Karen’s Killer Book Bench #Mystery: A MAN DOWNSTAIRS, A Novel by Nicole Lundrigan

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A Novel


What if the childhood you remember isn’t really what happened at all?


A gripping story of troubled relationships, mental illness and buried secrets with a murder at its heart. . . . Clever, twisty and chilling.” —Shari Lapena, #1 bestselling author of Everyone Here is Lying

From the acclaimed author of An Unthinkable Thing and Hideaway, a breath-stopping novel of suspense about a woman tormented by memories of the past and threatened by long-held secrets in the present.

Molly Wynters has moved back to her small hometown to care for her father, recently felled by a stroke and no longer able to communicate. She is ready to make a fresh start with her son after her divorce, but is haunted by both old events and new realities in her childhood home.

What Molly recalls of her young life with her father is full of love and care, even though a violent trauma defined her childhood: when she was a young girl, she witnessed her mother’s murder, and her testimony – “There was a man downstairs” – sent a teenager to prison. This tragic episode is still very much alive in the culture of the town, and the more Molly remembers, the more she fears that what she said on the stand all those years ago might not have been the whole truth.

After Molly, a trained therapist, volunteers for a local helpline, the threats begin. At first they seem random, but soon Molly realizes that she is a target, and even those closest to her seem suspicious, especially as unsuspected links between them emerge. More than one life was destroyed on that horrific long-ago day, and now someone intends to hold Molly accountable.

With its gripping descent into the shadowy corners of the human psyche A Man Downstairs is both an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride and a masterful exploration of the fragile nature of memory.


A Novel

Excerpted from A Man Downstairs: A Novel by Nicole Lundrigan. Copyright © 2024 Nicole Lundrigan. Published by Viking Canada, an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.



I’ve come to realize there is nothing sweeter than a second chance.
Of course, I knew I’d never see her again. But you and I are together now, and that’s what counts. The first moment you smiled at me, all the missteps I’d made in the past were swept away. Forgiven and forgotten.

Most evenings, I am content to gaze at you through the window. My actions feel comfortably familiar, and each time I linger in the backyard, I automatically envision a dozen ways in. Cheap locks or forcible doors. That worthless plastic clip securing the bedroom window. But I won’t do that this time. With her, I played a different role for different reasons, and now, I have other ideas.

Though tonight, as I stand on the grass beneath a milk-white moon, I feel worried. You are pacing about the kitchen, a phone pressed to your ear and concern on your face. I wonder if you are safe. If you are happy. As I follow your steps, my left leg buckles from pain. Glancing down, I catch the glint of metal. Fingers gripping the splintery shaft of an axe, its dull blade jabbing my calf. I can’t recall picking it up. And I take a moment to remind myself that I am like everyone else. Choking with apprehension. Prone to dark thoughts.

I rest the axe against the side of the house. I will remain measured this time, and not rush ahead. Second chances don’t come along very often.

Chapter One

“What if it’s a scam?”

“It’s not a scam.”

“But it could be, Mom. You don’t know everything.”

There was a sneer in Alex’s tone, and Molly realized her teenaged son was baiting her. Instead of responding, she gripped the steering wheel, focused on the curving road ahead. She still hated this stretch of the drive. These last few miles before they passed the mouth of that narrow dirt trail. When she was a child, someone had erected a white cross in the ditch beside it. A glaring reminder for her, her father, and the entire town of what happened there.

“If it’s real, this place better not be a total dump,” Alex mumbled as he unwrapped a hard candy, tossed it into his mouth.

This place was a cheap furnished rental that Molly had found online. Several overexposed snapshots suggested it was bright and clean. In no way luxurious, but choice was limited in a town this size. The owner was flexible with dates, mid-September to whenever, and the location was ideal, only about a twenty-minute walk from her childhood home.

“There’s a roof and running water. How bad can it be?”

“Are you serious?” He slumped down in his seat. “I should’ve stayed with Dad.”

A pain prickled through her chest. Since Leo left a year ago, Alex had seen him only a handful of times. At first calls were sporadic, unreliable, and before long they tapered off altogether. Then last spring, Leo purchased a one-bedroom condo with his latest girlfriend. Purposefully, Molly suspected, so there was zero room for a sweaty sullen teenager. Especially one who needed to monitor his food intake, his blood sugar, his insulin.

“I was joking,” she said. “If it’s awful, we’ll pack up and head over to your grandfather’s.”

“We should have done that anyway.”

