In Tracy Clark’s electrifying new mystery featuring Cassandra Raines, the former Chicago cop turned private investigator looks into a suspicious death as a favor to a friend—and makes some powerful enemies . . .
Sitting in cold cars for hours, serving lowlifes with summonses…being a PI means riding out a lot of slow patches. But sometimes the most familiar paths can lead straight to danger—like at Cass’s go-to diner, where new delivery guy Jung Byson wants to enlist her expertise. Jung’s friend, Tim Ayers, scion of a wealthy Chicago family, has been found dead, floating in Lake Michigan near his luxury boat. And Jung is convinced there’s a murderer on the loose…
Cass reluctantly begins digging, only to discover that Jung neglected to mention one crucial fact: Tim Ayers was terminally ill. Given the large quantities of alcohol and drugs found in his body, Ayers’ death appears to be either an accident or suicide. Yet as much as Cass would like to dismiss Jung’s suspicions, there are too many unanswered questions and unexplained coincidences.
Why would anyone kill a dying man? Working her connections on both sides of the law, Cass tries to point the police in the right direction. But violence is escalating around her, and Cass’s persistence has already attracted unwanted attention, uncovering sinister secrets that Cass may end up taking to her grave.
The Big Thrill caught up with author Tracy Clark to discuss the second installment of her Cassandra Raines mystery series, BORROWED TIME:
Without spoilers, are there any genre conventions you wanted to upend or challenge with this book?
Writing within a genre, say crime fiction, you always find yourself balancing convention and invention. Some things you take from tried-and-true tropes that other writers have put their stamp on, but mostly, if you’re challenging yourself, and why wouldn’t you, you twist and turn those conventions and come at them another way, in essence, you make them your own. Every writer is different. No two writers see any one thing the same way. What I write, though I write the same kind of story another writer might, will be inherently different just because I’m looking through a different lens, coming from a different place. In the PI genre, we’ve come to see the intrepid P.I. as a loner, living on the fringe of society. He (traditionally) is hard-drinking, wise-cracking, skirt-chasing, a wiseguy, anti-social in the extreme. These are the conventions I bend a bit with my P.I., Cass Raines. She’s female. She’s African-American. She has people that she cares about–friends, lovers, family. Her struggle, which will be explored book by book, is how she keeps the grittier, more dangerous parts of her working life away from her home and the people she loves. How will she balance what she does with who she is, what she values? It’ll be fun finding out.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope readers have a good time reading BORROWED TIME. It’s crime fiction with a light touch, very much character driven. Cass Raines is an ex-cop turned P.I., who works the gritty streets of big-city Chicago. Readers will get a good taste of the city’s diverse neighborhoods and the people who live in them. Chicago deep-dish pizza, sputtering streetlights, gang crime, the Cubs, hot dogs without ketchup–Chicago at its best and often worst.
What attracts you to this book’s genre?
Crime fiction is morality play writ large. It’s a battle between good and evil, light and dark, justice and injustice, and without preaching or hammering readers over the head, crime fiction reinforces what it means to be human. If a writer does his or her work correctly, a reader gets all that without realizing they’ve gotten it. That’s the challenge. That’s the goal. Nothing wrong with being sneaky about it.
What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?
I think every book presents the same challenge. The goal is basically to finish, to tell your story in the most effective way possible and to knit it together in such a way that a reader invests the time to read it. It’s a tough climb up a very steep mountain for the writer, and you get to the top one craggy foothold at a time. The biggest opportunity? Again, the same every book–to get what’s in your head (brilliant you reason at 2 a.m., your head on the pillow) onto the page. You always think you can match the two versions, but the transfer is never exact. Sometimes you get close, most times you miss it. If the gods smile, often you find another route that works almost as well. Writing’s funny that way. Actually, it’s not funny, just weirdly frustrating.
What’s the one question you wish someone would ask you about this book, or your work in general?
“Cass becomes quite single-minded when working a case. Why can’t she just chill and let the police work it all out?”
So much has gone wrong for Cass Raines in her life. Pursuing justice, not vengeance, is her way of making things right. While on a case, she forfeits sleep, eats little, keeps moving forward. She hates the fact that there’s evil out there and that it preys most times on those who can’t defend themselves. As a former cop, she’s still very much in serve-and-protect mode. She’ll give her last ounce, but she won’t act as judge, jury and executioner. She has a code, a moral center. She can’t be bought. She won’t be frightened off. She fights for the little guy. I like that about her.
Tracy Clark, author of the Cass Raines mystery series, lives in Chicago. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Chicagoland Chapter, PI Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America-Midwest. Her debut novel Broken Places released in May 2018. Book two in the series, BORROWED TIME, releases May 2019.
You can visit Tracy on Twitter, Facebook or go to her author website.
Interested in becoming a member of the International Thriller Writers? ITW offers Active and Associate memberships.