Say Nothing

Say Nothing

by Brad Parks

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“Outstanding—starts with a bang and gets tenser and tenser. Say Nothing shows Parks is a quality writer at the top of his form.”—Lee Child

“Terrific book. Truly terrific. Tension throughout and tears at the end.”Sue Grafton

Judge Scott Sampson doesn’t brag about having a perfect life, but the evidence is clear: A prestigious job. A loving marriage. A pair of healthy children. Then a phone call begins every parent’s most chilling nightmare. Scott’s six-year-old twins, Sam and Emma, have been taken. The judge must rule exactly as instructed in a drug case he is about to hear. If he refuses, the consequences for the children will be dire. 

For Scott and his wife, Alison, the kidnapper’s call is only the beginning of a twisting, gut-churning ordeal of blackmail, deceit, and terror. Through it all, they will stop at nothing to get their children back, no matter the cost to themselves...or to each other.

“Complications and twists build to an unexpected climax that is both perfect and gut-wrenching.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“Grips the reader from the get-go and doesn’t let up until the final twist.”—Associated Press

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

★ 01/09/2017
Shamus Award–winner Parks’s excellent domestic thriller credibly portrays a family under severe stress. Federal judge Scott Sampson’s tranquil and fulfilling personal life in rural tidewater Virginia with his wife, Alison, and twin six-year-olds, Sam and Emma, is shattered when someone impersonating Alison abducts Sam and Emma from their school. The kidnappers insist that Scott say nothing to anyone and that he await instructions about the impending sentencing of a minor drug dealer whose history merits severe punishment. The orders that Scott eventually receives threaten his professional position and prove to be but the prelude to extortion regarding another case with even greater consequences. The tension the catastrophe causes in Scott and Alison’s marriage is palpable, and Parks (The Fraud and five other Carter Ross mysteries) makes even Scott’s most paranoid suspicions reasonable in the circumstances. Veteran genre readers may anticipate some of the surprises, but they’ll still find themselves on pins and needles awaiting the reveals. Five-city author tour. Agent: Alice Martell, Martell Agency. (Mar.)

From the Publisher

Praise for Say Nothing
A Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2017
Winner of the 2018 Library of Virginia People’s Choice Award

“Parks does a fantastic job conveying every parent’s worst fear while also showcasing the marital conflict and mistrust that erupts in the midst of a crisis....Fans of Harlan Coben and Lisa Gardner will love this thriller. Don’t stay silent, tell everyone.”—Library Journal (starred review)

“The novel’s final pages are exciting, surprising, and deeply moving. How moving? Its ending brought me to tears, and, where books are concerned, such moments are rare....[Say Nothing] carries his work to a new level.”—The Washington Post

“Parks dispenses plot twists with a poisoned eyedropper....The nerve-shredding never lets up for a minute as Parks picks you up by the scruff of the neck, shakes you vigorously, and repeats over and over again till a climax so harrowing that you'll be shaking with gratitude that it's finally over.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“[Say Nothing] begins by shocking the mind and ends by shattering the heart...Readers will quickly say ‘yes’ to this spellbinding, disturbing novel.”—The Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Shamus Award–winner Parks’s excellent domestic thriller credibly portrays a family under severe stress....[Readers will] find themselves on pins and needles awaiting the reveals.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A mystery is supposed to be a surprise but this one floored me. Parks has been a consistently solid writer, but with this book, he entered a new level with even fuller characters and superb plotting. Parks plumbs parents' anguish when their children are kidnapped.”—

“Fast-paced and terrifying, Say Nothing is a roller coaster of fear, deception, jealousy, and terror.”—Bustle

“With the tension ratcheted up to 10, you’ll churn through pages like your life depends on it. Filled with more twists and turns than a country back road, you will never see what lies ahead. . . . After reading Say Nothing, I only had one thought in my head: I have to read everything Parks has written.”—Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg)

“Parks’s legal thriller gets off to a roaring start, plunking us immediately in the middle of things.”—Booklist
“Outstanding—starts with a bang and gets tenser and tenser. Say Nothing shows Parks is a quality writer at the top of his form.”—Lee Child
“Say Nothing moves Brad Parks onto the top shelf of thriller writers. He grabs readers' hearts in the first chapter and doesn't let go until the last line.”—Joseph Finder
“A pedal-to-the-floor thriller! Say Nothing grabs you from the first few paragraphs and never lets go. Writing in sharp, no-nonsense prose, Parks perfectly nails the dynamics of a family under the gun and has conjured a plot (did I mention high-speed?) that leaps straight from today’s headlines. This novel’s a winner!”—Jeffery Deaver
“Say Nothing is tremendously satisfying, packed with engaging characters and surprising plot twists and a furious build of tension until its gut-wrenching pay-off.”—Chris Pavone
“A twisting, suspenseful ride that adds a new and original twist to the legal thriller: a judge, cornered. If you haven't discovered Brad Parks yet, Say Nothing is your chance. Smart, propulsive storytelling.”—William Landay

