New York Times bestselling author Mary Jane Clark turns up the heat in a drop-dead frightening novel about an idyllic beach community turned killer's hunting ground
Trying to mix business with pleasure, KEY News correspondent Diane Mayfield has brought her children and her sister to the New Jersey shore town of Ocean Grove to investigate a story on "girls who cry wolf" for the season premiere of Hourglass, television's highly rated news magazine. Diane lands an exclusive interview with a troubled young woman whose tale of being abducted and held against her will for three terrifying days had been disbelieved by the authorities. No sooner does Diane finish taping the interview, though, than a second victim disappears. The small community, already in the grip of a record heat wave, is now wracked by fear and terror—no one knows who could be next. With only the first victim as eyewitness, Diane and the police turn to her for clues. But it may be too late to save Diane and her loved ones from the mortal danger that lurks in Ocean Grove.
Full of twists, turns, and terrifyingly real danger, Dancing in the Dark is Mary Jane Clark's most suspenseful thriller yet.
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Diane could feel the heat from the sidewalk seeping through the soles of her shoes as she hurried down Columbus Avenue. Beads of perspiration slipped down her sides, and she wiped the dampness accumulating at her brow line with one swoop, negating the twenty minutes she had spent in front of the bathroom mirror with her hair dryer, round brush, and styling mousse. Her freshly laundered cotton blouse stuck to her back, and the starched collar was beginning to droop. The day hadn't even begun and already she was a wilted mess.
She was anxious, as usual, about being late, and she wished she had not promised herself to walk to work. The twenty-block trek was the only dependable exercise she got these days, and she needed it. She had let her gym membership lapse since she found she wasn't using it on any routine basis. There just wasn't time anymore — not if she was going to spend the time she felt she should with the kids right now.
Sniffing the sickening smell of garbage already baking in the morning sun as it waited to be picked up from the curb, Diane felt relief that her two-week vacation was about to begin. It would be great to get out of the city, away from the oppressive heat, away from the noise and the hustle and the pressure. These last months had been tough on all of them, brutal really. Sometimes, it didn't feel like any of it could have happened. Yet the reality was all too clear when she spotted Michelle biting her nails or watched Anthony's shoulders slump when she caught him staring at his father's framed picture on the piano — or when she reached out in the middle of the night to the empty place in her queen-size bed.
She cut across the courtyard at Lincoln Center, stopping for just a moment at the wide fountain, hoping to catch a bit of fine spray. But there was absolutely no breeze to propel the mist her way.
Adjusting her shoulder bag, Diane continued walking. No matter. Soon she and the kids would be someplace where the air didn't stink and the water flowed cool and clear. Maybe they weren't going the way they had originally planned, maybe it wasn't the way they would have wanted it, but it was the way things were. They were going on this vacation. They deserved it. They needed it after all they had been through.
Life, even without Philip, had to go on.
Pushing through the heavy revolving door into the lobby, Diane welcomed the blast of cool air. She smiled at the uniformed security guards as she fumbled in her bag for the beaded metal necklace that threaded through the opening on her identification pass. Finding it, she swept the card against the electronic device that beeped to signal she was cleared to enter the KEY News Broadcast Center. She knew many of the other correspondents found it annoying to produce their IDs. They thought their well-known faces should be enough for entry, but Diane didn't mind. Security had an increasingly tough job, and it was easy enough for her to pull out her card. She did draw the line, however, at wearing the thing around her neck all day. That wasn't a fashion statement she cared to make.
She purchased a cup of tea and a banana at the coffee trolley, then walked up the long, wide ramp to the elevators, passing the large, lighted pictures of the KEY News anchors and correspondents, grouped according to their broadcasts. Eliza Blake beamed from the KEY Evening Headlines poster. Constance Young and Harry Granger grinned beneath the KEY to America morning show logo. The Hourglass photo, taken over a year before, showed Cassie Sheridan surrounded by the newsmagazine's contributing reporters. Diane didn't stop to study her own face, with its blue-gray eyes and nose she wished was just a little bit straighter, smiling from the wall with her colleagues. She needed no reminder. The worry and aggravation of the past few months were showing. The fine lines at the corners of her eyes had deepened, and new ones had formed around her mouth, vestiges of unconscious frowning. Lately, Diane noticed she was forced to apply concealer several times a day to camouflage the dark circles that had developed beneath her eyes.
