A child’s night terrors provide a clue to solving a mystery in Mary Kubica’s new thriller Every Last Lie, and EW is excited to exclusively premiere an excerpt and a look at the cover.
When Clara Solberg’s husband Nick and four-year-old daughter Maisie are involved in a car crash that kills him, her daughter’s night terrors lead Clara to suspect the crash wasn’t an accident. The book alternates perspectives between Clara’s investigation and Nick’s final months. The thriller author’s previous books include The Good Girl, Pretty Baby, and Don’t You Cry.
Every Last Lie drives into bookstores on June 27.
Excerpt from Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica:
They say that death comes in threes. First it was the man who lives across the street from my father and mother. Mr. Baumgartner, dead from prostate cancer at the age of seventy-four. And then it was a former high school classmate of mine, only twenty-eight years old, a wife and mother, dead from a pulmonary embolism—a blood clot that shot straight to her lungs.
And then it was Nick.
I’m sitting on the sofa as the phone beside me starts to ring. Nick’s name appears on the display screen, his familiar voice on the other end of the line like any of the other thousands of times he’s called. But this time it’s different because this is the last time he will ever call.
“Hey,” says Nick.
“How’s everything going?” he asks.
“Just fine,” I tell him.
“Is Felix asleep?”
“Yup,” I say. The way new babies have a tendency to do, up all night, sleep all day. He lies in my arms, rendering me immobile. I can’t do a single thing but watch him sleep. Felix is days and three hours old. In seventeen more minutes he will be four days and four hours old. The labor was long and intense as they nearly all are. There was pain despite the epidural, three hours of pushing despite the fact that delivery was supposed to get easier with each subsequent birth. With Maisie it was quick and easy by comparison; with Felix it was hard.
“Maybe you should wake him,” Nick suggests.
“And how should I do that?”
My words aren’t cross. They’re tired. Nick knows this. He knows that I am tired.
“I don’t know,” he says, and I all but hear the shrug through the telephone, see Nick’s own tired but boyish smile on the other end of the line, the usually clean-shaven face that begins to accrue with traces of brown bristle at this time of day, along the mustache line and chin. His words are muffled. The phone has slipped from his mouth, as I hear him whisper to Maisie in an aside, Let’s go potty before we leave, and I imagine his capable hands swapping a pair of pale pink ballet slippers with the hot-pink Crocs. I see Maisie’s feet squirm in his hands, drawing away. Maisie wants to join the troop of other four-years-olds practicing their clumsy leg extensions and toe touches.
But, Daddy, her tiny voice whines. I don’t have to go potty.
And Nick’s firm but gentle command: You need to try.
Nick is the better parent. I tend to give in, to say okay, only to regret it when, three miles into our commute home, Maisie suddenly gropes for her lap and screams that she has to go with a shame in her eyes that tells me she’s already gone.
Maisie’s voice disappears into the little girls’ room, and Nick returns to the phone. “Should I pick something up for dinner?” he asks, and I stare down at Felix, sound asleep on my still-distended lap. My chest leaks through a white cotton blouse. I sit on an ice pack to soothe the pain of childbirth. An episiotomy was needed, and so there are stitches; there is blood. I haven’t bathed today and the amount of sleep I’ve reaped in the last four days can be counted on a single hand. My eyelids grow heavy, threatening to close.
Nick’s voice comes at me again through the phone. “Clara,” he says, this time deciding for me, “I’ll pick up something for dinner. Maisie and I will be home soon. And then you can rest,” he says, and our evening routine will go a little something like this: I will sleep, and Nick will wake me when it’s time for Felix to eat. And then come midnight, Nick will sleep and I will spend the rest of the night awake with a roused Felix again in my arms.
“Chinese or Mexican?” he asks, and I say Chinese.
These are the last words I ever exchange with my husband.
I wait with Felix for what feels like forever, staring at the filmy black of the lifeless TV, the remote on the other side of the room, hiding beneath a paisley pillow on the leather set¬tee. I can’t risk waking Felix to retrieve it. I don’t want to wake Felix. My eyes veer from TV to remote and back again, as if able to turn that TV on through mental telepathy, to eschew that all-consuming boredom and repetition that accompanies infant care—eat, sleep, poop, repeat—with a few minutes of Wheel of Fortune or the evening news.
When will Nick be home?
Harriet, our red merle border collie, lies curled into a ball at my feet, blending well into the jute rug: part of the furnishings, and also our guard. She hears the car before I do. One of her ticked ears stands on end, and she rises to her feet. I wait in vain for the sound of the garage door opening, for Maisie to come stampeding in through the steel door, pivoting like a little ballerina across the wooden floors of our home. My stomach growls at Nick’s arrival and the promise of food. I’m hungry.
But instead the noise comes from the front door, a business¬like rapping against the wood, and Harriet knows before me that it’s not Nick.
I rise from the sofa and open the door.
A man stands before me, his words evasive and out of reach. They float in the space between us like lightning bugs, flying swiftly away as I try to gather them in my hands. “Are you Mrs. Solberg?” he asks, and when I say that I am, he says, “There’s been an accident, ma’am.”
He wears a black woven shirt, a pair of black woven pants. On his shirt there are patches, a badge. The car parked in my drive reads Serve & Protect.
“Ma’am?” asks the man when I don’t reply. Felix lies in my arms like a sack of potatoes. His body slumps, inert, still sleeping and growing heavier with time. Harriet sits at my feet, glaring at this strange man.
Though my ears hear the words, my brain can’t process them. Sleep deprivation I blame, or maybe it’s denial. I stare at the man before me and wonder: What does he want with me? What is he trying to sell?
“Can it wait?” I ask, pressing Felix to my chest so he can’t see the moist patches of milk that stain my shirt. My insides feel heavy; the lining of my legs burns. I limp, an effect of giving birth. “My husband will be home soon,” I say, promising, “any second now,” and I see the fabricated pity that settles upon the man’s desensitized face. He’s done this before, many times. I tell him about Maisie’s ballet class, how Nick is driving home as we speak, how he will be here any minute. I tell him how he was stopping only to pick up dinner, and then he will be home. I don’t know why I say so much. I open the door wider. I invite him inside.
“Would you like to wait inside?” I say, and I tell him again how Nick will be home soon.
Outside it is nearly eighty-five degrees. It’s the twenty-fifth of June.
There’s a hand on my elbow; his hat is in his hands. He steps inside my home, sure to cling to me so that he can brace Felix’s soft spot should I fall.
“There’s been an accident, ma’am,” he says again.