What Have We Done by Alex Finlay: Featured Excerpt

From Alex Finlay, the author of Every Last Fear and The Night Shift, comes an action-packed new thriller What Have We Done, about the lives we leave behind and the secrets we carry with us forever… Start reading an excerpt!

BONUS: comment on the post below with a band name that Alex Finlay might use in the book to enter for a chance to win an advance reader copy of the book. More details below!

Chapter 2


Donnie wakes to loud thuds on his cabin door. Each pound reverberates through his head like an explosion. He’s on the floor of the tiny room in the belly of the cruise ship. Twenty years ago, he and the band would have been in the coveted concierge suites. He pushes himself away from the vomit puddled on the floor. The ocean is choppy today and it’s making him even queasier than he would be.

The thumping continues and he manages to climb to his feet. Wearing only tighty-whities, he opens the door and the light from the hallway sends another bullet through his skull.

“Donnie, what’s going on?” Pixie has a concerned look on her face. “Rehearsal started half an hour ago. Tom is pissed.”

Before he responds, Pixie pushes her small frame inside. She makes a face at the stench, looks around, and before Donnie can conceal the evidence, sets her eyes on the empty bottle of Jägermeister. The razor blade and rolled dollar bill on the table.

“Oh, Donnie,” she says. She puts her delicate brown hand on his ghost-white bare shoulder.

“I can’t do this right now,” he says, with more edge than she deserves.

Pixie’s new. She joined the band last year—[BAND NAME] have only two original members from back in the day, including Donnie. But it’s enough for the Legends of Rock Cruise. Pixie’s the only bandmate Donnie considers a friend. The rest merely tolerate him.

Her downcast expression is the worst. One-thousand-percent pity. He’s been sober for three months, the longest stretch in a decade. But he got word last night about Ben. The closest thing he had to a brother. Then he ran into that aging groupie—the one with the same bleached hair she probably had when she raised a lighter to their hit power ballad two decades ago.

“Wanna party?” she’d said, smelling of cigarettes and beer. She didn’t have to ask him twice. He doesn’t remember much else.

“Can you play? Are you okay?” Pixie’s questions return him to the present. “Seriously, I’m worried. Tom seems—”

“Of course I can play.” He climbs into his shirt and jeans flung on the floor. Grabbing the handle to his guitar case, he charges out of the cabin.

“Hurry,” Pixie says, outpacing him. She moves quickly for such a compact woman. “I told them I was going to the bathroom.”

Donnie rushes into the ship’s performance hall and is greeted by several exasperated expressions, the most prominent from their singer, Tom Kipling.

“Sorry, y’all, I overslept,” Donnie says, opening his guitar case and slinging the strap over his shoulder.

Pfft.” Tom grips the microphone, leaning as if he’s being held up by the stand. Donnie has a brief image of a younger man in the same pose. Even then, Tom was always bossing everyone around. The only thing that’s changed is Tom’s hair plugs, those white chiclet teeth, and the tighter fit of his leather pants.

“Overslept . . .” Tom says, with an audible sigh. “It’s four o’clock.”

“What do you want me to do? I said I’m sorry.”

Tom starts to speak, but stops himself. Donnie notices Tom tap eyes with Animal, their drummer. “Let’s just do the sound check,” Tom says, sighing again. He points to the set list taped on the stage floor.

Animal clicks his sticks—a one, a two, a one-two-three-four—and Donnie strikes the opening chord to a song he’s played so many times he can barely stand it. From his Marshall stack comes what sounds like an elephant being slaughtered. His Les Paul is wildly out of tune, thanks to neglect and a popped string.

Tom waves his arms to cut the music. His sagging jowls quiver. But he doesn’t yell at Donnie. That’s a surprise. Donnie’s spent most of his adult life being yelled at by Tom Kipling, so he’s used to it. But this is worse. Tom composes himself, then looks over to their manager, Mickey, at stage right. Mickey gives Tom a nod, and Tom addresses the band.

“Tonight, after the show, you all have a choice to make,” Tom says. He spins around and fixes his gaze on Donnie. “It’s him or me.”

And with that—his aging-rock-star flair for the dramatic on full display—Tom stomps off stage.

Donnie looks at his bandmates. When he sees that even Pixie isn’t willing to make eye contact, he knows it’s over.