Another good reason for a vacation, she thought as she pressed the elevator button. If she could just get away and relax for a bit, her appearance would benefit. All of the female correspondents were acutely aware that the way they looked played into their success. It was just a fact of broadcast news life. The guys paid attention to their appearance too, of course. But they could let their hair go gray, sport some wrinkles, gain a few pounds and get away with it. The women couldn't. They groused about it with their friends, but it wasn't going to change and they knew it. For the on-air journalists, experience counted, but youth and beauty were idolized.
The elevator bell pinged, and the doors slid open. Walking directly across the sixth-floor hallway, Diane slipped into the ladies' room. She pulled paper towels from the wall dispenser and patted at her face, trying not to wipe off her makeup as she dabbed at the mascara that had run at the corners of her eyes. As she worked to re-create some semblance of a hairstyle, she heard the click of a lock opening in one of the stalls behind her.
"Hi, Susannah," Diane said as the young woman limped toward the sink next to hers and pumped out some liquid soap.
"Hey, Diane. Hot enough for you?" Facing the mirror, Susannah smiled her crooked smile, which reflected its way back to Diane.
Diane was about to start complaining about her flattened hair and her sweaty walk to work, but she stopped herself, knowing how insensitive that would be. Susannah would probably give just about anything to be able to take the walk that Diane took for granted.
"Thank God for air-conditioning," Diane answered, pulling strands of ash-blond hair from her brush before putting it back into her shoulder bag. She rifled through the satchel and pulled out a small can of hair spray. "And tomorrow I leave for a vacation with my kids. It may be hot at the Grand Canyon, but it won't be as muggy as it is here."
"That sounds fabulous," Susannah answered with enthusiasm. "Do you have all the information you need before you go? I could get a little research package together for you."
That was one of the great things about Susannah, thought Diane, shaking the can and taking the lid off. She was always so upbeat and eager to help. God knew, Susannah had plenty to be down about. But she didn't play the victim. Maybe she knew that a poor-me attitude wore thin with folks after a while.
"Oh, you're a doll, Susannah, but I don't need a thing. I'm going to just sit back and let the tour guides do their jobs. I'm looking forward to a vacation where I don't have to read any maps or make any decisions or be responsible for anything more than which pair of shorts to pull on in the morning. I just want to relax with my kids for two weeks and let someone else worry about what we're going to do every day."
Diane waited until the researcher made her way to the restroom exit before pushing the button to release the hair spray. The smell of the aerosol fumes was just reaching her nostrils when Susannah called back from the doorway.
"I guess I should give you a heads-up, Diane. Joel is looking for you."
"Any idea why?" Diane asked as she recapped the hair spray can. But Susannah was already gone.
The detective stood at the foot of the hospital bed in the small examining room, his face impassive as he took detailed notes on Leslie Patterson's answers.
"How many times do I have to tell you?" the young woman's voice rose in frustration. "I never saw his face. I'm telling you the truth. I never saw him."
She watched the detective for a reaction, but his expression gave nothing away. It was the way he was rephrasing the same questions over and over that tipped her off: he didn't believe her.
"Let's go over it again, Miss Patterson. You were on the boardwalk taking a stroll at midnight?" The detective stressed the last word of his question, signaling his skepticism. "Do you usually go out alone late at night like that?" he asked.
"I told you. I had a fight with my boyfriend and I wanted to be alone to think about things. I thought a walk would clear my head and maybe tire me out so I could fall asleep."
"Your boyfriend would be Shawn Ostrander, correct?"
