Puppetby Joy Fielding
New York Times bestselling author
is the mistress of the "taut suburban thriller"(Kirkus Reviews). Now Fielding unnerves readers with a richly layered page-turner that swings from haunting intrigue to electrifying suspense in the space of a heartbeat.
Living a no-strings-attached life in/b>/b>/i>/b>/i>
New York Times bestselling author
is the mistress of the "taut suburban thriller"(Kirkus Reviews). Now Fielding unnerves readers with a richly layered page-turner that swings from haunting intrigue to electrifying suspense in the space of a heartbeat.
Living a no-strings-attached life in glamorous Palm Beach, beautiful, steely-nerved criminal attorney Amanda Travis knows exactly what she likes: spinning classes, the color black, and one-night stands. Here's what she dislikes: the color pink, nicknames...and memories. Which is why she has shut the door on two ex-husbands, her estranged mother, and her hometown of Toronto. Then comes the news that will shatter Amanda's untouchable world: her mother, who has always held a strange power over everyone she encounters, has shot and killed a complete stranger. Forced to return to Toronto, Amanda must confront her demons and unravel the truth behind her mother's violent act while the taunting, teasing name from her past dances in her head...Puppet...telling her that someone else is orchestrating her fate.
Includes an excerpt from Mad River Road, Joy Fielding's riveting new novel coming soon in hardcover from Atria Books
The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
- Random House of Canada, Limited
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 4.27(w) x 6.83(h) x 1.02(d)
Read an Excerpt
Some of the things Amanda Travis likes: the color black; lunchtime spinning classes at the fitness center on Clematis Street in downtown Palm Beach; her all-white, one-bedroom, oceanfront condo in Jupiter; a compliant jury; men whose wives don't understand them.
Some of the things she doesn't: the color pink; when the temperature outside her condo's floor-to-ceiling windows falls below sixty-five degrees; clients who don't follow her advice; the color gray; being asked to show her ID when she goes to a bar; nicknames of any shape and size.
Something else she doesn't like: bite marks.
Especially bite marks that are deep and clearly defined, even after the passing of several days; bite marks that lie like a bright purple tattoo amidst a puddle of mustard-color bruises; bite marks that are all but smiling at her from the photographs on the defense table in front of her.
Amanda shakes blond, shoulder-length hair away from her thin face and slips the offending photographs beneath a pad of lined, yellow legal paper, then picks up a pencil and pretends to be jotting down something of importance, when what she actually writes is Remember to buy toothpaste. This gesture is for the jury's benefit, in case any of them is watching. Which is doubtful. Already this morning, she's caught one of the jurors, a middle-aged man with thinning Ronald Reagan-red hair, nodding off. She sighs, drops her pencil, sits back in her chair, and pushes her lips into a pout of disapproval. Not big. Just enough to let the jury know what she thinks of the testimony being given. Which she would like them to believe is not much.
"He was yelling about something," the young woman on the witness stand is saying, one hand absently reaching up to tug at her hair. She glances toward the defense table, pulls the platinum curls away from their black roots, and twists them around square, fake fingernails. "He's always yelling about something."
Again Amanda lifts the pencil into her right hand, adds Stouffer's frozen macaroni and cheese to the impromptu list of groceries she is creating. And orange juice, she remembers, scribbling it across the page with exaggerated flourish, as if she has just remembered a key point of law. The action dislodges the pictures beneath the legal pad, so that once again the photographic impressions of her client's teeth against the witness's skin are winking up at her.
It's the bite marks that will do her in.
She might be able to fudge the facts, obfuscate the evidence, overwhelm the jury with irrelevant details and not always reasonable doubt, but there is simply no getting around those awful pictures. They will seal her client's fate and mar her perfect record, like a blemish on an otherwise flawless complexion, detracting from almost a year of sterling performances on behalf of the poor, the unlucky, and the overwhelmingly guilty.
Damn Derek Clemens anyway. Did he have to be so damn obvious?
