An Artful Pairing
By Dawn Ius
New York Times bestselling authors Steve Berry and M.J. Rose turn up the heat with a new novella featuring a character that will be familiar to fans of Berry’s work—Cassiopeia Vitt, known to many as Cotton Malone’s love interest in Berry’s long-standing thriller series.
In MUSEUM OF MYSTERIES, Cassiopeia guides readers from the small French mountain village of Eze, back and forth through time, in a thrilling journey that ends with a high stakes chase through the streets of Paris. Intrigue, secrets, mystery, and passion—it’s exactly the kind of story you’d expect when two of the genre greats put their minds—and pens—together, every page bearing the indistinguishable imprint of each author’s hallmark style.
From Berry, taut, fast-paced action that propels us deeper into Cassiopeia’s character, and from Rose, the lush description and magic that fully immerses the reader in a haunting atmosphere rife with romantic tension.
“None of the Cotton Malone adventures have sex in them,” the authors acknowledge. “So adding that element to one of Steve’s stories was certainly something new and different. We didn’t want it to be direct with Cassiopeia, as obviously she has a relationship with Cotton and he’s not an integral part of the story. But the sex worked well in the flashbacks.” more »
When Darkness Is the Deepest Fear
By E.M. Powell
Lori Rader-Day reckons that her new release, UNDER A DARK SKY, may well be the first mystery set at a dark sky park. For those who may not know, a dark sky park is a designation made by the International Dark-Sky Association. Whether it’s the first mystery set in one or not, this novel is a brilliant psychological thriller, suspenseful and deeply atmospheric.
Rader-Day’s protagonist is the young and recently widowed Eden Wallace, whose life has been shattered by her loss. She doesn’t have a job and has abandoned her true passion of photography. Worse, she’s plagued by debilitating night terrors that mean she must have lights on at all times. The dark has become her deepest fear.
The discovery in her husband’s paperwork of a week-long reservation at a dark sky park comes as an unsettling discovery. But Eden decides to face those fears and make the trip. Trouble is, the guest house reservation at the park is for shared accommodation. She finds herself among a group of twenty-somethings who have known each other since their college days. Eden has no intention of staying, resolving to leave the next morning. But it’s not only the fall of night that brings terror. A scream wakes the household—one of the friends is dead.
The Secrets to Humanizing a Detective
By Dawn Ius
Fresh off the promotion trail of his first literary thriller, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, Robert Dugoni once again launched into full touring mode last month in order to promote the release of the sixth book in his bestselling Tracy Crosswhite mystery series, A STEEP PRICE.
With such a grueling schedule, the temptation might be to fizzle out—but Dugoni, while physically exhausted, says promoting both books has been invigorating, not to mention an interesting opportunity to learn more about his fans, the bulk of whom seem to have enjoyed both new releases, despite their differences.
“So far, there has been very little complaint from any readers about my switching gears to write Sam Hell,” he says. “The toughest question, honestly, is whether or not there is going to be another literary novel.”
Not something Dugoni can answer with any certainty right now—literary thrillers take more time to gestate, and as an author who tends to pounce on an idea with little thought to plot details, carving out the necessary time for a Sam Hell-esque novel isn’t top of mind.
Are YA Thrillers on the Rise?
By Dawn Ius
The New York Times adult fiction bestseller list often reads like a Who’s Who of thrillers. While other genres tend to cycle in and out of popularity, genre giants like Lee Child, Karin Slaughter, Stephen King, and dozens more need do nothing else than publish a new book to re-stake their position at the top.
Until recently, the young-adult category couldn’t have looked more different, with authors like teen favorites John Green and Becky Albertalli—writers of contemporary non-thriller fiction—clinging to those top spots like literary life preservers. But if the recent popularity of Netflix shows like Stranger Things and true crime podcasts have taught us anything, it’s that today’s audiences crave dark, suspenseful storytelling—and it’s a trend that’s steadily creeping into the young adult market.
A current peek at “the list” shows Karen McManus’s young adult debut One of Us Is Lying holding strong near the top, enjoying an impressive 53-week run, somewhat unprecedented for the genre. Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood—also a debut—currently sits in the seventh place slot, having shuffled up and down the list for the past 25 weeks.
It would seem that the young adult thriller is having a “moment”—and authors couldn’t be more…thrilled.
The Ultimate Writers’ Get Together
ThrillerFest, the annual conference sponsored by International Thriller Writers, Inc., broke its attendance record in its thirteenth year.
And that should surprise exactly no one.
From an ATF workshop to a Master Craftfest and Craftfest packed with classes, from a Pitchfest matching writers to agents to a ThrillerFest offering panels that covered the hottest topics, the conference at the Grand Hyatt in New York City was blazing on all cylinders in 2018. Plus… George R. R. Martin.
Kimberley Howe, executive director of ThrillerFest, says, “2018 ThrillerMaster George R. R. Martin shared many entertaining and touching stories during his spotlight interview and panels. Although he wasn’t able to sell his fifth book, he never gave up, switching to television writing before returning to novels, demonstrating that perseverance and resiliency is critical in the industry. George’s warmth and generosity to everyone he met onsite helped make ThrillerFest 2018 a resounding success. And now the NY Mets know they have dragons on their side.”
The Authors Who Took Home the Prizes
By Dawn Ius
Next time you’re at a Gregg Hurwitz signing, don’t be alarmed if he’s guided into the room by a marching minion—that’s just who he’s hired to announce him as the 2018 winner of the International Thriller Writers (ITW) Award for Best Young Adult Novel, a prize that Hurwitz admits means more to him than any other writing accolade.