"Yes. I told you that too." She picked up a spoon from the breakfast tray and threw it back down again. Some nurse had thought she was doing Leslie a favor by bringing in the tray as she waited to be released. As if I would eat this, Leslie thought. She sighed as she pushed back the rolling table that held her untouched food.
"And Shawn said he didn't want to see you anymore, is that right, Leslie?" The detective used a gentle tone as he led her onward.
"Yes. And that he'd met someone else." Leslie studied the red marks the plastic handcuffs had left on her wrists and then pulled the cover up higher.
Beneath the hospital blanket, where the detective couldn't see, she pinched the top of her thigh. Without a safety pin or razor blade, a manually inflicted wound would have to do. A hard, mean twist intended to make her feel better. As the pain pulsed, the expression on her face never flinched.
"That must have hurt," said the detective.
Leslie blinked, for a moment thinking the man somehow knew she was pinching herself before realizing he was referring to the hurt of knowing that Shawn had found someone else.
"Yes. It did. I love Shawn." Leslie grabbed again at her hidden flesh and pressed tight. This time, tears welled in her eyes. Not because of the physical pain but because she couldn't stand the thought of losing Shawn. Didn't he realize that no one was ever going to love him the way she did?
"Did you want Shawn to worry about you, Leslie? Did you hope he would reconsider his decision to break up if he realized how much he missed you? Did you hope that disappearing for a couple of days would make Shawn come around?"
Leslie considered her answer. Yes, she did want Shawn to worry about her, and yes, as she'd lain in that dark, damp place for three days and nights, she'd been sustained by the hope that Shawn was missing her. She'd hoped that the horror she was going through would all be worth it because, when faced with the thought of losing her forever, Shawn would realize he loved her as much as she loved him.
But if she told the detective that, it might help confirm what Leslie knew he already suspected. That she had staged a three-day disappearance to get attention. She didn't want him to think that.
"Look, Detective, someone abducted me, blindfolded, gagged, and tied me up, and left me somewhere for three days. I feel like you're accusing me when you should be out there searching for a real criminal."
"We are, Leslie, believe me, we are. I'm not the only man working on this case. The better part of the Neptune Police Department is involved. We will get to the bottom of this. You can count on that." Something in the detective's tone made the words feel more like a threat than a reassurance.
The hospital room door opened, and the doctor who had examined her in the emergency room walked in and stood beside the bed. He looked at his clipboard before speaking. He looked at the cop too. As part of a crime investigation, the police as well as the patient had a right to know these test results.
"The rape kit came back negative. So we have that to be grateful for, Leslie. Even though you didn't claim to be raped, it was good to have done the test. You can never be too sure in a situation like this one. You could have been drugged or knocked unconscious and not even known it." The doctor smiled reassuringly and put his hand on her shoulder. "So, physically, you check out fine. Those scrapes on your wrists and legs will heal in few days. So will the cuts at the corners of your mouth. You can go home, Leslie. You are going to have to talk to someone, though, get your feelings out. Do you need a reference for a therapist? We have some excellent ones on staff."
"Thanks, but I already have a therapist." Leslie nodded, knowing that it made no sense to protest. Sure, she'd go back to therapy, and she'd fool Dr. Messinger the same way she was fooling the emergency room doctor right now. He had no idea that she was pinching herself, over and over again, beneath the white hospital sheet.
In August, other television news executive producers might be out playing golf in the Hamptons or relaxing in the south of France, but Joel Malcolm was at his desk, clicking the remote control at the half dozen television monitors mounted on his office wall when Diane knocked on the back of the open door.
"Ah, good. You're here," he said, waving her in. Joel nodded toward one of the TV sets. The identifying tag at the bottom of the screen read OCEAN GROVE, NEW JERSEY. A reporter was doing a stand-up report from a beach, the ocean in the background. His face was flushed, his shirt collar was open, and his hair didn't move. If there was no breeze to ruffle this guy's hair, Diane thought, it must be brutally hot, even at the seashore.
