Keep You Close

Keep You Close

by Lucie Whitehouse

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781632863201
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 05/03/2016
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Lucie Whitehouse grew up in Warwickshire, England, studied classics at the University of Oxford, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and daughter. She is the author of The House at Midnight, The Bed I Made, and Before We Met.

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Keep You Close


By Lucie Whitehouse

Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Copyright © 2016 Lucie Whitehouse
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-63286-320-1


CHAPTER 1

The parcel of fish and chips was warm under Rowan's arm as she agitated the key in the lock. 'Come on.' She pulled the key out then jammed it in again just as the automatic light timed out and plunged the hallway into darkness. At the same moment, she heard the first shrill note of her ringtone.

'Christ's sake.' Leaving the key in the lock, she pulled the phone from her pocket. Its screen was a bright rectangle in the dark. A London number but she didn't recognise it. 'Yes?' Impatience made her brusque.

'Rowan?'

She hadn't heard it in years – a decade – but she knew the voice immediately. The sound of it was otherworldly, seeming to reach through time as well as space, light from a distant star. Her heart gave a beat like a punch in the sternum. It was a moment before she could speak.

'Jacqueline?'

'Yes. Yes, it is. Oh, I'm so glad I've got you – thank God. I didn't know if you'd still be on this number – you weren't on her phone. I've found an old address book but most of the stuff in here's useless – everyone's moved and changed number or ...'

'I haven't.' Rowan's stomach clenched and, despite the cold, there was suddenly sweat on her forehead. Something had happened to Marianne. 'How are you? How —'

A low keening sound came wheezing down the line, a single corrosive note. It went on and on, only for five or six seconds in reality, but to Rowan it felt like forever. She knew that sound, how time stretched around it, became irrelevant, a joke. The aching, hollowed-out kind of loss that could never be made better.

'I'm ... heart-broken,' Jacqueline said, as if she understood the true meaning of the word for the first time. Then, after a pause, 'Marianne's dead, Rowan.' The sound again, its eerie, awful note. 'She came off the roof into the garden. Her neck ...'

A momentary flash, the floor giving way underfoot, and the horrifying image of a body in freefall.

Jacqueline was talking and crying at the same time. 'It was Sunday night, in the snow, but she wasn't found until Monday morning. She was out there all night in the dark. She was soaking – freezing cold. Her skin – Rowan, they told me her fingers were frozen. I can't stand thinking about it but I can't stop —' She broke off and started sobbing desperately.

Marianne's hands – the long fingers with the nails she'd kept short for her work, always stained with ink or paint. Her hands – frozen, white. Lifeless. Rowan closed her eyes as pain and horror swept through her.

In the dark hallway, the sound of Jacqueline's sobs was harrowing, too much to bear. Rowan put out a hand and ran it up and down the wall's cold flank. Where the hell was the light button? She was on the brink of tears herself now, grief threatening to bubble up and overwhelm her. She took a deep breath but her voice shook as she said, 'Came off – do you mean, she ... slipped?'

A hard swallow at the other end, an audible attempt at control. 'The police said it was an accident. She used to go up there for cigarettes when she was working – you remember, don't you?'

I remember everything. 'She was still doing that?'

'In the snow, the roof would have been slippery and ... she slipped,' said Jacqueline, and to her horror, Rowan understood that she was telling herself, too. 'But no one saw her. No one can tell us what actually happened. After Seb died ... I used to worry – I banned her from going up there – you remember?'

'Yes. Yes, I do.' Rowan's skin was prickling, cold running down her back. 'Jacqueline, there's no chance she could have ...?' She couldn't say the words. 'She didn't ...? I mean, did it ever come back? The depression.'

'No. I don't think so. She'd have told me, wouldn't she? She wouldn't have tried to hide it? But I don't know – unless she thought it would hurt me.' A gulp. 'As if anything could hurt as much as this.'

'There wasn't anything going on that might have upset her? Brought it back?'

'No. Everything was going so well. Her work – she's got a show coming up in New York, a solo exhibition ...' Jacqueline stopped talking and for a moment there was silence on the line.

