The Killer's Cousin

The Killer's Cousin

by Nancy Werlin


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After being accused and acquitted in the death of his girlfriend, seventeen-year-old David is sent to live with his aunt, uncle, and young cousin to avoid the media frenzy. But all is not well at his relatives' house. His aunt and uncle are not speaking, and twelve-year-old Lily seems intent on making David's life a torment. And then there's the issue of his older cousin Kathy's mysterious death some years back. As things grow more and more tense, David starts to wonder-is there something else that his family is trying to hide from?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780142413739
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 02/19/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 218,464
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 13 - 17 Years

About the Author

Nancy Werlin writes YA fiction that ranges from realistic fiction to suspense to fantasy, often breaking the boundaries between genres. Her books have gathered awards too numerous to mention, but including National Book award finalist, Edgar award winner and finalist, New York Times bestseller, L.A. Book Prize finalist, and IndieBound Top Ten. Nancy's first novel, Are You Alone on Purpose, was a Publishers Weekly Flying Start pick.
Of Nancy's suspense fiction, Sarah Weinman says, "Chances are, many of you haven't heard of this author. That would be a shame, because she's simply one of the best crime novelists going right now. Period." These titles are where Nancy habitually breaks genre-separation rules and include The Rules of Survival (a National Book Award finalist), The Killer's Cousin (Edgar award winner), Locked Inside (Edgar award nominee), Black Mirror (which the Washington Post called "an edge-of-your seat thriller"), and Double Helix (named to multiple best-of-year book lists). 
Nancy's unusual fantasy fiction was inspired by the ballad Scarborough Fair and includes the loose trilogy Impossible (a New York Times bestseller), Extraordinary (featuring a rare thing in fantasy fiction: a Jewish heroine), and her personal beloved, Unthinkable. 
For fun, Nancy also writes and draws a graphic memoir in comics, using her Tumblr to self-publish an episode three times a week. 
Her favorite book in all the world is Jane Eyre. 
A graduate of Yale, Nancy lives near Boston, Massachusetts with her husband.

Read an Excerpt

I sat down. "I don't remember. You'd better tell me."

My father nodded. We looked at each other straight on for possibly the first time, neither of us looking away.

He said, "I was at the inquest. It--Kathy's death--was ugly. She ingested a glass of cleaning solvent. Ammonia of some kind. She was taking a bubble bath, and apparently had the glass all ready next to the tub. She drank half of it--more wasn't required. It burned out her throat, and she sank down under the water. The actual cause of death was drowning. There was water in her lungs.

"And Lily . . . Well, Kathy had locked the door to the attic but Lily knew where the key was. She had sneaked in before. She liked to hang out here when Kathy wasn't in."

Now, that sounded like Lily to me. "So she thought Kathy was out?" I asked.

"I think so," said my father. "Her testimony was a little confused. She was only seven. The judge was very gentle with her."

"What did she see?" I asked.

"At first she didn't realize Kathy was there. The bathroom door was closed. Then she heard a noise . . . probably the glass crashing to the floor." My mother made a sound, a soft involuntary mew, and my father paused for a moment, glancing at her, before continuing.

"Lily said she burst into the bathroom--yelling 'Boo!' or something. The bathroom door wasn't locked. You understand that it would all have happened very quickly. Kathy would have been beneath the water already. Lily said she thought Kathy was playing a game, holding her breath under the water. But she didn't come up."

"Lily got all wet," said my mother. "She tried to pull Kathy out . . ."

The ice cream I'd eaten earlier threatened to push its way back up my throat.

"Lily even tried to pick up the glass," my father said. "But of course it had shattered on the tile when Kathy dropped it, so Lily's hands got cut up. And her knees . . . She kept saying it was her fault. Children that age, they often think they're responsible for everything."

I had a vivid picture of Lily kneeling on the shards by the tub, pulling desperately at Kathy. "Okay," I said. "That's enough." But then I thought of something else.

"This was about Kathy's boyfriend?" I asked. "The one who dumped her?"

