Released earlier this week! Make sure to scroll down to read an excerpt from the book
Thanks to HTP Books and MIRA Books for the gifted copy in exchange for my honest review.
EVERYTHING SHE FEARED – Rick Mofina (Released April 11th, 2023)
Mini Review: 4/5 stars – A young girl falls to her death off a cliff after an unfortunate selfie accident and the only witness is a nine-year-old girl that ran to get help. The supposed cause was her getting too close to the edge while trying to take a selfie, but Katie’s mom, Sara, isn’t so sure. Honestly, I’m surprised this hasn’t been a more common cause of death in a thriller, because, let’s face it, people try to take them in really stupid places. That makes it entirely plausible that it was just a teenager being careless and accidentally fell, right? Over the years, the case has garnered plenty of attention and scrutiny from podcasters and journalists, and Sara just can’t shake the feeling that the death wasn’t an accident – so does that mean her daughter could have done something? While there were a lot of moving pieces to the story and lots of characters, I think the author did a good job keeping everything easy to follow while keeping you guessing until the end. Highly recommend and I plan on picking up more from Mofina in the future!
Every mother worries about their child. But Sara Harmon fears hers…
When a teen falls while taking a selfie at the edge of a cliff, the last thing she sees before plummeting to her death is Katie Harmon, the nine-year-old girl she was babysitting, looking down at her.
Investigators gather at the scene, and Katie’s mother, Sara, rushes to comfort her daughter. Yet there’s a small, secret ping of alarm in Sara’s heart that she cannot share—though rookie detective Kim Pierce senses it.
For years, others have tried to unravel this secret. From true-crime podcasters to a haunted journalist searching for a killer who vanished after being released from prison several years ago. And now, with detectives tightening the focus of their investigation, Sara is consumed by her darkest fear—that the babysitter’s death was not an accident.
About the Author:
Rick Mofina is a former crime reporter and the award-winning author of several acclaimed thrillers. He’s interviewed murderers face-to-face on death row; patrolled with the LAPD and the RCMP. His true crime articles have appeared in The New York Times, Marie Claire, Reader’s Digest and Penthouse. He’s reported from the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean, Africa, Qatar and Kuwait’s border with Iraq. This is his 31st book. For more information please visit www.rickmofina.com
Connect with the Author:
Author Website — Twitter — Facebook — Instagram — GoodReads
Near North Bend, Washington
SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLD ANNA SHAW didn’t want to die.
Adrenaline surged through every nerve ending, her fingers digging into the tree branch jutting from the cliffside.
This was a nightmare. It couldn’t be real.
But it is real.
Anna had been atop the cliff, taking in the breathtaking panoramic view of the river, forests and mountains. Then in a heartbeat she was falling, falling some twenty feet, crashing into the big twisting branch sticking from the cliff face, catching herself, seizing it, struggling to hang on as it bent, now threatening to give way.
Gasping, she looked in horror a hundred feet straight down to the rocks at the banks of the rushing river below.
Wind gusted up, nudging her dangling legs. As she hung on for life, the branch cracked, her body jolted.
Anna glanced up at nine-year-old Katie Harmon looking down at her from the clifftop.
“Katie! Get help!”
Transfixed, Katie stared in wide-eyed silence.
Anna strained to move along the weakening branch closer to the cliff face to find a hold on the craggy rocks.
But pulling herself caused the branch to bob and shake, crackling more under her weight. Her hands landed on short branch spikes, like protruding nails piercing her palms with electrifying pain.
Suddenly the branch split and Anna jounced a few feet lower, clawing, clinging on to the fibrous remains.
“Katie!” she shrieked. “Oh God!”
Anna looked up.
Katie was gone.
The branch cracked again.
Every part of Katie’s brain screamed at her to run.
She flew along the trail, twisting, turning through the dense woods, hoping to catch up to the others who had continued moving ahead.
Anna’s fall had happened in a terrible instant.
So real and so frightening.
And no one else knows! No one was with us to see!
Katie willed herself to run fast, faster than she’d ever run in her life.
She felt like she was moving in slow motion but she blazed along the trail, coming to the clearing where her group from the Sunny Days Youth Center was setting up.
Katie glimpsed the joyful calm, nearly thirty kids and a sprinkling of adults supervising the day trip from the city, oblivious to the horror now on the cliff they’d all just passed. The boys were moving picnic tables together, others tossed a Frisbee. The girls were opening backpacks,
tearing into snacks and drinks while others took pictures.
It all stopped when Katie screeched: “Help!”
Heads turned, smiles melted, the Frisbee crashed.
“What’s up, Katie?” said Jackson, one of the supervisors.
“Anna fell!” Katie’s chest heaved; she was gasping for air. “Taking a selfie. Fell off the cliff! Hanging on to a tree!”
It took a moment for Jackson and the others to absorb the alarm and snap to attention.
