New York Times bestselling author Mary Jane Clark ratchets up the tension in her tautest thriller yet.
As KEY News film and theater critic, Caroline Enright knows her opinions have influenced the box office habits of millions of Americans. She has taken her fair share of irate phone calls, and even an occasional threat, from disgruntled movie producers and agents angered over her reviews. But she is unprepared when her trip to the Warrenstown Summer Playhouse is interrupted by murder. Traveling to the rolling Berkshire mountains to do a piece on the prestigious summer acting festival for the morning news show KEY to America, Caroline discovers that someone in this quaint college town has a secret worth killing over.
Caroline's stepdaughter, Meg, is apprenticing at the festival and has a small part in a new play with Belinda Winthrop, a twenty-year veteran of Warrenstown, adding her renowned Oscar- and Tony-winning talents to the project. The opening night of the play is an unvarnished success, but no one, onstage or off, is safe.
Used to ferreting out the details of behind-the-scenes intrigue in Hollywood and on Broadway, Caroline must now turn her considerable journalistic skills to unmasking a murderer before she and Meg become the next victims of a ruthless killer possessing no shame or remorse. A killer living as a respected member of the community. A killer who can do literally anything at all and feel absolutely no guilt.
Lights Out Tonight is the ultimate mind game and proves why Mary Jane Clark is a master at the game of suspense.
About the Author
Mary Jane Clark is the author of more than a dozen novels, including: Do You Want To Know A Secret, Do You Promise Not To Tell, Let Me Whisper In Your Ear, Close To You, and Nobody Knows. She was for almost three decades a producer and a writer at CBS News in New York City. She lives in New Jersey and Florida.
Read an Excerpt
Lights Out Tonight
By Mary Jane Clark
Center Point Large PrintCopyright © 2006 Mary Jane Clark
All right reserved.
The alarm clock screeched, and Caroline squeezed her eyelids more tightly. It couldn’t be time to get up already. She uttered a low groan as she turned her head to read the insistent green electronic numbers glowing from the clock on the nightstand. Four o’clock. She had to get up. In half an hour Rodney would be waiting downstairs.
Caroline willed herself to throw back the light down blanket and sit up on the edge of the queen-size bed. She sighed as she reached out to switch on the lamp, knowing she had herself to blame. If she had finished her review before she left the office yesterday, she could have had another two, or even three, hours of sleep now. Better yet, she could have taped the review in the afternoon and not have had to go in at all this morning. As it was, she was barely leaving herself enough time to compose something worthy of airing on KEY to America. The nation’s highly rated morning news broadcast, in the person of its fanatical executive producer, Linus Nazareth, demanded her best. But a heated conversation with Linus was the reason she had bolted from the Broadcast Center yesterday before writing her review. Caroline had figured it was better to leave then than to say somethingshe would regret.
The warm spray of the shower, usually so soothing, felt like an assault on her pale skin at this ungodly hour. Caroline braced herself as she bowed her head under the needles of water. She applied shampoo with conditioner, quickly worked it through her dark brown hair, and rinsed. Grabbing one towel and wrapping it turban-style around her head, she took another and moved it up and down her body. She didn’t wipe the steam from the mirror. If her eyes and face were swollen from the crying she’d done last night, she didn’t want to know, but she could thank Linus for it. She was angry with herself now for having let him get to her like that. She didn’t even respect the guy. Linus Nazareth possessed none of the characteristics she valued, with the possible exception of being bright. But sometimes Caroline wondered if he really was all that smart. Perhaps his roaring directives and brash manners were his way of masking his insecurities.
Enough time wasted on Linus Nazareth, Caroline thought. She gathered up her toiletries and deposited them in her travel kit, which she then placed in the open suitcase lying on the bedroom floor. Tonight I’ll be with Nick. She folded the lace nightgown, Nick’s favorite, and carefully laid it on top of the pile of clothing. She was zipping the suitcase closed when she remembered the sandals Meg wanted her to bring up. Caroline walked down the hallway to her stepdaughter’s bedroom and went to the double closet. She spotted the soft leather sandals she and Nick had bought for Meg when they’d been in Capri on their honeymoon. As Caroline bent down to get the sandals from the floor, she noticed a ziplock bag. She picked it up and immediately knew what she was seeing through the clear plastic.
