The Night Following

( 6 )

Overview

On a blustery April day, the quiet, rather private wife of a doctor discovers that her husband has been having an affair. Moments later, driving along a winding country road and distracted perhaps by her own thoughts, perhaps blinded by sunlight, she fails to see Ruth Mitchell up ahead, riding her bicycle. She hits her, killing her instantly. And drives away.

The hit-and-run driver is never found. But the doctor’s wife, horrified by what she ...

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Night Following

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Overview

On a blustery April day, the quiet, rather private wife of a doctor discovers that her husband has been having an affair. Moments later, driving along a winding country road and distracted perhaps by her own thoughts, perhaps blinded by sunlight, she fails to see Ruth Mitchell up ahead, riding her bicycle. She hits her, killing her instantly. And drives away.

The hit-and-run driver is never found. But the doctor’s wife, horrified by what she has done, begins to unravel. Soon she turns her attention to Ruth’s bereaved husband, a man staggering sleeplessly through each night, as unhinged by grief as the killer is by guilt.

Arthur Mitchell does not realize at first that someone has begun watching him through his windows, worrying over his disheveled appearance, his increasingly chaotic home. And when at last she steps through his doorway, secretly at first, then more boldly, he is ready to believe that, for reasons beyond his understanding, his wife has somehow been returned to him….

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“For her mastery of mood, her complex story lines and her shrewd appreciation of the frail boundaries that divide the sane from the mad, Morag Joss has been compared to…Ruth Rendell, Barbara Vine, and Minette Walters. Such compliments are tossed about too lightly in the publishing world, but this one is so justified it seems like an understatement.” —Washington Post

"Morag Joss has been compared with the high priestesses of British crime fiction: P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, and Minette Walters. The Night Following her latest and perhaps her best, not only travels the same elegantly dark path of those writers, but tears into territory totally unbeholden to genre conventions."—Boston Globe

“Will remind readers of Ruth Rendell and Minette Walters…. The results are extraordinary.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“A haunting journey that should burnish the reputation of Joss as one of Britains most original crafters of psychological suspense.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“In this bleak, exquisitely written novel, Joss braids together three stories of shattering loneliness that intersect in surprising, haunting ways.”—Entertainment Weekly

“His best book yet…. Kornfield comes across as the therapist you wish you’d had…. Provides convincing and illustrative anecdotes and stories, and reaches into world traditions and literature as well as contemporary scientific research.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

Publishers Weekly

Distracted by the daffodil-flocked Wiltshire countryside speeding past her, or perhaps by the condom wrapper she has found in her husband's car, the unnamed doctor's wife plows into the doomed bicyclist-shattering several lives and launching a haunting journey that should burnish the reputation of Joss (Half Broken Things, which won the CWA's Silver Dagger Award) as one of Britain's most original crafters of psychological suspense. The guilt-ridden hit-and-run driver becomes increasingly obsessed with the victim, recently retired English teacher Ruth Mitchell, and Ruth's devastated widower, Arthur. Providing emotional contrast are the notes Arthur leaves for Ruth and excerpts from The Cold and the Beauty and the Dark, the slow-paced multigenerational saga Ruth was bringing to her writing group on the fateful day. As the narrator finds herself irresistibly drawn to the Mitchells' home, a nightly witness to Arthur's decline, boundaries begin to blur. Increasingly, her flashbacks to her own family history begin eerily to mirror the clan in Ruth's manuscript. But, Joss asks provocatively, who are any of us apart from the stories we choose to believe-those we create and those we appropriate? (Mar.)

Copyright 2007Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
A calamitous accident is followed by an even more unsettling event in this sixth helping of psychological suspense from Joss (Half Broken Things, 2005, etc.). Minutes after discovering that her husband, a Wiltshire anesthesiologist, is cheating on her, the nameless narrator, professing that the end of her marriage really doesn't matter, inadvertently runs over a bicyclist and kills her. Leaving her victim, retired teacher Ruth Mitchell, in the road and driving off is cruel enough to her but even crueler to Ruth's husband Arthur. Disconnected and disoriented, Arthur begins writing letters to his dead wife at the suggestion of a friend, and the correspondence takes on a disturbing life of its own when he begins to seek some sign of her everywhere, including in their house and garden, and in The Cold and the Beauty and the Dark, the unfinished novel she'd been writing. As Ruth's novel-within-a-novel unfolds, the story of Evelyn Ashworth's betrayal first by her husband and then by his uncle between 1932 and 1956, it gradually becomes clear both that her characters are more solid and substantial, albeit less nuanced, than Joss's own, and that the two sets of characters have some definite connection. Arthur, withdrawing from the well-intentioned neighbors determined to comfort him over his most violent objections, searches more and more urgently for that connection. Meantime, Ruth's accidental killer, drawn by motives deeper and more obscure than mere remorse, takes to watching Arthur's house and insinuating herself into it, taking the place of the woman whose life she ended. Joss's exploration of her loners' doomed attempts to reach outside themselves will remind readers of Ruth Rendell andMinette Walters, but her pathology is even more elliptical. Joss begins her psychological vivisection where other suspense novelists leave off. The results are extraordinary. Agent: Jean Naggar/Jean V. Naggar Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385341196
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/27/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 1,213,395
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Morag Joss grew up on the west coast of Scotland. Her first Sara Selkirk novel, Funeral Music, was nominated by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association for the Dilys Award for the year’s favorite mystery. Her fourth novel, Half Broken Things, won the 2003 CWA Silver Dagger Award. Morag Joss lives in the country outside the city of Bath and in London.

