The Bay At Midnightby Diane Chamberlain
Her family's cottage on the New Jersey shore was a place of freedom and innocence for Julie Bauer—until her seventeen-year-old sister, Isabel, was murdered.
It's been more than forty years since that August night, but Julie's memories of her sister's death still shape her world. Now someone from her past is raising questions about what really happened that
Her family's cottage on the New Jersey shore was a place of freedom and innocence for Julie Bauer—until her seventeen-year-old sister, Isabel, was murdered.
It's been more than forty years since that August night, but Julie's memories of her sister's death still shape her world. Now someone from her past is raising questions about what really happened that night. About Julie's own complicity. About a devastating secret her mother kept from them all. About the person who went to prison for Izzy's murder—and the person who didn't.
Faced with questions and armed with few answers, Julie must gather the courage to revisit her past and untangle the complex emotions that led to one unspeakable act of violence on the bay at midnight.
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Read an Excerpt
All children make mistakes. Most of those errors in judgment are easily forgotten, but some of them are too enormous, too devastating to ever fully disappear from memory. The mistake I made when I was twelve still haunted me at fifty-three. Most of the time, I didn't think about it, but there were days when something happened that brought it all back to me in a rush, that filled me with the guilt of a twelve-year-old who had known better and that made me wish I could return to the summer of 1962 and live it over again. The Monday Abby Chapman Worley showed up at my front door was one of those days.
I was having a productive day as I worked on The Broad Street Murders, the thirty-third novel in my Granny Fran series. If I had known how successful that series would become, I would have made Fran Gallagher younger at the start. She was already seventy in the first book. Now, thirteen years later, she was eighty-three and going strong, but I wondered how long I could keep her tracking down killers.
The house was blissfully quiet. My daughter Shannon, who'd graduated from Westfield High School the Saturday before, was giving cello lessons in a music store downtown. The June air outside my sunroom window was clear and still, and because my house was set on a curve in the road, I had an expansive view of my New Jersey neighborhood with its vibrant green lawns and manicured gardens. I would type a sentence or two, then stare out the window, enjoying the scenery as I thought about what might happen next in my story.
I'd finished Chapter Three and was just beginning Chapter Four when my doorbell rang. I leaned back in my chair, trying to decide whether to answer it or not. It was probably a friend of Shannon's, but what if it was a courier, delivering a contract or something else that might require my signature?
I peered out the front window. No trucks in sight. A white Volkswagen Beetle—a convertible with its top down—was parked in front of my house, however, and since my concentration was already broken, I decided I might as well see who it was.
I walked through the living room and opened the door and my heart sank a little. The slender young woman standing on the other side of my screen door looked too old to be a friend of Shannon's, and I worried that she might be one of my fans. Although I tried to protect my identity as much as possible, some of my most determined readers had found me over the years. I adored them and was grateful for their loyalty to my books, but I also treasured my privacy, especially when I was deep into my work. "Yes?" I smiled.
The woman's sunny-blond hair was cut short, barely brushing the tops of her ears and she was wearing very dark sunglasses that made it difficult to see her eyes. There was a pretty sophistication about her.Her shorts were clean and creased,her mauve T-shirt tucked in with a belt. A small navy-blue pocketbook was slung over one shoulder.
"Mrs. Bauer?" she asked, confirming my suspicion. Julianne Bauer, my maiden name, was also my pseudonym. Friends and neighbors knew me as Julie Sellers.
"Yes?" I said.
"I'm sorry to just show up like this." She slipped her hands into her pockets. "My name is Abby Worley.You and my father—Ethan Chapman—were friends when you were kids."
My hand flew to my mouth. I hadn't heard Ethan's name since the summer of 1962—forty-one years earlier—yet it took me less than a second to place him. In my memory, I was transported back to Bay Head Shores, where my family's bungalow stood next to the Chapmans' and where the life-altering events of that summer erased all the good summers that had preceded it.
"You remember him?" Abby Worley asked.
"Yes, of course," I said. I pictured Ethan the way he was when I last saw him—a skinny, freckled, bespectacled twelve-year-old, a fragile-looking boy with red hair and pale legs. I saw him reeling in a giant blowfish from the canal behind our houses, then rubbing the fish's white belly to make it puff up. I saw him jumping off the bulkhead, wings made from old sheets attached to his arms as he attempted to fly. We had at one time been friends, but not in 1962. The last time I saw him, I beat him up. "I hope you'll forgive me for just showing up like this," she said. "Dad once told me you lived in Westfield, so I asked around. The bagel store. The guy at the video-rental place.Your neighbors are not very good at guarding your privacy. And this is the sort of the thing I didn't want to write in a letter or talk about on the phone."
"What sort of thing?" I asked. The serious tone of her voice told me this was more than a visit from a fan.
