"A tour de force – a gripping, twisting, furiously clever read that asks all the right questions, and keeps you guessing until the very end. I loved it." Ruth Ware
"Haunting. Mesmerizing. Unforgettable." Gillian Flynn
In the summer of 1999, Kit and Laura travel to a festival in Cornwall to see a total eclipse of the sun. Kit is an eclipse chaser; Laura has never seen one before. Young and in love, they are certain this will be the first of many they’ll share.
But in the hushed moments after the shadow passes, Laura interrupts a man and a woman. She knows that she saw something terrible. The man denies it. It is her word against his.
The victim seems grateful. Months later, she turns up on their doorstep like a lonely stray. But as her gratitude takes a twisted turn, Laura begins to wonderdid she trust the wrong person?
15 years later, Kit and Laura married are living under new names and completely off the digital grid: no Facebook, only rudimentary cell phones, not in any directories. But as the truth catches up to them, they realize they can no longer keep the past in the past.
From Erin Kelly, queen of the killer twist, He Said/She Said is a gripping tale of the lies we tell to save ourselves, the truths we cannot admit, and how far we will go to make others believe our side of the story.
|Publisher:||St. Martin''s Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||4.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.50(d)|
About the Author
ERIN KELLY is the Sunday Times bestselling author of He Said/She Said, The Poison Tree and several other standalone psychological thrillers. She also wrote the novelization of the award-winning TV show Broadchurch. Her work has been critically acclaimed and translated into thirty-one languages. Erin also works as a freelance journalist and creative writing tutor. She lives in London with her family.
Read an Excerpt
He Said She Said
By Erin Kelly
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2017 ES Moylan Ltd.
All rights reserved.
LAURA 18 March 2015
London is the most light-polluted city in Britain, but even here in the northern suburbs, you can still see the stars at four o'clock in the morning. The lights are off in our attic study, and I don't need Kit's telescope to see Venus; a crescent moon wears the pale blue planet like an earring.
The city is at my back; the view from here is over suburban rooftops and dominated by Alexandra Palace. By day it's a Victorian monstrosity of cast iron, brick and glass, but in the small hours it's a spike in the sky, its radio mast tipped with a glowing red dot. A night bus of the same color sweeps through the otherwise empty park road. This part of London has a truer 24-hour culture than the West End. No sooner does the last Turkish kebab shop shut than the Polish bakery takes its first delivery. I didn't choose to live here, but I love it now. There is anonymity in bustle.
Two airplanes blink across each other's paths. One floor below me, Kit is deep in sleep. He's the one going away, yet I'm wide awake with pre-trip nerves. It is a long time since I slept through the night but my wakefulness now has nothing to do with the babies in my belly who tapdance on my bladder and kick me awake. Kit once described real life as the boring bit between eclipses but I think of it as the safe time. Beth has crossed the world to find us twice. We are only visible when we travel. A couple of years ago, I hired a private detective and challenged him to find us using only the paper trail of our previous lives. He couldn't trace us. And if he couldn't do it, then no one else can. Certainly not Beth, and not even a man of Jamie's resources. It has been fourteen years since one of his letters found me.
This total eclipse will be the first Kit has seen without me since he was a teenager. Even the eclipses he had to miss, he missed with me, because of me. It's not a good idea to travel in my condition, and I'm so grateful to be in this condition that I don't begrudge missing the experience, although I am terrified for Kit. Beth knows me. She knows us. She knows that to hurt him is to destroy me.
I watch the moon set in its slow arc. Following its course is a deliberate act of mindfulness, the living-in-the-moment therapy that is supposed to stop my panic attacks before they can take hold. The telltale early symptom is there; a subtle standing-to-attention of all the tiny hairs on my skin, a feeling that someone's trailing a gossamer scarf over my forearms. They call it somatising, a physical manifestation of psychological damage. Mindfulness is supposed to help me separate the soma from the psyche. I play join-the-dots with the constellations. There is Orion, one of the few constellations everyone can identify, and, flung a little to the north, the Seven Sisters that give the nearby neighborhood its name.
