Nora Warren hides her dark side well because she’s had years of practice.
The wife of a lawyer and mother of two girls, she slides under everyone’s radar, never revealing what she really is—a murderer.
At least, she feels like one.
Nora’s plagued by the secrets surrounding her older brother’s suicide decades earlier. Yet she lives as though he never existed.
Now, in her thirties, Nora suspects her husband, Dave, is having an affair with her friend, the wife of a leading US Senate candidate. When her friend’s body is discovered—another apparent suicide—Nora is left with haunting secrets and choices that dredge up her grim nature, the side of herself that no one ever sees. Will she act on her impulses? Mustn’t she?
How far will Nora go to protect the life she has built for herself?
“A nurturing and protective elementary school teacher is thrust into a web of unspeakable evil. Riveting, suspenseful and diabolical, Child’s Play keeps the reader anxiously and eagerly turning the pages.” ―Mary Jane Clark, New York Times best-selling author on Child’s Play
“…thrill ride…packs a wallop. By the end, the body count of Child’s Play adds up to eight (plus one rape), and delivers the shocking answer.” ―Mystery Scene on Child’s Play
“Surprising, dark, and even disturbing. A fragile and vulnerable young teacher faces a terrifying first day of school―and that is just the riveting beginning. Timely, provocative and sinister, this twisty story of family and friendship is not for the faint of heart.” ―Hank Phillippi Ryan, Agatha, Anthony, and Mary Higgins Clark Award-winning author on Child’s Play
“What’s behind these horrors culminates in helter-skelter chaos. Elle’s home becomes the center of a tragic universe, since she ‘attracted tragedy and death.’ That combination is magnified many fold as bodies pile up. And readers are left enchanted by another ‘Elle-oquent’ thriller.” ―BookReporter on Child’s Play
“The murder of the principal and a teacher on opening day at an elementary school, a terrifying scenario. In Child’s Play Merry Jones showcases her unique skill in delivering this dark, very dark, thriller with a modicum of humor. The end, well, you won’t see it coming amid the tortuous twists and turns. Merry Jones at her best!” ―Patricia Gussin, New York Times best-selling author of After the Fall on Child’s Play
“In Jones’s fast-paced third Elle Harrison novel (after 2014’s Elective Procedures), the Philadelphia second-grade teacher believes that she failed Ty Evans, a former student who later confessed to killing his abusive father, but she hopes to redeem herself with his younger brother, Seth, now enrolled in her class. With Ty newly released from juvenile detention and clashing with their alcoholic mother, Seth’s home life is unstable. When the draconian school principal and a humorless teacher―both of whom treated Ty cruelly―are murdered, Elle is torn between belief in his innocence and her desire to protect Seth. Meanwhile, the realtor charged with selling her house becomes increasingly aggressive, and when someone drugs and rapes Elle, she doesn’t know whether to suspect the realtor or the killer. The identities of the rapist and murderer are obvious well before Elle or other characters identify them. Still, Elle’s complex feelings toward her late husband―who was murdered while they were separated―add nuance and depth.” ―Publishers Weekly on Child’s Play
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Merry Jones is an award winning author who has written humor (eg. I LOVE HIM, BUT…), non-fiction (eg. BIRTHMOTHERS), and dark suspense (eg. the Zoe Hayes mysteries, the Harper Jennings thrillers, and the Elle Harrison suspense novels). Now, with her twentieth book, WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW, she’s entering the domain of domestic psychological suspense. Jones taught college writing courses for fifteen years, and leads seminars, appears on panels at writing conferences, and, with fellow members of the Liars Club, cohosts a monthly writers’ coffeehouse and the weekly Oddcast, a podcast devoted to writing and other creative endeavors.
Jones’s work has been translated into seven languages and has appeared in magazines, such as American Woman and Glamour. Jones is a member of the Authors Guild, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and the Philadelphia Liars Club. The mother of two and grandmother of one (so far) lives with her husband in Philadelphia, where she is an avid rower on the Schuylkill River and a member of Vesper Boat Club. Visit her at MerryJones.com.
