Gina's son, Steven, caught only a fleeting glimpse of the killer as he fled. If only, he wonders again and again.
As Lily Chin prepares for her upcoming wedding, a mysterious woman appears to inform her of her fiancé's secret life—which may have included Gina Engel.
Louise Carpanetti received a phone call from the dying Gina. Now, more than a decade later, she is forced to finally acknowledge a shocking possibility: the killer might be her emotionally disturbed son. . . .
Told through three distinct yet interconnected narratives, Karen Shepard's Don't I Know You? is an intricate, dazzling, and devastating psychological drama that absorbs and thrills as it examines the complexities of the human heart.
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About the Author
Karen Shepard is the author of the novels An Empire of Women and The Bad Boy's Wife. Her work has appeared in Atlantic Monthly, Self, Bomb, and other publications. She teaches writing and literature at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where she lives with her husband, writer Jim Shepard, and their three children.
Read an Excerpt
Don't I Know You?A Novel
By Karen Shepard
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Karen Shepard
All right reserved.
It was just a Tuesday. Steven's key worked like it always had.
His mother was lying between the living room and the front hall. He saw her feet first. They were bare, and at first he thought she was doing her yoga.
She was on her side. Her bottom leg was straight. Her top one was bent. One arm was stretched above her. Her head was resting on it. Her other arm was bent across her middle. Her hand was in a fist.
Her dress was up around her waist. Her panties were ripped. He could see her blue birthmark below her belly button. There were scratches on her thighs. There was a lot of blood.
The green rug from the hall was bunched underneath her hip and bloody. The phone was on its side next to her. It was bloody.
The windows were open. Down there on the corner of 102nd and West End, Ramon and Jimmy were sitting on their overturned crates drinking beer, smoking, trying to stay cool. He could hear them. The fans were on. She smelled wrong. The TV was on. The sound was off.
He stood there. He'd been up high on a catwalk for the spring musical. It felt like that now.
His body was shaking as if he were freezing, but sweat beaded under his bangs and between his shoulder blades.
Kitty came fromsomewhere down the hall and circled his legs. He tried to pet her, but couldn't stop the trembling.
Manuel's voice came up through the windows. "Not in a minute," he was saying. "Now. Before now. Yesterday."
He walked by her, closing his eyes, to the TV. A nature show. He turned it off and watched the screen until the dot in the center disappeared. The shaking was going away. He was still cold. They'd had this TV for a hundred years. When Starsky and Hutch walked toward him they looked like people in a dream. Yesterday, he'd been after her about getting a better one.
Hot air blew around him from outside. He felt like the guy on Wild Kingdom getting licked by cheetah cubs.
He sat cross-legged across the room from her for a minute. Kitty leaned against his knee, making her small engine sounds deep in her throat.
He couldn't tell where she'd been stabbed. He was sleepy.
He'd spent the day in the park, climbing rocks and breaking sticks with Juan. They'd eaten peanut-butter-and-honey sandwiches and shared a Yoo-hoo. There'd been a dead pigeon in the sandbox. "Don't touch it," Juan had said. "You'll get rabbis."
His mother was Greek; sometimes she got words wrong.
They'd poked at it with a stick, and then they'd washed their hands anyway, proud of their good thinking. He had used the water fountain. Juan had used the puddle around the sprinklers.
He wasn't thinking the things he was supposed to be thinking. He'd only been home for a few minutes. He asked himself what he was feeling. None of this was happening.
Outside, it was getting darker. Inside too. He was crying.
Her black hair was still in its ponytail. It was spread out like she was jumping. She was making a face that he didn't like to look at. He thought about touching her, but didn't.
Down the hall, a quiet thud and two creaks.
His feet and hands tingled. Get out, he thought. He stood; his knees cracked, and he headed toward the front door. The sound of something heavy being lifted and put down again. He was still crying. He started down the hall. He couldn't believe he was doing it.
There was blood. Streaky patches of it. And then it stopped. His foot hit something that rolled. Glass beads. He recognized them from the necklace she liked to wear.
Her bedroom door was open a little. Shadows moved behind it.
He ran the last few feet. His head felt like he'd been holding his breath too long. "Hey," he called. "Hey."
One leg was disappearing out the window onto the fire escape. Jeans. A white sock. Adidas sneaker. White with green stripes.
The room was a mess, but there was no blood.
"Hey," he said again. "You," he called, hating himself for being stupid and twelve and sounding like a girl.
He stuck his head out as far as he could. His mother didn't like him to. He saw someone running. A man in a white T-shirt. It was too dark to see anything else. He couldn't even tell what color hair the guy had.