Later, after the last encore—they do two every show—Donnie runs off stage drenched in sweat and feeling euphoric. That sensation never goes away. He’s performed well, Tom can’t deny that. Donnie got his guitar freshly strung and went over the set list beforehand to be ready for tonight’s parade of oldies. He even hit all his marks for the ridiculous choreography.

Backstage, amid the high fives and rapture that follows every performance, he thinks things should be fine. Tom will have cooled off. Donnie can explain what happened—that his best friend, Benny, is dead. Not just dead. Murdered. He’ll explain that he’s committed to his sobriety—to the band—and they’ll give him another chance.

After the meet-and-greet—the selfies and poster signing and awkward conversations with drunk people—the VIP room clears out and Tom calls him over.

“You did well tonight,” Tom says.

“Thanks, brother. You were great. You sound like you did when we were kids.”

Tom gives a fleeting smile with that row of Tic Tacs on his too-tan face. He’s like an old house with too many layers of paint. He takes a deep breath. “That’s just it, man. We’re not kids anymore.”

“I get it, Tommy. I promise it won’t happen again, I just—”

“I’ve got three ex-wives to support,” Tom interrupts. “My daughter’s in her second year at Berkeley. I need this job, man.”

“Trust me, so do I,” Donnie says. He holds back his resentment at Tom’s tales of financial woe. Tom took all the songwriting credits—at the time the rest of the band didn’t understand that if your name isn’t on the song, the money stops. It’s the reason [BAND NAME] broke up. Donnie’s the only other member who was desperate enough to come back.

“That’s what makes this hard, Don.”

“Tommy . . .”

Tom offers a sad expression. “It’s done, my friend. I wish you nothing but the best.”

“You can’t do this to me!” Donnie’s voice rises.

A couple roadies look over.

Tom shakes his head.

Donnie’s voice breaks now. “You owe me, man.”

“I’ve gotta go.” Tom turns. Donnie grabs his arm roughly and Tom twists around, his face dark now. “I suggest you let go of my arm.”

Donnie stares at him a long beat. And releases his grip.


Closing in on midnight, on the promenade deck—the most secluded section of the ship after hours—Donnie takes the last swig of the bottle, hating himself for drinking again. Hating himself for not standing up to Tom. Hating himself for what his life has become. He stares out at the ocean. With the moon hidden by clouds, there’s nothing but blackness.

He ponders where he can get another bottle. The ship’s bars are closed. There’s room service, but his account is maxed out.

A woman appears in the weak light. She’s in her early twenties, younger than the band’s usual fans, but she’s wearing a [BAND NAME] concert T-shirt. Probably someone’s kid who grew up with their music. That happens sometimes.

Her face brightens when she sees him.

“Oh my god. Are you Donnie Danger?” She looks around as if she wants to confirm what she’s seeing, but no one else is on the deck.

“The one and only,” Donnie says. His Southern drawl gets more pronounced when he’s playing rock star, particularly when he’s drinking.

“Will you sign an autograph for me?” she asks.

“I’ll do anything you want, sweetheart.”

She smiles, her teeth glowing in the dim light.

Anything?” she says seductively. She walks over next to him, leans against the protective railing.

“Your wish is my command, darlin,” Donnie says, trying to muster more Southern boy charm, but it’s half-assed and lazy.

The woman reaches inside her shirt. He thinks she’s going to pull it off. Have him sign her breasts. It’s been a while since he’s done that, but it’s part of the job, who’s he to complain?

She doesn’t remove her top. Doesn’t ask him to sign her ample cleavage. Instead, she’s reached into her waistband and pulled out a handgun.

“Well, my wish”—she says the word with derision—“is that you jump.” She motions the gun at the ocean below them, then trains it back on Donnie.

He chuckles, like she’s kidding. She’s fucking crazy, but he’s always been drawn to crazy women. The gun looks real but surely it’s a fake; she’s only playing. Offering a rakish smile, he says, “Look, sweetheart, I don’t—”

He’s cut off with a hard blow to his head with the butt of the gun. Donnie doubles over. After what feels like a long time, but might be only a few seconds, he stands, his legs wobbly. He touches his head. There’s red on his fingers. His eyes look into her’s. She’s definitely not playing.


