By George Ebey
New Zealand resident and author Sharlene Almond brings us INITIATED TO KILL, the first instalment in her new series that blends aspects of history with a modern day twist.
In this first outing, two men from different generations are initiated into a powerful organization that has sought control of the world and uses their power for destructive ends.
The Big Thrill recently caught up with Sharlene to learn more about this series and her plans for the future.
Tell us a little about INITIATED TO KILL.
INITIATED TO KILL is the first in the Annabella Cordova series. All of the books in the series have a part-historical, part-present day focus.
In this story, Annabella Cordova quickly becomes embroiled in a conspiracy involving the university she studies at. When her roommate goes missing, it becomes very personal. Her past gradually unveils, as she is closer to this than she could have possibly imagined. A childhood accident causing permanent deafness enables Annabella to use her other senses to read facial and body language, and detecting lies in people, including suspects.
What first inspired you to write tales involving history and modern-day crime?
When I was younger, I had a little notebook in which I would jot down ideas of things one day I would like to write about.
By Linda Davies
James O. Born has had a long and distinguished career as an agent for the Drug Enforcement Agency, and is still employed as an agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement where he has worked in a number of areas, including the Special Operations Team. This has given him experience that many writers would die for (figuratively, and probably literally too, if we ever stumbled into the path of clear and present danger!)
After years trying to get published, Born hit the big leagues when Putnam published his first novel Walking Money in 2004. This year marks his ninth book, SCENT OF MURDER. It focuses on the use of canine units in law enforcement and detection:
Two years after being tossed from the detective bureau for his questionable tactics catching a child molester, deputy Tim Hallett’s life is finally on track. Assigned to a special K-9 unit with the best partner in the world, a Belgian Malinois named Rocky, Hallett has finally learned to balance police work with his family life. But that all changes in the heat of a Florida sugarcane field.
The wealth of Born’s experience shines through in the novel in a way that is never allowed to bog down the narrative. He manages to combine background detail with a gripping and compelling plot that speeds along. I particularly enjoyed passages from the dog’s perspective.
Born also manages to create a very real and powerful microcosm of life with all the characters extremely well drawn and the dialogue snapping along with the ring of authenticity. This is a class act.
By Kurt Anthony Krug
David Levien has a reputation for exhaustive research in order to authenticate his fiction.
For instance, Levien (pronounced “Levine”) and frequent collaborator Brian Koppelman entered the dangerous world of underground poker halls when writing the screenplay to 1998’s Rounders, starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton.
For his latest novel, SIGNATURE KILL—the fourth featuring private investigator Frank Behr—Levien researched serial killers.
“Wouldn’t it be off the charts insane if I admitted to becoming a serial killer in the name of research? Well, I didn’t do that. I did read dozens of biographies, case histories, non-fiction and clinical books on killers of all different types. I also spoke pretty extensively with a couple criminal psychiatrists. The process took a few years,” said Levien.
In SIGNATURE KILL, Behr takes on a cold case to find a woman whose face is plastered all over billboards throughout Indianapolis and collect the $100,000 reward. At the same time, bodies of murdered women start piling up and before too long, Behr realizes his cold case is connected to these brutal murders and a serial killer is on the loose. However, this man has the ability to blend in with polite society, which makes tracking him down difficult, forcing Behr to go to dark places.
“I’m highly interested in the iteration of evil that walks the streets amongst us, unrecognized. Certain real-life killers like Dennis Rader, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, going all the way back to Albert Fish and H.H. Holmes—these people led quiet, normal lives, for all intents and purposes, but their real existences were far from quiet or normal. The ‘regular’ way this type of killer conducts himself makes him extremely difficult to discover and stop,” said Levien. “It would take someone, I posit, singular of purpose, with extreme determination, toughness, and ingenuity—like Behr—on a sort of quest, to hook into the mind and actions of a killer like this.”
Researching SIGNATURE KILL disturbed Levien.
By Rick Reed
When you read THE MISSING PIECE, I want you to imagine that you are Gary Martin, a court officer assigned to the New York County Courthouse. You are part of a security team in a civil trial with legal representatives from Croatia and Hungary vying for the ownership of the Salvus Treasure, a $70 million dollar hoard of ancient Roman silver. Suddenly, gunmen burst into the courtroom, shoot you, and flee with one piece of the treasure, a silver urn. A mistrial is declared, but that is not the end of the case.
