Into the Dark (Brenna Spector Series #2)

( 14 )

Overview

Can a stranger share your memories?

That's the question that haunts Brenna Spector when she first sees footage of missing webcam performer Lula Belle. Naked but hidden in shadow, the "performance artist" shares her deepest, darkest secrets with her unseen male audience . . . secrets that, to Brenna, are chillingly familiar.

Brenna has perfect memory, able to recall in astonishing detail every moment of every day of her adult life. But her ...

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Into the Dark (Brenna Spector Series #2)

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Overview

Can a stranger share your memories?

That's the question that haunts Brenna Spector when she first sees footage of missing webcam performer Lula Belle. Naked but hidden in shadow, the "performance artist" shares her deepest, darkest secrets with her unseen male audience . . . secrets that, to Brenna, are chillingly familiar.

Brenna has perfect memory, able to recall in astonishing detail every moment of every day of her adult life. But her childhood—those carefree years before the traumatic disappearance of her sister, Clea—is frustratingly vague. When Brenna listens to the stories Lula Belle tells her audience, stories only Brenna and Clea could know, those years come to life again in vivid detail. Convinced the missing internet performer has ties to her sister, Brenna takes the case—and in her quest for Lula Belle unravels a web of obsession, sex, guilt, and murder that could regain her family . . . or cost her life.

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Editorial Reviews

Harlan Coben
“Label me a big fan.”
Charlotte Observer
“Wow. Book jacket blurbs by Harlan Coben, Laura Lippman and Lee Child! I had to see what had three such heavy hitters more or less gushing about Alison Gaylin. Lesson: You should always trust the heavy hitters.”
Lee Child
“The perfect storm; a serious talent hits on a great idea and sparks a wonderful new character we’ll follow anywhere. One of my favorite writers raises the bar—again.”
Lisa Gardner
“Best new suspense series”
Laura Lippman
“A deftly plotted, completely involving novel with one of the most memorable protagonists to come along in years. Brenna Spector is tough, loyal, and canny — and that’s just in her day-to-day life as the mother of an adolescent.”
Charlaine Harris
‘Spector is a very real character with very real problems.”
Perri O’Shaughnessy
“A fresh new talent.”
Perri O'Shaughnessy
"A fresh new talent."
Perri O’Shaughnessy
“A fresh new talent.”
Lee Child
“The perfect storm; a serious talent hits on a great idea and sparks a wonderful new character we’ll follow anywhere. One of my favorite writers raises the bar--again.”
Laura Lippman
“A deftly plotted, completely involving novel with one of the most memorable protagonists to come along in years. Brenna Spector is tough, loyal, and canny -- and that’s just in her day-to-day life as the mother of an adolescent.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061878251
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/29/2013
  • Series: Brenna Spector Series , #2
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 197,257
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Alison Gaylin is the author of Into the Dark, the Shamus Award-winning And She Was, the Edgar®-nominated thriller Hide Your Eyes, as well as its sequel, You Kill Me, and two stand-alone novels, Trashed and Heartless. A graduate of Northwestern University and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, Alison lives with her husband and daughter in upstate New York.

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Read an Excerpt

Into the Dark


By Alison Gaylin

HarperCollins Publishers

Copyright © 2013 Alison Gaylin
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-06-187825-1


Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

She wants to die.

The memory flew at Brenna Spector like words on a passing billboard — there for just an instant but solid, real. Brenna had been staring at the image on her assistant Trent LaSalle's computer screen — their latest missing person, if you could call what they were looking at a person. She was more a shadow, standing behind a scrim, back-lit into anonymity — all limbs and curves and fluffy hair, but no detail, no color.

No face.

She looked as though she was naked, but you couldn't even be sure of that. But then she tapped her lower lip, the shadow- woman on the screen, she tapped it three times, triggering a memory from less than two months prior ... She looks into the girl's eyes with the chill wind biting their faces and icy water everywhere, so cold it burns. Brenna stares at her — poor, pretty mess of a girl. Then at her boyfriend standing behind her, his hand on her shoulder, the fingertips white from the tightness of the clutch. She looks back at the girl's face, at the mascara streaks on her cheeks, looking so awful for the wear — worse than Maya and me put together — and then, into the eyes ... such fathomless sadness as she meets Brenna's gaze, her boyfriend oblivious, smiling a little. She doesn't want to be here. None of us do, but this girl ...

The girl taps her lip three times like a Morse signal.

She wants to die.

"She's so freakin' hot," Trent said.

Brenna came back from the memory, fixed her gaze on the screen. "Uh, Trent? She's a silhouette."

"Hey, so are those chicks on truck mud flaps."

Brenna rolled her eyes.

"You'll get it when you see more."

