The Passenger

By Lisa Lutz

When Tanya Pitts-Dubois gets out of the shower and finds her husband dead at the bottom of the stairs, she knows she’s going to be a prime suspect in the time it takes to run her fingerprints.

She has a dark secret in her past. She wasn’t Tanya Pitts-Dubois then — and she’s not going to be Tanya Pitts-Dubois much longer.

She does know that Frank was alive and well when she stepped into the shower. She also knows from experience that innocence is no protection from prosecution. Frank may have had a drunken fall or he may have been pushed by one of his mobster associates. But Tanya knows she had nothing to do with his death and doesn’t stand a chance of proving it if she calls the cops.

Thus begins an unusual road trip. Tanya drops identities and trades vehicles like snacks as she leaves Waterloo, WI; spends a night in Omaha; makes a stop in Norman, OK, then heads south to Austin and then north and west to Wyoming.

In Norman she calls in a favor from someone dangerous and powerful in her past life. She asks for cash and new identification papers as Amelia Keen. By the time she gets to Austin, her source has set assassins on her trail.

With the help of a woman bartender called “Blue” for her unusual, icy blue eyes, Amelia beats her assassins to the trigger. But sometime later, Blue asks for a favor in return: help burying the body of man she says is her abusive ex-husband.

Blue also comes up with an ingenious solution for the identity papers problem: Amelia will become Blue (officially known as Debra Maze) and Blue will become Amelia. Anyone chasing them will quickly see they have the wrong person and move on. That was the plan anyway.

On her way to her next stopping place, Amelia, now Debra Maze, meets perhaps the most dangerous person of all: Dominec Lowell, a man who is handsome, thoughtful, kind and sends tingles through her to look at him. But he also carries a badge and a gun and has a nose for the crooked.

This is a road trip story with multiple crimes and loads of suspense. Author Lisa Lutz is a master story teller who reels out clues with perfect pacing. Tanya/Amelia/Debra’s dark secret is revealed just as being on the road is becoming no longer viable.

Lutz creates great characters and situations. For awhile, Debra teaches in a small private school in a tiny town in Wyoming. She uses taped together road maps to teach her students geography. While she’s asking them how to get from Casper, WY, to Boise, ID, she’s memorizing escape routes.

Late in the book, she’s trespassing in a vacation home in upstate New York when the owner of the house arrives. The owner thinks she’s there to meet the woman who is sleeping with her husband. Debra guesses, wrongly, that the woman thinks Debra is her late son’s ex-girlfriend.

Lutz sustains this story to the last page. It never fades or gets predictable. She’s still pulling out surprises to the last paragraph.

About the Author: Lisa Lutz (1970 – )

Author Lisa LutzLisa Lutz began her career writing screenplays. One of her rejected screenplays became the basis of a popular series she wrote about the Spellmans, a family of private investigators.
The first novel in the series, THE SPELLMAN FILES, was nominated  in 2008 for three awards for best first novel, the Anthony Award, the Macavity Award and the Barry award. It received an Alex Award, given to the 10 books each year that are written for adults but have a special appeal for young adults, and was nominated for a Dilys Award, given by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association to the book they most enjoyed selling that year.
Paramount Pictures optioned the film rights for the novel but has not made it.
In addition to the series, she has written two books purportedly by characters in the Spellman family. ISABEL SPELLMAN’S GUIDE TO ETIQUETTE: WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOUR PEOPLE (2013) and HOW TO NEGOTIATE EVERYTHING (2013), a children’s book allegedly written by David Spellman.
She has written several stand-alone novels including:
  • HEADS YOU LOSE (2011), written with her former partner, David Hayward
  • HOW TO START A FIRE (2015)
  • THE SWALLOWS (2019)

Born in Southern California, she attended the University of California (UC) at Santa Cruz, UC Irvine, the University of Leeds in England and San Francisco State University without ever earning a degree.



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