Amanda reaches over and pats the hand of the man sitting beside her. Another salvo for the jury, although she wonders if any of them is really fooled. Surely they watch enough television to know the various tricks of the trade: the mock outrage, the sympathetic glances, the disbelieving shakes of the head. She withdraws her hand, surreptitiously rubs the touch of her client's skin onto her black linen skirt beneath the table. Idiot, she thinks behind her reassuring smile. You couldn't have exercised even a modicum of self-control. You had to bite her too.
The defendant smiles back at her, although thankfully, his lips remain closed. The jury will soon be seeing more than enough of Derek Clemens's teeth.
At twenty-eight years old and a wiry five feet ten inches tall, Derek Clemens is the same age and height as the woman selected to represent him. Even their hair is the same shade of delicate blond, their eyes variations of the same cool blue, although hers are darker, more opaque, his paler, sliding toward pastel. In other, more pleasant circumstances, Amanda Travis and Derek Clemens might be mistaken for brother and sister, perhaps even fraternal twins.
Amanda shrugs off the unpleasant thought, grateful, as always, for being an only child. She swivels around in her chair, looks toward the long expanse of windows at the back of the courtroom. Beyond those windows is a typical February day in south Florida the sky turquoise, the air warm, the beach beckoning. She fights the urge to wander over to the windows, to lean her head against the tinted glass, and stare out past the Intracoastal Waterway to the ocean beyond. Only in Palm Beach does one find an ocean view from a courtroom to rival the view from the penthouse suite of a top hotel.
Perversely, Amanda would rather be here, in Courtroom 5C of the Palm Beach County Court House, sitting beside some lowlife accused of assaulting his live-in girlfriend five counts, no less, including sexual assault and uttering death threats than sunbathing on the cool sand next to some underdressed, overnourished snowbird. More than a few minutes of lying on her back with the surf washing over her bare toes is enough to send Amanda Travis screaming for the hot pavement.
"I'd like to retrace the events of the morning of August sixteenth, Miss Fletcher," the assistant district attorney is saying, the deep baritone of his voice drawing Amanda's attention back to the front of the courtroom as easily as a lover's seductive sigh.
Caroline Fletcher nods and continues playing with her overly bleached hair, her surgically amplified bosom straining against the buttons of her perversely conservative blue blouse. It helps the defendant's case that the woman Derek Clemens is accused of assaulting looks like a stripper, although in fact, she works in a hairdressing salon. Amanda smiles with the knowledge this is less important than the image being projected. In law, as in so much of life, appearance counts far more than substance. It is, after all, the appearance of justice, and not justice itself, that must be seen to be done.
"August the sixteenth?" The young woman uses her tongue to push the gum she's been surreptitiously chewing throughout her testimony to the side of her mouth.
"The day of the attack," the prosecutor reminds her, approaching the stand and hovering over his star witness. Tyrone King is almost six feet six inches tall with chocolate brown skin and a shiny bald head. When Amanda first joined the law firm of Beatty and Rowe just over a year ago, she heard rumors that the handsome assistant district attorney was a nephew of Martin Luther King's, but when she asked him about it, he laughed and said he suspected all black men in the South named King were rumored to be related to the assassinated leader. "You've testified that the accused came home from work in a foul mood."
"He was always in a foul mood."
Amanda rises halfway out of her chair, voices her objection to the generalization. The objection is sustained. The witness tugs harder on her hair.
"How did this mood manifest itself?"
The witness looks confused.
"Did he raise his voice? Was he yelling?"
"His boss yelled at him, so he came home and yelled at me."
"What was he yelling about, Miss Fletcher?"
The witness rolls her eyes toward the high ceiling. "He said the place was a mess and that there was never anything to eat, and he was sick of working the midnight shift only to come home to a messy apartment and nothing for breakfast."
"And what did you do?"
"I told him I didn't have time to listen to his complaints, that I had to go to work. And then he said there was no way I was going out and leaving him with the baby all day, that he needed his sleep, and I told him that I couldn't very well take the baby with me to a hairdressing salon, and it just went on from there."
"Can you tell us what happened exactly?"
The witness shrugs, her tongue pushing the gum in her mouth nervously from one cheek to the other. "I don't know exactly."
"To the best of your recollection."
