Suddenly a Murder

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Seven friends throw a 1920s-themed party, where it’s all pretend–until one of them is murdered. One of Us Is Lying meets Knives Out in this glamorous locked-room mystery.

“A can’t miss for mystery fans.” –Kathleen Glasgow, New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Pieces and The Agathas

Someone brought a knife to the party.

To celebrate the end of high school, Izzy Morales joins her ride-or-die Kassidy and five friends on a 1920s-themed getaway at the glamorous Ashwood Manor. There, Izzy and her friends party in vintage dresses and expensive diamonds–until Kassidy’s boyfriend turns up dead.

Murdered, investigators declare when they arrive at the scene, and now every party guest is a suspect. There’s the girlfriend, in love. The other girl, in despair. The old friend, forlorn. The new friend, distressed. The brooding enigma. And then, there’s Izzy–the girl who brought the knife.

To find the killer, everyone must undergo a grueling interrogation, all while locked in an estate where, suddenly, the greatest luxury is innocence.



A glass shatters. Someone screams below deck as the Blood Rose hits a patch of choppy sea. Kassidy ignores the noise and keeps talking. "Chloe may be super smart or whatever, but even Dean Halliwell nodded off during her valedictorian speech, and he's the most boring person I've ever met."

Kassidy doesn't seem to care that Chloe could climb the stairs at any minute and hear us talking about her. I adjust my seasickness wristbands and take a steadying breath. The loungers on Kassidy's yacht are plush, but I can't get comfortable. Maybe I'm uneasy because of the rocking waves. Or maybe because I know what's buried inside the backpack resting at my feet. Either way, I keep hoping to see Sparrow Island on the horizon.

It's a cool day for June, but the sun shines brightly above the dark water. Seabirds coo and caw overhead, occasionally dipping their bills into the cold sea for fish. Kassidy has pulled her graduation dress above her thighs so her long legs don't get tan lines. If she were less wealthy, her skin would be ivory from living through winters in Maine. But when you spend your school breaks in places like Seychelles, you end up with a honey glow year-round. I don't need to travel to look tan—my last name's Morales.

The telltale pop of a cork reaches our ears.

"They've opened the champagne!" says Kassidy, jumping off her lounger and running to the metal railing. The Blood Rose has tiered levels, so from each deck you can see the edge of the next. "Bring me a glass, babe," she calls to Blaine, leaning so far over the railing her head disappears from view. "And one for Izzy too."

I reluctantly slide off my lounger and join Kassidy. Blaine is no longer wearing his cap and gown, or even his shirt. His broad back is bent over a table where he's filling glasses from a magnum bottle of something that probably costs more than I've made at Pegasus Books all semester.

The smile he flashes at Kassidy falters when he sees me. I hurry away from the railing and return to my lounger.

Kassidy pops back up and ties her glossy blond waves into a messy bun. "Anyway," she says obliviously, "I think students should vote for the valedictorian. Otherwise, you end up with drippy geniuses reciting tortured clichés about their hopes and dreams."

I nod, only half listening. Stupid Blaine, I think. He's going to ruin everything if he keeps looking at me with those guilty eyes.

I respond a few beats too late. "At least you didn't have to watch the other parents treat your mom like a pariah at the reception."

Kassidy rolls her eyes sympathetically. "Like, how dare she give their precious babies tough math grades." She flops onto her lounger and smiles. "My parents couldn't believe she gave me a C in calculus. They thought I'd get the best-friend grade boost."

A stiff breeze lifts my curls into the air. The cool spray of water and the buzzing hum of the engine make me feel a million miles away from my family's apartment in Harker.

I wonder what my mom and sister are doing at home without me. It's hard to believe only three hours ago we were stuck in a stuffy auditorium listening to Chloe's address: Though our time at Marian Academy is over, the lessons we've learned here will never fade. As you go into the world and confront its challenges, always remember the school motto: Fortis Fortuna adiuvat!

Fortune favors the bold.

I think about my backpack again. I felt like a budding sociopath when I packed the knife, wrapping it carefully in a pair of jeans and shoving it to the bottom of my bag. Now I wonder: Will I have the strength to be bold?

Footsteps sound on the stairs. "Your butler has arrived," says a sarcastic voice. I turn to see Fergus balancing three glasses of champagne between his fingers. He's dressed in what he calls Euro chic but his critics at school have deemed Euro geek: snug olive slacks, brown loafers, and a button-down shirt with sleeves rolled up to his pasty elbows. His dirty-blond hair is styled with a swirl, like a 1950s greaser, and his small brown eyes are scrunched with his ever-present smirk.