“As much as we’re not supposed to say so, not all awards are created equal,” he says. “As a thriller writer, I have to say that an ITW award is the pinnacle of the field.”
Professional kudos aside, what Hurwitz says comes with an extra emotional layer because he attended the brainstorming meeting years ago when ITW was first conceived. As he looked down from the stage at Gayle Lynds—one of the organization’s founding members—Hurwitz took a quick trip down memory lane before delivering a speech that was both humorous and profound.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to have been nominated in the past,” he says. “I’m so accustomed to not winning that I have to confess, hearing my name caught me off guard.”
The Day That Tiny Jason Killed It…
By Dawn Ius
Winter—organizers knew—was coming to ThrillerFest. They’d planned for it, prepared for it. Invited it, actually, when they asked 2018 Thrillermaster George R.R. Martin to attend.
But unbeknownst to the ThrillerFest team—and the almost 1,000 attendees—an unexpected villain had snuck in for the festivities. Cradled in the arms of his mother—ITW Social Media Manager, Jillian Stein—Tiny Jason Voorhees, an homage to the main character in the Friday the 13th series, slipped into the Grand Hyatt in New York with only one thing on his mind—who would meet the business end of his machete today?
His first kill was “a lovely woman, Tori Eldridge,” he says. “She happened to be walking down the hallway and looked like a nice choice for the first slash of the day.”
Amid an oblivious crowd of aspiring authors, Tiny Jason got to work.
“The other folks in the hallway didn’t seem too concerned with what was happening, though,” he says. “I guess at a place called ‘ThrillerFest,’ it’s a little harder to get screams and shrieks of terror.”
Not that he didn’t give it his best shot.
Throughout Friday, July 13, Tiny Jason lurked the crowded hallways, poked his head—and his machete—into panel discussions, private meetings, and workshops in search of enough victims to fulfill his prophecy, a tradition born out of Stein’s love of all things Halloween, with a special affection for the Friday the 13th movies.
“Looking back, I can always remember a time that I’ve loved watching horror films,” she says. “I probably started entirely too young with Alien, Nightmare on Elm Street, and of course, the Friday the 13th franchise. Growing up in the Poconos, I attended a camp every summer and we had our own camp legend about a creepy recluse who lived in a dilapidated house on the other side of the camp’s lake. So, because of that, I think I was drawn to Friday the 13th.”
She started collecting horror memorabilia about a decade ago, and one piece was the doll affectionately now known as Tiny Jason. Six years ago—on a Thursday the 12th—Stein posted a picture of the doll on Facebook with the caption: Wouldn’t it be funny if I took him around on my errands tomorrow?
Most of Stein’s friends didn’t think she’d actually do it, and so with the gauntlet of challenge thrown, Tiny Jason’s first adventure began. Stein posted pictures throughout the day, and the images garnered so much enthusiasm, she decided to make it a Friday the 13th tradition, carting the doll to wherever her schedule took them—often to author events.
“I’m like the Santa Claus of slashing,” Jason says. “Just call me Slasha Claus. Just kidding. Don’t call me that unless you want to meet the business end of my machete.”
It’s obvious many ThrillerFest attendees chose to ignore the warning, though, as Tiny Jason slashed his way to some of the genre’s biggest names, like R.L. Stine and Lee Child.
Thankfully Jason knew enough to spare 2018 Thrillermaster and man of the hour, George R.R. Martin.
“I was about to get my slash on and then remembered just how many people are waiting for his next book,” he says. “Figured I’d be nice, keep my machete to myself, and pose for a picture. Winter needs to come, am I right?”
Okay, so maybe next time, Mr. Martin.
In the meantime, Tiny Jason is busy curating his “dying to kill list,” ranking Anne Rice, Brad Meltzer and Stephen King at the top. (“Hit me up, guys.”)
Everyone else can take a deep breath—for now. Tiny Jason only comes out to play on Friday the 13th, and the next one doesn’t happen until September 2019.
You can check out Tiny Jason’s past victims on Instagram @TinyJasonsAdventures and on his website www.MeetMeAtTheLake.biz. Be warned, though: some of the images are not for the weak of heart.
Murder pictures aside, Stein assures us that “no children were actually harmed in the making of any Tiny Jason photo.” Unlike the mother of the real Jason Voorhees, she’s not a psycho murderer.
Miss out on Thrillerfest this year? Get the full scoop on what happened in these The Big Thrill wrap-up articles:
A Tale of Troubling Secrets
It’s one of the most enduring questions to ever stoke the imaginations of thriller writers: how well do we really know our loved ones? Countless novels find their characters excavating the secrets of spouses and lovers, but Karin Slaughter reframes and refreshes the classic trope as a mother-daughter story with PIECES OF HER, a standalone thriller out this month from William Morrow.
“I thought it would be fascinating for a young woman to realize that the person she’s known her entire life is basically a stranger to her,” Slaughter says. “Books like The Husband’s Secret and Gone Girl are about spouses who are not who we think they are, but the fact is our parents are not who we think they are either. Nobody really wants to know about their parents’ wild college years or their sexual mistakes or the things that basically make them human…I thought that would be really interesting to play on.”
To be fair, the youthful exploits of Andrea Cooper’s mother, speech pathologist Laura Oliver, are a little more upsetting than binge drinking and sexual indiscretions. Andy’s first clue that her mother harbors troubling secrets is couched in a grisly act of violence: a gunman opens fire at a shopping mall where Andy and Laura are having lunch, gorily dispatching two of Laura’s acquaintances. The shooting spree—not to mention the killer’s life—comes to an abrupt end when Laura violently and efficiently intervenes, leaving Andy to wonder who the hell her mother really is. When another deadly encounter makes it clear that their lives are still at risk, Andy embarks on a cross-country quest to dig up the bloody secrets of her mother’s past.
