The Stepfamily Silicon Valley Series Book 1 by Bonnie Traymore Genre: Psychological Thriller
Laura Foster's not the type to go looking for trouble. But it seems to be looking for her.
Laura’s on the verge of living the life she’s always wanted. At the age of twenty-seven, she put her career plans on hold, married handsome widower Peter Foster, settled down in his Silicon Valley home, and helped raise his two children.
Twelve years later, it’s her turn to shine. Her career is thriving, the kids are out of the house, Peter’s company is on the verge of an FDA approval that could garner a windfall in stock gains for them, and she’s training for the Ironman world championship in Kona.
But when a series of freak accidents can no longer be chalked up to bad luck, it becomes clear that someone is out to get her. Is it someone from work, jealous of her promotion? Or is it perhaps someone more dangerous? Someone closer to home?
Laura has no enemies that she knows of, but she senses that husband Peter is keeping something from her. And when she starts digging into the family’s past, she ends up with more questions than answers. But with the walls closing in on her, she needs to find out why someone would want to harm her…and what really happened to his first wife.
"This book had a bit of everything! It had suspense, intrigue, murder, mystery, and a few crazy twists and turns! The storyline was very interesting and kept me glued to my Kindle!" Netgalley Reader
"I devoured this in a few short hours. Very easy to read and the story keeps you coming back for one more chapter." Netgalley Reader
“Excellent and gripping - recommended.
The author's writing style is truly engaging and the plot is well-crafted, with plenty of twists and turns that kept me guessing until the very end..... I def recommend The Stepfamily to anyone who enjoys a really good psychological thriller.” - Amazon Reader
“I read The Stepfamily by Bonnie Traymore in a day and a half; only much-needed sleep had me putting this book down....Some jaw-dropping moments took me by surprise....I will read more by this author. I give this a 5 out of 5 stars. - Amazon Reader
A police officer sits across from me at our imposing dining room table. It’s pretentious and formal—not my style—and I feel awkward sitting so far away from him. I would have rather sat in the living room, but this is where he sat. The officer is about forty, with a few extra pounds on his large frame. He seems less than enthused with the assignment. I decided to have the authorities meet me at home so the police could have a look at the car before it got towed in. I was too flustered earlier to make a decision about what to do. After the mechanic came and told me it was the brake line—or, more specifically, the right front brake hose—I told him to leave it there and hopped into an Uber to get to work for my meeting.
“So, what time did you go out to your car, again?”
“About eight thirty this morning,” I repeat.
We’ve already been over this. Why is he asking me again? I can’t tell if he’s actually concerned about the possibility of a neighborhood vandal or if he’s humoring me. He did inform me that the department has been on the lookout for this sort of thing based on warnings from other municipalities. But then he assured me that, as far as he knew, the Bay Area had so far been spared. I worry now that he’ll think I’m paranoid if I ask him to dig further.
“And there’s nothing on your security camera?”
“No. I have a pretty clear shot of the driveway from one of the cameras, and I didn’t see anyone tampering with my car.”
“The break is pretty jagged, at least on one side, based on these photos, so my best guess is that it probably got sliced by some road debris that got up into it like your mechanic suggested. Then it wore down and broke.”
“Or someone could have cut it in another location,” I say.
“True, but then they didn’t do a very good job. That would mean they didn’t know enough to cut it all the way.”
“Maybe they got interrupted. Or wanted to make sure my brakes went while I was driving.”
“Could be. But you’d probably have noticed it on your way home.”
“The mechanic said it might take a few miles to notice if it was a small cut to begin with.”
The officer nods. I can tell he thinks I’m being paranoid. I consider asking him to dust for prints, but since he doesn’t bring it up, I assume it would be an inappropriate suggestion. The mechanic’s prints are probably all over it anyway. And if someone was trying to kill me, wouldn’t they be smart enough to wear gloves?
I hear a car pull up to the house and wonder who it could be. This doesn’t seem like it would warrant another officer. The car stops in the driveway, and I hear a door slam. Then I hear someone running. What the hell?
I stand up, and so does the officer.
A moment later, Peter comes bursting through the doorway. He runs up to me before I can react or say anything.
