Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry
Crown • $24 • 9780307718389
On sale February 22, 2011
Sara J. Henry's debut starts with a bang—or, more literally, a splash—and doesn't let up until the final page. It's a classic "what-if" scenario: what if you were on a ferry and noticed a child falling from the ferry heading in the opposite direction? What if you jumped off the ferry to save that child?
What if that child had been pushed?
The aftermath of heroine Troy Chance's rescue of the boy, a French Canadian child named Paul, brings further complications. He doesn't seem to have been reported missing, and his arms were bound when he was thrown off the ferry. Unable to trust anyone, and increasingly concerned about the future of her shy and damaged young charge, Troy finds herself in the middle of a dangerous mystery.
I went to the doorway and it took me a moment to register that the bed was empty. No boy, no dog. For a moment I couldn't breathe. . . . My eyes went to the bedside table where we'd left the half-eaten piece of pizza. OK, missing boy, missing dog, missing half slice of pizza.
"Paul," I called out softly. "Paul, where are you? Où es-tu?"
A whine from Tiger. I eased back the hanging sheet that served as a closet door, and there was Paul crouched in the corner, one arm around Tiger, the other hand gripping the gnawed piza slice—looking as if it were perfectly normal to hide in a closet with a dog and a piece of pizza. I knelt, a careful distance away. "Good morning Paul," I said, keeping my voice steady. Would you like some breakfast? Veux-tu prendre le petit déjuner?"
He shifted but seemed unsure what to do. I snapped my fingers and Tiger obediently came toward me. "Did something frighten you?" I asked Paul. "Tu as peur?" No answer. "Paul, sweetie, come on out," I said, opening my arms and letting a little emotion into my voice.
He wouldn't look at me, and I waited a long, long moment. Finally he moved into my arms. I could feel the frailty of his limbs; I could feel his heart beating; I could almost feel his fear and confusion and loneliness. I hadn't known you could form an attachment to a person so quickly, so atavistically. Had my sisters experienced this when their children were born? I realized I would do anything to protect this child. "Je ne te blesserai jamais," I whispered to him. "I will never hurt you. Never."
And I knew I wouldn't be marching this boy down to the police station, not today, and possibly never.
You can download a chapter of the book here. What are you reading this week?
Leslie Tentler just spent the weekend on the road touring in support of her first novel, Midnight Caller (MIRA). In a guest post, she talks about the experience of signing at Books-A-Million stores in Kingsport and Johnson City, Tennessee, near her hometown.
My father was a bit of a celebrity in my small hometown in Eastern Tennessee. He coached high school football there for over two decades and to this day, I can’t watch "Friday Night Lights" without getting homesick. The show is authentic. It takes me back, every time.
My parents are both gone now (my mother was a well-loved teacher there, as well), and I do wonder what they would think about the release of my first novel. Both would be proud, I believe, although I recall many years earlier telling my mother of my dream to be a published author. She said, “Just don’t write anything that would embarrass me,” which to her I’m sure meant no profanity or adult situations, and no violence.
I failed on all three counts but I still think somehow she would be proud.
Coming home for two local book signings and a local television show was more overwhelming than I expected. As someone who has lived and worked in Atlanta for many years now, I’ve drifted away from childhood friends. I have to admit to envying my former classmates who remain in our town and are adult friends with many of the same people they knew as kids. I miss that closeness that I’ve never been able to recapture as a “big city” girl.
It was this same group of friends who planned a “girls’ night out” that included me on the Friday prior to my first book signing. I was admittedly nervous. I’ve changed. I’m older and have gotten out of shape while pumping out the first book and the two others that form the Chasing Evil trilogy. I feel like a mom who’s given birth to three babies back to back. One toddling around, one just beginning to crawl and the third a newborn still in my arms. I’m pretty sure I have metaphorical spit-up on my shoulder.
But what I see that night are friendly, familiar faces who are just happy to be together and are also excited for me. “The girls” show up for my signing the next afternoon, even though quite a few of them have already bought and read the book. Still, they buy another at the bookstore. It’s a surreal experience and also a deeply touching one.
Two nights before my first hometown signing, I go to one of the bookstores with my former stepmother who has taken me out to dinner. She politely asks me if the store will mind if she buys all the copies on the shelf that night for family and friends. I tell her I’m pretty sure they won’t and that they have more copies in the back for the signing. As she pays at checkout, I have tears in my eyes.
