Accidents Happen: A Novelby Louise Millar
A MAGNETIC AND CHILLING NEW THRILLER FROM HIGHLY ACCLAIMED AUTHOR LOUISE MILLAR
Kate Parker has weathered unimaginable horrors—her parents died in a traffic accident on her wedding night, and her husband, Hugo, was murdered in a tragic break-in gone wrong. All she has left is her young son, Jack, and determined to make a better future for him, she attempts to… See more details below
A MAGNETIC AND CHILLING NEW THRILLER FROM HIGHLY ACCLAIMED AUTHOR LOUISE MILLAR
Kate Parker has weathered unimaginable horrors—her parents died in a traffic accident on her wedding night, and her husband, Hugo, was murdered in a tragic break-in gone wrong. All she has left is her young son, Jack, and determined to make a better future for him, she attempts to pull her life back together. But are she and her son safe?
“Taut, chilling and utterly brilliant- my thriller of the year.”
Verdict If readers can tolerate a slow beginning, they will be rewarded with a suspenseful tale featuring surprising twists. Fans of Millar’s The Playdate or British psychological thrillers might consider adding it to their reading list.Mary Todd Chesnut, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights
(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
- Emily Bestler Books
- Publication date:
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- Product dimensions:
- 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)
Read an Excerpt
Something had happened. Something unexpected. He could tell by the maverick puff of gray smoke that hung above the M40 motorway; by the kaleidoscope jam of cars glinting under an otherwise blue sky; by the way the drivers craned their necks out of windows to see what was up ahead.
Jack kicked his soccer boots together in the backseat, feeling carsick.
“Where are we?”
“Nearly there. Oh, will you get out the bloody way! What is wrong with these . . . ?”
He glanced up to see his mother glaring in the rearview mirror. Behind them in the slow lane, a truck jutted up to the back of their car, its engine growling.
Kate nodded crossly. “He’s right up my back,” she complained, clicking on her indicator and looking for an empty space in the adjacent lane.
Jack rubbed his face, which was still sticky and red from running around the soccer field. The May afternoon hot air that blew in the window was mucky with exhaust as three thick rows of traffic tried in vain to force their way toward Oxford.
“I can’t even see his lights now. . . .”
A sharp spasm gripped Jack’s stomach. It made the nausea worse. He returned to his computer game. “Mum. Chill out. They probably have sensors or something to tell them when they’re going to hit something.”
“Do they?” She waved to a tiny hatchback in the middle lane that was flashing her to move in. “What, even the older ones?”
“Hmm?” he replied, pressing a button.
“Jack? Even old trucks, like that?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. I mean, they don’t want to hit you, Mum. They don’t want to go to jail.”
Without looking up, he knew she was shaking her head.
“Yeah, well, it’s the one who’s not thinking that you’ve got to worry about, Jack. Last year, this British couple got killed by a French truck doing the same thing—he was texting someone in a traffic jam and ran right over them. He didn’t even know he’d done it, they were so squashed.”
“You told me,” Jack said. He flicked the little man back and forward, trying to get to the next level, trying to take his mind off his stomach.
“Oh, God—I’m going to be late,” his mother murmured, glancing at the car clock.
She hesitated. “Just an appointment at six.”
“What, the doctor’s?”
“No. Work related.”
He glanced at her. Her voice did that thing again, like when she told him the reason she took the train to London last week. It went flat and calm, as if she were forcing it to stay still. There were no ups and downs. And her eyes slid a tiny bit off to the right, as if she were looking at him, but not.
A flicker of white caught Jack’s attention in the side mirror. He saw the offending truck indicate to move in behind their car again.
He watched his mother, waiting for her to see it.
“Mum . . .”
He saw her glance behind them angrily.
“Oh, Jesus—not again . . . What the . . . ?”
Jack banged his boots together, watching dried mud sprinkle onto the newspaper she’d put down in the back.
When his voice came out, it was so quiet he could barely hear it himself over all the straining car engines.
“I could have come back in the minibus. You could have picked me up at school like everyone else.”
He saw her shoulders tense up.
“I wanted to see you play—it was the tournament final!” she said, the shrillness entering her voice again. “What, am I an embarrassing mum?”
