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The Abortionist's Daughter

The Abortionist's Daughter

3.7 20
by Elisabeth Hyde

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Two weeks before Christmas, Diana Duprey, an outspoken abortion doctor, is found dead in her swimming pool. A national figure, Diana inspired passion and ignited tempers, but never more so than the day of her death. Her husband Frank, a longtime attorney in the DA’s office; her daughter Megan, a freshman in college; the Reverend Stephen O’Connell,


Two weeks before Christmas, Diana Duprey, an outspoken abortion doctor, is found dead in her swimming pool. A national figure, Diana inspired passion and ignited tempers, but never more so than the day of her death. Her husband Frank, a longtime attorney in the DA’s office; her daughter Megan, a freshman in college; the Reverend Stephen O’Connell, founder of the town’s pro-life coalition: all of them quarreled with Diana that day and each one has something to lose in revealing the truth. Meanwhile the detective on the case struggles for the answers — and finds himself more intimately involved than he ever could have imagined.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A smart and powerful thriller."
—Chris Bohjalian, author of Midwives

“Arresting. . . . Astute. . . . Hyde is an author who should be with us for some time.”
—Anita Shreve, The Washington Post Book World

“Darkly witty. . . . [The Abortionist’s Daughter] accordions out into a suspense story and a comic noir, a novel of manners and an improbable romance. . . . Striking.”
—Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air (NPR)

“In keeping with the truly best writers, Hyde examines both sides of the issue, but offers only questions that probe deep into the secret hearts of readers everywhere. For answers, they will have to turn to themselves. . . . Compelling and timely. . . . A must-read.”
The Denver Post

Anita Shreve
What works best in this novel is not the issue of abortion (duly presented and dissected from both sides) nor the revelation of the murderer but the family backstories, which reveal Hyde at her best. The dialogue between Megan and her mother is biting, edgy and dismayingly real. "Have fun killing babies," Megan tosses off as a parting zinger the last time she sees her mother. So, too, are the flashback scenes between Frank and his wife, a couple on the brink of divorce. Their fights have at times escalated to brief flurries of violent behavior.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Dr. Diana Duprey-abortion clinic director, wife of local Colorado DA Frank Thompson and mother of 19-year-old college freshman Megan-has plenty of enemies, so when her body is found floating in the exercise pool of her garden tour-featured house, the list of suspects is long. Aside from abortion opponents and distraught parents, there were the arguments overheard between Frank and Diana, and Megan and Diana shortly before. The coroner, a woman with whom Frank had had an affair, won't do the autopsy, and a man harboring a grudge against Frank takes her place. Meanwhile, Megan finds herself attracted to Huck Berlin, the policeman assigned to the case, and Huck finds Megan in various compromising positions. Former U.S. attorney Hyde (Crazy as Chocolate) describes Megan's contradictory, confused emotions without oversimplification ("Have fun killing babies" were Megan's inadvertent last words to her mother). Hyde also jumps back in time, delving into Diana's work at the clinic and her feelings about it, as well as the lives and feelings of her clients. Rather than generating suspense, the murder provides a frame for the turbulence in and around a woman propelled by idealism and strongly held beliefs. Look for this book to get play as South Dakota's challenge to Roe v. Wade wends through the courts. 150,000 announced first printing. (June 23) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
On a chilly December evening, Colorado abortion clinic founder Dr. Diana Duprey is found dead beside her home pool. Who killed her? The clues are few but the suspects are legion-Diana's high-profile career had inflamed feelings on both sides of the Roe v. Wade aisle. Among the suspects are the minister whose pro-life group regularly picketed her clinic; the woman who left hate messages on her voice mail; her daughter, with whom she'd argued that morning; and her husband, whose litany of resentment and rejection grew daily. The police have a tough time sifting through the sensational publicity and intricate interrelationships of these small-town, high-powered people to answer this fundamental question. Hyde's (Crazy as Chocolate) latest novel deftly probes the many daily pains inflicted in relationships and delicately examines the sacrifices of her characters as they rebuild their lives amid swirls of ethical dilemmas. This is an exceptionally well-written book that pulls the reader nicely along right up until the surprise ending. Recommended for all fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/06.]-Susan Clifford Braun, Aerospace Corp. Lib., El Segundo, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Who killed the opinionated abortion provider? Hyde (Crazy as Chocolate, 2002, etc.) opens with a heap of backstory baggage. Dr. Diana Duprey, when not performing controversial terminations at her Center for Reproductive Choice, dominates a family. Diana's marriage to Frank, a quietly seething attorney working in the DA's office, is unraveling; her Down's syndrome son Ben is dead; and sexually explicit pictures of her 19-year-old daughter Megan are circulating on the web. When the doctor's body is found in her lap pool, the blame is directed at Frank, sententious pro-choice campaigner Steven O'Connell, Megan's creepy ex-boyfriend Bill (who took the nude pictures) and pro-life activists who have been bombarding the doctor with hate mail. As events move forward, implausibilities stack up. For example, O'Connell had sought help from Duprey in a standoff concerning his son's girlfriend's pregnancy and her intention to have the baby, against her parent's wishes. Frank, after a violent argument with Diane on the night of the murder, had visited a porn merchant and bribed him to take the pictures of Megan down from his website. An attraction develops between Megan and Huck, one of the detectives assigned to the investigation, which gets Huck dropped from the case. Sensational, like the book's title, but not quite on target. First printing of 150,000

