Lake Warren is forty-four years old and in the midst of a divorce initiated by her husband, Jack, who has moved out of their Upper West Side apartment. Working as a marketing consultant for a Manhattan fertility clinic, Advanced Fertility Center, Lake’s legal issues have just worsened: Jack has petitioned the court for full custody of their two children, Amy and Will, both of whom are away for several weeks at summer camp. Lake is warned by her lawyer to maintain her normal routine vis a vis the children, limiting overnight business trips and delegation of the children’s care to nannies or babysitters. Most importantly, he advises that, since she is not dating anyone at the present time, she refrain from introducing any potential new suitors to the children. The custody claim is “probably a ploy for money,” the lawyer tells her, given that Jack will be liable for both child and spousal support, in addition to dividing the community assets with Lake. Still, since Jack might go so far as to employ a private investigator to monitor her activities, he advises Lake to be extremely conservative and cautious, pending resolution of the custody matter.
Dr. Mark Keaton has decided to join the Advanced Fertility Center’s Park Avenue practice, so Lake is invited to join the staff for a celebratory dinner. Lake is attracted to Keaton, even though she senses that he is a ladies’ man, a player. She is disappointed when he tells her that his plan to join the practice may have hit a snag, and the clinic may not be the best place for him, after all. Despite her attorney’s advice, Lake accepts Keaton’s invitation to join him at his apartment for an after-dinner drink and, uncharacteristically, sleeps with him. Awake at three o’clock and unable to fall back asleep, Lake wanders out to Keaton’s twelfth-floor terrace as he continues sleeping soundly in the bedroom’s apartment. She settles in on a comfortable chaise lounge, the city lights around her and “the air as soft as a piece of warm cloth against her skin,” and soon dozes off.
At 5:13 a.m., Lake awakes with a start. As she moves back into the apartment, she sees that the bedroom door, which she had closed halfway, is now fully open. The bathroom light is on and she hears water running. Thinking that Keaton is in the bathroom, she softly asks him, “Are you looking for me?” When he doesn’t answer, Lake continues into the bedroom, realizing that Keaton is still in bed, lying on his back — in a puddle of his own blood! His throat has been slashed and his right hand is clenched in a fist near his neck, frozen in place as though he died reaching for the wound. Indeed, he is dead.
Lake Warren is intelligent, attractive, successful, and just beginning to reclaim the self-confidence that was shattered when Jack pulled away from her and, eventually, their marriage. She is also lonely and feeling very vulnerable when she meets Dr. Mark Keaton and decides, just for one night, to forget about caution and fulfill her own needs. When Lake discovers that Keaton has been murdered as she slept on his terrace, she flees the scene. Subsequently, fearing that her presence in Keaton’s apartment will make her a murder suspect and cost her custody of her children, Lake lies to the police about her whereabouts on that evening.
Author Kate White has penned five best-selling mysteries featuring crime journalist Baily Weggins, in addition to serving as the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine. Seeking to write a psychological suspense thriller with a darker theme, she was intrigued by the notion of a fertility clinic as a setting because of the experiences of friends who have struggled with fertility issues. The clinic setting also provided fertile ground for suspense, given that the industry is largely unregulated and there have been some headline-making mistakes made by fertility specialists in recent years. The two concepts merged, resulting in the creation of a compelling new female protagonist, Lake Warren, who makes a reckless choice one night and, in the aftermath, discovers that she has placed everything she holds dear in jeopardy.
In a situation like that, as a mom, you go with your instincts and you make a choice. Even though her choice was legally wrong, I would have done exactly the same thing.~ Author Kate White
Lake soon realizes that someone either knows that she was in Keaton’s apartment on the night he was murdered or her husband is trying to frighten her into giving him custody. The police do not appear to have any immediate leads as to the identity of the killer, and Lake continues receiving insider tips through the image consultant the fertility clinic quickly hires to perform damage control. But with each bit of information she learns, Lake realizes that she is in danger — and her children might be, too.
The story is a veritable roller coaster of suspense and emotions as Lake struggles to uncover the truth before the police figure out that she was the woman who visited Keaton’s apartment on the evening of his death. Lake has to be brave and continue her investigation in order to save herself, her family, and her career, but she is extremely frightened and, as events unfold, it is clear that her fears are justified. Nothing and no one seems to be off-limits and Lake has no way of knowing who might be trust-worthy, especially when it appears that the killer might be someone on staff at the clinic who was literally handed access to Keaton’s apartment — and may have observed Lake there. The “snag” to which Keaton might have been referring when he stated that his association with the clinic may not come to fruition could have to do with clinic practices or one or more aspects of Keaton’s personal life. White provides her readers with a plethora of possibilities, any one of which could lead to the truth, along with an entire supporting cast of potential suspects, each of whom has a plausible motive for wanting Keaton dead and Lake out of the way, as well.
The action is nonstop and pulse-accelerating, as Lake draws close to solving the mystery, then encounters another dead-end. For the most part, that start-and-stop action, set against the backdrop of Manhattan’s neighborhoods and burroughs, is largely believable and realistic, from the posh Upper East and West Side locales to the smells emanating from the Hudson River. There are only a couple of times when readers must suspend disbelief in order to remain invested in the tale. One such moment is when Lake reaches out to an investigative reporter who, despite the fact that he has never met Lake before and has not researched her background, gives up the name of a source. It’s a minor plot point, however, and entirely forgivable, especially since it could be argued that the lead had not proved useful and the reporter may have been hoping that Lake would be able to develop the story for him if he leaked the information to her. Indeed, the two end up collaborating and, by the time all of the mysteries are solved and Lake’s life appears to be returning to normal, White hints that their relationship may be on the verge of sequing from professional to personal.
White is a skilled mystery writer, keeping the action moving at a fast pace and holding the reader’s attention to the very last page. Unlike some authors who telegraph the killer’s identity early in the story with the reader’s remaining challenge being only to see if he/she guessed correctly at the outset, White deftly throws her reader completely off course . . . and keeps him/her guessing until the moment White selects to reveal the back story. For the record, I did not correctly deduce the killer’s identity and was completely shocked when White explained who murdered Keaton and why. I was completely taken in, as I’m sure White intended me to be, in part because I became immersed in Lake’s plight, as well as her ever-heightening anxiety. I was tempted to make sure the doors and windows were locked and pull a table in front of my front door, even as Lake barricaded herself in her New York apartment when she thought the killer might pay her a visit there.
The underlying premise of Hush is ultimately what makes the story intriguing and Lake’s journey so exciting: What if you told a lie in order to protect yourself and your family from the consequences of a momentary and quite uncharacteristic lapse in judgment? What kind of fall-out might result? And could it possibly be worse than had you told the truth in the first place? Who would you turn to for help? Would there be anyone with whom you could share the truth? “If there’s something you don’t want anyone to know, the only person you should tell is yourself,” White says. For Lake Warren, one word to the wrong person could be her undoing. But will it be? The fun lies in finding the answers to those questions.
Enter to Win a Copy of Hush
Author Kate White has graciously provided a copy of Hush to be awarded to one lucky reader who will be selected at random!
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