I rock back and forth from the heels to the balls of my feet, concentrating on the carpet fibers under my bare toes. I can't let Kit see me anxious. In the short term, it would ruin his trip, and after that, he would suggest more psychotherapy, and I've taken that as far as I can. There's only so far you can get when you're holding on to a secret like mine. The psychotherapists always say that the sessions are confidential, like their Ikea couch is a sacred confessional. But my confession is a broken law, and I can't trust anyone with it. There is no statute of limitations for what I did in this country, and none in my heart.
When my breathing evens out, I turn away from the window. There is just enough light to see Kit's map. Not the original of course, that was destroyed, but a painstaking recreation of it. It's a huge relief map of the world, crisscrossed with curves of red and golden thread, measured to the nearest millimeter, glued down with characteristic precision. The gold arcs mark the eclipses he has already seen; the red those we can expect to see in our lifetimes. Part of the ritual is coming home after a trip to replace red threads with gold. (Being Kit, he has calculated his life expectancy using family history, lifestyle and longevity trends, and allowed for infirmity curtailing travel when he's ninety. So we should see our last eclipse in 2066.)
Years ago, Beth trailed her fingers over the first map and that's when I told her about our plans.
I wonder where on the planet she is now. Sometimes I wonder if she's even still alive. I have never wished her dead — for all that she put us through, she was a victim too — but I have often wished that she could be ... deleted, I suppose, is the right word. There's no way of finding out. Try to look up "Elizabeth Taylor" and see how far you get without the actor or the novelist making a nonsense of your search. Using the diminutive "Beth" does little to narrow it down. She seems to have vanished as effectively as we have.
I haven't looked Jamie up for years. It's too uncomfortable, after my part in it all. His public relations crusade paid off and these days when you search his name the crime comes up but only in his preferred context. The first few hits are about his campaigning work, the support he gives to wrongly accused men and rightly accused men too, calling for anonymity up to the point of conviction. I can never get beyond the first few lines before I start to feel sick. I still need to keep myself informed, so I got around the problem by setting up a Google alert that links his name to the only word that matters. There's no point combining his name with Beth's in a search; her lifelong anonymity is guaranteed. That's the law whatever the outcome of this kind of trial. I suppose she was lucky — we all were, in a way — that the case pre-dated social media and the keyboard vigilantes whose blood sport is identification.
Light on the landing tells me Kit's awake. I take a deep breath in and a longer breath out and I am calm. I have beaten this attack. I roll up the sleeves of the sweater I'm wearing. It's Kit's, and it doesn't do me any favors, but it fits and I seem to have been at the stage where I dress for comfort for years now. Even before I conceived, the steroids gave me hips and breasts for the first time in my life, and I still haven't worked out how to dress around curves.
I pad down the stairs, edging past the flat-packed cots on the landing. When Kit comes home we'll have to convert Juno and Piper's room at the back of the house into a nursery. Superstition, a reluctance to do anything until he has survived this trip, has held me back.
I find him sitting up in bed, already checking his phone for the weather report, his pale copper hair at mad angles. The words don't go try to punch their way out of my mouth. Knowing he would stay if I asked him to is all the reason I need to let him leave.CHAPTER 2
KIT 18 March 2015
I lie awake for a few seconds, listening to Laura's footsteps overhead, and savoring the Christmas-morning feeling. The thrill never lessens when the abstract numbers on the calendar finally take shape into days. I have known for years that on 20th March 2015, the moon will block the sun from view, making a black disc in the sky. Total eclipses of the sun have been dots on the timeline of my life since I first stood beneath the moon's shadow. Chile 1991 was the eclipse of the last century; seven minutes and twenty-one seconds of pure totality. I was twelve years old and I knew that I would devote the rest of my life to recapturing the experience. Nothing compares to witnessing a total solar eclipse under a cloudless sky. Until I met Laura, it was the closest I came to understanding religion.
