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Masterfully blending elements of psychological suspense and true crime, Jessica Knoll–author of the bestselling novel Luckiest Girl Alive and the writer behind the Netflix adaption starring Mila Kunis–delivers a new and exhilarating thriller in Bright Young Women. The book opens on a Saturday night in 1978, hours before a soon-to-be-infamous murderer descends upon a Florida sorority house with deadly results. The lives of those who survive, including sorority president and key witness, Pamela Schumacher, are forever changed. Across the country, Tina Cannon is convinced her missing friend was targeted by the man papers refer to as the All-American Sex Killer–and that he’s struck again. Determined to find justice, the two join forces as their search for answers leads to a final, shocking confrontation.
Blisteringly paced, Bright Young Women is “Jessica Knoll at her best–an unflinching and evocative novel about the tabloid fascination with evil and the dynamic and brilliant women who have the real stories to tell” (Laura Dave, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Thing He Told Me); and “a compelling, almost hypnotic read and I loved it with a passion” (Lisa Jewell, New York Times bestselling author of None of This Is True).
Montclair, New Jersey
You may not remember me, but I have never forgotten you, begins the letter written in the kind of cursive they don’t teach in schools anymore. I read the sentence twice in stinging astonishment. It’s been forty-three years since my brush with the man even the most reputable papers called the All-American Sex Killer, and my name has long since fallen to a footnote in the story.
I’d given the return address only a cursory glance before sliding a nail beneath the envelope’s gummed seam, but now I hold it at arm’s length and say the sender’s name out loud, emphatically, as though I’ve been asked to answer the same question twice by someone who definitely heard me the first time. The letter writer is wrong. I have never forgotten her either, though she is welded to a memory that I’ve often wished I could.
“You say something, hon?” My secretary has moonwalked her rolling chair away from her desk, and now she sits framed by my open office door with a solicitous tilt of her head. Janet calls me hon and sometimes kiddo, though she is only seven years older than I am. If anyone refers to her as my administrative assistant, she will press her lips together whitely. That’s the sort of current-climate pretension Janet doesn’t care for.
Janet watches me flip the navy-bordered note card, back to front, front to back, generating a slight wind that lifts my bangs from my forehead. I must look like I’m fanning myself, about to faint, because she hurries over and I feel her hand grazing my midback. She fumbles with her readers, which hang from her neck on a rhinestone-strung chain, then juts her sharp chin over my shoulder to read the outstanding summons.
“This is dated nearly three months ago,” I say with a ripple of rage. That the women who should be the first to know were always the last was the reason my doctor made me cut out salt for the better part of the eighties. “Why am I just seeing it now?” What if I’m too late?
Janet mean-mugs the date. February 12, 2021. “Maybe security flagged it.” She goes over to my desk and locates the envelope on top of my leather-looking-but-synthetically-priced desk pad. “Uh-huh.” She underlines the return address in the upper-left corner with a square nail. “Because it’s from Tallahassee. They would have flagged that for sure.”
“Shit,” I say insubstantially. I am standing there when, just like that night, my body begins to move without any conscious consent from my mind. I find that I am packing up for the day, though it’s just after lunch and I have mediation at four. “Shit,” I say again, because this tyrannous part of me has decided that I will not only be canceling my afternoon but I will also incur a no-show fee for tomorrow’s six a.m. spin class.
“What can I do for you?” Janet is regarding me with the combination of concern and resignation that I haven’t seen in a long time—the look people give you when the very worst has happened, and really, there isn’t anything anyone can do for you, for any of us, because some of us die early and inconveniently and there is no way to predict if it will be you next, and before you know it, mourner and comforter are staring dead-eyed into the abyss. The routine comes to me viscerally though it’s been eight presidential administrations. Three impeachments. One pandemic. The towers going down. Facebook. Tickle Me Elmo. Snapple iced tea. They never got to taste Snapple iced tea. But it didn’t happen in some bygone era either. If they had lived, they’d be the same age as Michelle Pfeiffer.
“I think I’m going to Tallahassee,” I say in disbelief.
- On Sale
- Sep 19, 2023
- Page Count
- 384 pages
- Hachette Book Group