Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Filles Vertes Publishing (October 7, 2019)
Praise for MERRY JONES
“A nurturing and protective elementary school teacher is thrust into a web of unspeakable evil. Riveting, suspenseful and diabolical, Child’s Play keeps the reader anxiously and eagerly turning the pages.” ―Mary Jane Clark, New York Times best-selling author on Child’s Play
“…thrill ride…packs a wallop. By the end, the body count of Child’s Play adds up to eight (plus one rape), and delivers the shocking answer.” ―Mystery Scene on Child’s Play
“Surprising, dark, and even disturbing. A fragile and vulnerable young teacher faces a terrifying first day of school―and that is just the riveting beginning. Timely, provocative and sinister, this twisty story of family and friendship is not for the faint of heart.” ―Hank Phillippi Ryan, Agatha, Anthony, and Mary Higgins Clark Award-winning author on Child’s Play
“What’s behind these horrors culminates in helter-skelter chaos. Elle’s home becomes the center of a tragic universe, since she ‘attracted tragedy and death.’ That combination is magnified many fold as bodies pile up. And readers are left enchanted by another ‘Elle-oquent’ thriller.” ―BookReporter on Child’s Play
“The murder of the principal and a teacher on opening day at an elementary school, a terrifying scenario. In Child’s Play Merry Jones showcases her unique skill in delivering this dark, very dark, thriller with a modicum of humor. The end, well, you won’t see it coming amid the tortuous twists and turns. Merry Jones at her best!” ―Patricia Gussin, New York Times best-selling author of After the Fall on Child’s Play
“In Jones’s fast-paced third Elle Harrison novel (after 2014’s Elective Procedures), the Philadelphia second-grade teacher believes that she failed Ty Evans, a former student who later confessed to killing his abusive father, but she hopes to redeem herself with his younger brother, Seth, now enrolled in her class. With Ty newly released from juvenile detention and clashing with their alcoholic mother, Seth’s home life is unstable. When the draconian school principal and a humorless teacher―both of whom treated Ty cruelly―are murdered, Elle is torn between belief in his innocence and her desire to protect Seth. Meanwhile, the realtor charged with selling her house becomes increasingly aggressive, and when someone drugs and rapes Elle, she doesn’t know whether to suspect the realtor or the killer. The identities of the rapist and murderer are obvious well before Elle or other characters identify them. Still, Elle’s complex feelings toward her late husband―who was murdered while they were separated―add nuance and depth.” ―Publishers Weekly on Child’s Play
Nora Warren hides her dark side well because she’s had years of practice.
The wife of a lawyer and mother of two girls, she slides under everyone’s radar, never revealing what she really is—a murderer.
At least, she feels like one.
Nora’s plagued by the secrets surrounding her older brother’s suicide decades earlier. Yet she lives as though he never existed.
Now, in her thirties, Nora suspects her husband, Dave, is having an affair with her friend, the wife of a leading US Senate candidate. When her friend’s body is discovered—another apparent suicide—Nora is left with haunting secrets and choices that dredge up her grim nature, the side of herself that no one ever sees. Will she act on her impulses? Mustn’t she?
How far will Nora go to protect the life she has built for herself?
Excerpt from Nora’s preteen years:
Nora was on her bike, waiting while the high school bus struggled up the hill, sputtering to a stop.
The doors folded open and the driver yelled, “No more roughhousing, you two. Next time, you’ll walk home, the both of you.”
And, oh God, Tommy tumbled out backwards into the street, landing on his butt and scuttling backwards like a panicked crab as Craig Troeschler jumped off and followed after him, swinging Tommy’s empty backpack. Tommy raised his hands, protecting his head. The doors closed and the bus chugged away with a dozen noses pressed against the windows.
Nora tried to look away, but Craig’s voice boomed at Tommy.
“Don’t ever take my seat again! Hear me, you sorry piece of shit? Next time you see me standing on the bus, what are you going to do?”
Craig whapped the backpack at Tommy’s hands and head, and Tommy turned away, dodging and cowering. His face flushed crimson, even darker where black fuzz grew in unshaven patches along his jaw.
Tommy muttered something.
“What? I didn’t hear you.” Craig’s grin gleamed, vicious. He kept swinging the canvas bag.
“I said I’ll get up and give you the seat.” Tommy hunched, arms protecting his head.
“You’ll give me the seat?” Slap. “What else will you do?” Whap. “Say it.”
“I’ll go away.”
“Wrong!” Craig bent over him, growling. “What will you do?”
“Crawl. I’ll crawl away.” Tommy’s voice was husky. A swallowed sob.
Craig stopped smacking and jeered. “That’s right, crybaby douchebag. You’ll get on the ground with the rest of the dirt and crawl out of my sight.” He threw the book bag at him, spit at the ground, and sauntered off across the street.
Nora didn’t move, couldn’t. What had just happened? Craig Troeschler was an older kid who lived in a red brick house up the street. What did he have against Tommy? And the driver—he and all the other kids on the bus must have seen what Craig was doing. Why hadn’t they stopped him? Unless—
The realization hit like a slap. It appeared like a rewind, like scattered shards unshattering and reconnecting into an unbroken whole. In a short, silent moment, Nora knew why Tommy hid in his room and never invited anyone over. Why he slunk around without making a sound. She’d known he wasn’t popular or cool. But the truth was far worse: Tommy, her big brother, was the brunt of jokes. He was a wimp who got bullied. A loser. A freak.
Nora’s whole body went numb. She wished she hadn’t seen what happened. It wasn’t her business. She wasn’t part of it, had nothing to do with it, had stumbled into it by chance. What should she have done? Intervene? Stand up for her older brother and confront an even older, bigger Craig who had just acted meaner than anyone she’d ever seen before, who even on that warm spring day was wearing a black biker leather jacket that matched his greased-back shoe-polish-black hair?
Nora didn’t know what her role should be, how she should act, so she did nothing. Even when Craig walked right up to her, standing at the bus stop with her bike, she said nothing. For a flickering heartbeat, she thought, oh God, he was going to pick on her for just standing there, witnessing, or for being Tommy’s sister. Did he know she was his sister? But he passed her by without the merest glimpse, not even a grunt.
Tommy looked up, then, probably to make sure Craig was gone. For an endless, permanent, never-to-be-forgotten moment, brother and sister stared at each other in silent recognition of Tommy’s humiliation, his perpetual victimization, his tormented hopelessness.
Copyright © 2019 by Merry Jones
Merry Jones is an award winning author who has written humor (eg. I LOVE HIM, BUT…), non-fiction (eg. BIRTHMOTHERS), and dark suspense (eg. the Zoe Hayes mysteries, the Harper Jennings thrillers, and the Elle Harrison suspense novels). Now, with her twentieth book,WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW, she’s entering the domain of domestic psychological suspense. Jones taught college writing courses for fifteen years, and leads seminars, appears on panels at writing conferences, and, with fellow members of the Liars Club, cohosts a monthly writers’ coffeehouse and the weekly Oddcast, a podcast devoted to writing and other creative endeavors.
Jones’s work has been translated into seven languages and has appeared in magazines, such as American Woman and Glamour. Jones is a member of the Authors Guild, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and the Philadelphia Liars Club. The mother of two and grandmother of one (so far) lives with her husband in Philadelphia, where she is an avid rower on the Schuylkill River and a member of Vesper Boat Club. Visit her at MerryJones.com.