Land of the Living

Land of the Living

by Nicci French

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780446613880
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 05/01/2004
Pages: 432
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.88(d)
Age Range: 13 Years

About the Author

Nicci French is the author of the bestsellers Secret Smile, Land of the Living, The Red Room, Beneath the Skin, and Killing Me Softly, as well as two earlier books, The Memory Game and The Safe House, both published in England to great acclaim.

Read an Excerpt

Land of the Living

By Nicci French


Copyright © 2003 Nicci French
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0446531510

Chapter One

DARKNESS. DARKNESS FOR A LONG TIME. OPEN MY EYES and close, open and close. The same. Darkness inside, darkness outside.

I'd been dreaming. Tossed around in a black dark sea. Staked out on a mountain in the night. An animal I couldn't see sniffed and snuffled around me. I felt a wet nose on my skin. When you know you're dreaming you wake up. Sometimes you wake into another dream. But when you wake and nothing changes, that must be reality.

Darkness and things out there in the darkness. Pain. It was far away from her and then closer to her and then part of her. Part of me. I was filled to the brim with hot liquid pain. Although the darkness remained, I could see the pain. Flashes of yellow and red and blue, fireworks exploding silently behind my eyes.

I started to search for something without really knowing what it was. I didn't know where it was. I didn't know what it was. Nightingale. Farthingale. It took an effort, like hauling a package out of the water of a deep dark lake. That was it. Abigail. I recognized that. My name was Abigail. Abbie. Tabbie. Abbie the Tabbie. The other name was harder. There were bits missing from my head and it seemed to have got lost among the missing bits. I remembered a class register. Auster, Bishop, Brown, Byrne, Cassini, Cole, Daley, Devereaux, Eve, Finch, Fry. No, stop. Go back. Finch. No. Devereaux. Yes, that was it. A rhyme came to me. A rhyme from long, long ago. Not Deverox like box. Nor Deveroo like shoe. But Devereaux like show. Abbie Devereaux. I clung to the name as if it was a life ring that had been thrown to me in a stormy sea. The stormy sea was in my head mostly. Wave after wave of pain rolling in and dashing itself against the inside of my skull.

I closed my eyes again. I let my name go.

EVERYTHING WAS PART OF EVERYTHING ELSE. Everything existed at the same time as everything else. How long was it like that for? Minutes. Hours. And then, like figures emerging from a fog, things resolved and separated. There was a taste of metal in my mouth and a smell of metal stinging my nostrils but the smell became a mustiness that made me think of garden sheds, tunnels, basements, cellars, damp dirty forgotten places.

I listened. Just the sound of my own breathing, unnaturally loud. I held my breath. No sound. Just the beating of my heart. Was that a noise or just the blood pumping inside my body, pushing against my ears?

I was uncomfortable. There was an ache down my back, my pelvis, my legs. I turned over. No. I didn't turn over. I didn't move. I couldn't move. I pulled up my arms as if to fend something off. No. The arms didn't move. I couldn't turn. Was I paralyzed? I couldn't feel my legs. My toes. I concentrated everything on my toes. Left big toe rubbing against the toe beside. Right big toe rubbing against the toe beside. No problem. I could do it. Inside a sock. No shoe. I wasn't wearing shoes.

My fingers. I drummed them. The tips touched something rough. Cement or brick. Was this a hospital? Injured. An accident. Lying somewhere, waiting to be found. A railway accident. The wreckage of a train. Machinery on top of me. Wreckage. In a tunnel. Help coming. Heat-seeking equipment. I tried to remember the train. Couldn't remember. Or a plane. Or a car. Car more likely. Driving late at night, headlights on the windscreen, falling asleep. I knew the feeling, pinching myself to stay awake, slapping my cheeks, shouting, opening the window so the cold air hit my eyeballs. Maybe this time I failed. Veered off the road, down an embankment, rolled over, the car lost in undergrowth. When would I be reported missing? How do you look for a lost car?

I mustn't wait to be rescued. I might die of dehydration or blood loss just yards from people driving to work. I would have to move. If only I could see the way. No moon. No stars. It might only be twenty yards to safety. Up an embankment. If I could feel my toes, then I could move. Turn over first. Ignore the pain. I turned but this time I felt something hold me back. I flexed my legs and arms, tightened and loosened the muscles. There were restraints. Over my forearms and just above my elbows. My ankles and thighs. My chest. I could lift my head, as if in the feeble beginning of an attempt at a sit-up. Something else. Not just dark. It was dark but not just that. My head was covered.

