Tough Customer: A Novel - book cover
Thrillers & Suspense
  • Publisher : Pocket Books; Reissue edition
  • Published : 28 Dec 2021
  • Pages : 512
  • ISBN-10 : 1982177128
  • ISBN-13 : 9781982177126
  • Language : English

Tough Customer: A Novel

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of Thick As Thieves "charges her characters and their relationships with electricity" (San Francisco Book Review) in this gripping novel of suspense.

When a deranged stalker attempts to murder her daughter Berry, Caroline King has no doubts about who to contact for help: Berry's father, the cagey private investigator Dodge Hanley. It's been thirty years since Dodge last saw Caroline, but she remains the one woman-among many-that he can't forget. He has a whole bagful of grudging excuses for ignoring Caroline's call-and one compelling reason to drop everything and fly down to Texas to protect the daughter he's never met: guilt.

As always, Dodge's perseverance knows no bounds as he teams with a small-town sheriff, but the alarming situation worsens when the stalker claims other victims, leaving a trail of clues lethally pointing toward Berry. And Dodge-a street-smart fighter who has always put his life on the line-realizes that this time, he's risking his heart as well.

Readers Top Reviews

Cindy OPeter barlow
This books starts off with Dodge Hanley getting a call from Caroline King stating their daughter is in trouble. Problem is he hasnt heard from Caroline in 30 years and the last time he saw his daughter was the day she was born 30 years ago.. I coudnt quite figure out exactly what age that made Dodge and Caroline but they had to at least be in there late 50 or early 60's. But you certainly couldnt tell it from they way they thought or acted.. There story is told through flashbacks. Berry (there daughter) has a stalker who is after her and he shoots her coworker at her mother house where they had been working. Then enters local deputy sheriff Ski Nyland. Dodge and Ski team up when the stalker starts killing other people.. This was a great book and its not the most clear cut HEA but it did bring tears to my eyes and it was very heartfelt..
E. GibsonJustJeri
I agree with another reviewer who said this book could have been half the length that it is. The flashbacks have nothing to do with the present dilemma, except to pad pages. I found myself skimming this material because I could sense the irrelevance of it. (and it was) Sandra Brown really needs to decide whether she is going to write suspense or romance. It feels like she wants to have the relationship between the damsel and the sheriff to be the main story. Unfortunately, anytime she introduced that kind of material, I felt myself saying, "oh brother." As a result of the dilemma, the main character gets to reunite with her long missing father. Can they accept each other? Okay, I can accept this being part of the fall-out of the crisis they were thrown into, but the sexual tension between her and the deputy, felt like the gratuitous sex scene, without anything really leading up to it. And the ending was disappointing too. We think the bad guy has been caught, but then there are about 50 pages of trivia before we find out he hasn't. The plotting really needs to be tighter than this. 
Barbara H
I'm glad I did not have my blood pressure checked while reading this book because it much higher than normal the entire time it took me to read Tough Customer. Having met Dodge while reading Smash Cut this book was like visiting a distant relative. The flash backs were excellent and explained how he and Caroline got together. The undercover police work was explained very well. Owen and Berry's conflict kept me guessing and the ending was a complete surprise. I hope we get to visit this family again some day.
A wild ride with this book and as an avid reader, I was surprised! A type of sweet talking cowboy, with a mean demeaned if he did not like you, yet could act if it was the job. In comes the woman he always love who had his daughter, that he has never met till now. The ride begins!
So many decisions we make in life are made in our late teens or early twenty’s that have life long consequences. In this story Dodge Hanley, a cop, uses every trick in the book to capture his man, including the use of his body. Unfortunately, Caroline King, his fiancé delivering their first baby is not so forgiving. She tells him to be gone before she returns from the hospital and that she never wants to see him again. Fast forward 30 years and his daughter’s daughter’s life is in danger. Read on to find out what happens…

Short Excerpt Teaser

Tough Customer CHAPTER
WHEN HIS CELL PHONE'S JINGLE PULLED HIM from a deep sleep, Dodge figured the caller was Derek. Likely his employer had had one of his famous middle-of-the-night brainstorms and wanted Dodge to act upon it immediately.