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Vintage Contemporaries Series
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Product dimensions:
5.16(w) x 7.96(h) x 0.71(d)

Read an Excerpt


The problem was, Megan had just taken the second half of the ecstasy when her father called with the news.

Earlier that day, her roommate had bundled up and trudged out into a raging Front Range blizzard to buy two green clover-shaped pills: one for herself, and one for Megan, as a kind of pre-Christmas present. Natalie had meant to wrap them up in a little box. But the day got a little hectic, what with exams and all, so after dinner, when they were back in their dorm room together, Natalie simply dug in her pocket and took out the little pills and without any fanfare set them on the open page of Megan’s biology text. “And don’t wuss,” she warned.

Megan screwed up her face. The green pills reminded her of those pastel dots you got when you were a kid, the kind you peel off a long strip of paper. She didn’t have time for this tonight. She scooped up the pills and put them into a clay pinch pot that sat in the back corner of her desk. Lumpy and chipped, the pot looked as though someone had stuck his elbow into a ball of clay. Which is exactly what Ben, her brother, had done, eleven years ago. A major accomplishment, for Ben.

But Natalie wouldn’t let the matter go, pointing out that they could start with just half. And so instead of studying for her biology exam as planned, Megan Thompson, pre-med freshman at the university, found herself giving in to something larger and decidedly more fun that evening. Not only that, but she gave in with no clue as to what had transpired earlier that evening two miles west, in the two-story stucco house she’d grown up in—the house that had been on the Home Tour three years in a row, the one that backed up to Open Space, with the model solar heating panels and the evaporative cooling system that kept the temperature inside a mere seventy- five when outside it soared above a hundred. She had no suspicions, no worries, no funny feelings that might have caused her to think twice, to resist the temptation and opt out of what she knew from experience would be another evening of all-night bliss. Forgetting about everything else—her exam, the argument with her mother earlier that morning, that last very strange e-mail from Bill—Megan placed half the pill on her tongue, washed it down with water, and waited.

That was at eight o’clock.

At eight-thirty they weren’t feeling much different.

At quarter to nine Natalie wondered if they should take the other half.

And it was right after they split the second pill that the phone rang. Natalie recognized the number on Caller ID. “It’s your mother again,” she announced.

When Megan didn’t reply, Natalie said, “I think you ought to straighten things out. Maybe she changed her mind. Maybe she’ll buy you the plane ticket. I’m answering it.” She picked up the phone, singing “Yell-low?” before even bringing the phone to her ear.

