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Killer's Cousin

Killer's Cousin

4.4 26
by Nancy Werlin

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Recently acquitted of murder, 17-year-old David has moved to Massachusetts to complete his senior year of high school. His aunt and uncle have offered him shelter—escape from the media's questions and from the uncertain glances of his neighbors and ex-friends.

His attic apartment doesn't feel much like a shelter, though. He sees ghostly shadows at night,


Recently acquitted of murder, 17-year-old David has moved to Massachusetts to complete his senior year of high school. His aunt and uncle have offered him shelter—escape from the media's questions and from the uncertain glances of his neighbors and ex-friends.

His attic apartment doesn't feel much like a shelter, though. He sees ghostly shadows at night, his aunt is strangely cold, and his 11-year-old cousin, Lily, is downright hostile. And as Lily's behavior becomes more and more threatening, David can't help but wonder what ugly secrets lurk within the walls of her home.

There's one thing that David knows with certainty. The more he learns about his cousin Lily, the harder it is to avoid thinking about his own past.

Editorial Reviews

Horn Book
When seventeen-year-old David Yaffe moves into the third floor of his aunt and uncle's Cambridge, Massachusetts, triple-decker, he already has a lot going against him, but the antagonism his relatives display increases his troubles. Recently acquitted of the murder of his girlfriend in a nationally publicized trial, David struggles to come to terms with the way that the events of the past year have changed his life. His eleven-year-old cousin, Lily, exhibits malicious behavior that escalates from eavesdropping and taunting to "guerrilla attacks" on David's apartment-strewing trash, destroying computer files, gluing CDs into their cases. Consumed by problems in their marriage dating back to the death of their older daughter Kathy four years before, Lily's parents refuse to recognize her disturbing actions and attitude. Expertly paced, the thriller unfolds tantalizingly slowly, as David learns additional details about Kathy's death and Lily's involvement. As the narrator, he also withholds the full story of his girlfriend's death until the very end, which both adds to the suspense and appropriately reflects his longing for privacy and anonymity. His deep-rooted sense of guilt and loss color his thoughts and cast doubt in the reader's mind about his innocence. Everyday details such as David's adjustment to a new school and his interest in "The X-Files" ground the story in reality. Young adults will eat this one up. (Jan/Feb 1999).
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"Many secrets bubble just beneath the surface of this skillful thriller narrated by a high-school senior who has been accused--and acquitted--of murdering his girlfriend," said PW in a starred review. Ages 14-up. (Feb.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
VOYA - Melissa Thacker
As this suspenseful book opens, seventeen-year-old David Bernard Yaffe has just been acquitted from the murder of his girlfriend Emily and sent to live with his Uncle Vic, Aunt Julia, and eleven-year-old cousin Lily in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to finish out his senior year. David is given the attic apartment to live in, the same place where Vic and Julia's eighteen-year-old daughter, Kathy, committed suicide four years ago. Since then, tension has been high in the Shaughnessy household and David's presence only compounds matters. David knows that Julia has a problem with him being there, but Lily seems to especially resent David. She hates the fact that he has Kathy's apartment and that he encourages Vic and Julia to talk to each other directly and not through her. She constantly needles and taunts David, and eventually starts vandalizing his apartment. To make matters worse, David thinks he is being haunted. At first, he thinks it is Emily, but he soon comes to realize that the humming and indistinct shape he sees is Kathy. As David learns more about Kathy's death, he realizes that Lily knows more about it than anyone suspects and that Kathy desperately wants him to help Lily in some way. Over time, David is able to help Lily and also begin the healing process in his own life. Although we are slowly able to piece together what happened with David and Emily, The Killer's Cousin is clearly Lily's story. David and Lily are sympathetic characters, who compel readers to discover the whole truth behind their stories. Once they get started, readers will be hard pressed to put this book down. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Broad general YA appeal, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Children's Literature - Sharon Salluzzo
After being acquitted of murdering his girlfriend, David goes to Boston to live with his aunt, uncle, and cousin Lily to complete his senior year of high school. He is trying to piece together his life and deal with the tragedy that he caused. There is an awkwardness that greets him and he assumes it is because of his presence until peculiar events begin to occur. The apparitions of his cousin Kathy who died four years earlier are accompanied by humming sounds. Eleven-year-old Lily asks David if he felt "powerful" when he killed. At first he thinks it is just the curiosity of a child. Later, he becomes convinced there is more. When David suggests to his aunt and uncle that Lily needs psychiatric help, they cannot accept it. He discovers the truth about Lily's involvement in Kathy's death and instinctively knows he must intercede to prevent another tragedy. Werlin has created a gripping psychological drama. Vivid characters populate this fast-paced and intense story. There is much for the reader to think about in the relationships David has with his relatives, his parents, and the friends he makes in Boston. The theme of living with the consequences of one's actions is well displayed.
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-David Yaffe, 18, having recently been acquitted of murdering his girlfriend, is sent to live in Cambridge, MA, with his aunt Julia, uncle Vic, and cousin Lily to repeat his senior year of high school. Lily, 11, is resentful of his presence; she feels that her dead sister Kathy's room is rightfully hers, and that he should not be staying in it. Lily taunts and torments David until he begins to doubt his own sanity. His emotional fragility is compellingly revealed as he works through the loss of his girlfriend and the complicity he feels over her death. Readers see Lily through David's eyes; she is alternately depicted as the troubled child of dysfunctional parents, a spoiled brat, and a truly evil character. She plays on his fears and pushes David to the edge until he realizes what he has always known: that she, too, is a killer. This psychological thriller will keep readers involved and should appeal to fans of Lois Duncan and Joan Lowery Nixon.-Michele Snyder, Chappaqua Public Library, NY

