The New York Times bestselling author of Labor Day and The Good Daughters returns with a haunting novel of sisterhood, sacrifice, and suspense.
I was always looking for excitement, until I found some . . .
Summer, 1979. A dry, hot Northern California school vacation stretches before Rachel and her younger sister, Patty—the daughters of a larger-than-life, irresistibly handsome (and chronically unfaithful) detective father and the mother whose heart he broke.
When we first meet her, Patty is eleven—a gangly kid who loves basketball and dogs and would do anything for her older sister, Rachel. Rachel is obsessed with making up stories and believes she possesses the gift of knowing what's in the minds of people around her. She has visions, whether she wants to or not. Left to their own devices, the sisters spend their days studying record jackets, concocting elaborate fantasies about the mysterious neighbor who moved in down the street, and playing dangerous games on the mountain that looms behind their house.
When young women start turning up dead on the mountain, the girls' father is put in charge of finding the murderer known as the "Sunset Strangler." Watching her father's life slowly unravel as months pass and more women are killed, Rachel embarks on her most dangerous game yet . . . using herself as bait to catch the killer. But rather than cracking the case, the consequences of Rachel's actions will destroy her father's career and alter forever the lives of everyone she loves.
Thirty years later, still haunted by the belief that the killer remains at large, Rachel constructs a new strategy to smoke out the Sunset Strangler and vindicate her father—a plan that unexpectedly unearths a long-buried family secret.
Loosely inspired by the Trailside Killer case that terrorized Marin County, California, in the late 1970s, After Her is part thriller, part love story. Maynard has created a poignant, suspenseful, and painfully real family saga that traces a young girl's first explorations of sexuality, the loss of innocence, the bond shared by sisters, and the tender but damaged relationship between a girl and her father that endures even beyond the grave.
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About the Author
Joyce Maynard is the author of eight previous novels, including To Die For, Labor Day, The Good Daughters, and four books of nonfiction. Her bestselling memoir, At Home in the World, has been translated into sixteen languages. She lives in California.
Read an Excerpt
By Joyce Maynard
HarperCollins PublishersCopyright © 2013 Joyce Maynard
All rights reserved.
THE TOWN WHERE my sister and I grew up lay in the shadow of Mount
Tamalpais, not far north of San Francisco. The aging housing develop-
ment where we lived, on Morning Glory Court, sat just off an exit of Highway
101, eight miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Buses ran from where we lived
to San Francisco—the bridge marking the entrance to that other world, though
we also knew people came there to jump. But for us, the city might as well have
been the moon.
Our father had grown up in the city— North Beach, home of the real red
sauce, he told us. This was where the hippies had come for the Summer of Love
and where Janis Joplin had once walked the streets of the Haight, and cable cars
ran, and that crazy Lombard Street snaked past rows of pretty pastel Victorian
houses, and where another Patty—Hearst—had walked into a Hibernia Bank
one day, a few years back, carrying an M1 carbine as one of the Symbionese
Later, rock stars started buying houses on the other side of the highway
from where our house sat, but back in those days, it wasn't a fashionable place
8 Joyce Maynard
yet. The day would come when people built high walls around their property
and posted signs alerting would-be burglars to the existence of their security
systems. But those were still trusting times. Our yards flowed into one another,
free of hedges or fences, so girls like us could run from one end of the street to
the other without the soles of their Keds once touching asphalt. People moved
easily among their neighbors, and few locked their doors.
Our house, number 17, was the smallest on the street—two dark little bed-
rooms, a low-ceilinged living room, and a kitchen the previous owners had
decorated with green Formica and matching avocado-green appliances, none of
which could be counted on to function reliably. The living room was covered in
wood paneling, an effect meant to make the place seem cozy, perhaps, though
one that hadn't succeeded.
Our parents had bought the house in 1968, when I was two years old, shortly
after my sister's birth—the best they could manage on a policeman's salary. My
mother said Marin County was a good place for raising children, though our
father worked in the city at the time—meaning San Francisco. He was a beat
cop then, not yet a detective, and knowing him, he would have liked it that his
work took him a ways from home, over that red bridge he loved. It was probably
better that way, for a man like him at least, to be off on his own, with the three of
us tucked away in that little bungalow while he was off saving people.