“What’s happening?” Peter’s face is pale, as if he’s seen a ghost. I can see sweat beads forming, about to drip from his temples. I should have called to tell him about this, but I knew he had an important meeting. I didn’t want to worry him until I knew more. But what is he doing home so early? It’s only three in the afternoon.
After my meeting, which went swimmingly, I told Bethany about my car, and she encouraged me to go handle it. She’s a hard-ass when it comes to work, but she’s not a monster, and she seemed genuinely concerned. More than the officer standing next to me but much less so than my husband, who looks like he’s about to have a stroke.
He takes my face in his hands. “Laura? Are you alright?”
“I’m fine, Peter.”
“What’s going on? Why didn’t you call me?” My husband is frantic, and I don’t get it. I’m obviously fine.
“Everything’s okay, Mr. Foster,” the officer informs him. “Please. Have a seat.”
So we sit down and take Peter through the whole story from the beginning. I’m much more of a worrier than my husband is, so I expect him to brush it off. And he does, on the surface. But I can tell he’s faking it. And I don’t have a clue as to why.
“Well, Laura, if there’s nothing on the security camera, I’d say it’s pretty safe to assume that it was an accident,” Peter says. But he’s addressing the officer, avoiding eye contact with me. His lips are pressed together, and his jaw is tight. I feel like his words are at odds with his body language.
But then maybe his mood has nothing to do with the brake situation. Maybe it’s the same issue that was bothering him this morning, and he came home early to talk to me about it. But how would he know I was here?
We wrap things up and see the officer to the door. He assures me they will “check into it,” but I’m not holding my breath. I close the door behind him.
Then Peter lets out a deep sigh and almost collapses on the floor. He bends over and puts his hands on his knees, taking deep breaths, looking like he might pass out. Maybe he’s not feeling well, and that’s why he came home early?
“Laura, I thought…”
And then it hits me.
The last time a police officer was here, it was to give him some terrible news. He has seen a ghost today. The ghost of Cynthia Foster—his college sweetheart, the mother of his children, the woman whose home I inhabit.
Bonnie Traymore is an author, educator, and consultant. A world traveler, she loves to include vivid settings in her novels. She is also an accomplished non-fiction writer, historian, and educator with a doctorate in United States History. She has taught at top independent schools in Honolulu, Silicon Valley, and New York City for over 20 years, and she has taught history courses at Columbia University and the University of Hawaii. Originally from the New York City area, she resides in Honolulu with her husband but frequents the Hudson Valley and New York City areas.
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
I lived in Silicon Valley for eight years, and my husband worked in venture capital funded biotech firms. I thought it would be interesting to set the book there. Although it’s predominately a domestic suspense thriller, there are side plots about both the husband and the wife’s workplaces that reflect the region and its high tech, fast-paced culture. The issue of the pros and cons of technological advancement is embedded in the main plot, but I can’t say much more without giving it away. A fun fact is I started writing the book before Chat GPT came out, and I was sort of reacting to it in real time because I’d created a fictitious company for Laura, the protagonist, and the product was made obsolete when Chat GPT was released, so I wrote that into the story line.
Fun Facts/Behind the Scenes:
A fun fact, or perhaps a cautionary tale, is that the part about random vandals cutting people’s brake hoses is true! I found out when I was researching the idea of how hard or easy it is to cut someone’s brake line, and I wrote that into the story, when Laura’s trying to figure out what happened to her car. Turns out, it’s hard to cut the brake line, but not that hard to cut the rubber hose. I have no idea why someone would want to cut the brake hoses of strangers, but be sure and pump your brakes before you start driving.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
There has been some controversy about the choice of POV in the book. I used first person for Laura and third person limited for her husband and the PI. This allows the reader to feel closer to the protagonist but also give some other perspectives to add spice to the story. Some people love it and find it engaging and some people don’t seem to like very much. If I had to do it over, I might rethink it, but then I’ll have to see how it’s received by the wider audience. Michael Connelly did this in The Poet, and that’s where I got the idea. But then, I’m not Michael Connelly! If you read it, let me know what you think.
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