Along the banks of the Ohio River, the small town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, has been the home of quiet pleasures and safety for Adrienne Reynolds and her fourteen-year-old daughter Skye since the death of Adrienne's husband four years ago. Their sense of safety is shattered, however, when Adrienne and Skye find the body of one of Adrienne's best friends, Julianna, in a once-elegant, now abandoned hotel named La Belle Riviere. La Belle has a long history of misfortunes, but Julianna's murder is the most gruesome.
Evidence indicates Julianna that had a secret lover whom she met regularly in the hotel, and who could have been with her in her final moments. The only person who knows this lover's identity is the hotel caretaker, Claude Duncan. But Claude is quickly silenced-drugged and burned to death in his small cottage on the grounds of La Belle the night after Julianna's death. One by one, people close to Adrienne are brutally murdered, and it looks as though she and Skye are the next targets of a fierce killer with a shocking secret.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.85(d)|
About the Author
Carlene Thompson is the author of Last Whisper, Black for Remembrance, Nowhere to Hide, and Don't Close Your Eyes, among other books. She attended college at Marshall University and earned her Ph.D. in English from Ohio State University. She taught at the University of Rio Grande before leaving to focus on her writing full-time. Besides writing, she spends her time caring for the many dogs and cats she's adopted. A native West Virginian, she lives with her husband Keith in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.
Read an Excerpt
Share No Secrets
By Carlene Thompson
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2005 Carlene Thompson
All rights reserved.
The Iroguois Indians called the river "the Ohio," which was translated by the French as "the Beautiful" — la Belle Riviére. Later, linguists argued that the name really meant "the Sparkling," "the Great," or "the White." Perhaps other translations were more accurate, but to most people who lived along the Ohio, the river remained "the Beautiful," an apt name that would follow it throughout history.
Adrienne Reynolds stood on a low rise overlooking the river. Behind her loomed the long, white, Georgian lines of a hundred-year-old resort hotel named la Belle Riviére, more commonly referred to by the locals of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, as The Belle. She removed sunglasses protecting her sea-green eyes from the bright morning sun and looked downward at the hotel's best-known attraction, its majestic view of the wide Ohio River.
Adrienne loved the river. As an artist, she was always intrigued by its colors. They varied from a muted emerald when the waters were low and tall grasses could be seen swaying beneath the surface, to the café au lait or "milky" tone achieved during light rains that gently eddied sediment, to dark chocolate when storms roiled the murky mud of the riverbed. She especially liked the Ohio on cool summer mornings like this one when fog gracefully rose from the river, parting now and then to let glittering sunbeams spear the glassy surface of the water. She looked behind her and saw that already sunlight sparkled off the glass cupolas atop the four-story hotel overlooking its namesake, La Belle Rivière.
Adrienne had been born and reared in the West Virginia town of Point Pleasant set in a lush rural landscape and only two miles away from the Belle. She'd never dreamed of leaving the area for places known to have more excitement, but right after college, she'd followed her young husband, Trey Reynolds, to Nevada where he'd created a lounge act and managed to hang on to it for almost five years in a minor Las Vegas casino. Although Adrienne loved her husband, she hated her new home. Every day she looked with desolation at the flat expanse of hot sand, the prickly cacti, the parch-skinned lizards scurrying around her front yard, and the endless sky. Local people described that sky as vibrant turquoise. To her it looked like a piece of bleached denim with a burning white hole that passed for the sun. Her husband never knew how often he'd just cleared the driveway on his way to the casino for rehearsal before Adrienne had burst into a storm of homesick tears for the wide Ohio River and the lush blue-green hills of Appalachia.
When Adrienne had become pregnant, she began supplementing their scanty, irregular income with her sketches and paintings. Their daughter Skye was five by the time Adrienne was getting a small start in the local art world when, in an unexpected and crushing blow, Trey had been demoted to an even less popular club farther away from the hallowed "Strip" where everyone wanted to be. "I don't think there's anyone in the audience under eighty," he'd complained to her in a lost, hopeless voice. "Half of them sleep through the songs. Snore though the songs! It's humiliating. And I'm not making enough money to keep three of us going." He'd sighed and stared into the distance. "I won't put my family through this. We're going home. I'll join Dad's business."