He nods at Kassidy, who flashes him a tight-lipped smile. Fergus is Blaine's best friend from childhood, and he and Kassidy have been locked in a battle for Blaine's attention for years.

"Blaine's too busy to serve you," says Fergus. "He's begging Ellison for details about next year's Olympic rowing trials."

Kassidy and I each grab a glass. Fergus clinks his against ours. "To never setting foot in that prison full of backstabbing prima donnas again," he says.

"Gus, what are you talking about?" I laugh. "You loved Marian."

"And you're the top backstabbing prima donna," adds Kassidy. "Prince of the theater."

Fergus's face turns sour. "I suppose you think Blaine is the king."

"More like a god." Kassidy playfully fans her face as she says it, but I know she's not joking. It was Blaine's performance in Almost, Maine that brought them together. When she saw him onstage our freshman year, she fell into his blue-eyed smolder and never returned.

"Gross," says Fergus. "The only reason so many students came to our productions is that Ms. Kepler invited all the Hollywood B-listers her dad works with. And if I occasionally dropped hints about gossip to include in the school paper," he says, turning to me, "that doesn't make me a backstabber."

I laugh again. "Never change, Gus."

My friends had bloomed like flowers at Marian Academy; I'd been more like an invasive weed. Kassidy cried when we walked out of Marian for the last time, but I felt only relief. Relief that I'd never again have to wave at my mom in the halls, or see the other students smirk at my faded uniform, or stand by Kassidy's side looking like a short, curvy letter S next to her perfect T. Relief and hope that things might be different in college.

"I want in on the toast," says a deep voice from the staircase.

A few seconds later, Ellison finishes the climb from middeck and slams his glass against ours with such enthusiasm I can't believe they don't break.

"Sorry." He laughs. "Guess I don't know my own strength."

Fergus rolls his eyes so hard they look like boiled eggs.

Ellison props himself against the railing, which comes only to the top of his thighs. The stubble usually dotting his dark-brown skin has been shaved for the graduation ceremony. Every inch of him looks like a future Olympic athlete. I'm half-surprised he didn't row himself to Sparrow Island.

Ellison yells to the deck below. "Blaine, you coming?"

Heavy footsteps bang up the stairs. Blaine barrels into sight, still holding the magnum of champagne. The black T-shirt he's put on over his dark jeans contrasts sharply with the big white sneakers hugging his feet. Blaine's always decked out in the kind of hypercasual look popular among the rich kids who can spend thousands of dollars on the latest kicks.

"Looks like I found the party," he says. He puts down the champagne and connects his phone to a little Bluetooth speaker he pulls out of his back pocket. When he presses Play, loud rap drowns out the jet-engine sound of the wind. Blaine's giant watch sparkles in the sun as he grabs the champagne again and chugs straight from the bottle.

"Your girlfriend is worshipping your godlike feats of acting," says Fergus, his voice dripping with derision. "Might want to take advantage of her good mood."

Blaine squeezes himself onto Kassidy's lounger and pulls her into his lap with his free hand. "My girl's always in a good mood," he says, earning a laugh from the rest of us, who have all been on the receiving end of one of Kassidy's sulks. She leans against him, and they indulge in the kind of kiss most of us would hide behind closed doors.

"I wondered where you went," says the lilting voice of Marian's valedictorian.

Kassidy and Blaine tense and break apart. Ellison stands a little straighter and runs a smoothing palm over his short brown hair.

Chloe Li mounts the final stair and walks hesitantly over to the group with a still-full glass of champagne. Like Blaine, she's dressed casually: high-waisted jeans, a sporty crop top, and red trainers. She recently chopped her straight black hair to her chin, and some evil stylist cut her bangs too short, like a sadistic child might do to a Bratz doll. It's not a good look.

Kassidy scowls at Chloe, then rolls off Blaine and walks to the other side of the deck. Blaine sets down the champagne bottle and follows her with a barely audible groan. Chloe frowns at them, not used to their fireworks.

Ellison breaks the awkward silence. "Loved the graduation issue of the school paper," he says to me, smiling warmly. "Especially the retrospective you did on old Calloway."