These days, nobody could think of building low-income housing in a spot
like the one where our house was situated. The land that made up our develop-
ment would be reserved for six-thousand-square-foot mansions with swimming
pools and yards with outdoor kitchens and expensive patio furniture. There
would be three-car garages, and the cars in them would be of European design.
But whenever it was (the 1940s probably, after the war) that the houses
were constructed on Morning Glory Court and the neighboring streets (Blue-
bell, Honeysuckle, Daffodil, and my favorite—named for a contractor's wife
probably—Muriel Lane), a premium had not yet been placed on proximity to
open land and views. It was possible back then to have as little money as our
family did and still find yourself in a house that backed up on a few thousand
a f t e r h e r 9
acres of open space. So that whole mountain was our playground. Mine and
For the first five years of her life, Patty barely spoke, except to me. Not that
she couldn't talk. She knew words. She had no speech impediment. She had strong
opinions about a lot of things, in fact—not only dogs, and basketball, but also
(speaking now of her dislikes) foods that were red, other than marinara sauce,
clothes whose labels rubbed her neck, all dresses. She developed, early on, a
hearty sense of humor, particularly concerning anything to do with body parts
or bathroom activities. Burping never ceased to amuse her. A fart—particularly
coming from a well-dressed woman or a man in a suit—sent her right over the top.
But if someone asked her a question—and this included other children
besides me, her kindergarten teacher, and our own parents—she said nothing,
unless I was there, in which case she'd whisper her response in my ear, leaving it
to me to convey to the outside world—the world beyond the unit that consisted
of the two of us—what her answer might be. Young as I was, I didn't know for a
long time that other five-year-old girls had a lot to say. I didn't know this wasn't
how things went with everybody's little sister.
When we'd go to the bank with our mother, and the teller would ask what
flavor of lollipop she'd like, Patty whispered her choice in my ear and I would
speak it for her. Green. She ignored it when kids called her Bucktooth, because of
her overbite, and on our street, if a boy came up and wanted her toy, she'd hand
it to him rather than protest, though if any of these boys had teased me (about
my outgrown clothes, my inability to hit a ball in our occasional neighborhood
games), she would confront the offender (but silently) with one of our jujitsu
moves, learned from our father. Once, when a boy took the seat she'd saved for
me at a puppet show our mother had taken us to at the library, she jammed her
elbow in his stomach and kicked him for good measure before magnificently
sweeping me into the place next to her. All without words.
A person could have
Excerpted from After Her by Joyce Maynard. Copyright © 2013 Joyce Maynard. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Joyce Maynard is a very gifted writer. I thoroughly enjoyed After Her. The story is more than just a mystery - it also explores the depths of sisterly love. It is a strikingly good story. High marks.
Very well written book with suspense romance and the bond of sisters. Loved it.
Couldn't put it down
I had never read any of her books before so I did not really know what to expect. Really loved reading about her relationships with her family,especially her sister. I thought the ending was rushed and would have enjoyed reading it more if the ending would have been more developed. I plan on reading another one of her books. I think Ive found a favorite author!
I was a young girl during the1970's. I especially enjoyed the realistic dialogue, and cultural references to music during that decade. I liked this story because it brought back memories of being a young girl growing up with her friends. It also frightenly pointed out how crude the methods were for finding a serial killer in those times. It made me extremely thankful for the technology we have today. ( Not to mention the advances in mental health and medications ). Overall it is an engaging, suspenceful, and sad portrayal of those times.
This book has so many stories within stories and certainly a surprise ending. Books about serial killers are common in the genre, but this one keeps us emotionally tied to the heroine and her family as well as her entire life until the end. This book makes us all satisfied readers.
I really enjoyed the begining of this book, and the relationship between the two sisters. Then it started to drag on... repeating the same story for years. And then a rushed ending... I don't understand, it seems like the ending was an afterthought?!!