Slaughter says the story was born of her interest in the gulf between adjacent generations, with a thriller writer’s eye toward the tensions that come along with shifting attitudes and expectations.
By R. G. Belsky
A. J. Banner’s gripping new thriller AFTER NIGHTFALL begins with an engagement dinner party that goes horribly wrong. The next morning, one of the guests is found dead—and we soon learn secrets about the other people at the party that makes everyone there a potential suspect.
So how did Banner come up with this idea for the book? She says it originated from a single sentence.
“’Lauren is flirting with my fiancé over the dinner I spent hours preparing.’—that first sentence inspired the rest of the book. But don’t ask me where I found the idea for the sentence. I have no idea how I got the idea. But a dinner party stuck in my head, a gathering after which a murder occurs, and all the guests become suspects. At first, I didn’t know who would die or by whose hand. Ideas are mysterious animals.”
Banner’s protagonist is newly engaged Marissa Parlette, who finds the body of her estranged friend Lauren—who she had recently reconciled with and reluctantly invited to the party—on the beach at the bottom of a cliff after the party. Did Lauren fall? Did she jump? Or was she pushed? Marissa desperately goes looking for answers, but instead uncovers more secrets and more questions about those closest to her—even her fiancé.
In writing AFTER NIGHTFALL, Banner described how after that dramatic opening dinner party scene in the first chapter—she then “flew into the mist” with the rest of the story.
The Reality of Spies
By Dawn Ius
Sonja Stone has always been captivated by espionage—the study of truth and lies, right and wrong, loyalty, deception, trust, motivation. Fascinating stuff. But how does all of that translate for the young adult market?
Carefully, Stone says.
“It’s a very shades-of-gray profession. As a rule, spies are required to lie—to everyone and all the time. Authentic plots run the risk of gratuitous violence. Our intelligence officers are exploited and expected to exploit others for the benefit of the country. But that can be hard to take in a YA story.”
Stone experienced this reality first hand when, while reviewing the second book of her teen espionage series DARK DIVIDE, the reader took offense at the fact that the students were being used and abused by the government.
“Ironically, that’s exactly the point,” she says. “Espionage is a silent, thankless job. We use our officers until they can’t be used anymore.”
That said, Stone made a conscious decision to exclude excessive violence, profanity, and sex in her books, creating self-imposed guidelines that keep her novels appropriate for the ages 12 and up crowd.
A Formidable Friendship
By Alex Segura
“I can’t imagine doing it any other way.”
That’s how bestselling and critically beloved crime novelist Megan Abbott reacts to a stray comment about her work, and how her novels — from her debut, Die a Little, to the just-released GIVE ME YOUR HAND — frequently place her characters in extreme, demanding situations that allow their inner desires and emotions rise to the top. Though her answer is humble and simple, like her work, the truth lies somewhere under the surface.
It’s Abbott’s potent mix of moody, ethereal prose with pitch-perfect plotting, and a keen understanding of not only character, but how her characters would respond to the suspenseful and dark things she throws into their lives, that sets her apart as an author. Abbott slyly peels away at the layers, guarding her secretive, complex creations from the outside world to create an intimate, unique relationship with the reader — one that pays immediate dividends when the tension ratchets up to a fever pitch.
In her latest, the masterful and impressive GIVE ME YOUR HAND, Abbott moves from the teenage athletic backdrops of her recent novels — the world of pre-Olympic gymnastics of You Will Know Me and the cutthroat competition of high school cheerleading of Dare Me — to another, equally intense environment: the science lab. Her protagonists, the scrappy and focused Kit and the mysterious, aloof Diane, are former high school best friends — a connection that allows for Abbott to showcase her formidable ability to channel the world of teen girls — who are thrust together as colleagues working on a high-pressure study of PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder), under the watchful eye of the enigmatic Dr. Severin. The reunion is not a welcome one for Kit, who still harbors knowledge of an unforgivable secret, imparted to her by Diane, an act that left Kit feeling cursed, and Diane liberated.
When Trust Is a Shapeshifter
Toni Kan is a creative writer, biographer, editor, and public relations expert. Kan, who was educated at the University of Jos and the University of Lagos, became a magazine editor at the age of 26. He lives in Lagos and has explored his city in poetry and short stories, culminating with THE CARNIVOROUS CITY. He was the recipient of the NDDC/Ken Saro Wiwa literature prize, awarded by the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), in 2009.
Abel Dike leads a quiet life as a teacher in a regional town when he receives a brief message that his brother, Soni, is missing. He knows that Soni is a criminal—and a very successful one—and they have an ambivalent relationship, but he immediately heads for Lagos to try to discover what has happened. He takes on the carnivorous city. Although he moves into his brother’s mansion, over the next few days he is exposed to the extremes of Lagos. I asked Toni Kan about his concept for this riveting crime novel.
THE CARNIVOROUS CITY has a powerful sense of place—in fact, it’s really a book about Lagos. Did you conceive the novel as an inside look at the city through the eyes of an outsider, or did this develop with the story?
The intention was to write a love song to Lagos, which I have called home for the last 25 years. Lagos has always fascinated me just like other cities have fascinated other writers: Dickens with London, James Joyce with Dublin, Doctorow with New York, Hugo with Paris.