Think clearly. There must be a reason for this. Think. People in prison were restrained. Not relevant. What else? Patients in hospitals can have restraints placed on them in order to prevent them harming themselves. Lying on a stretcher. Restrained on a stretcher prior to being wheeled in for an operation. I've been in an accident. Say, a car accident, which is most likely. Statistically. Severe but not life-threatening. Any sudden movement could cause, and the phrase came to me out of nowhere, severe internal bleeding. The patient could fall off the stretcher. It's just a matter of waiting for the nurse or the anesthetist. Perhaps I had been given the anesthetic already. Or a pre-anesthetic. Hence the vacancies in my brain. Strange quiet, but you do hear of people in hospitals lying around on stretchers for hours waiting for a free operating room.

Problems with the theory. I didn't seem to be lying on a stretcher. The smell was of dankness, mildew, things that were old and decaying. All I could feel with my fingers was concrete or stone. My body was lying on something hard. I tried to think of other possibilities. After famous disasters bodies were stored in improvised morgues. School gymnasiums. Church halls. I could have been in a disaster. The injured could have been placed wherever there was room. Restrained to prevent them injuring themselves. Would they be hooded as well? Surgeons were hooded. But not their eyes. Perhaps to prevent infection.

I raised my head again. With my chin I felt a shirt. I was wearing clothes. Yes. I could feel them on my skin. A shirt, trousers, socks. No shoes.

There were other things at the edge, clamoring to be admitted to my brain. Bad things. Restrained. In the dark. Hooded. Ridiculous. Could it be a joke? I remembered stories of students. They get you paralytically drunk, put you on a train at Aberdeen. You wake up in London dressed only in your underwear with a fifty-pence piece in your hand. Everyone will jump out in a minute, pull off the blindfold, and shout "April fool." We'll all laugh. But was it April? I remembered cold. Had summer been? Was summer still to come? But of course a summer had always been and there was always another summer to come.

ALL THE ALLEYS WERE BLIND. I had gone up them all and found nothing. Something had happened. I knew that. One possibility was that it was something funny. It didn't feel funny. Another possibility, possibility number two, was that something had happened and it was in the process of being officially dealt with. The hood-or bandage, yes, very possibly a bandage. That was a thought. I could have received a head wound, eye or ear damage, and my entire head was bandaged and hooded for my own protection. They would be removed. There would be some stinging. A cheery face of a nurse. A doctor frowning at me. Don't worry, nothing to worry about. That's what they'd say. Call me dear.

There were other possibilities. Bad ones. I thought of the stone under my fingers. The damp air, like a cave. Until now, there had been only the pain and also the mess of my thoughts, but now there was something else. Fear in my chest like sludge. I made a sound. A low groan. I was able to speak. I didn't know who to call or what to say. I shouted more loudly. I thought the echoing or harshness of the sound might tell me something about where I was but it was muffled by my hood. I shouted again so that my throat hurt.

Now there was a movement nearby. Smells. Sweat and scent. A sound of breathing, somebody scrambling. Now my mouth was full of cloth, I couldn't breathe. Only through my nose. Something tied hard around my face. Breath on me, hot on my cheek, and then, out of the darkness, a voice, little more than a whisper, hoarse, strained, thick so I could barely make it out.

"No," it said. "Make another sound and I'll block your nose as well."

I WAS GAGGING on the cloth. It filled my mouth, bulged in my cheeks, rubbed against my gums. The taste of grease and rancid cabbage filled my throat. A spasm jerked my body, nausea rising through me like damp. I mustn't be sick. I tried to take a breath, tried to gasp through the cloth but I couldn't. I couldn't. I was all stopped up. I tugged with my arms and my ankles against the restraints and tried to take a breath and it was as if my whole body was twitching and shuddering on the rough stone floor and no air inside me, just violent space and red behind my bulging eyes and a heart that was jolting up through my throat and a strange dry sound coming from me, like a cough that wouldn't form. I was a dying fish. A fish thrashing on the hard floor. I was hooked and tied down, but inside me I was coming loose, all my innards tearing apart. Is this what it's like? To die? To be buried alive?

I had to breathe. How do you breathe? Through your nose. He'd said so. The voice had said he'd block my nose next. Breathe through my nose. Breathe now. I couldn't take enough air in that way. I couldn't stop myself trying to gasp, trying to fill myself up with air. My tongue was too big to fit in the tiny space left in my mouth. It kept pushing against the cloth. I felt my body buck again. Breathe slowly. Calmly. In and out, in and out. Breathe like that until there's nothing except the sense of it. This is how to keep alive. Breathe. Thick, musty air in my nostrils, oily rottenness running down my throat. I tried not to swallow but then I had to and again biliousness flowed through me, filled my mouth. I couldn't bear it. I could bear it. I could, I could, I could.