“Grips you in a vise from the very beginning, and shreds your emotions. Terrific, powerful storytelling at its very best. A tour de force.”—Peter James

Library Journal

★ 12/01/2016
Parks ventures into suburban thriller territory with his latest book. Judge Scott Sampson, his wife, Alison, and their twins Sam and Emma have a wonderful life until the day Scott receives a text message from his wife that she is picking up the kids. He arrives home to find Alison surprised since she thought he was going to get them from school. Soon the truth is revealed when the phone rings and the couple learn that their children have been kidnapped. Scott must follow the abductor's orders involving a drug case he's presiding over as judge if he and Alison want to see Sam and Emma again. Parks does a fantastic job conveying every parent's worst fear while also showcasing the marital conflict and mistrust that erupts in the midst of a crisis. The complications and twists build to an unexpected climax that is both perfect and gut-wrenching. VERDICT Parks's (The Fraud) previous novels have been good, but this is his best to date. Fans of Harlan Coben and Lisa Gardner will love this thriller. Don't stay silent, tell everyone.—Jeff Ayers, Seattle P.L.

Kirkus Reviews

★ 2016-12-19
A Virginia judge's 6-year-old twins are kidnapped by someone who wants to influence an important ruling he's soon to make—and doesn't mind putting him through the emotional wringer in the process.The abduction has all the hallmarks of a professional job. Someone convincingly impersonating Alison Sampson picks up Sam and Emma from their Montessori school in a vehicle that looks just like hers, transfers the children to another car a discreet distance away, and texts Scott Sampson to warn him to say nothing until he receives further instructions. These come in the form of a series of directives about how to conduct himself in the matter of Rayshaun Skavron, an excruciatingly unremarkable midlevel drug dealer. Sampson's dismay over the widening gap between how he's commanded to act and how he thinks he ought to be acting is matched by his increasingly frantic attempts to keep his dilemma secret from the police, the U.S. Marshals, even Alison's family members. Every step he takes enmeshes him even more deeply in danger from his boss's boss, from influential congressmen, from predatory online newshounds, and of course from the criminals themselves, who demonstrate early and often that they're not afraid to hurt his children to keep him in line. Parks (The Fraud, 2015, etc.) dispenses plot twists with a poisoned eyedropper, sparing no detail as Sampson describes his pain, his increasingly paranoid suspicions of people he'd been trusting for years with secrets now grown too hot to handle, and his supremely frustrating inability to take the direct counteractions that he gradually becomes convinced are absolutely necessary. The nerve-shredding never lets up for a minute as Parks picks you up by the scruff of the neck, shakes you vigorously, and repeats over and over again till a climax so harrowing that you'll be shaking with gratitude that it's finally over.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101985618
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/07/2017
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 4,588
File size: 2 MB

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Read an Excerpt



Their first move against us was so small, such an infinitesimal blip against the blaring background noise of life, I didn’t register it as anything significant.

It came in the form of a text from my wife, Alison, and it arrived on my phone at 3:28 one Wednesday afternoon:

Hey sorry forgot to tell you kids have dr appt this pm. Picking them up soon.

If I had any reaction to this unexpected disruption, it was only mild disappointment. Wednesday was Swim With Dad, a weekly ritual revered enough in our family to deserve capitalization. The twins and I had been partaking in it regularly for the past three years or so. While it had started as a predictable disaster—more the avoidance of drowning than actual swimming—it had since evolved into something far more pleasurable. Now age six, Sam and Emma had become ardent water rats.

For the forty-five minutes we usually lasted, until one of them got that chatter in the teeth that told me they were done, all we did was enjoy one another. We splashed around. We raced from one end of the pool to the other. We played water games of our own invention, like the much-beloved Baby Hippo. There’s something about having genuine fun with your kids that’s good for the soul in away nothing else is, even if you’re forever stuck in the role of Momma Hippo.

I looked forward to it in the same way I cherished all the weekly rites that had come to define our family’s little universe. Friday, for example, was Board Game–apalooza. Sunday was Pancake Day. Monday was Hats and Dancing, which involved, well ,dancing. With hats on.

 And maybe none ofthis sounds terribly sexy. Certainly, you wouldn’t want to slap it across a Cosmo cover—HOW TO GIVE YOUR MAN THE BEST PANCAKE DAY OF HIS LIFE! But I have come to believe a good routine is the bedrock of a happy family, and therefore a happy marriage, and therefore a happy life.

So I was miffed, that Wednesday afternoon, when the enjoyment of our little routine was taken away from me. One of the benefits of being a judge is having a certain amount of say-so over my own schedule. My staff knows that, no matter what crisis of justice may be visiting us on a Wednesday afternoon, the Honorable Scott A. Sampson will be leaving his chambers at four o’clock to pick up his kids from after-school care so he can take them to the YMCA pool.

I thought about going anyway and swimming some laps. Doughy forty-four-year-old white men with sedentary jobs ought not pass up opportunities for exercise. But the more I thought about it, being there without Sam and Emma felt wrong. I went home instead.

