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It Ends at Midnight
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“Gripping.” – Alex Michaelides
“Another compelling read from the utterly brilliant Harriet Tyce.” – Lisa Jewell
From acclaimed, Sunday Times bestselling author Harriet Tyce: a thriller of a party spiraling into murder when one guest’s plan to right old wrongs ends in blood, masterfully recounted by unreliable narrators in triple timelines that collide at a deadly conclusion.
It’s New Year’s Eve, and the stage is set for a lavish party in one of Edinburgh’s best postcodes. It’s a moment for old friends to set the past to rights – and move on. And yet, the celebration fails to materialize.
Because someone at this party is going to die.
Midnight approaches. The countdown begins. And it seems one of the guests doesn’t want a resolution.
They want revenge.
But there are many present at the party who might have reasons for seeking revenge, and just as many who have spent their lives trying to outrun it. So who is the killer, and who is the victim?
Perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn and Lucy Foley, It Ends at Midnight will haunt readers long after its stunning finale as it questions what we are willing to say – and believe – to ensure our own peace of mind.
Copyright © 2023 by Harriet Tyce
Cover and internal design © 2023 by Sourcebooks
Cover art © Headline Publishing Group
Cover design by Sourcebooks
Cover images © Thana Sukjan/Shutterstock, Tim Robinson/Arcangel Images, Benoit Daoust/Shutterstock, Laura Crazy/Shutterstock
Internal design by Laura Boren/Sourcebooks
Sourcebooks and the colophon are registered trademarks of Sourcebooks.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without permission in writing from its publisher, Sourcebooks.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark, an imprint of Sourcebooks
P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, Illinois 60567-4410
Originally published as It Ends at Midnight in 2022 in the United Kingdom by Wildfire, an imprint of Headline Publishing Group. This edition issued based on the hardcover edition published in 2022 in the United Kingdom by Wildfire, an imprint of Headline Publishing Group.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Tyce, Harriet, author.
Title: It ends at midnight : a novel / Harriet Tyce.
Description: Naperville, Illinois : Sourcebooks Landmark, an imprint of
Identifiers: LCCN 2022028641 (print) | LCCN 2022028642 (ebook) | (hardcover) | (epub)
Subjects: LCGFT: Novels.
Classification: LCC PR6120.Y53 I8 2023 (print) | LCC PR6120.Y53 (ebook) |
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2022028641
LC ebook record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2022028642
The Dog Walker
Autumn Term 1989
The Crime Scene Manager
Spring Term January 1990
Spring Term March 1990
Summer Term 1990
Reading Group Guide
A Conversation with the Author
About the Author
To My Friends
The fox hates fireworks. While they're going off, she'd rather keep herself hidden, curled up in a bush somewhere quiet. Hogmanay is the worst, Edinburgh one big explosion. Normally she'd wait till they were finished, but tonight she's too hungry. Slim pickings lately; it's time to scavenge, fireworks or not.
Her usual spot is a garden behind a house halfway along Regent Terrace. Not much to be found off-season, but when the house is full, there's always food overflowing from the bin. Not this evening, though. She has to go further afield.
On the far side of the road now, over the street from the houses, slinking along the edges. She's been kicked before. Humans scare her, the stink of them. The noise.
Nothing but leaves. Empty wrappers. No sustenance to be found here.
Her ears prick. There's a scream, a dull thud. Not too close, not a threat. She stops, poised to run, ready to seek shelter again. But as she's about to turn, it hits the back of her nostrils. She's caught a scent.
Now she's caught the trail, she's straight over the road, caution thrown to the winds, following her nose.
A long, wet trail, running across the pavement, into the gutter. Glistening in the streetlights. She starts to lap it up.
If she just looked up, toward the source of the blood, she'd see what had happened. But she doesn't. She keeps lapping up the liquid. The closest she's come for days to proper nourishment.
Another bang disturbs her. Then some barking. She raises her head. There's a dog approaching, hot on the scent. For a moment she stands, waits, wanting to see if it'll go or if she needs to move on. The draw of her meal is strong.
That's how the dog walker would have seen her if he'd looked. She's standing in front of the house. A silhouette. A shadow. She turns and flees, tail low.
Behind her, a trail of little paw prints.
Each red as blood.
This isn't happening. I'm not here, not hanging over the railings facedown staring at the pavement. Going to try to look up.
It hurts. Try to move, to touch it. Cold metal. Wet iron. I lift my hand again, but it flops down.
I can't move.
Catch my hand in the light. Squint, my eyes closing fast.
Red. Covered in red.
I close my eyes.