“I didn’t say that,” he protested.
“Maybe next time I’ll come wearing my underwear on my head.”
She made a silly face at him in the mirror. He smiled, even though he knew that the silly face wasn’t hers. It was stolen property. He’d seen her studying Gabe’s mum when she did it. Gabe’s mum did it a lot, and it made them laugh. When Jack’s mum tried, it was as if the corners of her lips were pulled up by clothespins. Then two minutes later, her face went back to the usual frown that suggested she was concentrating hard on something private.
“It was nice to see Gabe today,” she said. “Why don’t you ask him round soon?”
Jack carried on playing his game. After what she’d done to their house this week, he’d never be able to ask anyone around again.
“Maybe,” he muttered.
“Oh . . . there’s the problem . . . Can you see?”
He leaned over and looked out the passenger side of the car and saw a flashing blue light around the bend to the left.
“Police,” he murmured, straining his head forward. “And . . . a fire engine.”
She looked so worried. He sighed quietly and put down his game.
“Oh, Mum . . . I’ve got something really good to tell you.”
“Next term, Mr. Dixon wants me to play reserve for this team he runs after school.”
“Does he?” She glanced at him. “That’s brilliant, Jack. . . .”
“But I’ll have to train on Wednesdays after school, as well, so perhaps I can go to . . .”
She wasn’t listening. In the mirror, he saw her eyes dart wildly back and forward between the blue light, and the truck now crossing lanes to sit behind them again.
“What?” She sounded bewildered.
“Why don’t you move into the fast lane? Trucks aren’t allowed in there.”
And she’d be farther away from the burnt-out car that was currently coming into view around the bend on the hard shoulder.
His mother stared at him for a second as if in a daze. Finally, she focused again. Then the clothespin smile returned.
“Good idea, Captain,” she said brightly. “But we’re fine here. Don’t worry about it, Jack.”
He saw her force a smile, causing her eyes to crinkle at the sides, just like Gabe’s mum’s did. Except Gabe’s mum’s eyes were warm and blue, offset by laughter lines and friendly freckles, whereas Jack’s mum’s eyes were still, like amber-colored glass. They sat in skin as white and smooth as Nana’s china, except for two dark shadows beneath them.
He knew his mum’s extra-crinkly smile was supposed to reassure him that there was nothing to worry about. He was only ten-and-three-quarters old, after all. She was the grown-up. She was in charge, and everything was fine.
Jack rubbed his stomach and watched the truck with a careful eye in the side mirror.
• • •
Oh, God. She was so late. She couldn’t miss this appointment. Now the motorway traffic had concertinaed into the city and jammed that up, too.
Kate turned off the packed ring road, and sped through the backstreets of East Oxford, taking routes the tourists wouldn’t know. Bouncing over speed bumps, she dodged around shoals of cyclists and badly parked rental vans evacuating ramshackle student houses for the summer. Where there was only room for one vehicle down streets so narrow cars parked on the pavement, she forced her way through, waving with a smile at oncoming queues of drivers, ignoring their mouthed insults.
“They’re here!” Jack shouted as she made the last turn into the welcoming width of Hubert Street.
Damn. He was right.
Richard’s black four-by-four was parked in its usual gentlemanly way outside her house, leaving the graveled driveway free for her. A box of pink tissues on the dashboard announced Helen’s presence. Of course they were here. They would have been here at the dot of five. Desperate to get their hands on him.
“So they are,” she said, turning into the drive and braking abruptly in front of the side gate. She pulled on the hand brake harder than she meant to. “Right—run. I’m late.”
They spilled out of the car, hands full of plastic bags of Jack’s school clothes, the empty wrappers of postsoccer snacks, and his homework folder for the weekend.
“Hi!” Jack called out, waving. Helen was mouthing “hello” from between Kate’s sitting-room curtains, her smile strangely girlish for a woman in her sixties.
Kate pursed her lips. Why hadn’t they waited in their car? That house key was for when they were looking after Jack, not for letting themselves in when she was late. Mentally, she tried to visualize what the house had looked like when she left this morning. What state was the toilet in? Had she tidied away her bras off the radiators?
Then, with the recoil of a trigger, she remembered what was upstairs.