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Read an Excerpt

Something tells me it’s important not to look dangerous. You would think I’d be beyond it by this time, the old dread of making scenes, but I do want to get it done quietly, with the niceties observed. With some respect for finer feelings, though whose exactly it’s hard to say at this point. If I could be sure of that, if I could be sure they’d take me with an attitude of courteous regret, of sorrow even, that reflects my own, I’d do it today. I would.

My hair and shoes are a little unfortunate but I could make myself tidy. I could practice the proper face in a mirror first. There’s not much I can do about the bones around my eyes that have a bluish, knuckly look about them now, but I think I could upturn my face so it resembled the mask expected of reasonable women entering this supposedly balanced and amiable chapter of middle age. I could clear my throat and imitate the rounded, sprightly cadences of such women’s voices and say—what?

Suppose for instance I said, in that singing-out manner, Oh, excuse me! Could you help? I’m afraid something has happened.

As if I’d dropped a jar at the checkout. Would that be the correct thing?

There must be a right way and a wrong way, as there is for everything. I believe turning up at a police station might be customary, insofar as my particular circumstances are customary. But police stations aren’t in obvious places anymore and I could waste all day looking for one. Or I could dial 999, although call boxes aren’t in obvious places anymore, either. And they would ask me what’s happened because how else are they to know who to send—police, ambulance, or fire engine—and I couldn’t begin to go into it all on the telephone. But what is the emergency, they’ll insist. All I could tell them is that I think I am. I may be the emergency. It’s true that I would be emerging. I would be appearing unexpectedly after a spell of concealment. Surely I must be the emergency. What else could I say? That there’s been an accident?

Once they saw I wasn’t dangerous, I suppose for a time at least they’d prefer to think of me as sick. Indeed, I could just walk into a hospital. That worked before, after a fashion. I could just walk into a hospital, and nobody would ask if I actually believed I could ever find help there for what afflicts me.

The truth is I’m neither sick nor dangerous. I’m merely displaced. Not that that makes me unique. You’ve seen me, or someone like me, anywhere out-of-the-way and out of season, run-down, closing down and in decline, though I may have escaped notice unless you happened to catch me in a small space between thoughts of your own. You will have seen me in odd, deserted places: a woman alone on a bridge, or standing by the roadside at a strange and hazardous point where weeds are sprouting, perhaps just loitering near an inexplicably derelict bus stop. I’ll remind you of loneliness or old age, or that winter’s setting in.

But most often I’ll be in restless places, the passing points of departure and arrival between various somewheres. I’m the one apart and hesitant in the waiting rooms of stations, under the arc lights of ticket halls and in the corner booths, hovering at turnstiles and gates, never quite joining queues nor scanning information boards, yet never unaware of the human traffic. I stay in by the wall, sidestepping the tide of those in genuine and deliberate transit, dazed yet somehow impervious, lost but not utterly bewildered. I drift just outside the echoes and thrums of journeys that are not mine, the endings and beginnings of missions, diversions, pilgrimages, expeditions. I observe lives unlike mine, full of imperative planned destinations, and I envy people this apparent conviction that their myriad tiny events, their moving toward events yet to be, are of some importance. Neither a proper impetus to travel nor a true purpose in remaining where I am falls my way. I lack reasons either to go or to wait, and this looks like failure in me.

Not that I am at all disgraceful. I am never drunk. I don’t mutter. I don’t carry my belongings in a bundle. It may be stained and tatty but I do have luggage, and I tend also to have an address, albeit it’s always temporary. I manage to keep out of hostels, mostly. Once a day I endeavor to eat at a table, wherever there’s a bargain (jumbo platter, hot drink, £3.99) and whether or not it’s a proper mealtime. Also once a day I’ll spend up to an hour nibbling on most of a sandwich and then wrap and pocket the crusts for later. I’m a hoarder, not a scavenger; I admit I never spend money on a paper (and actually it suits me not to read the news before it’s old and discarded) but I would not dream of polishing off abandoned cups of coffee. It’s true that I’m not above helping myself to forgotten gloves and scarves. Once in winter I took a man’s coat, left on a bench.