"I won," I say, suppressing my grin. The victim's family are standing nearby at the door of court, and I don't want to rub it in. My client's mum might be delighted that his sentence has been cut by the appeal court from twelve years to eight, but judging by the mutterings and dark looks I'm being thrown, they're less than pleased.
"I don't know how you sleep at night," a man says, pushing past me to join the family. I pull my gown more closely around me, tipping my head so my wig obscures my eyes.
"Ignore him," my instructing lawyer, Jonah, says. He's not trying to suppress his smile. He looks delighted. "It's a brilliant result."
"We got what we wanted," I say. "Let me get changed and we'll get out of here."
"Drink?" he says, looking from me to our client's parents who are standing beside us. I nod, but they shake their heads.
"It's been a long day," the father says. "Thank you, though. We know he's still going to be in prison for a long time, but at least we can see the end of it now."
"I'll see you out of the building," Jonah says to them. He turns to me before he goes. "Daly's?"
I nod again, before skirting round the hostile group to get to the robing room where I change quickly, folding my gown up and ramming it into my red bag along with my wig and my papers. Normally it's my trusty wheelie bag, but not today; appearances at the Court of Appeal are rare enough that they warrant the use of the bag that was given to me by my first pupil master, my mentor, the top Queen's Counsel in chambers, after the kidnapping trial that we did together.
He'll be pleased with today's result. I'm pleased, too. It all went off exactly as I'd hoped. Better, even.
"Nice one, Sylvie," the barrister for the prosecution calls out to me. I'm about to walk out of the main doors of the Royal Courts of Justice. I turn to face him, moving back into the hall.
"You did well," he continues. I look at him closely, wondering if there's a note of condescension lurking underneath. "I've heard a lot of good things about you. Turns out they were right."
"Thanks," I say, my voice respectful. Maybe the condescension is there, but to be fair, he's ten years my senior. And a QC with a hotline straight to the Judicial Appointments Commission. If this is going to be a good reference, I'm not going to fuck it up. "It was an interesting case."
"Very interesting," he says. "Normally I'd say they should throw away the key for kiddie fiddlers, but you made a compelling argument." He leans toward me, his face taking on a more familiar expression. "Rumor has it you've got a judicial application in the works. On the basis of today, I'd say you're well in there." He pats my shoulder, walks away. My heart pounds with excitement. One step closer to my holy grail, the red sash and purple robes of the Crown Court judge.
Jonah has snagged a table and bought a bottle of wine. He pours me a glass as I approach.
"That was great," he says once I've sat down. "You had them eating out of your hand."
"Not the way to talk about Appeal Court judges," I say, raising my glass to him. "They were very receptive, though."
"It was your skeleton argument that did it. You'd laid it all out so well. I'm impressed."
I take a sip of wine, but the warmth that's lighting up inside me comes from his words, not the alcohol. I worked very hard on this appeal. I knew how much was riding on it. Sure, I have to fill in the application forms, go through all the tests that are required in the process of trying to become a judge, but the better I'm doing in my real-life work, the greater my chances.
Taking another sip, I look around the bar, satisfaction seeping into my bones. There's a guy over there I recognize from pupillage, bloated now, years of drinking after work taking its toll. I know his practice is shit, bad cases for worse solicitors. Not like me, fresh from the Court of Appeal. I catch Jonah's eye and smile. Normally I'd temper my arrogance, exercise some caution in my self-satisfaction. Not tonight. Triumph is mine.
"So, what next for the unstoppable Sylvie?" he says. "Any more appeals up your sleeve? Crucial points of law?"
I shake my head. "I'm back in the youth court soon. Highbury Youth Court, to be precise."
He looks aghast. "What the fuck are you doing in there? I steer well clear these days."
"It's a trial, a multihander," I say, smiling at his confusion. "And I'm the judge."
Comprehension dawns on his face. "I always forget you sit as a district judge."
"Yeah, it's only part-time."
"Sensible move, too. Given your plan for world domination."
"Hardly world domination," I say, failing to hide my smirk. "I'll settle for ending up on the Crown Court bench full-time."
Jonah laughs. "I bet you're sorry there isn't a death penalty anymore. I can see you passing sentence now in your black cap: 'May God have mercy on your soul.'"
I laugh too, but a chill passes across me, the hairs on my arms rising in goose bumps despite the warmth of the bar. For a moment I'm miles away. Years away…
"Sylvie," Jonah says, and I'm pulled back to now. "Sylvie, do you want to have dinner? I was thinking it might be nice to hang out."