Her cheeks burned. She looked down at the ground, slammed the car door, and locked it. She was supposed to tell them before they saw it. She needed to explain.
She marched after Jack and up to the front porch.
“Hello! Have you grown again, young man?” Helen called, flinging open the door.
“Not since last week, I don’t think, Helen,” Kate exclaimed from behind them. Why did she say these things? They all knew he was small. Pretending he wasn’t was doing Jack no favors.
“Gosh, you’re going to be tall like your dad.” Helen laughed, ignoring her. She placed her arm around Jack, and led him through the hall to the kitchen.
“Everything OK, Kate?” she called back. “Traffic?”
“Yup. Sorry.” Kate gritted her teeth as she closed the door behind her.
“Let me take those.”
She turned to see Richard striding toward her, his hands outstretched, oblivious to her chagrin that he had just let himself into his daughter-in-law’s house. His imposing frame filled the hallway. “How did you get on? Traffic?”
“Yes, sorry,” she said, giving him Jack’s homework. She could smell Richard’s usual fragrance of pipe smoke.
Kate looked up into Richard’s serious and questioning brown eyes, waiting for them to check that Jack was out of earshot. But they didn’t. Instead he turned on his heels and followed after Helen and Jack into the kitchen, grinning through his gray-flecked beard at the sight of his grandson.
“So did you beat their socks off, sir?” he boomed at Jack, who was stuffing a muffin in his mouth.
Kate glanced up the stairs.
It was still there.
Richard hadn’t seen it.
She checked her watch. Five twenty. The woman wanted to see her at six sharp in North Oxford. The traffic was so bad, she was going to have to cycle. Kate quickly worked out a few figures. Thirty-four . . . Eighty-one—or was it eighty-two? Damn it, she needed that new computer. The chances were high, anyway.
She shook her head. It would have to be OK.
She followed Richard through to the kitchen, opened a cupboard, and bent down to find her helmet.
“Helen, do you mind if I rush off?”
“Of course, dear,” Helen chirped, filling up a jug at the sink. “Sound interesting?”
“Um—just a woman who might have some renovation work,” Kate said, avoiding Helen’s eye.
“Oh, well, good luck, dear.”
Kate turned to see Jack, his mouth still too full of muffin to answer his grandfather’s question about the match score this afternoon. He was grinning and sticking up two fingers like Winston Churchill.
“Peace, man?” asked Richard. “It’s the nineteen-sixties, is it? No! Two-all, then? No? What? A bunny rabbit jumped onto the field?” Richard chortled, his arms wrapped around his rugby player’s chest, as his grandson shook his head at his jokes. “What? Two-nil then?”
Jack nodded, laughing, dropping crumbs out of his mouth.
“Aw—well done!” Helen clapped, cheeks as pink as cupcakes.
“Good lad!” Richard exclaimed. “Was he good, Mum?”
Kate grabbed her helmet from the back of the cupboard and went to stand up. “He was. He made a good save, didn’t you?”
As she spun around, the sight of Helen and Jack together took her by surprise.
A pit of disappointment settled in her stomach.
Jack was a clone of her. You couldn’t deny it.
Kate buckled up her helmet, watching them. However desperately she willed his hair to darken and thicken like Hugo’s, or for his green eyes to turn brown, it was Helen and Saskia who Jack took after. As he sat beside his grandmother, the similarities were painfully obvious. The same pale hair that was slightly too fine for the long skater-boy cut he desperately wanted; delicate features that would remain immune to the nasal bumps and widening jaws that would wipe out his friends’ childhood beauty; the flawless skin that tanned so easily and would remain unmarked by Kate’s dark moles or Richard and Hugo’s unruly eyebrows.
He was nearly eleven and nothing was going to change now. Jack would be a physically uncomplicated adult, like his grandmother and aunt, with none of the familiar landmarks of his father.
Kate stood up straight and made herself stop thinking. She walked to the fridge and opened it.
“Oh, by the way, Helen, I’ve made this for tonight,” she said, pulling out a casserole dish and lifting the lid. “It’s just vegetables and lentils. And some potatoes . . .”
She stared at the stew. It was an inch or two shallower in the dish than she’d left it this morning.
“Jack, did you eat some of this this morning?” Kate asked, looking around alarmed. He shook his head.
