Karen’s Killer Book Bench #Domestic #Thriller: FOLLOW HER DOWN, A Novel by Victoria Helen Stone

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A Novel


A must read for romantic suspense fans, Follow Her Down delivers nonstop tension and a mind-bending twist. You’ll root for Elise to overcome the traumatic past she’s desperate to escape.” — #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author Melinda Leigh

Follow Her Down is compulsively readable and surprisingly moving—with a twist that knocked me off my seat. This one will burrow deep into your muscle.”

— Jess Lourey, Edgar Award-nominated author of The Taken Ones

Decades of doubt, fear, and suspicion won’t let a woman overcome her trauma in a riveting novel of suspense by the Amazon Charts bestselling author of Jane Doe and The Hook.

The murder of Elise Rockwood’s sister shattered her family. Their mother’s anxiety kept her housebound. Elise’s paranoid brother, Kyle, saw conspiracies everywhere. Elise numbed her grief in an aimless lifestyle that left her emotionally broken. All of them victims. A local boy eventually confessed, but the damage was already done.

Years later, Elise is reinventing herself. She’s bought a mountain lodge to be close to home again and to find stability. Not even an email from her ex tempts her into revisiting the past. But Kyle won’t let it go. He still believes there’s more to their sister’s murder―and the confession―than meets the eye. When Elise’s ex is found dead in the same forest where her sister went missing decades before, Elise is finally willing to listen.

The traumas of the past are reemerging. So is the truth. Elise’s greatest fear now is who will survive it.

“Victoria Helen Stone delivers an emotional gut punch of secrets, betrayal, and unresolved trauma in this gritty revenge thriller. You’ll cheer for Elise as her life unravels when she’s forced to confront the one thing she wants to forget — the murder of her sister. The tension of Follow Her Down builds until you’re desperate to see how the pieces fit together— and secretly hoping this won’t be the only book in this world.”

— Darby Kane, internationally bestselling author of Pretty Little Wife and The Engagement Party


A Novel

Editorial Note: Descriptions might be too graphic for more sensitive readers.


The distant scream tore through Elise Rockwood’s body, making her guts clench even as her joints went soft. The pail slipped from her hand and dropped with a thunk before it tipped over on the drying grass of her yard.

That cry had sounded like fear, not pain, and for a moment she couldn’t get her breath back. Something was very wrong, and she’d had too many wrong things in her life already. It wasn’t fair. She refused to respond.

Her brief refusal vanished like smoke when a child’s high-pitched babbling broke through the buzzing in her head. This was her property and her responsibility, even when everything inside her was begging to run away. Finally an adult at the ripe age of thirty-five, she couldn’t choose to ignore trouble and hope someone else would take care of it.

Elise took a deep breath and tried to center herself the way her therapist had taught her.

“Hello?” a woman called out. “Ma’am?”

Right. That was her. Elise was the ma’am here.

She flattened her face into careful competence and turned to hurry across the wide expanse of grass toward the woman and little boy who’d checked into their cabin on Monday. They stood together, neither of them clutching any body parts in pain. Both simply looked troubled, thank God.

“Are you okay?” Elise called. “Is anyone hurt?”

“No, we’re fine,” the woman—was it Julie?—said. “It’s just . . .”

She pointed toward a sloping bank that led to the waterway that gave Creekside Cabins its name. “That.”

Nodding as if she understood, Elise headed past her, trying to hide her hesitation and the way she had to force herself to walk around the picnic table and toward the water. She moved slowly. No one was injured. This wasn’t an emergency. There was only something horrifying in the water.

It probably wasn’t the same kind of horror she’d pictured in her mind for so many years, turning it over and over, different seasons, different terrain, the water tugging, dragging, pulling apart. No, it wasn’t that.

When she reached the bank, Elise stared into the flowing water of the stream. In spring it would be a flood of icy snowmelt three feet deep, but today the creek was shallow and calm, clear all the way to the bottom. The rocks still threw up swirls of white froth, but the bubbles did nothing to disguise the stiff legs of the carcass or the eye that had been pecked out by crows. A nightmare stared up at her with a hollowed-out socket, half of its open jaw submerged.

“Mommy?” the little boy cried from behind her. “Is it dead? Is it still dead?”

Wincing, Elise bit back a sigh as the mother murmured comforting words. Yep. The raccoon was dead, and it definitely wasn’t going to recover from that.

Elise might not either. Her guts loosened now, making her queasy as relief tumbled and wrestled with the anticipation of what she’d need to do. This was one of the worst parts about being a responsible adult.

She was the one who had to take care of things. All the things. Even the ones she’d rather call some grizzled old man to do.

“Okay, I’ll be right back,” she said as she passed the woman and child, hoping her voice wasn’t trembling as badly as her knees. After a few minutes of digging around in the toolshed, she returned to the morbid scene, clutching a black garbage bag in one gloved hand and her oldest shovel in the other.

“Sorry about this,” she said as she edged down the rocks toward the dead body. “Nature can be pretty . . . gross.” The boy nodded doubtfully, his eyes bright with tears. She held his gaze to put off the gruesome task for a few more heartbeats, but then gave in and turned to the water.

The clear mountain stream was the focal point of Creekside Cabins, and she couldn’t leave the carcass as a surprise for other guests. The only relief in getting closer to the raccoon was that the roar of the water drowned out the sad questions of the little boy.

Even now at the start of autumn, the creek was surprisingly loud, and she probably wouldn’t have bought this resort if her own cabin had been on the banks. The stream was beautiful, but it muffled every other noise, and Elise liked to keep her ears open for anything she didn’t expect. If you lived next to moving water like this, anyone could sneak up on you. The sound also reminded her of her sister in ways she didn’t welcome.

