NOWHERE MAN, Psychological Suspense—Rosemary DiBattista
Comp Titles: Laura Lippman’s I’D KNOW YOU ANYWHERE, Emma Cline’s THE GIRLS
Hook Line: A middle-aged woman is forced to reckon with her past when the serial killer from whom she escaped more than fifty years earlier is released from prison—and she holds the evidence to put him back there.
Allison Russo knows that older women become invisible, which is exactly how she likes it—the serial killer from whom she escaped more than fifty years earlier is out of prison and determined to track her down.
In the hot summer of 1966, twelve-year-old Ally loves the Mets, Spiderman comics, and Ricky Nelson. But Ally’s quiet existence in her working-class New Jersey town is shattered when she accepts a ride from teenage serial killer Steven Manning. Trapped in the car and driven to a desolate wood, Ally frantically fights off her attacker with a heavy silver ID bracelet she finds in the seat. She manages to escape, but withdraws inside her locked house, telling no one about the assault and hiding the bracelet. And despite the disappearance of two other girls that summer, she remains silent. But when Manning threatens her mother, Ally turns investigator, playing a dangerous cat-and-mouse game that culminates in a Halloween night chase. A year later, Manning is convicted of murder and imprisoned; soon after, he sends Ally the first of a series of threatening letters that continue for decades.
More than half a century later, Allison, now a mother and grandmother, gets a visit from retired police officer Hal Greenwood: the convicted killer is out on early parole. Greenwood, who worked the case as a rookie cop, seeks Allison’s help in reopening a cold case for which he suspects Manning, the unsolved 1964 murder of Sarah Anne Rosen. Allison refuses, but a closer look at the bracelet she’s kept for fifty years reveals the initials of the dead girl. She now holds the means to put Manning back in prison, and he knows it …
One of her flip-flops was broken, and the black, tar-speckled asphalt was too hot for bare feet; with every step, Ally curled her toes to keep the rubber sandal on. The bike rack was at the far end of the park, and there was nowhere to cut across the grass. She clutched her wet towel under one arm, her white transistor dangling from her wrist. Dan Ingram, her favorite DJ, said The Supremes were next, and she didn’t want to miss the song. As she shuffled along, the radio swayed from side to side, and she hummed along with Diana Ross, whose voice sounded tinny and slow as the battery wound down. She gave up and switched off the radio when she reached the bicycle rack. Ally always left her bike in the same slot, third from the right. It wasn’t until she backed it out that she saw the flat tire and dented rim.
“Damn,” she muttered, even though she wasn’t supposed to curse. Now she’d have to walk it home. She threw everything in the basket—her wet towel and suit, the broken flop, and her radio—and wheeled the bike out to the hot sidewalk. She gripped the handlebars, slippery with sweat, struggling to keep the bike upright and trying to ignore her burning left foot. Tenth Street was up ahead, and from there it was another five blocks home. Keeping the street sign in her sights, she counted her steps under her breath. One, two, three, four …
“You having trouble there, kid?”
She jerked around to see a green car cruising beside her, the driver hanging out the window and grinning. But she couldn’t tell if he was laughing at her, because his eyes were behind aviator sunglasses. His hair was dark, with long bangs. He pushed them aside and she stared at his eyebrows, shaped like two arrows pointing to the sky.
“You’re Ally Russo, right?”
She stopped and frowned. “How do you know my name?”
“I know your brother.”
“You know Robbie?”
“Sure do. He drives a white Corvair. And what will he say if he finds out I let his kid sister walk home with one shoe? Pushing a bike down a hot street?” He pulled over to the curb and cut the engine. “Here. I’ll put it in the trunk for you.”
“No … I can’t. Uh, that’s okay, really.” She clutched the rubber grips so hard her knuckles bumped up like little bone mountains. But he was already out of the car and facing her, resting his hands on the handlebars, close enough that Ally could see her distorted reflection in his sunglasses. Despite the July heat, he was wearing a green army jacket; there were big circles of sweat under his arms.
“Ah, I know,” he said. “Can’t take a ride with strangers, right? But I’m not a stranger.”
She was about to say no—her lips open, forming the word—when he pulled the bike from her hands and hoisted it into the open trunk. He slammed it shut, gestured to the passenger side door, and grinned. “C’mon, Princess—your carriage awaits.”
Bio: I am a former journalist and teacher, and as Rosie Genova, the author of the Italian Kitchen Mysteries (NAL/Penguin), the first of which was a Suspense Magazine Best Pick, a Daphne finalist, and a national bestseller. My non-fiction work has appeared in various publications, including The New York Times.