The kitchen window locks and the back door were all intact. She turned to check the window at the side return—and came face-to-face with Helen, who had come up behind her.
Helen took the casserole gently from her, replacing it in the fridge.
“Now, don’t worry about us, Kate. We stopped at Marks on the way over. I got some salmon and new potatoes, and a bit of salad.”
Kate saw the salmon sitting in her fridge on the shelf above the casserole, and felt the waves of Helen’s firm resolve radiate toward her. “Oh. But I made it for tonight. Really. There’s probably enough for the three of you if you have it with some bread. I’m just confused at how so much of it has disappeared. It’s as if—”
“Oh, it’ll have just sunk down in the dish when it was cooling,” Helen interrupted firmly, shooting a reassuring smile to Jack. “No, Kate. You keep it for tomorrow.”
Kate stared into the fridge. Was Helen right? She tried to see a faint line of dried casserole that would prove its original height.
There was nothing there.
“OK,” she heard herself say lamely. She shut the fridge. They could eat their bloody salmon. Jack didn’t even like it. He only ate it to be polite.
“Now, you’re probably starving, darling, aren’t you?” Helen said to Jack, taking Kate’s apron off a peg to put on. There was a fragment of canned tomato on it, left over from making the stew this morning, Kate noted, that was about to press against Helen’s white summer cardigan.
She started to speak, and then didn’t.
“OK, then . . .” Kate hesitated, checking the clock. “By the way . . .” They both looked at her. Jack looked down at the table.
“I’ve . . . have you been up . . . ?” She pointed at the ceiling.
They shook their heads. “No, dear,” Helen replied. “Why?”
Jack slowly chewed his muffin.
“Well, I haven’t got time to explain, but anyway, don’t worry about it. It’s just . . .”
They waited expectantly. She realized Jack’s jaws had stopped moving.
“I needed to do it. And it’s done now. So—see you later.”
And with that, she marched out the door of her house—her house—cross that she had to explain it all.
Meet the Author
Louise Millar began her journalism career in various music and film magazines and spent seven years at Marie Claire as senior editor and contributing editor. She has written for Mojo, Marie Claire, Red, Psychologies, The Independent, Glamour, and The Guardian, among others. She lives in London with her husband and daughters.
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I enjoyed this book for the most part, racing to reach the climax with a deep sense of foreboding. The author is excellent at creating tension and characters for whom you can feel both compassion & exasperation. There were parts where one has to suspend belief, but I could easily envision this as a movie.
Under a dark cloud .... jinxed ..... cursed ..... unlucky. We have all heard these expressions, may have even experienced one or two along the way. Kate Parker has been living .. or afraid of living ... for many years. Her parents died in a car accident on the day of her wedding. A few years later, her husband was murdered by a home invasion gang. Her house has been broken into ... twice. She feels like she's losing her mind and what's worse, she's making a nervous wreck of her young son. There is so much to this story. The author does a great job presenting the psychological aspects. Kate meets a man who helps her get past her fears, but for someone so afraid of absolutely everything, it was hard to imagine that she would trust a stranger as much as she does. Jago is a mystery himself. Is this meeting an accident ... coincidence ..... or is there something more sinister at work? Again, the author created a character that came to life under her pen. All the tension seemed to come very close to the end, and then it felt very rushed. The actual ending was somewhat of a letdown. This was an okay read to me ... I did want to keep reading to see what happened next .. I knew something was coming ... just not what. 3.5 stars My thanks to NetGalley / Atria Books who furnished a digital copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
Accidents Happen by Louise Millar, a chilling psychological twisted thriller of obsession and paranoia; where not everything is as it seems. Set in Oxford, Kate Parker has suffered loss, two tragedies—her parents and her husband, resulting in serious disturbing emotional issues grasping for sanity: severe anxiety, depression, OCD, paranoia, and extremely obsessed with keeping herself and her ten year old son, Jack safe from harm’s way. She feels she is doomed and cursed. Her worries trickle down to her son, and her wealthy in-laws are concerned, as well and worried they may need to remove the son away from this unhealthy environment. Enter, Jago Martin, charismatic statistician, an author of a book about odds and statistics. With statistics running through Kate’s head 24/7, she is intrigued. Handsome and alluring, she is drawn to him, and he encourages her to quit putting so much emphasis on the odds and enjoy life – chill and take risks. Little does she know, the creep neighbor Magnus is the one to watch, or is he? Kate begins to doubt everything, heightening the intensity for a nail-biting ending when the twist is revealed. Are her fears justified or is it all in her head? With her disorder threatening the custody of her ten-year-old son, Kate throws caution to the wind when she meets the handsome Jago, a professor who offers her a possible cure through an experimental approach. What Kate discovers during the experiment could endanger her family far more than her anxiety disorder ever could. Cannot offer too much as do not want to give away the good parts; however, the novel offers many twists and turns with a false sense of security. You sympathize with Kate’s issues and character (and at times, frustrating), but the flip flopping of her behavior, seemed unbelievable. Was not completely invested in some parts of the novel which seemed a little out there and unrealistic, leaving somewhat of a distant feeling about half way through the novel; had the same feeling with her other book, Playdate. Looking forward to reading The Hidden Girl to see how it turns out.
