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  • The Dark Room
  • Written by Minette Walters
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  • The Dark Room
  • Written by Minette Walters
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Written by Minette WaltersAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Minette Walters

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On Sale: March 12, 2009
Pages: 400 | ISBN: 978-0-307-49473-3
Published by : Vintage Knopf
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

In this acclaimed psychological mystery, Jinx Kingsley, a prominent photographer and millionaire’s daughter, wakes up in an exclusive hospital suffering from amnesia. Not only can she not remember the car accident that caused her memory loss, but she doesn’t remember that her impending wedding has been called off or that her former fiancé and his girlfriend have been brutally murdered in the same way her first husband had been ten years before. Now she must try to piece together her memories in order to determine her innocence. With deft psychological explorations and shocking twists, Walters brings the story to an awe-inspiring conclusion.

Excerpt

1


She clung to sleep tenaciously, wrapped in beguiling dreams. It was explained to her afterwards that they weren't dreams at all, only reality breaking through the days of confusion as she rose from deep unconsciousness to full awareness, but she found that difficult to accept. Reality was too depressing to give birth to such contentment. Her awakening was painful. They propped her on pillows and she caught glimpses of herself from time to time in the dressing table mirror, a waxen-faced effigy with shaven head and bandaged eye--hardly recognizable--and she had an instinctive desire to withdraw from it and leave it to play its part alone. It wasn't her. A huge bear of a man with close-cropped hair and close-cropped beard leaned over her and told her she'd been in a car accident. But he didn't tell her where or when. You're a lucky young woman, he said. She remembered that. Forgot everything else. She had a sense of time passing, of people talking to her, but she preferred to drowse in sleep where dreams beguiled.

She was aware. She saw. She heard. And she felt safe with the pleasant female voices that smoothed and soothed and petted. She answered them in her head but never out loud, for she clung to the spurious protection of intellectual absence. "Are you with us today?" the nurses asked, pressing their faces up to hers. I've been with you all along. "Here's your mother to see you, dear." I don't have a mother. I have a stepmother. "Come on, love, your eye is open. We know you can hear us, so when are you going to talk to us?" When I'm ready . . . when I'm ready . . . when I want to remember . . .


Read Traffic Accident: Reported 21.45 approx, 13.6.94
PCs Gregg & Hardy on scene at 20.04
Location: Unused airfield, Stonery Bassett, Hants
One vehicle involved. Black Rover Cabriolet automatic
Reg No: JIN IX - vehicle written off
Driver: Miss Jane Imogen Nicola Kingsley
Unconscious & in need of emergency treatment
Driving licence gives date of birth: 26.09.59 &
registered address: 12 Glenavon Gdns, Richmond, Surrey


Property Tycoon's Daughter in Mystery Pileup


It was reported late last night that Jane Kingsley, 34, the fashion photographer and only daughter of Adam Kingsley, 66, millionaire chairman of Franchise Holdings Ltd., was found unconscious following a mystery car crash on the disused airfield at Stoney Bassett, 15 miles south of Salisbury. Mr. Andrew Wilson, 23, and his girlfriend, Miss Jenny Ragg, 19, happened upon the scene by chance at 9:45 p.m. and immediately summoned assistance for the unconscious woman.
"The car was a write-off," said Mr. Wilson. "Miss Kingsley's very lucky to be alive. If she'd been in it when it hit the concrete pillar, she'd have been crushed to death in the wreck. I'm glad we were able to help."
Police describe Miss Kingsley's escape as a miracle. The car, a black Rover Cabriolet automatic, had collided head-on with a solid concrete stanchion, which was once the corner support for a hangar. Police believe Miss Kingsley was thrown through the open door of her car shortly before impact.
"That pillar is the only structure still standing on the airfield," said PC Gareth Hardy, "and we don't understand yet how she came to hit it. There was no one else in the car and no evidence of another vehicle being involved.
Jane's stepmother, Mrs. Betty Kingsley, 65, was shocked by the news, which comes only days after the surprise cancellation of her stepdaughter's wedding. At home this morning in Hellingdon Hall, where she and Mr. Kingsley have lived for the last 15 years, she wept bitterly and said she would blame Miss Kingsley's fiance, Leo Wallader, 35, if Miss Kingsley didn't recover. "He's treated her so badly."
Police admitted this morning that Miss Kingsley had been drinking prior to the accident. "She had a high level of alcohol in her blood," said a spokesman. Miss Kingsley is unconscious in Odstock Hospital, Salisbury.
Wessex Post -14th June


2


She awoke one night with fear sucking the breath from her lungs. She opened her eyes and strained them into the blackness. She was in a dark room--her dark room?--and she wasn't alone. Someone--something?--prowled the shadows beyond her vision.

What?

Fear . . . fear . . . FEAR . . .