The sheets on her side of the bed are cold. When she comes in, her belly entering the room a beat before she does, her cheeks are sunken from tiredness. Her hair is tied up, the roots showing, a millimeter of brown that looks black against the platinum lengths. She's wearing one of my old sweaters, pushed up to the elbows. She has never looked lovelier. I had worried, when we first started trying for a baby, whether I'd miss that ectomorph gawkiness I always loved, but there's a new pride at seeing Laura's body change because there's something of me in there.
"Get back into bed," I say. "It's not good for you to be leaping around."
"Ah, I'm awake now. I'll go back to bed when you've gone."
In the shower I run through today's itinerary one last time, the finer details in my grand plan. I'll catch the 05:26 from Turnpike Lane Tube, then the 06:30 from King's Cross to Newcastle, where I will meet Richard at 09:42. From there a chartered minibus will take us to Newcastle docks and at a pleasingly round 11:00 we will board the Princess Celeste, a 600-berth cruise ship that will take us across the North Sea, past Scotland and halfway to Iceland, where the Faroe Islands lie. Most of Friday's eclipse will be over water, but even a calm sea is never still and the best photography is done on land. I had to choose between the Faroes or Svalbard, north of the Arctic Circle. (It was Laura who wanted me to go to the Faroes. The biggest crowds will be in Tórshavn, on Stremoy, the largest island, and she believes in safety in numbers.) In two days' time, at 8:29 a.m., the moon will start to creep across the surface of the sun and slowly build to two and a half minutes of total eclipse.
I towel-dry the beard Laura insisted I grow for the trip, then dress carefully in the clothes I laid out the night before. My work clothes — not a uniform, but they might as well be — hang neatly in the wardrobe, tugging at my conscience. Delighted as I am at the prospect of five days away from the optical lab, I can't help but feel guilty at taking annual leave to travel when I could have tacked it on to my paternity leave. Then I think about the chemicals I've been breathing in for so long that they line my lungs, and the stiff neck that's been craned over lenses all year finally hinging upward to look at the sky, and I think sod it. I've got the rest of my life to play the provident father. What's five days, in the wider scheme of things?
I put on a long-sleeved thermal vest, and then over that my lucky T- shirt, a souvenir from my first eclipse. It says Chile '91 on it — countries always claim the eclipse as their own, even when the shadow falls over three continents — and is in the colors of the Chilean flag. A crude black circle in its center represents the covered sun, surrounded by the flares of a corona. When my dad bought it from a roadside hawker it was virtually a dress on me. Mac refused to wear his but I wouldn't take mine off even to wash it. It fits me now but it won't in a few years unless I follow Mac's lead to the gym. There's a burn on the collar where Mac flicked a lit joint at me during an argument in Aruba, in 1998. On top of these layers goes the magnificent finishing touch, a work of art in chunky black and white wool. Richard and I bought matching Faroese jumpers online months ago. We're stamping down hard into our carbon footprints by taking them home to the country where the sheep grazed and where the wool was spun and knitted.
I check my phone again, in case weather conditions have changed in the last ten minutes, but the forecasts remain gloomy. There's a thick blanket of cloud across the whole archipelago. "Eclipse chasing" sounds like a misnomer, and I've learned to defend the term over the years. How can you chase a phenomenon when you're the one moving, and the phenomenon is standing still? First of all, there's nothing still about an eclipse; the darkness comes at more than a thousand miles an hour. Well, it's true that there's no changing the coordinates. The shadow will fall where the shadow will fall, in a pattern that was established when we were still primordial soup. But clouds are not nearly so predictable. An unanticipated cumulus can disappoint a crowd of thousands who only moments before were standing confidently in sunshine. The thrill is in outwitting the weather. My fondest memory of my father is from Brazil '94, Mac and me riding loose in the back of Dad's VW, speeding along a pot-holed highway until we found a patch of blue sky. (He was, in retrospect, drunk behind the wheel; I try not to dwell on that.)