"Kassidy helped me on that one," I say. "Dr. Calloway used to work as a model in New York. She loves Kassidy's fashion column."

"I can't believe she's taught at Marian for fifty years," adds Chloe, clearly relieved to have something to say. "It's weird to think I might never have met any of you if she hadn't pushed the administration to let girls apply."

Ellison holds his glass out to her. "That would be a loss for all of us," he says.

Chloe flushes pink as she clinks his glass. I turn away to hide my grin. Although it's been a while since Ellison set off butterflies in my stomach, I remember how pleasant the sensation is. It's a good thing Nestor couldn't come on the trip; he wouldn't like watching Chloe get swept up in a new flirtation so soon after dumping her.

Fergus, who's been watching Ellison and Chloe with stormy eyes, interrupts their conversation. "Where's Marlowe?" he asks.

"Inside, on one of the couches," says Chloe. "He told me he'd rather finish his book than get slapped by the wind."

"Typical," mutters Fergus. "He probably gets seasick and doesn't want to admit it."

"Or maybe he's not used to being on a yacht this small," jokes Ellison.

Kassidy and Blaine return arm in arm a few minutes later, smiling happily. Whatever she was pissed about, she's over it. That's one of the best things about Kassidy: She doesn't hold a grudge.

Just as I start to debate joining Marlowe, Kassidy squeals and begins to dance on her tiptoes. "There's Sparrow Island!" she says, pointing at a fast-approaching rock covered with wild grasses and thick pine groves. It looks like someone dropped a crescent of forest into the middle of the ocean. "You can't see Ashwood Manor because it's on the other side of the hill."

"I told you I should have sent my Jag over on the ferry," grumbles Blaine. "You packed like ten suitcases. We'll never be able to lug them up that hill."

"Relax," says Kassidy. "We have drivers waiting for us." I can tell she's trying not to look too pleased with herself, which makes me suspicious. She'd told me about the surprise graduation trip to Ashwood Manor only a few days before. And she hadn't said anything about cars.

After what feels like another queasy hour but is really only ten minutes, the yacht pulls into port. Crewmen jump off the boat and use lines to maneuver us close to a long dock surrounded by bright-green ferns. Once we're tied up, they attach a ladder to the side so we can climb off without falling. A crew member tries to shoo away the gulls scavenging crumbs on the dock, but they scurry around him like he's part of the scenery.

I grab my backpack and strap it on firmly. It's no mystery why the nerves rolling through my stomach won't settle: It's how I always feel when I'm about to talk to Marlowe.

Before I can not-so-secretly rush to meet him as we disembark, Kassidy grabs my arm and holds me back while the others clamber down the stairs to collect their bags. She's bouncing on her feet as if she might dive overboard.

For a minute, I forget about Marlowe. "I've seen this look," I say. "You have another surprise."

She smiles. "You know me too well."

"Please tell me it's not strippers again."

She laughs so loudly the gulls screech with displeasure and launch themselves into the sky. "Not strippers," she assures me. Then her face turns serious. "My surprise involves everyone, but I want you to know that everything I did, I did for the two of us." She drags me toward the staircase. "I can't wait to see your face. This is going to be the best week ever."



Kassidy and Izzy sat in their usual spot: the teal leather recliners in the front row of Kassidy's home theater. The room was tucked in the corner of the east wing, so Kassidy's parents couldn't hear the piercing music of the old movies Kassidy and Izzy screened every Wednesday after school.

This evening, Kassidy couldn't sit still. Every few minutes, she jumped up, ball gown trailing behind her, and twirled like a ballerina.

Izzy mindlessly stuffed buttered popcorn into her mouth. No matter how hard she tried to focus, her thoughts were far away from the movie. It wasn't until Kassidy hopped up for the fifth time that Izzy finally noticed her.

"Did you pop a pill or something?" asked Izzy as Kassidy almost fell over from spinning so fast. The Secret of the Ruby Dagger played on in the background. "You're not allowed to be bored during our favorite movie."

Kassidy stopped whirling. "I have two words for you, Izzy."

Izzy waited, distracted by Marla Nevercross, the silent-screen siren famous for her wide-eyed pout and her obsession with cheetahs. Izzy and Kassidy were at the part of the movie where she catches her husband seducing Cara Ashwood in the rose garden. "Well?" asked Izzy. "What are they?"

"I want you to guess," said Kassidy, tucking her hair behind her ears.