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt

I sat down. "I don't remember. You'd better tell me."

My father nodded. We looked at each other straight on for possibly the first time, neither of us looking away.

He said, "I was at the inquest. It--Kathy's death--was ugly. She ingested a glass of cleaning solvent. Ammonia of some kind. She was taking a bubble bath, and apparently had the glass all ready next to the tub. She drank half of it--more wasn't required. It burned out her throat, and she sank down under the water. The actual cause of death was drowning. There was water in her lungs.

"And Lily . . . Well, Kathy had locked the door to the attic but Lily knew where the key was. She had sneaked in before. She liked to hang out here when Kathy wasn't in."

Now, that sounded like Lily to me. "So she thought Kathy was out?" I asked.

"I think so," said my father. "Her testimony was a little confused. She was only seven. The judge was very gentle with her."

"What did she see?" I asked.

"At first she didn't realize Kathy was there. The bathroom door was closed. Then she heard a noise . . . probably the glass crashing to the floor." My mother made a sound, a soft involuntary mew, and my father paused for a moment, glancing at her, before continuing.

"Lily said she burst into the bathroom--yelling 'Boo!' or something. The bathroom door wasn't locked. You understand that it would all have happened very quickly. Kathy would have been beneath the water already. Lily said she thought Kathy was playing a game, holding her breath under the water. But she didn't come up."

"Lily got all wet," said my mother. "She tried to pull Kathy out . . ."

The ice cream I'd eaten earlier threatened to push its way back up my throat.

"Lily even tried to pick up the glass," my father said. "But of course it had shattered on the tile when Kathy dropped it, so Lily's hands got cut up. And her knees . . . She kept saying it was her fault. Children that age, they often think they're responsible for everything."

I had a vivid picture of Lily kneeling on the shards by the tub, pulling desperately at Kathy. "Okay," I said. "That's enough." But then I thought of something else.

"This was about Kathy's boyfriend?" I asked. "The one who dumped her?"

"Yes," said my mother.

"Well," said my father, the stickler for detail, "that's what the inquest concluded. The letter from him was on the kitchen counter."

I asked, "Did Kathy write a note or something?"

"No," he said, then added, "I wish she had. It would have been . . . not easier, perhaps, but more final." He shrugged. "People usually leave letters, but not always. This could have been a sudden impulse. Probably Kathy didn't really intend to die. Just to get sick. To scare her boyfriend, perhaps. And maybe Vic and Julia, too. They'd been fighting."

I found myself staring across the room into the bathroom. Its door was ajar, and I could see the edge of the tub inside.

"Why were Vic and Julia fighting with Kathy?" I asked.

"They'd been fighting since she dropped out of college," my mother said. "She'd been commuting to U. Mass, Boston. Do you remember?"

"Something, yeah," I said. What I suddenly did remember were my mother's comments about it. Julia won't pull her claws out of Kathy. Mark my words: That girl will never get away.