Rowan heard footsteps outside and then the rattle of keys against the front door. Before she could compose herself, the door swung open and the fox-faced man from the ground-floor flat slapped the light on. Blinking, she raised a hand, as if it were completely to be expected that she would be standing here in the dark. She felt his eyes on her back as she gripped the key in the lock and forced it. At last, the door yawned open, revealing the steep flight of stairs immediately on the other side.

'Jacqueline,' she said, but the back of her throat was dry; she coughed, tried to swallow. 'I'm so, so sorry. What can I do? I'm still in London, just south of the river – if there's anything you need, anything at all, will you tell me?' She reached the top of the stairs and carried the fish and chips to the kitchen where she dropped them straight in the bin. 'I'm studying at the moment, I'm a student, so I'm around, I'm flexible.'

'Thank you.' There was another pause. When she spoke again, Jacqueline's voice had an edge that Rowan could only remember hearing once before, that dreadful night in the kitchen. 'I had a call this morning,' she said.

Rowan felt a cold hand come to rest on the back of her neck. 'A call?'

'From some poisonous little cretin at the Mail. He wanted my "reaction". My reaction. Can you imagine?' The horrible keening wheeze again, twisted with laughter. 'What did he think my reaction was going to be?'

'My God, that's ... monstrous.'

'It's not just the Mail – they're all here. I'm surrounded.'

'What?'

'Men with cameras – just like old times, sitting across the street in their cars. Waiting. I hate them,' she said savagely. 'I want to fetch Ad's old cricket bat from under the stairs and get out there and batter them, crack their heads open. I would – if it weren't for him, I'd do it. Can't you see it? A picture of me on the front page of the Mail, all pig-eyed and wild. Bereaved Mother of Sex-scandal Artist Hits Out.' The laughter became bleak sobbing.

'Jacqueline ...' But what could she say? What would make the slightest difference?

'It's all right.' With an effort, she brought the crying under control. 'It'll die down when they realise there's no fresh meat. They'll just rehash the old stories and move on. But if they do track you down, could you ...?'

'I wouldn't dream of speaking to them.'

'Thank you.' Real relief in her voice. 'Rowan, look, I know you and Marianne had lost touch with each other but you were such an important part of her life – and not just hers, all our lives.'

'I loved her – all of you.'

'Please come to the funeral. It feels right for you to be there. It'll be next week, Thursday, at the crematorium in Oxford. We'd all like it if you were there. We ...' She stopped talking as she realised. 'Adam and I would, I mean. Both of us. We've missed you. I told Marianne that she should get in touch with you again, that with proper friends, it doesn't matter if you have a stupid row and lose touch, however long it goes on.'

'It was my fault, too. I should have ...' But what? What could she have done that she didn't?


Rowan stood phone in hand as the news reverberated through her body. Dead. She felt the grief coming closer and closer, gathering, and then it broke over her, a wave of despair. She took the few steps to the sofa, swept the books onto the floor and lay down, curling in on herself as if she were being beaten, blows raining on her head and back. Marianne was dead. Gone beyond contact forever. She would never see her or speak to her again.

She cried silently, as if the sadness were too powerful for sound. It was a physical, muscular thing: her back ached, her mouth stretched open until her cheeks hurt. She was shocked by the depth of it: she'd lost Marianne as a friend years ago; surely, after all this time, she couldn't really have thought they would make things up, be close again. Now she knew that part of her had still hoped, had nursed the idea that one year, perhaps, there would be a Christmas card with a tentative note. But now the possibility was gone forever. This was it, the full stop. The decree absolute. And to announce it – the irony – her first contact with the Glass family for ten years.

When the tears stopped, she sat up. She felt raw, hollowed out, and when she stood, she caught sight of her swollen eyes in the cheap sixties mirror above the fireplace. Her skin looked sallow and her hair was dark at the roots, its winter colour. It had reached the length, a couple of inches below her shoulders, at which its weight killed any volume; she would have to have it cut before the funeral. She wondered if Jacqueline and Adam would think she'd changed. She doubted it: she hadn't really. Her face was still round and unlined, never arresting and elegant as Marianne's had been even at sixteen, but pretty in a safe, old-fashioned way she'd never particularly liked, like a girl in a Victorian soap advert.

