Exclusive: The author of A Simple Favor is back with another juicy thriller
We fell for Darcey Bell’s juicy 2017 debut, A Simple Favor, long before Paul Feig’s stylish adaptation hit theaters last fall. And now, with a whole new audience introduced to her work, EW can exclusively announce what the author has coming next.
Introducing Something She’s Not Telling Us, another deliciously suspenseful novel that promises to satisfy fans of Bell’s first book, and perhaps, then some. It traces how one woman’s life is turned upside down when her brother brings his new girlfriend to visit — and no one is telling the truth about who they really are.
Here’s the beginning of the official synopsis: “Charlotte has everything in life that she ever could have hoped for: a doting, artistic husband, a small-but-thriving flower shop, and her sweet, smart 5-year-old daughter, Daisy. Her relationship with her mother might be strained, but the distance between them helps. And her younger brother Rocco may have horrible taste in women, but when he introduces his new girlfriend to Charlotte and her family, they are cautiously optimistic that she could be the One. Daisy seems to love Ruth, and she can’t be any worse than the klepto Rocco brought home the last time. At least, that’s what Charlotte keeps telling herself. But as Rocco and Ruth’s relationship becomes more serious, Ruth’s apparent obsession with Daisy grows more obvious. Then Daisy is kidnapped, and Charlotte is convinced there’s only one person who could have taken her.”
There’s much more to this twisty saga, but we’ll let the book speak for itself. EW can exclusively reveal the book’s gorgeous cover, as well as a first excerpt. Read on below. Something She’s Not Telling Us publishes April 7, 2020, and is available for pre-order.
Excerpt from Something She’s Not Telling Us, by Darcey Bell
The one thing they need to remember is the one thing they can’t recall.
What was Daisy wearing when she left for school this morning?
It had been one of those mornings. An underwatery wake-up after a very late night.
Charlotte and Eli and Daisy were supposed to land at JFK by seven. But their plane was delayed in Mexico City. They didn’t get back to their East Village loft until well after eleven.
Unforgiveable, on a school night. But what else could they do? Charlotte tells herself that the wooziness she feels has nothing to do with the two bottles of red wine she and Eli drank last night to celebrate getting back from Mexico in one piece.
Well, not exactly in one piece. In one piece if you discount the fact that they’d had to leave Charlotte’s brother, Rocco, behind in Oaxaca.
Rocco’s girlfriend, Ruth, lost her US passport.
Charlotte hears herself groan.
“What’s the matter?” Eli asks.
“Nothing.” The first lie of the morning.
She doesn’t want to think about what happened to Ruth’s passport. She doesn’t want to think about Ruth.
Anyhow, Rocco is safe. In the taxi back from JFK, Charlotte had gotten a text from him:
Boarding plane home. All good. Talk tomorrow.
Thank God he’s okay. And thank God that Charlotte doesn’t have to feel guilty about leaving him in Mexico, with Ruth.
Now, the first morning they’re back, Charlotte tries to convince herself that the goofy disorientation she feels has nothing to do with the fact that, buzzed out of her mind from drinking all that celebratory red wine with Eli, she took Ambien to fall asleep. How much? Enough that now, when she turns her head toward Daisy’s voice, her brain doesn’t seem to be turning along with the rest of her.
Probably that sloshy brain is why she and Eli didn’t hear the alarm on her phone, or the backup alarm on his phone, why they didn’t open their eyes until Daisy ran into their bedroom.
“Mom! Dad! Don’t I have school today?”
Yes, sweetheart. You have school.
So now the problem of Daisy’s breakfast. Charlotte can do it, even though she’ll probably be late for her nine o’clock meeting.
The event planners have to understand—Charlotte has a school-age child!
They don’t have to understand anything. There are dozens of hungry, creative floral designers in New York who can take meetings at dawn because they don’t have to pack their kid’s lunch.
The milk is sour, and someone (no one’s perfect, not even Eli!) put an empty Cheerios box in the refrigerator. What else is there? A banana. A massive Sub-Zero with nothing inside but spoiled milk and one dead banana. Daisy hates bananas, even when they aren’t mottled with gray-green splotches.
Eli can buy Daisy a doughnut on the way to school. It’s not the ideal breakfast, nothing Charlotte would admit to when the mothers get together, not even when everyone’s bitching about what their kids won’t eat. But it’s better than nothing. Better than Daisy going to kindergarten with an empty stomach on her first day back after spring break. And Daisy will love it. Charlotte worries about how much her daughter likes sugar. Most kids do, she knows, but she can’t help thinking that sweets might really pose a danger to her daughter’s fragile health.
At eight in the morning, the loft is already bright, with a view of the pinkish, early-spring sun warming the beautiful bridges—Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg. Charlotte counts them, one two three, as if she’s afraid they might have vanished while she was out of the country.
Eli says, In this city you pay for sunlight. Even when Charlotte just thinks about the loft, she knocks off $400,000 from the terrifying price.
Charlotte smells smoke. Dear God, is the building on fire? Welcome home.
Last month, the city fire marshals came to warn them that they have six months to replace the old wooden staircase in the hall with metal, or the building will be condemned. The marshals don’t care if Charlotte and Eli own their loft, or how beautiful they’ve made it.
All that money, all that costly, painstaking renovation—so their home can smell like an ashtray.
Charlotte’s pretty sure that the building’s not on fire. Her downstairs neighbor, Ariane, the stubborn, difficult widow of a famous painter, refuses to stop smoking. One spark, and all her late husband’s canvases will go up in a flash.
Charlotte’s family house in upstate New York burned down when she was in high school. So she’s sensitive about fire. Not obsessed or phobic, but definitely aware.
