Crime Thriller Mystery Novel image

How far would you go to protect your family?

Karlianna Voncil’s debut novel Led Astray paints an eerily accurate picture of American poverty, family tragedy … and pulse-pounding, blood-soaked revenge. Voncil guides you down the dark and rain-slicked streets of one troubled youth’s misspent life, a journey from which no reader can possibly come back unaltered.

A Suspenseful and Heartbreaking Crime Thriller Mystery Novel

After a senseless murder rocks sleepy Sweet Valley, detectives Martinez and van Daan must pin their hopes on the word of thirteen-year-old Daisy Young, the only soul alive who could have possibly witnessed the crime. But their reluctant star witness has seen more horror than they could have anticipated, and the interview quickly transforms into something more twisted and tragic than either detective is equipped to handle.

All but abandoned by her mother in a poor Sweet Valley neighborhood, affection-starved Daisy fell in with a tight-knit troupe of street toughs who offer her the love and freedom she so desperately craves. Their leader is the mysterious Avia, a mysterious older teen who teaches Daisy everything she needs to survive in return for her unswerving loyalty. But when tragedy strikes and sends Avia down the path of bloody revenge, Daisy’s loyalty is put to the ultimate test in one truly unforgettable moment.

One part crime thriller. One part morality play. One part pitch-dark coming-of-age story. Led Astray is a formula for utterly captivating storytelling that’s sure to sweep readers of every stripe off their feet. If you love S.E Hinton’s The Outsiders, Karen Russel’s Swamplandia!, Walter Dean Myers’s Monster, or Meg Rosoff’s Picture Me Gone, you’ll love this electrifying debut novel.

Read on for an exclusive preview of Led Astray: we hope you enjoy it.

An Exclusive Book Preview

Please enjoy this excerpt from Karlianna Voncil’s Led Astray:

She’d seen rooms like this on cop shows. All the pieces were there: the hard furniture, the bare walls, and the buzzing noise from the white overhead light. The silence was a little unnerving, but she resolved herself not to speak. Don’t say anything. Don’t say anything, and eventually they have to let you go. That’s the way it always worked.

It was the inscrutable silence that made every little sound roar in her ears. The scratchy whispers of her sweater when she shifted; the scraping, scuffling sound of her feet dragging on the grooves in the carpet; police sirens still screaming in her head. There were murmurs seeping through the walls, growing steadily louder.

The door opened slowly behind her.

Two men came in. They were the cops from before, but they looked more natural in the confines of their building than they had on the street. She hadn’t gotten a chance to get a good look at them before, when they had appeared out of shadows and seized her with arms spidery and elongated; before, it was shouts and boots kicking at the floor near her head. Rough hands had grasped her and dragged her up as another set grappled with Patrick. He had kicked and flailed something awful; someone must have struck him to subdue him, because she’d heard him suck in a breath and exhale in a huff, crying in earnest; the hands on her had gentled long enough to cover her up and guide her into the squad car.

She’d heard Patrick saying over and over again that she broke into his house, she broke into his property. “Broke into my damn house and attacked me, troubled little shit.”

Somewhere else a grim voice had chuckled and told Patrick he was a lying sack of shit. “Yeah, a short little thing like her was knocking you out with what—eyeliner and an empty tin box? How does ripping her shirt open help you defend yourself?”

She had been aware that other cops in uniform came and swarmed the house, filled it with noise and flashing lights. She’d laid down in the backseat as they took her away and watched the night sky flashing through the tinted glass. Hands had dragged her up and out, sent her stumbling into the station. A brown-bricked, nondescript building with no other cars and no Patrick; the corridors were a maze until they deposited her into the holding room and left her, disheveled, feeling small and numb.

Now she looked at the officers standing before her and tried to communicate her disdain through her eyes. One of the men was white, with shiny red hair and a round, squashed face. He was portly but solid, boxed into frame by a brown blazer. He may have had all the comforts of a good life, but he was bitter-faced and didn’t appear to enjoy it.

The other one didn’t look so mean. He was Hispanic, with dark skin and black hair. His forehead was finely creased, and his cheeks bristled with stubble. Thin-lipped and slighter than his counterpart, he looked to be the more delicate of the two.

The men seated themselves at the table and faced her passively for a few moments. “Have you had enough time to get yourself together?” the white cop asked; he was the one who drove her to the station. She’d listened to him mutter unintelligible things under his breath through three stoplights before he finally cut himself off with a curse. She ignored his question and angled her body away.

“Let’s get introductions out of the way. I am Detective Martinez, and this is my partner, Detective van Daan.” The other cop had a tint of accent in his voice, but his tone was perfectly even. “We want to go over some basics and let you know that as a minor, we cannot ask you any questions about what happened with Mr. Flanders without a parent or legal guardian to consent. So, who do you live with?”

She answered without looking up. “My mom.”

“We’ve already been to your house and there was no car parked outside. It appears that no one’s been there all day. Where does your mother work?”

“My mother doesn’t … she works out of town.”

The redheaded cop was staring hard at her. “Your mother doesn’t work, or your mother works out of town?”

“My mother works out of town,” she answered quickly. “She’s a nurse.”

“Which hospital does she work at?”


“Riverbend Oncology? Over there in Halbart?”

She nodded. There was a spot that itched in the middle of her back, and she twitched miserably.

“What’s your mom’s name?”


“All right, then. That’s great. We’ll be happy to meet Mrs. Young, just as soon as she gets up here.” White Cop had a voice that couldn’t be quieted. That’s what it seemed like as he leaned in and his voice barged in and out of her eardrums. “Now, we’re coming up on the wee hours of the morning. You know her cell number? Is she on shift right now?”

The itch was an ache now; it lodged in the center of her back and stretched across her wrists; it was throbbing in her chest and thudding in her ears. “My mom isn’t—she won’t—that’s not—it’s just—”

“Hey. Look at me.” The Hispanic cop was talking now. His voice was low, and she fought the urge to lash out. “Look at me. Tell the truth. Your mother isn’t at work. Where is she?”

If you didn’t talk, eventually they had to let you go. That was the way it worked. “My mom isn’t nowhere. And you said if she isn’t here you can’t talk to me.”

She snuck a look at them from behind her hair. The Hispanic cop looked thoughtful, and the white cop looked mutinous. He moved so suddenly and was so loud as he kicked back his chair that he startled her; she cowered as he stalked past her and left the room. He made thumping, stomping noises all the way down the hall.

The Hispanic cop was still watching her. He folded his hands delicately on the table and held himself rigidly still. When he spoke, he directed his words to his fingers. “Your mother isn’t at work right now, and we know it. You’re afraid to call her, and that’s fine. But what happened tonight isn’t going to go away, and your mother deserves to know about it so she can help you. So we can help you too. The law says we can’t begin that process if she’s not here. And what’s more”—he still didn’t look at her—“is that we can’t release you until she gets here.”

He sat there quietly, and she did the same. Eventually, he got up from the table and exited the room. Meeting that douchebag partner of his elsewhere, probably. He could get away with that. He and his partner could get up and leave at any time, leave the whole damn building if they desired, go wherever they wanted, but she couldn’t call her mother and she couldn’t leave.

And borne out of the silence came the sudden strangled sounds of shouts coming from some corner, and it sounded a lot like Patrick—

She opened her mouth wide in a snarl and meant to scream, too, but all that came out was air.

Want to find out what happens next? Buy Led Astray today and let the drama unfold.