Breathe in and out, Abbie. Abbie. I am Abbie. Abigail Devereaux. In and out. Don't think. Breathe. You are alive.

THE PAIN INSIDE MY SKULL rolled back. I lifted my head a bit and the pain surged towards my eyes. I blinked my eyes and it was the same deep darkness when they were open and when they were closed. My eyelashes scraped against the hood. I was cold. I could feel that now. My feet were chilly inside the socks. Were they my socks? They felt too big and rough-unfamiliar. My left calf ached. I tried to flex my leg muscles to get rid of the cramped feeling. There was an itch on my cheek, under the hood. I lay there for a few seconds, concentrating only on the itch, then I turned my head and tried to rub the itch against a hunched shoulder. No good. So I squirmed until I could scrape my face along the floor.

And I was damp. Between my legs and under my thighs, stinging my skin beneath my trousers. Were they my trousers? I was lying in my own piss, in the dark, in a hood, tied down, gagged. Breathe in and out, I told myself. Breathe in and out all the time. Try to let thoughts out slowly, bit by bit, so you don't drown in them. I felt the pressure of the fears dammed up inside me, and my body was a fragile, cracking shell full of pounding I made myself think only of breathing, in and out of my nostrils. In and out.

Someone-a man, the man who had pushed this cloth into my mouth-had put me in this place. He had taken me, strapped me down. I was his prisoner. Why? I couldn't think about that yet. I listened for a sound, any sound except the sound of my breath and the sound of my heart and, when I moved, the rasp of my hands or feet against the rough floor. Perhaps he was here with me, in the room, crouching somewhere. But there was no other sound. For the moment I was alone. I lay there. I listened to my heart. Silence pressed down on me.

AN IMAGE FLITTED through my head. A yellow butterfly on a leaf, wings quivering. It was like a sudden ray of light. Was it something I was remembering, a moment rescued out of the past and stored away till now? Or was it just my brain throwing up a picture, some kind of reflex, a short circuit?

A MAN HAD TIED ME in a dark place. He must have snatched me and taken me here. But I had no memory of that happening. I scrabbled in my brain, but it was blank-an empty room, an abandoned house, no echoes. Nothing. I could remember nothing. A sob rose in my throat. I mustn't cry. I must think, but carefully now, hold back the fear. I must not go deep down. I must stay on the surface. Just think of what I know. Facts. Slowly I will make up a picture and then I'll be able to look at it.

My name is Abigail-Abbie. I am twenty-five years old, and I live with my boyfriend, Terry, Terence Wilmott, in a poky flat on Westcott Road. That's it-Terry. Terry will be worried. He will phone the police. He'll tell them I have gone missing. They'll drive here with flashing lights and wailing sirens and hammer down the door and light and air will come flooding in. No, just facts. I work at Jay and Joiner, designing office interiors. I have a desk, with a white and blue laptop computer, a small grey phone, a pile of paper, an oval ashtray full of paperclips and elastic bands.

When was I last there? It seemed impossibly far off, like a dream that disappears when you try to hold on to it; like someone else's life. I couldn't remember. How long had I lain here? An hour, or a day, or a week? It was January, I knew that-at least, I thought I knew that. Outside, it was cold and the days were short. Maybe it had snowed. No, I mustn't think of things like snow, sunlight on white. Stick only to what I knew: January, but I couldn't tell if it was day or night. Or perhaps it was February now. I tried to think of the last day I clearly remembered, but it was like looking into a thick fog, with indistinct shapes looming.

Start with New Year's Eve, dancing with friends and everyone kissing each other on the stroke of midnight. Kissing people on the lips, people I knew well and people I'd met a few times and strangers who came up to me with arms open and an expectant smile because kissing is what you do on New Year's Eve. Don't think of all that though. After New Year's Eve, then, yes, there were days that stirred in my mind. The office, phones ringing, expense forms in my in-tray. Cups of cooling bitter coffee. But maybe that was before, not after. Or before and after, day after day. Everything was blurred and without meaning.

I tried to shift. My toes felt stiff with cold and my neck ached and my head banged. The taste in my mouth was foul. Why was I here and what was going to happen to me? I was laid out on my back like a sacrifice, arms and legs pinned clown. Dread ran through me. He could starve me. He could rape me. He could torture me. He could kill me. Maybe he had already raped me.


