In Silenceby Erica Spindler
Journalist Avery Chauvin is devastated when she receives word of her father's suicide. How could her father, a dedicated physician, have taken his own life? That he set himself on fire is unfathomable.
Returning to her hometown of Cypress Springs, Louisiana, Avery desperately searches for answers. Instead she hears whispered rumors of strange happenings, of
Journalist Avery Chauvin is devastated when she receives word of her father's suicide. How could her father, a dedicated physician, have taken his own life? That he set himself on fire is unfathomable.
Returning to her hometown of Cypress Springs, Louisiana, Avery desperately searches for answers. Instead she hears whispered rumors of strange happenings, of neighbors who go missing in the night. She discovers a box of old newspaper articles in her father's house, all covering the horrific murder of a local woman. Why had her father kept them?
Then the past and present collide. A woman is found brutally slain. An outsider passing through town vanishes. And Avery begins to wonder, could her father have been the victim of foul play?
As each step closer to the truth exposes yet another layer of deceit, Avery must face the fact that in this peaceful Southern town a terrible evil resides, protected—until now— by the power of silence.
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Read an Excerpt
Cypress Springs, Louisiana Wednesday, March 5, 2003 2:30 p.m.
Avery Chauvin drew her rented SUV to a stop in front of Rauche's Dry Goods store and stepped out. A humid breeze stirred against her damp neck and ruffled her short dark hair as she surveyed Main Street. Rauche's still occupied this coveted corner of Main and First Streets, the Azalea Café still screamed for a coat of paint, Parish Bank hadn't been swallowed by one of the huge banking conglomerates and the town square these establishments all circled was as shady and lovely as ever, the gazebo at its center a startlingly bright white.
Her absence hadn't changed Cypress Springs at all, she thought. How could that be? It was as if the twelve years between now and when she had headed off to Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, returning only for holiday breaks, had been a dream. As if her life in Washington, D.C., was a figment of her imagination.
If they had been, her mother would be alive, the massive, unexpected stroke she had suffered eleven years in the future. And her father—
Pain rushed over her. Her head filled with her father's voice, slightly distorted by the answering machine.
"Avery, sweetheart… It's Dad. I was hoping…I need to talk to you. I was hoping—" Pause. "There's something… I'll…try later. Goodbye, pumpkin."
If only she had taken that call. If only she had stopped, just for the time it would have taken to speak with him. Her story could have waited. The congressman who had finally decided to talk could have waited. A couple minutes. A couple minutes that might have changed everything.
Her thoughts raced forward, to the next morning, the call from Buddy Stevens. Family friend. Her dad's lifelong best friend. Cypress Springs' chief of police.
"Avery, it's Buddy. I've got some…some bad news, baby girl. Your dad, he's—"
Dead. Her dad was dead. Between the time her father had called her and the next morning, he had killed himself. Gone into his garage, doused himself with diesel fuel, then lit a match.
How could you do it, Dad? Why did you do it? You didn't even say—
The short scream of a police siren interrupted her thoughts. Avery turned. A West Feliciana Parish sheriff's cruiser rolled up behind her Blazer. An officer stepped out and started toward her.
She recognized the man by his long, lanky frame, the way he moved and held himself. Matt Stevens, childhood friend, high-school sweetheart, the guy she'd left behind to pursue her dream of journalism. She'd seen Matt only a handful of times since then, most recently at her mother's funeral nearly a year ago. Buddy must have told him she was coming.
Avery held up a hand in greeting. Still handsome, she thought, watching him approach. Still the best catch in the parish. Or maybe that title no longer applied; he could be attached now.
He reached her, stopped but didn't smile. "It's good to see you, Avery." She saw herself reflected in his mirrored sunglasses, smaller than any grown woman ought to be, her elfin looks accentuated by her pixie haircut and dark eyes, which were too big for her face.
"It's good to see you, too, Matt."
"Sorry about your dad. I feel real bad about how it all happened. Real bad."
"Thanks, I…I appreciate you and Buddy taking care of Dad's—" Her throat constricted; she pushed on, determined not to fall apart. "Dad's remains," she finished.
"It was the least we could do." Matt looked away, then back, expression somber. "Were you able to reach your cousins in Denver?"
"Yes," she managed, feeling lost. They were all the family she had left—a couple of distant cousins and their families. Everyone else was gone now.
"I loved him, too, Avery. I knew since your mom's death he'd been…struggling, but I still can't believe he did it. I feel like I should have seen how bad off he was. That I should have known."
The tears came then, swamping her. She'd been his daughter. She was the guilty party. The one who should have known.