So Trey Reynolds had abandoned his limping, ego-crushing casino career and they'd moved back to West Virginia. Adrienne had known what a blow his failed entertainment career had inflicted on Trey, although she'd been amazed he'd managed to hang on to his lounge act for as long as he had. For her part, though, she'd been overjoyed to return to her and Trey's hometown of Point Pleasant. Within a year she'd begun selling her work at a nearby Ohio gallery called the French Art Colony and teaching art at the local branch of Marshall University. Her happiness had increased tenfold. And even now, her enchantment with the area remained, particularly on a beautiful morning like this one at the old hotel she loved, although Trey was no longer here to share the beauty.
Soon the temperature would rise, probably to the low eighties according to the forecasters, but now the dampness from early morning fog turned Adrienne's long, honey-brown hair wavy and sent a ripple of chill bumps along her arms beneath her denim jacket.
"I'm opening the thermos of coffee," her fourteen-year-old daughter Skye called. "You want a cup? I'm freezing!"
"You didn't have to come out here with me so early."
"I love it out here just past dawn with all the mist," Skye claimed enthusiastically. "It looks like Camelot, or some of the places in my old fairy-tale books. What about the coffee?"
"Yes, please." Adrienne stood on the bank for a few more moments, savoring the atmosphere, before the smell of strong coffee reached out and lured her like the Greek sirens calling to the sailors. Skye held out a cup, Adrienne took a sip, and smiled. "You used the good stuff."
"Royal Vintner, your favorite."
"Have you misbehaved in some way you're about to confess?" Skye looked reproachful. "Of course not, and besides, I'm too old to misbehave. You make me sound like I'm seven."
Adrienne raised an eyebrow. "Pardon my demeaning language. Have you raised hell in some way you're about to confess?" Skye burst into laughter, her adolescent face beautiful in the gentle sunlight. "No. I'm not you, Mom. I'm not already raising hell at age fourteen."
"Neither did I."
"That's not how Aunt Vicky tells it."
"My big sister was Miss Manners all her life. I don't think she ever did one thing wrong."
"But you were your parents' favorite."
"Only according to Vicky. If they were alive, they'd tell you a different story." Adrienne looked around, squinting slightly against the sun on the mist. "Lights are still flashing down on the road. I think that wreck is a really bad one."
"Maybe someone was trying to pass in the fog."
"You're not supposed to pass at all on that strip of highway, fog or no fog. Too many curves."
"I hope no one got killed. But you'll get the scoop later today. Dating the local sheriff has its perks, Mom." Skye gave her a mischievous look. "Just how serious are you two?"
"This coffee is great but you still look cold, Skye," Adrienne said briskly. "Why don't you get your sweater from the car?"
"No sharing of secrets about Sheriff Lucas Flynn this morning even when I made a pot of your favorite coffee?" Skye's hyacinth-blue eyes, so like her father's, danced beneath long lashes. "He's awfully nice, Mom, and Daddy would want you to be happy."
Trey would also want me to be in love, Adrienne thought sadly. He would want me to feel joyful and passionate, not just safe and comfortable like I do with Lucas. But she said none of this to her daughter. "Oh well, I'll try to pump more information about the romance later," Skye relented cheerfully. "Now I need to find Brandon. I hear him barking in the woods."
"He probably had a mad urge to pursue a squirrel that would scare him to death if it turned on him. Honestly, I've never seen such a cowardly one-hundred-pound dog."
"Mom, Brandon is a lover, not a fighter."
"Whatever you say. You go save Brandon before he's attacked by a chipmunk, and I'll get my camera and sketchpad out of the car. I only have three weeks to get a painting done of this place before it comes tumbling down."
"Before Ellen Kirkwood has it knocked down," Skye said bitterly. "What a waste. Are you sure Kit can't do anything about it?" Kitrina "Kit" Kirkwood, Ellen's daughter, had been one of Adrienne's two best friends most of her life. Kit — smart, fast-talking, opinionated — was violently opposed to the destruction of the Belle, but the hotel belonged to Ellen, who was adamant. Kit told Adrienne she'd lost the fight to preserve the place she loved and had thought one day she would inherit. So she wanted Adrienne to do a painting of the hotel, something Kit could hang in her elegant downtown restaurant, The Iron Gate.
"I don't see why Mrs. Kirkwood is so amped about pulling down the hotel," Skye continued to grouse, reaching for the sweater she'd earlier said she didn't need.
"Ellen's convinced it's cursed. Her mother harped about it to Ellen all her life. And to be fair, there have been a lot of strange accidents and deaths here. But Jamie's drowning in the pool last year was the end for Ellen." Adrienne thought of the beautiful four-year-boy Ellen Kirkwood had adopted when he was a baby. "She couldn't bear to look at the place anymore."