As if on cue, the shadow- woman began stretching her body into a series of suggestive yoga poses — a slow back bend, followed by the sharp V of the downward facing dog, a seamless shift to standing, after which she reached down, grasped her right ankle, and pulled the leg straight out and then up, until the knee touched the side of her head.

"See?" Trent said.

With shocking ease, she yanked the leg, stole-like, around her shoulder. Her voice was a soft Southern accent, drifting out of the speakers like steam. "I'll bend any way you want me to."

Trent nearly fell off his chair.

"I get it, I get it." Brenna grabbed the mouse and hit pause. "Who is she?"

"Lula Belle." He said it the way a nun might say the name of a saint. "She's an artist."

Brenna looked at her assistant. He was wearing a black muscle tee with a deep V- neck, the Ed Hardy logo emblazoned on the front in glittery red letters. His hair was spiked and gelled to the point where it could probably scrape paint off the side of a bus, and, Brenna now noticed for the first time, he was sporting a new tattoo: a bright red lipstick print, hovering just above the left pec. Trent's definition of an artist was, to say the least, dubious.

"A performance artist," he said, as if he'd been reading her mind. "She's on the Web. You can download her, uh, performances."

"She's a web cam girl."

"No," Trent pointed to the screen. "Lula Belle isn't about porn. I mean, you can get off to her for sure, but ..."

"But what?"

"Here — I'll show you." Trent moved the cursor, fast forwarding the screen image. Brenna watched the shadow twist and bend, watched her drop into the splits and pivot, throw her pelvis over her head and somersault backward to standing, watched her pull up a stool and straddle it, legs spread wide as a Fosse dancer, watched her produce an old- fashioned Coke bottle from somewhere off camera, tilt her shadow-head back, touch her shadow-tongue to the tip, and then take the bottle down her throat all the way to the base, all this inside of twenty seconds.

Brenna said, "Well, I guess you could call that an art."

"No. Wait." When Trent hit play, Lula Belle was on the stool, legs crossed, fingers twisting in her hair.

"Listen."

"'... and you know that little soft part of your head, Lula Belle? Right next to your eyebrow? That's called your temple. Daddy took his gun, and he put the barrel of it right there at his temple, and he pulled the trigger and his whole head exploded.' That's how my mama told me. I was twelve years old. 'Do you understand, Lula Belle?' she asked me, and my heart felt like someone had taken a torch to it, melted it down to liquid right there in my chest. But I knew I couldn't cry. I wasn't allowed to cry. Mama didn't ... she didn't take kindly to tears ..."

Trent hit pause and turned to Brenna. "You get it?"

"She bares her soul. Shares her secrets."

He nodded.

"And people pay for this."

"Yep."

Brenna shook her head. "Weird."

"Well, the Coke bottle thing helps ..."

"When did she go missing?"

"Less than three months ago."

"And the client?"

"It was a third party."

"Who was the third party?"

"Another PI. Lula's manager hired him."

"And the PI's name is ..."

"Brenna?"

"Yes?"

"Can I ask you something?"

"As long as you're not asking me in order to avoid my question."

"Seriously."

"Okay."

Trent cleared his throat. "When I first showed you Lula Belle ... you ... remembered something, didn't you?"

"Yeah." Strange how "remembered" could be such a loaded word, but in Brenna's world it was. Since she was eleven years old, she'd suffered from hyperthymestic syndrome, a rare disorder that enabled her to remember every minute of every day of her life, and with all five senses, whether she wanted to or not. It came, a California based neuroscientist named Dr. Louis Gettis had told her on June 24, 2006, "from the perfect storm of a differently shaped brain and a traumatic experience" — storm, as it turned out, a good metaphor, seeing as how the syndrome had descended on Brenna, battering her mind into something so different than it had been before.

She had two types of memories now — the murky recollections of her childhood and the vivid, three-dimensional images of everything that had happened from August 22, 1981, to the present.

Brenna could recall, for instance, what she had for breakfast on June 25, 1998, to the point of tasting it (black coffee, a bowl of Special K with skim milk, blueberries that were disappointingly mealy, and two donut holes — one chocolate, one glazed). But her father, who had left her family when she was just seven — he existed in her mind only as strong arms and the smell of Old Spice, a light kiss on the forehead, a story told by one of her mother's friends, years after he'd gone. He wasn't whole in Brenna's head. She couldn't clearly picture his face. Same with her older sister, Clea, who had gotten into a blue car on August 21, 1981, at the age of seventeen and vanished forever. Clea's disappearance had been the traumatic event that had sparked Brenna's perfect storm — yet ironically that event, like Clea herself, was stuck in her fallible pre-syndrome memory, fading every day into hazy fiction.