"So they were angry at Kathy for dropping out of school?" I asked.

"Yes. They'd been letting her live here rent free. But when she dropped out and got a job, Julia said she had to start paying." My mother's tone dripped disapproval.

"That doesn't sound unreasonable," I said, and heard my father's grunt of agreement.

"She wasn't earning very much money," retorted my mother. "And I think, with a little understanding and support, she would have gone back to school. But Julia's attitude made her dig in harder. Julia always makes you want to do the opposite of what she says."

That was true. I moved on. "So they fought about college and about rent money? And Julia and Vic were in agreement?"

"Well," my mother said. "My brother . . ."

I waited.

"At first, Vic didn't take the rent money from Kathy. She'd give him a check and he'd deposit it, but then he'd give her back the cash. Julia didn't know."

"Tell him, Eileen," said my father.

"I was going to!" my mother said. But then she sighed. "Oh, God. This is embarrassing. David, it was my idea. Vic asked me about charging Kathy rent . . . he wasn't sure . . . so I told him to give Kathy back the money. Secretly."

"It was a spectacular piece of meddling," observed my father calmly. "Your mother outdid herself."

"I was only thinking of Kathy!" my mother protested.

"You were thinking of needling Julia, and you know it."

"Oh, and you're so perfect yourself!" Then her voice changed. "I've said I was sorry. I've said it again and again . . . to Vic, to Julia. I couldn't be sorrier."

"Julia found out?" I asked, even though I already knew. It explained so much.

"Naturally," said my father.

"Shut up, Stuart," said my mother. "Yes, David, she found out. Kathy told her--yelled it at her--in the middle of a fight."

I could picture it. Perhaps they had had that fight right here, in this living room. Perhaps Julia had said, Your father and I . . . and Kathy had flung back, Dad doesn't agree with you! He agrees with me! Do you know what he does? Do you know . . .

It was odd. I could almost hear her. Almost see her as she screamed at Julia, her shoulders stiff like Lily's so often were. Kathy? I thought. Kathy, are you there? Are you here?

I heard it then, plainly. Clearly. The humming.

"David?" said my mother.

I looked up. "Yes?"

"Julia has never forgiven me," my mother said. "But I am most sincerely sorry. I've told her. I told her then, and after Kathy . . . and I've written . . ." Her voice trailed off.

"I understand," I said.

"I thought I meant well. But your father is right, too. Julia and I . . . I'd gotten into the habit of, well, I was always trying to score points . . . It went too far. I went too far. I know that."

I said, "It's okay," and I heard her sigh. I listened as my mother told the rest of the story.

After the incident over the rent, Kathy had begun paying for real. Julia collected the checks, and kept a sharp eye on the checking account to ensure that Vic gave Kathy no extra money. My mother believed that this, and not Kathy's death, was the true beginning of Vic and Julia's estrangement. And then Kathy's new boyfriend had entered the scene.

"He wasn't a nice Catholic boy," said my mother. "Or even a nice Jewish boy. But I don't know a lot about it. My brother . . . wasn't talking very much to me right then. He had long hair. The boy, I mean." Her eyes skittered away from my own hair, longer than it had ever been. "An earring too. Of course no job. And of course they were . . ." She gave me a quick look, swallowed, and finished bravely. ". . . having sex."

It was an odd moment to realize I loved her, my sturdily Catholic--despite the conversion--mother; I grinned at her. For a second, as our eyes held, I thought we might both laugh. Then she ducked her head. "Well. It was all perfectly ordinary, really. Julia overreacted. Anyway, it only lasted three months. But by the end, nobody was talking, even to argue."

Nobody talking. Typical Shaughnessy. Typical Yaf-

I said quickly, "And then Kathy died."

"Yes," said my mother. "Yes."

That was all.

After a while, my parents went to bed, and I flung myself onto the sofa. Then I got up, and prowled into the bathroom; looked at the tub. It needed a good scrubbing. I had never bothered.

If I closed my eyes I could almost see Kathy there. See the shadow; hear the humming.

All at once I couldn't bear being in the house. I put on my running clothes and headed out, fast.

The Shaughnessy apartment was dark. The only indication that Vic and Julia were there was the fact that their bedroom door was closed.

Lily's door was also shut. For some reason I paused outside it for a few seconds. It wasn't all Lily's fault that she was so odd. Terrible things had happened in her short life.

