Are you one of the gazillions of readers who loved Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train? Are you hungry for another thriller with twists and turns you never see coming? Then have we got a recommendation for you: J.T. Ellison’s new novel, NO ONE KNOWS. You might be familiar with Ellison’s work from her Samantha Owens and Taylor Jackson series, or for the Nicholas Drummond spy series she co-writes with Catherine Coulter–but NO ONE KNOWS is her first stand alone novel, and the early reviews are nothing less than glowing.
The Nashville-set story features Aubrey, a young woman who seemed to have the perfect marriage, until the night her husband Josh disappeared. Aubrey was initially suspected of his murder but ultimately acquitted–and now, five years later, the state is ready to declare him officially dead. But no sooner does Aubrey get the paperwork when she spots a suspiciously familiar figure following her…could it be that Josh isn’t dead after all? No one knows… Read on for a taste of this incredible new story!
One thousand eight hundred and seventy-five days after Joshua Hamilton went missing, the State of Tennessee declared him legally
Aubrey, his wife—or former wife, or ex-wife, or widow, she had no idea how to refer to herself anymore—received the certified letter on a Friday. It came to the Montessori school where she taught, the very one she and Josh had attended as children. Came to her door in the middle of reading time, borne on the hands of Linda Pierce, the school’s long-standing principal, who looked as if someone had died.
Which, in a way, they had.
Or so the State of Tennessee had officially declared.
Aubrey had been against the declaration-of-death petition from the beginning. She didn’t want Josh’s estate settled. Didn’t want a date engraved on that stupid family stone obelisk that loomed over the graves of his ancestors at Mount Olivet Cemetery. Didn’t want to say good-bye forever.
But Josh’s mother had insisted. She wanted closure. She wanted to move on with her life. She wanted Aubrey to move on with hers, too. She’d petitioned the court for the early ruling, and clearly the courts agreed.
Everyone was ready to move on. Everyone but Aubrey.
She’d felt poorly this morning when she woke, almost a portent of the day to come, but today was the last day of school before spring break, so she had to show, and be cheery, and help the kids with their party, and give them their extra-credit reading assignments.
From the second they arrived, her students buzzed around her. It didn’t take long for Aubrey to catch the children’s enthusiasm and drop her previous malaise. It was a beautiful day: the sun glowed in the sky, dropping beams through the windows, creating slats of light on the multihued carpet. The kids spun through the light, whirling dervishes against a yellow backdrop. She didn’t even try to contain them; watching them, she felt exactly the same way. Breaks signaled many things to her, freedom most of all. Freedom to go her own way for a bit, to explore, to read, to gather herself.
But when her classroom door opened unexpectedly, and Principal Pierce came into the room, the nausea returned with a vengeance, and her head started to pound. Aubrey watched her coming closer and closer. Her old friend’s face was strained, the furrows carved into her upper lip collapsed in on each other, her yellowed forefinger tapping against the pristine white-and-blue envelope. She needed to file her nails.
What was it about moments, the ones that start with a capital M, that made you notice each and every detail?
Aubrey reminded herself of her situation. The children were watching. Trying to ignore the stares of the more precocious ones scattered about the classroom, gifted youngsters whose sensitivity to the emotions of others was finely honed, Aubrey took the letter from Linda, handed off the class into the woman’s very capable nicotine-stained hands, and went to the ladies’ room in the staff
lounge to read the contents.
The letter was from her mother-in-law. Aubrey knew exactly what it contained.
She tried to pretend her hands weren’t shaking.
She flipped the lid down on the toilet, locked the door, then sat and ripped open the envelope. Inside was a piece of paper folded into thirds, topped with a handwritten note on a cheery yellow daisy-covered Post-it. Aubrey felt that added just the right touch. Her mother-in-law always had been wildly incapable of any form of tact.
There was no denying it now; her hands trembled violently as she unfolded the page. She looked to the handwritten note first. The words were carefully formed, a schoolgirl’s roundness to the old-fashioned cursive.
For your records.
Scribbled in print beneath the painstakingly properly written note were the words: Joshua’s Mother
Well, no kidding, Daisy. Like I could forget.
The sticky note was attached to a printout of an email. It was from Daisy’s lawyer, the one who’d helped put this vehicle in motion last year, when Daisy decided to petition the courts to have Josh declared legally dead.
Aubrey fingered the scar on her lip as she read.
Per our earlier conversation, attached please find a copy of the Order entered from the civil court today by Judge Robinson. As I explained to you on the phone, this Order directs the Department of Vital Statistics to issue a death certificate for your son, Joshua David Hamilton, as of April 19 of this year.
Now that this Order has been officially entered, we should take another look at the estate plan. Josh’s life insurance policy will be fulfilled as soon as the declaration is received, and I’d like you to be fully prepared if you plan to contest the contents. I will be forwarding you a final bill for my services on this matter in the next couple of days.
Best personal regards,
And now it was official.
In the eyes of the law, Joshua David Hamilton was no longer of this earth. No longer Aubrey’s husband. No longer Daisy’s son.
Aubrey was suddenly unable to breathe. Even though she’d been expecting it, seeing the words in black-and-white, adorned by Daisy’s snippy little missive, killed her. Tears slid down her face, and she crumpled the letter against her thigh.
Daisy was a bitch, always had been, and Aubrey got the message loud and clear.
Get over it. Get on with your life. And watch out, kid, because I’m coming for that life insurance money.
But just how do you move on when you can’t bury your husband? Five years later, there were still no good answers to the puzzle of Josh’s evaporation. One minute there, the next gone. Poof. Disappeared. Missing. Kidnapped, hit over the head, and suffering from severe amnesia, or—worse than the idea of his heart no longer beating—he’d chosen to leave her. Dead, but not dead. Without a body, how could they know for sure?
Damn you, Josh.
He was dead. Even Aubrey had to admit that to herself. It had taken a year to formulate that conclusion, a year of the worst possible days imaginable. As much as she hated to believe he was really gone, she knew he was.
Because if he wasn’t, he would have let her know. He was the other half of her. The better half. The responsible half. The serious half.
For him to be taken, or to have run away—no. He would never leave her of his own volition.
Which meant he must be dead.