"You know about this girl that's been missing from the Jersey Shore?" Joel pointed at the television.
"I haven't been paying that much attention to the story," Diane said, taking a seat on the leather sofa, "but I bet you're going to tell me all about her."
If Joel detected any sarcasm, he ignored it. "Well, she'd been missing for the last three days, but she turned up last night. Matthew got it, off the record, from the local police that they think this girl is making it all up — that she faked her own abduction. Apparently, she's a real head case."
Diane felt her pulse quicken. Here it comes, she thought. With Hourglass segment correspondents already working on two stories similar to this one, Joel had been rooting for just one more. In Michigan, a college student had disappeared for six days, afterward telling police she had been abducted at knife-point. In Oregon, two teenage sisters were reported missing after their mother found blood-covered sheets and a broken window in their bedroom. Frenzied searches had been launched for all of them. But police were convinced that the young women hadn't been kidnapped at all — that they'd staged everything.
It was perverse, but Diane was certain Joel coveted another misguided soul, one with her own twisted tale. Someone new and something timely to kick off the show's season opener in September.
"This is perfect for us, Diane. It's a third girl who's cried wolf. I want you to do the story."
"I'm going on vacation tomorrow, Joel," she said, crossing her legs, trying to stay calm, and hoping he had merely forgotten that she had the next two weeks off. Yet she already knew he hadn't. Joel didn't forget a thing.
"This is important, Diane. Your vacation can wait, can't it?"
"No, it can't wait, Joel. This trip has been planned for months."
"You got travel insurance?"
Diane was tempted to lie but thought better of it. One lie always led to another, and usually the truth came out, sooner or later. Lies were what had gotten Philip in so much trouble.
"As a matter of fact, I do," she said. "But I bought it in case one of the kids got sick or something. I didn't buy it to cancel our trip out west so I could work more."
Joel frowned the frown that had intimidated countless other reporters and producers before Diane. The creator and executive producer of the award-winning newsmagazine program was a television legend. With forty years of broadcast journalism experience under his trim belt, he'd gotten to this point by virtue of his quick mind, keen visual sense, and refusal to give in or give up, ever. From his earliest days in the business, when film, not videotape, was the news production medium; even in the days when news lagged hours and, sometimes, days in getting to the public because airline schedules dictated the arrival of newsreel footage in New York before it could be broadcast around the country; in those simpler days before satellites and cell phones and computers on every desk in the Broadcast Center — even when there had been so much less to control, Joel had been a control freak. Throughout his career he'd wanted everything his way, and he was accustomed to getting what he wanted.
"Changing the subject for a second, Diane ..." He picked up a pen and began doodling on the yellow legal pad on his desk. "Your contract is up for renewal in a few months, isn't it?"
"In January," she replied, her lips tightening. The conniving cheat. This wasn't playing fair. Joel knew her situation and was using it to his advantage. Everyone at KEY News was aware of what had happened to Philip. It had been in all the New York newspapers, it had been on the Internet, it had even been on their own network television and radio news. That Joel was using Diane's misfortune to get what he wanted shouldn't have surprised her; still, she found herself dumbfounded at his audacity.
