A smart read with a complex heroine and an ending you can’t foresee with a crystal ball.Nancy Allen
Not All Secrets Can Be Buried
Child psychiatrist Kate Wolfe’s world comes crashing down when one of her young patients commits suicide, so when a troubled girl is left at the hospital ward, she doubts her ability to help.
However the girl knows things about Kate’s past, things she shouldn’t know, forcing Kate to face the murky evidence surrounding her own sister’s murder sixteen years before.
A murder for which a man is about to be executed.
Unearthing secrets about her own family, and forced to face both her difficult relationship with her distant father and the possibility that her mother might also have met a violent end, the shocking final twist brings Kate face to face with her deepest fear.
Had me hooked from page one…Lisa Lutz
Kept me up all night, long after I stopped reading.Jacquelyn Mitchard
Alice Blanchard won the Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction for her book of stories, The Stuntman’s Daughter. Her first novel, Darkness Peering was named one of the New York Times Book Review’s Notable Books. Her second novel, The Breathtaker was an official selection of the NBC Today Book Club. Alice has received a PEN Syndicated Fiction Award, a New Letters Literary Award and a Centrum Artists in Residence Fellowship.
Dark, chilling… complex.Sherri Smith
Sample From A Breath After Drowning
ON THE RIDE INTO Boston, Kate tried to suppress the panicky, floppy little breaths that threatened to grow into something worse. The snow-laced city blurred past the windshield like a scratchy black-and-white movie. She’d done her very best to present herself professionally to the world this morning–her greasy hair was pulled into a chignon and her makeup had been carefully applied–but her nerves were raw and ugly. She felt frazzled and exhausted.
They took the GPS-prescribed route to the law firm, situated on the top floor of a monolithic high-rise in the heart of downtown Boston. They pulled into the underground garage and let the valet park their car. Kate couldn’t stop shivering as they waited for the elevators.
James squeezed her hand. “You okay?”
“Do I have a choice?”
“I’m going to help you through this, every step of the way,” he reassured her.
They took the elevator up to the twenty-fourth floor. The law firm’s lobby was a fortress of rose marble. The walls were covered with expensive artwork that echoed the corporate logo.
The receptionist wore Dolce & Gabbana. “Good morning. Can I help you?”
“We’re here to see Russell Cooper,” Kate said.
“One moment please.” The receptionist picked up the phone and punched in a number.
“Russ? Your eleven-thirty’s here.”
She placed the receiver down. “Go right in. It’s the last door on your left.”
Russell Cooper was a middle-aged man with studious gray eyes behind a pair of wire-rim glasses. He wore a conservative suit and a blue silk tie. “Call me Russell. Have a seat.” He gestured toward the pair of overstuffed leather chairs facing his desk.
Kate took a moment to admire the panoramic view of downtown. She could see the Prudential from here, glimmering in the distance, brilliant sunshine bouncing off its highly reflective surfaces.
“James gave me the broad strokes over the phone,” Russell told Kate.
“Why don’t you tell me what happened in your own words?”
She cleared her throat and smoothed her skirt across her knees. “Nikki was admitted to Child Psych about eight months ago. She was suicidal. She was on drugs. She was acting out. She met the nine criteria for a major depressive episode. She stayed with us for four weeks, before being discharged and scheduled for outpatient treatment. Since that time, I’ve been seeing her once a week for behavioral therapy. We also meet with her family periodically. We’ve adjusted her meds several times, and the latest dosage appeared to be working.
We were making good progress when... when it happened.”
“All right. I have a few questions.” He glanced down at the checklist on his desk.
“Did you explain the potential side effects of her meds to Nikki and her parents?” “Yes.”
“Ignore any pleas for help?”
“No. Well, there is one thing...”
He glanced up. “Yes?”
“I was about to go on vacation for two weeks, which seemed to upset her.”
“Did she threaten to kill herself if you left?”
“Did you provide her with an alternative practitioner?” “Yes. I encouraged her to see Dr. Lippencott while I was away, but she refused. I also gave her my private contact information and told her to call me any time, day or night.”
“Good. Did she call you?”
“Not that I know of.” It made Kate wonder about the Unavailable caller ID, but Nikki’s cell phone number always displayed on caller ID, and Kate would’ve recognized the Newton area code if Nikki’s parents had tried to reach her. Besides, she’d received the call ten minutes before Ira had given her the bad news.
“Was there any mention of suicide in her recent therapy sessions?”
“Not for the past two or three months at least. But we were in the middle of therapy, so it’s reasonable to assume that she wasn’t entirely out of the woods.”
“Was she stable?”
“Relatively stable, in my judgment.”
“If that’s true, then basically that’s all I need to know.” Kate could detect deep lines of cynicism on the man’s face. As far as she understood it, Russell Cooper had been Ira’s friend since their undergraduate days at Yale, and he’d successfully handled two of Ira’s lawsuits.
“We’ll argue you met the standard of care,” Russell said, “if it comes to that.”