"We started screaming at each other. He said I didn't do nothing around the apartment, that I just sat around on my bony ass all day, and that if I wasn't going to do any cooking or cleaning, then the least I could do was get down on my knees and give him a..." Caroline Fletcher stops, straightens her shoulders, and looks imploringly at the jury. "You know."
"He demanded oral sex?"
The witness nods. "They're never too tired for that."
The seven women on the jury chuckle knowingly, as does Amanda, who hides her smile inside the palm of her hand and decides against objecting.
"What happened then?" the prosecutor asks.
"He started pulling me toward the bedroom. I kept telling him no, I didn't have time, but he wasn't listening. Then I remembered this movie I saw on TV where the girl, I think it was Jennifer Lopez, I can't remember for sure, but anyway, this guy was attacking her, and she realized that the more she struggled, the more turned on he got, and the worse things got for her, so she stopped struggling, and that kind of threw him off guard, and she was able to escape. So I decided to try that."
"You stopped struggling?"
Again Caroline Fletcher nods. "I kind of went all weak, like I was giving in, and then, as soon as we got to the bedroom door, I pushed him out of the way, ran inside the room, and locked the door."
"And what did Derek Clemens do then?"
"He was so mad. He started banging on the door, yelling that he was going to kill my ass."
"And how did you interpret that?"
"That he was going to kill my ass," Caroline Fletcher explains.
Amanda stares directly at the jury. Surely, her eyes are saying, they can't consider this outburst a serious death threat. She grabs her pencil, adds bran flakes to her makeshift list of groceries.
"Go on, Miss Fletcher."
"Well, he was banging on the door and screaming, and so, of course, Tiffany woke up and started crying."
"Our daughter. She's fifteen months old."
"Where was Tiffany during all this?"
"In her crib. In the living room. That's where we keep it. The apartment only has one bedroom, and Derek says he needs his privacy."
"So his yelling woke up the baby."
"His yelling woke up the whole damn building."
"And then what?"
"Well, I realized that if I didn't open the door, he was just gonna break it down, so I told him I'd open the door, but only if he promised to calm down first. And he promised, and then it got real quiet, except for the baby crying, so I opened the door, and next thing I knew, he was all over me, punching me and ripping at my dress."
"Is this the dress?" The assistant district attorney maneuvers the distance from the witness stand to the prosecutor's table in two quick strides, retrieving a shapeless, gray jersey dress that has obviously seen better days. He shows it to the witness before offering it up for the jury's inspection.
"Yes, sir. That's it."
Amanda leans back in her chair, as if to indicate her lack of concern. She hopes the jury will be as unimpressed as she is by the two tiny rips to the bottom of the dress's side seams, fissures that could just as easily have resulted from Caroline Fletcher pulling the dress down over her hips, as from Derek Clemens pulling it up.
"What happened after he ripped your dress?"
"He threw me down on the bed, on my stomach, and bit me."
The incriminating photographs appear, as if by magic, in the hands of the assistant district attorney. They are quickly introduced into evidence and distributed to the jury. Amanda watches the jurors as they examine the impressions of Derek Clemens's teeth branded into the middle of Caroline Fletcher's back, disgust flickering across their faces like flames from a campfire as they struggle to maintain the veneer of impartiality.
As always, the jurors are a decidedly mixed lot an old Jewish retiree squeezed between two middle-aged black women; a clean-shaven Hispanic man in a suit and tie next to a ponytailed young man in a T-shirt and jeans; a black woman with white hair behind a white woman with black hair; the heavyset, the lean, the eager, the blasé. All with one thing in common the contempt in their eyes as they glance from the photographs to the defendant.
"What happened after he bit you?"
Caroline Fletcher hesitates, looks toward her feet. "He flipped me over on my back and had sex with me."
"He raped you?" the prosecutor asks, carefully rephrasing her answer.
"Yes, sir. He raped me."
"He raped you," Tyrone King repeats. "And then what?"
"After he was finished, I called the salon to tell them I'd be late for work, and he grabbed the phone out of my hands and threw it at my head."
