Southern Lights: A Novel
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Danielle Steel sweeps us from a Manhattan courtroom to the Deep South in her powerful new novel—at once a behind-closed-doors look into the heart of a family and a tale of crime and punishment.
Eleven years have passed since Alexa Hamilton left the South behind, fleeing the pain of her ex-husband’s betrayal and the cruelty of his prominent Charleston family. Now an assistant D.A. in Manhattan, Alexa has finally put her demons to rest, raising her daughter alone and making a name for herself as a top prosecutor taking on some of the city’s toughest cases.
But as Alexa prepares for her latest case, the high-stakes trial of accused serial killer Luke Quentin, threatening letters addressed to Savannah, her beautiful seventeen-year-old daughter, throw Alexa’s private life into turmoil. Certain that Quentin is behind the letters, Alexa must make the toughest choice of all: to send her daughter back to her ex-husband’s world of southern tradition and memories of betrayal.
While Alexa’s trial builds to a climax in New York, her daughter settles into southern life, discovering a father and family history she barely knows. As secrets are exposed and old wounds are healed, Alexa and Savannah, after a season in different worlds, will come together again – strengthened by the challenges they have faced and changed by the mysteries they have unraveled.
From the gritty chaos of Manhattan’s criminal court system to the seductive gentility of the South, from the rage of a hardened criminal to the tender bond between a mother and a daughter, Southern Lights will catch you off guard at every turn.
And in the fall she was leaving for college. Life as they had known it was about to end, or just had. “I’ll call her tonight,” Muriel said somberly. She hated what was happening to them, and what the trial had done to their lives. “Do you want to come over for dinner?” her mother asked her kindly, but Alexa wasn’t up to it. Seeing Savannah cry at the airport had been too hard. “No. I just want to crawl into my bed and cry.” “I feel terrible about this. Maybe I was wrong to tell you to send her
the way home. They got back to the house at four-thirty after a wonderful day together. And her father had told her over lunch that she was starting school the next day. It was all arranged. She would be a senior, of course, and she was welcome to attend their graduation and walk with the other students, although her official diploma would come from her school in New York. He had had her transcript faxed by her school, and the one in Charleston was impressed by her grades. He was going to drive
laughing. But Alexa was irked by her hypocrisy and pretense of a still-existing friendship and concern that she tried to pretend had lain dormant, when in fact it had died years before, at her hands. “How long are you here for?” “Just till tomorrow. I came down for the weekend.” “My Gawwddd, we have to get together the next time you come. Call me before you do. We could have lunch with our girls.” Not on your life, Alexa was thinking as she smiled back at her. “We’re just so happy that Savannah
photograph of her in the stack too. All of the victims were between eighteen and twenty-five, most of them were blond and had a similar appearance. They had the look of wholesome young girls next door. All had been raped before they died—the bruises on their necks showed that all had been strangled, asphyxiated while their assailant raped them, which was consistent with his supposed desire to reenact “snuff films” and kill women during sex. All the young women had parents and friends who had
eighteen young women, with malicious intent. “We can’t allow people who behave this way to walk among us, to hurt our children, to kill people we love. People who commit crimes like this need to be put in prison and punished for those crimes. If not, none of our children or loved ones are safe, and we aren’t either. “We feel sure that Luke Quentin killed these eighteen women. We can prove it, and we will prove it to you during this trial, beyond a reasonable doubt. And if you agree with the