Much changes over the next three years. As a result of the shooting you are in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down. A new judge has inherited the case, and the trial resumes in a different courtroom. What has not changed is that you are still convinced that the thieves hid the missing urn in the courthouse. Is it still there? Will the thieves return to claim it?
Kevin Egan is the author of six previous novels, including Midnight, a Kirkus Best Book of 2013. He works in the iconic New York County Courthouse, which serves as the setting and inspiration for THE MISSING PIECE. His short fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Rosebud, and The Westchester Review. He graduated with a B.A. in English from Cornell University.
THE MISSING PIECE is Kevin Egan’s seventh novel and as this thriller plays out he will give his readers an inside view of the legal system, as well as the extralegal system, at play in New York City’s courtrooms.
By Terry DiDomenico
Readers of romantic suspense, UNTRACEABLE may be for you:
On a daring mission, search and rescue specialist Heidi Warren and her team step onto an icy Alaskan mountaintop—and right into a trap. A stranded gang of thieves holds them at gunpoint, forcing them to serve as guides along the treacherous path. Menaced on all sides by dangerous weather, deadly terrain, and murderous criminals, Heidi desperately needs someone to trust. But her rescue partner Isaiah Callahan is keeping secrets from her. Secrets that ended their chance at a relationship before it could even begin. Yet her survival depends on finding a way to trust Isaiah when a blizzard starts closing in and her options start running out.
UNTRACEABLE is the second book in the Mountain Cove series penned by award-winning author Elizabeth Goddard.
Goddard used a newspaper article that recounted the experience of a man who spent fifteen days in a blizzard, thirteen of which were “a consecutive and virtually relentless hurricane” on the Juneau Ice field as the basis for her research for UNTRACEABLE.
What was most problematic with UNTRACEABLE?
UNTRACEABLE was a different kind of story because I let the reader know in the first chapter who the bad guy is. The characters know too, so there is no whodunit. There is no mystery to solve. The struggle and the suspense come from trying to survive the villains and the brutality of nature in the mountains of the Coast Range in Alaska—said to be the most inclement weather on the planet. So the writing process was difficult in that I had to think of new and fresh ways in each chapter for them to deal with the same problems. Frankly I was worried that readers wouldn’t like this story, but the opposite has been true. Many have said they loved it more than Buried, the first novel in the series, my personal favorite.
By Wendy Tyson
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Rebecca Zanetti knows a thing or two about men, especially alpha males and the women who fall for them. Her latest romantic suspense novel, TOTAL SURRENDER, is the fourth and much anticipated final book in the Sin Brothers Series, which follows four brothers with unnatural powers genetically engineered into them by a black ops military unit that trained them to be killers. In this final installment, the youngest of the Sin Brothers, Jory, has awakened from a two-year coma. Imprisoned, anticipating his chance to escape and reunite with his brothers, he’s sentenced to death by the lethal chip in his spine—unless the brilliant and sexy Piper Oliver can find a way to deactivate the chip in time.
A prolific author, Zanetti has published three series in multiple genres, including contemporary romance, dark paranormal, and romantic suspense. We’re thrilled Zanetti took the time to answer a few questions for The Big Thrill on the heels of her newest release.
Congratulations on the publication of TOTAL SURRENDER, the fourth book in the Sin Brothers series! What can you tell us about TOTAL SURRENDER that’s not on the back cover?
Thanks so much! TOTAL SURRENDER is the fourth and final book in the series, and it answers all of the questions, especially the main one of who shot Jory. I can tell you that you probably won’t guess who the shooter actually was, or if you do guess, you probably won’t know why. Feedback so far from early reviewers has been reassuring that many of the twists and turns took them by surprise.
When L. J. Sellers isn’t writing the fast-paced, complex novels that have made her a name in the crime fiction world, she devotes a lot of time to Housing Help, a foundation she created to prevent homelessness. She combines her two passions in WRONGFUL DEATH, a compelling story that explores a unique aspect of the Detective Wade Jackson series setting: the lives of the homeless in her hometown of Eugene, Oregon, and their vulnerability when the police start looking for a killer in their midst.