College professor Sam Teagarden stumbles upon a decades-old government cover-up when an encoded document mysteriously lands in his in-box, followed by a cluster of mini-drones programmed to kill him.
That begins a terrifying flight from upstate New York, to Washington, to Key West as Teagarden must outfox teams of hitmen equipped with highly sophisticated technology. While a fugitive, he races to decode the journal, only to realize the dreadful truth—it’s the reason he’s being hunted because it details criminal secrets committed by the U.S. in the 20th Century.
If he survives and publishes the decoded diary, he’ll be a heroic whistle blower. But there is no guarantee. He may also end up dead.
Gray Basnight, author of the political thriller FLIGHT OF THE FOX, was kind enough to speak with The Big Thrill and offer some additional insight into his novel:
An estranged family member! A score to end all scores! Continued gastrointestinal issues! Five years after surviving the most harrowing heist of her life, Fantine Park is lured back to the United States by her aunt. The bait: a lead on the identity of her mother’s killer and a score known as the ‘pension plan’, a piece of software that can literally pay out in perpetuity if they can get their hands on it in time.
Working with a team of actual professionals with their own motivations, Fan’s loyalties and beliefs will be tested as nothing is as it seems, especially when one of the members of this crew may have been the last person to see her mother alive.
It’s going to be lies, murder, and gas station hot dogs all the way down as Fan races to get the answers about the day her mother died and maybe, just maybe, the kind of cash that will pull her away from a continued life of crime.
PULL & PRAY author Angel Luis Colón spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest novel:
Monday morning, as the clock strikes 9:00, Detectives Stewart Gardener and Sean Reilly discover the naked corpse of Alex Wilson nailed to the wall of a cellar in his uncle’s hardware store. His lips are sewn together and his body bears only one mark, a fresh scar near his abdomen.
Above his head are two plain white envelopes. They do not contain any answers – only further problems, especially when they find out the scar is hiding a very sinister secret.
Within twenty-four hours, they have one body, one suspect – with a motive but no evidence – and a number of other possible suspects.
But they’re all missing.
Within forty-eight hours, their investigation results in dead ends, more victims, no suspects and very little in the way of solid evidence.
Gardener and Reilly have a problem and a question on their hands: are the residents of Bramfield prepared for one of history’s most sadistic killers, The Tooth Fairy?
By Dawn Ius
One of the underlying themes in Kit Frick’s young adult debut is about the power of facing our fears—not only for the characters in this haunting coming-of-age thriller, but for the author herself.
As a seasoned freelance editor, an entrepreneur, and a published poet and short story writer, Frick is used to being at the helm of her professional life. That changed when SEE ALL THE STARS was picked up by Simon & Schuster/McElderry.
“The thing that shakes me is the reality that in the world of traditional publishing, the author is just one part of a team, and there are countless aspects of the publication process that are largely out of the author’s control,” she says. “Letting go of that control in order to let the publication engine do its thing has been and will probably continue to be a challenge, and a little bit scary.”
Much like the novel itself.
Part love story, part thriller, SEE ALL THE STARS is a heart-wrenching tale told in alternating timelines—THEN and NOW—from 17-year-old Ellory’s point of view, a somewhat unreliable narrator who goes from having four close friends and a boyfriend, to being alone—and consumed with guilt—after a shocking incident that changes all of their lives forever.
Southern Afghanistan, 2005. NATO forces are battling the Taliban across Kandahar Province. In a terrifying twist, the rebels unearth a tactical nuclear bomb lost in the final days of the Soviet occupation. The years buried in the sand have damaged it, so the Taliban seeks the help of al Qaeda to secure replacement parts through its contacts in Saudi Arabia, the Opium Cartel, and the Russian Mafia. Doing so, however, inadvertently alerts the Americans, the Russians, and the Israelis.
Hunter Stark and his team of CIA contractors are on the chase, dispensing explosive waves of violence to track where the Taliban is hiding the weapon. But Russian Spetsnaz and Israeli Mossad operatives are also in the region following their own agendas–as is NATO–triggering chaos and confusion.
The stakes skyrocket when a courier delivers the components and the weapon becomes functional, forcing Stark to drive full throttle, without fear, into a world of terror, going beyond duty and honor to prevent the unthinkable.
Col. David Hunt & R. J. Pineiro took time out of their busy schedules to discuss their military thriller, WITHOUT FEAR, with The Big Thrill:
It’s often said that the Brits and the Americans are two nations divided by a common language, and there’s nowhere that’s more evident than when we’re discussing food. Or murders. Or murders with a food connection…
In KILLER GREEN TOMATOES, the second entry in Lynn Cahoon’s Farm-to-Fork Mystery series, restaurant owner Angie Turner is tasked with clearing the name of a produce supplier suspected of murdering his girlfriend. Cahoon recently sat down with The Big Thrill to answer a few questions about writing cozies, balancing male and female points of view in her novels, and the food-centric setting of her latest series.
You quickly build up a picture of the County Seat, the restaurant owned by the main character of KILLER GREEN TOMATOES. Is it based on a real place?
It’s a mixture of a lot of places. There’s a small Italian restaurant (or was) on Cole Road in Boise that had the lighted pergolas in the dining room. And I’ve mixed in a farm-to-fork place in Nashville called the Farm House. But really, it’s just a unique creation. I’ve waitressed before so I know the feel of a restaurant, even though I was in a breakfast franchise rather than high dining.