She sat bolt upright, sweat pouring down her back, screams issuing in a tumult of sound from her gaping mouth.

Light flooded the room. Comfort came in the shape of a woman's soft breasts, strong arms, and sweet voice. "There, there, Jane. It's all right. Come on, love, calm down. You had a nightmare."

But she knew that was wrong. Her terror was real. There was something in the dark room with her. "My name's Jinx," she whispered. "I'm a photographer, and this isn't my room." She laid her shaven head against the starched white uniform and knew the bitterness of defeat. There would be no more sweet dreams. "Where am I?" she asked. "Who are you? Why am I here?"


"You're in the Nightingale Clinic in Salisbury," said the nurse, "and I'm Sister Gordon. You were in a car accident, but you're safe now. Let's see if we can get you back to sleep again."

Jinx allowed herself to be tucked back under the sheets by a firm pair of hands. "You won't turn the light off, will you?" she begged. "I can't see in the dark."


Query prosecution of Miss J. Kingsley/driving with 150mg per l00ml


Date: 22nd June, 1994


From: Sergeant Geoff Halliwell


Miss Kingsley was thrown from her vehicle before it impacted against a concrete stanchion in one corner of the airfield. She was unconscious when she was found at 21:45 on Monday, 13th June, by Mr. Andrew Wilson and Miss Jenny Ragg. Miss Kingsley suffered a severe concussion and bruising/laceration of her arms and face when she was thrown from the car. She remained unconscious for three days and was very confused when she finally came round. She has no recollection of the accident and claims not to know why she was at the airfield. Blood samples taken at 00:23 (14.6.94) show 150mg per l00mi. Two empty wine bottles were recovered from the floor of the car when it was examined the following day.


PCs Gregg and Hardy had one brief interview with Miss Kingsley shortly after she regained consciousness, but she was too confused to tell them anything other than that she appeared to believe it was Saturday, 4th June (i.e., some 9 days before the incident on 13.6.94), and that she was on her way from London to Hampshire. Since the interview (5 days) she has remained dazed and uncommunicative and visits have been suspended on the advice of her doctors. They have diagnosed posttraumatic amnesia, following concussion. Her parents report that she spent the week 4th--l0th June with them (though Miss Kingsley clearly has no memory of this) before returning to Richmond on the evening of Friday, 10th June, following a telephone call. They describe her as being in good spirits and looking forward to her forthcoming wedding on 2nd July. She was expected at work on Monday, 13th June, but did not show. She runs her own photographic studio in Pimlico and her employees say they were concerned at her nonappearance. They left several messages on her answering machine on the 13th but received no reply.


Interviews by Richmond police with her neighbors in Glenavon Gdns, Colonel and Mrs. Clancey, reveal that she made an attempt on her life on Sunday, 12th June. Col. Clancey, whose garage adjoins Miss Kingsley's, heard her car engine running with the door closed. When he went to investigate, he found her garage full of fumes and Miss Kingsley half asleep at the wheel. He dragged her outside and revived her, but did not report the incident because Miss Kingsley asked him not to. He and his wife are deeply upset that she has "tried to do it again.''


Both Col. and Mrs. Clancey and Mr. and Mrs. Adam Kingsley made reference to a Mr. Leo Wallader, who was until recently Miss Kingsley's fiance. It appears he left 12 Glenavon Gdns on Friday, 10th June, after telling Miss Kingsley he couldn't marry her because he had plans to marry her closest friend, Meg Harris, instead. Mr. Wallader and Ms. Harris are unavailable for interview at the moment. According to Sir Anthony Wallader (father) they are currently traveling in France but plan to return sometime in July.


In view of a recent MOT certificate on Miss Kingsley's vehicle, which tends to rule out malfunction, and the fact that the chances of hitting the concrete stanchion by accident are virtually nil, it seems clear that she drove her car into it deliberately. Therefore, unless she recovers enough of her memory to give an explanation of the events leading up to the incident. Gregg and Hardy incline to the view that this was a second attempt at suicide after a drinking session in her car. Mr. Adam Kingsley, her father, has offered to pay the costs of the emergency services. Meanwhile Miss Kingsley has been transferred to the Nightingale Clinic, where she is receiving treatment from Dr. Alan Protheroe. Mr. Kingsley's solicitor is pressing for a decision on whether or not we intend to proceed against Miss Kingsley. My view is to do nothing in view of her father's willingness to pick up the tab, her disturbed state of mind, and the fact that she chose such a deserted location. Please advise.


3


WEDNESDAY, 22ND JUNE, THE NIGHTINGALE CLINIC
SALISBURY, WILTSHIRE--8:30 A.M.