Excerpted from "Dancing In The Dark"
Copyright © 2005 Mary Jane Clark.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Friday August 19,
Saturday August 20,
Sunday August 21,
Monday August 22,
Tuesday August 23,
Wednesday August 24,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
For Diane Mayfield, the last few months of her life have been spent trying to keep her children, Michelle and Anthony, on an even keel. After her husband was sentenced to prison for his part in the financial upheaval of a company who cooked its books, she's been the sole parent and money-maker in a family that once had it all. Her position with KEY News as a correspondent for its Hourglass newsmagazine forces her to give up the family's vacation to the Grand Canyon and instead haul her kids and her 17-years younger sister, Emily, to the New Jersey seashore town of Ocean Grove. Her assignment? Interview Leslie Patterson, a woman who police believe 'cried wolf' about her recent disappearance. Leslie has a past that includes therapies for anorexia and harming herself physically, and the police are reluctant to take her claims seriously. Leslie states that she was abducted by an unknown attacker, and although not raped, was forced to dance with the man over a period of days before a security guard found her, bound and gagged, on the grounds of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association. Orignally a religion-based commune type establishment, the Association meets every year on Ocean Grove's shore to spen the summer in their tents. But as another girl disappears, both the local police and Diane start to believe that something more sinister is at work than a trouble young woman staging her own disappearance. As Diane delves deeper and deeper into the mystery, her own family becomes a target for the disturbed individuals that are harassing the tranquility of this once calm sea-side town. Mary Jane Clark has deftly penned another entertaining thriller. Her characters are all true-to-life and believable, and will have you turning pages until you figure out the mystery.
Clark writes mysteries but I felt like she was trying to teach me something else along the way very badly. One of the main characters in the story suffered from anorexia and cutting as well as a few others. Clark didn't go into the the issues in enough depth to make that part more than feel tacked on to me. I'll give it 2 starts because I didn't want to not find out who did it. If all her books are like this one I doubt I will read another.
I wasn¿t particularly thrilled with this. It wasn¿t bad, per se, it just didn¿t excite me. The mystery is well-enough constructed that I was surprised by who the bad guy was, but I never really connected with Diane or her kids. She was always the victim, and I just found nothing about her to be the least bit interesting, not even her jailed husband. Her daughter was even worse ¿ stereotype, through and through.The part that really rubbed me wrong was the undertone the entire book had about eating disorders. It felt like the author had an agenda to push, and it was really forced. If you want to teach us something about eating disorders, please don¿t make every teenaged girl in the story have one.This was the first Mary Jane Clark I¿ve read, and I don¿t think I¿ll jump at reading another.
Diane Mayfield, correspondent for a fictional tv news magazine program, was all set to take her son and daughter to the Grand Canyon for a much-anticipated vacation, until her boss insisted she go to the Jersey shore instead to report on a girl who police believed had pretended to have been kidnapped in order to get attention. As the story unfolded, all was not as it seemed . . . or was it? This is a pretty-good mystery, not the best one you'll ever read, but entertaining enough to make the effort worthwhile. It doesn't quite live up to the "can't put it down" billing advertised on the front-cover blurb, but it's not a mystery you'll get tired of before you're finished either. 3 1/2 out of 5 stars is my rating.
Dancing In The Dark by Mary Jane Clark ISBN 9780312481172This book is all about a troubled young girl that goes missing. When she is found three days latter no one seems to believe her story until it happens again. Diane a Key News Reporter has to cancel her trip to the Grand Canyon and instead head to Ocean to interview the lost girl who everyone believes ¿Cried Wolf¿ What she finds there is more than what she bargained for. I found that this book takes a good look at what a troubled teen will go though to get the attention they need to feel loved and accepted. I would recommend this to anyone who likes crime, mystery, drama.
I'm currently reading this book and enjoying the story, but the number of typos in the e-book is amazing! Doesn't anyone proof these things? I am figuring out what words are supposed to be by their context in the sentence.
This book had me hooked right away. As soon as I thought I had figured out who had done it, something happened and I changed my mind!
For Diane Mayfield, the last few months of her life have been spent trying to keep her children, Michelle and Anthony, on an even keel. After her husband was sentenced to prison for his part in the financial upheaval of a company who cooked its books, she's been the sole parent and money-maker in a family that once had it all. Her position with KEY News as a correspondent for its Hourglass newsmagazine forces her to give up the family's vacation to the Grand Canyon and instead haul her kids and her 17-years younger sister, Emily, to the New Jersey seashore town of Ocean Grove. Her assignment? Interview Leslie Patterson, a woman who police believe "cried wolf" about her recent disappearance.
