You should have told me

Leah Konen

Book - 2023

"A new mother chases the secrets her partner left behind after his sudden disappearance in this pulse-pounding domestic thriller from the author of The Perfect Escape"--

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FICTION/Konen Leah
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Thrillers (Fiction)
Detective and mystery fiction
New York : G. P. Putnam's Sons 2023.
Main Author
Leah Konen (author)
Item Description
Includes discussion guide (pages 379-387).
Physical Description
387 pages ; 21 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Janie, the overwhelmed new mother at the center of this uneven domestic thriller set over two fraught days from Konen (The Perfect Escape), is grateful for the support of her partner, Max, who assists with night feedings at their home in Kingston, N.Y., close to Max's parents. Then early one morning, Janie wakes up to find their six-week-old baby, Freya, screaming and Max missing. When she calls his friends and family, no one knows where Max is or seems overly concerned. Janie takes it upon herself to determine what happened, only to discover that he was last seen at a local tavern near an alley where a young woman was found murdered. The murder victim, who was married to a jealous husband and had a young child, turns out to have been an ex-girlfriend of Max's. The tension rises as it becomes clear that the husband had reason to target Max's parents and that Janie and Freya are in danger. Janie's histrionics, including frequent complaints about nursing a newborn, distract from the suspenseful, twisty plot. Hopefully, Konen will do better next time. Agent: Elisabeth Weed, Book Group. (Jan.)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

A new mother questions her partner's innocence after he disappears following the murder of a young woman. Janie and her boyfriend, Max, a former semifamous indie rock guitarist, have just left their fast-paced New York life for quiet upstate Kingston following the birth of their daughter. They've barely settled in with their newborn when Max mysteriously disappears in the middle of the night. Max's family and friends are oddly unconcerned, eventually convincing Janie that Max has disappeared before when things got rough. To make matters worse, Janie soon learns about the murder of a young woman at a nearby bar, which happened the same night Max disappeared. It doesn't take long for detectives to make Max the prime suspect, especially once they find out that he knew the woman in question. Though Janie, too, claims to suspect her partner's innocence, it doesn't come off as entirely believable; her actions, like continuing to take his calls and even sneaking off to meet him, do not quite match her thoughts or what she tells others. Her experience with postpartum depression is similar; while she constantly mentions her lack of love for her daughter, her actions don't align with her internal dialogue. Her friends are nearly psychic when it comes to supporting her whenever she needs it, despite not being very close. Max is more a fantasy of a musician than a real man. If the characters were better developed, the book might have felt more suspenseful, but their motivations are generally unclear; people's actions are constantly being explained through dialogue, which feels more like a tool to move the plot forward than actual speech. More exasperating than suspenseful. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

1 10:43 a.m. A cold-blooded scream, piercing through the cloying music. I looked down to see Freya writhing, unlatched from my breast, my nipple shriveled up from the shock of exposure, the air chilly despite the beating sun. Heads instantly turned my way, the families of Kingston gawking at the new parents who never should have brought such a young baby to a concert aimed at older kids. Freya followed her scream with a monkey cry, an eeee-eeee-eeee I'd never heard before becoming a mother, one that was so common now. Max reached into the backpack and pulled out the llama pacifier-Freya's favorite-but I shook my head and pressed her, maybe a little too firmly, back onto my boob. She stopped, thank god, just as the two guys in front went into their next verse. "Now what do we do two times a day, every day?" the one with the extremely bushy beard asked, tapping at the face of his guitar. "Sometimes even three times!" the other guy answered, resting his pick briefly between his teeth and stretching a pair of heavily tattooed arms. Then, in tandem, as if the answer were the most exciting thing in the world: "We brush our teeth!" The crowd, a smattering of families scattered across the grass of Forsyth Park, cheered along, and the song continued. When we wake up in the morning and get ready for the day, we brush our teeth, wa-hoo-a-doodley-doo, we brush our teeth, one time and definitely two... One woman was still looking our way, even though Freya was quiet now-a beautiful woman, one you might even call striking, with piercing eyes, creamy skin framed by chunky bangs, and long glossy hair. I looked