“I doubt her family would sue me,” Kate muttered.
“You never know. Once the dust settles, after the funeral— that’s the danger zone. The family can commence a wrongful- death action against you and the hospital any time they feel like it, right up until the statute runs out. So the question is: did you depart from the accepted ‘standard of care’ by failing to evaluate Nikki’s mental state?”
She shook her head, while James cleared his throat and said, “Kate’s one of the best child psychiatrists they have. She won an APF award, which is a big deal in our line of work. She’s compassionate and caring and does everything by the book.”
“I’m sure she does.” Russell smiled and slid his glasses back up the bridge of his nose. “Ira speaks very highly of you, Dr. Wolfe. But the hospital will want to make sure it hasn’t breached the standard of care by failing to keep the patient safe from harm. They’ll want to make sure she was properly diagnosed, that an adequate history was taken, and that her medication was appropriate.”
James leaned forward. “Kate would do anything for her patients.”
“James,” she said reproachfully, blushing.
Russell Cooper smiled. “I’m sure that’s true. And the courts have found that a medical provider can’t be held liable for mere errors in judgment. But we need to cover all the bases. Unfortunately, malpractice suits are becoming more commonplace, especially when a patient commits suicide.”
James glanced at her with concern in his eyes.
“What about the funeral?” Kate asked.
“As far as attending the funeral, that’s just fine,” he said.
“As a matter of fact, I’d encourage as many staffers as possible to attend. It’s an excellent way to demonstrate the hospital’s concern. However, if you’re going to help out with funeral arrangements, Kate, I’d advise you to keep the meetings short. You can be open to people’s grief, but if they ask about Nikki’s treatment, you need to remind them it’s confidential.”
“The family may not even think about suing you, but there are plenty of attorneys out there who are on a mission to hold psychiatrists accountable. So by all means, set up a meeting with the family to discuss eulogies, donations, cards, whatever you like. Honor their requests, but don’t volunteer. Let them call the shots. Basically, you want to be supportive without opening yourself up to a lawsuit,” he said. “Any questions?”
Kate frowned. “What happens next?”
“First, the hospital will carry out an internal investigation, sometimes called a psychological autopsy. It will be thorough, but quick. They don’t want to open a can of worms for discovery by the plaintiff’s attorney. However, Risk Management is going to have the hospital’s best interests at heart, Kate. Not yours. So my advice to you would be to cooperate fully, but be cautious. Choose your words carefully. I’d like to be there for the interview. Just a precaution.”
“When will this happen?” James asked.
The attorney shrugged. “Usually right away.”
Kate brushed away a distracting strand of hair and said,
“I’ve been trying to figure out how I might’ve handled things differently...”
“Please don’t do that.” Russell shook his head. “Keep those thoughts to yourself. I have one thing I tell every doctor who comes through my door: the family is saddled with the burden of guilt. Nobody needs a psychiatrist who’s saddled with it too.” He checked his watch and tucked in his chin. “Any other questions?”
Praise for Alice Blanchard's previous books:
New York Times Book Review
Nothing could have prepared us for the howling horrors of this gale-force thriller… Blanchard’s artistry whips up excitement… She writes so well that she rattles the rafters.
Splendid… riveting and addictive… a heart-pounding, highly literary novel full of stunning art and science.
New York Daily News
Brilliant… a dark and stormy novel and a particularly thrilling one.
Denver Rocky Mountain News
What makes The Breathtaker so exceptional is that it works on so many levels… A real twister of a tale.
San Jose Mercury News
Blanchard delivers a knockout blow… A complete treat for readers.
Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of Twelve Times Blessed
A heart-tingling, heart-squeezing mystery… filled with poignancy… eerie and deliciously scary.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Fantastic… Blanchard has concocted one hell of a whirlwind ride… A tension-filled thriller that will leave readers spinning.
From Romantic Times: Top Pick, ****1/2 GOLD
In a word--wow! Blanchard has outdone herself in this unique and mesmerizing thriller. With both an angry Mother Nature and a deranged serial killer on the loose, THE BREATHTAKER grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. An astonishing ride!
From Publisher’s Weekly:
Blanchard’s gripping second thriller follows a small town police chief’s pursuit of a serial killer who strikes only during tornadoes, but the Debris Killer is only one of the highlights of this fast-moving shocker, which also features the keen characterizations and fine atmospherics of the author’s first thriller, Darkness Peering… As tornado season comes on, more victims are discovered, and Charlie begins to suspect someone very close to him, before the murderer leads him on a final terrifying chase that will have readers gasping… Gale force sales are predicted.
From Library Journal: * starred review
* Starred Review: Blanchard (Darkness Peering) has laced together a breathtaking vortex of a story about love, death, murder and ordinary people living chaotic lives in Promise, OK, and its surroundings--known, notoriously, as tornado alley. Well paced, well plotted, and beautifully written, Breathtaker succeeds as a gripping thriller and a well-told tale. John Wells Productions (White Oleander) has bought the film rights. Highly recommended for all popular collections.