First of her books I have read. Enjoyed. Great characterization.
Ok. Here goes! My first reviewJ I was really looking forward to reading this story! I have Joyce Maynard’s books on my library to-read list and I was really intrigued by this story, After Her. I even wrote the publisher when they forgot to send me my ARC… but … I was a little disappointed. I’ve been going back and forth about giving it a 2 or 3 star. There were something’s that I liked about the story and some that I did not: I really loved the relationship between the sisters. I thought it was very sweet and tender. Their everyday “adventures” were cute and fun to read about but… there were times I could not figure out where the author was going… For example, Rachel (the older sister) starts off by describing where they live, her dad’s dedication to his work, their parents’ relationship, her relationship with her sister and then the final part-the killings by “the Sunset Strangler”. Another aspect that really bothered me: I understood the relationship to the sisters (they were close and loved each other), the relationship with their father. Rachel loved and worshipped her father. However, I did not understand her relationship with her mother! She portrayed her mother as bitter and very removed from their world however, she thought it completely normal that their father would abandon his family for another woman and dedicate his career to tracking down the killer. She also seems to celebrate her father flirting with other women while her mother seems to fade like the furniture. I liked that the center of the story wasn’t the tracking of the killer but it really didn’t seem to fit in the story either… The story progresses from Patty and Rachel’s childhood into their adult years and then centers around the fathers obsession with finding the killer. So overall a good story but nothing I would re-read or recommend.
I love books written in the first person as this one is. The author transported me back to my childhood in the seventies. Fell in love with the characters, the story and the author. Couldn't put it down until I read the very last page!
From the description, you might think this is a mystery. It's not. After her is 80% teenage whining. It isn't that 13 year old Rachel doesn't have anything to complain about with parents who have no business raising a hampster, it's just that you were promised a mystery and all you get is repetitive teenage angst. Not recommended.
This book is very hard to get excited about. It starts slow and never gets any better. The plot is a bit farfetched and not very engaging. Spend you money elsewhere.
I couldn't wait to get into bed at night to read it and see what happened next
I started reading her books a few mos. ago & find them gripping . I love page turners , which Maynard’s book certainly are. Just finished “After Her”, Read straight thru except 8 hrs to sleep. Wow, This book was another like & Maynard has replaced Wally Lamb as my fav author.
A little repetitive in the beginning
This was just an OK book for me. I did enjoy the pre-teen and teenage Rachel….she was probably my favorite part of the book. The serial killer mystery part was more of a side story while Rachel went through adolescence. Maybe that’s why this was just OK for me…..I was expecting the murder mystery to take more of a front seat in the storyline. Plus, once the final section of the book started, you knew exactly how it was going to end so there weren’t any surprises. Overall it was a good book, just not a favorite.
The story moved forward very slowly, and I didn't feel a proper flow to it. I tried and couldn't get past the first 36 pages and had no desire to read this book any longer than I already had. I didn't feel any attachments to the characters and they weren't developed well. Also, for a story in the mystery genre, I didn't come across any conflict in the works. Maybe I was too early in the story to come across the conflict. I didn't feel engaged and captured by the book. Overall, I was very disappointed.
I spent much of the beginning of the book wondering where the story was going. The longer I read, the harder I found it to put the book down. Having never had a sister, I found the relationship between the sisters intriguing. As a parent, I cringed at narrator's parents letting the kids run amok so often but understood the depression that sent their mother retreating to her room and the fantasy area of books. Perhaps most intriguing to me was reading about the progression of the serial killer investigation and the affect it had on the family, especially the father. While the book could be slow at times, I enjoyed it a lot. I found the story hard to put down and loved the complexity of the relationships it presented.
First of her books I've read. Very good.
Always enjoy books by this author. Lots of family dynamics-bonds of sisters growing up, divorce, etc. Also a mystery spanning decades set in a time gone by.
I read several books a month but have never read one that left me soo sad and depressed as this one has
VERY slow and boring. I struggled to finish.