These days, naturally, there are apps. Breaks in the cloud can be pinpointed with much greater precision, and it's not unusual for entire coach parties not to know their viewing destination until five minutes before first contact. I turn my phone face down. I will go mad if I think too hard about the weather. Fortunately I've always been good at shutting out thoughts that would distract or upset me. In the moments when I allow myself to think about the past, which is not often — it only gets shoved to the forefront of my consciousness when there's an eclipse on the horizon, and Laura's triggers go off — in those rare moments, it seems that life since the Lizard has been lived as though under a malfunctioning neon light. A subtle but constant vibrating strobe that you learn to live with, even though you know that one day it will trigger some kind of seizure or aneurysm.
The smell of fresh coffee wafts up the stairs. Laura's in the kitchen, five steps down and at the rear of the house. Our scrubby little back garden is in darkness. She has filled a mug for me and she's wrapping a sandwich in foil. I kiss her behind her right ear and inhale the buttery scent of her. "Finally, the subservient housewife I've always wanted. I should leave you on your own more often." I feel the skin on her neck tighten as she smiles.
"It's the hormones," she says. "Don't get used to it."
"Promise me you'll go back to bed once I've gone," I say.
"Promise," she says, but I know Laura. I had hoped that pregnancy might slow her down but if anything the steroids have sped her up, so she'll power through the day until collapsing in a heap somewhere around 9 p.m. She sweeps the worktop clean with a sponge and puts the empty coffee pods in the bin. With her back to me, she performs a tiny act, meaningless to anyone but me, that twists at my guts. She swipes at her bare forearms, twice, as if brushing imaginary cobwebs from her skin. It is months, if not years, since I have seen her do this and it always means she's thinking about Beth. I wish for the millionth time that she had my discipline when it comes to the past, or rather the way the past might impact our future. Why waste energy anticipating something that could never happen? She gets like this with every eclipse, even though it's been nine years since Beth's last known movements. She turns around with a too-wide smile, literally putting on her brave face for me. She doesn't know I saw her brush at her arms. She might not even know she did it.
"What've you got planned for today?" I ask her, to gauge her mood as much as anything.
"Calling a client first thing," she says. "And then this afternoon I thought I'd tackle my VAT. You got anything planned?"
I take heart from her joke. When she's about to crash, her sense of humor is the first thing to go.
My rucksack has been packed for three days now. Half the considerable weight is camera equipment, lenses, chargers and my tripod, batteries and waterproofs, and then spares of everything. The camera is in its own bag, too precious to leave unattended in a luggage rack. My phone goes into the breast pocket of my orange windcheater.
"Very chic," says Laura dryly. "Have you got everything you need?" I put the sandwich in my other pocket, check my Oyster card is easily accessible and then hoist on the rucksack. I nearly fall backward under its weight.
Without warning, Laura's smile drops and she brushes her forearms, twice in succession. This time we make eye contact and denial is as pointless as explanation. Reassurance is all I can give.
"I've checked the passenger records," I say. "There's no Beth Taylor on the list. No Taylors. No Elizabeth anything. No B or E anything, female."
"You know that's completely meaningless."
Indeed I do. Laura thinks that Beth has changed her name. I disagree; it's a reflection of Laura's paranoia. With a name like that, you can hide in plain sight. That was, after all, the inspiration behind our own rebranding. Why hide a needle in a haystack when you can hide a strand of hay? "And even if it's true," presses Laura, "all that means is she's not on your ship. What if she's on the ground?"
I speak deliberately slowly. "If she is there, she'll be looking for a festival. Somewhere there's a sound system and a load of bongos, that's where she'll expect to find us. I'm going to be traveling with a load of retired Americans. And even if she doesn't, Tórshavn's a big place that'll be crawling with tourists, eleven thousand people." I smooth down my beard. "There's my cunning disguise. I'll be on the lookout. I'll be walking around with a periscope, checking all the corners before I go anywhere." I mime peeping through my fingers; she doesn't laugh. "Mac's round the corner, Ling's two streets away, my mum's an hour away, your dad's on the phone whenever you need him."
Excerpted from He Said She Said by Erin Kelly. Copyright © 2017 ES Moylan Ltd.. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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