She went to the window and raised the blind, releasing a wall of cold air that had worked its way in around the rotten sash the landlord was too mean to replace. The wind was harrying light-stained clouds across the rooftops, rattling the topmost branches of the cherry tree that had been the reason she'd taken the flat. It had been a riot of flirty blossom when the agent had shown her round. 'Like frilly pink knickers at the Folies Bergères,' she'd said and the woman had looked at her as if she were mad.

Across the road, blue light flickered behind the curtains of the old woman who stood at her door each morning and berated her luckless Jack Russell in a language that Rowan had never been able to identify. The street was deserted.

The snow that had fallen here on Sunday had been gone by Monday morning, ploughed up and ruined even as it was coming down, leaving everything sodden and muddy, litter and dead leaves plastered to the pavement. She pictured the garden at Fyfield Road: the lawn white over; the wide stone steps to the patio padded and pillowy; the branches of the silver birch like lace against a creamy sky. The image was crisp and clean as winter light, and Rowan felt a burst of pure longing that she quickly suppressed. The snow at Fyfield Road hadn't been perfect. It had been lethal.

Now she made herself examine the thing that had struck her the moment she heard it: the story didn't make sense, not, at least, the version that Jacqueline wanted to believe. Marianne couldn't have slipped. She had vertigo, paralysing vertigo: she never went near the edge of the roof, not within twenty feet of it. Not once in all the countless times they'd been up there had she ever moved – inched – more than three feet away from the safety of the hatch. Not once.

With a crack, Rowan yanked the blind shut. Her heart beat against her ribs as she left the front room and went down the narrow landing, feeling the usual rush of cold as she opened her bedroom door. Stooping, she moved her hand gently through the darkness until she touched the hessian shade of the bedside lamp. Down on her knees on the old rag rug, she cast around beneath the bed until her fingertips found the glossy cardboard box. She paused then pulled it out into the light.

For a minute she looked but didn't touch. Originally it had held printing paper, the expensive ivory stuff she'd bought at Ryman's in her final year at university when she started thinking about job applications. In August last year, when she'd split up with Anders and packed the car, she'd chocked it carefully next to her on the passenger seat, within arm's reach, but she couldn't remember how long it had been since she'd opened it. Over the years, it seemed to have become heavier, and it had power now, a presence. Hearing the pulse of blood in her ears, she had the idea that it wasn't her heart that was beating but the box's: open, open, open.

'Marianne's dead, Rowan'

Quickly she picked up the box and turned it over. The Sellotape was yellowing, and when she tried to peel it off, little dry shards of it stabbed the tender flesh under her thumbnail. There was a small whoomph of suction as she lifted the lid.

On top was a wad of tissue to hold the contents in place. Immediately underneath, fingers curling towards its palm, was a hand – her hand: the short round nails, the pronounced vein over the knuckle of her index finger, the teardrop scar on her thumb that she'd had since the age of five when, Mrs Roberts' attention focused on one of her afternoon chat shows, no doubt, Rowan had put her fist through the glass in the kitchen door. The drawing was black and white, just ink on a page torn from a spiral-bound sketchbook, but it had energy, reality: it brought the hand to life. Even someone who'd never seen an artist's work before would have known this was good. No, not good – exceptional.

Her hand rested, palm up, on a single line that ended in a whorl like the top of a fiddlehead fern: the arm of that button-back chair. Into Rowan's head came a vivid snatch of memory. A Saturday morning in late May or the first week in June, the air already warm at nine o'clock. Marianne wore a red-and-white striped Breton T-shirt and her denim dungarees; her hair was in a knot on the top of her head. Green Flash tennis shoes grungy with age; no socks. The chair had been standing on the pavement outside a house in Observatory Street. It was antique, with lovely arms and ball-and-claw feet, but it had been reupholstered in tarty cherry-red velvet and overstuffed to the point where it looked positively buxom. Marianne had stopped; she'd always had an appreciation of the dissonant.

'How would you describe it?' she asked. It was a game they played all the time, challenging each other: describe that colour; that sky, that man.

'Strikingly incongruous – a lady of the night dragged blinking from the knocking shop into the light of a Christian morning,' Rowan said.

Marianne laughed. 'Exactly.' She put her hand out and stroked the velvet. 'I love it. I want to paint it.'