She puts the barrel of the gun to his forehead, its muzzle cool on his skin.

“I don’t understand.” Donnie’s heartbeat swirls in his ears now.

“You don’t need to understand.” She holds up five fingers with the hand not clutching the gun. She begins ticking off her fingers.  “Five . . . four . . .”

“All right, hold on, wait . . .”

“Three . . .”

“Okay!” He raises his hands.

She retracts the barrel and steps back, motions her chin for him to get up on the rail.

A chill races up Donnie’s spine. He hops his ass up, feeling the cold metal through his jeans. He’s no longer shit-faced drunk, but he’s unsteady from the terror.

The woman gestures with the gun for him to swing his legs around, and he does, fear seizing him as he sits precariously on the ledge, his feet dangling. On this side of the ship there are no decks below. A straight drop into the ocean. His eyes search for life preservers but find none.

“Two,” she says.

He twists his head around. She’s displaying an awful peace sign with her fingers.

“Please— What’s— I don’t understand.”

Before he pleads more, he hears her say, “One,” and feels the shove into the abyss.


Copyright © 2022 by Alex Finlay. All rights reserved.

What Have We Done Band Name Sweepstakes

How it works: sign in and comment on this post with your suggestion of an original band name that you want Alex Finlay to use in What Have We Done. Alex will decide the name for the band, which we’ll announce on the site, and by simply submitting your suggestion, you’ll be entered for a chance to win an advance reader copy of What Have We Done. 

Need inspiration? The character Donnie enjoys the Calvin and Hobbes comicstrip so you can make reference to that in your suggested band name, or you can suggest a name that downright rocks in its own way.

What Have We Done Band Name Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at https://www.criminalelement.com/what-have-we-done-by-alex-finlay-featured-excerpt/ beginning at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) July 11, 2022. Sweepstakes ends at 11:59 a.m. ET July 15, 2022. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 120 Broadway, New York, NY 10271.

Learn More Or Order A Copy


  1. lasvegasnv

    nice excerpt

    • Alyssa M

      In Deep Treble

  2. joel nelson

    band name – watercolor daisies

  3. Anita Hamilton


  4. Justin


  5. Christina McComiskie

    Calvin’s Friend

  6. SIM

    Hobbling Hags

  7. Melanie Sava

    Band name – Swashbuckling Rejects

  8. maraschino

    band Name: Moxie Tailwagger

  9. Krista Kosar

    Tracer Bullet… after Calvin’s alter-ego detective character!

  10. Rachel Mitchell

    Twisted clocks

  11. Stephanie Wagner

    Stranger Danger

  12. mishchin@gmail.com

    Stripes of Danger

  13. Melissa Baird

    Get Real

  14. Kelsey Bickmore

    Spider Wave

  15. Laini Pearl

    Snow Goose

  16. Anne

    Time Element

  17. Karl Stenger

    Donnie and the Replacements.

  18. Amanda Flores

    Beautiful and Damned

  19. Lori P

    Unlikely Heroes

  20. Danielle

    Hobbes and the Calvinists – band name

  21. Susan Coster

    Cosmic Girls

  22. Jerry Wainfeld

    Retro Yacht or Let’s Go Exploring

  23. Padmini Rao

    Band name-running in fields

  24. jessicapaturel

    Calvin’s crew

  25. Patsy

    How about ‘Rosalyn’s Bane’ 🙂

  26. Sav Stewart

    Band name: Captive Concords

  27. Monique

    Band names The Red Doors or The Right Keys

  28. Linda Marshall

    Band name: Passive Existence

  29. Roxana Garcia

    Musical criminals

  30. Cathy Lipscomb

    Criminal Minds

  31. Anita Nowak

    Musical elements

  32. Karlene Edgemon

    River Pirates

  33. Cris Mardres

    Jager Tom

  34. Barbara Bibel

    Dung Beetles

  35. Aziza Evans

    Banding together roaring together tigers of a different streak

  36. Jennifer Spaulding

    The Bandit Kings

    • Chelsea


  37. Rita A

    Tarnished Bullets

  38. Jame

    Choppy Tuners

  39. book-chick-annie

    Interesting excerpt.
    Band name suggestions:
    Whiskey Sour
    Hard Liquor (Hard Licker?)