Brenna had known that would happen — even as a kid on August 21, 1982, the anniversary ... Sitting at her bedroom window with her face pressed against the cool of the screen, glancing at the digital clock blinking 5:21 A.M. and chewing grape Bubble Yum to stay awake, her throat dry and stingy from old gum, trying with everything she has to remember the car, the license plate, the voice of the man behind the wheel from a year earlier ...

Brenna shut her eyes tight and recited the Pledge of Allegiance in her head — one of the many tricks she'd figured out over the years for willing memories away.

"So?" Trent said.

She opened her eyes, took a breath. "What was your question again?"

"What were you remembering when you looked at Lula Belle?"

"Not much — a gesture," Brenna said. "On October 30, Maya and I were in Niagara Falls on vacation, remember?"

He gave her a look. "I can remember two months ago."

"Well, we were on the Maid of the Mist, and there was a girl on the boat who tapped on her lip three times, just like Lula Belle did at the start of the tape."

"What did the girl on the boat look like?"

"Probably in her early twenties. Blonde. Miserable. She was leaving the boat with her boyfriend, and she had mascara running down her face." Brenna looked at him. "She looked like she wanted to die."

Trent's eyes went big.

"I know what you're thinking, but we all probably looked that way," Brenna said. "We were getting hailed on. It was freezing and windy and everybody was seasick and Maya called me the worst mother in the world for taking her on that boat in the first place."

"Still," he said. "It could have been Lula Belle you saw.

Less than a month after she went missing. On that boat with some jerk-off. Praying to be saved from him ..."

"Hell of a coincidence."

"Happens all the time."

"Trent, it was just a gesture. Do we have any idea what Lula Belle looks like?"

"No."

"What about this third party? Do they?"

He shook his head. "Her own manager doesn't even know what she looks like. He lives in California. Never met her face-to-face. He maintained her site, made the checks out to cash, sent them to a PO box ..."

Brenna sighed. "In that case, I could be Lula Belle."

"Oh man, that would be so awesome."

Brenna's gaze shot back to the frozen image on the screen. "Do we at least have her full name?"

"Uh ... no."

"What about her social?"

He shook his head.

"So let me get this straight. All we have on this woman is a fake name, a fake accent, a PO box, and a very obvious skill set."

"You think her accent's fake? Really?"

"Trent."

"Yeah?"

"Why did you think we could accept this case?"

He picked at a fingernail.

"Trent."

"We ... we only have this one video."

"And?"

"The Web site's been taken down since she disappeared.

There's no way of downloading more."

"So?"

"So ... if we officially accept the case, we can get ... uh ..." He cleared his throat. "We can get all the rest of the videos."

"Oh, for godsakes," Brenna said. "You're a fan." "I know, I know ... I mean, I never heard of her before yesterday, but I can't get her out of my head. I can't stop watching. I don't even care what her face looks like or how old she is ... It's like Errol said — she gets under your skin and stays there."

"Errol?"

"Crap. I didn't mean to say that out loud."

"Errol Ludlow? He's the third party?"

Trent's face went pinkish. He bit his lower lip, and stared at the floor like a shamed kid. "Yes," he said finally. "Errol Ludlow Investigations."

Brenna stared at him. "No."

"He said you were the best around at finding missing persons — that's why he wanted to hire you."

"No, Trent. Absolutely not."

"He wants to let bygones be bygones and —"

"No!"

Trent looked close to tears.

Brenna hadn't intended to say it that loudly, but she wasn't going to take it back, either. In the three years that Errol Ludlow had been her boss, he'd put her in serious danger four times. Twice, she'd been rushed to the hospital. Her ex-husband had made her promise to quit and then the one time, three years after Maya was born, Brenna had made the breathtakingly stupid mistake of taking a freelance assignment from him, it had ended her marriage for good. Brenna couldn't let bygones be bygones. Trent should've known that. There were no such things as bygones in Brenna's life — especially when it came to a king-sized bad memory-trigger like Errol Ludlow. "No, Trent," she said again — quieter this time. "I'm sorry you've grown attached to this girl's silhouette, but we can't take this case."

Trent started to say something — until Ludacris's "Money Maker" exploded out of his jeans pocket, interrupting him. His ring tone. He yanked his iPhone out of his pocket and looked at the screen.

"My mom."

"Go ahead and take it," Brenna said.

Trent moved from the office space area of Brenna's Twelfth Street apartment, past the kitchen, and into the hallway that led to the living room. Brenna glanced at the shadow on the screen caught frozen, one delicate hand to her forehead — the swooning Southern belle. "Sorry, Lula." Brenna wondered why Errol had accepted a missing person in the first place. From what she knew, he only handled cheating spouses. Work must be tight.

