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The Briar Club by Kate Quinn

From the #1 bestselling author of The Rose Code and The Diamond Eye

Start Reading The Briar Club and enter for the chance to win a copy. On sale July 9, 2024. Discover this book and more at harpercollins.ca

Prologue

Thanksgiving 1954

 Washington D.C.

 If these walls could talk. Well, they may not be talking, but they are certainly listening. And watching.

Briarwood House is as old as the century. The house has presided—brick-fronted, four-storied, slightly dilapidated—over the square below for fifty-four years. It’s seen three wars, ten presidents, and countless tenants . . . but until tonight, never a murder. Now its walls smell of turkey, pumpkin pie, and blood, and the house is shocked down to its foundations.

Also, just a little bit thrilled. This is the most excitement Briarwood House has had in decades.

Murder. Murder here in the heart of sleepy, white-picket-fence Washington D.C.! And on Thanksgiving, too. Not that the house is terribly surprised by that; it’s held enough holidays to know that when you throw all that family together and mix with too much rum punch and buried resentment, blood is bound to be shed sometimes. But the scene that erupted tonight and splashed gore from the threshold to the attic . . .

Goodness, but it’s a doozy.

There’s a corpse on the floor of the second attic apartment, spilling a lake of blood from a throat cut nearly to the bone. In the front hall below there’s a detective scribbling in his notepad. In the kitchen, sixteen people are milling around in varying stages of shock: old and young, male and female, some crying, some silent. And all of them, the house knows—having watched the whole thing explode from shocking beginning to even more shocking end—are nursing various reasons to fear that they will end the night in handcuffs.

The police detective comes into the kitchen to talk with Briarwood House’s owner and landlady, but she’s busy having hysterics. The house flutters its curtains, rattles a door or two, takes another peek into the murder scene on the top floor. The green walls of that particular apartment are painted over with a vast, intricate flowered vine, but you’d be hard pressed to tell what kind of flowers under the blood splatter. This was a very enthusiastic murder, the house muses. Not one moment’s hesitation from the hand swinging that blade.

“We have not yet identified the deceased, Mrs. Nilsson,” the detective is saying to the landlady when the house’s attention flits back to the kitchen. “No identification was found on the body.”

“Well, I hope you don’t expect me to look at it! My nerves being what they are—” She pushes away the glass of water being urged on her by her lanky teenage son.

“We have preliminary reports that the death occurred between six and seven in the evening. I understand you weren’t at home at the time, Mrs. Nilsson?”

“I was out at my bridge club. I’m always out at my bridge club on Thursday nights.”

“Even on Thanksgiving?” The detective sounds dubious. If you’d seen as many holidays turn nasty as I have, the house wants to tell him, you’d be surprised everyone isn’t ducking them.

“Shocking waste, Thanksgiving. I provide a turkey lunch for my boarders, but that isn’t enough for some people.” Mrs. Nilsson sniffs, eyeing her son who still hovers with the water glass. “This one won’t lift a finger for his mother in the kitchen, but the moment That Woman says she’s making a whole turkey in my Stratoliner oven—”

Briarwood House doesn’t like Mrs. Nilsson. Hasn’t liked her since she first crossed the threshold as a bride, complaining before she’d even shaken the rice out of her hair that the halls were too narrow (my halls! Too narrow!), and still doesn’t like her twenty years down the road. No one else in this room does either, the house knows perfectly well. People aren’t that hard to read.

“The body was found in the fourth floor apartment, the one with green walls.” The detective is looking down at his notes, so he misses his first clue: the tense glances that pass shadow-fast among the other fifteen witnesses. Or would suspects be a better word? the house wonders. Because it knows something the detective doesn’t.

The killer is still very much in this room.

“Can you tell us who rents that top-floor apartment, Mrs. Nilsson?” the detective persists, oblivious.

The landlady gives another sniff, and the house settles in happily to listen. “Mrs. Grace March.”

Excerpt from The Briar Club, Copyright © 2024 by Kate Quinn. All rights reserved.

The Briar Club will be available in bookstores across Canada and online on July 9, 2024

Enter for your chance to win a copy of
The Briar Club by Kate Quinn

Enter for your chance to win a copy of The Briar Club by Kate Quinn