down, avoiding her gaze. Stared for a moment at the heavy wool blanket Max laid out a half hour ago. Shifted against the grass, the earth still hard and thawing beneath us, an Ides of March cold emanating from beneath. I hated to be watched as a mother. I always felt as if I weren't measuring up. By the time I looked up, the woman had turned around, back to the music, back to her family. Max squeezed my hand, grounding me. "You okay?" I nodded, forcing a smile. Max's dark brown eyes shone, and his wavy hair, due for a cut, flopped in front of his eyes, his beard covered lightly in this wax product I'd got him one Christmas, his crow's-feet crinkling as a smile stretched across his face. He looked terribly handsome still, despite the lack of sleep, despite the circles beneath his eyes. What's more, he looked hopeful, brimming with new-parent bliss, a burp cloth tossed over his shoulder for the moment Freya needed it. He was so good, his presence the balm that softened the rough edges of my emotions, the highs and lows and super-lows of our post-Freya world. When he was beside me-helping, supporting, looking at her with such awe and love-I almost felt it would all be okay. I supposed it was destined to be this way, I thought, as I adjusted Freya on my breast. Max had been all encouragement, all assurances, from the moment he found out I was pregnant. He was thirty-seven when I met him, with a sense you could almost feel, seeping from his pores, that it was time to slow down. His band, the Velvet Hope, a synth-y alt-rock act that I genuinely loved, had brought him a bit of indie and festival-circuit fame but little in the way of money. Shortly before we'd met, he'd thrown most of his energy into a business offering music lessons to kids in Manhattan and Brooklyn. By the time he moved in with me six months later, he had a nice little operation going. Two instructors working under him. A reputation among the Upper East Side and Park Slope elite, buoyed by the fact that rich parents could hire the lead singer and co-founder of the Velvet Hope to teach their kids guitar chords. "This is a blessing," he'd said, when I'd showed him those two lines on the test, my face pale, my palms cold, caught between uncontrollable tears and panicked breaths. "This is a good thing." Now, Max leaned down and kissed the bottom of Freya's six-week-old foot, covered in a knit bootie his hippie aunt Tammy had crocheted just for her. Freya's crying, her fussing and needing, never seemed to bother Max the same way it did me. He took a sip of coffee, the foam of his latte leaving a light print of white against his reddish-brown mustache. "You know we saw these guys in Brooklyn, right?" "Really?" I asked. Brooklyn felt like a foreign, faraway land now, even though it was only two hours south. "Totally," Max went on, stretching his legs out, wiggling his toes beneath the black suede Vans he always wore. "The band was called Roadkill. It was that show at the Bell House, the one with the strobe lights that didn't have the warning, where the girl passed out because of all the flashing." " That show?" It had been one of those early Janie-and-Max moments, not so early that we were still playing it casual, but early enough that the world felt like its own kind of magic as we ambled through it, hand in hand. We'd gone out to a French restaurant on the Brooklyn waterfront, blowing Max's newly arrived, meager-yet-momentous royalty check on Chablis and steak frites. We'd found our way to the show after, rolling into one of our favorite venues much drunker on each other than the two glasses of wine we'd each had, Liana holding space for us near the stage. The three of us shook and shimmied and sang along like you can only do when you have absolutely nowhere important to be the next day. All fun and games until a girl dancing next to us passed out, Max instantly jumping into action, clearing the crowd, calling an ambulance, the three of us waiting outside with her friends until she was taken to Brooklyn Methodist. Such a hero he seemed, then and now. The type to swoop in and take care of things when someone was in need. The type who never thought: Someone else will do it. The type whose convictions turned so seamlessly into actions. Max raised an eyebrow. "The very one. I hope that girl was okay." That's Max for you, I thought, my heart swelling at how lucky I was to have found him. Still worried about a girl he didn't even know from however many years earlier. "Anyway," he went on. "The relevant info is, these guys never really made it in the indie scene, but I googled them when I saw this in The Daily Freeman , and they have something like ten successful kids' albums. They're making real money. It's crazy." I took in the duo properly: Ratty T-shirts. Gauged earlobes. Hats that looked plucked from the dusty shelves of one thrift store or another. I turned to Max. "Is that something that you'd want to do one day?" "Never say never, right?" he replied. "Freya would love it, I'm sure." It wouldn't be the same. It would be just another thing that's been taken over by the baby. Max, ever the optimist, was