She glanced toward the wicker rockers on my broad front porch.
"Could we sit down?" she asked.
"Of course," I said, pushing open the screen door and walking with her toward the rockers. "Can I get you something to drink?"
"No, I'm fine," she said, as she settled into one of the chairs.
"This is nice, having a front porch."
I nodded. "Once the mosquitoes are here in full force, we don't get much use out of it, but yes, it's nice right now." I studied her, looking for some trace of Ethan in her face. Her cheekbones were high and her deep tan looked stunning on her, regardless of the health implications. Maybe it was fake. She looked like the type of woman who took good care of herself. It was hard for me to picture Ethan as her father. He hadn't been homely, but nerdishness had invaded every cell of his body.
"So," I said,"what is it that you didn't want to talk about over the phone?"
Now that we were in the shade, she slipped off her sunglasses to reveal blue eyes. "Do you remember my uncle Ned?" she asked.
I remembered Ethan's brother even better than I remembered Ethan. I'd had a crush on him, although he'd been six years older than me and quite out of my league. By the end of that summer, though, I'd despised him.
I nodded. "Sure," I said. "Well, he died a couple of weeks ago."
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that," I said mechanically. "He must have been—" I did the math in my head "—around fifty-nine?"
"He died the night before his fifty-ninth birthday," Abby said.
"Had he been ill?"
"He had cirrhosis of the liver," Abby said, matter-of-factly.
"He drank too much. My father said he...that he started drinking right after the summer your...you know." For the first time, she seemed a little unsure of herself. "Right after your sister died," she said. "He got really depressed. I only knew him as a sad sort of person."
"I'm sorry," I said again. I couldn't picture handsome, athletic Ned Chapman as a beaten-down, fifty-nine-year-old man, but then we'd all changed after that summer.
"Dad doesn't know I've come to see you," Abby said. "And he wouldn't be happy about it, but I just had to."
I leaned forward, wishing she would get to the point. "Why are you here, Abby?" I asked.
She nodded as if readying herself to say something she'd rehearsed. "Dad and I cleaned out Uncle Ned's town house," she said. "I was going through his kitchen and I found an envelope in one of the drawers addressed to the Point Pleasant Police Department. Dad opened it and..." She reached into her pocketbook and handed me a sheet of paper. "This is just a copy."
I looked down at the short, typed missive, dated two months earlier.
To Whom it May Concern: I have information about a murder that occurred in your jurisdiction in 1962. The wrong person paid for that crime. I'm terminally ill and want to set the record straight. I can be contacted at the above phone number. Sincerely, Ned Chapman
"My God." I leaned against the back of the rocker and closed my eyes. I thought my head might explode with the meaning behind the words. "He was going to confess," I said.
"We don't know that," Abby said quickly. "I mean, Dad is absolutely sure Uncle Ned didn't do it. I mean, he is completely sure. But he'd told me about you long ago. My mom and I have read all your books, and so of course he told me everything about you. He said how you suspected that Uncle Ned did it, even though no one else did, so I thought you had a right to know about the letter. I told Dad we should take it to the police. I mean, it sounds like the guy who was sent to prison might not have done it."
"Absolutely," I agreed, holding the letter in the air. "The police need to see this."
Abby bit her lip."The only thing is, Dad doesn't want to take it to them. He said that the man who was convicted died in prison, so it doesn't really matter now."
I felt tears spring to my eyes. I knew that George Lewis had died of pneumonia five years into serving his life sentence for my sister's murder. I'd always believed that he'd been wrongly imprisoned. How cruel and unfair.
"At the very least, his name should be cleared," I said firmly.
"I think so, too," Abby agreed. "But Dad is afraid that the police will jump to the conclusion that Uncle Ned did it, just like you did. My uncle was screwed up, but he could never hurt anyone."
I pulled a tissue from my shorts' pocket and removed my glasses to blot the tears from my eyes."Maybe he did hurt someone," I suggested gently, slipping my glasses on again. "And maybe that's what screwed him up."
Abby shook her head."I know it looks that way, but Dad said Ned had an airtight alibi. That he was home when your sis—when it happened."
"It sounds like your father wants to protect his brother no matter what," I said, trying not to sound as bitter as I felt.
"If your father won't take this to the police," I said, "I will." I didn't mean it to sound like a threat, but it probably did.
"I understand," Abby said. "And I agree the police need to know. But Dad..." She shook her head. "Would you consider talking to him?" she asked.
I thought of how unwelcome that conversation would be to Ethan. "It doesn't sound like he wants to talk about it," I said. "And you said he'd be angry that you came here."
"He won't be angry," Abby said. "He never really gets angry. He'll just be...upset. I'll tell him I came. But then, if you could call him, maybe you could persuade him.You have the biggest personal stake in this."