Resulting in the charge of assault with a deadly weapon, Amanda thinks, adding a legitimate question to her list of groceries. You called the salon and not the police?
"He threw the phone at your head," the prosecutor repeats, in what is fast becoming a tiresome habit.
"Yes, sir. It hit the side of my head, then fell to the floor and broke apart."
"What happened next?"
"I changed my clothes and went to work. He ripped my dress," she reminds the jury. "So I had to change."
"And did you report what happened to the police?"
"When was that?"
"A couple of days later. He started hitting me again, and I told him if he didn't stop, I'd go to the police, and he didn't stop, so I did."
"What did you tell the police?"
Caroline Fletcher looks confused. "Well, what the officer already told you." She is alluding to Sergeant Dan Peterson, the previous witness, a man so nearsighted his face virtually vanished inside his notes for most of his testimony.
"You told him about the rape?"
"I told him that me and Derek had been fighting, that Derek was always slapping me around and stuff, and then he took some pictures."
Tyrone King lifts long, elegant fingers into the air, signaling for his witness to pause while he locates several more photographs and shows them to Caroline Fletcher. "Are these the pictures the police officer took?"
Caroline winces as she looks over the various pictures. A nice touch, Amanda thinks, wondering if she's been coached. Don't be afraid to show some emotion, she can almost hear Tyrone King whisper in his seductive baritone. It's crucial that you appear sympathetic to the jury.
Amanda looks toward her lap, tries picturing the photographs through the jury's eyes. Not too damning really. A few scratches on the woman's cheek that could easily be the result of her daughter's groping fingers, a slight red mark on her chin, a fading purple blotch on her upper right arm, either of which could have come from almost anything. Hardly the stuff of a major assault. Nothing to directly implicate her client.
"And that's when I told him about Derek biting me," Caroline continues, unprompted. "And so he took pictures of my back, and then he asked me if Derek had sexually assaulted me, and I said I wasn't sure."
"You weren't sure?"
"Well, we've been together for three years. We have a baby. I wasn't sure about my rights until Sergeant Peterson told me."
"And that's when you decided to press charges against Derek Clemens?"
"Yes, sir. So I pressed charges, and the police drove me back to my apartment, and they arrested Derek."
A phone rings, disturbing the natural rhythms of the room. A tune emerges. Camptown ladies sing dis song Doo-dah! Doo-dah. And then again. Camptown ladies sing dis song...
Amanda glances toward her purse on the floor by her feet. Surely she hasn't left her phone on, she hopes, reaching inside her purse, as do several women on the jury. The Hispanic man reaches for his jacket pocket. The prosecuting attorney looks accusingly at the woman who is his second chair, but she shakes her head and widens her eyes, as if to say, Not me.
Camptown ladies sing dis song Doo-dah! doo-dah.
"Oh, my God," the witness suddenly exclaims, the color disappearing from her already pale face as she grabs her enormous canvas bag from the floor beside her and rummages around inside it, the tune growing louder, more insistent.
Camptown ladies sing dis song...
"I'm so sorry," she apologizes to the judge, who peers at her disapprovingly over the top of a pair of wire-rimmed reading glasses as she switches her portable phone off and flings it back in her purse. "I told people not to call me," she offers by way of explanation.
"Kindly leave your phone at home this afternoon," the judge says curtly, taking the opportunity to break for lunch. "And your gum," he adds, before telling everyone to be back at two o'clock.
"So where we going for lunch?" Derek Clemens asks casually, his arm brushing against Amanda's as they rise to their feet.
"I don't do lunch." Amanda gathers her papers into her briefcase. "I suggest you grab a bite in the cafeteria." Instantly she regrets her choice of words. "I'll meet you back here in an hour."
"Where you going?" she hears him ask, but she is already halfway down the center aisle of the courtroom, the ocean roaring in the distance as she steps into the hallway and runs toward the bank of elevators to her right. One opens just as she approaches, which she takes as a good omen, and she checks her watch as she steps inside. If she moves fast enough, she can just make it to the club for the start of her spinning class.