He reached a hand out. "It's okay to cry, Avery."
"No…I've already—" She cleared her throat, fighting for composure. "I need to arrange a…service. Do the Gallaghers still own—"
"Yes. Danny's taken over for his father. He's expecting your call. Pop told him you were getting in sometime today."
She motioned to the cruiser. "You're out of your jurisdiction."
The sheriff's department handled all the unincorporated areas of the parish. The Cypress Springs Police Department policed the city itself.
One corner of his mouth lifted. "Guilty as charged. I was hanging around, hoping to catch you before you went by the house."
"I was heading there now. I just stopped to…be cause—" She bit the words back; she'd had no real reason for stopping, had simply responded to a whim.
He seemed to understand. "I'll go with you."
"That's really sweet, Matt. But unnecessary."
"I disagree." When she tried to protest more, he cut her off. "It's bad, Avery. I don't think you should see it alone the first time. I'm following you," he finished, voice gruff. "Whether you want me to or not."
Avery held his gaze a moment, then nodded and wordlessly turned and climbed into the rented Blazer. She started up the vehicle and eased back onto Main Street. As she drove the three-quarters of a mile to the old residential section where she had grown up, she took a deep breath.
Her father had chosen the hour of his death well—the middle of the night when his neighbors were less likely to see or smell the fire. He'd used diesel fuel, most probably the arson investigators determined, because unlike gasoline, which burned off vapors, diesel ignited on contact.
A neighbor out for an early-morning jog had discovered the still smoldering garage. After trying to rouse her father, who he'd assumed to be in bed, asleep, he had called the fire department. The state arson investigator had been brought in. They in turn had called the coroner, who'd notified the Cypress Springs Police Department. In the end, her dad had been identified by his dental records.
Neither the autopsy nor CSPD investigation had turned up any indication of foul play. Nor had any known motives for murder materialized: Dr. Phillip Chauvin had been universally liked and respected. The police had officially ruled his death a suicide.
No note. No goodbye.
How could you do it, Dad? Why?
Avery reached her parents' house and turned into the driveway. The lawn of the 1920s-era Acadian needed mowing; the beds weeding; bushes trimming. Although early, the azaleas had begun to bloom. Soon the beds around the house would be a riot of pinks, ranging from icy pale to deep rose.
Her dad had loved his yard. Had spent weekends puttering and planting, primping. It all looked forlorn now, she thought. Overgrown and ignored.
Avery frowned. How long had it been since her father had tended his yard? she wondered. Longer than the two days he had been gone. That was obvious.
Further evidence of the emotional depths to which he had sunk. How could she have missed how depressed he had grown? Why hadn't she sensed something was wrong during their frequent phone conversations?
Matt pulled in behind her. She took a deep breath and climbed out of her vehicle.
He met her, expression grim. "You're certain you're ready for this?"
"Do I have a choice?"
They both knew she didn't and they started up the curving driveway, toward the detached garage. A separate structure, the garage nestled behind the main house. A covered walkway connected the two buildings.
As they neared the structure the smell of the fire grew stronger—not just of wood smoke, but of what she imagined was charred flesh and bone. As they turned the corner of the driveway she saw that a large, irregularly shaped black mark marred the doorway.
"The heat from the fire," Matt explained. "It did more damage inside. Actually, it's a wonder the building didn't come down."
A half-dozen years ago, while working for the Tribune, Avery had been assigned to cover a rash of fires that had plagued the Chicago area. It turned out the arsonist had been the estranged son of a firefighter, looking to punish his old man for kicking him out of the house. Unfortunately, the police hadn't caught him before he'd been responsible for the deaths of six innocent people—one of them an infant.
Avery and Matt reached the garage. She steeled herself for what would come next. She understood how gruesome death by fire was.
Matt led her to the side door. Opened it. They stepped into the building. The smell crashed over her. As did the stark reality of her father's last minutes. She imagined his screams as the flames engulfed him. As his skin began to melt. Avery brought a hand to her mouth, her gaze going to the large char mark on the concrete floor—the spot where her father had burned alive.
His suicide had been an act of not only despair but self-hatred as well.
She began to tremble. Her head grew light, her knees weak. Turning, she ran outside, to the azalea bushes with their burgeoning blossoms. She doubled over, struggling not to throw up. Not to fall apart.
Matt came up behind her. He laid a hand on her back.
Avery squeezed her eyes shut. "How could he do it, Matt?" She looked over her shoulder at him, vision blurred by tears. "It's bad enough that he took his own life, but to do it like that? The pain…it would have been excruciating."
