From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of Mad River Road comes a spine-tingling thriller about a picturesque Florida town -- and the killer determined to prey on its teenage girls.
Welcome to Torrance, Florida. Population: 4,160. As Sheriff John Weber would attest, the deadliest predators to date in his tiny hamlet were the alligators lurking in the nearby swamps. But that was before someone abducted and murdered a runaway teenage girl...and before the disappearance of popular and pretty Liana Martin. The pattern is chilling to Sandy Crosbie, the town's new high school English teacher. With a marriage on the rocks, thanks to her husband's online affairs, and a beautiful teenage daughter to protect, Sandy wishes she'd never come to the seemingly quiet town with shocking depths of scandal, sex, and brutality roiling beneath its surface. And as Sheriff Weber digs up more questions than answers in a dead-end investigation, one truth emerges: the prettiest ones are being targeted, the heartstoppers. And this killer intends to give them their due....
Alternating between the chilling journal entries of a cold-blooded murderer and the sizzling scandals of small-town life, Heartstopper is Joy Fielding's most exciting novel of suspense yet.
Bestseller Fielding (Mad River Road) delivers another dependably entertaining thriller. When Sandy Crosbie and her physician husband, Ian, move to Torrance, Fla. (pop. 4,160), from Rochester, N.Y., to make a new start, Sandy quickly discovers that the real new start is Ian's affair with "Barbie clone" Kerri Franklin, whom he met on an Internet chat line. Sandy, who's irritatingly docile about being deserted, trudges forward, getting a job teaching at the local high school and keeping an eye on her two teenage children, Megan and Tim. The author convincingly portrays the Crosbie siblings and other students, while examining in more depth than some readers might prefer teenage angst and puppy love. A popular girl, Liana Martin, disappears and her body later turns up in a swamp. Amid the offstage drama of the school play rehearsals, Sandy's painful blind date and Ian's affair, tension builds and cracks appear within and among local residents. Every few chapters, the anonymous killer offers an entry, which adds to the suspense, though the generous time spent with our mystery villain takes some of the kick out of the ending. (Apr.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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April 02, 2007
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Excerpt from Heartstopper by Joy Fielding
The girl is waking up.
She stirs, mascara-coated eyelashes fluttering seductively, large blue eyes opening, then closing again, then reopening, staying open longer this time, casually absorbing the unfamiliarity of her surroundings. That she is in a strange place, with no memory of how she got here, will take several seconds to sink in fully. That her life is in danger will hit her all at once, with the sudden force of a giant, renegade wave, knocking her back on the small cot I've so thoughtfully provided, even as she struggles gamely to her feet.
This is my favorite part. Even more than what comes later.
I've never been a huge fan of blood and guts. Those shows you see on TV today, the ones that are so popular, the ones filled with crack forensic experts in skintight pants and push-up bras, they've never held much appeal for me. All those dead bodies -- hapless victims dispatched in an increasingly gory variety of exotic ways -- lying on cold steel slabs in ultramodern morgues, waiting to be cracked open and invaded by dispassionate, gloved fingers -- they just don't do it for me. Even if the bodies weren't so obviously fake -- although even the most obvious of rubber torsos look more real than the ubiquitous breast implants held in check by those heroic, push-up bras -- it wouldn't turn me on. Violence, per se, has never been my thing. I've always preferred the buildup to an event over the actual event itself.
Just as I've always preferred the flawed, natural contour of real breasts to the perfectly inflated -- and perfectly awful -- monstrosities so popular today. And not just on TV. You see them everywhere. Even here in the middle of Alligator Alley, in the middle of south-central Florida.
The middle of nowhere.
I think it was Alfred Hitchcock who best summed up the difference between shock and suspense. Shock, he said, is quick, a jolt to the senses that lasts but a second, whereas suspense is more of a slow tease. Rather like the difference between prolonged foreplay and premature ejaculation, I would add, and I like to think old Alfred would chuckle and agree. He always preferred suspense to shock, the payoff being greater, ultimately more fulfilling. I'm with him on this, although, like Hitch, I'm not adverse to the occasional shock along the way. You have to keep things interesting.
As this girl will soon find out.
She's sitting up now, hands forming anxious fists at her sides as she scans her dimly lit surroundings. I can tell by the puzzled look on her pretty face -- she's a real heartstopper, as my grandfather used to say -- that she's trying to stay calm, to figure things out, to make sense of what's happening, while clinging to the hope this is all a dream. After all, this can't really be happening. She can't actually be sitting on the edge of a tiny cot in what appears to be a room in somebody's basement, if houses in Florida had basements, which, of course, most of them don't, Florida being a state built almost entirely on swampland.
The panic won't be long in coming. As soon as she realizes she isn't dreaming, that her situation is real and, in fact, quite dire, that she is trapped in a locked room whose only light comes from a strategically placed lamplight on a ledge high above her head, one she has no way of reaching, even were she to turn the cot on its end and somehow manage to climb up its side. The last girl tried that and fell, crying and clutching her broken wrist, to the dirt floor. That's when she started screaming.
That was fun -- for a while.
She's just noticed the door, although unlike the last girl, she makes no move toward it. Instead, she just sits there, chewing on her bottom lip, frightened eyes darting back and forth.