WRONGFUL DEATH, available now, is the tenth entry in the Jackson series—a two-time Readers Favorite Award winner.
Sellers hopes that while she entertains her readers she can also show them homeless people are “individuals with unique personalities and circumstances.” She cautions against the common tendency to lump all of them together under one stereotype. “Everyone has a different story about how they ended up on the streets. Some are there for life. For others, it’s a temporary setback.”
The more fortunate citizens who support those on the streets also have their own stories to explain their commitment. She drew on both communities to create the characters in WRONGFUL DEATH.
The novel begins with the murder of a police officer who is passing out blankets to the homeless on a cold night. The primary suspects are homeless people, including a couple of brothers with mental health problems. Sellers is aware that some people feel afraid of street people, viewing them as potentially dangerous, and she realized she was tackling a sensitive and complex issue.
By John Darrin
I was quite excited to get this assignment—Simon Wood, author of twelve novels, six short story collections, two audio books, and numerous non-fiction how-to articles. Quite a library of work. And I’m sure he’s sold a lot of them—over 500,000, I’m told. Five of those to me.
In THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY, Wood delves into the world of post-traumatic stress disorder, something we’ve all heard about and think we understand. His interest in the subject led him to study the subject with everyone from returning veterans and advocates for abused women, and he found that “PTSD is something people don’t understand generally. It’s something I didn’t really understand myself. I’ve attempted to highlight the issues and behaviors in the book with the hope people will look into the topic themselves.”
In addition to his own writing, Wood participates in writing and publishing events and even holds workshops on marketing. These came about in what has to be a formidable and impressive decision.
“About five years ago I was on the ropes career-wise. I’d lost one publisher, the rising popularity of ebooks and the recession was moving another publisher towards chapter 11 and my career looked dead. I was desperate, so I took a risk and invested in my writing. I negotiated my rights back, pulled together my backlist, repackaged it, promoted, advertised and did what I could to build a readership, and it worked. I built some momentum and ended up with new book contracts on the back of it. People asked how I did it and the workshops were born.”
By Basil Sands
Thomas F. Monteleone is a writer who has not been wasting his time. Thomas has published more than 100 short stories, 5 collections, 7 anthologies and 27 novels including the bestseller, New York Times Notable Book of the Year, The Blood of the Lamb. A four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award, he’s also written scripts for stage, screen and TV, as well as the bestselling The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing a Novel (now in a 2nd edition) which sits on the bookshelf of this reviewer. His latest novel is a global thriller, SUBMERGED, and I must say I found myself Immersed in Submerged.
He lives in Maryland with his wife, Elizabeth, and all the high taxes. He is also co-editor of the award-winning anthology series of imaginative fiction, Borderlands. He is well-known as a great reader of his own work, and routinely draws SRO at conventions. Despite being dragged kicking and screaming into his sixties and losing most of his hair, he is still in many circles considered to be one who thinks he is dashingly handsome—let’s humor him.
Thomas, tell us about SUBMERGED.
It’s a thriller in the tradition of the best Ken Follett novels that use recent historical events that somehow still have great influence on us today. Having always had an abiding interest in World War II, and especially the astounding technologies of the German war machine, I have admired the novels of Frederick Forsyth and Greg Iles and Jack Higgins. I Like the challenge of using historical facts to make fiction ring true with credibility. So what if . . . . the Kriegsmarine had launched a super-sub—and underwater aircraft carrier with the ability to launch a bomber over the USA?
By Amy Lignor
From the Old West to contemporary romantic suspense, this incredible author throws herself into all projects she creates. The powerful emotions, excitement, passion, and friendship that exist in her novels invigorate readers—causing them to crave nothing more than a quiet corner where they can sit and get lost in her words and characters without being disturbed. Here, DiAnn Mills has been gracious enough to speak with The Big Thrill about her “full plate,” which even involves being a well-respected mentor to others focusing on the craft of writing.
Your writing is so varied—from the historical to the suspense, and beyond. Where do the “new” characters spring up from (so to speak)? Do you create using people around you, or do they spring from imagination?
Characters spring from every place imaginable with me: the people I meet; the people I hear or read about; strangers, and my imagination. My jumping off point continues to be “What if?”