"I don't know what to say," he murmured, tone gentle. "I don't have any answers for you. I wish I did."
She straightened, mustering anger. Denial. "My father loved life. He valued it. He was a doctor, for God's sake. He'd devoted his life to preserving it."
At Matt's silence, she lashed out. "He was proud of himself and the choices he'd made. Proud of how he had lived. The man who did that hated himself. That wasn't my dad." She said it again, tone taking on a desperate edge. "It wasn't, Matt."
"Avery, you haven't been—" He bit the words off and shifted his gaze, expression uncomfortable.
"What, Matt? I haven't been what?"
"Around a lot lately." He must have read the effect of his words in her expression and he caught her hands and held them tightly. "Your dad hadn't been himself for a while. He'd withdrawn, from everybody. Stayed in his house for days. When he went out he didn't speak. Would cross to the other side of the street to avoid conversation."
How could she not have known? "When?" she asked, hurting. "When did this start?"
"I suppose about the time he gave up his practice."
Just after her mother's death.
"Why didn't somebody call me? Why didn't—" She bit the words back and pressed her trembling lips together.
He squeezed her fingers. "It wasn't an overnight thing. At first he just seemed preoccupied. Or like he needed time to grieve. On his own. It wasn't until recently that people began to talk."
Avery turned her gaze to her father's overgrown garden. No wonder, she thought.
"I'm sorry, Avery. We all are."
She swung away from her old friend, working to hold on to her anger. Fighting tears.
She lost the battle.
"Aw, Avery. Geez." Matt went to her, drew her into his arms, against his chest. She leaned into him, burying her face in his shoulder, crying like a baby.
He held her awkwardly. Stiffly. Every so often he patted her shoulder and murmured something comforting, though through her sobs she couldn't make out what.
The intensity of her tears lessened, then stopped. She drew away from him, embarrassed. "Sorry about that. It's…I thought I could handle it."
"Cut yourself some slack, Avery. Frankly, if you could handle it, I'd be a little worried about you."
Tears flooded her eyes once more and she brought her hand to her nose. "I need a tissue. Excuse me."
She headed toward her car, aware of him following. There, she rummaged in her purse, coming up with a rumpled Kleenex. She blew her nose, dabbed at her eyes, then faced him once more. "How could I not have known how bad off he was? Am I that self-involved?"
"None of us knew," he said gently. "And we saw him every day."
"But I was his daughter. I should have been able to tell, should have heard it in his voice. In what he said. Or didn't say."
"It's not your fault, Avery."
"No?" She realized her hands were shaking and slipped them into her pockets. "But I can't help wondering, if I had stayed in Cypress Springs, would he be alive today? If I'd given up my career and stayed after Mom's death, would he have staved off the depression that caused him to do…this? If I had simply picked up the pho—"
She swallowed the words, unable to speak them aloud. She met his gaze. "It hurts so much."
"Don't do this to yourself. You can't go back."
"I can't, can I?" She winced at the bitterness in her voice. "I loved my dad more than anyone in the world, yet I only came home a handful of times in all the years since college. Even after Mom died so suddenly and so horribly, leaving so much unresolved between us. That should have been a wake-up call, but it wasn't."
He didn't respond and she continued. "I've got to live with that, don't I?"
"No," he corrected. "You have to learn from it. It's where you go from here that counts now. Not where you've been."
A group of teenagers barreled by in a pickup truck, their raucous laughter interrupting the charged moment. The pickup was followed by another group of teenagers, these in a bright-yellow convertible, top down.
Avery glanced at her watch. Three-thirty. The high school let out the same time as it had all those years ago.
Funny how some things could change so dramatically and others not at all.
"I should get back to work. You going to be okay?"
She nodded. "Thanks for baby-sitting me."
"No thanks necessary." He started for the car, then stopped and looked back at her. "I almost forgot, Mom and Dad are expecting you for dinner tonight."
"Tonight? But I just got in."
"Exactly. No way are Mom and Dad going to let you spend your first night home alone."
"You're not in the big city anymore, Avery. Here, people take care of each other. Besides, you're family."
Home. Family. At that moment nothing sounded better than that. "I'll be there. They still live at the ranch?" she asked, using the nickname they had given the Stevenses' sprawling ranch-style home.
"Of course. Status quo is something you can count on in Cypress Springs." He crossed to his vehicle, opened the door and looked back at her. "Is six too early?"
"It'll be perfect."
"Great." He climbed into the cruiser, started it and began backing up. Halfway down the driveway he stopped and lowered his window. "Hunter's back home," he called. "I thought you might want to know."
