Authors: Joy Fielding
Tags: #Mystery & Detective, #General, #Romance, #Suspense, #Fiction, #Thrillers, #Romance Suspense
RAISE FOR THE POWERFUL NOVELS OF
“Fine-tuned details … [a] compelling tale.”
WHISPERS AND LIES
“[A] page-turner … [with] an ending worthy of Hitch-cock…. Once again, the bestselling author tests the complex ties that bind friends and family, and keeps readers wondering when those same ties might turn deadly…. Those familiar with Patricia Highsmith’s particular brand of sinister storytelling will recognize the mayhem Fielding so cunningly unleashes.”
“Fielding delivers another page-turner … a suspense novel with a shocking twist [and] a plot turn so surprising that all previous events are thrown into question. The author keeps the tension high and the pages turning, creating a chillingly paranoid atmosphere.”
“A very satisfying page-turner…. Fielding does a very good job in building her story to a totally unexpected denouement.”
(Ft. Lauderdale, FL)
“It’s hard to sit down and read a few pages of one of [Fielding’s] novels and not want to read the rest. Right now.”
—The Knoxville News-Sentinel
“Riveting? You bet. Powerful? 10,000 horsepower. A real page-turner? And then some. Must-read? And how. Clichés, but so true of Joy Fielding’s
—The Cincinnati Enquirer
“Fielding deals confidently and tenderly with her subjects, and her plots and subplots are engaging. It’s a comfortable, engrossing book for anyone who wants to spend some time with four average, and therefore remarkable, women.”
“A multi-layered saga of friendship, loss, and loyalty.
reminds us of how fear, unfulfilled dreams, and a thirst for power can ravage the closest of relationships.”
“Surprisingly moving…. Don’t forget to keep a family-size box of Kleenex handy in preparation for the tear-jerking finale.”
“Emotionally compelling … hard to put down…. Fielding fully develops her four women characters, each of whom is exquisitely revealed.”
“With her usual page-turning flair, Fielding [writes a] romantic drama with a thriller twist.”
THE FIRST TIME
“Every line rings true.”
—The orlando Sentinel
“Dramatic and heartrending … the emotions are almost tangible.”
“[An] affecting drama…. Fielding is good at chronicling the messy tangle of family relationships…. A three-tissue finale.”
“This is rich stuff…. Fielding has again pushed a seemingly fragile heroine to the brink, only to have her fight back, tooth and nail.”
National Acclaim for JOY FIELDING’S Previous Fiction
“Fielding’s specialty is stripping away the contemporary and trendy feminine masks to reveal the outrageous face of female rage…. But like a good mystery writer, she creates sympathy for the character.”
—The Globe and Mail
Mad River Road
lives up to its billing as a story about courage, truth and stength that come only when you believe in yourself.”
“Fielding masterfully manipulates our expectations.”
—The Washington Post
Also by Joy Fielding
Mad River Road
Whispers and Lies
The First Time
Don’t Cry Now
Tell Me No Secrets
See Jane Run
The Deep End
The Other Woman
Kiss Mommy Goodbye
The Best of Friends
To Shannon Micol,
whose music inspires me
s always, my thanks to Larry Mirkin and Beverley Slopen for their advice, support, and friendship. Thanks also to my family and friends, and to all the people at the William Morris Agency, as well as Atria Books in the U.S. and Doubleday Canada, for doing so much to make my books a success. Thanks as well to Corinne Assayag for her masterful work on my website, and to all my foreign publishers and translators for their fine job in reproducing my novels.
But most of all I want to take this opportunity to thank Owen Laster, who has been my agent (and friend and stalwart supporter) for more than twenty years. A consummate artist at what he does, a gentle soul, and a true gentleman, he is retiring after forty-five years in the business. While I know he is leaving me in capable hands, I will miss him terribly. He is one of a kind, and I hope I continue to make him proud. Thank you, Owen. I love you and wish you all the best.
he girl is waking up.
She stirs, mascara-coated eyelashes fluttering seductively, large blue eyes opening, then closing again, then reopening, staying open longer this time, casually absorbing the unfamiliarity of her surroundings. That she is in a strange place, with no memory of how she got here, will take several seconds to sink in fully. That her life is in danger will hit her all at once, with the sudden force of a giant, renegade wave, knocking her back on the small cot I’ve so thoughtfully provided, even as she struggles gamely to her feet.
This is my favorite part. Even more than what comes later.
I’ve never been a huge fan of blood and guts. Those shows you see on TV today, the ones that are so popular, the ones filled with crack forensic experts in skintight pants and push-up bras, they’ve never held much appeal for me. All those dead bodies—hapless victims dispatched in an increasingly gory variety of exotic ways—lying on cold steel slabs in ultramodern morgues, waiting to be cracked open and invaded by dispassionate, gloved fingers—they just don’t do it for me. Even if the bodies weren’t so obviously fake—although even the most obvious of rubber torsos look more real than the ubiquitous breast implants
held in check by those heroic, push-up bras—it wouldn’t turn me on. Violence, per se, has never been my thing. I’ve always preferred the buildup to an event over the actual event itself.