Your long career includes so many accolades. But (and I know this is difficult), if you could pick only one of your works, what would be your favorite?
That’s like asking which one of my sons is my favorite! But I will pick the romantic suspense titles listed in the FBI: Houston series: Firewall, DOUBLE CROSS, and the third book to be released in October, Deadlock. These are the freshest in my mind, and I’ve worked the hardest to create the best stories possible. Houston’s FBI is amazing and are always available to answer questions. And then there’s the setting—Houston! My city!
By Jeff Ayers
Vincent Zandri is the NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than 16 novels including THE INNOCENT, GODCHILD, THE REMAINS, MOONLIGHT RISES, and his latest, EVERYTHING BURNS.
When Reece Johnston was a boy, a fire destroyed his home, killing his mother and brothers while leaving him scarred for life. It also kindled something dark inside him: an irresistible attraction to flames in all their terrifying, tantalizing power. But after two failed arson attempts and two trips to the mental ward he was finally able to put down the matches and pick up the pieces.
With a career as a bestselling crime writer going strong, Reece is working to fix his broken marriage to Lisa and be there for their preteen daughter, Anna. He’s not just dealing with his own demons; there’s a world of deadly hurt bearing down on him in the form of the jealous rival he’s bested in literature and love, who’s determined to see Reece crash and burn. But a guy like Reece knows how to take the heat. And thanks to his lifelong friendship with fire, he also knows how to bring it.
Vincent chatted with The Big Thrill about his new novel and his past work.
What sparked the idea (pun intended) for EVERYTHING BURNS?
The basis for the plot was derived from the true story of my second wife and myself. We divorced some years ago, but stayed very close. For a while, my ex dated a would-be novelist. I found this rather odd since we, novelists, don’t exactly grow on trees. So what are the chances of that? Then one day, for reasons I won’t go into here, my ex-wife and I decided to start dating again. During that time, she underwent cosmetic eye surgery. On the morning her mother picked her up for the surgery, I also found out that the ex-boyfriend-would-be-novelist had been calling and texting again. Bingo! The plot for Everything Burns suddenly shot into my brain like a transfusion. The bit about the fire and the pyromania came later.
Iced Chiffon by Duffy Brown
All my life I thought launch was what really smart rocket scientists do to get something into space. Never in all those years did I expect to be involved in one. Yet here I am dong a launch of my very own. Not that I’m putting a rocket in space—though right now that seems like a snap—but I’m launching a book.
“What do you mean launch?” I asked my publisher. “The book comes out on a specific day, booksellers, B&N and Amazon put it up for sale, end of story. Done. Right?”
Wrong. To launch my first cozy mystery, ICED CHIFFON, I though it would be fun to do something different. I’ll have a mystery party at my house, I decided, with a real live mystery for the guests to solve. I have the house and I like parties. A match made in heaven.
Sixty is a nice number and I can just buy one of those interactive mystery party packs online and set up the mystery event based on that. Piece of cake.
You can see where this is going, can’t you? Murphy’s Law on steroids.
First off, there are no mystery party packs for sixty online. They had packs for twelve, but not five times the number. That meant I’d have to write the mystery. And if people are coming to my house I have to serve food and beverages.
Bestselling author Alex Kava burst onto the publishing landscape in 2000 with her breakout novel, A Perfect evil. Since then, she’s written thirteen books and is the creator of the bestselling Maggie O’Dell series. Now, Kava begins a new series featuring ex-marine Ryder Creed, debuting in BREAKING CREED.
Despite his tough exterior, Ryder has soft spot for animals in need and has built a business rehabilitating abused and discarded dogs he then trains to be search animals. His weakness for the underdog leads him to rescue and harbor a young girl being used as a drug mule—despite the fact that it will make him the target of dangerous and ruthless drug dealers.
In this Q&A, Kava takes time to answer some questions about her start in the industry, her writing process, and what inspired BREAKING CREED.
You’ve stated in interviews that the two years leading up to your first book being published were very tough. You were working several jobs, one of them delivering newspapers, and had to rely on credit cards to make ends meet. What was it that allowed you to persevere in pursuing your dream of writing full-time, when so many others would have given up and gone back to their day jobs?