Seated cross-legged on her bed, Megan slumped against the wall. The reason she didn’t want to talk to her mother was simple. That morning they’d argued over whether or not Diana would buy Megan a ticket to Mexico for spring break. Mean things were said—by both of them—and Megan shuddered when she recalled how pleased she’d felt with that last wicked remark about killing babies. Why did it make her feel so good to make her mother feel so bad?

Speaking of feelings, the drug was kicking in and she was beginning to feel pretty good—so that when Natalie told her it wasn’t her mother but rather her father on the phone, she felt a welcome surge of love and affection.

“That’s my dad,” she said fondly, “wanting to play the guy in the middle. He’s always doing that, you know? Whenever Mom and I get into a fight, there he is, Mr. Mediator. It wasn’t even a big fight,” she went on. “He just wants everything perfect, since it isn’t with him and Mom. Freaks him out to think that she and I—”

“Take the fucking phone,” said Natalie.

Megan took the phone and cradled it to her ear. “Hi, Dad.”

“Sweetheart,” he began.

“It wasn’t a major fight,” she told him. “Did she tell you? A bunch of people are going to Mexico. I’ll pay for the ticket, I’ll pay for everything. I didn’t mean to lay it all on Mom.” She heard her father clear his throat but felt a rush of apology coming—not just for things said earlier that day but for all the wrongs she had committed over the course of her nineteen years.

“I was rude,” she said. “I shouldn’t have yelled at her. Jesus, it’s Christmas. What was I thinking? I hate it when I yell.”

“Megan,” her father said.

Megan stopped. There was something black and buggy in his voice that made her heart skip. And it took her less than a second to realize why. It was the voice he’d used ten years ago, when he’d called her at summer camp with the news about Ben.

“Megan,” he began.


Frank Thompson couldn’t tell if it was the reflection of pool water bouncing off the windows, or the shriek of his daughter over the phone, or the flapping sound of the sheet as the paramedics covered his wife that made his legs begin to wobble and shake. All he knew was that the ground beneath him was falling out from under, and he had to get down, fast, or he was going to be sick.

He squatted, set the phone on the slate floor that Diana had chosen when she put in the pool, and covered his face with his hands. He listened to the pool pump as it sucked and squirted from somewhere underground, and breathed in the moist, chlorinated air that filled the solarium. A few feet away a young woman in a police uniform was conferring with the paramedics. Next to him lay Diana’s peach-colored bathrobe, along with a pair of purple flip-flops with the darkened imprints of her heels.

A shiver passed through him, and he turned his gaze to the water in the pool, which continued to dance as though some ghost were out there sculling in the middle. It was a small elevated pool, framed in by blond birch panels—not much bigger than two hot tubs end to end, really, with a motorized current that allowed Diana to swim nonstop without having to turn. Although he hadn’t wanted to put the pool in, he’d later conceded to one of his colleagues that it was a worthy investment, since it gave his high-strung wife a chance to come home and mellow out. After twenty years of marriage, he knew that a mellow Diana was a cohabitable Diana.

Frank lifted his head, and a sparkle of light caught his eye from underneath the ficus tree across the room. Broken glass, needly shards—and Frank cringed as he recalled how earlier that afternoon he’d thrown the glass across the room to get his wife’s attention. It was wrong of him, he knew that. But after coming across the pictures online—pictures that no father should have to imagine, let alone see—well, everyone has a breaking point, and it was the way Diana was so oblivious to the problem at hand, the way she assumed he was upset because she’d skipped out on lunch earlier that day: he felt his shoulders clench, and the glass just flew.

Three clicks.

It would seem that a man in Frank Thompson’s position, with over twenty years’ experience as a prosecuting attorney, would know better than to start tampering with things in a room with a dead person. A man in his position would get out of that room and call his own attorney. But Frank didn’t have his wits about him at the moment, certainly not his professional wits, and all he could think was that broken glass would convey the wrong impression about his marriage. (Though lord it felt good to shatter a glass like that; the gratification was unmatched, like saying shit or fuck in front of small children.)