Marijuana and rolling papers.
Her body tensed as she stared at the bag in her hands. What should she do? Confront Meg? Tell Nick? Caroline had no idea what her response should be. Either choice could blow up in her face. But this was a big problem, one that wasn’t going to go away.
Conscious of the time, Caroline put the bag back where she had found it. For now, the bottom of the closet was as good a place as any to leave it. She scooped up the sandals and closed the closet door.
She walked back to the master bedroom. Dressing in the violet-colored blouse and white skirt she had laid out last night before she crawled into bed, Caroline slipped on a pair of high-heeled sandals, pulled a comb through her wet hair, grabbed her shoulder bag, and hurried out of the apartment, rolling her suitcase behind her. When the elevator doors slid open on the first floor, she looked across the lobby to the heavy glass doors. The driver was waiting at the curb outside.
“Mornin’.” The man smiled as he opened the rear door of the dark blue sedan.
“Nice to see you again, Rodney. It’s been a while. Thanks,” said Caroline, getting into the backseat as the chauffeur took her suitcase and stashed it in the trunk. Most days—the days she was better organized and less rushed—Caroline took a taxi to work; but in the very early morning hours, it was better, safer, and more reliable to arrange for the car service. As the sedan traveled down Central Park West, Caroline heard the buzzing inside her bag and fumbled around until she found her cell phone.
“Hey there, Sunshine. How’s my girl?”
“Nick.” Pleasure registered on Caroline’s face as she leaned back against the faux leather seat. “What are you doing up?”
“I haven’t gone to bed yet, my love. Remember, it’s only one-thirty here.”
“I couldn’t forget for a second where you are, Nick, when I’m wishing you were here with me instead. But you didn’t answer my question. What are you doing up?”
Caroline heard her husband sigh three thousand miles away. “The screenplay. The director wanted a change in that scene at the Laundromat, but I think I have it fixed now. It better be, anyway, because I’m not hanging around to do any more work on it. I’m determined to catch that flight out of LAX this afternoon. I can’t wait to get there.”
“Me, too.” Caroline lowered her voice. “It seems like it’s been forever.”
“That’s because it has been,” Nick answered. “These three weeks have been an eternity. I miss you.”
Caroline looked out the car window as the driver turned west on Sixty-third Street and then south on Columbus Avenue. “Well, when you’ve only been married for three months, three weeks is a long time. A fourth of our married life spent apart, Nick. What’s wrong with that picture?”
“I know, I know,” he said. “We are going to have to do something about that. But I couldn’t get out of this trip, Sunshine. You said you understood.”
“I do. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.” Caroline watched as Lincoln Center passed by her window.
“Okay, it’s settled. We both hate being apart.” Nick laughed. “But it won’t be long before I’m staring into those beautiful blue eyes of yours. And by the way, what are you doing up so early? I tried your cell thinking I’d leave a message before I turned in. I didn’t expect you to answer.”
“I’ve got a review in the second hour of the show, and I haven’t even written it yet.”
“Naughty girl. That doesn’t sound like you. What happened?”
“At the last minute, Meg called from Warrenstown and asked if I could bring some things up when I came. That daughter of yours has very specific tastes, and I wanted to make sure I got her exactly what she wanted. It took some time.” Caroline omitted telling Nick about the pot she’d found in his daughter’s room. Nor did she mention the cutting criticism her boss had hurled her way yesterday. She knew she would tell him all about that when they were together. But she didn’t want to get into a discussion about Linus over the phone.
“That was good of you, Caroline. I know how hard you’re trying with Meg, and I so appreciate it, honey. She’s bound to come around, sweetheart. But . . .” His voice trailed off.
“But I’m not her mother.” Caroline finished the sentence for him. And I never will be, she thought as the sedan stopped across the street from the Broadcast Center.
Caroline knew that she could never take Meg’s mother’s place. She had lost her own mother at just about Meg’s age from the same horrible disease. Caroline had started college with two parents and graduated an orphan. Pancreatic cancer took her mother when Caroline was a sophomore. A heart attack claimed her father eighteen months later. There still wasn’t a day that went by that she didn’t miss them. Caroline knew she always would.