“We’ll need ropes,” he said, glancing at the other supervisors, Adam and Connie, who’d grabbed a canvas bag, unzipped it and yanked out tent ropes. They turned to Katie, who’d already fled back on the trail, her sobbing echoing in her wake.
“Everyone stay here!” Connie said, starting to run with the two men as she called to another adult with the group: “Dakota, keep everyone here!”
The supervisors struggled to keep up with Katie, all of them racing back on the trail to the area of the cliff. Two backpacks on the ground marked the point where it happened. Katie stood there horrified when she looked down.
Only spear-like remnants of the branch reached from the cliffside.
Katie stepped back while Jackson, Adam and Connie, breathing hard, looked down, their eyes ballooning in disbelief.
“Oh God!” said Connie, her voice breaking.
“No! No! No!” Adam yelled.
Anna’s body was splayed on the rocks of the riverbank.
Ribbons of blood were webbing to the water.
IN THE TIME that followed, events unfolded like a tragic opera.
Connie’s 911 call went to the King County Communications Center. Panting with panic, she struggled to report the emergency.
“A girl fell off a cliff! We need—please, we need—”
“Take a breath,” said the operator, calm, professional, taking control. “Tell me exactly where you are and what happened.”
Connie collected herself, answering questions and following instructions, enabling the operator to dispatch paramedics and deputies from the King County Sheriff’s Office North Precinct. The deputies then made a callout for Search and Rescue, setting the response in motion.
“I can’t look anymore.” Katie covered her face with her hands. Sobbing and trembling, she lowered her hands and asked: “Is Anna dead?”
“We don’t know.” Connie put her arm around her. “Help is coming.”
For their part, Jackson and Adam had found a safe route to hurry down from the cliff. Moving as fast as they could along the rugged riverbank, they came to Anna’s motionless body.
Her arms and legs were bent and twisted like a rag doll. She was lying faceup with her eyes open, staring skyward, blood dripping from the back of her neck. Jackson and Adam knelt next to her.
“Anna!” Adam said, knowing the worst but saying her name again.
Her stillness terrified them. They heard nothing but the river’s rush while Jackson felt her neck, warm but no pulse.
He began CPR.
Adam saw her palms, bleeding from branch fragments projecting like quills in testament to her fight to hang on. Gently holding her hand, Adam surveyed Anna, almost glowing on the rocks in her bright yellow T-shirt. He didn’t know that her mother had had it custom-made for her last birthday with the embroidered motto crowned over her heart: All We Have Is Today.
A small tattoo on her inner right wrist said Fearless, and on her inner left wrist was a small heart. Her jeans were faded, stylishly torn at the knees. One of her pink sneakers had been ripped away by the impact.
Anna’s head nodded in time with Jackson’s rhythmic pumping. But both men knew that the effort to save her was in vain.
Still Jackson refused to quit.
Adam’s phone rang—it was the emergency operator. She’d gotten his number from Connie.
“Yes… A lot of blood… No pulse… We both have CPR and First Aid… He’s doing CPR… Unconscious… Not responding… Tell them to hurry.”
Staying on the line to provide directions to the scene, Adam held Anna’s still-warm hand while watching Jackson’s unrelenting CPR. Blinking back tears. His gaze went from Anna to the rock face, his stomach lifting at the magnitude of the drop, his focus traveling up beyond the broken branch to the cliff, seeing Connie looking down at him.
Adam shook his head slowly.
Connie’s hand flew to her mouth. She turned, nearly doubling over before somehow getting enough control to pull Katie closer, comforting her. Slowly they started back to be with the others at their day camp.
Connie’s mind swirled as they returned to the clearing; twenty-four kids, aged nine to fourteen, were in the Sunny Days excursion, along with four adult supervisors and three older teen assistants—now, only two.
Moments ago they were all starting a blissful outing, only to see it turn into a day of horrible heartbreak, a day they would remember for the rest of their lives, Connie thought. Everything at their day camp came to a halt when Connie and Katie emerged.
“Is Anna okay?” asked Dakota, one of the supervisors.
Connie searched the group, meeting anxious, expectant faces, feeling Katie’s sobs against her. Holding her tight, Connie brushed at her own tears.
“Anna fell,” Connie said. “She’s hurt bad, really bad.”
“Did Anna die?” one of the girls asked.
Connie stared at her.
“I want to see!” said Dylan Frick, a boy who was also in Katie’s class at school.
“No!” Connie said loudly, then softened her voice. “We don’t know anything yet. We just have to wait.”
Some of the kids got on their phones, texting and calling their families, while a few of the girls rushed to Katie and Connie, encircling them in a group hug, their sobbing soon mingling with the tragic operatic chorus of distant sirens echoing over the treetops.
Excerpted from Everything She Feared. Copyright © 2023 by Rick Mofina. Published by MIRA Books.