Say Nothing

Say Nothing

by Brad Parks


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Say Nothing by Brad Parks

“The work of an author who continues to raise his sights and refine his immense talent.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Terrific book. Truly terrific. Tension throughout and tears at the end.”Sue Grafton

Named both a Library Journal and a Kirkus Best Book of 2017.

Judge Scott Sampson doesn’t brag about having a perfect life, but the evidence is clear: A prestigious job. A loving marriage. A pair of healthy children. Then a phone call begins every parent’s most chilling nightmare. Scott’s six-year-old twins, Sam and Emma, have been taken. The judge must rule exactly as instructed in a drug case he is about to hear. If he refuses, the consequences for the children will be dire. 

For Scott and his wife Alison, the kidnapper’s call is only the beginning of a twisting, gut-churning ordeal of blackmail, deceit, and terror. Through it all, they will stop at nothing to get their children back, no matter the cost to themselves...or to each other.

“Complications and twists build to an unexpected climax that is both perfect and gut-wrenching.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“Grips the reader from the get-go and doesn’t let up until the final twist.”—Associated Press

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101985601
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/05/2017
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 118,954
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Brad Parks is the only author to have won the Shamus, Nero, and Lefty Awards, three of crime fiction’s most prestigious prizes. A former reporter with The Washington Post and The Star-Ledger (Newark), he lives in Virginia with his wife and two children. Say Nothing is his first standalone novel.

Read an Excerpt


Their first move against us was so small, such an infinitesimal blip against the blaring background noise of life, I didn’t register it as anything significant.

It came in the form of a text from my wife, Alison, and it arrived on my phone at 3:28 one Wednesday afternoon:

Hey sorry forgot to tell you kids have dr appt this pm. Picking them up soon.

If I had any reaction to this unexpected disruption, it was only mild disappointment. Wednesday was Swim With Dad, a weekly ritual revered enough in our family to deserve capitalization. The twins and I had been partaking in it regularly for the past three years or so. While it had started as a predictable disaster—more the avoidance of drowning than actual swimming—it had since evolved into something far more pleasurable. Now age six, Sam and Emma had become ardent water rats.

For the forty-five minutes we usually lasted, until one of them got that chatter in the teeth that told me they were done, all we did was enjoy one another. We splashed around. We raced from one end of the pool to the other. We played water games of our own invention, like the much-beloved Baby Hippo. There’s something about having genuine fun with your kids that’s good for the soul in away nothing else is, even if you’re forever stuck in the role of Momma Hippo.

I looked forward to it in the same way I cherished all the weekly rites that had come to define our family’s little universe. Friday, for example, was Board Game–apalooza. Sunday was Pancake Day. Monday was Hats and Dancing, which involved, well ,dancing. With hats on.

 And maybe none ofthis sounds terribly sexy. Certainly, you wouldn’t want to slap it across a Cosmo cover—HOW TO GIVE YOUR MAN THE BEST PANCAKE DAY OF HIS LIFE! But I have come to believe a good routine is the bedrock of a happy family, and therefore a happy marriage, and therefore a happy life.

So I was miffed, that Wednesday afternoon, when the enjoyment of our little routine was taken away from me. One of the benefits of being a judge is having a certain amount of say-so over my own schedule. My staff knows that, no matter what crisis of justice may be visiting us on a Wednesday afternoon, the Honorable Scott A. Sampson will be leaving his chambers at four o’clock to pick up his kids from after-school care so he can take them to the YMCA pool.

I thought about going anyway and swimming some laps. Doughy forty-four-year-old white men with sedentary jobs ought not pass up opportunities for exercise. But the more I thought about it, being there without Sam and Emma felt wrong. I went home instead.

For the past four years, we’ve lived in an old farmhouse alongside the York River we call “the farm,” because we’re creative that way. It’s in a rural part of the Virginia tidewater known as the Middle Peninsula, in an unincorporated section of Gloucester County, about three hours south of D.C. and many steps off the beaten path.

