call and left a voice mail, but instead of putting the phone away, she started dialing again.

“Now who are you calling?” Robby asked. “For that matter, where are we going?”
Vail paged through the numbers on her device. “I’m calling Russo.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Karen.”

“You keep saying that.”

“Maybe you need to start listening.”

Vail turned to Robby and stared him down. Then she hit a couple of buttons and her BlackBerry connected. After four rings, it clicked to voice mail.

“He’s not answering, is he?”

Vail clenched her jaw, then redialed. On the third ring, Russo answered.


“We need to talk.”

“I’m done talking. Go home, Karen.”

“I was. But I can’t. I feel the need to see this through. And when I feel something, feel it strongly, I can’t walk away.”

“We are seeing it through. The BAU has done its job. Now it’s our responsibility. Go home.”

Vail felt Robby’s eyes fixed on her face. She turned away, toward the side window.
“I— I want to help.”

She heard muffled sounds—a woman asking Russo a question and then him giving orders to someone—a driver?

“Karen, I don’t have time for this. I’m on the way to a scene. I’ll get back to y—”

“Hang on a minute. Another vic? One of ours?”

There was a long silence.

“Russo, is there another vic?”


VAIL WALKED INTO the apartment in the Battery Park City high-rise, Robby bringing up the rear.

The crime scene detective, Ryan Chandler, had just arrived and was setting up shop. He looked surprised to see Vail, but then reached into his kit and tossed booties to her and Robby.

They slipped them on and continued into the room. Russo had arrived a while ago and was talking with Detective Leslie Johnson at the far end of the room. Russo looked up and saw Vail. His expression was a mix of—she wasn’t sure. Embarrassment? Relief at her presence? Annoyance? No matter. This was not about her or Russo; it was about the victim in the other room and their shared imperative to catch the offender before more women turned up dead.

Robby came up behind her and murmured into her ear, “Staring at each other isn’t going to get you anywhere.”

“Right.” Vail walked over to Russo and asked the obvious question: “Is this the same offender?”

“I thought you might want to answer that one for yourself.”

“Looks like the same killer to me,” Chandler said.

She turned to survey the apartment. It was a nice spread, well appointed, everything in its place. Not unlike the other crime scenes.

Vail started in the living and family rooms, getting to know the woman. She glanced at unopened mail on the coffee table and took the victim’s name to be Katherine Stavros.

Greek. Big surprise there.

Vail found the medical examiner, Max Finkelstein, and conferred with him on the time of death.

“Bottom line,” he said, “the guy you got in custody’s good for this.”

His answer clearly pleased Russo, but Vail was less than satisfied. She moved on to a wall that abutted the kitchen, where framed photos were prominently displayed. Vail looked them over and took in the story they told about the victim’s life. Katherine seemed to have traveled a great deal: there were several exterior shots of her in various cities with male and female friends. Many of them looked like the kind of pictures posted to Facebook, iPhone candids of people having fun, sharing a beer or standing on a bridge with a city skyline behind them.

There were posed portraits as well, with what appeared to be family members—parents and great-grandparents, perhaps. Judging by their strong features and olive complexions, Katherine had Greek DNA in her cells.

Vail’s phone rang.

As she started to turn away, her eye caught something. She leaned in closer, then lifted the frame off the wall and examined the photo—

Wait, what the hell?

Vail was trying to work it through her brain as she reached for her BlackBerry.

And then it hit her.

Oh my god.



Following are topics designed to provide a stimulating discussion.

1. The information regarding Vail’s adventure in the Statue of Liberty’s arm is accurate. Given the opportunity, would you climb through the arm to get to the torch?

2. Alan makes a cameo appearance as “Al,” the waiter at Woodro Deli; he did, in fact, work there (a few years after the Spectrum scene). Can you name another book in which the author inserted him/herself into the story in some manner?

3. If you lived on Ellis Island the mid-late 1970s like the two families, would you consider it an adventure, an opportunity very few would have? Or would the lack of creature comforts make it untenable? Remember, there was no internet, no computers or cell phones, etc. back then.

4. The Domain Awareness System the NYPD has deployed is real. Surveillance and security is greatly enhanced as a result—but a reduction in privacy is the cost. How do you feel about that? Does the loss of privacy bother you, or is it more than offset by being safer?

5. When Proschetta is questioning Livana about Cassandra’s death, Livana withholds information regarding Dmitri’s behavior. She is forced to choose between finding the killer of her daughter and implicating her son—or at least subjecting him to intense scrutiny and questioning. If you were in Livana’s shoes, would you have cooperated and told Proschetta about the things she’d observed and experienced with Dimitri?

6. Spectrum provides us an interesting contrast between 1970s police work (take notes and fill out reports in carboned duplicate) with that of the 2010s (Domain Awareness System, surveillance, GPS, and computerized databases of criminal histories, not to mention the FBI’s VICAP database). Coincidentally—or not—the violent crime rate in New York City has fallen to its lowest levels in decades. Do you think the improvement is due to the rise in technological advances in crime solving or other external factor/s?

7. Faced with the predicament that Livana and Fedor found themselves in, would you have identified Basil’s killer, or would you have been intimidated by the mob’s reputation?

8. The turn of the century, and the early 1900s, was a time of tremendous immigrant influx that changed the United States—in an overwhelmingly positive way—forever. With immigration a hotly debated issue at the present time, do you think the government is right in restricting newcomers’ access to the United States? This is a complex question involving politics, budgets, healthcare, and culture—the culture of the US and that of the incoming prospective residents.

9. After the fight in the bowling alley, Livana senses that there’s something that Basil’s not telling her. Did she do the right thing in letting it go? And now that we know that Niklaus was the one who had cut Gregor’s face, was Basil right in protecting him, or should he have told Fedor at some point?

10. It’s estimated that 40 percent of all current U.S. citizens can trace at least one of their ancestors to Ellis Island. Do you have any relatives who passed through that portal—or know of anyone whose relatives did?

11. What characters in Spectrum appear in other Alan Jacobson novels? Which novels do they appear in (some appear in more than one). Which characters appear in Alan’s short stories?


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