She clicked play. Lula Belle arched into a languorous stretch that seemed to involve every muscle in her body and sighed, her voice fragile as air. Brenna watched her, thinking about what Trent had said. She gets under your skin and stays there ... Was Errol a fan, too? "I miss my daddy," Lula Belle said. "He was the only person in the whole world, could stop me from being scared of anything." She turned to the left and tilted her head up, as if she were noticing a star for the first time. "I used to be afraid of all kinds of stuff, too," she said. "The dark, ghosts, the old lady next door — I was sure she was a witch. Dogs, spiders, snakes ... even cement mixers, if you can imagine that."

Brenna's eyes widened. She moved closer to the screen. "I somehow got it in my head that those cement mixers were like ... I don't know, giant vacuum cleaners or something. I thought they could suck me in through the back, and mix me in with all that heavy wet cement, and I'd never be able to get out, wouldn't be able to breathe."

"Me too," Brenna whispered.
(Continues...)


Excerpted from Into the Dark by Alison Gaylin. Copyright © 2013 by Alison Gaylin. 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 14 )
Rating Distribution

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(7)

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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 27, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Karen Pirnot for Readers' Favorite "Into the D

    Reviewed by Karen Pirnot for Readers' Favorite

    "Into the Dark" by Alison Gaylin is one of those books that will haunt you after you close the back cover. Investigator Brenna Spector accepts a new case in which a webcam performer has disappeared. When Brenna watches the video for clues, she discovers that Lula Belle, the performer in the webcam knows stories that only her sister Clea would know. But, Clea disappeared years ago. Brenna solicits the assistance of colleague Trent who has issues of his own but is highly committed to the interests of his boss Brenna. The more Brenna comes into contact with those who knew Lula Bella, the more convinced she becomes that she is, indeed, looking for her long-lost sister Clea. The story interweaves lies, sex, intrigue and mystery in amounts that will discourage readers from texting or answering cell phone calls.

    Gaylin provides lessons for would-be authors as she skillfully develops leads and then takes the reader to yet another fork in the road. The reader must then choose another suspect and walk where the clues lead. Chances are that there will be yet another choice of suspects waiting. The characters are loveable, hateable and just plain intriguing. Some are so real that you'll swear they live next door. Others are ones you hope will never cross your path. Interspersed with the case clues are Brenna's own intrusive recollections of times with her sister. The juxtaposition of the memories and the clues is masterfully done to the point that most readers will be wondering how a single moment in time might, indeed, change their own lives. You'll thank yourself for picking up this one!

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 20, 2013

    I only gave it one star for the sake of giving it a star.

    Not worth the money I paid for it. I found it to be a confusing book to follow. Whenever I read a book, in my mind I am in the book. I can picture what is happening as if it was a movie playing in my head, with this book that didnot happen. Very disappointed.

    5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2014

    &hearts Welcome to Stoneclan &hearts

    A tall black tabby with peircing blue eyes pads out of a den in the ground and leaps on a tall branch. "Call me Ebonystar," the tabby says kindly. "I want to welcome everyone to Stoneclan. We are a clan that strives for greatness and the good of everyone. Let me show you around." The leader jumps down and beckons you foward with her tail. She pads around, showing you the clan. <p>
    Res one: Welcome and map<p>
    Res two: Main camp-a large clearing with trees surounding it. The large tree in the middle serves as a place for the leader to make anouncements.<p>
    Res three: Bios<p>
    Res four: Warriors den-a small cave like place in the wall near the entrance of camp. Moss naturaly grows there so it is nice and comfrotable.<p>
    Res five: Apprentice's den-similer to the warriors den, but a bit smaller.<p>
    Res six: Med. cat den-a large crack in a rock off to the side of camp. Some herbs naturaly grow there so the med. cat has a less difficult time.<p>
    Res seven: Leaders den-a ditch under the root of the large tree in the middle of the clearing. It is nice and roomy.<p>
    Res eight: Elders den-a cozy place under on of the trees surounding the clearing<p>
    Res nine: High branch-a branch on the large tree in the middle of the clearing. It reaches out over the leaders den so the leader may easily get from the den to the branch and vice-versa.<p>
    Res ten: Hunting grounds-past the clearing. Plenty of prey, even in leaf-bare.<p>
    Res eleven: Border-the edge of Stoneclan territory.<p>
    The black tabby turns around and speaks. "This is Stoneclan territory. I ask that you don't post here and that you ask to join in the main camp." She nods to you and pads back into her den.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2014

    Wheres nursery???

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2014

    Highly Recommended

    I love Alison Gaylin's suspense e-books. You should read the series.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2014

    Great story

    An original story! Loved it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 5, 2013

    Love it!

    Looking forward to another installment. Loved this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2014

    Did not finish

    This book only heald my intrest for 105 pages.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2014

    3.5 stars

    This story had potential, but never reallu got its hooks into me. It was easy to put down and walk away from.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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