The bed looked like someone had made it and then run back and forth across it. Everything else looked the same.
He felt like he was looking at things through a ViewMaster. His stomach was cramping. His head felt cut in half.
He went and stood in her closet. When he was little, he would sneak in there in the middle of the night. He would sit on the floor on top of her shoes and handbags and dirty clothes. He was supposed to be able to spend the whole night in his own room. His doctor had told her that. If she had to, he'd told her, she could always put a latch on the outside of the boy's bedroom door. "What's the worst that could happen?" he'd said. "He'll fall asleep crying by the door."
She never did. So he'd fall asleep in her closet, and she'd find him in the morning. One night he opened the door and there was a sleeping bag and pillow. The sleeping bag was unzipped partway and turned down. After that, he didn't go in there anymore.
The closet smelled like dust and blankets and sweaters and her. Sometimes when she'd had a long day, she'd stay in the shower, standing under the hot water for way longer than it took to get clean. She said that on days like those it was just the best place to be. Under the water, by herself.
Excerpted from Don't I Know You? by Karen Shepard Copyright © 2006 by Karen Shepard. Excerpted by permission.
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What People are Saying About This
“Riveting and deeply felt and true.”
“A chilly, disquieting mystery in which the answer to the title is always ‘no.’”
“This is a book that haunts and tantalizes and possesses us long after the last page is turned.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In 1976 twelve years old Steven Engels comes home to his family¿s Upper West Side apartment only to discover the corpse of his single mother Gina who is stabbed to death. Stunned not just by his mom¿s violent death, but finding her silently laying there, none of his family members or even his mom¿s boyfriend Phil know what to do with the grieving preadolescent. One year later, the case remains unsolved with Phil still considered a person of interest. Meanwhile a stranger visits schoolteacher Lily Chin to warn her about her fiancé Nickolai Belov. The woman claims to have been Nickolai's former lover and provides Lily the whereabouts of Gina's journal hidden by Nickolai. --- Over a decade later, the Engels homicide remains unsolved and considered by NYPD as a cold case. Meanwhile seventy-three years old Louise Carpanetti knows she is dying, but the cancer is not what worries her. Instead she fears what will become of her childlike fiftyish son Michael when she learns from the news that a break in the Engles murder has occurred. Now she ponders how Michael was involved and what should she tell the police, if anything. --- This fascinating whodunit is told in three parts over a dozen or so years apart. What is interesting is how far reaching the Engels¿ homicide is as many individuals besides Steven are affected even indirectly. Readers will be hooked by the ensemble cast who have been impacted though only the son and the two women ((think of five degrees of separation) provide insight. This is a stunning insightful mystery, --- Harriet Klausner
I read a review of this sometime last year and it stuck with me for some reason - and I'm glad it did. This is a dark, complicated story that focuses more on the choices people make than on the actual murder. The first three sections are told from the points of view of three different people, each connected in some way to the murder of a young single mother. They chronicle the time immediately after the murder, one year after the murder, and 10 years after, revealing secrets and intersecting relationships, but never clarifying what actually happened. The final brief section brings all the characters together several years before the murder occurs, and reveals - finally, surprisingly - the identity of the murderer. Though the final twist is unexpected, it feels plausible and satisfying.
I ordered this book from a catalogue that described it as "literary suspense". The story begins with a twelve-year-old boy discovering the murdered body of his mother. The book is divided into three main sections, each told from the perspective of someone who has some connection to the murdered woman. The final section brings all the pieces together, but in a unique way as it actually takes place four years before the murder. The literary suspense description is perfect. The book is well written and explores relationships and the choices people make much more than it does the solving of the crime. It's also a page-turner...the anticipation grows as the pieces and characters come together revealing the answer (a surprising one) to the basic "who dunnit?" question.
I share the other reviewers opinions of this book. I have no idea what happened at the end. The book kept my interest but I was irritated by the ending. I thought the characters were well written and they all had ties, but overall there wasn't much cohesion to the book. And like everyone said, who killed Gina? I am not rereading the thing to try and figure it out because I don't think there's anything there. Reading this was sort of like driving on a road and you're not really sure where its going but you hope its going to come out where you want... but in the end it just peters out into a dead end.
I liked this book but after reading the last page I am stumped. I don't know who killed Gina. I have to start reading all over again. I think there should have been a synopsis given at the end ....like answers to the crossword puzzle you can't figure out.
Book was interesting until the end. Did I miss something (?), because I still don't know who did it.
I have been reading mystery novels for 35 yrs. There wasn't any real closure in this book. Just who murdered her? The ex-husband, the retarded neighbor or boyfriedn Matthew?