happy he'd left the Velvet Hope. It was me who seemed to miss it more, the life we'd had before Freya had turned everything to oversized maxi pads, cracked nipples, and burp cloths. The woman up front turned again, and for a moment, I forgot about bright stage lights and loud music and the magic of before . "See that woman," I said, quiet as I could. "She keeps looking at us. At me and Freya." Max looked her way, and she immediately turned around. "Who?" he asked. "The one with the long hair," I said. "And the mermaid tattoo. I know Freya was screaming, but I can't do anything about it now." Max hesitated, in that way he had of hesitating these days, when he thought I was about to get upset. He slipped his hand over mine, squeezed slightly. "It's a kids' concert. Wailing children are par for the course." I nodded, then slipped my hand from Max's and took out my phone, checking the time. His parents and Liana, who'd been staying in their own rentals in town all week, were due to meet us in just over an hour. Carl would be his usual cheerful self, would see the lack of sleep in my eyes and look at me with compassion. Brenda was another story. I'm pretty sure she lost any bit of warmth she may have had in one of the many rooms of their elaborate Westchester house. At least I'd have Liana, Max's oldest friend, and my friend, too, after all our years together. Besides, even though family brought its own kind of stress, it was nice to be surrounded by people. To feel less alone. My phone rang loudly-I'd forgotten to turn off the ringer-and my heart raced at the name on the screen: Bryan CLIENT . Quickly, I turned the volume all the way down with my right hand, holding Freya tighter with the elbow of my left arm so the sound wouldn't disturb her sucking-then flipped it over, slipping it beneath my thigh. It continued to vibrate, and as it did, it was like I was back there, at the agency last May, the day after everything changed. Eli's assistant, the one whose name I couldn't remember because he changed assistants so often walking toward me purposefully, her lancelike heels leaving pockmarks in the corporate carpet, her prominent eyebrows cinched in a knot. Sitting at the desk I'd called my own for years and never thought I'd have to leave, stomach churning, sweat already prickling the back of my neck, I'd imagined the assistant spitting in my face-or slapping me across it. I'd pictured her crossing her spindly arms and saying the words that taunted me, aloud, for all to hear. We all know what you did . But she hadn't, of course. She'd only pursed her lips. "Eli wants to speak to you." "Now?" I'd asked. "I don't have anything on my calendar-" Molly, art-director-turned-best-friend, had looked at me, raising an eyebrow. "Now," the assistant said firmly, and she'd flipped around, not waiting for a response. By the time I stood, the sweat had moved across my body-in my armpits, on my shoulders, at my temples-cold and shimmering, where everyone could see. We all know . I knew if I didn't hold it together, I might be sick, right there on the nasty low-pile carpet, a shade of taupe that was already a little too close to bile, and the one element of the big-windowed loft space that hadn't been updated when Eli had taken over this floor to start his own agency however many years earlier. I'd never forget how their eyes seemed to follow me. Jay, the junior designer I'd pushed to hire only a few weeks before. Ani, the account director I'd once beat out for a promotion but who'd remained a close friend. Eric, the video editor I'd made out with at an agency Christmas party, long before I met Max. We all know what you did. The carpet had morphed to gleaming polished concrete as we approached Eli's office, and the woman's heels took on a metronomic click, like a doomsday clock. Eli's door was open, and the elongated space was flooded with the glimmering light of the sun reflecting off the Hudson River, illuminating shelves of golden awards and photos with celebrities, dignitaries, and a cast of hangers-on. The assistant turned away, leaving me on my own, and my stomach churned again. I took two cautious steps inside, and across the room, Eli looked up from a spread of glossy photos. "Janie," he said. "Come in." My pulse rang in my ears, whooshing, as Eli cleared his throat. "Please shut the door behind you." "Agency stuff?" Max asked now, nodding down to my phone, which had finally stopped vibrating. All my clients were logged into my phone that way, or at least they had been. "Don't they know you have a baby?" Max went on. "And that you don't even work there anymore?" "I'm sure someone didn't get the memo," I said, almost smoothly. "Clients, you know. They'll figure it out." Max shrugged and leaned down to kiss the other one of Freya's bootied feet. Up front, the woman looked back again, and for a brief moment, she stared, her eyes widening, her mermaid tattoo shimmering across her exposed arm, as if it wanted to swim. She turned back, and the man next to her, whose face I couldn't see-no more than a black jacket and a gray hat-leaned closer to her, slinking an arm around