Dodge couldn't think of what might be so crucial that it couldn't keep till daylight, but Derek paid him to be on twenty-four-hour call, if for no other reason than to act as a sounding board.

He fumbled for his phone in the dark and, without even opening his eyes, figuring he was about to be sent out on an errand he wasn't in the mood for, answered with an unfriendly and unenthusiastic "Yeah?"


Surprised to hear a woman's voice, he sat up and swung his feet to the floor. He reached through the darkness for the lamp switch and turned it on. Using his lips, he pulled a cigarette from the pack, then flicked on his lighter. As he took his first inhale, he wondered which woman, among the vast number with whom he was acquainted, he had pissed off this time. He didn't remember getting on anyone's fighting side recently, but maybe that was his transgression-disremembering.

Since he hadn't yet responded to his name, his caller asked with uncertainty, "Have I reached Dodge Hanley?"

He was reluctant to confirm it before he knew who was asking. He preferred keeping a low profile. He had a driver's license because it was a necessity. He carried a single credit card, but it had been issued in Derek's name. Dodge used it only when doing business for the law firm. Privately, he operated strictly on a cash basis, and not even Derek knew his home address.

"Dodge? Is that you?"

He replied with a sound that was half word, half dry cough. "Yeah."

"This is Caroline."

His lighter slid from his fingers and fell to the floor.

"Caroline King."

As if she needed to specify which Caroline. As if she needed to jog his memory.

After a long moment, she said, "Are you still there?"

He sucked tobacco smoke into his lungs and exhaled as he said, "Yeah. Yeah." To prove to himself that the call wasn't part of a dream, he stood up and took a few steps away from the bed. But because his legs were so shaky, he backed up and sat down again on the sagging mattress.

"Fair to say that you're surprised to hear from me?"

"Yeah." That seemed to be the only word he was capable of uttering. How many Yeahs did that make now? Four? Five?

"I apologize for the hour," she said. "It's late here, and I realize it's an hour later in Atlanta. I mean, I assume you're still in Atlanta."

"Yeah." Six.

"How are you? Are you well?"

"Yeah." Shit! Had he forgotten the language? Find some other words for crissake! "Uh, I'm okay. You know. Okay."

He was okay except for a total brain shutdown, a heart rate that had shot off the charts, and a sudden inability to breathe. He groped for the ashtray among the clutter on his nightstand and laid the cigarette in it.

"That's good," she said. "I'm glad to hear it."

Then neither of them said anything for so long that the silence began to hum.

Finally she said, "Dodge, I never would have bothered you if not for . . . I would never ask you for anything. I imagine you know that. But this is vitally important. Urgent."

Jesus. She was sick. She was dying. She needed a liver, a kidney, his heart.

Plowing his fingers up through his hair, he cupped his forehead in his palm and, dreading the answer, asked, "What's the matter? Are you sick?"

"Sick? No, no. Nothing like that."

Relief made him weak. Then he got angry, because-just like that-he'd become emotionally invested. To counter his stupid susceptibility, he asked impatiently, "Then why are you calling me?"

"I have a situation here that I don't know how to handle."



"What kind of trouble?"

"Can you come?"

"To Houston?" A place to which he swore he would never return. "What for?"

"It's complicated."

"What about your husband? Is it too complicated for him? Or is he the problem?"

A few seconds ticked by. Then, "He passed away, Dodge. Several years ago."

This news filled his ears, his head, with pressure. Her husband was dead. She was no longer married. He hadn't known, but then why would he? It wasn't like she would have sent him an announcement.

While his ears thrummed, he waited for her to say more about her husband's demise. When she didn't, he said, "You still haven't to...