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Lisa Scottoline delivers taut thrillers with a powerful emotional wallop in her New York Times bestsellers Save Me, Think Twice and Look Again. Now, with her new novel, Come Home, she ratchets up the suspense with the riveting story of a mother who sacrifices her future for a child from her past. Jill Farrow is a typical suburban mom, who has finally gotten her and her daughter’s life back on track after a divorce. She is about to remarry a great guy, her job as a pediatrician fulfills her, though it is stressful, and her daughter Megan is a happily over-scheduled thirteen-year-old, juggling homework and swim team. Jill’s life is turned upside-down when her ex-stepdaughter, Abby, shows up on their doorstep late one night and delivers shocking news — Jill’s ex-husband is dead. Abby insists that he was murdered and pleads with Jill to help find his killer. Jill reluctantly agrees to make a few inquiries, and discovers that things don’t add up. As she digs deeper, her actions threaten to rip apart her new family, destroy their hard-earned happiness, and even endanger her own life. Yet, Jill can’t turn her back on a child she loves and once called her own. Come Home reads with the break-neck pace of a thriller, but also explores the definition of motherhood. It asks the questions: Do you ever stop being a mother? Can you ever have an ex-child? What are the limits and love of family?
“A gripping and compelling novel about one woman solving her ex-husband’s murder, and the emotional repercussions of going back into a family you no longer know. Scottoline gets all the details right, and gives all the characters flesh and blood, breath and life. This is a novel that is as full of thrills as it is full of heart.”
– Kristin Hannah
“Three hundred pages bled through my hands and I closed the book at two a.m. If the sheer energy in Come Home could be bottled the oil companies would be out of business. The suspense and dread builds like a series of tornados flattening all in their path. The characters, Jill, Abby, Victoria, Sam, are drawn as finely as a writer could. The pace is relentless, the twists are jaw-dropping and then Scottoline piles ending on top of ending until you turn the last page and just sit there, exhausted on every level. As I closed the novel I thought that, quite simply, Scottoline is a powerhouse.”
– David Baldacci
“Scottoline is always awesome, but her latest book held me spellbound because she has such an eye for describing complicated family relationships (and I know complicated family relationships!).”
– Janet Evanovich
“Scottoline deftly speeds readers through a dizzying labyrinth of intrigue with more hairpin turns and heart-pounding drops than a theme-park ride. This thrilling testament to a mother’s relentless love may well be Scottoline’s best novel to date”.
– Library Home Journal (starred review)
By Lisa Scottoline
Jill stopped on the stairway, listening. She thought she heard a voice calling her from outside, but she’d been wrong before. It was probably the rushing of the rain, or the lash of the wind through the trees. Still, she listened, hoping.
“Babe?” Sam paused on the stair, resting his hand on the banister. He looked back at her, his eyes a puzzled blue behind his glasses. “Did you forget your phone?”
“No, I thought I heard something.” Jill didn’t elaborate. She was in her forties, old enough to have a past and wise enough to keep her thoughts about it to herself.
“What?” Sam asked, patiently. It was almost midnight, and they’d been on their way to bed. The house was dark except for the glass fixture above the stairwell, and the silvery strands in Sam’s thick, dark hair glinted in the low light. Their chubby golden retriever, Beef, was already upstairs, looking down at them from the landing, his buttery ears falling forward.
“It’s nothing, I guess.” Jill started back up the stairs, but Beef swung his head toward the front of the house and gave an excited bark. His tail started to wag, and Jill turned, too, listening again.
“It’s Abby!” Jill heard it for sure, this time. The cry resonated in her chest, speaking directly to her heart. She turned around and hurried for the entrance hall, and Beef scampered downstairs after her, his heavy butt getting ahead of him, like a runaway tractor-trailer.
“Abby who?” Sam called after her. “Your ex’s kid?”
“Yes.” Jill reached the front door, twisted the deadbolt, flicked on the porch light, and threw open the door. Abby wasn’t there, and Jill didn’t see her because it was so dark. There were no streetlights at this end of the block, and the rain obliterated the outlines of the houses and cars, graying out the suburban scene. Suddenly, a black SUV with only one headlight drove past, spotlighting a silhouette that Jill would know anywhere. It was Abby, but she was staggering down the sidewalk as if she’d been injured.
“Sam, call 911!” Jill bolted out of the house and into the storm, diagnosing Abby on the fly. It could have been a hit-and-run, or an aneurysm. Not a stroke, Abby was too young. Not a gunshot or stab wound, in this neighborhood.
