Sarah Pinborough Excerpt: 13 Minutes

13 Minutes is a psychological thriller with a killer twist from the #1 internationally bestselling author Sarah Pinborough (available October 3, 2017).

They say you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but when you're a teenage girl, it's hard to tell them apart.

Natasha doesn't remember how she ended up in the icy water that night, but she does know this—it wasn't an accident, and she wasn't suicidal. Her two closest friends are acting strangely, and Natasha turns to Becca, the best friend she dumped years before when she got popular, to help her figure out what happened.

Natasha's sure that her friends love her. But does that mean they didn't try to kill her?


It’s so cold, it’s so cold I can’t breathe and I panic hard in the water that is like shards of glass, and for the first time I think I might be in serious trouble. That I might end here. My white joggers and sweatshirt are so heavy in the freezing river. My lungs are raw and ice-scalded as I try to take shallow breaths, desperately keeping my chin above the water, but nothing is working, not my lungs, my limbs, or my brain. The cold is overwhelming. It burns through my veins like fire. If I can just reach the branches I might be able to pull myself to the bank, if I can just stop myself from going under—and what time is it, what time is it—and oh I can’t feel my hands. The thin twigs are scalpels on my dying blue skin this is a terrible mistake and what time is it and …



She was young. No more than eighteen. Probably less. Her hair could be blond or brown, it was hard to tell, soaked wet in the gloom. She was wearing white, bright against the dark river, almost an accent to the fresh snow that lay heavy on the ground. Her pale face, blue lips slightly parted, was turned up to the inky sky. She was snagged on twigs as if the bent branches, bare of leaves and broken by winter, had grasped to save her, to keep her afloat.

His breath steamed a harsh mist. He could hear his chest wheezing loud, although Biscuit’s frantic barking, the alarm that had brought him from the path to the bank, seemed to be coming from somewhere far away. He couldn’t move. It was five forty-five in the morning and there was a dead girl in the river.

I am a cliché, was his next coherent thought. I am the early-morning dog-walker who finds a body.

Biscuit ran in small darts up and down the dirty snow at the water’s edge, furious, eager, disturbed by this change to their daily routine. By this wrong. The dog turned and whined at his owner, but still the man couldn’t stop staring, fingers gripping the phone tucked deep in the pocket of his thick coat. And then he saw it. Just the slightest twitch of her hand. Still, he couldn’t move.

The marbling hand jerked again and suddenly he felt the cold on his skin and his heart beating and could hear Biscuit’s bark loud and clear and then the phone was at his ear and his voice added to the clamor. When he was done, he threw the phone down and pulled off his coat. The river would not claim this girl before her time.

*   *   *

The rest was a blur. The cold water on his legs that knocked the air from his lungs with the shock of it. Slipping. Almost submerged. Gasping. Numb fingers pulling her to the bank. The heaviness of her soaked clothes, the unexpected heaviness of his. Wrapping his coat around her limp body. The crispness of her soaked hair. No warm breath from her mouth. Talking to her through chattering teeth. Biscuit licking her frozen face. The sirens. The blanket wrapped around him. Come with me, please, Mr. McMahon, that’s right, I’ll help you. It’s okay, we’ll take it from here. Pulled up onto legs that wouldn’t quite work and led to the ambulance. But not before he saw the grim faces. The shake of a head. The defibrillator.


The dreadful quiet as they worked. Him, the world, nature: all frozen. But not time. Time had ticked on. How many minutes? How long had they sat on the bank with her not breathing? How long before the ambulance arrived? Ten minutes? More? Less?

I’ve got a pulse! I’ve got a pulse!

And then his tears, hot and sudden, bursting up from deep inside.

Biscuit, beside him, pushed his stinking damp fur closer, paws scratching at his face, tongue on his cheeks, licking, snuffling, and whining. He wrapped his arm around the dog, pulled him under the blanket, and then looked up at the winter sky which was neither truly night nor morning and thought he’d never loved it more.

Copyright © 2017 Sarah Pinborough.

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Sarah Pinborough is the award-winning, New York Times and internationally bestselling author of Behind Her Eyes. Behind Her Eyes was praised by Stephen King, Joe Hill, Harlan Coben, and The New York Times Book Review, among others. 13 Minutes has been optioned by Netflix. Sarah lives in London.

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