"You want me to guess two words out of the whole English language?"

"It's about your graduation surprise."

Izzy groaned. "Please tell me it's not something that will get us arrested. Or killed."

"Get a grip," said Kassidy. "When have I ever planned anything dangerous?"

"How about two years ago when we built a canoe by watching YouTube videos and nearly capsized in the river?" said Izzy. "Or last summer, when we stole your dad's motorcycles and rode them up to that folk festival in Canada?"

Kassidy laughed. "The people at those biker bars were super nice."

"I can't believe they didn't check our IDs."

"And you spent all that time making them in Photoshop." Kassidy paused. "This plan is different. It's . . . sophisticated."

"Sophisticated how?"

"It involves an island."

Izzy's mind scrolled through the possibilities. "Let me guess," she said. "Diving with sharks? Hang gliding off bluffs into the ocean?" She swept a piece of popcorn off the recliner. "Maybe we should skip the hard part and go straight to drowning ourselves."

Kassidy sighed louder than the music in the movie. "I'll give you a hint if you promise to keep an open mind."

"Fine," said Izzy. "But I will not be doing anything that involves sharks."

"You won't regret this," called Kassidy as she darted out of the theater. Izzy could hear the tread of her bare feet on the creaking staircase that led to the staff kitchen.

Izzy slid off the leather recliner and paced around the home theater while Marla Nevercross slapped her screen husband across the face. The room was dark and cool, and Izzy shivered in the delicate flapper dress she'd borrowed from Mrs. Logan's warehouse-sized closet.

Ever since Kassidy's mom had discovered, midspeech at the Marian Academy holiday ball, that one of her priceless Vionnet dresses had butter stains on the hem, she'd banned Kassidy and Izzy from wearing any of her vintage pieces. Kassidy grudgingly wore replicas in the months that followed, but she insisted that their last after-school screening deserved the best her mom's closet had to offer.

Kassidy shuffled back into the room balancing two tumblers clinking with ice. Her wavy hair fell into her face, giving her the tousled, bohemian look dozens of girls at school had tried to copy without success. She handed Izzy one of the drinks.

"Here's your clue," she said. "They're virgin. I know your mom would freak if you came home toasted on a school night."

Izzy took a sip, then another. She was used to drinking the fancy alcohol the Logans stocked in their cabinets. When Kassidy's parents went out of town, her parties never involved kegs or red Solo cups; she was strictly an upscale-drinks-in-a-real-glass kind of girl.

"Any guesses?" asked Kassidy.

Izzy wasn't in the mood for guessing games. She should have lied and told Kassidy she was too sick to come over. If Kassidy knew the secret Izzy was keeping from her, she wouldn't have wanted her there anyway.

"I give up," said Izzy.

Kassidy frowned. "You clearly woke up on the wrong side of the bed, so I'll give you another hint. Well, not a hint. More like a gift."

Izzy rubbed her temples. "A cocktail with real alcohol?"

Kassidy laughed. "No, but it is something sweet. I invited Marlowe to Ashwood Manor."

For the first time all evening, Kassidy had Izzy's full attention. "Marlowe?" asked Izzy. "Wait . . . That Ashwood Manor?" She pointed to the screen, where Marla Nevercross stood sobbing over her husband's body, which was sprawled across a flagstone terrace on the grounds of Theodore Ashwood's estate.

"I wasn't planning to tell you yet, but you know I can't stand moping."

"I thought you said the museum doesn't open until fall," said Izzy.

Kassidy smiled. "My parents have donated enough money to the restoration to ask for a special favor."

Izzy clapped her hands to her face. "We get to be the first ones to tour the house?"

"Not tour. Stay. For a week."

"A week at Ashwood Manor," repeated Izzy in a daze. Then she remembered the other part of Kassidy's surprise. "With Marlowe? I told you I was over him."

"And I'm your best friend, so I knew you were lying."

She was right. Izzy had tried so hard to ignore her crush on Marlowe. But it hadn't worked. Every time she saw him, it felt like the world narrowed until they were in a bubble universe no one else could enter.

"He has a girlfriend," said Izzy.

Kassidy rolled her eyes. "He told you that months ago," she said. "Plus, she lives in Rome. No way they last."

"You don't even like Marlowe," said Izzy. "Won't a week with just the three of us be awkward?"