"Her husband doesn't want her to tear it down."
"Gavin doesn't own it, and I don't think he has much influence with Ellen, either. Or Kit, even though she and Gavin are on the same side for once."
"Why doesn't Mrs. Kirkwood just sell the Belle?"
Adrienne raised an eyebrow. "Honey, it wouldn't be sporting to sell a cursed hotel."
Skye grinned. "Yeah, real unethical."
"We shouldn't make fun of Ellen," Adrienne added guiltily. She'd always liked the woman in spite of her peculiarities.
"Making fun just a little bit won't hurt," Skye said. "It kind of takes the sting out of knowing this great old place will be sticks and stones in a few weeks."
"You're right." Adrienne sighed. "I hear Brandon. He's in the woods off to the left."
"And I'm off to the rescue. Be back pronto."
Actually, Adrienne was glad for the temporary solitude. She needed to concentrate on finding the right perspective from which to do her preliminary sketches. It would take several tries, some of which would be interrupted when her daughter and dog returned. She'd have been happier to leave Skye and Brandon at home for the morning, but Skye had insisted on accompanying her, and when Adrienne had balked at bringing Brandon, Skye had put up a guilt-inducing argument about how he hardly ever got to run as much as he should. He was, after all, at least ten pounds overweight. A romp in the woods would do him good, Skye had said convincingly. Unfortunately, his "romp" had turned into an all-out rampage.
Adrienne reached inside her car for the Olympus Epic Zoom 170 Deluxe camera she'd just bought last week. She'd done practice shots, but these would be her first serious photographs with it and she was looking forward to seeing how the hotel looked caught by a 170 mm 4.5X high-performance zoom lens. It seemed powerful to be so light and convenient to carry.
She took random shots around the hotel, catching the long porches stretching the length of all four floors that had allowed guests to stand outside their rooms and view the river. She photographed the tall glass cupolas, the red shingled roof, the big clock tower with its Roman numerals, the iron weather vanes topped by black roosters. The vanes sat motionless. A brisk breeze would have quickly chased away the fog, Adrienne thought, but for now she liked these shots with the mist shrouding the hotel like a veil, even if the pictures probably wouldn't be much help when she worked on the actual painting.
Finally, the fog began to clear a bit in spite of the still air of the morning and Adrienne decided to get started. She'd selected a sketchpad of rough paper and a 3B graphite pencil for her preliminary sketch. She went to the east side of the hotel, where the morning sun shone brightest, sat down on a piece of wrought-iron lawn furniture, and stared up at the hotel, drawing pencil poised.
Sunlight shimmered through the remaining mist, giving the hotel a magical look. Skye was right, Adrienne thought La Belle Rivière possessed a fairy-tale air, evoking the beautiful women who'd once walked in graceful gowns down the wide first-floor porch steps onto the lush green grounds. Their handsome companions, men in excellent suits with exquisite manners and equally exquisite bank accounts, would have accompanied them. Adrienne sighed at her vision of the hotel as it must have looked in the early twentieth century.
But just a few years ago, the place had still retained its grandeur as well as its reputation as one of the most beautiful resort spots in the country. The hotel had drawn everyone from statesmen, to movie stars, to foreign royalty. Ten years ago, it had been the site of a high-fashion shoot featuring local girl turned haute couture model Julianna Brent. How beautiful Adrienne's girlhood friend Julianna had looked in sumptuous evening gowns as she posed at the hotel, a landmark Ellen Kirkwood had maintained with all the diligence its builder, her great-grandfather, could have desired.
Adrienne's reverie snapped when a sharp caw broke the morning silence. She looked away from the cloud to a telephone line, on which sat three shining black crows. One cawed again, its sound strident and irritating. The lookout crow, she thought, signaling to the other members of its group. A murder. That's what a group of crows was called. Not a flock. Not a gaggle. A murder of crows.
Another bird landed on the telephone line. He looked bigger than the usual crow, more like twenty-five inches long rather than the average nineteen or twenty. Two more arrived. They sat close together on the telephone line, all seeming to glare at her with their hard little eyes.
An old riddle about crows she'd learned in childhood came to Adrienne's mind, and she caught herself saying it aloud:
Three is health,
Four is wealthy;
Five is sickness,
And six is death.