"Yes," said my mother.

"Well," said my father, the stickler for detail, "that's what the inquest concluded. The letter from him was on the kitchen counter."

I asked, "Did Kathy write a note or something?"

"No," he said, then added, "I wish she had. It would have been . . . not easier, perhaps, but more final." He shrugged. "People usually leave letters, but not always. This could have been a sudden impulse. Probably Kathy didn't really intend to die. Just to get sick. To scare her boyfriend, perhaps. And maybe Vic and Julia, too. They'd been fighting."

I found myself staring across the room into the bathroom. Its door was ajar, and I could see the edge of the tub inside.

"Why were Vic and Julia fighting with Kathy?" I asked.

"They'd been fighting since she dropped out of college," my mother said. "She'd been commuting to U. Mass, Boston. Do you remember?"

"Something, yeah," I said. What I suddenly did remember were my mother's comments about it. Julia won't pull her claws out of Kathy. Mark my words: That girl will never get away.

"So they were angry at Kathy for dropping out of school?" I asked.

"Yes. They'd been letting her live here rent free. But when she dropped out and got a job, Julia said she had to start paying." My mother's tone dripped disapproval.

"That doesn't sound unreasonable," I said, and heard my father's grunt of agreement.

"She wasn't earning very much money," retorted my mother. "And I think, with a little understanding and support, she would have gone back to school. But Julia's attitude made her dig in harder. Julia always makes you want to do the opposite of what she says."

That was true. I moved on. "So they fought about college and about rent money? And Julia and Vic were in agreement?"

"Well," my mother said. "My brother . . ."

I waited.

"At first, Vic didn't take the rent money from Kathy. She'd give him a check and he'd deposit it, but then he'd give her back the cash. Julia didn't know."

"Tell him, Eileen," said my father.

"I was going to!" my mother said. But then she sighed. "Oh, God. This is embarrassing. David, it was my idea. Vic asked me about charging Kathy rent . . . he wasn't sure . . . so I told him to give Kathy back the money. Secretly."

"It was a spectacular piece of meddling," observed my father calmly. "Your mother outdid herself."

"I was only thinking of Kathy!" my mother protested.

"You were thinking of needling Julia, and you know it."

"Oh, and you're so perfect yourself!" Then her voice changed. "I've said I was sorry. I've said it again and again . . . to Vic, to Julia. I couldn't be sorrier."

"Julia found out?" I asked, even though I already knew. It explained so much.

"Naturally," said my father.

"Shut up, Stuart," said my mother. "Yes, David, she found out. Kathy told her--yelled it at her--in the middle of a fight."

I could picture it. Perhaps they had had that fight right here, in this living room. Perhaps Julia had said, Your father and I . . . and Kathy had flung back, Dad doesn't agree with you! He agrees with me! Do you know what he does? Do you know . . .

It was odd. I could almost hear her. Almost see her as she screamed at Julia, her shoulders stiff like Lily's so often were. Kathy? I thought. Kathy, are you there? Are you here?

I heard it then, plainly. Clearly. The humming.

"David?" said my mother.

I looked up. "Yes?"

"Julia has never forgiven me," my mother said. "But I am most sincerely sorry. I've told her. I told her then, and after Kathy . . . and I've written . . ." Her voice trailed off.

"I understand," I said.

"I thought I meant well. But your father is right, too. Julia and I . . . I'd gotten into the habit of, well, I was always trying to score points . . . It went too far. I went too far. I know that."

I said, "It's okay," and I heard her sigh. I listened as my mother told the rest of the story.

After the incident over the rent, Kathy had begun paying for real. Julia collected the checks, and kept a sharp eye on the checking account to ensure that Vic gave Kathy no extra money. My mother believed that this, and not Kathy's death, was the true beginning of Vic and Julia's estrangement. And then Kathy's new boyfriend had entered the scene.