For the past four years, we’ve lived in an old farmhouse alongside the York River we call “the farm,” because we’re creative that way. It’s in a rural part of the Virginia tidewater known as the Middle Peninsula, in an unincorporated section of Gloucester County, about three hours south of D.C. and many steps off the beaten path.

How we ended up there is a story that starts in Washington, where I was the go-to policy guy for an influential US senator. It continues with an incident—might as well refer to it as The Incident, also capitalized—that landed me in a hospital bed, which tends to encourage the rethinking of one’s priorities. It ends with my appointment as a federal judge, sitting in Norfolk, in the Eastern District ofVirginia.

It was not, necessarily, what I had envisioned for myself when I first picked up Congressional Quarterly as a sixth grader. Nor was it your conventionalput-out-to-political-pasture assignment. From a workload standpoint, federal judges tend to be like ducks: There’s more going on under the surface than anyone quite realizes.

But it was certainly better than where The Incident might have ended for me, which was the morgue.

So I would have told you, all things considered, I had it pretty damn good, with my two healthy kids, my loving wife, my challenging-but-rewarding job, my happy routine.

Or at least that’s what I would have said until 5:52 P.M. that Wednesday.

That’s when Alison arrived home.


I had been in the kitchen, cutting fruit for the twins’ next-day lunches.

Alison was emitting her usual coming-home sounds: opening the door, putting down her bag, shuffling through the mail. Every day, from nine to five thirty, she works with children who have intellectual disabilities that are so severe, their local school systems lacked the ability to accommodate their needs. It is, from my perspective, grueling work that would absolutely wipe me out. Yet she almost always comes home in a good mood. Alison is a veritable force of nurture.

We’ve been together since our sophomore year of college. I fell in love with her because she was beautiful and yet also found it endearing that I could name all 435 members of Congress, along with the states they represented and their party affiliations. If you’re a guy like me and you find a woman like that? You hang on to her for all you’re worth.

“Hey, love,” I called out.

“Hey, hon,” she answered.

What I didn’t hear, I immediately realized, were the twins. A six-year-old human is a noisy animal; two six-year-olds, even more so. Sam and Emma typically enter stomping and banging, chattering and humming, creating their own little unselfconscious cacophony.

The only thing more conspicuous than the racket they make is the absence of it. I dried my apple-damp hands on a towel and walked down the hallway to the foyer so I could investigate.

Alison was there, her head bent toward a bill she had opened.

“Where are the kids?” I asked.

She looked up from the bill, perplexed. “What do you mean? It’s Wednesday.”

“I know. But you sent me a text.”

“What text?”

“About the doctor,” I said, digging into my pocket so she could read it. “It’s right here.”

Without bothering to look, she said, “I didn’t send you any texts about any doctors.”

I suddenly knew what it must be like to sit on a beach when all the water mysteriously rushes away, as happens just before a tsunami. You simply can’t imagine the size of the thing that’s about to hit you.

“So, wait, you’re saying you didn’t pick up the twins?” Alison asked.


“Does Justina have them?”

Justina Kemal is the Turkish college student who lives rent-free in our cottage in exchange for a certain amount of childcare each month.

“I doubt it,” I said. “It’s Wednesday. She—”

My phone rang.

“That’s probably the school,” Alison said. “Tell them I’ll be right there. Jesus, Scott.”

Alison was already grabbing her keys from the bowl. The number was coming up as RESTRICTED. I hit the answer button.

“Scott Sampson,” I said.

“Hello, Judge Sampson,” came a voice that sounded thick, deep, and indistinct, like it was being put through a filter. “It must be nice to have your wife home.”

 “Who is this?” I asked stupidly.

“You’re probably wondering where Sam and Emma are,” the voice said.

There was a surge of primal juices in my body. My heart began slamming against my rib cage. Blood raced to my face, roared in my ears.

“Where are they?” I asked. Again, stupid.

Alison had paused, halfway out the door. I was braced like I was about to start throwing punches.

“Skavron,” the voice said.

“Skavron,” I repeated. “What about it?”

United States vs. Skavron was a drug sentencing scheduled for my courtroom the next day. I had spent the early part of the week preparing for it.

“You will receive your instructions about the verdict we want in a text message tomorrow,” the voice said. “If you want to see your children again, you will follow those instructions exactly.”

“What instructions? What do—”

“You will not go to the police,” the voice continued. “You will not approach the FBI. You will not notify the authorities in any way. Your children remaining alive and unharmed depends on you going about your business as if nothing is wrong. You will do nothing. You will say nothing. Do you understand?”

“No, wait, I don’t understand. I don’t understand anything.”

“Then let me make it clear to you: If we even suspect you’ve spoken to the authorities, we’ll start chopping off fingers. If we know for a fact you have, we’ll do ears andnoses.”

“I got it. I got it. Please don’t hurt them. I’ll do whatever you want. Please don—”

“Say nothing,”the voice warned.

Then the line went dead.

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