I was halfway down the stairs when I realized that I hadn't asked my parents about Lily. What had been going on with her while Kathy quit school, got a job and a boyfriend, and fought with her parents? Very likely my mother and father would not have known. What was there to know about a seven-year-old? That she had been in second grade? That she had liked to sneak into the attic where her big sister lived, to play at being grown-up?

I should live here, Lily had said of the attic, on the day I moved in. It's all wrong.

And then I wondered: Why would she want to live in the place where she'd seen her sister die?

Meet the Author

Nancy Werlin was born and raised in Peabody, Massachusetts, USA and now lives near Boston. She received her bachelor's degree in English from Yale.

Since then, she has worked as a technical writer and editor for several computer software and Internet companies, while also writing fiction.She is a National Book Award finalist.

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The Killer's Cousin 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was a great book. The good thing about it, is it's good for pretty much all ages. There is only one part that is inappropriate. VERY good ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was one of the books i had to read over the summer and i must say it was a really good book. I wasnt able to put the book down and finished it within a few days
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book just keeps you guessing from the beggining to the end.David is accused of murdering his girlfriend,Emily and is sent to live with his uncle and his strange family.He soon learns about secrets in their family that he can't imgine,Great ending! I would recommend this book to anyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Killer's Cousin is an awesome, awesome book!!! Kept me guessing up till the end!!! Some parts were sad and others weirded me out, but that made it all the better! Read this, its worth it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book i read it for school and i dont really like reading but i just picked this book and found my self reading every second of the day when i finished i looked for a nother book to read by this auther and i found Locked inside is another good.book i couldnt stop reading i read it over and over again
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author again hqd me stunned at her creativity and writing. This was a great thriller one of thr best I,ve ever read.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
David a senior moved to his aunt and uncle¿s house to finish high school after he got tried innocent for murder. He moved there to avoid the questions by many people about the death. David moving in caused many problems. His uncle was always fighting with Lily and Julie, and Lily didn¿t even want David to move in. Lily always acted really weird around David and then normal to everyone else. At night he would always hear voices and see shadows as he was trying to fall asleep. Then when he did fall asleep he often had nightmares about the murder. At school it was hard for David to find friends because they all knew he was apart of the death. Will David be able to get through living with his cousins and Lily especially? I liked this book because it always kept you guessing about what was going to happen next. The only bad thing about this book is the beginning is extremely confusing but as you read on it will all make sense. Overall this was a great book. Nancy Werlin is a great author and I think I will continue reading her books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Nancy Werin¿s The Killer¿s Cousin is a captivating and mind blowing story. David, who was recently found innocent of murder, finds life in his home town harder than before his conviction. Living his life through the eyes of the public he decides to move to Boston and live with his aunt, Julia, and uncle, Vic. As David settles in he meets Lily, Vic and Julia¿s youngest daughter their oldest daughter died in a horrible suicide/bath-tub accident. David starts at a new school and he meets a semi-gothic Frank, after a few run-ins they become friends. David also meets Raina who lives in the bottom duplex of his new home. Just as David begins to relax in his new life style Lily seems to be getting more vicious. Then on Thanksgiving, at the dinner table Vic and Julia begin talking to each other for the first time since Kathy¿s death. This sends Lily, Vic and Julia¿s mediator, overboard. On top of all this David begins to see and hear the ghost of Kathy during the night. As Kathy¿s message becomes clearer everyday, Lily¿s tantrums get worse. Vic and Julia begin to believe that David is going insane. Is David really going insane, is David making everything up and did Kathy really kill herself. You will have to read Nancy Werlin¿s The Killer¿s Cousin to find all of this out. This is a great book and captivating mystery. I would recommend it to people who love a good mystery.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel is about a seventeen-year-old named David Yaffe who was acquitted for murdering his girlfriend and had to move in with his aunt Julia and his Uncle Vic in Cambridge, Massachusetts so he could get away from the media and the mean stares that he gets from neighbors and ex-friends. David Yaffe has a cousin¿s spirit named Kathy who died talking to him at night and his younger cousin Lily is basically rejecting him all of the time. Lily is furious when he moves in because he moved in the apartment that one time Kathy, the girl who died fur years ago, used to live in. David moves in because Lily never lets him forget his past by always saying, ¿Do you feel powerful?