Sunstroke

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9780399153303: Sunstroke

The blazingly original novel from the most exciting new voice in crime fiction today-a brilliantly crafted modern noir filled with secrets, heartbreak, and mordant humor.

Gloria Mendez is single and thirty-six, and secretly and somewhat hopelessly in love with her oblivious boss. He is both single and solitary, and far too old for her, but she has worked for him, side by side, for ten oddly companionable years. But when he disappears on his annual trip to Mexico-the one aspect of his life to which she's never been privy-Gloria's sudden and impulsive search for him reveals the wreckage of a hidden past. Carl Perreira was not who Gloria thought he was-nor was he anything she could have imagined.

As Gloria travels this twisted road into Carl's backstory, she realizes she might not have known him at all. Her investigation discloses as much about her own life as it does about her mysterious boss -and leaves her fighting for her life. Sunstroke is everything a thriller should be: circuitous, thought provoking, and brimming with edge-of-the-seat suspense-and the start of a brilliant career.

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About the Author:

Jesse Kellerman is a recent graduate of Harvard and an MFA from Brandeis. His award-winning plays have been producted throughout the United States and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He received the 2003 Princess Grace Award, given to America's most promising young playwright, and has been a fellow at New Dramatists.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

one

Take care of things when I'm gone.

The earthquake began at three twenty-four A.M. and ended seventy-three seconds later. By four in the morning, Gloria Mendez had determined that her apartment had suffered no serious casualties.

There wasn't much to damage. In this she differed from many of her single friends, who had, without warning, begun accruing evidence of their solitude: framed photos of Mickey Mouse-eared nieces and nephews; a few too many leather miniskirts; mementos from three different ski trips with two different men. Siamese cats named The Fonz, or Jon Bon Jovi, or after imaginary daughters. Alexis. Samantha. Claire. Items you could accumulate safely, content in the knowledge that there wasn't some crazed toddler out to scratch them, shatter them, choke on them, soak them in regurgitated formula and half-digested carrots.

By contrast, Gloria's apartment looked empty. She didn't even have a mirror in her bedroom. To check her reflection, she had to go into the bathroom, stretching over the counter if she wanted to see how her Levi's fit.

She never bothered, because they always fit fine.

Spartan didn't quite describe the place. She preferred to think of it as untethered. By not weighing herself down with sentimentality, she was free to make changes to her life; free to accommodate another person, or two, or three. She believed that life forked for unwed women over thirty-five; you could either be hopeful or resigned. Resigned was halfway to dead, though, so Gloria chose to be hopeful.

Besides, these days women were having kids later than ever. Barb Oberle's cousin had had twins at forty-six. It was like something out of the Old Testament.

Untethered, buoyed by possibility. When Gloria gathered with friends for coffee, she sometimes imagined herself as lighter than those around her, hovering an inch or two above the crowd.

Owning almost nothing carried the added benefit of making it easier to keep the place clean; she liked things complete, tucked in.

About the walls, Barb Oberle said For crissake, put something up. It looks like a Kubrick film in here.

Barb had a better sense of humor than the others. It probably had something to do with the fact that she was married, but Gloria was unsure which was cause and which was effect.

The rattle of an aftershock sent Gloria scurrying to the doorway. She waited for it to pass, then went on surveying her kitchen. For once she felt thankful for the poor quality of her cabinetry. The door that stuck saved all her glassware from a lemming-like fate. She swept up a vase and sponged the viscera of high-diving jars. Beneath the sink, bleach had spilled; in cleaning it, she took care to keep it away from the Windex. Mixing the two created poisonous fumes, and if she was going to die this morning, she at least wanted to straighten up first.

The radio was calling it a humdinger. CalTech hadn't released the verdict, but "armchair seismologists" (whatever that meant) had pegged its Richter in the high sixes. Expect closure of roads and government offices. Expect power outages. Expect disruptions in cable service, phone service, Internet connections. Cell service providers are having trouble due to damage to transponders; be patient, keep trying, and maybe the grid will unclog. Do not leave your house-except if there's a gas leak. In that case, don't stay inside your house. County law stipulates that all buildings five years or younger must have an automatic gas shutoff valve; if you don't know the age of your home, it's recommended that you check. Just in case, use flashlights, not candles. Be aware that aftershocks can be as deadly or worse than the original quake, given the weakened state of-

She switched it off.

She tried to call around to see if people were okay, but the landline was out. Contrary to the radio's bleak assertions, however, her cellphone was working; Reggie had left a voicemail. He wanted to make sure she was all right. He was busy, he said, and he'd try her later in the day, when he could afford a minute to talk.

She tried him back: all circuits were busy.

Going back to bed was out of the question. Once woken, she couldn't convince her body that it had been given a second chance. She was about to run a bath when Carl's note popped into her head.

Take care of things when I'm gone.

The figurines.

She had a banana, put on some clothes, and set out for the office.

--from Sunstroke by Jesse Kellerman, Copyright © 2006 by Jesse Kellerman, published by G. P. Putnam & Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.

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