"He wasn't a nice Catholic boy," said my mother. "Or even a nice Jewish boy. But I don't know a lot about it. My brother . . . wasn't talking very much to me right then. He had long hair. The boy, I mean." Her eyes skittered away from my own hair, longer than it had ever been. "An earring too. Of course no job. And of course they were . . ." She gave me a quick look, swallowed, and finished bravely. ". . . having sex."

It was an odd moment to realize I loved her, my sturdily Catholic--despite the conversion--mother; I grinned at her. For a second, as our eyes held, I thought we might both laugh. Then she ducked her head. "Well. It was all perfectly ordinary, really. Julia overreacted. Anyway, it only lasted three months. But by the end, nobody was talking, even to argue."

Nobody talking. Typical Shaughnessy. Typical Yaf-

I said quickly, "And then Kathy died."

"Yes," said my mother. "Yes."

That was all.

After a while, my parents went to bed, and I flung myself onto the sofa. Then I got up, and prowled into the bathroom; looked at the tub. It needed a good scrubbing. I had never bothered.

If I closed my eyes I could almost see Kathy there. See the shadow; hear the humming.

All at once I couldn't bear being in the house. I put on my running clothes and headed out, fast.

The Shaughnessy apartment was dark. The only indication that Vic and Julia were there was the fact that their bedroom door was closed.

Lily's door was also shut. For some reason I paused outside it for a few seconds. It wasn't all Lily's fault that she was so odd. Terrible things had happened in her short life.

I was halfway down the stairs when I realized that I hadn't asked my parents about Lily. What had been going on with her while Kathy quit school, got a job and a boyfriend, and fought with her parents? Very likely my mother and father would not have known. What was there to know about a seven-year-old? That she had been in second grade? That she had liked to sneak into the attic where her big sister lived, to play at being grown-up?

I should live here, Lily had said of the attic, on the day I moved in. It's all wrong.

And then I wondered: Why would she want to live in the place where she'd seen her sister die?

