After Herby Joyce Maynard
Marin County, California, summer, 1979. When young women start turning up dead on the mountain behind the home of Rachel and her devoted eleven-year-old sister, Patty, their father—a larger-than-life, irresistibly handsome (and chronically unfaithful) detective—is put in charge of finding the "Sunset Strangler." Watching her father's life… See more details below
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Marin County, California, summer, 1979. When young women start turning up dead on the mountain behind the home of Rachel and her devoted eleven-year-old sister, Patty, their father—a larger-than-life, irresistibly handsome (and chronically unfaithful) detective—is put in charge of finding the "Sunset Strangler." Watching her father's life slowly unravel as months pass and more women are killed, Rachel embarks on a dangerous game to catch the killer. Her actions will destroy her father's career and alter forever the lives of everyone she loves. Thirty years later, believing that the wrong man was arrested for the crimes, leaving the true killer at large, Rachel constructs a new strategy to smoke out the Sunset Strangler and vindicate her father—and discovers more than she bargained for.
Loosely inspired by the Trailside Killer case, After Her is part thriller, part love story—a poignant, suspenseful, and painfully real family saga that traces a young girl's first sexual explorations, the loss of innocence, the bond shared by sisters, and the tender but damaged relationship between a girl and her father that endures even beyond the grave.
“[The] story is moving and fast-moving, affirming Maynard’s reputation as a master storyteller and showing her to be a passionate humanist with a gifted ear and heart. . . . Maynard illuminates the human experience.”
In summer 1979, Rachel and her younger sister Patty spend their days biking the hills of Marin County in Northern California and generally being precocious tweens, until young women begin turning up dead in the woods above their home. Their detective father is put in charge of the case that the press dubs the "Sunset Strangler." At first the notoriety of their father's high-profile case is exciting and gains them celebrity status at school, but as the case drags on and more young women die, Rachel sees her father's life unravel and her parents' marriage fall apart. Desperate to save her family, young Rachel sets herself up as bait for the killer, the consequence of which destroys her father's career and nearly costs Rachel her life. Thirty years later, the case remains unsolved, and Rachel makes one last attempt to smoke out the killer and vindicate her father, unearthing dark and startling family secrets in the process. VERDICT This title is loosely based on the Trailside Killer case that terrified Marin in the 1970s. Here the case is seen through the eyes of a 12-year-old, giving Maynard's (The Good Daughters; Labor Day) thriller an interesting twist on what would otherwise be a simple reworking of a cold case of serial murder. Rachel is so focused on saving her father and her parents' failed marriage that everything else in the world around her is merely a blur. [The film adaptation of Labor Day, starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, is scheduled for a January 2014 release.—Ed.]—Susan Clifford Braun, Bainbridge Island, WA
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By Joyce Maynard
HarperCollins PublishersCopyright © 2013 Joyce Maynard
All rights reserved.
THE TOWN WHERE my sister and I grew up lay in the shadow of Mount
Tamalpais, not far north of San Francisco. The aging housing develop-
ment where we lived, on Morning Glory Court, sat just off an exit of Highway
101, eight miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Buses ran from where we lived
to San Francisco—the bridge marking the entrance to that other world, though
we also knew people came there to jump. But for us, the city might as well have
been the moon.
Our father had grown up in the city— North Beach, home of the real red
sauce, he told us. This was where the hippies had come for the Summer of Love
and where Janis Joplin had once walked the streets of the Haight, and cable cars
ran, and that crazy Lombard Street snaked past rows of pretty pastel Victorian
houses, and where another Patty—Hearst—had walked into a Hibernia Bank
one day, a few years back, carrying an M1 carbine as one of the Symbionese
Later, rock stars started buying houses on the other side of the highway
from where our house sat, but back in those days, it wasn't a fashionable place
8 Joyce Maynard
yet. The day would come when people built high walls around their property
and posted signs alerting would-be burglars to the existence of their security
systems. But those were still trusting times. Our yards flowed into one another,
free of hedges or fences, so girls like us could run from one end of the street to
the other without the soles of their Keds once touching asphalt. People moved
easily among their neighbors, and few locked their doors.
Our house, number 17, was the smallest on the street—two dark little bed-
rooms, a low-ceilinged living room, and a kitchen the previous owners had
decorated with green Formica and matching avocado-green appliances, none of
which could be counted on to function reliably. The living room was covered in
wood paneling, an effect meant to make the place seem cozy, perhaps, though
one that hadn't succeeded.
Our parents had bought the house in 1968, when I was two years old, shortly
after my sister's birth—the best they could manage on a policeman's salary. My
mother said Marin County was a good place for raising children, though our
father worked in the city at the time—meaning San Francisco. He was a beat
cop then, not yet a detective, and knowing him, he would have liked it that his
work took him a ways from home, over that red bridge he loved. It was probably
better that way, for a man like him at least, to be off on his own, with the three of
us tucked away in that little bungalow while he was off saving people.
These days, nobody could think of building low-income housing in a spot
like the one where our house was situated. The land that made up our develop-
ment would be reserved for six-thousand-square-foot mansions with swimming
pools and yards with outdoor kitchens and expensive patio furniture. There
would be three-car garages, and the cars in them would be of European design.
But whenever it was (the 1940s probably, after the war) that the houses
were constructed on Morning Glory Court and the neighboring streets (Blue-
bell, Honeysuckle, Daffodil, and my favorite—named for a contractor's wife
probably—Muriel Lane), a premium had not yet been placed on proximity to
open land and views. It was possible back then to have as little money as our
family did and still find yourself in a house that backed up on a few thousand
a f t e r h e r 9
acres of open space. So that whole mountain was our playground. Mine and
For the first five years of her life, Patty barely spoke, except to me. Not that
she couldn't talk. She knew words. She had no speech impediment. She had strong
opinions about a lot of things, in fact—not only dogs, and basketball, but also
(speaking now of her dislikes) foods that were red, other than marinara sauce,
clothes whose labels rubbed her neck, all dresses. She developed, early on, a
hearty sense of humor, particularly concerning anything to do with body parts
or bathroom activities. Burping never ceased to amuse her. A fart—particularly
coming from a well-dressed woman or a man in a suit—sent her right over the top.
But if someone asked her a question—and this included other children
besides me, her kindergarten teacher, and our own parents—she said nothing,
unless I was there, in which case she'd whisper her response in my ear, leaving it
to me to convey to the outside world—the world beyond the unit that consisted
of the two of us—what her answer might be. Young as I was, I didn't know for a
long time that other five-year-old girls had a lot to say. I didn't know this wasn't
how things went with everybody's little sister.
When we'd go to the bank with our mother, and the teller would ask what
flavor of lollipop she'd like, Patty whispered her choice in my ear and I would
speak it for her. Green. She ignored it when kids called her Bucktooth, because of
her overbite, and on our street, if a boy came up and wanted her toy, she'd hand
it to him rather than protest, though if any of these boys had teased me (about
my outgrown clothes, my inability to hit a ball in our occasional neighborhood
games), she would confront the offender (but silently) with one of our jujitsu
moves, learned from our father. Once, when a boy took the seat she'd saved for
me at a puppet show our mother had taken us to at the library, she jammed her
elbow in his stomach and kicked him for good measure before magnificently
sweeping me into the place next to her. All without words.
A person could have
Excerpted from After Her by Joyce Maynard. Copyright © 2013 Joyce Maynard. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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