By Wendy Tyson
Kellye Garrett grabbed the attention of the mystery community when her first novel, Hollywood Homicide, delighted readers and won the 2017 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, the 2018 Lefty Award for Best Debut Mystery Novel, and the 2018 Independent Publisher (IPPY) Award Gold Medal for Best First Book. Since then, Garrett has been nominated for additional awards, including the Anthony and Macavity awards for best first novel, and her second novel in the Detective by Day mystery series, HOLLYWOOD ENDING, was just released this month.
The Big Thrill recently sat down with Garrett to talk about her exciting first year as a published novelist and her most recent release.
The Detective by Day mysteries are engaging, funny whodunits—not hard-boiled stories like we so often see with crime novels set in Hollywood. What drew you to the traditional mystery genre?
I’ve loved mysteries since I picked up my first Encyclopedia Brown story as a kid. When I was around 12, I discovered Joan Hess and Jill Churchill. I have a very overactive imagination so it’s hard for me to read darker stories, especially ones centering on abuse or twisted serial killers. Traditional mysteries allow me to get my whodunit fix while still being able to sleep at night.
Academia isn’t known for its acceptance of genre writers. We’re all familiar with the stereotype of staid professors at a faculty party looking with disdain at the lowly thriller or romance author. But David Bell, bestselling thriller writer and associate professor of English at Western Kentucky University, has received only support from his colleagues. He knows some people categorize genre fiction as lesser, but the line between literary and genre fiction is often thin. “I understood that there is that difference,” he acknowledges, “but I never got too hung up on it.”
Bell’s father helped shape his eclectic literary tastes. He recalls, “My dad read all the time when I was growing up, and he read a lot of popular fiction. He read Westerns, he read mystery novels, he read spy novels, and so I was always interested in that. When I graduated from college and had more time to read on my own, I started reading more and more mystery writers and thrillers. There was a time not long after college when I read just a ton of Elmore Leonard books and Robert B. Parker and people like that, so I never thought you had to choose between the two. I think sometimes these differentiations between what is literary and what is genre are artificial, and I think it’s probably harmful more than anything else.”
Bell is both the director of the university’s MFA program in creative writing and the author of eight novels from Berkley/Penguin. His work has been translated into numerous foreign languages, and his 2011 novel Cemetery Girl won the prestigious Prix Polar International de Cognac for best crime novel by an international author. Asked how he balances his work at the university with his life as a bestselling novelist, he says, “I like to teach. And honestly, I’m not sure I could be doing this if I had a different kind of job. I mean, I’m expected to publish—publish or perish, and all that—so there’s time for writing built into my schedule. It’s really ideal.”
Let’s welcome Bell to The Big Thrill to discuss his new release, SOMEBODY’S DAUGHTER.
At first Dr. Caden Taggart fears for his freedom. Then for his ability to cope. Eventually, he fears for his life.
It begins when he spots two men sitting in his waiting room—and suspects that they aren’t patients. He’s right. And when they introduce themselves as agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency, things start to go bad.
Richard Mabry, author of GUARDED PROGNOSIS, is a retired physician who was encouraged by James Scott Bell to try his hand at writing fiction. His novels are based on his medical expertise and experiences.
In this latest work, Mabry says he intended to write about a physician whose father is diagnosed with a serious, often fatal condition, and the emotions and changes displayed by them both as things progressed.
By Tim O’Mara
In case you somehow missed it—maybe you were up to your neck in your latest WIP—there’s a big election this year. (When’s the last time we had a “small” election?) It seems like every group out there is doing their level best to scream louder than the other groups. Go on Facebook—or don’t—and it’s hard to find a post that’s not pro-this or anti-that and why you should feel the same way. At times, it just feels like so much cocktail party opinionating. (I may have made that word up.)
In an attempt to cut through all this noise, Mysti Berry has compiled and edited a dozen or so crime stories about the voting process in the anthology LOW DOWN DIRTY VOTE. Many people may try to pigeonhole writers into a certain political group, but Berry doesn’t see it that way.
“It surprised me when people talked about LOW DOWN DIRTY VOTE as political,” she writes via email. “Voting is the most important tool a citizen has to affect change or keep something that doesn’t need to be fixed in the first place, no matter what change or stasis that person thinks is best. To me, specific policy positions are political: pro-this or anti-that. And I do think that writers, regardless of their feelings on certain policy issues, try to avoid preaching from the page. My goal was to get to (some) level of common understanding, not stand on an apple box and shout my policy positions to the world.”
I asked contributor Mariah Klein, whose story “Bombs Away” takes a closer look at voter intimidation, if her entry was based on a real-life occurrence.
A lifeless crow shatters the windshield as Rita Avery, her daughter-in-law, and her granddaughter arrive at Arizona’s Rim Vista Park. Rita dodges bird carcasses on the road home, where she finds her husband Cliff and son Travis gravely ill from a mysterious pathogen with no cure.
The CDC assembles a team to create a cure, but Rita doubts it will arrive in time to rescue Cliff, Travis, and dozens of her friends and neighbors.
In a race to save her family, her community, and potentially thousands more Americans, Rita launches her own investigation. She partners with a certified herbalist and a homeless war veteran dubbed Crazy Mary.
But the more clues Rita uncovers, the deeper she finds herself in the middle of a ruthless plot that could unleash a wide-ranging American disaster. And the culprits aim to stop her at any cost.
Before it’s too late for her loved ones, Rita must thwart the next attack on innocent civilians.
Murder, spine-tingling trips through Arizona’s rugged wilderness, and callous spies determined to spread havoc – this isn’t your average family outing!