How we ended up there is a story that starts in Washington, where I was the go-to policy guy for an influential US senator. It continues with an incident—might as well refer to it as The Incident, also capitalized—that landed me in a hospital bed, which tends to encourage the rethinking of one’s priorities. It ends with my appointment as a federal judge, sitting in Norfolk, in the Eastern District ofVirginia.

It was not, necessarily, what I had envisioned for myself when I first picked up Congressional Quarterly as a sixth grader. Nor was it your conventionalput-out-to-political-pasture assignment. From a workload standpoint, federal judges tend to be like ducks: There’s more going on under the surface than anyone quite realizes.

But it was certainly better than where The Incident might have ended for me, which was the morgue.

So I would have told you, all things considered, I had it pretty damn good, with my two healthy kids, my loving wife, my challenging-but-rewarding job, my happy routine.

Or at least that’s what I would have said until 5:52 P.M. that Wednesday.

That’s when Alison arrived home.

Alison was emitting her usual coming-home sounds: opening the door, putting down her bag, shuffling through the mail. Every day, from nine to five thirty, she works with children who have intellectual disabilities that are so severe, their local school systems lacked the ability to accommodate their needs. It is, from my perspective, grueling work that would absolutely wipe me out. Yet she almost always comes home in a good mood. Alison is a veritable force of nurture.

We’ve been together since our sophomore year of college. I fell in love with her because she was beautiful and yet also found it endearing that I could name all 435 members of Congress, along with the states they represented and their party affiliations. If you’re a guy like me and you find a woman like that? You hang on to her for all you’re worth.

“Hey, love,” I called out.

“Hey, hon,” she answered.

What I didn’t hear, I immediately realized, were the twins. A six-year-old human is a noisy animal; two six-year-olds, even more so. Sam and Emma typically enter stomping and banging, chattering and humming, creating their own little unselfconscious cacophony.

The only thing more conspicuous than the racket they make is the absence of it. I dried my apple-damp hands on a towel and walked down the hallway to the foyer so I could investigate.

Alison was there, her head bent toward a bill she had opened.

“Where are the kids?” I asked.

She looked up from the bill, perplexed. “What do you mean? It’s Wednesday.”

“I know. But you sent me a text.”

“What text?”

“About the doctor,” I said, digging into my pocket so she could read it. “It’s right here.”

Without bothering to look, she said, “I didn’t send you any texts about any doctors.”

I suddenly knew what it must be like to sit on a beach when all the water mysteriously rushes away, as happens just before a tsunami. You simply can’t imagine the size of the thing that’s about to hit you.

“So, wait, you’re saying you didn’t pick up the twins?” Alison asked.


“Does Justina have them?”

Justina Kemal is the Turkish college student who lives rent-free in our cottage in exchange for a certain amount of childcare each month.

“I doubt it,” I said. “It’s Wednesday. She—”

My phone rang.

“That’s probably the school,” Alison said. “Tell them I’ll be right there. Jesus, Scott.”

Alison was already grabbing her keys from the bowl. The number was coming up as RESTRICTED. I hit the answer button.

“Scott Sampson,” I said.

“Hello, Judge Sampson,” came a voice that sounded thick, deep, and indistinct, like it was being put through a filter. “It must be nice to have your wife home.”

 “Who is this?” I asked stupidly.

“You’re probably wondering where Sam and Emma are,” the voice said.

There was a surge of primal juices in my body. My heart began slamming against my rib cage. Blood raced to my face, roared in my ears.

“Where are they?” I asked. Again, stupid.

Alison had paused, halfway out the door. I was braced like I was about to start throwing punches.

“Skavron,” the voice said.

“Skavron,” I repeated. “What about it?”

United States vs. Skavron was a drug sentencing scheduled for my courtroom the next day. I had spent the early part of the week preparing for it.

“You will receive your instructions about the verdict we want in a text message tomorrow,” the voice said. “If you want to see your children again, you will follow those instructions exactly.”