Meet the Author
Catching a summer cold changed Erica Spindler's life forever.
Up until that fateful malady, Erica planned on being an artist. She had studied for that profession, earning both a BFA and MFA in the visual arts. Then in June of 1982, she stopped at a local drugstore to pick up cold tablets and tissues; the cashier dropped a free romance novel into her bag. She hadn't read a romance in years but once home, with nothing to do but sniffle and watch daytime TV, she picked that romance up--and was immediately hooked. For the next six months she read every romance she could get her hands on. Sometime during those months, she decided to try to write one herself.
The moment she put pen to paper, Erica knew she had found her true calling. Since that day, Erica has published more than twenty novels. Her titles have been published all over the world and Red was turned into both a wildly popular graphic novel and daytime drama in Japan. Critics have dubbed her stories as "thrill-packed, page turners, white knuckle rides, and edge-of-your-seat whodunits" and The Times Picayune praised 2003's In Silence, calling it "Creepy and compelling; a real page turner."
Erica is a USA TODAY, New York Times extended, Waldenbooks and amazon.com bestseller. In 2002, her novel Bone Cold won the prestigious Daphne du Maurier Award for excellence. An RWA honor roll member, she received a Kiss of Death award for her novel Forbidden Fruit and is a three-time RITA award finalist. In 1999 Publishers Weekly awarded the audio version of her novel Shocking Pink a Listen-Up award, naming it one of the best audio mystery books of 1998. Praisedby booksellers as "The best suspense novel I've ever read" and "A perfect 10 out of 10," Erica's 2004 release See Jane Die is the story of a woman who must face her darkest fears when her husband becomes the prime suspect in the brutal murders of two women.
Erica and her husband--a man she describes as funny, handsome and way too sassy--met in art school and have been together ever since. They have two sons, born nine and a half years apart. Erica makes her home in the New Orleans area, although she originally hailed from Illinois.
Erica came to her present home in much the same way she came to writing--fate intervened. She and her husband, then college students, traveled to New Orleans to see the King Tut exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Without advance tickets, they had a choice: wait in line all day or spend the day sightseeing. They chose the latter and fell head-over-heels in love with the city.
Erica is currently at work on her next thriller for MIRA Books.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This was the first book that I have read of erica I must say it was different than some other murder books I have read.it was a page turner.kept you guessing who the killer was. It had 59 short chapter and 366 pages. I would recommend it to buy and read.
Suspenseful thriller page turner
This is a real nail bitter, sit on the edge of your seat, stay up all night, & can't put down novel......A definite must read
Once again, Eric Spindler has caught me in her web of intrigue. I couldn't put this book down until the very end. The gripping mystery held you in it's spell right to it's surprising conclusion. I wouldn't start it at night if I were you because you will be up until dawn. Absolutely riveting!!!!
This is a great book from Erica Spindler. It has twists and turns on every page of drama and intrigue. You'll be at the edge of your seat. A great thriller! When Avery learns her father committed suicide, she's shocked to hear it. As a journalist, Avery returns to her home in Cypress Springs, Louisiana, and tries to put together the pieces of what happened. She later learns, that he set his house in life. Also, strange things have been happening, even when she's reunited with her former flame, Hunter Stevens, and meets his family, which have been acting strange. And when she digs deeper, she's in the line of fire of a vigilante group who wants to punish people, and vows to never go home again.
No matter who you're rooting for, you're always left surprised at every twist and turn with In Silence. With every new character, mood change, and evidence found, all you want to do is keep turning pages. Erica Spindler takes you on another enticing road of a Journalist who has moved back to her home town in lieu of her father's death. What she finds is not what she expected from her quiet town of Cypress Springs, Louisiana. The longer Avery Chauvin stays in town, the more mysterious things become. For everyone who lives there, life is fine aside from the occasional death; to an outsider, it's a trip with numbered days.
Another great book.....I don't know where she comes up with it all. Such a Great suspenceful book. Couldn't put the book down. ove all the references to louisiana and new orleans. Makes it more real!
You can't help but get into Erica's books. She has the knack to suck you right in and you can't get out until you have finished.The charachters are great and the whole story is told so well. So grab what you pleasure and curl up and we will see you when your done reading. ENJOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This is the second book I have read by Erica Spindler. The first was 'Bone Cold' also excellent reading but 'In Silence' was the best. I couldn't put it down. It keeps you on the edge of your seat to find out who did it. I will keep reading all of her books, she is an excellent writer.
i read this book last night. it had me on the edge the whole time. never would have guessed who it was. i have every one of ericas books and will keep on reading them as long as shes writing them