  40. Taurie Fitz-Gibbon

    Hope I win!

  41. Lee F Cochenour

    Calvin’s Killer Bicycle

  42. hadabuck

    Band Name: QuickSilver

  43. SiW


  44. Brian Panowich

    Clearly the name of the band is “Southern Drag”.

  45. deannmacosta

    Band Name = Porter House

  46. Hope


  47. Pat Dupuy

    Hard Case

  48. Shayla

    Band name — Paper Tiger

  49. William Hamilton

    Donnie and the Rockers

  50. marjoh

    The dooms

  51. Kathleen Bylsma

    The Hobbnails

  52. Amy Seckman

    Looking forward to reading this one! Band name idea: Tracer’s Bullet

  53. Gail Gallant

    band name-The Crooked Arrows

  54. Lori johannes

    Static sun

  55. Nicole Seabolt


  56. Elise Terry Modesitt

    Red Licorice

  57. Meghan McClendon

    Get Played

  58. Niki


  59. Nikki Rose

    Imaginary Hijinks

  60. Nikki Rose

    Cosmic Rush

  61. Jeff Pflieger

    Torture Flames

  62. Marianne Peluso

    Band name with calin & hobbs connection; Reality continues to ruin my life

  63. Robin Weatherington

    Band name, All’s Well

  64. Jeff Eaves

    Johny Nightflyer and The Moonfiury Band

  65. Emily Catan

    Thank you for the giveaway.. I would like the band name to be Soaring Eagles.

  66. Shelley Beachy

    Comic Escapades

  67. Donna McNeill

    Band Name: Criminal Element
    You got me hooked already! Looking forward to reading this book.

  68. Marianne C. P.


  69. JackDeRipper

    Band name suggestions:

    Calvin & Hobbes related:

    Watterson’s Cartoons.
    Watterson’s Creation.
    Watterson’s Nightmare.
    The Doghouse.
    Watterson’s Doghouse.
    Susie Derkins.




    Band Name: The Sardonic Tigers

  71. Adanna Hartwell

    Band name suggestions:
    Illicit Behavior
    Tongue & Cheek
    The Peppermint Club

    Loved the excerpt; I’m looking forward to read this!

  72. Debra Hicks

    Band name is The Wave Rollers

  73. Craig Clarkson

    Latent Agenda

  74. CrystalGB816

    Band name Imaginary Tiger

  75. Marina

    Band Name: Chainsaw

  76. JerryAnn Henderson


  77. JerryAnn Henderson

    Band Name suggestions :
    Imaginary Friends
    Bullet Tracers

  78. JackDeRipper

    Band name: Hallucination.

  79. Katy Carter

    Infamous Criminals

  80. Jackie

    Looking forward to this read, Here’s to hoping for more to read…..

  81. Alexandria rose Rivera

    The black keys ! The silver bullets !

  82. Sarah

    The Wattersons

  83. Jenny T

    Spaceman Spiff

  84. Vickie Waters

    Band name: Susie Tiger

  85. Carolyne Knolle

    Band name: The last Dogs

  86. Alan Weiss

    Band Name: Forgotten Pasts.

  87. Linda Peters

    The Last Wave

  88. Creya Casale

    The Blockbuster Massacre

  89. Alicia

    Black Label

  90. Jodie

    Blasted Pix

  91. Carl G

    I would say for the band name. Clear Finish

  92. Kellie Flatt

    Crooked Fenceposts


    Deranged Mutant Killer Monsters

  94. Rae Karolyi

    Dolly Parton’s Prodigy

  95. Rose Marcin

    Very excited for this title!! I can’t wait to read it!

  96. William J Cole

    Band name: “Fine-Lays”

  97. ChocolateRspberry84

    Spaceman Spiff

  98. Jo Anne Reuter

    Certainly has piqued my interest!

  99. Squatterbloat

    Sugar Bombs

  100. Bonny Graap

    The Gang

  101. Valerie Blankenship

    Band Name: The Rogues

  102. Jennifer Thompson

    Spaceman Spiff (from one of the comics)

  103. Megan Goodnight

    The Tiger Stripes

  104. Jim Cabaj

    Band Name: Palladium

  105. Robert Grieco

    How about simply: C & H

  106. play retro games

    I discover a lot of useful material whenever I visit your website, which I do frequently. There are some excellent pieces, as well as some very thoughtful people leaving comments. I am grateful to you, and I hope that you will spread the word about my page.

