Quiet in Her Bones
Gollancz | 23 Feb, 2021 | 4 March, 2021 UK print edition
Selected as a finalist in the Ngaio Marsh 2022 Awards
Recommended by Oprah Daily in its feature
“Crime Fiction Goes Global and Diverse, as These 20 Books by Women Writers Show.”
Included in Amazon’s February 2021 Mystery/Thriller Best of the Month list
“It rained the night she disappeared,” I said before he could launch into one of his tirades. “The rain turned into a storm that crashed fences and trees all over the city.” It would’ve washed away any tire tracks, the resulting city-wide carnage making the sight of broken foliage nothing out of the ordinary.
And my mother’s car had been a dark green Jaguar.
Such a stunning hue.
So easy to miss among the deep greens of the forest.
But while I could imagine a single car being swallowed up by the forest, I also knew someone might’ve helped the forest along. It wouldn’t have needed to be much. A few branches thrown over the Jaguar, some vines. Nature would’ve soon taken over. Especially after all that nourishing rain.
“You have a good memory.” Hands in his pants pockets, Regan appeared only idly interested.
I wondered if I was a suspect. After all, sixteen isn’t a child. “That was the day my mother vanished. Every minute detail of it is engraved on my memory, along with the days immediately following.” Days when I’d still hoped and waited.
“Of course, of course.” A glance at Neri.
I didn’t care what they thought of me, what conclusions they’d drawn in the car on the way here. I was more interested in what lay below. Even knowing the Jaguar was down there, I couldn’t see it.
When the two officers stepped aside to confer with another colleague, I said, “Why did she scream that night, Dad?”
The question lay between us, dark and taunting.
“Know your place, boy,” he finally spit out before heading to the sedan.
The keys were still in the ignition and he started the engine while giving me a challenging look through the windscreen. When I didn’t run to heel as he expected, he backed up the vehicle and did a U-turn to return to the Cul-de-Sac.
Such a pretentious name. As if there’s only one Cul-de-Sac in the world, nestled in this isolated and green tributary of Auckland. The name also conjures up images of street parties and block barbeques, when these days, the Cul-de-Sac is a frosty place where opinions are hidden beneath a gauzy layer of politeness, and neighbors keep to themselves.
In my mind, it all changed that night. As if my mother’s disappearance took the life out of the Cul-de-Sac.
I was still standing there staring at the forest long after the sound of the sedan’s engine had faded, my mind on the wall of rain that night, the sound of it hushed thunder across the world. It was her scream that had woken me, piercing the veil to jerk me to heart-pounding alertness. I hadn’t been sure exactly what I’d heard, my pulse a drum in my ears as I waited for more.
I’d almost convinced myself I’d imagined it, until I heard the bang of the front door.
Scrambling out of bed, I’d run to the sliding doors that led to my private balcony. But the door had stuck as it always did when it rained. By the time I stepped out naked into the chilling rain, needles of water stabbing my skin, the Jaguar’s distinctive taillights were already fading into the rain-blurred distance.
“Mr. Rai.” Constable Neri at my elbow, her gaze incisive in a softly rounded face, and her skin a midbrown shade made dull by the lack of sunlight. “Would you like me to drive you home?”
“That’s my father,” I said. “Call me Aarav.” Not Ari. Never that. It’s what my mother called me, and I couldn’t bear to hear it from any other lips. The last girlfriend who’d tried had been so frightened by my reaction that she’d packed up and left the same day.
“You looked like you wanted to strangle me,” she’d said on the phone the next day. “That much rage, your face all twisted up until I didn’t know you anymore . . .” Her voice had broken. “Aarav, you need to see a shrink or you’ll hurt someone.”
I’d hung up and erased her number from my phone.
It had taken another year and Paige’s concern for me to admit I needed to talk to someone, and now I’m one of those people who has a therapist. Dr. Wendall Jitrnicka. He wears bow ties and we talk about crap. But I go every two weeks. Turns out I have a lot of crap in my head.
“When will you bring her out?” I asked Neri when she didn’t respond.
“As soon as forensics is done with the site. It could be hours.” A pause. “The body’s been in situ a long time.”
“I understand.” There was no rush. Better they take their time and gather as much evidence as possible. “I’ll wait.”
“Aarav. Nothing much is going to occur here. We only informed you because there’s an unfortunate risk the media will turn up and we wanted you forewarned.”
I looked down at the mass of foliage again, ancient trees with twisted limbs alongside huge tree ferns entwined with vines. The canopy screened the car more effectively than any man-made barrier. “She’s been alone a long time. I can’t leave her that way.”
Constable Neri gave a crisp nod as she left, but I could almost see her making notes in a mental file: Flat affect, macabre obsession with death, was home on the night of the incident.
When they dig deeper, they’ll discover that I’d only been a little shorter and less muscled than I am now. Plenty big enough to deal with a petite woman. Nina Rai had entered her marriage a sylph-like twenty-one-year-old, but unlike many of her peers, who’d eventually allowed time and happiness to soften their edges, gently pad their bodies, my mother had clung to her youthful shape with a kind of feral obsession.
“Control, Ari,” she’d said to me more than once when she skipped a meal or replaced it with black coffee. “It’s about control.”
Handling a woman that slender, that small, wouldn’t have been difficult for an athletic sixteen-year-old boy who had several inches on her.
Not difficult at all.
“Singh sustains tension throughout, delivering a lushly written, multilayered mystery that will keep readers guessing. Susan Isaacs fans, take note.”
– Publisher’s Weekly
“Singh perfectly conveys the sleek architecture amid an unforgiving New Zealand forest, while the fuzziness and paranoia of Aarav’s narration make this an unsettling thriller that deserves a wide audience.”
“Full of twists, turns, and genuine emotion, Quiet in Her Bones cements Singh’s place in the modern pantheon of suspense.”
– Crime Reads“Ms. Singh’s prose creates an environment of mystery and intrigue leaving the reader wondering what is real and what is an illusion in this finely crafted story.”– LynnL @Outlander Book Club“Quiet in Her Bones is a must-read for all fans of thriller novels, and I hope Nalini Singh writes more in this genre as I’m absolutely blown away by how fabulous Quiet in Her Bones is!”– Debbie @Fresh Fiction
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In this gripping thriller set in New Zealand, New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh takes you into the twisted world of an exclusive cul-de-sac located on the edge of a sprawling forest.
My mother vanished ten years ago.
So did a quarter of a million dollars in cash.
Thief. Bitch. Criminal.
Now, she’s back.
Her bones clothed in scarlet silk.
When socialite Nina Rai disappeared without a trace, everyone wrote it off as another trophy wife tired of her wealthy husband. But now her bones have turned up in the shadowed green of the forest that surrounds her elite neighborhood, a haven of privilege and secrets that’s housed the same influential families for decades.
The rich live here, along with those whose job it is to make their lives easier. And somebody knows what happened to Nina one rainy night ten years ago. Her son Aarav heard a chilling scream that night, and he’s determined to uncover the ugly truth that lives beneath the moneyed elegance…but no one is ready for the murderous secrets about to crawl out of the dark.
Even the dead aren’t allowed to break the rules in this cul-de-sac.