“What instructions? What do—”

“You will not go to the police,” the voice continued. “You will not approach the FBI. You will not notify the authorities in any way. Your children remaining alive and unharmed depends on you going about your business as if nothing is wrong. You will do nothing. You will say nothing. Do you understand?”

“No, wait, I don’t understand. I don’t understand anything.”

“Then let me make it clear to you: If we even suspect you’ve spoken to the authorities, we’ll start chopping off fingers. If we know for a fact you have, we’ll do ears andnoses.”

“I got it. I got it. Please don’t hurt them. I’ll do whatever you want. Please don—”

“Say nothing,”the voice warned.

Then the line went dead.


Excerpted from "Say Nothing"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Brad Parks.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
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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Say Nothing 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just finished the book, I couldn't put it down. I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes! It was such a good story, you get immediately wrapped up in the story. I started to get an idea of what the plot was, but did not expect the ending. Brad Parks is a genius! Well worth reading!
Anonymous 19 days ago
1st bk by this author and am I glad I got it! The writing is crisp and clever. Plenty of hiliting. ? Finally, a book I can't put down.
Anonymous 6 months ago
This is my first Brad Parks book but will not be the last. I could not put this book down till finished. Would have given more than 5 stars if possible.
LilliSM 12 months ago
Sorry, this isn't really a review, just a complaint about the reviews. This book looks like it would be very good, but I am not going to read it. When writing a review, PLEASE don't rehash the plot or give away the surprises!
3no7 More than 1 year ago
“Say Nothing” by Brad Parks is a thriller in every sense of the word. It is an extreme departure from the Carter Ross easy, even comical at times crime novel. (There is, of course, a shout-out to Carter Ross in the story, however.)The action is non-stop, gut-wrenching, and terrifying. It is disturbing not because of what happens but because of what might happen. Parks tells the story masterfully using a first-person point of view with a few chapters from another position. I won’t detail the plot (you can read it in other reviews) but this paints the picture of the excruciating and painful journey of the main character and his family. Clues to the ultimate outcome of the story are dropped quietly and surreptitiously throughout the Judge’s narrative without wasting words (or the reader’s time) with superfluous details. This is the judge’s story and it is traumatic for everyone – him, his family, his coworkers, and the reader. Don’t start this book if you have commitments in the next few days, because you won’t be able to put it down, and when you finish, you will have to have time to recover. It has an "ending" but not a "happy ending."
literarymuseVC More than 1 year ago
Judge Scott Sampson, his wife Alison and their two children, Sam and Emma, are a happy, peacefully content family. They’ve moved out to a farmhouse in Virginia so that they can maintain that quiet lifestyle without the pressures of urban living, especially with the frenetic atmosphere of government workers in Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C. But the Judge’s family life is about to totally unravel with a hair-raising series of events that keeps the reader’s pulse raised to the very last page. Judges are expected to be the epitome of neutrality, capable of examining the facts and circumstances of a case and apply the objective law to those situations. But what does a Judge and his wife do when their children are kidnapped and they are told to await each new message, letting no one else know what is happening? They say and do “nothing.” For the lives of Sam and Emma are clearly at stake! The first case the Judge is asked to rule on is what should be a simple drug seller case. Obeying the kidnappers means making a decision that immediately opens up Pandora’s box of the legal world. Judge Sampson is now under the scrutiny of higher Judges and even politicians. To keep his children alive, the Judge says “nothing.” Alison’s family know but promise silence although they are so enraged one wonders how long that will hold true. The second case heading for Judge Sampson’s decision concerns a patent of a drug that will be life-saving for those who get to try it. Its very nice to see all the details of the case laid out so that one understands the intricacies of such cases and so that one can see how much complication Judge Sampson must wade through to come to a legally acceptable decision. The plot thickens substantially at this point. One of the children is freed but the other one is undergoing terrible acts that will probably scar her for life. The story evolves to a mind-numbing, horrific conclusion which is very realistic and not like your standard crime novel. This is a story you will never forget, one that will want to make you read more of any writing of Brad Parks! Well done, Mr. Parks!