PHOTO CREDIT: BILL ECKLAND
WEBSITE: http://www.merryjones.com/1801.htmlTWITTER: @MerryDDJones
ENDS: OCTOBER 28, 2019
This is from the first chapter of WHAT
YOU DON’T KNOW
From Nora’s adult years
Friday, August 10, 2018
The screams came from Sophie, and they were serious, not the kind that happened in a game, or even in a fight. These were the kind that happened when someone severed a digit, when their hair caught fire. Nora jumped to her feet, slamming her coffee mug onto the table, noting the dark splash on the placemat, the stain that was already forming.
“Girls?” she bellowed as she ran to the playroom, images pulsing in her head. A finger crushed, an arm broken. An intruder at the sliding doors. With a knife, with a gun. Oh God.
Nora swung around the newel post, flew down the half-flight of stairs, took the left past the laundry room into the den. Her socks had no traction, so she skidded over the hardwood floors into the room. Her eyes darted left to right, right to left, searching for blood, for damage, for a stranger. Only when she saw her children intact and uninjured did she allow herself to breathe.
“What?” she panted.
At the sight of her mother, Sophie stopped screaming. She halted her stomping and flailing on the sofa as if only now remembering that she might get scolded for jumping on the furniture. Hopping down, she crashed into the coffee table and knocked her plastic tea set onto the floor.
Nora thought Sophie would barrel into her arms, but no, she stopped beside Ellie, who was crouching behind the sofa’s armrest, eyes gleaming and intense like Tommy’s. Seeing how much Ellie resembled Tommy was disturbing. Nora almost heard him chuckle.
“Mom! Do something!” Bug-eyed, Sophie raised a hand and pointed at the floor near the sliding glass door.
Nora blinked Tommy away and stepped farther into the room, her gaze following the trajectory of Sophie’s finger, unable to understand the panic.
“Goodness,” she began. “What’s the big—”
Nora stopped mid-sentence, her blood halting its circulation, her skin erupting in goose bumps. Some primal sense took over, some paleo-revulsion, and she recoiled, stepping backward, stumbling over her own feet.
The spider was huge.
Nora’s shoulders hunched and her throat tightened. Damn. Her knees dissolved, so that for a few seconds, she couldn’t move.
Sophie shouted, begging her to kill it.
Ellie hugged herself and stared.
Of course, yes. She would have to kill it. But, God, it was ugly. And as big across as Sophie’s hand, with long pointed spindly legs. Looking at it made Nora’s stomach wrench and her skin writhe, yet she couldn’t look away.
“Kill it, Mommy!” Sophie screamed. Or maybe it was Ellie. It could have been either of them.
For a few heartbeats, the playroom was silent, electric with tension. Six eyes gawked at the spider. And then Ellie burst into a high-pitched constant keening that reverberated in Nora’s bones.
“Get it, Mom!” Sophie yelled, covering her ears to muffle Ellie’s wails. When had her daughters become so casual about killing? Was it too much television? She’d have to monitor what the girls were watching and talk to Dave about it. Then again, he’d only tell her she was being overprotective, that the girls had to be prepared for the world they’d live in.
“It’s coming closer!” Sophie cowered behind Ellie, hands still over her ears.
“Ellie!” Nora barked. “Cut it out. I can’t think with that noise.”
“Mom said cut it out!” Sophie yelled into her sister’s ears. “Be quiet!”
“Sophie, don’t yell in her ears,” Nora yelled, then softened her voice. “In fact, don’t yell period. And Ellie, hush.”
Finally, Ellie stopped screaming. She stood up, rapt and silent.
The spider didn’t move.
Nora edged over to the bookshelf and retrieved a wad of drawing paper. She held her breath as she rolled it up and held the makeshift tube at the ready—a slugger waiting for the pitch.
“Mom, hurry. It’s going to get away!”
Nora half hoped it would. She watched it. An alien being without bones, without a brain. Was it even aware that it existed? That it was in danger? She stepped closer, her body wracked with disgust. And definitely, without a doubt, she didn’t just see but felt the spider tense, preparing all its several limbs for battle. Oh God. How did it know? Could it hear her heartbeat? Was it watching her?
Copyright © 2019 by Merry Jones