¿ David just shakes it off for a while but comes to find out that she need psychological help, but his aunt and uncle does not agree with David. David¿s days at school are nothing more eventful than it is at his aunt and uncle¿s house. David tries to find missing pieces of his life and put them together and also deal with the terrible incident that he caused. David has a skinhead for a classmate named Frank Delgado who looks mean and dangerous but really he is softer. Take this event for example, when everybody is choosing a kaballist for his project and the kabbalsits were very peaceful people and Frank knew a lot about them and their culture. So in conclusion, I really admire Nancy Werlin for making a novel as good as this one and I hope that anyone that reads this review will read this novel because it is a really good novel to read. This novel has everything you want out of a mysterious and suspense novel and a novel that would but your hair stand on end. So I really encourage you all to get this novel and read it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The killers Cousin This book is about a seventeen year old boy who is troubled by pas and present problems in his life. David Yaffe is acquitted of murder and moves to his aunt¿s house in Boston. He lived in the attic where his cousin died four years prior. His younger cousin Lily, is not pleased and plays pranks on him and gets her parents to evict him. During this time David gets visits from Kathy¿s Spirit (dead cousin), telling him to Help Lily! David, On the verge of insanity figures out that Lily killed Kathy the four yrs back but get kicked out into a hotel. That same night he goes jogging and Kathy¿s Spirit is yelling to David, ¿Help Lily! Help Lily!¿ His feet take him to his Aunts house where he was just kicked out from and it¿s on fire which he knew Lily started and is still in it. He rushes in and saves her, she was trying to commit suicide and they both decide to help each other with their problems. I liked that this book gives the reader a deeper look in the mind of a troubled person. One thing I disliked was that in the beginning of the book there were too many names and you didn¿t know what was going on. From this book I¿ve leaned humbleness, my problems are nothing compared to David;s. This book was also very ironic at many parts. Some books just go on and on, this book kept me interested. I invite all to read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I gave this two stars becuase it was not poor, but it was disappointing. I am sorry but i do not agree with y'all. This book did not thrill me or keep me in suspense. It was obvious what was going to happen, and it had nothing that i could relate to.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. The book is full of problems and emotions that people can kind-of relate to. It was a totally awesome, seat-gripping book. I reccomend this book to anyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a story about a boy named David, who goes to live with his aunt, uncle, and cousin after being accused for murder. He ends up living in their attic, the palce where his odd cousin's sister died. David begins hearing noises, seeing shadows, and no one is very hospitible towards him either. Now he must find out why his cousin is in need of dire need of help, before it's too late.
Guest More than 1 year ago
its about murder and alot of other things it was the best book ever! please read this book i gurantee you'll like it!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is awesome! There is some suspence and you really just need to read it. This book can make you think. This book has somw thrilling things going on in it and I really do recommend you to read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Killers Cousin was a real page turner. I have read it about 100 times no lie. It is just a book you can count on. If you need adventure, drama, mystery then this is a book you should read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! Great everything!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I liked the 'Killer's Cousin' because it is a good book. It is about a boy who fails his last year of high school and goes to live with his Uncle Vic , Aunt Julia , and cousin Lily . While he is there he talks to his cousin's ghost , who tells him to help her little sister, Lily.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I liked the story the Killer's Cousin because it was very interesting. The story is about a boy named David , who is acquitted of murder . David moves to Massachusetts to repeat his senioryear of high school. He decides to live in his Uncle Vic , Aunt Julia ,and their daughter Lily's attic appartment . There in the attic , he is haunted by his ghostly cousin Kathy , and his Aunt , Uncle , and cousin Lily start acting weird . The more David learns about his strange cousin Lliy , the harder it gets for him to avoid his past.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book 'The Killer's Cousin' is about a boy who moves with his aunt & uncle after being acqitted of murder. He sees a mysterious shadow in his room. He always knew his aunt & uncle strange but he didn't know just how strange. His cousin Lily is acting very strange as if she has a secret. I highly recommend this book if you are between the ages of 12-17 years old and like mystery novels.
Guest More than 1 year ago
At first I thought this book was going to be weak but after reading it I realized how intersting it was. The twists and turns that happen as you discover the truth behind two different deaths makes you want to know what happens next. It is a real up to date book that deals with real issues and real drama. A really well written book.