Author Karen Randau spent a few minutes with The Big Thrill discussing the fourth installment of the Rim Country Mystery series, DEADLY PAYLOAD:
What at first appears to be a brush fire in some undeveloped bottom land yields the charred remains of a young African-American man. As sheriff’s detective Katrina Williams conducts her inspection of the crime scene, she discovers broken headstones and disturbed open graves in a forgotten cemetery.
As Katrina attempts to sort out a complex backwoods criminal network involving the Aryan Brotherhood, meth dealers, and the Ozarks Nightriders motorcycle gang, she is confronted by the sudden appearance of a person out of her own past who may be involved. And what seems like a clear-cut case of racially motivated murder is further complicated by rumors of hidden silver and dark family histories. To uncover the ugly truth, Katrina will need to dig up past crimes and shameful secrets that certain people would kill to keep buried…
The Big Thrill caught up to author Robert E. Dunn to discuss the third installment in his Katrina Williams mystery/thriller series, A DARK PATH:
Grace Gabbiano left Seattle PD under a dark cloud, but as a sergeant with Coburg PD, she’s put all that behind her. She certainly doesn’t expect her former lover, Dave Mackey, to come asking for help a year later. Chief Aidan Cruz has a short fuse for bad cops, and he’s certain Mackey falls into that category. Mackey engages in a cat-and-mouse game with Grace, and then he vanishes, leaving her to wonder exactly how insidious the Seattle “thing” she left behind actually is.
Ann Simas, author of QUILTED TO DIE, spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest mystery:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
It’s so much fun being able to bring my heritage to a book series, I’d really like readers to fall in love with Grace Gabbiano and her Italian family—their quirks, their food, their deep ties to each other, her mother’s persistent attempts at matchmaking. Aside from the family aspect, I want readers to be so engaged with QUILTED TO DIE that they won’t want to put it down and when they do, they’ll be eagerly awaiting the next book. (Backstory: Check out Dressed to Die, Sliced to Die, and Buried to Die to find out what Grace has been up to until now.)
The cruelty of the crime was shocking to local residents in the normally idyllic community. A greater shock was that the murder was committed by the victim’s fifty-year-old husband, Donnell Clyde Cooley, a well-known big band leader, musician, actor, host of a television variety show, and businessman.
See how this tragic story of celebrity, suspicion, and homicidal rage unfolds in the historical crime of passion.
The Big Thrill caught up with bestselling author R. Barri Flowers to discuss his latest true crime book, MURDERED BY THE KING OF WESTERN SWING:
1926. When seventeen-year-old Sam Ackerman witnesses a mob hit, he is hustled out of New York under the protection of Moshe Toblinsky, A.K.A. the mob’s bookkeeper. Arriving in Miami with no money, no friends, and no place to hide, Sam’s only choice is to do as the gangster demands. Forced into bootlegging, Sam’s misery is compounded when he falls in love. Amazingly, the beautiful, devout Rebecca wants only him, but he cannot give her the life she deserves. When Prohibition ends, Sam begs the mobster to set him free. The price? A debt, as Toblinsky puts it, of friendship. A debt that will one day come due.
Present Day. History of American Crime professor Liz Reams has it all—early success, a tantalizing lead on new info about Moshe Toblinsky, and a wonderful man to love. Life is perfect. So what’s keeping her from accepting her guy’s marriage proposals? Confronting a long-standing personal debt sets her on a journey of self-discovery. While she delves ever deeper into Sam and Toblinsky’s relationship, her understanding of her own relationships increases as well, but the revelations come at a price. The emotional and physical dangers of her dual journeys may prove too big to handle.
Author Linda Bennett Pennell took some time out of her busy schedule to speak with The Big Thrill about her latest novel, MIAMI DAYS, HAVANA NIGHTS:
The truths that have been erased from history come to life in this thriller about the nation’s ugly and forgotten chapter.
Still haunted by the death of this wife and son during childbirth, psychologist and WWI vet Samuel Taylor accepts a position at Western Valley Hospital. Superintendent Joseph Dejarnette leads the movement to purify humanity by exterminating anyone the Society, led by the kings of industry, deemed to be “defective” or “unfit.” Sam begins to question his sanity as the mysteries of the area emerge from the shadows, compelling him to dig deeper into the horrors of the movement, realizing how complicit he is in the deaths around him. The proof he ultimately uncovers may doom everyone he holds close while influencing the world’s most heinous act in history.
The Big Thrill spent some time with author David Simms, gaining new insight to his second novel, FEAR THE REAPER:
It’s summer, 2016. Chelsea Farmer has awoken from one nightmare into another. Once a call girl with no control over her life, she’s lost even more control, becoming another statistic in the opioid epidemic eating America from the inside out. Shacking up with a woman she may or may not be in love with, and three men unaware of just how useless they’ve become, she participates in home invasions to steal material goods that can be traded for pills or, even better, heroin. In between hits, the gang finds other ways to scrape together money, such as getting paid to march in a protest-turned-riot against presidential candidate Donald Trump. As the habit increases, calling for more crimes to feed it, the boys get increasingly violent with the victims of their home invasions. How long will it be before they actually kill a homeowner who refuses to cooperate? Chelsea must decide whether or not she’s willing to hang around and find out.
Alec Cizak, author of BREAKING GLASS, sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss his latest novel:
Stepping into the darkened hospital clinic, Mackenzie (Mac) Dodd hears the faint click of a revolver before spotting the barrel pressed against the young marine’s temple. Unable to stop the suicide, Mac blames herself. Encouraged by her idealistic neighbor, she posts the incident on “Silent Survivor,” a blog in which she encourages veterans with PTSD to share stories. When the marine’s widow reveals there may be more to her husband’s suicide, Mac begins an investigation, risking her life to expose secrets and betrayals as she uncovers the unintended consequences of covert government research.