Rising stiffly, he walked over to a little poolside closet to get a broom and dustpan. Nobody seemed to notice him; the patrol officer was on her cell phone and the paramedics were conferring with each other. As if making up for all the times during their marriage that he hadn’t cleaned up after himself, he knelt down and swept up the ficus leaves and shards of glass and emptied them into a wastebasket. He didn’t want people to have the wrong impression.

Outside, a blast of grainy snow pelted the sliding-glass doors. Now the cop and the paramedics were kneeling beside Diana’s body.

“That’s not good,” the cop said, glancing up. She was new on the force, blond and blue-eyed like someone straight off a farm in Minnesota; but she already had that bossy, black and white air that you find in cops, and older siblings. “Did you know about this?”

“Know about what?” asked Frank.

“Come see,” said the cop. “If you get down, you can see better.”

Reluctantly, Frank squatted. He hadn’t looked at Diana since the paramedics had arrived. They held the sheet away from her head, and Frank, who’d harbored the lay belief that maybe it was all a mistake, now forced himself to look.

For all the times he’d seen a dead body—and there were plenty, his having been with the district attorney’s office for twenty-four years—nothing could compare to this. His wife’s dark corkscrew curls fanned away from her face, Medusa-like. Her skin was white and waxy, her lips the color of plums. Her eyes stared up, flat and fishy. He looked away.

“What concerns us is this,” the cop said, and she nodded to the younger of the two paramedics, a man with a long straggly ponytail. Gently taking Diana’s head in both hands, he turned it slightly and splayed the hair above her ear.

“Right there,” said the cop. “You see?”

What he saw made him choke. The bruise was huge and ripe and living, a fat, blue-gray slug in her tangled hair.

“Any idea how this happened?” the cop asked Frank.

Numbly Frank shook his head.

“Well, it’s some bruise,” the cop said. “Hard to imagine what could have made a bruise like that. And look at those knuckles.”

Frank heard himself suggest that she’d perhaps fallen.

“Maybe it’s that simple,” said the cop, “but I’m calling the coroner.”

Frank stared at the cop, and for the first time he recalled that on two separate occasions he’d had her on the witness stand; both times she’d not flinched when the defense attorney had implied she was a forgetful, inattentive liar.

“—crime scene from now on,” she added. “Frank, you need to have a seat.”

“You mean you think this wasn’t an accident?”

“Frank,” she said, “your wife is a national figure. There are a lot of people out there who don’t like what she does.”

“Could she have been swimming too fast?” the older paramedic asked. “Maybe she swam into the edge of the pool.”

“This is two-four-oh-five,” the cop was saying into her radio. “Where’s Mark? I need backup now.

Frank just stared at the three of them.

“Or maybe she tripped and hit her head and fell into the pool,” suggested the paramedic.

Frank couldn’t answer. It wasn’t sinking in. He looked at his wife’s face. The night before, she’d been complaining about the frown lines between her eyebrows; now her forehead was perfectly smooth and unlined. The night before, she’d informed him that for the past five years she’d been coloring her hair without his knowing; now for the first time he noticed that, yes indeed, it was a shade darker.

He wanted to tell her how beautiful she was, how young she looked, but the words kept catching on little fishhooks in his throat. What had he said earlier that afternoon? Something about photo ops and Ben? The great Dr. Duprey, he’d said. Now he cringed, recalling his words, and he bent down and rested his cheek against hers, wanting to take back everything he’d said that afternoon.

He might as well have tried to take back his wedding vows.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered into her ear. “I’m so, so sorry.”

Meet the Author

Elisabeth Hyde was born and raised in New Hampshire, and briefly practiced law for the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. In 1982, she took some time off to write her first novel, Her Native Colors, and never looked back. She has been awarded working scholarships to the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, teaches creative writing through artist-in-residence programs, and is also the author of Monoosook Valley and Crazy as Chocolate. She lives in Colorado with her family.