The last holdout when the building went co-op, Ariane is why the staircase hasn’t been replaced. She refused to sign the release, even when Eli offered to pay for the project. When the co-op (Eli is president of the tiny board) banned smoking, Ariane responded by switching to expensive black cigarettes, smelly as cigars.
In her charitable moments, Charlotte thinks: Who can blame her? Ariane has no money. And her crazy middle-aged son, Drew, moved back in with her a few months ago. Charlotte knows that Ariane resents her for her privilege, her money, for the beauty of their loft, for Charlotte’s easy life. For what Ariane thinks is easy. But what can Charlotte do? She can’t think of a way to defuse the ill will between herself and her downstairs neighbors.
Charlotte has heard Ariane and Drew shouting and slamming doors, sometimes all night long. Fighting and smoking and fighting.
The smoke would be less upsetting if Daisy weren’t asthmatic.
Every puff Ariane and Drew exhale up through the floor terrifies Charlotte. So far cigarette smoke isn’t among Daisy’s triggers, but there’s always the chance that smoke could bring on an attack. Sometimes Charlotte lies awake at night, smelling smoke or maybe just thinking she smells smoke, feeling scared and enraged, waiting to hear that first horrifying wheeze and rasp from Daisy’s room.
If that happens, if Daisy has an attack, they’ll have to sue Ariane or move . . . or something.
Actually, Drew scares Charlotte even more than the smoking. Charlotte doesn’t like the twitchy smile on his face when he sees Daisy and pats her on the head. Who pats five-year-old girls on the head?? Charlotte hates to think this way, but with his furtive little face, his steel-rimmed glasses dirty with fingerprints, his brush of short gray hair, stiff with excessive product that is probably natural grease, Drew looks like a serial child molester on Law & Order.
One especially paranoid night, Charlotte woke Eli up and made him look up Drew in the online sex offender registry. But Drew wasn’t on the list. Not yet.
It makes Charlotte super vigilant, as if she weren’t already vigilant enough. What will they do when Daisy is old enough to go up and down the stairs—to pass Drew’s door—on her own?
Charlotte’s shrink, Ted, is helping her work on not worrying quite so much. Not living in fear. Not worrying about Drew, or about anything, until something happens. Until something is about to happen. It’s a subject that she and Ted talk about, a lot.
She says that every mother is as bad as she is. And Ted oh-so-gently says she’s wrong. There are mothers less plagued by fear and able to enjoy their lives more of the time. If only Charlotte were one of them! She can’t stop worrying about what Daisy eats and doesn’t eat, why she doesn’t have more friends, why she seems so shy. Why she always seems so . . . worried. Like me, Charlotte thinks guiltily.
Charlotte can’t explain how it works, but after fifty minutes in Ted’s sunlit office looking down on Madison Square Park, she feels braver. More comfortable out in the world. More in control. Not that therapy isn’t hard, not that she doesn’t cry sometimes. But Ted knows what to say, or not say, to help her get through it—and get over the past. He’s helping her forgive herself for the things she’s done—well, for one thing she’s done—that she can’t seem to get over.
At the same time, Charlotte feels confident that she’s handling her life so well that sometimes therapy almost seems like an indulgence. Except she has to watch out for the lasting damage done by crazy neglectful Mom, who became a normal person only after a stay in a facility—and really only after Charlotte and Rocco were out of the house.
Ted says that Charlotte needs to remember that her fantasies aren’t real. She’s too quick to imagine catastrophe and disaster.
By the time Daisy’s old enough to come home on her own . . . who knows? Maybe they’ll live someplace else. Maybe—better option—Drew will live somewhere else.
Eli goes into Daisy’s room to help her pick out clothes for school. Charlotte hears the first sounds of a disagreement likely to escalate between her daughter and her husband. Charlotte needs to shower and get dressed, but she pauses outside Daisy’s door.
Daisy is insisting on wearing the gauzy shirt, embroidered with flowers, that her grandmother—Charlotte’s mother—bought her in Oaxaca. It’s great that she wants to wear Grandma’s present. But it’s still very cold outside. And she’s refusing to wear a coat.
The argument lasts until Eli throws open the window and says, “Not warm! It was warm in Mexico, but this is not that, here it’s cold, cold, cold, muñeca.” Charlotte likes when he calls Daisy “muñeca.” It means doll in Spanish. Eli is half Panamanian.
Daisy says she doesn’t care how cold it is, but finally she agrees to put on a blue cardigan over the flowered shirt. Her bright purple quilted jacket will go on top of that.
Charlotte would intervene if she had more energy, if she weren’t hungover. Anyway, Daisy will shed the jacket the minute she gets to school. Her school is still so overheated—Charlotte has been in greenhouses colder than Daisy’s school. She’s had to stop herself from suggesting jungle plants that would thrive in the urban microclimate.
Charlotte wriggles into her navy Jil Sander power suit, wrestling with the zipper that seems to be saying: Sorry, girl! One too many tacos at Mom’s house in Mexico!
A talking zipper means too much wine and too many sleeping pills. Charlotte changes shoes three times, ultimately deciding on a pair of Marc Jacobs heels, a bad idea if she plans to do any walking at all.
She keeps her favorite sneakers at the flower shop, where she’ll go after her meeting to catch up with her assistant, Alma. Charlotte will answer her emails, do some work, and chill until it’s time to pick up Daisy from her after-school program at P.S. 131.
By that afternoon, Charlotte will wonder: What was Daisy wearing?
What did they finally settle on?
Was it the blue cardigan or the pink sweater? The purple jacket or the puffy white vest?
She won’t remember. Eli won’t remember.
Their whole lives will be on the line.
How could they not know?