"God, yes," said Kassidy with a shiver. "Which is why I also invited Blaine, Chloe, Fergus, and Ellison. I asked Nestor, but his parents are whisking him away to Monaco after graduation to see his grandparents. The owner agreed to rent the house exclusively, so it'll just be the seven of us and some staff. Your mom said she can take care of Caye while you're gone."

Excitement broke through Izzy's malaise. A whole week on the island where her favorite movie of all time was filmed. And not only that. A whole week unsupervised with Marlowe.

So far, her relationship with Marlowe didn't add up to much. Nods in the hallways at Marian. A few awkward conversations at Pegasus Books. But that hadn't stopped her from daydreaming about eating lunch with him in the courtyard or kissing him in the stockroom.

That last fantasy played on repeat during duller work shifts.

"What does a cocktail have to do with Ashwood Manor?" asked Izzy, remembering the clue.

Kassidy's shrug was casual when she answered. Too casual. "Theodore Ashwood built the house in the 1920s, and that's when French 75s were popular." Izzy opened her mouth to press her for whatever she still wasn't saying, but Kassidy cut her off. "Shush, we'll miss the last scene."

They watched the silent actors mime their final, tearful goodbye. As the shock of Kassidy's surprise wore off, a tiny glimmer of hope sparkled in Izzy's thoughts: Blaine was coming to Ashwood Manor too.

In an estate that big and on an island that remote, it wouldn't be hard to find a way to isolate him from the others. It might finally be the perfect opportunity. She would just have to be ready.

After the movie ended, Izzy followed Kassidy back to her bedroom, where they changed into normal clothes. "I can't believe you're bailing on Paris," said Izzy, flopping onto a bubblegum-pink pouf. Spending time in Kassidy's room was like being trapped in a child's dollhouse. Pastels and lacy ruffles and cutesy stuffed animals reached into every corner. "Ashwood Manor is amazing, but it's not the Louvre."

Kassidy stared out her picture windows at the sun setting behind the hills. She was the kind of beautiful that made art students want to paint her, and in the dying light she looked like a Thayer angel. "This might be the last time we're all together," she said. "Everything's going to change when we go to college."

"You and I will always be best friends, Kass."

Kassidy shot Izzy a crooked smile. "I know. But Blaine will be a thousand miles away. And everyone keeps telling me long-distance relationships are doomed to—"

Screaming interrupted Kassidy's train of thought, and stomping rattled the fan. Izzy looked at the ceiling in alarm. "Since when do your parents yell at each other?"

"It's nothing," said Kassidy. "Just drama at my dad's work." She hurried away from the windows. "I'll ask Miguel to get the Bentley."

Kassidy's driver dropped Izzy off at her apartment building on the outskirts of town. It was a three-story brick complex with uneven sidewalks and burglar bars over the windows. Izzy's mom sat at a round table in their cramped kitchen, grading exams.

"¿Tienes tarea?" she asked.

Izzy shook her head and responded in English. "There are two days of class left. You're the only teacher still assigning seniors work."

"There are no breaks in the real world."

Izzy grabbed an orange soda from the fridge. "My friends will never have to face the real world."

Her mom blew out air like a bull. "Money doesn't protect you from everything," she said, splashing red X's across the papers.

Her mom had taught at Marian Academy since Izzy's freshman year of high school. She heard the whispers about how she was hired only because she was Latina, but criticisms rolled off her like water off wax paper. Izzy sometimes thought the other teachers envied her mom's youth. She'd fallen pregnant with Izzy in high school and hadn't gotten her degree until after Caye was born. Izzy stared at her long curly hair and smooth skin and wondered if she'd be as pretty at that age. Then her thoughts turned dark: Beauty wasn't always a blessing.

"Isadora, are you listening?"

When the room came into focus around Izzy, she realized her mom had called her name multiple times. "Caye's waiting for you. You should say good night so she can go to sleep."

Izzy swigged her final sip of soda and headed down the narrow hallway to her sister's bedroom, scooting around the wheelchair collapsed against the wall.

Caye lay in bed wearing patterned pajamas that were much too young for her and clutching an old stuffed cat. "You're home!" she shrieked.

Izzy quickly hushed her.

"Sorry," said Caye with wide eyes. "I forgot not to make noise."

"It's fine," soothed Izzy. "We just don't want the neighbors to complain again."

Caye smooshed a bent finger against her mouth. "You weren't here," she whispered.

On Sale
Sep 5, 2023
Page Count
320 pages