So, in the months Caroline and Nick had dated and then married, she had understood the resentment Meg felt toward the woman who had taken her mother’s place in her father’s affections. She had been trying to be sensitive to Meg’s emotions, excusing her moodiness and sarcasm, but she was becoming resentful herself. Dealing with a hostile stepchild was energy-sapping, and Caroline had found herself relieved when Meg left for Warrenstown for the summer. Now, having found the pot in Meg’s closet, Caroline felt a new tension. It only compounded her anxiety about the possibility of losing her job.
Copyright © 2006 by Mary Jane Clark. All rights reserved.
Excerpted from Lights Out Tonight by Mary Jane Clark Copyright © 2006 by Mary Jane Clark. Excerpted by permission.
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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Fast moving thriller.
I would not recommend this book. It is the worst kind of formula mystery and I could not get through more than fifty pages of it.
First rate author Mary Jane Clark not only knows how to craft a spellbinding thriller (Dancing In The Dark) but she's also particularly skilled at drawing authentic female characters. This time out heroine is 34-year-old Caroline Enright, a theatre and film critic for TV's KEY To America. She's recently wed to Nick, father of college-age Meg, who is not too thrilled about her new stepmother. Caroline is also an admirer of Oscar winning actress Belinda Winthrop, which makes her the perfect candidate to cover Belinda's performance at the Warrenstown Summer Playhouse in the Berkshires. Caroline couldn't be more pleased - it's summer in the city (too hot), this will be an opportunity for her to be in a romantic setting with Nick, and maybe if her luck holds out she can even bond with Meg, who has a small part in the play. As it turns out, Caroline is going to need a great deal more than luck. Suddenly Belinda, an actress idolized by millions, disappears and a pair of Meg's friends are killed. Caroline's reportorial skills tell her this is more than coincidence and that in all probability the deaths were not due to any accident. As bucolic and peaceful as Warrenstown is it soon becomes evident that there's a crazy on the loose. But, who and why? Tony nominee Isabel Keating allows suspense to build with her carefully paced narration, and her rich voice adds a vividness not found in the printed word. Enjoy! - Gail Cooke
What great characters - all involved in an intricately exciting plot that keeps you guessing until the last pages! KEY News' relatively new entertainment correspondent, Caroline Enright, has more than one reason for traveling up to northwest Massachusetts' bucolic Berkshire Mountains. Tony- and Oscar-winning actress Belinda Winthrop is appearing in a Pulitzer-worthy new play at the Warrenstown summer theater festival and Caroline's planning on doing a pull-out-all-the-stops set of on-air reviews. What she doesn't know is that a sociopath is already on the loose: two playhouse interns have been murdered, and a librarian's throat has been cut. So, when Belinda ups and disappears after an opening-night bravura performance, Caroline sets out to investigate. Set against this harrowing backdrop is Caroline's desire to bond with her 'difficult' new stepdaughter who is apprenticing at the theater. Together, they manage to get into the murderer's crosshairs, slated to be victims #4 and 5. Suspects aplenty, believable red herrings, and a behind-the-scenes look at the off- off- off-Broadway theatre world, Lights Out Tonight is the full package. Very fast. And very, very satisfying. Mary Jane Clark has a real winner here!
Thirty-four years old Key News film and theater critic Caroline Enright travels to the Berkshire Mountains to do a piece on the Warrenstown Summer Playhouse in Warrenstown, Massachusetts. Her new spouse Nick will accompany her as Caroline hopes this trip will enable her to find some common ground with her hostile twenty year old stepdaughter Meg, who has a minor role in a play headed by the Oscar-winning actress Belinda Winthrop.----------------- The play opens to rousing accolades from everyone. However, not long afterward, the star vanishes. Unable to resist, Caroline investigates what happened to Belinda and why. As others associated with the production are murdered and the cops fumble, Caroline realizes that the belligerent Meg is on the short list of a serial killer who is ruthless, diabolical and deadly.----------------- The latest Key News investigative thriller (see DANCING IN THE DARK) is that works because of the strong fully developed characters and the serene backdrop that serves as a contrast to the homicides. The story line is filled with twists and red herrings so that Mary Jane Clark keeps her audience alert wondering what will happen next.. Fans will appreciate this wonderful suspense thriller that never decelerates until the final climatic curtain call.-------------- Harriet Klausner