'Take it,' said a disembodied voice, and they'd turned round to see a man in jeans and a baseball cap standing in the doorway. 'Seriously. It was my aunt's. I've never liked it – that's why I put it out. If you want it, it's yours.'

They'd lugged it back to Fyfield Road, one arm each. The size and heft of it. 'Like trying to carry an old drunk,' Marianne said. It had taken them an hour and a half to go less than a mile and the episode had assumed an epic quality: Marianne and Rowan versus The Chair. There was blood when Marianne cut her finger on a rough piece of wood under the seat, sweat, and tears of hysterical laughter when they'd finally reached the house and Adam, opening the door, said, 'Why didn't you ring? I would have come with the car.'

Suddenly the drawing blurred and Rowan swiped her hand across her eyes. The pain in her chest was intensifying. How could Marianne be dead?

She lifted the drawing out of the box by its edges and laid it in the circle of lamplight on the rug. Underneath was another drawing of her hand, this time holding a Victorian glass etched with swallows in flight, their tails tiny tapering Vs. In the next, her palms were pressed together as if she were praying; in the one underneath that, she was holding an old paperback Heart of Darkness.

Altogether, she had seven sketches of her hands but, over the years, Marianne must have drawn forty or fifty in pencil and charcoal, pen and ink, some done quickly, impromptu, on the back of an envelope; some carefully posed and laboured over. That was how she worked: she drew things again and again and again until she was satisfied, until what was on the paper reflected her mental conception in every detail. Also in the box were several drawings each of an intricate silver vinaigrette that had come down through Seb's side of the family; of a plate of blemished windfalls; and then of the grey-striped cat that used to climb over the wall from the Dawsons' place. Jacqueline was allergic but Marianne had let it into the kitchen one afternoon and it made a beeline for the sofa where her mother liked to read.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Keep You Close by Lucie Whitehouse. Copyright © 2016 Lucie Whitehouse. Excerpted by permission of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
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.