The first thing I noticed about Louise Millar's book Accidents Happen was this was going to be one of those books where things were not what they seemed. As the story progressed, that feeling was reinforced time and again. Interestingly, though, even with the feeling getting stronger and stronger, I was never quite able to put my finger on exactly what was wrong. Kate Parker is a single mother who has seen more than her share of tragedy. She lost her parents to an auto accident on her wedding day, her husband was murdered, and her house has been broken into at least once. That is enough to make anyone look over their shoulder, but for Kate it drives her to extremes. She begins to keep track of statistics on accidents in her head, pulling them out and mentally reciting them over and over until she feels in control again. In addition, she becomes convinced that she is not safe in her own home. Both behaviors leave her young son, Jack, frustrated and afraid, and her in-laws convinced that she has lost touch with reality. There were several things that I really liked about this book. First of all, the story line was interesting on several levels. I can only imagine what devices I would use to cope if I had so many tragedies befall my life in such a short time. In addition, even though I tried to figure out what was going on, I could only place my finger on the whose, not the whys. If an author can do that to me, I am usually sold. And, although it had nothing to do with the story, I especially liked the author's choice to include the information about Frano Selak, dubbed "the world's luckiest man." Little tidbits like that, that give insight into the author's thought process when writing a book, really peak my interest. The characters in the book were spot on, too. Kate had just the right amount of dysfunction contrasted with her will to improve. My feelings for her alternated between cheering her on in her recovery and wanting to slap her for backsliding or being stupid about something. I'm pretty sure that is the gamit of emotions that I would have if I knew someone in real life like her. The supporting characters were also true to what I would expect, especially her in-laws who are trapped between worry for Jack and exasperation at her antics, and her sister-in-law who feels trapped by circumstances, bewildered at the loss of her friend, and ultimately caught in the middle of the family drama. This is the first of Louise Millar's books that I have read, so I did not have any preconceived ideas of what to expect or where the story might lead. In addition, this allowed me not to be disappointed in the similarities between this book and her other one, as some reviewers have been. What I found here was a compelling story with real characters, and although the ending did seem a bit formulaic, it fit the story well. Many thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for allowing me to read this book in exchange for my review.
Well, accidents do happen and sadly this book is one of them... I thought at first I had a winner on my hands, then towards the end I was like, really? I was ready to throw this one down towards the end, as it is just way, way, to implausible. The story starts out with Kate, a woman who has literally the worst luck in the world. Everyone from her parents to her husband have died tragically and consequently Kate is extremely paranoid, waiting for her and her sons life to end at any moment. Her paranoia drives her son crazy as well as her husbands parents who think maybe its time for grandma and grandpa to take over the raising of their grandson, this of course further drives Kate Into desperation. There are some interesting characters in this book, a really creepy neighbor that raises all kinds of red flags, a sister in law I would like to pop upside the head and a new boyfriend who gets Kate out of her shell with exciting new activities that might or might not be illegal and getting her to think there might actually be a future again for her, this is one book you have to read to believe...
This book was pretty good, however, I found it difficult that Kate would do all the risky things she did for some guy she barely knew. Otherwise it was ok.