I was totally burned out in my previous career. I’d spent fifteen years in advertising, marketing and public relations. One day I just decided: “I can’t do this anymore.” I gave my two-weeks notice and quit my job as director of public relations. I’d always wanted to write. So I told myself that while I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do next with my life, I’d write a novel and try to get it published.
Of course I had to give myself a time limit because I knew my savings would only last so long, and I couldn’t afford to go too far into debt. During those two years my roof started leaking, my car had to be replaced along with almost every appliance in my house, and I had to say goodbye to my fourteen-year-old dog. Now it sounds like a bad country western song, but it was very tough. Probably the thing that kept me going the most was simply that I no longer wanted to do what I had been doing for fifteen years. I desperately needed a change even if it meant jeopardizing my comfort level.
By John Raab
Anderson Harp is known for writing authentic, nail-biting military thrillers, and judging by the advance praise for his latest release, BORN OF WAR, the trend continues.
In addition, Harp is an active member of the International Thriller Writers, spearheading the acclaimed “Operation Thriller”—an initiative that takes thriller writers on a USO tour to visit troops in war-torn countries such as Iraq and Kuwait. Harp was a member of the 2012 Operation Thriller Tour with tour mates Michael Connelly, Brad Meltzer, Joseph Finder, and Kathy Antrim. He is one of only two authors in the history of the USO to attend multiple tours.
We interviewed Harp this month to talk about his fears, his writing process, and his new book, BORN OF WAR.
Please give us a “behind the scenes” look at BORN OF WAR.
Late in the fall of 2012 I had traveled to Salala in the far western region, Oman. It is the last city before the border with Yemen. I was there just after the monsoon season and once beyond the irrigated greenery of the airport, the land quickly turned back into the desolate rocky expanse of the desert. The road took me north, passing further into the desert. Occasionally, we would come across a small valley spotted with small groups of twisted, gnarly trees, somewhat similar to olive groves. The trees produced a sap that when dried became frankincense. This was the same land that the Roman Legions crossed thousands of years before.
It occurred to me that I was on the same road that had been used for the smuggling of weapons from Iran to Yemen and Somalia. A beaten up van, caked brown with dirt, passed. It was not unlike other vans that carried AK-47’s and RPG’s to Yemen and Somalia. The small airport that I had just left also had the likelihood of being a portal for that dissident American determined to join Al Shabaab. A sign on the road marked highway N5 to Salla and terrorism. It would be the same road that my story would take.
Before I wrote my first novel, I was a print journalist for four decades, spending many of those years editing investigative stories that won every journalism prize including the Pulitzer. It’s not surprising, then, that the fiction writers I most admire are the ones who use the popular form of the crime novel as a platform to talk to mass audiences about serious social issues—novelists such as George Pelecanos, Laura Lippman, James Lee Burke, and Richard Price.
The last major story I edited before I fled journalism exposed the plight of child workers, some of them as young as five years old, laboring in the gold mines of West Africa. The story traced the gold as it moved through a series of middle men to Swiss smelters and banks, and then on to some of the world’s most prestigious producers of luxury goods. The author, Rukmini Callimachi, was a Pulitzer finalist for that one. I have nothing but admiration for the journalists who continue do such work. But over the last couple of decades, the decline of print journalism has made it increasingly difficult for them to do so.
Most newspapers are circling the drain. A handful of big ones, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, still do a solid job of reporting important national and international news, but even they aren’t as aggressive and comprehensive as they once were. Meanwhile, TV broadcast news organizations, never all that good to begin with, have slashed their reporting staffs. Cable news has deteriorated into a platform for partisan propaganda, shouting talking heads, and celebrity trivia. And, few online news websites do much in-depth reporting, culling much of their news from declining newspapers.
By Diane Kelly
I first got the idea for my IRS Special Agent Tara Holloway series while sitting in a three-day tax seminar. At the time, I worked as a tax advisor, but was also an aspiring novelist. After listening to speakers drone on for hours about the minutiae of partnership tax rules, I was ready to climb under the table and take a nap.
But then a criminal defense attorney took the podium—and he proceeded to blow my mind.