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Keep You Close 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great psychological thriller. The plot kept me guessing until the end. I also really enjoyed her other book, Before We Met.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent mystery. Keeps you guessing until the very last.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a well crafted read. Interesting characters, plot, and, sub plots with subtle twists to keep you wondering. This is one of my favorites of the many books I have read this year (I usually read 2-4 or more books weekly)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings I read a lot of mystery thriller and it is becoming my favorite genre. This book was a mystery thriller with a literary fiction foundation. I say this because yes it had the who dun it, but that story sat on top of a story about two friends who kept a secret and how that secret destroyed their friendship. At times this book slowed down for me and it was hard to keep my focus on the book, but then something would happen and I would be back in the story. It definitely had an ebb and flow and sometimes the flow was great and sometimes it was just so so. I would only recommend this to mystery thriller fans who enjoy books that are on the wordy side; this one isn't one of those lighter mystery/thrillers, this one has depth.
BooksAndSpoons More than 1 year ago
Murders, manipulations, chaos in the family and art world. Nothing is, what it seems, and no one should be trusted, as they are. A suspense story that turned out to be rather different than I expected, twists in the story, that were not possible to predict. A plot that is not possible to say much of, without giving it away. The writing of the story is beautiful, very English (naturally), and at times nearly poetic in nature. It flows nicely, sounds beautiful, but in a suspense story, can muddy the facts, the clues, and evidence, as the reader is building beautiful pictures in their mind. Yes, my mind was wondering quite a bit while reading this novel. There's a lot of characters. I wouldn't say they were difficult to keep track of, but at the beginning, as everyone is introduced, and the pieces of the puzzles are put into the table, it takes time with a big cast and crew, to get to the point of the matter, and built up the tension, the intensity, that I love, in a great suspense. The last fifth of the book blew me away. It left me pondering, and I am still not sure, what to think about it. But an excellent crescendo, with startling twists. As a huge romantic suspense fan, this wasn't quite my cup of tea, so to say, but that doesn't take anything away from the artfully crafted tale, that surely will make me wonder for a while. ~ Three Spoons
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story has many possible endings. Just when you think this is it, whoa! Hold on. There is more!
ScotsLass More than 1 year ago
In the suspense filled psychological thriller Keep You Close by Lucie Whitehouse, the reader is taken on a wild emotional ride as Rowan Winter investigates the death of her long time friend Marianne Glass. Marianne was a talented artist at the beginning of what should have been a notable career. The police have ruled her death as a suicide, but was it? As a teenager Rowan White spent most of her time with Marianne and her family in their Fyfield home. Rowan’s own mother died when Rowan was an infant and her busy father had very little time or love for Rowan. Marianne’s mother Jacqueline fills the void in young Rowan’s life. However, Rowan has been absent from Marianne’s life for ten years. What happened to cause such a rift between friends? Rowan is convinced that Marianne could not have fallen or jumped from the roof of her home since she suffered from a severe case of vertigo. The only explanation then must be she was murdered. What follows is Rowan’s investigation of all her old friends and the Glass family to discover who might be responsible for Marianne’s death. Although this is a twisted, haunting story I found it difficult to identify with any of the characters. However, the story kept me reading and guessing who did it. With misdirection and the tangled storytelling of this book the reader speeds along in a rush to identify the real killers. It still was one of those books that once you start you can’t put it down. I received this book from NetGalley and Bloomsbury USA in return for a fair and honest review.
Laura_at_125Pages More than 1 year ago
3.5 Stars - Original review @ 125Pages.com Keep You Close by Lucie Whitehouse was an interesting read. I loved the plot line but not the characters which made reading it a little odd. I did really like that I did not guess one of the surprise endings and that nudged this from a three star to a three and a half star read for me. Rowan is trying to get to the bottom of her former best friend’s death as she does not believe it was an accident. They have not spoken in ten years and now Rowan is trying to insert herself back in Marianne’s world. I really liked the plot of Keep You Close. It was really two different mysteries wrapping around each other; one ten years in the past. The writing of Lucie Whitehouse was good, however it lacked a hook to me. I was never really tense while I read this, which to me is a sign of a great thriller. The pacing had a few issues as the travel back and forth in time was not always explained well, but overall it worked. The world built was shallow. The focus was around one house and the rest of the surrounds faded into the background. There were some great moments tied to the emotions in the story, but they were tempered by the characters. I found the majority of the characters to be unlikable and I had no central figure to root for. This always hampers my enjoyment of a book as I want to feel that connection. Keep You Close did have some amazing moments. However they did not even out the kindof awful characters and the lack of tension in a thriller. I did enjoy the plot as it was different and I was surprised by the ending. If you like mysteries and family drama, then this may be right up your alley. For me, it was a slightly above average read but nothing I will seek out again in the future. I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
It took a while for this book to get going, but once it did, it certainly went. There were so many crazy characters in this story that one could never guess the culprit or maybe culprits? I just know that I was reading it as fast as I could and that I could not put it down. It was pretty suspenseful and even when there were good and normal reasons for things going on, it was suspenseful, i.e. the neighbor. I also found it terribly sad how a great friendship had become ruined, actually two friendships. It was definitely like no other book I've read before. I want to thank Bloomsbury and Net Gallery for allowing me to read this free e-galley in exchange for an honest review. It found it riveting after it took off and an enjoyable read.
booklover- More than 1 year ago
Rowan Winter and Marianne Glass were best friends since they first met as teenagers. Rowan was so hurt when after several years, Marianne cuts Rowan out of her life. This not only deprived Rowan of Marianne's love, but that of Marianne's family, as well. Ten years later, Rowan gets a phone call .. Marianne is dead. They have deemed this an accident or a suicide. But Rowan knows that Marianne had a fear of heights and a severe case of vertigo ... there is no way she ever would have even been that close to the edge of a roof. Rowan is determined to search for the truth. And what she finds are secrets, lies, and coverups with surprises at every turn. And the deeper she digs, the more dangerous everything seems. A truth from the past only Rowan knows makes her worry about her own fate . .. Interesting take on family dynamics ... both the good and the bad. I enjoyed the foray into an artist's world and its inhabitants. Characters are well drawn and most of them have deep dark secrets they don't want to see the light of day. It's a steady paced thriller ... actually, a little slow in places where Rowan is recounting her earlier days with Marianne. It does pick up speed as it goes, but its more like a trot than a gallop. This was my first book by this author, but it won't be the last. My thanks to the author / Bloomsbury USA / NetGalley who provided a digital copy in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.