She didn't understand how the thought of revisiting the summer of 1962 made my palms sweat and my stomach burn. I thought about George Lewis's sister, Wanda, and the personal stake she would have in this. I thought about his cousin Salena, the woman who'd raised him. Nothing would return my sister to her family or George Lewis to his, but at the very least, we all deserved to know the truth. "Give me his number," I said.
She took the letter from me, wrote Ethan's number on a corner of it and handed it back. Slipping her sunglasses on again, she stood up.
"Thank you," she said, returning her pen to her tiny pocketbook. She looked at me. "I hope...well, I don't know what to hope, actually. I guess I just hope the truth finally comes out."
"I hope so, too, Abby," I said. I watched her walk down the sidewalk and get into the white Beetle convertible. She waved as she pulled away from the curb and I watched her drive up my street, then turn the corner and disappear.
I sat there a long time, perfectly still, the letter and all its horrible implications lying on my lap. Chapter Four was forgotten. My body felt leaden and my heart ached, because I knew that no matter who turned out to have murdered my sister, the responsibility for her death would always rest with me.
Meet the Author
Diane Chamberlain is the bestselling author of twenty novels, including The Midwife's Confession and The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes. Diane lives in North Carolina and is currently at work on her next novel. Visit her Web site at www.dianechamberlain.com and her blog at www.dianechamberlain.com/blog and her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Diane.Chamberlain.Readers.Page.
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After reading Diane Chamberlain's Secret Life of Cee Cee Wilkes and Before the Storm, I backtracked to read her earlier novels. I was not disappointed! The Bay at Midnight is a terrific novel that included complex family relationships, as well as suspense. Diane's novels always seem to include surprises in the end. I highly recommend this novel.
Good book it had u guessing who killed Izzy till the over end.it kept u wanting to keep reading until the very end. Good read. Fast read. Yes I would recomend this book for all it has 367 pages but 6 of those are the epilogue
As always her characters are wonderful.
The Bay at Midnight was extraordinary, as each of Diane Chamberlain’s books are unique and different. A complex story of three generations of women, hidden family secrets, death, love, relationships, romance, and mystery. I enjoyed the lake cottage bungalow setting and appreciated the era, as I was born in the 50’s and in my teens in the 60’s -- reminiscent of past summer family vacations, teenage rebellion, segregation, young and forbidden love, and all the other fun things. Making you want to return to simpler times when we were 12 and 13 yrs old. (It is always funny to hear of hidden secrets even in generations of the 30s and 40s as were capable of the same mistakes; however, kept them very taboo, due to the times.) Loved the writing of first person, the teenage loves of next door lake neighbors for both generations, the relation between mother and daughters, sisters, and how Diane portrays them so eloquently, with her past expertise in social work as well as being a talented author – making for a five star novel! Pulled another 3am to finish! 1962 was the year at the Jersey Shores for the setting of the main story which involved 3 sisters (daughters), mother and father, and grandparents at their summer bungalow and another family next door with two sons and a dad with a past connection to the mother. This was the setting for a night of horror with a murder of the oldest sister, cover ups, guilt, and the wrong person dying in prison and not until years later did the mystery start to unravel which changed the lives of all involved. Combine this with current day events of Julie’s struggle with her pregnant daughter, the strained relationship between Julie and her mother Maria, secrets of years past, and the reentering of her past next door neighbor and a new budding friendship and romance. Faced with questions, and guilt it is now time for courage as all these families have to revisit their past and gather courage to face the complex emotions which led to the one unexplained night at midnight on the bay. Looking forward to her new books for 2013 “The First Lie” (June) and “Necessary Lies” (Sept)!
Whew, this was a great book! I was completely drawn in from the very first page. Diane Chamberlain is moving up the ranks as one of my favorite authors (my first was The Midwife’s Confesson). This is a book about a woman who writes paperback mystery novels and is confronted by the past. The summer that she was twelve, Julie’s sister Isabel was murdered. The story begins with a woman coming to tell her that the person who went to jail for Isabel’s murder was innocent. From there, the book goes back and forth from that summer of 1962 and present day and is told through the eyes of Julie, her younger sister (Lucy) and their mother (Maria). Of course, it’s complete with a love story and family secrets abound, which makes it impossible to put down. I give this one 5 stars. If it weren’t for that little bit of sleep I got, I would have read it in one sitting. I stayed up until 3 am and grabbed the book the second I woke up (and I completely ignored my husband all day, but he was glad that I found a book that really pulled me in, so it’s okay!).
Another winner by dc
this book is by far one of the best summer reads ever published! this book creates a story of romance and mystery but keeps you completley enthralled by the details. Definitly one of my new favorites. READ IT!