Just as I’ve always preferred the flawed, natural contour of real breasts to the perfectly inflated—and perfectly awful—monstrosities so popular today. And not just on TV. You see them everywhere. Even here in the middle of Alligator Alley, in the middle of south-central Florida.
The middle of nowhere.
I think it was Alfred Hitchcock who best summed up the difference between shock and suspense. Shock, he said, is quick, a jolt to the senses that lasts but a second, whereas suspense is more of a slow tease. Rather like the difference between prolonged foreplay and premature ejaculation, I would add, and I like to think old Alfred would chuckle and agree. He always preferred suspense to shock, the payoff being greater, ultimately more fulfilling. I’m with him on this, although, like Hitch, I’m not adverse to the occasional shock along the way. You have to keep things interesting.
As this girl will soon find out.
She’s sitting up now, hands forming anxious fists at her sides as she scans her dimly lit surroundings. I can tell by the puzzled look on her pretty face—she’s a real heartstopper, as my grandfather used to say—that she’s trying to stay calm, to figure things out, to make sense of what’s happening, while clinging to the hope this is all a dream. After all, this can’t really be happening. She can’t actually be sitting on the edge of a tiny cot in what appears to be a room in somebody’s basement, if houses in Florida
basements, which, of course, most of them don’t, Florida being a state built almost entirely on swampland.
The panic won’t be long in coming. As soon as she realizes she isn’t dreaming, that her situation is real and, in fact,
quite dire, that she is trapped in a locked room whose only light comes from a strategically placed lamplight on a ledge high above her head, one she has no way of reaching, even were she to turn the cot on its end and somehow manage to climb up its side. The last girl tried that and fell, crying and clutching her broken wrist, to the dirt floor. That’s when she started screaming.
That was fun—for a while.
She’s just noticed the door, although unlike the last girl, she makes no move toward it. Instead, she just sits there, chewing on her bottom lip, frightened eyes darting back and forth. She’s breathing loudly and visibly, her heart threatening to burst from between large, pendulous breasts—to her credit, at least they’re real—like one of those hyperventilating contestants on
The Price Is Right.
Should she choose door number one, door number two, or door number three? Except there is only one door, and should she open it, what will she find? The Lady or the Tiger? Safety or destruction? I feel my lips curl into a smile. In fact, she will find nothing. At least not yet. Not until I’m ready.
She’s pushing herself off the cot, curiosity finally forcing one foot in front of the other, propelling her toward the door, even as a gnawing voice whispers in her ear, reminding her it was curiosity that killed the cat. Is she counting on the old wives’ tale about cats having nine lives? Does she think a bunch of useless, old wives can save her?
Her trembling hand stretches toward the doorknob. “Hello?” she calls out, softly at first, her voice as wobbly as her fingers, then more forcefully. “Hello? Is anybody there?”
I’m tempted to answer, but I know this isn’t a good idea. First of all, it would tip her to the fact I’m watching. Right now, the idea she’s being observed has yet to occur to her, and when it does, maybe a minute or two from now, her eyes will begin their frantic, fruitless search of the premises. No matter. She won’t be able to see me. The peephole I’ve
carved into the wall is too small and too elevated for her to discover, especially in this meager light. Besides, hearing my voice would not only tip her to my presence and approximate location, it might help her identify me, thereby giving her an unnecessary edge in the battle of wits to come. No, I will present myself soon enough. No point in getting ahead of the game. The timing simply isn’t right. And timing, as they say, is everything.
Her voice is growing more urgent, losing its girlish timbre, becoming shrill, almost hostile. That’s one of the interesting things I’ve noticed about female voices—how quickly they jump from warm to harsh, from soothing to grating, how shameless they are in their eagerness to reveal all, how boldly they hurl their insecurities into the unsuspecting air. The gentle flute is overwhelmed by the raucous bagpipe; the chamber orchestra is trampled by the marching band.
“Hello?” The girl grabs hold of the doorknob, tries pulling the door toward her. It doesn’t budge. Quickly, her movements degenerate into a series of ungainly poses, becoming less measured, more frantic. She pulls on the door, then pushes it, then bangs her shoulder against it, repeating the process several more times before finally giving up and bursting into tears. That’s the other thing I’ve learned about women—they always cry. It’s the one thing about them that never disappoints, the one thing you can count on.
“Where am I? What’s going on here?” The girl bangs her fists against the door in growing frustration. She’s angry now, as well as scared. She may not know where she is, but she knows she didn’t get here by her own accord. Her mind is rapidly filling with increasingly terrifying images—recent newspaper headlines about missing girls, TV coverage of bodies being pulled from shallow graves, catalog
displays of knives and other instruments of torture, film clips of helpless women being raped and strangled, before being dumped into slime-covered swamps. “Help!” she starts screaming. “Somebody help me.” But even as her plaintive cries hit the stale air, I suspect she knows such pleas are useless, that nobody can hear her.