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Two years, the divorce, and the realization that life must go on.
Charlotte Remington, who took back her maiden name after her husband left, has no choice but to keep getting up in the morning, keep moving, keep breathing ... if only for her remaining child's sake.
How many times during the initial shock did she have to remind herself to do just that?
Breathe, Charlotte. In and out. Just breathe. Keep breathing, even though your chest is constricted and your heart is breaking; even though you want to stop breathing ...
Even though you want to die.
Charlotte Remington thought she had everything: loyal husband, loving son, happy-go-lucky daughter, loyal friends.
Now they're all gone.
Now there is only Charlotte, haunted and bereft; and a sad-eyed little girl who watched her big brother drown on a beautiful July day, just yards from the shoreline.
But it happened a long time ago; a lifetime ago.
The first time, afterward, that Charlotte returned to the southeastern shore of Achoco Island to inhale brackish air, feel sand beneath her feet, and gaze again over the sea, she wanted to flee.
But she forced herself to stay.
Breathe. Just keep breathing.
And she forced herself to keep coming back, all through that first summer without Adam. And again the following year. And the one afterthat ...
It's been five years now.
Five years and seven weeks, to be exact.
Here she sits amidst the Labor Day weekend crowd, the day after a lavish family wedding. She has a pounding headache, though not from overindulging last night: the wedding was dry. Grandaddy, a fiercely dedicated teetotaler, won't allow liquor to cross his threshold. But there was a band, and a crowd, and Charlotte danced too much, and stayed up far too late chatting with people she hadn't seen in years.
It was fun. She has few regrets about last night as she lounges in her blue and white striped canvas sand chair with her woven sweetgrass hat on her aching head, a romance novel in her hands, and her daughter at her side.
Lianna never goes into the water. Not here. Not anywhere. Not even a pool.
The other parents in Charlotte's bereavement support group back in Savannah have experienced similar reactions in their surviving children. One, who lost a teenager in a traffic accident, said his younger son had panic attacks for months every time they got into the car. Another, whose toddler succumbed to a rare stomach disease, said the older sibling eventually developed anorexia, afraid to eat lest she somehow "catch" what her little sister had.
Perhaps Lianna will never venture into the water again. Then again, maybe she will. The child psychiatrist she's been seeing since the tragedy told Charlotte not to push her.
So she doesn't.
She just brings her to the island beach on beautiful summer days, where they sit companionably side by side with their books, and they breathe salt air.
The beach is postcard-perfection on this, the last official weekend of summer.
Down beyond the dunes, where sea oats sway in the warm salt breeze, bright-colored blankets and umbrellas dot powdery sand. Crisp white sails skim the horizon. The ocean air is rife with the sounds of gleeful children splashing in the surf, the incessant roar of the waves, the squawking of circling gulls, the hum of banner-toting planes cruising the coast.
Largely unpopulated until the last decade or so, Achoco Island lies off the coast of Georgia, about midway between Tybee and the Golden Isles; nowhere near the tourist hub of either. The entire northern end, above the longer of the two mainland causeways, consists of a wetland wildlife refuge and what remains of the Remington family's private estate.
But the island's southeastern shore is teeming with activity on this cloudless September afternoon. A steady stream of beach traffic snakes from the boardwalk beyond the dunes to both the north and south causeways, and no doubt all the way back to the mainland highway to Interstate 95.
That's why this day was chosen. Because of all the people.
The holiday crowd surpasses every expectation and will serve its purpose. Nobody pays the least bit of attention to the lone occupant of a blanket carefully spread a strategic distance from any of the three lifeguard towers.
Nobody suspects that this idyllic holiday weekend is about to give way to chaos-and tragedy-the likes of which this beach hasn't seen in five years.
Or, to be more precise, five years and seven weeks.
"Well, look at you! If it isn't Mimi Gaspar, all grown up and gorgeous!"
Perched high above the sun-baked sand on the wooden lifeguard tower, Mimi-nee Martha Maude- Gaspar doesn't allow her gaze to leave the surf for even a split second.
The waters off Georgia's crowded island beach are choppy today, courtesy of a new tropical depression churning six hundred miles southeast in the Caribbean.
Anyway, she can identify the speaker by his voice alone, though it's been a few years since she heard Gib Remington's trademark low-pitched, lazy drawl. A fake drawl, as far as Mimi is concerned.
He didn't even grow up in the South-he was raised in Rhode Island, where his mother's family lived. After he was kicked out of his boarding school there, he was sent to Telfair Academy, his father's and grandfather's alma mater down here, presumably where his stern Grandaddy could keep an eye on him. A lot of good that did.
"What's the matter, you're still not speaking to me?" he asks.
"I figured y'all were back for your sister's wedding yesterday," Mimi says at last.
The beautiful Phyllida Remington might be living among the movie stars in California's Beverly Hills- with hopes of becoming one herself-but she chose to marry at the family's nineteenth-century mansion right here in the Low Country. The wedding was the social event of the summer for the hundreds who were invited.
Mimi was not among them. She doubts she'd have been welcome even if she was still dating Gib. He never did bring her home to meet his family.
"I'm only here till tomorrow. I'm flying back up to Boston first thing in the morning," Gib informs her importantly. "The fall semester starts Wednesday."