She sighed. If they stayed with her father, she knew she’d be swallowed by the sadness of him. He’d had a massive stroke six weeks earlier. A passerby found him crumpled on the front step of his home and called for an ambulance. He was rushed to the hospital in the city, and when Molly arrived, doctors explained that the damage to his cerebellum was extensive. Even so, Molly had fully believed he’d recover. That he was simply hidden beneath some gauzy layers of confusion. But when he finally opened his watery eyes, there was no glimmer. No recognition. Just a blankness that broke her in two.

“I thought it was better,” she said. “For us to have our own space. You’ll hardly be around, anyway. What with school. And, well, your hours.” Two hundred of them, to be exact. Community service for a terrible error in judgment involving his cellphone camera and a girl.

Alex turned his head toward the window, folded his arms over his ribs. “You always do that.”

“Do what?”

“Bring it up when I’m trapped. Not like I can get out.”

She glanced at the silver handle inches from his fist. Her mind spat out a scene. One fluid movement, unsnapping his seatbelt, shoving open the door, and rolling sideways. The dullest thud as his slender body hit blacktop.

“Fair point, darling. I’ll try to speak only when you have a viable means of escape.”

He didn’t laugh, just unwrapped a second candy. The hard edges clinking against his teeth. She wondered if his blood sugar might be low. She wondered if she should ask. Nothing about their interactions seemed straightforward anymore.

Just ahead, a faded wooden sign said “Welcome to Aymes!” Beside the words was a ghost of a corncob with a bandana knotted around its kernel neck. Even though she tried to control her reaction, the sight still made her palms grow slick. They were nearly there.

Around the next bend, the yellowing fields gave way to a dense belt of trees. It was jarring, the sudden shift from vast openness to towering branches, rising up, pressing in, covering the road in leafy shadow. On the north side, the ground began to angle steeply, climbing higher and higher.

As though on cue, Alex bolted upright, pointed out the window. “And that’s where it all went down.”

The white cross had long ago decayed, and the once obvious road was now nothing more than an overgrown path, its entrance blocked by a red metal barricade. Years ago, men would drive through the brush to a drop-off point called “the overhang.” They’d lower their tailgates, toss trash into the deepest part of Rabey Lake. Bottomless, locals used to say. Things simply disappeared.

“I guess so,” she said.

“Nobody really knows the whole story, but that dude still went to jail?”

Molly sighed again. They’d had this conversation innumerable times. “Yes, Alex, he went to jail. Until his conviction was reversed.”

He was right, though, about no one knowing the entire story. A clear determination was never made about the location of her mother’s death. It was possible she’d died in the garage at their home. Or was killed on the overhang. She could have been dumped over the side while still alive, drowning in the lake. And her skeleton remained there, bare bones tangled up with stained mattresses, pieces of scrap, torn chairs with wild rusted springs. Nearly forty years had passed, and Molly still thought of her mother every day.

“How’s that fair?” he said. “All because you ‘guessed so.’”

Her spine stiffened. He was being cruel, now. Itching for a fight. He knew she’d witnessed her mother’s death when she was a child. And that the following year she’d testified during the trial. Though proceedings were a blur, there was one moment she recalled with absolute clarity. The entire jury leaning forward as she’d whispered, “There was a man downstairs.”

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

Amazon Kindle

Amazon Paperback

All US buy links for A MAN DOWNSTAIRS on the PRH US website for print, ebook, and audiobook editions:


Website: www.nicolelundrigan.com


Special Giveaway: Nicole will give away an original trade paperback copy (U.S. Only) to two lucky readers who comment on her Karen’s Killer Book Bench blog.

Happy Reading!


Thanks, Nicole, for sharing your book with us!

Don’t miss the chance to read this book!


8 thoughts on “Karen’s Killer Book Bench #Mystery: A MAN DOWNSTAIRS, A Novel by Nicole Lundrigan”

  1. Good morning, Nicole, and welcome to Karen’s Killer Book Bench. I am so intrigued by your excerpt! I love twisty psychological stories! The excerpt was an excellent peek into Molly’s background and story. Going home is never easy but it sounds like her return is going to be extra difficult. Can’t wait to read what happens to her and her son. Thanks for sharing your book with us today!

  2. Holy cow! 😲

    Now THIS is a tease… Have to know what happened (and rap the kid right between the running lights for his behaviour)

    Thanks, Nicole and Karen

  3. Wow ! Your book sounds and looks very intriguing!!! Thank you for sharing the excerpt , it really makes me want to read it!! Thank you for the chance. Have a great day and a great rest of the week.

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