So my vagrancy is unspectacular. I wear a taint of rationing, that’s all. I have the thready, ashamed look of a reduced person who assumes there is worse reduction to come, who lingers until the last minute where it’s warmest before boarding the final bus or train, or who walks away from the dark station as the grilles rattle down because nobody waits for her in the evenings.

But tomorrow, though it’s hard for me to speak loud enough for you to hear, I’ll try again. I’ll take a sly, off-center interest in your moments of parting and greeting, look too closely at your clothes, the magazine you carry. Your polite glance when you ask if the seat next to me is free I’ll take as an invitation.

Yes! Though it’s none too clean.

No. Oh well, it’ll do.

I’m overglad to be spoken to, so that far too soon and whether you replied this way or not, I’ll turn to you with a remark too intricate, an anecdote too unlikely and revelatory. Yes, the pigeons here are awful, aren’t they? I met a woman once who got worms off a bench, from the droppings, she said. Filthy, it was. Much worse than this! After that she wouldn’t sit anywhere in public without spreading the seat with newspaper first. Once she stood an entire night because she hadn’t got any. But you can’t win, can you, because that played merry hell with her veins, which was worse than the worms. Or so she claimed.

And you’ll look away. You’ll dread that anyone might overhear and think something in you encouraged the likes of me to babble to you in this manner, in a hurrying voice and staring straight at your eyes, using the sincere and zealous hand gestures of a person who expects to be disbelieved or motioned to shut up before her story is finished.

I don’t blame you. I’ll watch you walk away just as I might have been about to ask if you knew where the nearest police station is, or if there is a telephone nearby, or a hospital. I know I’m unsettling. Maybe it’s because I know something you don’t, though it secures me no advantage. It’s only the knowledge that some other knowledge eludes me. It’s nothing more than an awareness of questions that the happenstance of some lives and not others—mine, say, and not yours—poses for some people and not for others.

Such as, where do I pick up the story of a life that should be over, but isn’t? If events have halted a life’s narrative as utterly as death itself, how do I go on as if I believed in mere continuation, never mind solace and amends? You won’t know. So I won’t detain you by saying, Oh, excuse me! Could you help? I’m afraid something has happened.

I won’t call after you to tell you how weary I am, I’ll settle back and wait out another day. To pass the time, from somewhere in my baggage I’ll bring out bundles of thumbed papers secured under rubber bands and I’ll fret over ordering and reordering them, rereading this or that grubby old letter as if it might contain something new. And I’ll sink into wondering again, asking myself the same questions and finding them still unanswerable.

27 Cardigan Avenue

living room

8th May

Dear Ruth

Were the flowers satisfactory? I just got white ones, you know I’m no good with colors. Were they the right thing?

Writing this isn’t my idea it’s Carole’s. You don’t know Carole.

Well can’t think of anything else for now.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    a haunting complex psychological thriller

    The woman is stunned to learn her spouse the handsome doctor is having affair. Distracted as she drives a winding back road, she fails to notice the woman on a bike in front of her as she comes out of a turn. The driver hits sexagenarian Ruth Mitchell, but instead of stopping, she drives away.----------------- The police fail to find the culprit who murdered Ruth in a hit and run vehicular homicide. However, the driver knows what she did and how she fled the scene. She feels haunted by her action and guilty by her reaction. She begins to watch the victim¿s husband Arthur from a distance. His raw grief rips her stomach further as he no longer cares about himself or anyone else. He cannot sleep as the nightmares wake him and he cannot take care of his home or himself. She serendipitously enters his home cleaning it. She becomes more brazen as she meets Arthur in person demanding he clean up his act, which he does as he believes a miracle has occurred his Ruth has returned to him.------------ Two marriages were shattered with that car accident, but it is the aftermath that digs incredibly deep into the convoluted human condition that makes for a haunting complex psychological thriller. Arthur and Ruth seem real as they react shockingly similar to what connects them, the death of his spouse by her. Yet that almost identical response feels genuine and makes for a powerful saga of loss, deception, and redemption.------------------------ Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 20, 2009

    Night Following

    This is a powerful story that starts out as one of guilt, but turns into a journey of amends. The parallels between the story within the story and the female lead character's upbringing are uncanny and raise many questions for the reader. The novel is thought provoking and draws the reader into its depths. the characters reach out to each other through their particular pain to arrive at some measure of comfort.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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