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Abortionist's Daughter 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
prettybunny More than 1 year ago
really good. kept me wanting more
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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ChinaKat More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this story. It's been a while since I read it but I can still picture my vision of the pool and the snow outside. The writing and characters were compelling and the story kept the pages turning. It is an emotional 'who done it' which will keep you guessing the whole time. It is also a story about family and the power of parenting. I haven't read anything else by this author, but if they are written like this one I think I will enjoy her other book as well. Titles like this get you interested, but the good writing is what pulls you in.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
katknit More than 1 year ago
Abortion. Pornography. Malfeasance in the justice system. Illegal/legal drug abuse. Stalkers. It's all in The Abortionist's Daughter. Title notwithstanding, this crime novel has no primary protagonist. From chapter to chapter, the spotlight focuses upon several different characters - the daughter, two detectives, victim's husband, ex boyfriend, the victim herself, antiabortion activist -, throwing light upon their personal points of view with respect to the murder, and with respect to their relationships with the others who are enmeshed in the case. As in real life, each has his/her own virtues and faults, and some are likable while others are not. In some ways this book is reminiscent of Jodi Picoult's. Author Hyde has an intelligent writing style, a layman's understanding of psychology, and a talent for infusing her characters with authenticity. While it becomes evident early on who the culprit is, motive and method do not. The Abortionist's Daughter has the makings of a made-for-TV movie, with lots of drama and juicy plum roles.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Zelda More than 1 year ago
This book was really good. It wasn't what I thought it was going to be but was able to keep my attention. Different twist keep you wanting to find more.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I could not put down this book! Excellently written and good mystery. You really feel for the characters. Don't judge this book by it's title....I highly recommend for anyone who enjoys mysteries.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book kept me reading from page one. It wasn't predictable and it seemed like something that could really happen in a town anywhere. A highschool relationship gone bad that turns very tragic is what will really get you with this one. Don't focus on the title. Excellent book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a huge fan of Hyde's books. Her style is distinct and keeps the readers entralled. This isn't a murder mystery like you would find in the 'mystery' section of the bookstore it's more about the relationships of the characters and how life changes people. This isn't for those who only read murder mysteries, but if you love Hyde then you'll probably like this one too. I read it in a day.
Guest More than 1 year ago
the writer was trying for suspense, but just wound up be being boring. I figured out 'whodunnit' before the first chapter was over. The characters were one dimensional, and not even likeable! A waste of time!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a very disappointing novel. The story line was weak, the events predictable, the characters one-dimensional. I am sorry I wasted my money. This should have been a cheap paperback.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed the writer's style and she kept me guessing as to who did it. The interaction with the father, mother, and daughter was very real. The ending left me hanging though.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Don't start this book unless you have time to finish it. This is one of the best books I have ever read. It reads quickly and reels you in from the first page. It has nothing to do woth the prolife/prochoice issue. It is a true murder mystery.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The story of the Dupreys is something you'll get wrapped up in. This is a beautifuly written story.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Because she is a director of a Colorado abortion clinic, Dr. Diana Duprey knows many people want her dead. Still when someone succeeds in killing her in the exercise pool of her home, her spouse District Attorney Frank Thompson and their nineteen years old daughter Megan are stunned.------------- The detective in charge of the investigation Huck Berlin knows this is a difficult case because of the enormous abortion enemy list and a witness claiming Diana had nasty arguments with her husband and her daughter just before she died. Since the coroner has a conflict of interest, another medical examiner does the autopsy though he holds a grudge against Frank. As Huck struggles with the case and his attraction to a prime suspect Megan, who seems to beg him to take her, he seems no closer to a resolution.------------- The whodunit and why take a back seat to the deep look into the impact of performing abortions by a caring medical practitioner and her family. Diana though seen mostly in flashbacks is a fascinating individual who believes she is doing the morally right thing. Her spouse thinks more about how her work impacts his political ambitions. Their daughter Megan is the most complex character of all as she is confused over her mother¿s idealism that seem contradictory as it also means killing a potential life. Diana¿s clients also are delved into with their conflicting internal disputes. Much more rounded than simple sound bites by pro life and pro women¿s rights, Elisabeth Hyde provides a strong character study that opens the abortion debate in an intelligent manner.------------ Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You never know what will happen in Ms. Hyde's books....definitely a good read!