Back cover blurb
By midnight he still hadn't killed anyone.
That was a good thing, but Dr. Dakota Thomas isn't prepared for the gunshot victim who rolls through his emergency room doors. Michael Ricco looks like an average young Marine. His dog tags, however, tell a different story.
How could this fresh-faced Marine have a birth date of 1898? What was he doing wandering in the desert at night, alone and wounded? And why were thirteen people murdered to try to keep his secret?
In a world where genetic experimentation pushes the boundaries of how far someone would go to live a little longer, the main question is — how many must die just to keep one person alive?
Excerpt - Chapter One
Ricco ran. Fear pushed him forward. Fear of what hunted him in the dark, of what he knew would happen if they caught him again. Fear kept him on his feet long after his body had given up. He put one foot in front of the other, the word, move, repeating in his head like a mantra.
Sweat dripped down his face. His left arm hung useless and limp at his side. Blood oozed from the bullet wound in his shoulder, soaking his fatigues, pasting them, warm and sticky, to his side. His right hand clamped over the injury in an attempt to slow the bleeding, but he had already lost a great deal of blood. Every breath tore at his lungs like broken glass. Muscles cramped and begged for rest, but he ignored the demand. He hurt, not only from the bullet that had ripped through his flesh, but from the dozens of scrapes and cuts inflicted as he stumbled and fell through the Nevada desert night. One thought kept him moving — to get away, to escape or die in the attempt — move!
Ricco’s military training controlled him. Even now, injured and confused, that training made survival second nature. Through blurred vision, he risked looking up at the star-filled sky, but finding the North Star amid the millions that gazed down upon him proved more daunting a task than he had hoped. He was relatively sure he still moved in the right direction. That would be any direction away from the base where they had kept him. Where they would kill him, eventually.
Sometimes in his dreams, he would remember sitting on the back porch with his father, gazing up at the stars. In reality, he couldn’t remember the last time he saw the night sky, or felt the breeze on his face. He couldn’t remember when his life had been his own. Memories were strange things. They warped and twisted over time, becoming what he wanted them to be, instead of what they were. Memories could not be trusted. Ricco had learned that long ago.
Mesmerized by the sight above him, he didn’t see the small rock that tripped him, and went down hard, shredding the flesh of his hands and forearms on the sandstone and shale of the desert floor. The sand, cool and gritty against his sweaty face, felt soothing. Ricco needed to rest, just for a moment, to catch his breath. He rolled from his side onto his back to take weight off his injured shoulder, and closed his eyes.
The mantra played its one word symphony inside his head; he tried to ignore it and failed. It took everything he had to listen to the voice, then the Marine took over, and he obeyed. He rolled to one side and pushed himself to his knees, ignoring the pain the movement cost him. He stood on watery legs, blinked sweat out of eyes that were no longer trustworthy, and he moved. The incline he had just struggled up, gave him a view of the small valley below. He stopped and stared as he tried to catch his breath. The boulders beneath his hands grounded him. The coarse, gritty texture of the rock he gripped kept him in the present. Ricco stayed on his feet, fighting the insistent demands of gravity.
He narrowed his eyes at the sight. The image confused him, until he realized it was not a part of his imagination. A small, orange glow penetrated the darkness and reminded him of swamp fires back home. It took a moment for the realization to make it through to his scrambled brain. He was looking at a fire. Out here that could mean only one thing — people — and people could bring him something he had refused to dream of for years — freedom.
He needed ten steps, that was all, and then he could stop fighting. Ricco pushed past the pain and fatigue, and moved forward, falling after the first two steps and crawling the last eight. Then he collapsed in the comforting glow of the campfire. His body began to shut down as blood loss, shock, and exhaustion overcame the adrenaline that had fueled him to this point, but he kept his eyes open long enough to see a man edge toward him, his every step more hesitant than the last.
Ricco could tell the man was scared from the way the he held himself. His quick, unguarded movements marked him as a civilian.
“Jesus, buddy, you okay?”
He couldn’t answer, but he wanted to laugh. Do I look okay to you, buddy?
He closed his eyes and let fate claim him at last, pretending he had some choice in the matter. Death was the one thing Ricco did not fear. He welcomed it. There had been times he even begged for it. All that mattered now was that he had gotten out. He would take his last breath on his own terms, and maybe, just maybe, the man in the light would see to it he finally made it home. After all this time, his father might finally have a body to bury.
With his last conscious thought, he reached for the dog tags around his neck and gripped them tight. He hoped the man understood the silent message.
This is who I am. This is me. Take me home.
Oh, my friend Ms. Ann Simko! What a wonderful weave. Most times I don't read thrillers and suspense because I have an uncanny ability to solve them. Not the case here. I didn't see the twists and turns to this awesome story and that is saying something! I felt for poor Ricco and screamed at Dakota. Montana was someone I didn't like until his mannerisms were explained with realistic detail.The story was fresh and something I'd never fathomed to imagine. LOL Now, I see it in the news everyday!
Looking for a thriller to get your blood flowing on these cold nights? Pick up Fallen, not only will you not be disappointed, you'll have two more books after it to finish up the tale.
Congratulations, Ann Simko on Five and half Blue Roses! Absolutely, earned when you get an avid romance reader to buy the followups.
Rebecca Rose, Rebecca Rose Book Reviews
Some books have the actions define their characters, lots of fast paced action scenes and stunts and characters that are cut-outs. In Fallen, this is not the case. Here, the characters are defined by their actions, not vice-versa. The story hooks you from page one and you get a chance to know these characters and watch as they change, evolve, and maybe even devolve in some cases. They engage you on many levels, grab a hold of you, and take you for a ride that is wild, often dangerous and always fun. I hope many people buy this book, enjoy it as much as i did, and then dive in for future installments. I know i am anxiously waiting!!!!!