The weekend visit to my hometown was a whirlwind, filled with interviews, time with family and long-lost friends, and me, writing notes in people’s books in the shaky handwriting I’m so ashamed of. But they don’t seem to mind that it looks as though a second-grader signed it. At this moment, I want to throw my arms around each of them and ask if I can sleep in their spare bedroom or on their couch; stay for just a few more days.
I’m not ready to go back to Atlanta, but Monday has arrived.
Thanks Leslie! For more info on her appearances, check her website. Look for the second book in the Chasing Evil trilogy, Midnight Fear, in August.
Chevy Stevens' Still Missing was one of my favorite suspense novels of 2010. It's a disturbing, sexy page-turner with a fantastic hook: What if a Realtor got abducted during an open house? (Remind me to never go to an open house by myself.)
I interviewed Chevy for BookPage.com back in July. I asked her about her characters, her writing process and the emotional repercussions of writing viscerally painful scenes . . . but what I was really interested in was when we'll be hearing from her again.
Now we know. On July 5, St. Martin's will publish Never Knowing, a companion book to Still Missing. Chevy gave me a preview of the novel in our interview:
Never Knowing isn’t a direct sequel, but it does have the same therapist, Nadine, who we met in Still Missing. Sara, the main character in Never Knowing, has a different dynamic with Nadine than Annie did, and also a unique energy of her own, so it’s interesting for me to see how that drives the story forward.
In Never Knowing, Sara is 34-years-old and happy—although she longs to learn about her birth parents. Here's more from the publisher's description:
She discovers her biological father is an infamous killer who’s been hunting women every summer for over thirty years. Sara tries to come to terms with her horrifying parentage — and her fears that she’s inherited more than his looks — with her therapist, Nadine, who we first met in Still Missing. But Sara soon realizes the only thing worse than finding out your father is a killer is him finding out about you.
Eek! Sounds creepy to me. Did you read Still Missing? Will you read Never Knowing?
I linked to the book trailer for The Poison Tree a couple weeks ago, and I thought you'd be interested in this follow-up. I got my hands on the novel (Erin Kelly's debut) last week and finished the novel yesterday.
It is fantastic—a dark, sultry, obsessive love story/thriller with some very disturbing twists. Here's a bit more from The Poison Tree's review in BookPage:
Perfectly paced, it starts with a bang and teems with twists that will keep you guessing right up until its thrilling and shocking conclusion. Kelly masterfully ratchets up the suspense, constantly causing readers to reappraise what is true as well as which dark and dirty secret will be unearthed next, all while nimbly maneuvering back and forth in time to keep tensions running high.
Have you read this novel? What new releases have been calling your name?
Today is the 202nd anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe—the perfect day to announce the nominees for the 2011 Edgar Allan Poe Awards (honoring the best in the mystery genre). You can see the full list on the TheEdgars.com, but I thought I'd give a special shout out to a couple of the categories, both packed with BookPage favorites.
Nominees for Best Novel include:
Caught by Harlan Coben
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
Faithful Place by Tana French
The Queen of Patpong by Timothy Hallinan
The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton
I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman
Nominees for Best First Novel by an American Author include:
In the Best Novel category, I've got my fingers crossed for Tom Franklin's atmospheric page-turner, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter. (Okay—maybe I'm biased because I interviewed the guy in person.) In the other category, I'd be thrilled to see Paul Doiron take home the prize. After mystery columnist Bruce Tierney declared The Poacher's Son to be "one of the best debut novels in recent memory," I asked Doiron to write a guest post on how he came to write about the Maine wilderness. Check it out here.
The winners will be announced on April 28 in New York City . . . what books are you rooting for?
We gave you a preview of Erin Kelly's debut, The Poison Tree, way back in September—and I don't know about you, but I was sold from the moment the book was mentioned in the same sentence as Donna Tartt.
Here's a preview of the novel, which is on sale today:
Take the phone off the hook and cancel your evening plans, because this is one book you’ll want to read from cover to cover in order to see how everything shakes out
With dozens of bestsellers under his belt, it wouldn't be surprising if author Dean Koontz took some time off to rest on his laurels. But the indomitable author, who believes that writing talent must be used, instead continues to craft an alarming number of bestsellers, fiction and nonfiction alike (his stories about his dog, Trixie, have been optioned for a family comedy).