The last word pulled her up sharp. A murder of six crows sat on the telephone line, and six meant death. Abruptly she felt colder and reached for the cup of coffee sitting next to her on the bench. But it too had turned cold. She set it down and grimaced. Then she shook her head, annoyed with herself for being fanciful enough to let a few birds spook her. She'd never liked crows, but they were hardly a danger like the ones in Hitchcock's movie The Birds.
"Get lost," she called to them. One cocked its head and threw her an especially sharp caw. "You're not scaring me, you know," she went on. "You're just getting on my nerves."
"Caw. Caw. Caw!" all six returned loudly as if understanding her and indignant at her attitude.
"Cram it!" she yelled, then glanced sheepishly around, hoping Skye hadn't been near enough to hear her. She sounded crazy out here bellowing at birds. Adrienne looked back at the hotel, determined to ignore the noisy, glistening little creeps on the telephone line and get back to the business of capturing the hotel's essence on paper.
But she felt peculiar, as if she were being watched. Well, she was, she thought. The birds had her in their sights like prey. But as much as she disliked crows, she knew it wasn't their beady gaze making her uneasy. She glanced toward the woods and caught a flicker of movement. It must be Skye or Brandon, she reasoned. But neither of them would dart from tree to tree, lingering for a moment behind each.
"Who's there?" she called. No answer. Brandon was too exuberant for hiding. Besides, he wasn't over five feet tall as the flickering figure seemed to have been. And Skye would have answered her. So would the caretaker Claude Duncan. Perhaps it was a teenager lurking around, although it seemed too early for that kind of nonsense. Still, there had been the car wreck close by. Maybe someone had been drawn to the scene, then wandered up around the hotel, which was off limits without permission from Kit or Ellen Kirkwood.
Adrienne caught a flicker of movement again. Uneasiness flowed through her and impulsively she picked up her camera, taking several shots. If they discovered that someone had broken into the hotel and stolen or damaged furnishings, she might have caught an image of the thief or vandal.
She sat still for a few more minutes, camera poised. Then the idea that whoever was lurking in the woods might do her or Skye harm abruptly popped into her mind. Her nerves erupted to life. Something was wrong.
"Skye, come back right now!" Adrienne yelled shrilly at the exact moment a nearby Skye shouted, "Brandon, come here!"
"Skye, let the dog go and come sit with me! I think someone is in the woods."
"Yeah. Me and Brandon." Adrienne could hear the exasperation in Skye's voice. "I'll be back as soon as I get him."
Adrienne was annoyed that the girl wouldn't do as told, but at least she was safe and she was close by. It probably had been Skye she'd seen darting through the thinning mist, Adrienne reasoned. The fog and the loneliness of the abandoned La Belle Rivière had unnerved her. Besides, all of her life she'd experienced dark premonitions and not one of them had come true. It was always the unexpected disaster that jumped up and slapped her in the face.
Excerpted from Share No Secrets by Carlene Thompson. Copyright © 2005 Carlene Thompson. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I purchased this book while in WV, having never read anything by the author before. I found it quite good. This is a murder mystery that takes place in a small town in WV, centered mainly around an old abandoned hotel. There were so many characters that I did get a bit confused at times, but the excitement never let up. There are multiple murders that occur one after the other, along with some suspicious accidents. In the end? You will never guess who did it!
This book kept me guessing until the end and I was still surprise. I've read all of her books. This one is my favoritr.
Carlene Thompson does it again. As I've read most of her books, she always delivers. The not really knowing till the end of what will happen keeps you reading.
I am a huge carlene thompson fan and i personally think shes better than Stephen King. This book is amazing, the climax of the story is so intense and just the way the story builds up is so suspensful and you will never guess in a million years just how the story will end, if you want a page turner you cant put down, buy this book.
Wow!! I found this book very hard to put down. Lots of twists as to who the killer might be and boy was I surprised when I found out!!
The safe world Adrienne Reynolds thought she'd found in Point Pleasant for herself and her daughter, Skye, turns into a living nightmare when one of her best friends is brutally murdered. Julianna's shocking death sets in motion a chain of homicides, as each person who might be able to shed light on what really happened dies brutally. Wanting justice for her friend and the restoration of safety, Adrienne delves into the mystery, placing not only herself, but Skye, in the killer's sights. ................ **** Carlene Thompson can be relied upon to write the most intellectual of mysteries, ones that keep you guessing until the very end. An innocuous background makes the events portrayed all the more terrifying, making you believe it all could happen. ****