Excerpted from Land of the Living by Nicci French Copyright © 2003 by Nicci French
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Land of the Living 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
bravewarrior More than 1 year ago
HB/Fiction: This is the story of a woman who wakes up to find herself being held by a psycho who is into head games and torture. Our heroine escapes only to find that she can't remember where she was held or how she got in that situation to begin with. The book had so much potential, but comes up short. I spent a dollar on it and it was worth every penny. Not recommended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Like the other reviewers, I thought this book was a page-turner. However, the ending was exceedingly lame -- what a cop-out.
kk1 on LibraryThing 14 hours ago
twisty, turny thriller:main character escapes from kidnap; police won't believe her; who should she trust and is it really a good idea to retrace her steps?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fabulous read, reminiscent of Ruth Rendell only tighter and more mind-bending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I totally enjoyed the book. AND, I do NOT understand the last chapter at all: WHO IS SARAH? Sally was murdered, and now a character who's never mentioned earlier is the one rescued by Abbie! I do not get it. Please let me hear from Nicci French or whoever may be responsible for a error in the name of the woman Abbie saves. Or help me understand who Sarah is. Thanks.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Picked it up on the day we went campping had no ideal if it was good.What a wonderful suprize!!Could not stop reading it read to my eyes hurt.I recommended everyone to read it but make to time for it cause you want want to put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a great thriller this was to read. This book grabs you from the very first paragraph to the last. I like a book with a little romance as well, and Nicci French does a fabulous job of combining the suspense with the romance! It is a quick and easy read. I look forward to reading another one of Nicci's books!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Excellent suspense fiction. Very well written and fast moving plot. Characters were believeable. Every character was suspect and you didn't find out until the end of what was real and what was not. Descriptive, suspenseful, haunting. I couldn't put the book down. You will enjoy!
Guest More than 1 year ago
i could not put this book down. excellent reading. i will read more of her books
Guest More than 1 year ago
I simply could not put this book down. I even stayed up until the early morning hours on a worknight to finish it. Gripping!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Abbie Deveraux is living a nightmare. She is tied down with a hood covering her head, and she has no idea where she is, or why she is there. Abbie can feel the presence of her captor, but never a word is spoken. Abbie knows her days are numbered as the kidnapper tells her the tale of abducting and killing his women. With nothing but fear in her heart, Abbie makes a quick decision and escapes. Telling the police of her ordeal will not be her only problem as the police don¿t believe her. As Abbie listens to what the detectives have to say she realizes nothing is as it seems, and those that she thought were friends are not. Set out to prove herself sane, and catch the madman who abducted her, Abbie begins a terrifying journey retracing all of her steps leading up to the day she disappeared. As things become stranger, and Abbie begins doubting her own sanity she makes a shocking discovery, one that will change the way she feels about those she loved, and at the same time stop a psycho-killer hell bent on destroying her. `Land Of The Living¿ is an interesting little thriller with lots of surprises. Major plot twists are found throughout this gripping tale of memory loss and obsession, and the pages will turn fast as you race to see what will happen next. Well written and filled with full-bodied characters this novels rises above the norm in the psycho thriller category. Each chapter has a shock and a cliffhanger, and each cliffhanger will keep you on the edge of your seat. Nicci French has written previous bestsellers, all of which were page-turners that had readers glued to their chairs. Now with `Land Of Living¿ she continues her streak of up-all-night reads with a book that is probably her best to date. While remaining character driven thriller, the novel keeps it¿s suspense at high levels by teasing the reader with bits of plot information, and then throws in surprise after surprise to jangle their nerves. `Land Of The Living¿ is a twisty thriller that should satisfy thriller readers, and land on the bestseller lists. Nick Gonnella February 10, 2003
harstan More than 1 year ago
Twenty-five year old Londoner, Abbie Devereaux awakens to find herself tied up in a dark room with no memory of how she got there or any other recent event. Amongst the abuse she receives, her host also taunts her with a list of his previous victims. Abbie manages to escape.

As she recuperates from her ordeal the hospital, at no one believes her story including her doctors and Detective Inspector Jack Cross, who insists there is no crime scene. Abbie returns to her life, but finds her home, her job, and her boyfriend not quite matching her memories. She wonders if her doctors are right that she is screaming for help or was she really kidnapped and that impacted her recall. She also questions why her roommate is missing and who is this Ben now in her life. Abbie needs to know if she had a breakdown or is he still there stalking her? Whatever is the truth Abbie plans to find her flat mate and regain control of her life.

Abbie is obviously the key player in this thriller that readers will have to read to decide whether this is a serial killer suspense tale or a work of psychological suspense. The story line works quite well when the disconcerted heroine wonders about the truth while feeling deep in her soul the terror of abduction and whether it happened or not. Nicci French provides a powerfully taut thriller.

Harriet Klausner