I love this book finished it within a week it keeps you guessing until the end.This is the first book i have read from diane & im looking forward to reading others from her
Three generations of women are invoved here in uncovering the details of the death of the heroine's older sister years ago. It starts with a note addressed to the police which is duly turned over to authorities. After some time a note by the victim is discovered & turned over also. The really bad part is the 3rd note which is a confession ( years after someone else has been convicted of the murder and died in jail.)Does this on make it to the police? Heck NO! But, not to worry, Ms Chamberlain does tie up her story with a foolish, sappy ending. Put this one on your 'C' list of authors!
She is SUCH a good writer! I can't wait to see what she is coming up with next. Every book is different - and every one just has these unexpected twists and turns that keep you up all night! The characters in this one are just wonderful. My favorite was Maria - the grandmother, 'though most of the story is told by her other daughter, Julie, a writer of mystery novels, who was 12 when her sister dies and feels responsible for her part in her sisters death. The story goes from present day back and forth to 1962 where Maria's daughter Izzy was murdered at the age of 17 at Bay Head Shores, in New Jersey - a place her family used to spend their summers. The story is told from the perspective of the members of two different families that lived next door to one another at the shore, as they remember what happened so long ago and how this incident affected all their lives. The case is reopened when a note left by a dying man (who was the victims boyfriend in 1962) indicates that the wrong man was prosecuted for the crime. There are a few other stories going on here, be prepared to stay up late. Diane flawlessly crafts her characters so you won't easily forget them once you've finished this. I read this in two days, I wanted to savor it a bit longer, but just could not put it down, like many others of her novels. Loved it and highly recommend it.
In Westfield, Abby Worley visits Julie Bauer explaining that her father Ethan was a childhood friend in Bay Head Shores, New Jersey before the tragedy that linked their families forever forty-one years ago. Julie remembers Ethan, but had a crush on his older brother Ned, who was her older sister Isabel¿s boyfriend. Abby further explains that her Uncle Ned recently died from cirrhosis after a lifetime of drinking to forget the homicide. He left behind a note for the Point Pleasant Police Department in which he insisted that the wrong person paid for Isabel¿s murder.--- Julie wants to ignore this revelation since the convicted killer George Lewis died in prison five years ago. However, she always felt that George was innocent. She knows that the murder colored her world to the point of overprotecting her seventeen years old daughter, Shannon, who now plans to move to her father¿s home having recently graduated from high school. Even her relationships with her mother and her younger sister are tainted by the trauma. Unable to resist, Julie begins making inquiries into what really happened over four decades ago that destroyed more than just a teenager.--- This is an exciting amateur sleuth family drama that stars a fabulous ensemble cast including deceased people. The story line switches first person accounts though Julie is the prime narrator. That provides insight into various characters, but also makes for difficulty in following the plot as three families are interwoven by the homicide. Still Diane Chamberlain provides a tense engaging thriller that her fans will appreciate, but to fully cherish the tale concentration is needed to keep track.--- Harriet Klausner
As always, Diane Chamberlain has written a book that¿s absolutely fabulous. She uses the memories of a mother and her two daughters of events in 1962 when the oldest sister died and encompasses it with a story from the present. This includes a relationship between the middle sister Julie (a mystery writer) and her daughter who just graduated high school, as well as a budding relationship with her old childhood playmate, Ethan. Ethan is the brother of Ned, the person Julie thinks is responsible for the death of her sister. Things heat up after Ethan finds a rather cryptic note from Ned written just before he died. As the story wraps up and long-hidden mysteries are revealed, Julie is able to learn from her mother¿s relationship with her sister about how not to make the same mistake with her own daughter. There's a little bit of something for everyone in this book -- a great mystery, stories of relationships between men and women, stories of relationships between mothers and daughters, of between sisters, and a story of loves lost and found. I really enjoyed this book a lot and hope that perhaps Chamberlain is going to write a story about the Bohemian youngest sister, Lucy, next.
I don't usually care for books written in first person, so I was surprised when I found myself completely absorbed in this story. I couldn't put it down. Like all of Chamberlain's books, this one has a complex plot and even more complex characters. My heart broke for the young Julie as she carried the burden of her sister's death with her into adulthood. Even though you kind of know what happened to her sister, the tension as you get to that part of the book is unbearable! Chamberlain's last few books have focused on mother-daughter relationships, and this one is no exception as the reader sees the same mistakes being made generation after generation. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to read a multi-layered story with all too human characters.
Decades after a young girl died, three generations of women are drawn into the consequences of that long ago night when questions about the murder resurface. Could the wrong man have paid for that crime? Told in alternating viewpoints and multi-layered flashbacks, the past is reconstructed as the women of today relive the events that lead to the killing. This style often makes for confusing and confounding reading, making what should have been an involving novel rather disjointed.