Jill tore through the rain. Beef bounded ahead, barking in alarm. The neighbor’s motion-detector went on, casting a halo of light on their front lawn. Abby stumbled off of the sidewalk. Her purse slipped from her shoulder and dropped to the ground. Abby took a few more faltering steps, then collapsed, crumpling to the grass.
“Abby!” Jill screamed, sprinting to Abby’s side, kneeling down. Abby was conscious, but crying. Jill reached for her pulse and scanned her head and body for signs of injury, and there were none. Rainwater covered Abby’s face, streaking her mascara and blackening her tears. Her hair stuck to her neck, and rain plastered her thin sundress to her body. Her pulse felt strong and steady, bewildering Jill. “Abby, Abby, what is it?”
“You have to…hold me.” Abby raised her arms. “Please.”
Jill gathered Abby close, shielding her from the rain. She’d held Abby so many times before, and all the times rushed back at her, as if her very body had stored the memories, until this very moment. Jill flashed on the time Abby had fallen off her Rollerblades, breaking an ankle. Then the time Abby had gotten a C in her trig final. The time she didn’t get picked for the travel soccer team. Abby had always been a sensitive little girl, but she wasn’t a little girl anymore, and Jill had never seen her cry this hard.
“Abby, honey, please, tell me, and I can help.”
“I can’t say it…it’s so awful.” Abby sobbed, and Jill caught a distinct whiff of alcohol on her breath and came up to speed. Abby wasn’t injured, she’d been drinking. Jill hadn’t seen her in three years, and Abby had grown up, she’d be nineteen now. Abby sobbed harder. “Jill, Dad’s dead…he’s dead.”
“What?” Jill gasped, shocked. Her ex-husband was in excellent health, still in his forties. “How?”
“Somebody… killed him.” Abby dissolved into tears, her body going limp, clinging to Jill. “Please, you have to…help me. I have to find out…who did it.”
Jill hugged her closer, feeling her grief and struggling to process what had happened. She couldn’t imagine William as a murder victim, or a victim of any kind, for that matter, but her first thought was of his daughters Abby and Victoria, and her own daughter, Megan. The news would devastate all of them, Megan, included. William was her stepfather, but the only father she’d ever known. Her real father had died before she was born.
“Babe, what are you doing, let’s get her into the house!” Sam shouted, to be heard over the rain. He was kneeling on Abby’s other side, though Jill didn’t know when he’d gotten there.
“William’s been murdered,” Jill told him, sounding numb, even to herself.
“I heard. We’re not calling 911, she’s just drunk.” Sam squinted against the brightness of the motion-detector light. Raindrops soaked his hair and dappled his polo shirt. “Let me take her arm. Lift her on one, two, three,” he counted off, tugging Abby’s arm.
“Okay, go.” Jill took Abby’s other arm, and together they hoisted her, sobbing, to her feet, gathered her purse, and half-walked and half-carried her toward the house, sloshing through the grass, with Beef at their heels.
Jill tried to collect her thoughts, in turmoil. She’d always dreamed of seeing Abby again, but not in these circumstances, and she dreaded telling Megan about William. But as agonized as she felt for the girls, Jill wouldn’t shed a tear for her ex-husband. There was a reason she had divorced the man, and it was a whopper.
And evidently, not only the good died young.
© Lisa Scottoline 2011
QUESTIONS FOR BOOK CLUBS
- Come Home, at its heart, is the story of family, and more specifically, the blending of families. What are the dynamics in your own family like? What do you think the greatest challenge is in blending two families?
- One of the main themes in this book is leaving home and “coming home.” In which ways have each of the main characters (Jill, Abby, Megan, Victoria) left home or come home?
- Do you understand Jill’s emotional response to Abby when she first sees her after several years? Why or why not?
- Describe Sam’s response to the dynamics between Abby and Jill. Do you agree with him? Do you relate to his response? Do you feel he acted appropriately?
- Have you ever had a situation where you were forced to be estranged from someone you cared about?
- How do you think the Abby’s and Victoria’s separation from Jill affected them?What do you think Jill could have done differently, given the circumstances?
- How would you describe Will? Why do you think Jill was so easily fooled by him?
- What rights do you think a person should have if they were instrumental in helping raise a child? What do you think is better for the child? How do you think the legal system will deal with this issue in the future given the growing number of blended families?
- Often times a parent must give the majority of their attention to the child that needs it the most. Do you feel like Jill was neglecting Megan in favor of helping Abby? What would you have done if you were Jill?
- Now, for fun—Would you help solve the murder of your ex-husband? Go easy—at least until the second glass of wine has been served.