‘What Never Happened’ by Rachel Howzell Hall excerpt kicks off this brand-new thriller with a bloody splash

We’ll be shocked if this What Never Happened excerpt doesn’t have you running to grab Rachel Howzell Hall’s next novel because this thriller officially has us hooked.

I’m a huge fan of thrillers and the fact that they can come in all shapes and sizes. Just like romance, they can build tension until you’re ready to explode or they can throw you into the deep-end from the very first page. If this What Never Happened excerpt is anything to go by, then we guarantee you’ll be fighting for air as you work your way through the book.

Described as “murder in paradise,” this suspenseful novel will keep you guessing, and as soon as you reach the end, you might find yourself reaching for another one of Rachel’s books. (Don’t worry, there are plenty where this came from!)

Read on to discover why you should add this book to your TBR pile next.

About ‘What Never Happened’ by Rachel Howzell Hall

Colette “Coco” Weber has relocated to her Catalina Island home, where, twenty years before, she was the sole survivor of a deadly home invasion. All Coco wants is to see her aunt Gwen, get as far away from her ex as possible, and get back to her craft—writing obituaries. Thankfully, her college best friend, Maddy, owns the local paper and has a job sure to keep Coco busy, considering the number of elderly folks who are dying on the island.

But as Coco learns more about these deaths, she quickly realizes that the circumstances surrounding them are remarkably similar…and not natural. Then Coco receives a sinister threat in the mail: her own obituary.

As Coco begins to draw connections between a serial killer’s crimes and her own family tragedy, she fears that the secrets on Catalina Island might be too deep to survive. Because whoever is watching her is hell-bent on finally putting her past to rest.

what never happened excerpt

‘What Never Happened’ excerpt

As Colette twisted the doorknob, she heard… nothing. Unlocked. Love you, El. In his last checks of locks and windows, Dad had missed this door. Weird—he never missed doors back in LA. Each entrance had a sensor with a computerized voice that announced, “Door. Open.”

Their realtor Sandy always made a big fuss about the island’s safety, that everyone here left their doors unlocked.

Mom had smirked, not buying it. If there was a t-shirt saying, “So Safe We Don’t Lock Our Doors,” Dad would’ve brought one in every color.

The kitchen was dark except for the night-light above the range top. The microwave clock said that it was 2:48 am.

The house was thick quiet. Like… “before the lights popped on and your friends shouted, ‘Surprise!’ and threw confetti into your face” — kind of quiet.

Colette pulled off her Vans and sighed with relief as her bare toes wriggled freely. She left the shoes beneath the kitchen table and padded into the—


She slipped and bumped her head against the breakfast bar.

Someone had spilled and hadn’t wiped—

Liquid on her hands… Even in the dark, she saw that the ick wasn’t clear like water. And it felt heavy, thicker than milk.

She knew the sticky smell of spilled alcohol. But this whatever-it-was on the floor, this wasn’t beer or wine coolers or schnapps.

In that weird range-top light, she saw that this… that this was…


Her pulse kicked in her chest, and she swayed on her knees and hands.

Over by the breakfast bar…

A black Nike flip flop.

Dad’s flip-flop.

A bare foot.

A large body collapsed on the kitchen’s granite floor.

“Daddy?” Colette crab-walked over to the big man now staring at the ceiling, unblinking.

She shook her father’s meaty shoulder. The neckline of his basketball jersey was no longer Clippers white, but the same heavy color of the gore beneath his head. “Daddy, what’s wrong? Daddy, wake up. I’ll get Mom.”

He didn’t respond. He didn’t tell her to calm down, to chill out like he always did.
Her feet melted as she careened past her father and through the dining room. Dizzy still from the wine coolers, beer and schnapps, she wondered if she was dreaming this, if she was still passed out on that beach.

Let me be dreaming. Please.

She started up the stairs, then stopped.

A flashlight beam danced against the wall outside her parents’ bedroom.

The power wasn’t out. Her mother wouldn’t need a flashlight unless….

Colette tiptoed back down the staircase and crept to Langston’s bedroom.

The television was still on. A DVD menu for Bad Boys bounced across the screen.

Beside her brother’s bed, a raised hand rested against the wall. That hand connected to a muscular arm. On the wrist: a puka shell bracelet with a painted name, spelled L BOOGIE.


Colette launched herself across the bed, ready to whisper, “Dad’s hurt.” But she never whispered those words. The black carpet beneath her brother had been beige carpet when she snuck out the bedroom window hours ago. Langston’s white football jersey was now as dark as their father’s, and his head hung to the side, barely connected and as floppy as a dog’s favorite rag doll.

Someone’s footsteps scuffed down the steps, their breathing too heavy for a woman.

Oh, no.

Colette snuck into the bedroom closet, closed the slatted door, then crawled behind a giant suitcase. She was only 5’2, happy for the first time that she’d been skipped over in height.

A stranger entered the bedroom.

Black jeans.

Black sweatshirt.

Dark hands.

Long knife in the right hand.

Colette blinked and tried to see past the slats and past the shadows made by the DVD’s bouncing menu. Her stomach gurgled.

Did the stranger hear that? Did the stranger hear her hard breathing and the contained hysteria of the little girl she truly was?

Where was her mother? Strong Mom, who’d battled a disease no one could see without machines, who didn’t back down from anything. Was she okay? Was she… alive?

Colette wanted to vomit again—because of the alcohol, because of the smell of drying blood on her hands and knees. She wouldn’t dare—she’d drown first.

The stranger stood over her brother and then left the bedroom.

Colette’s muscles cramped from holding in screams now twisting around her guts.

But she waited… and she waited…

The tracks on the patio door squeaked as that door rumbled open. And then, the door squeaked as it rumbled closed.

But she waited… and she waited…

Those twisting screams cut through her heart, and those sharp, twin blades of hurt and fear struck her most tender parts.

So quiet.

Too quiet.

Crypt quiet.

But she waited… and she waited…

Until finally, the sun traced a path of light across the bedroom carpet. That’s when she dared to move. That’s when she tumbled out of the closet and into the bedroom, and that’s when she screamed and screamed.

‘What Never Happened’ by Rachel Howzell Hall published on August 1, 2023

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