His latest story, What the Night Knows, published today, is billed as "a ghost story like no other." We asked Koontz a few questions about writing and got some surprising answers. Click over to the Q&A to find out which literary character he'd like to spend time on a desert island with, why he never talks about a work-in-progress, and more.
Any Koontz fans out there excited about this new book?
As part of our Best Books of 2010 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
You've all heard everything there is to hear about this summer blockbuster, right? This is one case where the hype is more than justified. But rather than sing the novel's praises once again, I'll let Justin Cronin take it from here with some quotes about his vampire-novel-with-a-twist that I couldn't fit in to our June interview:
This is a book about how human beings lose their way. How humanity can get lost. The experiment that produces the great viral cataclysm is essentially an act of human greed—it’s trying to steal the future from your kids. The scientists who are seeking to engineer a virus that makes human beings so long-lived that they are essentially immortal have missed the true immortality that we possess, which is that the future we will not live to see is the future our children will live in. This is essentially the story of a world that has forgotten its children and needs to mend this broken chain. . . . .
The circumstances of my book are extreme, but they are versions of what happen to us all the time. Fear of the dark, you don’t know what’s out there. You get the bad moods at some point in your life. But in the meantime, the people in that place, they live in constant and overwhelming danger, but they have a job, they have families, they form relationships, they have a sense of clan and kin. They know the world that they know, and within that they assemble themselves domestically. So the world as we know it has in some way continued. It’s at the brink, and there’s not much left, but it’s there.
Fans of "CSI" or forensic-centric crime novels might not realize that the person who started the craze for forensic fiction is still one of today's most popular authors: Patricia Cornwell, the creator of medical examiner Kay Scarpetta.
BookPage contributor Jay MacDonald interviewed Cornwell about her new Scarpetta novel, Port Mortuary, for our December issue. Their conversation provides a fascinating glimpse at the growth of the genre, how Cornwell does her research and how her novels have evolved.
You can get more info on the plot of the new book—and find out what "port mortuary" means—in today's featured trailer:
Port Mortuary comes out today. Who's reading it? What's your favorite Scarpetta novel?
Also in BookPage: Browse reviews of Cornwell's books.
Today the Book Case welcomes author C.J. Lyons, whose Angels of Mercy series (Jove) has added a jolt to the genre of medical suspense. The conclusion to the four-book series, Critical Condition, hits stores December 7, 2010, and Lyons stopped by to tell us a little bit about the difficulty of letting go of characters she—and her readers—had come to love.
When I sat down to start writing the final book in my Angels of Mercy medical suspense series, I had a play list running through my mind, filled with sad songs of goodbye, everything from Motown to Staind. After all, I'd spent three years with these four ladies. I'd watched them grow, fall in and out of love, save patients, dodge bullets, make mistakes, and fight for their lives. And now it was time to say goodbye.
When I began the first in the series, Lifelines, I had no idea how the book would end, much less the entire series. By book #2, Warning Signs, I had an idea, but it turned out to be wrong. Then I wrote book #3, Urgent Care, and it had an ending that surprised even me, one that totally changed how the series would conclude.
I began writing Critical Condition knowing only who would be left standing in the end. But I had no idea how they all would get there—and the main character, Gina, had a heck of a lot of growing up to do to earn her bittersweet happy ending. The only other thing I knew was that Critical Condition was, just like Gina's life, going to be an adrenalin-rushed hyper-driven thrill ride. Think Die Hard in a hospital.
So I wrote the book backwards. Literally. Wrote a scene, knew who was still alive in the scene, and figured out how they got there in order to write the next scene (which was really the previous scene, if that makes sense). The book ended up being so tightly paced that it reads in "real time" with the entire action taking place in five hours.
It didn't make it any easier to say goodbye to the women of Angels of Mercy Medical Center, but starting with their "happily-ever-afters" as I wrote Critical Condition, helped.
From the amount of fan mail I receive, I'm sure these women will continue to live on in the hearts of my readers for a long time to come. Who knows? Maybe they'll return someday to save their world again.
If so, I'll be ready and waiting, humming some Motown to welcome them home. Because, as a writer, you never really say goodbye to your characters, they become a part of you.
Thanks, CJ! We can't wait to see what you come up with in the new series you'll be writing with Erin Brockovich. To learn more about CJ and her work, visit her website.