The Big Thrill caught up with the award-winning author of SILENT SURVIVOR, Deborah Shlian, to discuss her latest thriller:
Bricks and Cam are back, this time fleeing from the East Coast after closing accounts with the mob. Planning a new life on the West Coast, the pair of hit men stop off in Ashton, a small, rural town in eastern Washington, only to immediately find themselves embroiled in trouble in typical fashion.
What starts in a bar as a simple intervention between an abusive boyfriend and his victim girlfriend quickly escalates into a blood feud between Cam and Bricks and the family of local backwoods royalty, the Crawfords. Once Cam and Bricks draw first blood, all of the force of the extended Crawford family and their militia-minded cohorts are brought to bear on them. The Crawfords have numbers and hometown advantage, but they’ve never gone up against anyone like Cam and Bricks before. Bricks’ lethal cunning and Cam’s penchant for successful messes wreaks havoc with the Crawfords’ attempts to bring them to small town justice.
Despite their talents, though, the two big city assassins soon find themselves struggling not just to win this war, but to make it out of town alive.
THE GETAWAY LIST is the explosive final Cam & Bricks Job.
The Big Thrill caught up with authors Frank Zafiro and Eric Beetner to discuss their latest thriller, THE GETAWAY LIST:
When you want someone found, you call bounty hunter Jake Halligan. He’s smart, tough, and best of all, careful on the job. But none of those skills seem to help him when a shadowy group starts taking his life apart piece by piece.
First Jake comes home to find a dead body in his gun safe. He thinks it’s a warning—and when you drag people back to jail for a living, the list of people who want to send that kind of message is very long indeed. With backup from his sister Frankie, an arms dealer and dapper criminal, Jake plunges into the Idaho underworld, confronting everyone from brutal Aryan assassins to cops who want his whole family in jail.
But as Jake soon discovers, those threats are small-time compared to the group that’s really after him. And nothing—not bounty hunting, not even all his years in Iraq—can prepare him for what’s coming next. Jake’s about to become a player in the most dangerous game ever invented…
BOISE LONGPIG HUNTING CLUB is a wild ride into the dark heart of the American dream, where even the most brutal desires can be fulfilled for a price, and nobody is safe from the rich and powerful.
The Big Thrill caught up with author Nick Kolakowski to discuss his latest novel, BOISE LONGPIG HUNTING CLUB:
Julia Bonatti loves the freedom of working for herself as a professional astrologer. But after receiving several unexpected bills, she considers a temp job offer from her old boss a stroke of luck too good to pass up.
On her first day, the posh law office becomes a crime scene when one of the partners is found dead. Julia discovers that a series of death threats have been sent to several employees of the firm, and she uses her astrological expertise to discover possible motives. But before she can convince the authorities of what she knows, the killer strikes again. Will Julia unmask the culprit before he, or she, takes another life?
Connie di Marco, bestselling author of TAIL OF THE DRAGON, spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest in The Zodiac Mysteries series:
In the winter of 1835, young Charles Dickens is a journalist on the rise at the Evening Chronicle. Invited to dinner at the estate of the newspaper’s co-editor, Charles is smitten with his boss’s daughter, vivacious nineteen-year-old Kate Hogarth. They are having the best of times when a scream shatters the pleasant evening. Charles, Kate, and her father rush to the neighbors’ home, where Miss Christiana Lugoson lies unconscious on the floor. By morning, the poor young woman will be dead.
When Charles hears from a colleague of a very similar mysterious death a year ago to the date, also a young woman, he begins to suspect poisoning and feels compelled to investigate. The lovely Kate offers to help—using her social position to gain access to the members of the upper crust, now suspects in a murder. If Charles can find justice for the victims, it will be a far, far better thing than he has ever done. But with a twist or two in this most peculiar case, he and Kate may be in for the worst of times…
Author Heather Redmond took time from her busy schedule and met with The Big Thrill to discuss her latest mystery, A TALE OF TWO MURDERS:
When Wyatt gets framed for a friend’s crime, he thinks his life is over. But then a mysterious stranger visits him in jail with an unusual proposal: spend three months in a secret government camp and have a ten-year prison sentence wiped clean.
Wyatt agrees, and finds himself in a world beyond his wildest dreams, with teenagers like him flying drones, defusing bombs, and jumping out of helicopters. This is no ordinary camp. Camp Valor is a secret training ground for teenage government agents, filled with juvenile offenders—badasses who don’t play by the rules—who desperately need a second chance. If they can prove themselves over their three-month stay and survive Hell Week, they will enter the ranks of the most esteemed soldiers in the United States military.
But some enemies of the United States have gotten wind of Camp Valor, and they will do everything in their power to find out its secrets. Suddenly Wyatt and his friends have to put their training into practice, and find the bravery to protect their country.
New York Times bestselling author Scott McEwen spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest young adult thriller, CAMP VALOR:
In 2001, Kabul is suddenly a place of possibility as people fling off years of repressive Taliban rule. This hopeful chaos brings together American aid worker Liv Stoellner and Farida Basra, an educated Pakistani woman still adjusting to her arranged marriage to Gul, the son of an Afghan strongman whose family spent years of exile in Pakistan before returning to Kabul.
Both Liv and her husband take positions at an NGO that helps Afghan women recover from the Taliban years. They see the move as a reboot—Martin for his moribund academic career, Liv for their marriage. But for Farida and Gul, the move to Kabul is fraught, severing all ties with Farida’s family and her former world, and forcing Gul to confront a chapter in his life he’s desperately tried to erase.