Gregory Jeffrey, New Jersey
As an author, I'm also an avid reader. I have a couple of books on my 'Best' shelf. Ann's 'Fallen' just found its place. This is one excellent story, fueled with characters who come to life. Some you hate, others you are compelled to love and pull for. Ann leaves no emotion untouched, she skillfully uses family, friendship, and duty to grasp the reader and hold them gently until the end. Now, the ending is one of the best I've ever read. I hate to see good novels end, but thankfully she has a sequel coming. I recommend this novel to all who enjoy wrapping themselves into a heartwarming story. Way to go, Ann!
Robert Lee Carey, Jr., Virginia
FALLEN by Ann Simko is a pacey thriller that has at its heart something that most thrillers don't, something that with only a tiny suspension of disbelief is plausible and in fact feels almost probable. I don't' want to give anything away, so I'll just say it is something that will make you think and nod and say, "Okay, probably not, but maybe…"
Anyway, surrounding the nugget that fuels this novel is a strong cast led by Dr. Dakota Thomas who has a mysterious young man, Marine private Michael Ricco wander into his small-town Nevada emergency room, severly wounded, only to soon display miraculous healing abilities. It's soon revealed that Ricco has been held captive for an impossibly long time and the people he's escaped from are powerful, dangerous, and highly motivated to bring him back into their clutches. Fortunately for Ricco and Dakota, Montana Thomas, Dakota's brother is a former army ranger turned PI and he enlists a squad of his ranger friends to help Ricco and Dakota, but they are desperately outnumbered and outgunned.
I recommend this novel for anyone who just wants to read a darn good thriller.
Carlyle Clark, Chicago
Action-packed and keep you guessing. Great story with characters you really come to care about. This would be a perfect Beach Book! Can't wait for the sequel!
Maggie Wheeler, Indianapolis
I highly recommend this book. It was so raw and riveting that I could practically feel the emotions and pain of the characters. The characters that Ms. Simko created in this book are the strongest aspect. She makes you care about what happens to them. This doesn't diminish the fact that the plot and storyline are so action packed that I was often left breathless at the end of a chapter. This is a definite must read.
Sybil Nelson, Charleston
I love the brisk, no nonsense story telling which has made James Patterson a best seller. I think he has some serious competition here with Ann Simko. Fallen has something for anyone who enjoys action, drama, a touch of furturism, and lively characters who seem to step out of the page and into your heart.
Fallen tells the story of a young Marine who isn't really so young. He crosses paths with Dr. Dakota Thomas, and lands Dakota and his brother, Montana, in more hot water than they had been able to get themselves into alone or together. Lives are at stake, and time is short. In a plot which could have been unbelievable in less skilled hand, Ms. simko unfolds a story which is original, highly readable, and a pure joy for adventure fans.
FALLEN is a fast-paced thriller that asks the question: Is the suffering of a few okay when the end results can help millions?
You're instantly thrown into the chaotic life of e.r. doctor, Dakota Thomas, when he meets his newest patient, a gunshot victim, sporting dog tags that label him as being over one hundred years old. As Dakota sets out to uncover the truth, the tension explodes and holds taut until very near the end, and just when it lets up, danger threatens to swallow all the main characters once again. The book is well-researched and the author's nursing experience lend the medical procedures in the book much credibility.
My only gripe is it went by too fast and all the characters are worthy of knowing in a deeper regard. But, I heard there's going to be a sequel. I can't wait for it.
Courney Vail, New England
"Fallen" is a debut novel from Ann Simko. Set in Nevada, this thriller follows Private Michael Ricco after his escape from an underground bunker. Dr. Dakota Thomas is swept up in the mystery of how his patient came to be wearing dog tags that put his birthdate at 110 years in the past. Evil is a step behind these men as they pair up in a struggle to stay alive and stop 'The General', aided by the doctor's brother and a band of his Army Ranger friends.
This is the first in a series of three, and I look forward to reading Ms. Simko's next novel.
Tine Hayes, Kentucky
Fallen pulled me into the story from the first paragraph and kept me engaged until the end. It is a very believable story, made more so by strong, believable characters. I'm a sucker for a good mystery/thriller and Fallen delivers. The big questions - who is PFC Michael Ricco, why was he found wandering alone in the desert with a gunshot wound to the shoulder, and, ridiculous as it seems, why do his dog tags say he was born in 1898? When you discover the answers, you will definitely want to see the bad guy (The General) get his head handed to him on a platter.
Fallen is a keeper, and I can't wait for the sequel to come out.
Dale Rhodes, Tennessee
Fallen is a thrilling story that engages the senses. Wonderfully written and hard to put down. A great plot with well drawn characters. An excellent novel, highly recommended. Dill Carver.
R.D. Carver, London
Barnes and Noble - Posted August 26, 2010, 8:29 PM EST: This book is not to be missed. I read 1 to 2 books a week and this book was unforgetable. The characters are well developed and stayed with me. I bought the second book "Through the Looking Glass" as soon as it came out because I was so anxious to see where the characters went and what would happen. I am anxiously awaiting book #3 to be released. I will be first in line.
Barnes and Noble - Posted April 9, 2010, 10:50 AM EST: In Fallen debut novelist Ann Simko has created a world where everything you thought you knew about modern medicine is horrifically wrong. She dives unflinchingly into the life of a man who has escaped captivity as a research rat after too many years to count, and the men determined to help him. Nobility and sacrifice are central themes, without skimping on the thrills.
Fallen held me glued to each page until the end, and left me with an unsettling question: If I had the key to help all of humanity, but it cost my life, what would I do? How much sacrifice is too much? Simko's next novel is due out soon. She's one of the few writers on my automatic-buy list.