Scenes of the Crime

A Novel

About the Book

An ambitious screenwriter tries to solve her friend’s disappearance by re-creating their fateful final girls’ trip in this riveting locked-room mystery from the author of All Dressed Up.

“Twisty and utterly bingeable . . . Each page will leave you gasping for more.”—Disha Bose, author of Dirty Laundry

It should have been the perfect spring break: Five girlfriends. A remote winery on the Oregon coast. An infinite supply of delicious wine at their manicured fingertips. But then their center—beautiful, magnetic Vanessa Morales—vanished without a trace.

Emily Fischer was perhaps the last person to see her alive. But now, years later, Emily spots Vanessa’s doppelganger at a local café. At the end of her rope working a lucrative yet mind-numbing gig on a network sitcom, Emily is inspired to finally tell the story that’s been percolating inside her for so long: Vanessa’s story. But first, she needs to know what really happened on that fateful night. So she puts a brilliant scheme into motion.

She gets the girls together for a reunion weekend at the scene of the crime under the guise of reconnecting. There’s Brittany, Vanessa’s cousin and the inheritor of the winery; Paige, a former athlete, bullish yet easily manipulated; and Lydia, the wallflower of the group.

One of them knows the truth. But what have they each been hiding? And how much can Emily trust anything she learns from them . . . or even her own memories of Vanessa’s last days?

Suspenseful, propulsive, and interspersed with scenes from Emily’s blockbuster screenplay, Scenes of the Crime is an unforgettable mystery that examines culpability, the shiny rearview mirror of Hollywood storytelling, and the pitfalls of female friendship.
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Praise for Scenes of the Crime

“The Gothic setting of Jilly Gagnon’s Scenes of the Crime—an isolated, exclusive winery on the Oregon coast—provides the perfect backdrop for this absorbing, meta-fictional variation on a locked-room mystery, full of pointed observations about class, money, and the inherent competition that lies beneath many female friendships. Scenes of the Crime is the ideal choice for readers of Ruth Ware and Megan Abbott.”—Joanna Margaret
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Excerpt

Scenes of the Crime

1

I’d made it about thirty percent of the way through the most glaringly inane round of script notes known to man when a ghost walked into the coffee shop.

Actually, let’s back up about five minutes. As a screenwriter, I should know to set the scene at least slightly.

I closed my eyes, breathing deeply in through my nose, out slowly through my mouth, trying to let the white noise of the coffee shop fall away, let my mind go blank, keep my focus on the breath moving through my body, all the way down to my fingertips, weaving through my leg muscles on its way to the soles of my feet, slithering along my vertebrae and pooling in my tailbone, whispering up into the tips of my eyelashes. Calm. Lower your vibrations and be calm.

It would be weird anywhere but LA.

But eventually I had to open my eyes again, and that same idiotic script note was still staring back at me, maddening in its Feedback 101 simplicity.

Motivation? Why is she still here? Let’s dig deeper.

She’s still here because this is an episode of Back of House, the broadest of network comedies, a slurry of gender stereotypes, cheap sight gags, and plotlines so dull they couldn’t even cut the mental mashed potatoes we’ve been serving up for five seasons now, Mike. She’s here because the loving but slightly exasperated wife character—literally, in early versions of the pilot her name was Wife—exists exclusively as an eye-rolling sounding board to her husband’s constant string of wacky mishaps in the restaurant they run together.

And not for nothing, you don’t need motivation to stay when the A story for the episode is “Hector accidentally locks himself and Maria into the staff bathroom before an all-important VIP dinner. But Maria’s new get-fit focus on hydration means soon she’s gonna have to go . . . when neither of them can go anywhere!”

I could feel a thin layer of my molars sanding away as I tried to cling to those “breathe deep” vibes. Useless. Say goodbye to your enamel, Emily.

I reached for my brownie, breaking off a large corner and stuffing it into my mouth as I sank into the too-deep armchair I’d set up in for the day, letting the chocolatey goodness do what meditative exercises alone couldn’t manage. I looked out over the coffee shop, my favorite in LA not only because it was walking distance from my Los Feliz condo, but because the dim, windowless, sagging-velvet-upholstered-furniture ambiance seemed to scare off some of the would-be actors perpetually posing for the candid shots no one was taking of them. Instead, it attracted my people: the huddled screenwriters actually eating the indulgent baked goods, the blue-light glow of their screens only highlighting the vampiric pallor, unkempt hair, and smudged eyeglasses that formed their personal rebuttals to the famous promise of carefree SoCal sunshine. I always came to Grandeur in Exile when it was my week to write the script. It was impossible not to get work done surrounded by so much hushed intensity.

And occasionally, like now, someone so unexpected would appear that it revived that tiny flame deep inside me—perilously close to snuffing out after five years in the Back of House writers’ room—that flickered with What’s that abouts? and Wait, reallys? and in this particular case, a What’s she doing in here? The tiny moment of not-quite-rightness that feels pregnant with an untold story.

The woman at the counter had the elongated proportions of a designer’s sketch, all willowy limbs and swanlike neck, its slim length accentuated by the sharp line of her near-black bob. Even I could tell that her outfit—trendy black booties and a long-sleeved raw silk sheath, the demure hemline seemingly contradicted by the way it clung to her slim figure, highlighting every curve—was expensive, in a Beverly Hills way you rarely saw in this part of town. And she was carrying a fricking Birkin. What was someone like that doing in this dungeon—albeit a dungeon with plush amenities and excellent wifi—for creatives?

And then she turned to glance toward the heavily curtained windows and I almost choked to death on gooey chocolate.

It was Vanessa. But it couldn’t be.

Vanessa had been gone for fifteen years. I should know. I was one of the last people to see her alive.

And it was possible I was the one who had killed her.

About the Author

Jilly Gagnon
Jilly Gagnon is the author of Scenes of the Crime, All Dressed Up and the young adult novel #famous. Her humor writing, personal essays, and op-eds have appeared in Newsweek, Elle, Vanity Fair, Boston magazine, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, among others. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts, with her family and two black cats. More by Jilly Gagnon
Decorative Carat
Random House Publishing Group