Leslie has a past that includes therapies for anorexia and harming herself physically, and the police are reluctant to take her claims seriously. Leslie states that she was abducted by an unknown attacker, and although not raped, was forced to dance with the man over a period of days before a security guard found her, bound and gagged, on the grounds of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association. Orignally a religion-based commune type establishment, the Association meets every year on Ocean Grove's shore to spen the summer in their tents.
But as another girl disappears, both the local police and Diane start to believe that something more sinister is at work than a trouble young woman staging her own disappearance. As Diane delves deeper and deeper into the mystery, her own family becomes a target for the disturbed individuals that are harassing the tranquility of this once calm sea-side town.
Mary Jane Clark has deftly penned another entertaining thriller. Her characters are all true-to-life and believable, and will have you turning pages until you figure out the mystery.
Great book - saw it at the bargain price and glad I took a chance! I will leave the plot summary to the reviewers for you to read-but shame on one of the comments that gives away the ending....
I picked up this book by accident but decided to read it anyways. Boy am I glad I did! Fantastic read!! This was the first time I had read a book by this author and was truly impressed by the writing that I went out and picked up 2 more of her books today to read.
This was an okay read, but I found that the protagonist Leslie as the kidnapper was very hard to believe. Not as suspenseful as I thought it would be.
Investigative reporter Diane Mayfield is sent to ¿God¿s Square Mile,¿ the New Jersey shore town of Ocean Grove whose boardwalk ends where the more famous Asbury Park¿s begins. Filming interviews for KEY News¿ 60-Minutes-like magazine show, Hourglass, Diane¿s been sent to shine a spotlight on a young woman who reports having been abducted and held against her will for three gruesome days, her kidnapper having blindfolded, gagged and bound her, and fiendishly and silently having danced with her throughout her captivity. No one in this quaint town wants to believe her -- preferring instead to think she¿s one of those ¿Girls Who Cry Wolf,¿ a phenomenon getting more and more common on the front pages of America¿s daily newspapers. When other victims turn up, and dead, authorities -- and the media -- begin believing the young woman¿s story. But is it too late? With her kids in tow, Diane tries to unmask the killer, but not before she and her family become the next targets. There¿s no dearth of suspects, and every one of them is utterly believable. The last 50 pages present a harrowing race to a finish which is as shocking as it is satisfying. The story is so convincingly written, I didn¿t want it to end -- except, perhaps, to ease the creepy anxiety that Mary Jane Clark creates so effortlessly in this can¿t-put-it-down thriller. I¿ll never feel completely safe at the Jersey shore again!
I've been a fan of Mary Jane Clark since the first time I picked up one of her books. This one though has to be my favorite so far. Her accurate description of Ocean Grove and the shore area, combined with her skill at creating a suspenseful whodunit, gives the reader a book you can't put down.
After her husband was jailed for committing a white collar crime Diane Mayfield, an on air news correspondent who works for Keys Network, is the sole breadwinner for her family. They are all looking forward to a vacation at the Grand Canyon when Diane¿s boss assigns her a story in Ocean Grove, NJ. Leslie Patterson disappeared for three days and when she was found nobody believed that the young woman was really abducted. The town feels she staged the whole thing to get attention. Diane is supposed to interview her but when she and her crew arrive a second young woman is also abducted. This time when she is found she is dead because she choked on her own vomit. A former mental patient is arrested and the person who took the second woman never meant for her to die or for anyone to be accused of the murder. A third woman is abducted and Diane¿s son is in the place where the kidnapper brings the unconscious woman. Diane races against time to rescues her son before another life is snuffed out. --- The logic of the kidnapper to shape her abduction to prove that the mental patient is innocent is a great plot device to bring about a dramatic confrontation between the criminal and the reporter. Mary Jane Clark writes a fantastic who-done-it filled with characters who could have committed the crimes because they act in a suspicious manner. There is plenty of action and lots of false leads so that readers won¿t guess who the real perpetrator is. When the audience discovers that person¿s identity, they will truly be shocked. --- Harriet Klausner