The two women, brought together by Farida’s work as an interpreter, form a nascent friendship based on their growing mutual love for Afghanistan, though Liv remains unaware that Farida is reporting information about the Americans’ activities to Gul’s family, who have ties to the black market.
As the bond between Farida and Liv deepens, war-scarred Kabul acts in different ways upon them, as well as their husbands. SILENT HEARTS is an absorbing, complex portrayal of two very different but equally resilient women caught in the conflict of a war that will test them in ways they never imagined.
Award-winning journalist, Gwen Florio, recently spoke with The Big Thrill about her latest novel, SILENT HEARTS:
Washington, DC, 1945. Lieutenant Ellis Voigt of the Office of Naval Intelligence is desperate to keep the secrets that threaten his life. The war overseas is going well for America, but Voigt can’t escape a web of double-agents and undercover spies who follow his every move.
The FBI suspects that he is the communist who murdered a naval officer in a Washington back alley. The Soviets believe he’s holding back information from their contacts, and they’re willing to use any means necessary to extract it.
When Voigt is sent to New Mexico on a secret mission to identify a Soviet spy, he is tailed by both the FBI and the Russians, and is running out of people he can trust. As the team at Los Alamos prepares to test an atomic bomb in the desert, Voigt faces the dilemma he’s been trying to avoid: he can stop the Soviets from getting the bomb or he can save himself―but he might not be able to do both.
RIP THE ANGELS FROM HEAVEN author David Krugler took time out of his busy schedule to discuss his novel with The Big Thrill:
By Karen Harper
Rachel Amphlett has lived and is moving back to my favorite place on the planet—England. It’s also the place in which her Kay Hunter Detective Series is set. Amphlett’s latest in the series, GONE TO GROUND, continues the adventures of a dynamic main character who lives a balanced domestic, yet dangerous life.
It was my pleasure to interview Amphlett for The Big Thrill.
Please tell us what your new book, GONE TO GROUND—#6 in the Kay Hunter Detective Series—is about.
While attending a crime scene on the outskirts of Maidstone, DI Kay Hunter makes a shocking discovery – a victim that has been brutally cut to pieces, his identity unknown. When more body parts start turning up in the Kentish countryside, Kay realizes the disturbing truth—a serial killer is at large and must be stopped at all costs.
With no motive for the murders and a killer who has gone undetected until now, Kay and her team of detectives must work fast to calm a terrified local population and a scornful media. But when a third victim is found, her investigation grows even more complicated.
As she begins to expose a dark underbelly to the county town, Kay and her team are pulled into a web of jealousy and intrigue that, if left unchecked, will soon claim another life.
Although the sixth book in the Kay Hunter series, GONE TO GROUND can be read as a standalone novel.
I TAKE CARE OF MYSELF IN DREAMLAND by Ross Klavan
Bartok is left with scars from the army but something else, as well-the memory of a strange, mystical experience that he calls “Red River.” Back home and out of luck, he wanders through 1970’s New York hoping to recapture this strange state. But others see Bartok as an easy mark for some very dirty business and their plan is to use him for murder.
Aggie is back in business. He’s no longer smoking bootleg cigarettes as he did in “Smoked,” now he’s smuggling another usually legal-and quite valuable-product: maple syrup. Unfortunately, on the way from the Midwest to New York City, he’s picked up an unwanted traveling companion, the fifteen-year-old daughter of his latest boss. It seems she wants to get to NYC to meet up with her on-line boyfriend, who turns out to be much more than she expected. All Aggie wants to do is drop off the syrup, pick up a paycheck, and get on home. Before he does that, he’s gotta play hero. Again.
THE MAYBRICK AFFAIR by Charles Salzberg
As World War II rages in Europe, it’s a couple weeks before Pearl Harbor and rookie reporter Jake Harper, who works for a small Connecticut newspaper, is assigned a routine human interest story. A reclusive, elderly woman has quietly passed away in her small cottage upstate. As Jake investigates the old woman’s life and death he finds that years earlier she was tried and convicted of murdering her husband in a well-publicized, lurid trial in London, England. And, after digging further, he, unearths evidence that she might have had a connection to an even more famous British serial killer and that the ramifications of this story might affect America’s entry into the War.
The Big Thrill managed to catch up with two of the three authors to discuss this crime fiction bundle, THREE STRIKES, and here’s what they had to say:
By George Ebey
In AGAINST THE CLAW, the second book in Shari Randall’s Lobster Shack Mystery Series, injured ballerina Allie Larkin is back home lending a hand at her aunt’s Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack. It’s the Fourth of July—the height of the tourist season—and Allie is even helping on a lobster boat.
The last thing she expects to find out on the bay is the dead body of a beautiful young woman.
When the police can’t ID the corpse, Allie takes it upon herself to learn what happened. Her investigation takes her all the way from the local piers to the secluded estates of Mystic Bay’s elite. But how can she crack the case when everyone seems dead-set on keeping their secrets beneath the surface?
The Big Thrill checked in with author Randall to learn more about the latest book in her popular Lobster Shack Mystery Series.
AGAINST THE CLAW is the second book in your series. For the uninitiated, could you give us a brief idea of what the series is about?
The Lobster Shack mysteries center around Allegra “Allie” Larkin, a dancer whose broken ankle puts her career on hold. While she heals, she returns home to the seaside village of Mystic Bay, Connecticut, and pitches in at her quirky Aunt Gully’s Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack. Allie discovers that the tight knit New England community she thought she knew harbors long buried secrets that some will kill to keep hidden.