How drab reality was. Even the sun shining through her windows was less vivid than her dreams. Perhaps it had something to do with the bandage over her right eye, but she didn't think so. Consciousness itself was leaden and dull, and so restrictive that she felt only a terrible depression. The big bear of a doctor came in as she toyed with her breakfast, told her again that she'd been in an accident, and said the police would like to talk to her. She shrugged. "I'm not going anywhere." She would have added that she despised policemen if he'd stayed to listen, but he went away again before she could put the thought into words.

She had no memory of the first police interview at the Odstock Hospital and politely denied ever having met the two uniformed constables who came to her room. She explained that she could not remember the accident, indeed could remember nothing at all since leaving her house and her fiance in London the previous morning. The policemen resembled each other--tall, stolid men with sandy hair and florid complexions, who showed their discomfort at her answers by turning their caps in unison between their fingers. She labeled them Tweedledum and Tweedledee and chuckled silently because they were so much more amusing than her sore head, bandaged eye, and hideously bruised arms. They asked her where she had been going, and she replied that she was on her way to stay with her parents at Hellingdon Hall. "I have to help my stepmother with wedding preparations," she explained. "I'm getting married on the second of July." She heard herself announce the fact with pleasure, while the voice of cynicism murmured in her brain. Leo will run a mile before he hitches himself to a bald, one-eyed bride.

They thanked her and left.


Two hours later, her stepmother dissolved into tears at her bedside, blurted out that the wedding was off, it was Wednesday, the twenty-second of June, Leo had left her for Meg twelve days previously, and she had, to all intents and purposes, driven her car at a concrete pillar four days later in a deliberate attempt to kill herself.

Jinx stared at her ugly, scarred hands. "Didn't I say good-bye to Leo yesterday?"

"You were unconscious for three days and very confused afterwards. You were in hospital until Friday, and I went to see you, but you didn't know who I was. I've come here twice and you've looked at me, but you didn't want to talk to me. This is the first time you've recognized me. Daddy's that upset about it." Her mouth wobbled rather pathetically. "We were so afraid we'd lost you."

"I've come to stay with you. That's why I'm here. You and I are going to confirm arrangements for the wedding." if she said it slowly and clearly enough, Betty must believe her. But no, Betty was a fool. Betty had always been a fool. "The week beginning the fourth of June. It's been in the diary for months."

Mrs. Kingsley's tears poured down her plump cheeks, scoring tiny pink rivulets in her overpowdered face. "You've already been, my darling. You came down a fortnight and a half ago, spent the week with Daddy and me, did all the things you were supposed to do, and then went home to find Leo packing his bags. Don't you remember? He's gone to live with Meg. Oh, I could murder him, Jinx, I really could." She wrung her hands. "I always told you he wasn't a nice man, but you wouldn't listen. And your father was just as bad. 'He's a Wallader, Elizabeth . . .' " She rambled on, her huge chest heaving tragically inside a woolen dress that was far too tight.

The idea that nearly three weeks had passed without her being able to recollect a single day was so far beyond Jinx's comprehension that she fixed her attention on what was real. Red carnations and white lilies in a vase on her bedside table. French windows looking out on a flagstoned terrace, with a carefully tended garden beyond. Television in the corner. Leather armchairs on either side of a coffee table--walnut, she decided, and a walnut dressing table. Bathroom to her left. Door to the corridor on her right. Where had Adam put her this time? Somewhere very expensive, she thought; the Nightingale Clinic, the nurse had told her. In Salisbury. But why Salisbury when she lived in London?

Betty's plaintive wailing broke into her thoughts. ". . . I wish it hadn't upset you so much, my darling. You've no idea how badly Daddy's taken it all. He sees it as an insult to him, you know. He never thought anyone could make his little girl do something so"--she cast about for a word--"silly."

"Little girl?" What on earth was Betty talking about? She had never been Adam's little girl--his performing puppet perhaps, never his little girl. She felt very tired suddenly. "I don't understand."

"You got drunk and tried to kill yourself, my poor baby. Your car's been written off." Mrs. Kingsley fished a newspaper photograph out of her handbag and pressed it into her stepdaughter's lap. "That's what it looked like afterwards. It's a mercy you survived, it really is." She pointed to the date in the top right-hand corner of the clipping. "The fourteenth of June, the day after the accident. And today's date"--she pushed forward another newspaper--"there, you see, the twenty-second, a whole week later."
Minette Walters

About Minette Walters

Minette Walters - The Dark Room

Photo © Michael Trevillion

Minette Walters is the author of eleven novels, two novellas, and a number of short stories. Her work, which has been published in more than thirty-five countries, has received several major awards, including two Gold Daggers from the Crime Writers’ Association in Great Britain and the Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America. She lives in Dorset, England.

www.minettewalters.co.uk
Praise

Praise

“A wily psychological thriller.” —Los Angeles Times

“Engrossing. . . . Walters cleverly inserts small twists and new suspects at every turn, cranking up the tension.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“A cauldron of suspense.” —The Denver Post

“Engaging. . . . A page-turner.” —People

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