She checks her phone for messages as she runs south along Olive toward Clematis. There are three. Two are from Janet Berg, who lives in the apartment directly below hers, and with whose husband Amanda had a brief, and unnoteworthy, fling several months earlier. Is it possible Janet found out about the affair? Amanda quickly erases both messages, then listens to the third, which is mercifully from her secretary, Kelly Jamieson. Amanda inherited the relentlessly perky young woman with spiky red hair from her predecessor at Beatty and Rowe, a woman who'd apparently grown disillusioned with being a grossly overworked and woefully underpaid associate in the busiest criminal legal firm in town and left to become the trophy wife of an aging lothario.
Nothing wrong with that, Amanda thinks, nearing the corner of Olive and Clematis. She considers trophy wife a noble profession.
Having been one herself.
She calls her office, begins speaking even before her secretary has time to say hello. "Kelly, what's up?" She crosses the street as the light is changing from amber to red.
"Gerald Rayner called to see if you'd agree to another postponement on the Buford case; Maxine Fisher wants to know if she can come in next Wednesday at eleven instead of Thursday at ten; Ellie called to remind you about lunch tomorrow; Ron says he needs you at the meeting on Friday; and a Ben Myers called from Toronto. He wants you to call him, says it's urgent. He left his number."
Amanda stops dead in the middle of the street. "What did you say?"
"Ben Myers called from Toronto," her secretary repeats. "You're from Toronto originally, aren't you?"
Amanda licks at a fresh bead of perspiration forming on her upper lip.
A horn begins honking, followed by another. Amanda tries to put one foot in front of the other, but it is only when she notices several cars impatiently nudging toward her that her legs agree to move.
Puppet! she hears distant voices cry as she weaves her way through the moving line of cars to the other side of the street.
"Amanda? Amanda, are you there?"
"I'll talk to you later." Amanda clicks off the phone and drops it back inside her purse. She stands for several seconds on the sidewalk, taking deep breaths, and exhaling all reminders of the past. By the time she reaches the glass door of the fitness center, she has almost succeeded in erasing the conversation with her secretary from her mind.
Something else Amanda Travis doesn't like: memories.
Meet the Author
Joy Fielding is the New York Times bestselling author of Now You See Her, The Wild Zone, Still Life, Charley’s Web, Heartstopper, Mad River Road, Puppet, Lost, Whispers and Lies, Grand Avenue, The First Time, See Jane Run, and other acclaimed novels. She divides her time between Toronto and Palm Beach, Florida. Visit her website at JoyFielding.com.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This poor girl doesn't know if she is coming or going, but fortunately through her confusion comes a plot so spellbinding you can't put the book down. A quick read and an astounding ending.
The story was way too wordy and the plot was irritatingly convoluted. I did like the nasty twist that occurred. But it was way too late to have much impact. And our heroine spent far too much time either soaking in a tub or standing under the shower feeling sorry for herself.
The book was just okay, and the characters were pretty boring. It sort of went on and on and thought that she could have told the story in about 200 pages less. The farther I got into it the less believable each page seemed. I love all her other books I've read, the only mysteries I read, so this was a disappointment.
This is the second novel I read from Joy Fielding. I enjoy the plot and the ending of the book. I found her book to be very interesting, but has too many excessive and unnecessary details. There were too much repeated information through out the book. I skipped a section of the book and didn't feel I missed anything.
Usually love Ms. Fielding's books but I actually lost my patience with this one. Hated the main character, story was too predictable. Hope her new book, Mad River Road, is up to Ms. Fielding's usual standards.
Not Fielding's best work, but definitely worth the read. I found it hard to put down in the last 250 pages, only to be disappointed with the outcome in the end. Great thriller, takes many unexpected turns thoughout the story but uses excessive and unnecessary detail which doesn't keep my interest.
I chose the audio version from my library. I wish it had been an abridgement because the excessive details (what someone was wearing or how a room was set up) got very old by the time I got to the 4th of the 11 CDs. I read Grand Avenue and really enjoyed it but felt like the author thought readers wouldn't remember things in Puppet so she repeated them again and again when it was not necessary. Give a reader a little more credit. If traffic weren't so heavy, I would not have finished this book. It did keep my interest but I found myself fast forwarding the CDs when I felt like she was on yet another unnecessary rabbit trail.