The attorney represented defendants who were accused of financial crimes. He explained how difficult it can be to defend such people, because the Internal Revenue Service has a group of people in its Criminal Investigations Division who are not only business savvy, but are trained in law enforcement as well.
Instantly I was intrigued. Most “numbers” people I know are rule followers, not risk takers. Who were these special agents who could handle a gun as well as a calculator? I had to find out.
I contacted the IRS and later had the pleasure of interviewing a group of these agents. I can’t begin to tell you how impressed I was. Each of them was incredibly smart, personable, and in good physical shape. All were clearly dedicated to their jobs too, sacrificing their personal lives to spend weeks or months away from home in training.
They’ve got a hard job to do. Financial crimes can be extremely complicated and complex, and putting together a case that a jury can understand can be a challenge. Fraud is often disguised as a white knight riding in to purportedly help struggling homeowners keep their houses or to offer investments with “guaranteed” above-market returns. By the time victims realize they’ve been taken, the perpetrators have disappeared with their life savings.
By Terry DiDomenico
We first met Special Agent Tom Dupree in Gary Haynes’s debut thriller, State of Honour. Now thirteen months after he saved the Secretary of State from a politically inspired execution, Dupree is back in STATE OF ATTACK.
This time, Dupree arrives in Turkey to be with his father who was the target of a terrorist attack carried out by a jihadist called Ibrahim, also known as the Sword of Allah. Harnessing his desire to get back at those responsible, Dupree is set on stopping Ibrahim’s devastating plot against the Western world. As Dupree works to unravel the knot of terror, betrayal, and conspiracy that surrounds the Sword of Allah, he sadly learns there are few people he can trust.
Setting the Dupree series primarily in the Middle East satisfies a personal interest for Haynes. “The Middle East seemed to me to be an impossibly romantic place where men rode stallions and were armed with swords and spent their down time perfecting the art of falconry,” he said.
While in law school, this interest led to a dissertation on Middle East legal systems. “This is what sparked my real interest,” Haynes said. “But it was only when I studied the intricacies of their legal systems that I realized that not all was what it appeared to be. Despite the fascinating history and art, there was a darker side, even before the rise of Islamic terrorism, especially in relation to the general lack of democracy, the treatment of prisoners and women, and those with a contrary view to the ruling families.”
Colin Campbell’s Resurrection Man returns in SNAKE PASS, a new thriller that looks back on the protagonist’s deadly standoff during his police career in Yorkshire.
Readers know Jim Grant, The Resurrection Man, as a special operative who stayed in the United States after a British case brought him to American shores.
In Jamaica Plain, Montecito Heights, and Adobe Flats he’s been troubleshooting dangerous situations for an unnamed U.S. security agency. In the first novel in the series, Jamaica Plain, a press photo of Grant with his hands extended during a standoff with a gunman earned his nickname, and his adventures have earned praise from outlets such as Library Journal, which noted of SNAKE PASS: “Campbell’s gritty noir style and hard-hitting action scenes mix well with Grant’s dry wit, making this fourth series installment a rollicking good time.”
Campbell recently answered a few questions for The Big Thrill.
Your hero, Jim Grant, The Resurrection Man, has hopped around America for several books now. What prompted a look back at his UK days and how long had you planned to go back to his home?
SNAKE PASS was actually going to be the first book, long before it was even called SNAKE PASS or had anything to do with Jim Grant. When my agent, Donna Bagdasarian, suggested writing a series set in America I was already outlining a story about a disillusioned UK cop who’s always telling the newbies not to get involved off duty but ends up helping a waitress being attacked after work. I changed it to be this UK cop who gets sent to America at the end to set up the US series. (Since I was halfway through the plotting stage.) Then I thought it made more sense to jump straight in with Jamaica Plain and Grant’s first adventure in the US, using Snake Pass as backstory for why he was sent there. I always intended to revisit it and tell the whole story. I actually wrote it before Adobe Flats, but working on the rule of threes I decided that having three US adventures gave him time to get established before going back to that snowy night in Yorkshire.
