Amy Stuart's thriller A Death at the Party invites readers to a garden party whodunnit — read an excerpt now
A Death at the Party will be published on March 7, 2023
Amy Stuart is a bestselling novelist and short story writer, currently living in Toronto. She is the author of the Still Mine thriller series, which features the novels Still Mine, Still Water and the latest entry, Still Here.
Her latest thriller is the novel A Death at the Party. Set over the course of a single day, the book centres around Nadine Walsh, a loving mother, devoted wife and dutiful daughter. While preparing to host a birthday party for her mother, Nadine is overwhelmed with thoughts of the past. The party was supposed to be a chance for her friends and family to celebrate, have fun and forget — but Nadine is caught up with haunting memories and secrets that might come to a head when her guests arrive.
As the garden party is in full swing upstairs, Nadine mysteriously finds herself standing over a dead body in her basement — and she's left to piece together exactly what is going on.
A Death at the Party will be published on March 7, 2023. You can read an excerpt below.
It takes some digging to locate a pulse. I catch a sudden sob in my throat then press two fingers into his jugular notch. It's faint, fluttery. He breathes, long gaps between sharp inhales. One of his hands clenches into a fist then relaxes. I pull my phone from the pocket of my silk jumpsuit and unlock it. My thumb twitches, hovering over the numbers. I won't dial. I won't call for help. This bathroom is hot. I focus on noise. On noises. The party upstairs. His laboured breaths. I'm
leaning over his body.
"You did this," I say to him, my voice quivering. In my next breath, I contradict myself. "What have
It takes some digging to locate a pulse. I catch a sudden sob in my throat then press two fingers into his jugular notch. It's faint, fluttery.
My mouth burns with bile. I grip the edges of the sink and lean into the mirror. My hair a little out of place, but I'm otherwise unscathed. I use an old comb from the medicine cabinet to regain some semblance of order. My lipstick is perfect. Never mind that my heart beats wild in my chest. That I'm dizzy. I bend to check his pulse again. Nothing. I unlock my phone. Again, I don't dial.
One hundred guests mingle upstairs. Their footsteps are muffled overhead, the music an indistinct hum. A party in full swing. No one would think to come down here, right? The door at the top of the stairs is shut. Unless someone comes looking for him.
Or, more likely, comes looking for me; a hostess can only disappear from her own party for so long. A hand grips my leg. I barely stifle the scream. His eyes shoot open. He looks right at me, frantic, pale, gasping. No! I kick my leg loose and stumble backwards into the towel rack.
At once my fear is replaced by rage. Why isn't he dead yet? He needs to die.
"Bitch," he says, choking, garbled. "Bitch." Then, fainter: "Nadine."
I say nothing. I am out of his reach, against the wall. Finally, his head drops to the tiled floor with a heavy thud. And I see it: the last breath leaves him in a long sigh. His fingers uncurl. His gaze falls vacant, his mouth drooping open. I smooth my jumpsuit out with my hands then count backwards from 20, bracing against the nausea, trying not to sway. Trying to hold steady.
A hand grips my leg. I barely stifle the scream. His eyes shoot open. He looks right at me, frantic, pale, gasping. No! I kick my leg loose and stumble backwards into the towel rack.
Then I approach and crouch next to him one more time. Already his skin feels cooler. There is no pulse. He is dead. I press the toe of my sandal into his hip and give him a nudge. Or, I give his body a nudge. There is no him anymore.
One more time I unlock my phone. I could call 911. I could run upstairs, land among the guests, breathless, wide-eyed. I could scream: Help! But I don't. I won't.
Somehow, it came to this: A dead body on my bathroom floor. One last look in the mirror. Go. I peer into the empty hallway then close the bathroom door behind me without turning off the light. Our basement is dark and gloomy, the ceilings low enough to touch with a bent arm.
I climb the stairs to the main floor and pause at the top, statue still. My skull throbs. The sounds of the party are clearer, the hum of the guests and the band tuning their instruments between songs.
For two decades I've railed against the labyrinthine nature of this old house, but now I am grateful for its nooks and pathways, its many exits. I squeeze through the door at the top of the basement stairs then stride the short hall and pop out in the kitchen. I expect all eyes to turn my way.
For two decades I've railed against the labyrinthine nature of this old house, but now I am grateful for its nooks and pathways, its many exits.
But the caterers are too busy to notice me spring from this dark corner. I'm mercifully absorbed into their fold.
"And where were you at midnight?" someone might eventually ask, after he's found.
"In the garden," I'll say. "Or maybe the kitchen. Ask the guests or the caterers. A hostess can't well leave her own party."
I pluck a champagne glass from a server's tray and smile at him.
"You've been such a help tonight, young man," I say. He beams at me. I turn to Gregory, the head caterer, who dries his hands at the sink.
"It's been good, hasn't it? This party?"
"It has." Gregory smiles warmly. "A lovely night."
God. Gregory returns to organizing a platter of hors d'oeuvres. I pass through the open French doors to our patio. The night is warm, and most of our guests are here in the garden. It feels almost dreamlike, the string lights crisscrossed overhead, laughter spurting from the cliques gathering throughout the lawn. I survey from the door, careful not to frown, my body overheated.
Look at all these revelers, rosy-cheeked and happy, colourful drinks in hand. No one seems fussed by the messy confessional that unfolded an hour ago. A young colleague of my husband's is the first person to lock eyes with me. In my fog I can't remember his name.
His wife sidles up to him, her glass lifted to her lips.
Well." She raises her glass and clinks it against mine. "To Nadine Walsh, our incomparable hostess. To an unforgettable party. What a night!
"Quite the birthday party, Nadine," the wife says, her smile shrewd. "You've outdone yourself. We'll be gossiping about it for years!"
When I open my mouth to respond, a roaring sound escapes me. A cry? A laugh? A scream? I lift a fist to stifle it.
"Oh my," our guest proclaims. "Glad to see our hostess is enjoying the cocktails too."
Again, I part my lips to speak, but no words emerge.
"Well." She raises her glass and clinks it against mine. "To Nadine Walsh, our incomparable hostess. To an unforgettable party. What a night!"
"Yes," I say, gulping the champagne before anyone spots the wild tremor in my hand. "What a night, indeed."
Excerpted from A Death at the Party by Amy Stuart. Published by Simon and Schuster Canada. Copyright © 2023. All rights reserved.