It was all about victorious courtroom battles and mindless sex with married men for Amanda Travis. So she was none too happy when her seemingly perfect and uncomplicated life gets disrupted by a call from Ben Myers a.k.a first ex husband. Her estranged mother had shot a man in the lobby of the Four Seasons hotel in her hometown of Toronto. Despite her ` I-don¿t care-what-happens-to-my-mother¿ mantra, she flies to Toronto and joins Ben in the investigation as to who John Mallins was, his connection to Amanda¿s mother and why the latter shot him. Amanda finds herself entwined in dark family secrets that would shake her to the very core and make her re-evaluate her tormented childhood with a mother she thought hated her. PUPPET starts off with the ramblings of a self centered heroine whose low self esteem constantly needs to be fed with a tumble in the bed with unavailable men. Almost every page is filled with Amanda whining about how her mother was never there for her, the stiffening of her shoulders when someone has the audacity to call her by her childhood nickname `Puppet¿, her rages of jealousy when Ben is with another woman and her own misgivings about how anyone could love her. At one point, the plot disappears and one feels like a sudden involuntary witness in a therapist session. However, the novel is saved by its crime thriller aspect which electrifies and culminates in a bizarre and shocking revelation no reader would have expected. Get past the disagreeable heroine and you will find yourself gripping on for an exhilarating journey into an intricately plotted novel only talented writers such as Joy Fielding can churn effortlessly.
I greatly enjoyed this book, and if you have time, will be a one-sitting read. The flashbacks of the main character give an interesting flavor to the story, and Joy Fielding is able to twist your emotions like putty. By the end of the book I had cried out loud 'No!' and 'Oh my God!' several times, getting some shocked stares from the people around me, but this is just that kind of book. You need a sense of humor to appreciate it, because at times it can be outlandish, but in my opinion that just adds to its charm. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good suspsense novel.
I am a great fan of Joy Fielding, but this was a disappointment. Character development was shallow the plot was implausible. I expected more from such a talented writer.
This book was really good, not as good as Dont cry now by Joy fielding but still very much well writtem. It held my suspense until the very end. One person who reviewed it stated that they were bored because they had figured out the ending, well I didn't think that it was so clear. I had many assumptions and yet the ending surprised me. Joy fielding held my suspense until the very end and I liked the story line and the fact that it was heartfealt and not excessive. I give this book a 4 because it wasn't as good as Dont Cry Now. Joy didn't disappoint. She is an amazing Canadian author.
I am a great fan of Joy Fielding and this started out well, but somewhere it lost my interest. I had figured out the ending long before time and was disappointed in the entire story at the end. I wished I had liked it more, but I just couldn't.
Amanda Travis has spent the last decade running from her memories including the father who neglected her and the mother who either ignored or verbally abused her. She drowns her emotional pain in mindless sex, leaving two ex-husbands when they threatened to get too close. Now a lawyer in southeast Florida, she has organized her life just the way she wants it, not letting anyone get too close. Her calm is suddenly fractured one night when her ex-husband calls her from Toronto to tell her that her mother in jail on a murder charge.--- Despite the fact that she tells herself she doesn¿t care, she flies to Toronto where Ben represents her mother Gwen. Ben tells her that Gwen isn¿t talking, insisting only that she killed an unknown man in a hotel lobby because she felt like it and she is perfectly sane. Gwen¿s stonewalling is infuriating Amanda who believes there is a reason for what she did; for once in her life she isn¿t going to run away from adversity but plunge into it and expose the secret her mother is so desperate to hide.--- Joy Fielding once again delivers an exciting crime thriller that will keep readers¿ interest from page one as they wonder why the protagonist¿s mother committed cold blooded murder. It is a question that will haunt the audience as the protagonist seeks to find out her mom¿s secrets that were responsible for her traumatized childhood. As Amanda gets close to the truth she finally comes to terms with her own feelings and turns more sympathetic in the minds of the audience. PUPPET is a nail biting suspense thriller taking readers to the ultimate level.--- Harriet Klausner