the back of her polka-dot dress. A child danced happily in front of them, his curly brown locks bouncing along with the music, his movements a bit spastic in that awkward child way. Great . Now, not only was I the mom who couldn't keep her baby quiet, I was the one who didn't turn her phone off, either. How quickly you become those people, the people you never expected to be. As if on cue, Freya pulled off my boob, began to scream. I struggled to get her back on, but it was no use. She was done: with my milk, with this excursion, which had been so important to Max. With beautiful women who looked at us, judging. Max offered the pacifier again, and this time I took it, popping it into Freya's mouth and holding it just so. It was green and rubbery, with a fuzzy pink llama attached to the bottom. Molly had picked it out for us, and even though our pediatrician said another brand was better for newborns, it had been the only one Freya would take. Literally. We'd tried others, and Max had even bought a couple more with the loveys attached, but Freya somehow knew the difference, was horrified if we came at her with anything other than the "llama in place of your mama," as Max called it now. Freya's wails stopped instantly, but the pacifier would only buy us a few minutes. Max gathered our things, jumping into action like he always did, then took Freya from me, and I stood, waiting to see if the woman would turn back again. She did. And for a second, I thought I could see pity in her eyes. Like she could see me, mother to mother... In a way that dear, sweet, naive Max would never truly understand. 2 8:27 p.m. My father-in-law's bald spot was shiny with sweat and ringed in straight white hairs that clung to his scalp. Hunched over the table in the kitchen of the Victorian two-bedroom Max and Freya and I been staying in for a little over three weeks, lifting a bite of beef stew to his mouth, Carl looked like an oversized Keebler elf, his face pink and doughy, and he acted like one, too. Warm and jovial, he had a belly laugh that shook his uniform of Lacoste polo shirts and shapeless khakis, and a complexion that was ruddy from his lifelong affinity for fine wine and whiskey, neat. Next to him, Max's mom, Brenda, made quite the contrast. Thin and elegant, with a fine nose, dark eyes, salt-and-pepper hair cut neatly beneath her chin and a Barney's wardrobe in shades of gray and black. Carl and Brenda both came from money, whereas we Walkers were always scraping by--but Carl somehow remained the guy you'd love to sit down and share a beer with, whereas Brenda always acted like she had a stick shoved up her bony little spin-class-sculpted ass. Max's parents weren't my in-laws--not legally, at least--but they'd felt like family since the moment I met them, on a visit to Westchester a couple of months after Max and I started dating. Carl had poured Max and me a few fingers of good whiskey, led us to the formal living room to delight us with the latest Otis Redding record he'd procured on vinyl, and had asked about my parents, my work, and my favorite Jane Austen novel before Brenda even brought out hors oeuvres. He'd made sure I'd taken his cell phone number down in that very first meeting--"in case you need anything, ever" --and in spite of Brenda's pursed lips and the sheer number of fine-silver forks laid out for dinner (one each for salad, the main course and dessert), I'd felt instantly welcome, protected and safe. Like I had someone to look out for me in all the ways my own parents couldn't. Three years in, and Brenda was still cold and reserved as ever, but I loved Carl more and more each time I saw him. And now, our bond was stronger than ever. Freya had tied us together, a tiny little branch that made us all part of the same tree. I found my seat next to Liana, and she smiled, eyes glowing. She looked radiant, healthy and well-rested, her golden-brown hair properly brushed. "I told them to wait." "It's okay," I said, trying to ignore the sour smell emanating from the bottom of my top. "Baby time isn't very reliable. You learn quickly never to wait." Liana and Max had always been a package deal. They'd met when they were nine years old, neighbors on their idyllic street in Scarsdale, New York. They'd gone to school together at NYU, and The Velvet Hope had formed from the halls of the Steinhardt Department of Music in Greenwich Village. They'd even been roommates in their twenties in Bushwick, along with their three other bandmates and a rotating cast of characters who took a key role in the stories they inevitably told after either of them had a few drinks. Molly had once asked if I found Liana threatening, but though she was gorgeous, I never had. Max and Liana were like brother and sister, and Liana always seemed to have some artsy man-about-Brooklyn waiting in the wings of her life. Their careers had diverged since Max left the band, but their friendship remained strong. She was an honorary member of the Bosch clan and one of my dearest friends. Excerpted from You Should Have Told Me by Leah Konen All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.