There's a question here that goes beyond food, and I contemplate it, looking him up and down. It would be fun. I can picture it now, the feel of his hands on me, the roughness of his beard against the softness of my neck. My thighs.
I shake my head. Not tonight.
"I have to get back," I say. "Someone's cooking me dinner at home."
"Ah, OK," he says, almost managing to hide his surprise, one eyebrow shooting up before he gets it back under control. "Nice."
I drain my glass and stand up. "Yes, it will be."
I decide to walk back to Oval. I could have left later, but as soon as Jonah asked the question, I knew it was time to go. It's not the first time we've ended up in a bar after a case, nor the first time that it's gone from there via dinner to bed. I can understand his surprise at my rejection. I'm telling the truth, though. There is someone cooking for me at home.
I nurse the thought of Gareth all the way across Waterloo Bridge and down Baylis Road. I can picture him now, chopping and sautéing, his face set in concentration. I've never met anyone who takes food more seriously. It puts my takeaway and microwave meal habits to shame. The first time he came down to stay, he looked through my fridge with disdain, filling a carrier bag with all the out-of-date sauces he found on the top shelf. I watched with growing horror, convinced that he was going to dump me for my nongourmet ways.
That was six months ago, and he's still here, still cooking. And my fridge is full of a much higher class of condiment. Not to mention wine. Friday nights in with the boyfriend might be a new departure for me, but they're certainly not a more sober one.
When I let myself through the front door, the scent of frying onion and garlic is thick in the air. I open the door to the flat and call out, but the extractor fan's on and there's no reply. Dumping my bag and coat, I go through to the kitchen. Gareth's standing with his back to me, stirring something at the stove. I walk behind him and put my arms around him. He jumps in surprise, jerking the hand that's holding a wooden spoon so that he flicks hot oil and onion onto me. I scream out and pull myself away from him, rushing to the sink to stick my arm under the tap.
He turns the fan off and the room falls quiet, the only sound the water rushing from the tap.
"You OK?" he says. "I'm sorry, you gave me such a fright. I didn't hear you come in."
"I'm fine, honestly," I say. "I didn't mean to scare you."
Gareth puts his hand out and takes mine, turning my arm this way and that to look at the damage. There isn't much, only a small red mark. He raises it to his lips and kisses the burn.
"It's not so bad," he says. "I've had worse." He waves his other hand at me, calloused from years of cooking. Asbestos hands.
I smile, move forward, and hug him again, but this time front to front. He puts his arms around me and we stand for a moment like that. I think about boyfriends before, how I wouldn't even let them stay the night, let alone give them the key and the run of my kitchen. I start to laugh, my face muffled in his shoulder, and he lets go of me immediately.
"You OK?" he says again, his voice filled with concern. I look at him blankly for a moment before I realize.
"I'm not crying," I say. "I'm laughing."
"Why are you laughing?"
"Because I'm happy," I say. "It's so nice to see you."
I change out of my suit while he finishes off dinner, shutting myself in the bathroom to redo my face. I'm relaxed with him; more than relaxed. Enough for tracksuit bottoms and a sleeveless top. Not quite enough for a makeup-free look, though I've gotten better from the early days, when I used to slide out of bed before he woke to slap concealer under my eyes. Compared to most, though, he's seeing the real me, as I emerge blinking into the light of a proper relationship.
"You look lovely," he says when I come out, handing me a large glass of red. "Good day?"
"Very good," I say. "I won the appeal."
"Wow, that's great."
"It really is. Just what I needed for my judge's application. I'll be able to talk all about it."
He raises his glass. "Congratulations. Here's to the future Lady Munro."
"I won't be a lady unless I make it to the High Court bench," I say.
"You will. I have no doubt that you can achieve anything you want."
Gareth drinks and I drink too, looking him straight in the eye. He's not who I expected I'd end up with, not some graying Lothario with an eye to a second wife. He's younger, fitter than me, lithe, and bright-eyed with all his own hair. Good with his hands, too…
"I don't know how I got so lucky with you," I say. "Still can't believe I ended up with my own private chef."
"No more than you deserve," he says. "I can't believe I found you, either. The person I've been looking for all my life."
I smile at him and he smiles back, the pulse between us warm and steady. I lift my fork and eat, relishing each mouthful. It's a chicken tagine, rich with spices—cumin, cinnamon, saffron—the bite of preserved lemon sharp against the sweetness of dried apricot, the tang of the green olives he's taken the time to pit, each one cut in half and half again.
"No one's ever cooked for me before," I say. "Not like this, at least. Normally it's a bacon roll if I'm lucky."