  107. Jennifer Kettle


  108. Lisa Schoof

    Unhinged Cheer

  109. Kohut

    Watterson and the Snow Goons of Gloob

  110. Kim

    Band name – Leviathan’s Tigers

  111. Rebecca Swanson

    Spaceman Spiff

  112. Julie

    The graveyard shift

  113. Julie

    The Night Shift

  114. Mike

    The Tornado Chasers

  115. LEA J

    Band name suggestion: Raging Bullocks

  116. Christopher Walsh

    Straight On Red

  117. Rhonda Snook

    Broken Arrow

  118. Ruthie B

    Greater Danger

  119. Suzanne Timmsen


  120. katevocke

    So excited for Alex Finlays newest book! Every Last Fear and Night Shift are favorite thrillers of mine, and I can’t wait for this one!

  121. Jaclyn Resendez

    The Striped

  122. Kathleen Ann Gardiner

    Road Rash

  123. Joan Emerson

    Thanks for the intriguing excerpt.
    Suggestion for band name: Starlight Tigers

  124. Gregory Hinde

    Southern Soul Band

  125. ravensfan

    Danger Ahead

  126. linda semler


  127. Emily Christopher

    The Razoredge Apocalypse

  128. Laurie Okuno

    Thx for the giveaway!

  129. Gina

    Partners in crime

  130. Kira

    Band name: GinSing

  131. Teresa Warner

    String Theory

  132. James R Skelton

    Tiger Pounce

  133. Jayme Camilleri

    Band Name : Tiger’s Eye (like the stone used to attract FORTUNE!)

  134. Tomas Moreno

    The Midnight Dragons

  135. Barbara Fish

    Sexy Sloths

  136. pokesaladannie

    Band name-Blue Haze

  137. susan beamon

    Band name: What We Are Is

  138. Gregory Sparks

    Mummies are people

  139. Kendra Hill


  140. Dawna Capps

    Danger Boyz

  141. Danny M

    My choice for band name is The Annoying Cynics!

  142. Marisa Young

    Sprite Tiger Band

  143. MicheleReader

    The JägerMen

  144. Danny444

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  145. Jason Wells

    Euphoria on Demand

    “Everybody seeks happiness! Not me, though! That’s the difference between me and the rest of the world. Happiness isn’t good enough for me! I demand euphoria!” – Calvin

  146. Tammy Brasic

    Tripping Tigers

  147. Vickie Watts

    The Dirty Socks

  148. Rose E. Reith

    Suggested Band Name: Transmogrifyer (or Transmogrifier) / Transmogrifyed (or Transmogrified)

    Was the friend who died (Benny) also from the band? If so, who’s killing the band members?

  149. Tom Wescott


    The Mall Rats

  150. Nancy

    Sounds fascinating. ‘Death Rattle’ sounds like the perfect band name for this bunch. Thanks!

  151. Kristen Heyl

    Band name: Dark Danger

  152. Gail Krawczykowski

    Anxious Misgiving

  153. Jamie White

    Lost at Seat

  154. Phyllis Bernstein

    The Lightening Rods

  155. Kelly Kendall

    Kendalls Kaos

  156. Brittany

    Band name – Danger Zone

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  158. HNT504

    The Skullz

  159. Rose Marcin

    Band names:
    The Jury
    Drink it up
    Catching Waves
    Pushing Limits
    The Depths

  160. Tara

    Double Vintage

  161. Ariana

    Winged Serpents

  162. Hailey

    Calvin and the Tigers

  163. Ariana

    Winged Serpents
    Bullet for my Comics
    Tortellini Rockers
    Made In Taiwan

  164. sumomom1

    Like all band names that mean absolutely nothing, I would call the band, “The Purple Green beans”.

  165. Kathy Baket

    Together Forever

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  167. biancabuysbooks

    The Black Stripes

  168. smartwoman3

    Axe to Grind

  169. Victoria Haid

    Thanks! Loved the excerpt…
    Band name: Cruisin’ Crew

  170. R. Smith

    Gunga Sin (a play off of “Gunga Din,” written by Rudyard…Kipling)

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