The guests loved it, though. The three tiny homes that edged right up to the creek went for an extra hundred dollars a night during high season.

“Why don’t you go ahead and relax by the firepit?” Elise called over her shoulder. “I’ll get this taken care of; then I’ll bring out a s’mores kit for you and your son to enjoy.”

She didn’t catch the mom’s answer, but she definitely heard the boy shout “S’mores!” and hoped burning sugar would help glaze over his trauma.

After taking a moment to stare into the oak leaves rustling in the wind, she told herself to stop wasting time. The spicy scent of turning leaves only laid a transparent veil over the stench of rotting animal.

She shook out the trash bag, then jerked back with a curse when pain burned through her arm. Sucking air between her teeth, she studied the scratch below her elbow before belatedly spotting the broken branch right next to her. Two points of it had gouged the tender skin of her forearm, and blood was welling up in parallel lines.

“Ow, ow, ow,” she complained as she pulled out the drawstring of the bag and carefully hooked it onto the jagged branch. After steeling her nerves and parting her lips to breathe through her mouth, she hefted the shovel.

The raccoon’s fur parted as she pushed the shovel under it, the shiny flesh pink and winking. Something moved inside the abdomen. Or maybe her shaking had done that. Regardless, tears sprang to her eyes, and sickness clogged her throat.

Don’t think about that. Don’t think about that.

Clenching her eyes shut, she shoved the handle hard, then hefted the weight and swung it toward the bag. She had to look now, and she tried to aim her focus above the jutting front legs instead of the seething abdomen, but it didn’t help. The black fingers curled just like human hands exposed to the elements for too long. Just like— Do. Not. Think. About. That.

The bag fought her, of course, plastic folding in and clinging, and she had to jostle and twist and shake until the lump of rot finally slid in with squishing resistance. Tiny claws caught on the plastic with a terrible skittering sound as if the dead animal wanted out.

“Shit!” she shouted, unable to hold back even for the sake of the guests. She’d earned the right to curse over this.

The rest went quickly. Elise held the bag at arm’s length, trying her best to suppress a grimace as she passed the boy and his mom. Once she’d dropped the corpse in the dumpster, she wiped the shovel on a patch of crabgrass far from her cabin. Finally, she ditched the contaminated tool behind the shed for the sun and rain to sanitize. Let nature take it. Maybe she’d clean it and put it back in the shed after a month or so. Maybe not. She had plenty of unsullied shovels.

After opening the door to her cabin with her elbow, she scrubbed her hands under hot water until they were beet red, then cleaned the blood and dirt from her wound with alcohol, biting back a few more curses at the bright flashes of pain.

When it was done, Elise slumped with relief to have the whole morbid task behind her, but her shoulders didn’t quite relax. She could feel in her bones that the worst of it was still ahead, because tonight her dead sister would tiptoe into the cabin during the deepest, darkest hours to haunt her sleep.

But that was a horror she’d been living with for a long time. 

Additional Reviews

Follow Her Down pulled me into a tangled web I didn’t want to get out of! Like any good true crime devotee, I couldn’t help but binge this story and heed Stone’s bidding to “follow her down” a path of distrust, denial, and intrigue all stemming from a decades-old mystery that’s suddenly found new life. Fellow fans of true crime documentaries and podcasts will be spellbound by Stone’s tense, empathetic writing and fascinated by the window she provides into the long-lasting effect on a family that’s found themselves at the center of one of these tragic but enthralling stories.”
— Emily Bleeker, Wall Street Journal bestselling author of When I’m Gone

“A simply riveting novel of suspense… a complex and deftly crafted story built upon decades of doubt, fear, and suspicion that will not allow a woman overcome her trauma at the unexplained loss of her sister and the mysterious and possibly linked death of her ex-husband. Original and fascinating from start to finish, “Follow Her Down” is a strongly recommended pick for personal reading lists and community library conspiracy suspense/thriller fiction collections.” — Midwest Book Review

About Author Victoria Helen Stone

Victoria Helen Stone is the author of the runaway hit Jane Doe, which was optioned by Sony for television, and the Amazon Charts and Wall Street Journal bestseller The Last One Home.

In addition to her critically acclaimed novels of dark intrigue and emotional suspense — At the Quiet Edge, Problem Child, Half Past, False Step and the chart-topping Evelyn, After — she has also published 29 books as USA Today bestselling author Victoria Dahl and won the prestigious American Library Association Reading List award for best genre fiction. Her novels have been published in 18 different languages.

Victoria writes in her home office high in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah, far from her origins in the flattest plains of Minnesota, Texas and Oklahoma. She enjoys gorgeous summer trail hikes in the mountains almost as much as she enjoys staying inside by the fire during winter. Victoria is passionate about dessert, true crime, and her terror of mosquitoes, which have targeted her in a diabolical conspiracy to hunt her down no matter the season


Links to Victoria’s websites, blogs, books, #ad etc.:

Amazon Paperback: https://amzn.to/4aJdjwi

Official Website: VictoriaHelenStone.com
Instagram: @victoriahelenstone
Threads: @victoriahelenstone


Special Giveaway: Victoria will gift a print copy (U.S. Only) to two lucky readers who comment on her Karen’s Killer Book Bench blog. Good luck!


Thanks, Victoria, for sharing your book with us.

Don’t miss the chance to read this book!

Happy Reading!

10 thoughts on “Karen’s Killer Book Bench #Domestic #Thriller: FOLLOW HER DOWN, A Novel by Victoria Helen Stone”

  1. Welcome to Karen’s Killer Book Bench, Victoria. I really enjoyed your excerpt. I’m intrigued and want to know more. Can’t wait to read this book. Thanks for sharing it with us today!

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