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The Killer's Cousin 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was a great book. The good thing about it, is it's good for pretty much all ages. There is only one part that is inappropriate. VERY good ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was one of the books i had to read over the summer and i must say it was a really good book. I wasnt able to put the book down and finished it within a few days
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book just keeps you guessing from the beggining to the end.David is accused of murdering his girlfriend,Emily and is sent to live with his uncle and his strange family.He soon learns about secrets in their family that he can't imgine,Great ending! I would recommend this book to anyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Killer's Cousin is an awesome, awesome book!!! Kept me guessing up till the end!!! Some parts were sad and others weirded me out, but that made it all the better! Read this, its worth it!
bsafarik on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Killer¿s Cousin is an easy read, with believable characters that teens can relate to. The story line is simple to follow and yet throws enough curve balls that it is hard to put down. Between the supernatural and the natural, Werlin successfully grabs the interest of her audience: young teens.
Reif_Reviews on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The 1999 Edgar Award winner for Best Young Adult Mystery, The Killer's Cousin captures the reader's attention from page one. As the book begins, David Yaffe has been acquitted of murdering his girlfriend, Emily. Details are left ambiguous on purpose - is David a murderer or a kid who made a mistake? Either way, David shuns the public that followed the story in the newspapers. Due to the charges and the trial, David was unable to complete his senior year of high school, so his parents enroll him in a private school away from the media circus near his home and send him off to live with his aunt and uncle whose oldest daughter,Kathy, died 4 years earlier. Uncle Vic, Aunt Julia, and cousin Lily have a dysfunctional relationship which David finds himself thrust into. Aunt Julia resents David's presence in her house and avoids him, Uncle Vic doesn't speak to his wife, and Lily manipulates her parents into getting her own way.While living in the upstairs apartment where Kathy used to live, David begins to have ghostly encounters with his dead cousin. What is she trying to tell him? Meanwhile, Lily begins harassing David by continually breaking into his apartment and destroying his property and stealing his belongings. When David confronts Vic and Julia about Lily's behavior, they turn against him instead. Things become increasingly tense and uncomfortable for David to the point at which he would like to move out of his aunt and uncle's home. But, Kathy's ghost continually convinces him to stay by pleading, "help Lily."David can take Lily's abuse no longer and moves out. But, he is unexpectedly brought back together with her during a daring rescue in the story's culmination. At this time, David learns that Kathy needed him to "help Lily" by not only saving her from a burning home, but from her debilitating secret guilt as well.
lilibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
David is 17 when he tried and acquitted of his girlfriend's death. His family sends him to live with his aunt, uncle and cousin in Boston. He finds the family to be disfunctional, his younger cousin to be seriously disturbed and vicious, and the ghost of his older cousin in the attic apartment he occupies.
Kaybowes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
David has been acquitted of the murder of his girlfriend and sent away to his uncle's house in Boston to finish his last year of high school. There it is apparent that there is friction between his aunt and uncle, and that his young cousin Lily is disturbed.David may have been acquitted, but he still feels tremendous guilt. When he starts seeing what he thinks is his older cousin's ghost (in the attic room where she supposedly commited suicide), things really start to change.The title is a play on words -- who is the killer, and who is really the killer's cousin?Very effective story-telling.
ShellyPYA on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
David, acquitted of murdering his girlfriend, is sent to live with his aunt, uncle, and younger cousin. The family dynamic is strained; his cousin Lily acts as the go-between with her paretns, and has ever since her sister Kathy committed suicide 5 years earlier. As things grow more tense, David begins to suspect that Lily has a secret similar to his own.
slightlyfan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow. I love this book so much. Everything about it I liked. Why aren't there more books like this around?I loved the mystery in this book. I also loved how everything unfolded. The characters were amazing and unique. I really wish this book was longer.This is one of the only books I wish I could forget the story of so I can read it again. Then the story will be new again and I can experience it for the first time ALL over again.
hvaluet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was captivating and kept you guessing until the end. It brought a compelling psychological insight into the mind of a killer and into the process of dealing with guilt. The way the author let you see into the narrator's thoughts and emotions helped create a strong empathy and connection to his situation. I think this would be a great read for young adults who like suspense and drama.
kewpie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This mostly mystery -- very slightly supernatural -- story begins with David moving in with his aunt and uncle his senior year in high school. Just before the school year began, David was acquitted of murdering his ex-girlfriend. He's depressed, angry and confused about his life. When he arrives at his aunt and uncle's house, he discovers their life has also been altered due to a death. His older cousin committed suicide a few years earlier. He deals with being the awkward observer of their marital strife. He also deals with the disturbingly strange behavior of his younger cousin, Lily. She seems to openly hate David and her behavior becomes more unpredictable, hostile and disturbing. He becomes terrified of her, but everyone around him thinks that he's crazy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book i read it for school and i dont really like reading but i just picked this book and found my self reading every second of the day when i finished i looked for a nother book to read by this auther and i found Locked inside is another i couldnt stop reading i read it over and over again