Law school. Some fancy one in New England, maybe Ivy League. She doesn't know for certain, and she doesn't care.
"What about yours?" Gib asks.
"My what?" She skims the whitecaps for the pale head of a surfer who just took a harrowing tumble off his board. It's one of the Tinkston brothers, probably Kevin, the youngest of the four notorious local hell-raisers. Down at the water's edge, two fellow lifeguards stand at the ready with orange rescue tubes.
"Your fall semester."
Once upon a time, her future was promising. She had been a full-scholarship student at Telfair Academy-live out, of course-and followed up her high school career with another free ride at Georgia Southern. She was working on a degree in international studies, dreaming of one day moving abroad.
But that was before Daddy, a fisherman and heavy smoker, was diagnosed with lung disease.
Now, as beach season draws to a close and her pals prepare to head back to dormitories and lecture halls, she'll be peddling her meager resume around Savannah. She has to get a regular job and help her parents make ends meet-never an easy task for them, but nearly impossible now.
"Let's hook up tonight and catch up," Gib suggests, undaunted by her failure to respond to his last question. "What time are you off duty?"
Ignoring that as well, Mimi watches the Tinkston boy resurface among the breakers and promptly paddle back out with his board in tow, resilient, she thinks, as her ex-boyfriend here at the base of the lifeguard tower. Gib seems to have forgotten that the last time they saw each other she informed him she never wanted to see him again.
Technically, she still hasn't. Seen him, that is.
But curiosity gets the best of her now. She flicks her gaze downward to catch a glimpse of him.
Excerpted from The Final Victim by Wendy Corsi Staub Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted February 6, 2012
This is a very poorly written book. Many characters, none of which were well developed nor were they believable. The plot was worse. Not a thing about it was believable.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 17, 2009
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I have read a few of Wendi Corsi Staub's novels, and have to say that I do enjoy them. 'The Final Victim' was a good read, but a bit long for what was actually "meant" in the writing (if you know what I mean). I like Charlotte, and in the beginning really enjoyed Royce. Lianna was a brat (but that's how kids can be, when being brought up in 'unwanted' environments.) As in all of Staubs books you never get the killer right the first time you think about it, and it was defiantly a shock in the end. You would just never believe it until it was actually said.
I would say if you are a fan of this author pick it up! Shes good at what she does.
Posted April 12, 2008
It's unusual for me to rate a book this low. But this one definitely deserved it. I was especially disgusted because I took this book on vacation so I hauled it all the way to the beach! 1. Way, way too long by at least 150 pages. I couldn't believe I read 475 pages of awful book. 2. Way, way too many details about exactly what someone was wearing or fixing to eat, etc. 3. Charlotte was oblivious to the real world and Lianna was a brat. 4. Crummy, crummy ending which didn't even make any sense. The murderer was someone who was barely in the book at all and who we did not care about and another someone who seemed to be one of the good ones and turned out to be lying, manipulative, immoral, and dishonorable. I wouldn't even suggest getting this one from the library, it was that bad. I've read two of her books before this one which were both 3's. Unfortunately I still have one more to read. Then I'm done with this author!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 23, 2006
I have loved reading Wendy Corsi Staubs' books from her very first and eagerly awaited this one. I found the plot somewhat silly and predictable. One of the things that I have always enjoyed the most about her novels is that she has, without exception, scared the living daylights out of me...until this book. I thought the heroine was a wimp and by the middle of the book I was hoping both her and her obnoxious daughter would be dumped in the swamp. I will look forward to her next book and will remain a devoted fan, I just hope that the next one returns to her usual suspensful and thoroughly creepy venue.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 4, 2006
I really liked this book. Its main character, Charlotte, is very likable, and it's heartwarming to see that even after life's tragedies, she still can see the enjoyment of life. I read this book in 2 days. I just couldn't put it down. It really reels you in.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 26, 2006
I started reading Staub two summers ago and was instantly hooked. I have really enjoyed everything she has written to this point. After 200 pages I felt as though I was still waiting for something to happen. I was really disappointed!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2008
After losing her son in a drowning accident and her husband soon after in a divorce, Charlotte Remington thinks she will never be happy again. That is until she meets Royce Maitland, who suffered similar losses. They eventually fall in love and marry living in her grandfather¿s mansion on Achoco Island while their Savannah home is renovated. --- When her grandfather dies, Charlotte expects to inherit one third of his estate with the rest going to her cousins Gib and Phyllida. Nobody is more shocked than Charlotte when she learns at the reading of the will that she inherited everything. Her cousins are livid and threaten to sue shortly after someone shoots Royce. Evidence lead to the arrest of Gib, but he is more concerned over what the police will find in his room than the assault charge that he insists he did not do. While her beloved daughter remains on the island, Charlotte is on the mainland discovering some devastating news that leads her to believe death is on the move with her the people on the island a likely target. --- Wendy Corsi Staub writes a psychological suspense tale that pulls the reader deeply into the exhilarating story line. The characters are fully developed whether they are the protagonists or the antagonists although the audience will not be sure who to classify where. THE FINAL VICTIM is fast-paced and action-packed while focusing on a heroine who though she has suffered traumatically has courageously rebuilt her life and refuses to allow anyone to destroy it or those she cherishes. --- Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 7, 2009
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Posted November 7, 2008
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