"I've got some bacon," he says. "I was hoping you might rise to the occasion and make me a sandwich in the morning."
"If you're sure you want to risk it," I say. I scrape the rest of the sauce up onto my fork before putting down my cutlery and running my finger round the plate, collecting up every last bit. Gareth laughs at me but I shrug, defiant.
"That was delicious," I say. "What's for dessert?"
In reply, he stands, moves over to me. He pulls me up to my feet and kisses me before biting my shoulder.
"You," he says, and takes off my top.
I wake before Gareth, watching the light grow round the edges of the blinds, gray to bright. He's snoring gently, flat on his front, one arm thrown across me. I'd have run a mile by now normally, slipping out from under the embrace, hoping to God the man of the moment didn't wake to find me making my escape.
Gareth's different, though. Ever since it began, it's felt right. We first met at a law conference I attended in Edinburgh six months ago, Sentencing across the Jurisdictions. We were all wearing name badges, milling round the lunch buffet. He was wearing chef's whites and a tall hat when he came over with a plate of mozzarella to top up the display. "Sylvie," he said, "that's a nice name," and as the delegates ebbed and flowed around us, we talked for a while, long enough to pique my interest and for me to hand over my number. It made such a change, to have interest from a man in his late thirties, hair and waistline still intact.
I put back my return to London and we had dinner the next night; the food good, the wine better. He kept my glass brimming over, my heart rate ticking over the edge. There was a buzz of intensity in his gaze, his eyes rarely leaving mine as I told him the bones of my life, the career at the Bar, my growing disillusionment with my corporate clients, how I switched to criminal law, became a deputy district judge. My dreams of becoming a circuit judge one day.
His stint in the corporate world had been even shorter. He'd lasted a few years at an insurance company in Edinburgh before his sister's death sent him over the edge and he jacked it all in to become a caterer.
"Life's too short to do a job you hate," he said, sitting back in his chair and swilling down some wine.
"Couldn't agree more."
"And it's going well. I've got my own business now. As you saw. We get a lot of conferences in. Weddings, funerals. The usual. Most of my work's in Edinburgh but I'm looking to expand south." He paused. "I'd be able to visit regularly."
I didn't reply immediately, letting his words sink in. Prodding them to see how the idea of it felt.
It felt good.
"Enough about me. Deputy district judge? What does that involve? Doesn't sound all that," he said.
"More fun than you'd think. I get trials, every now and again. Mostly Youth Court."
He made a face. "Fun. Robberies, I bet. Knives. Bit of county lines?"
"There's a bit of that, yes. Don't forget the cars, too."
He laughed. "Glamorous. Do you get to send any of them to jail? That would be my only motivation."
"Not sure that's quite the right attitude," I said. "Though to be fair, sometimes it's tempting. Anyway, yes, I can pass a maximum custodial sentence of two years."
I drained my wine, bored of work talk. I pushed my hair back from my face and smiled. "Anyway, this is dull stuff. That's not why we're here. We both know that."
We stared at each other across the table, but my eyes were the first to drop. I was flustered, on edge, a fizzing under my skin that could be the wine or could be something else entirely.
"We both know, do we? Go on, then. Tell me, why are we here?" he said, but he didn't wait for an answer, reaching over the table and taking hold of my hand, his thumbnail driving hard into my palm. I looked up in surprise, ready to protest, but he was smiling at me, a challenge presented. I leaned into the pain, smiling back. Bring it on.
Six months ago. I wouldn't have anticipated it lasting, but he's gotten under my skin. I roll over toward him, tucking my face under his shoulder before going back to sleep.
Later, I watch him dress, his back, the muscles moving smoothly under the skin as he pulls his shirt over his head. I stretch myself out in bed.
He bends down to kiss me. "That was fun," he says. "Are you free tonight?"
"I thought you were going up north today?"
"I was meaning to, but I can actually stay another night," he says. "If that's OK with you?"
"Of course it's all right. I'd love it. Shall we go out?"
"Why don't you cook for me? You could ask some friends round. It's about time I met your friends, don't you think?"
I sit up in protest. "I can't cook for you. You're a bloody chef." I ignore the second part of his question.
"Yes, and I do all my own cooking. I want the night off."
I mutter, not convinced.
"It's not an asking, it's a telling," he says with such a huge smirk that I throw the pillow at him. In response he grabs my arm, pulls me out of bed, and slaps me on the arse before pushing me back down and straddling me. "Maybe you don't need to get up just yet."
- On Sale
- Feb 21, 2023
- Page Count
- 320 pages
- Hachette Book Group