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author again hqd me stunned at her creativity and writing. This was a great thriller one of thr best I,ve ever read.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
David a senior moved to his aunt and uncle¿s house to finish high school after he got tried innocent for murder. He moved there to avoid the questions by many people about the death. David moving in caused many problems. His uncle was always fighting with Lily and Julie, and Lily didn¿t even want David to move in. Lily always acted really weird around David and then normal to everyone else. At night he would always hear voices and see shadows as he was trying to fall asleep. Then when he did fall asleep he often had nightmares about the murder. At school it was hard for David to find friends because they all knew he was apart of the death. Will David be able to get through living with his cousins and Lily especially? I liked this book because it always kept you guessing about what was going to happen next. The only bad thing about this book is the beginning is extremely confusing but as you read on it will all make sense. Overall this was a great book. Nancy Werlin is a great author and I think I will continue reading her books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Nancy Werin¿s The Killer¿s Cousin is a captivating and mind blowing story. David, who was recently found innocent of murder, finds life in his home town harder than before his conviction. Living his life through the eyes of the public he decides to move to Boston and live with his aunt, Julia, and uncle, Vic. As David settles in he meets Lily, Vic and Julia¿s youngest daughter their oldest daughter died in a horrible suicide/bath-tub accident. David starts at a new school and he meets a semi-gothic Frank, after a few run-ins they become friends. David also meets Raina who lives in the bottom duplex of his new home. Just as David begins to relax in his new life style Lily seems to be getting more vicious. Then on Thanksgiving, at the dinner table Vic and Julia begin talking to each other for the first time since Kathy¿s death. This sends Lily, Vic and Julia¿s mediator, overboard. On top of all this David begins to see and hear the ghost of Kathy during the night. As Kathy¿s message becomes clearer everyday, Lily¿s tantrums get worse. Vic and Julia begin to believe that David is going insane. Is David really going insane, is David making everything up and did Kathy really kill herself. You will have to read Nancy Werlin¿s The Killer¿s Cousin to find all of this out. This is a great book and captivating mystery. I would recommend it to people who love a good mystery.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel is about a seventeen-year-old named David Yaffe who was acquitted for murdering his girlfriend and had to move in with his aunt Julia and his Uncle Vic in Cambridge, Massachusetts so he could get away from the media and the mean stares that he gets from neighbors and ex-friends. David Yaffe has a cousin¿s spirit named Kathy who died talking to him at night and his younger cousin Lily is basically rejecting him all of the time. Lily is furious when he moves in because he moved in the apartment that one time Kathy, the girl who died fur years ago, used to live in. David moves in because Lily never lets him forget his past by always saying, ¿Do you feel powerful?¿ David just shakes it off for a while but comes to find out that she need psychological help, but his aunt and uncle does not agree with David. David¿s days at school are nothing more eventful than it is at his aunt and uncle¿s house. David tries to find missing pieces of his life and put them together and also deal with the terrible incident that he caused. David has a skinhead for a classmate named Frank Delgado who looks mean and dangerous but really he is softer. Take this event for example, when everybody is choosing a kaballist for his project and the kabbalsits were very peaceful people and Frank knew a lot about them and their culture. So in conclusion, I really admire Nancy Werlin for making a novel as good as this one and I hope that anyone that reads this review will read this novel because it is a really good novel to read. This novel has everything you want out of a mysterious and suspense novel and a novel that would but your hair stand on end. So I really encourage you all to get this novel and read it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The killers Cousin This book is about a seventeen year old boy who is troubled by pas and present problems in his life. David Yaffe is acquitted of murder and moves to his aunt¿s house in Boston. He lived in the attic where his cousin died four years prior. His younger cousin Lily, is not pleased and plays pranks on him and gets her parents to evict him. During this time David gets visits from Kathy¿s Spirit (dead cousin), telling him to Help Lily! David, On the verge of insanity figures out that Lily killed Kathy the four yrs back but get kicked out into a hotel. That same night he goes jogging and Kathy¿s Spirit is yelling to David, ¿Help Lily! Help Lily!¿ His feet take him to his Aunts house where he was just kicked out from and it¿s on fire which he knew Lily started and is still in it. He rushes in and saves her, she was trying to commit suicide and they both decide to help each other with their problems. I liked that this book gives the reader a deeper look in the mind of a troubled person. One thing I disliked was that in the beginning of the book there were too many names and you didn¿t know what was going on. From this book I¿ve leaned humbleness, my problems are nothing compared to David;s. This book was also very ironic at many parts. Some books just go on and on, this book kept me interested. I invite all to read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I gave this two stars becuase it was not poor, but it was disappointing. I am sorry but i do not agree with y'all. This book did not thrill me or keep me in suspense. It was obvious what was going to happen, and it had nothing that i could relate to.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. The book is full of problems and emotions that people can kind-of relate to. It was a totally awesome, seat-gripping book. I reccomend this book to anyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a story about a boy named David, who goes to live with his aunt, uncle, and cousin after being accused for murder. He ends up living in their attic, the palce where his odd cousin's sister died. David begins hearing noises, seeing shadows, and no one is very hospitible towards him either. Now he must find out why his cousin is in need of dire need of help, before it's too late.