Genres: Mystery, Thriller
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A moody, intense debut psychological thriller by a former police psychologist, this debut novel explores four lives that fall apart in the tense aftermath of a plane crash, perfect for fans of Tana French, S. J. Watson, and Alice LaPlante. Unraveling what holds these four together is a tense, taut tale about good people who make bad decisions that ultimately threaten to destroy them. Debut author Emma Kavanagh deftly weaves together the stories of those who lost someone or something of themselves in one tragic incident, exploring how swiftly everything we know can come crashing down.
The following excerpt is from chapter 3
Jim: Thursday, March 15, 6:25 p.m.
It was the darkness. That was his first warning that there was something wrong.
Jim had pulled up outside his daughter’s house, driving carefully, muttering to himself. Ridiculous weather. Cold would decimate his daffodils, yellow trumpet heads bowing under the weight of the snow. He had pushed open the car door, carefully hoisting the plate from the passenger seat. Had ducked his head, pulling his chin into the neck of his thick jacket. Snowflakes crept down the back of his neck. He knew that Libby wouldn’t be home. She would be at work, was afternoons today, but it would be here for her when she returned. She’s too skinny, that girl. Esther had been making cookies, narrow arms fearsome as she pounded together sugar and butter. I swear she’s disappearing.
Jim had hurried down the path, thinking that it was slick, that perhaps he would salt it before he left. Had swerved to one side, to where the snow was thicker, the grip firmer, because that was the last thing he needed, falling in the snow like some decrepit man. Breaking a damn hip. Thirty years on the police force and winding up a snowbound corpse in a housing complex, delivering pork chops to his youngest. It was unsettling enough, this retirement thing, without the indignity of that. That was when he had realized that there was no line of light creeping its way between the closed curtains. He had stopped, right there in the snow. Had frowned.
It wasn’t like Libby.
Libby hated the darkness, always had, even when she was a little girl; needed the reassurance of knowing that there was life there, no monsters under the bed. Would leave the living room light on day and night, even though he had nagged her about wasting electricity, teasing her that no police officer should be afraid of the dark, even an unwarranted police community support officer, a cop on the beat with a scant eight months on the force. But not tonight. Tonight the house was black.
He slipped the key into the lock, pushing open the door, and slowly reached, flicking on the light.
The room was as it should be. Everything in its place. The cat blinked at him, curled into the sofa with its plumped cushions. A tiny creature, white and black, little pink nose and two black smudges across its eyes that gave the impression of a boxer down on his luck. With a long stretch it jumped down, letting loose a meow too big for its little body, began weaving its way around Jim’s legs.
Jim crouched down, scanning the room as the cat curled itself into him. It was tidy, everything tucked away as it always was. Apart from the coat, flung across the arm of the sofa. Jim’s pulse quickened.
Libby’s work coat. The one she had worn when she came home on her first day in uniform. A police community support officer. Almost like her daddy. There was a plan—there was always a plan. Serve her time, learn everything there was to learn, and when they started recruiting again, apply to be a police constable. Then, when she had gained enough experience, start the climb, to sergeant, then inspector, then super. Just like her daddy. He reached down, fingering the lapel of the coat.
Jim pushed himself up. The kitchen door was closed. She never closed the door, because then the cat couldn’t get to its food, and she doted on that damn cat, ever since she’d found it curled up in the brambles that ran alongside the railway tracks, a tiny, shivering bundle of fur. Letting it eat her out of house and home, sleeping on her bed and following her around like they were joined at the hip. He eased the handle down, snapping on the light.
The surfaces had been wiped down, chairs tucked snug beneath the kitchen table, floor mopped. The cat’s bowl was empty. Charlie ran to it, pushing his head against it. A look back at Jim, a loud meow.
Jim stood there for a moment, trying to identify the unease. A quick look up, eye caught by movement beyond the window, but it was just the falling snow. He slid the bowl onto the kitchen table. The cat was twisting around him, knotting itself around his legs.
“All right. Let’s get you some food.”
Jim crouched down, levering open the narrow cupboard that stood alongside the fridge. He would call her, just to check, and she’d laugh at him, would say that he was getting soft in his old age. But he would call anyway. After all, he was a father. That was what you did.
Then the cat leaped at him, tiny frame landing on his folded knees. Light, hardly any weight at all, but enough to startle him. Jim swayed, knocked off balance, grabbing at the side of the cupboard to save himself. To stop himself from falling.
He laughed, insides fizzing from the almost fall. Was just thinking about how quickly everything could change. He let go of the cupboard. Then he saw the blood.
Emma Kavanagh is a former police and military psychologist, and author of After We Fall: A Novel (Sourcebooks).