By John A. Connell
There is a whole world—literally—of thrillers and mysteries being produced in non-English speaking countries, a rich tapestry of characters and stories, many of which, unfortunately, never make landfall on Anglophone shores. Great stories, no matter the genre, can transport you to other lands and offer worldviews of people from different cultures, to see an alternate vision of the world through very different eyes. Combine that with a passion for thrillers and mysteries, and, voila, you have all the ingredients for a truly compelling read. So when the opportunity came up to write about Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne’s thriller SHADOW RITUAL, I jumped at the chance.
Two savage murders set opposing forces on a deadly collision course that spans the European continent. One is a sinister occult society with Nazi roots on the cusp of discovering the final pieces of a puzzle that could reveal an ancient Freemason ritual that promises to unleash immense power. The other is crack police detective and high-ranking Freemason Antoine Marcas, who reluctantly joins fiery intelligence officer Jade Zewinski in a desperate chase to track down the ruthless assassins. To identify the perpetrators of an ever-widening spiral of violence, they, too, must unravel the secrets of the mysterious ritual, and in doing so they become the assassins’ next targets.
Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravennes live and write in France, and their thrillers, featuring Antoine Marcas, have been translated into seventeen languages and sold over two million copies worldwide. SHADOW RITUAL, the first book in a series of nine Marcas thrillers, has sold 250,000 copies, and is the first to be translated in English. Let’s hope there are more English translations of their Antoine Marcas series to come.
By David Healey
David Hodges is a British crime writer whose long career in law enforcement informs his fiction with rich details of police procedure.
STRAWFOOT is his newest novel set on the moody Somerset Levels, a coastal area with a penchant for marshes and murders. The case will be the biggest challenge yet for Detective Sergeant Kate Lewis, the main character in the series. In this new release from Hale Books, a murder has the locals wondering if Strawfoot, a sort of bogeyman from local legend, could be behind the killing.
Hodges answered some questions from the perspective of a veteran police officer and crime writer from “across the pond.”
The main character in your thrillers is Detective Sergeant Kate Lewis. Was it challenging to put yourself in the head of a female police officer?
I suppose it was a bit of a challenge making my main character a female detective instead of the usual male stereotype. But I have worked a lot with female officers and have not found them any different in the way they do their job than male officers. I wanted to create a character who was pretty, sexy, but competent at her job, without offering a sop to the feminist brigade by making her a butch-type superhero who can best the men at every stage or fall into the male chauvinist trap of creating a simpering girlie type who needs male protection all the time. Kate is an ordinary “copper” who makes mistakes and achieves successes like everyone else; the only difference being that while she is a brash, forceful and very outspoken character, her partner (now her husband), Hayden, is a more reserved, old-fashioned ex public schoolboy, who often acts as a brake on her activities. (Role reversal of the sexes?)
As a monstrous blizzard threatens to bury Atlanta, GA, high-tech business executive J.C. Riggins braves the storm to deliver a company proposal. If he doesn’t, the company will lose a big contract—and Riggins will lose his career. Meanwhile, weatherman Tom Priz is also fighting to keep his job. He can’t tell his boss, the beautiful and ambitious Sophie Lyons, just how bad the snow and wind will get because if he guesses wrong, they’ll become media laughing stocks and get tossed out onto the frozen streets.
In BLIZZARD, H.W. “Buzz” Bernard delivers a thriller that will tumble over you like an avalanche. Here, Bernard took some time to answer a few questions about his latest release, offer up advice for new writers, and tease a little about what he’s working on next.
In BLIZZARD, the narrative is actually two big stories woven together—the plotlines of J.C. Riggins and Tom Priz each trying to save their careers. The story depends a lot on the narrative switching back and forth between what’s happening to J.C. and Tom, yet the two characters live in separate worlds. I imagine this type of story would be hard to manage as a pantser, so what was your process?
My first novel, Eyewall, involved three different plot lines. I was advised by an experienced author to write the first draft of the book as three separate “novelettes,” then fit them together into a single, coherent story. Easier said than done. The “fitting them together” bit turned out to be a lot like working on a jigsaw puzzle that required me to cut and whittle the pieces to make everything fit. I decided maybe that wasn’t the best way to do things. So, in BLIZZARD, I basically wrote in chronological order, switching back and forth between the plot and subplot, at a pace I thought would keep readers engaged.
Sophie Lyons, Tom’s boss, was a great foil to present the commercial realities behind the weather business. Was she based on someone you know?
Not really. She and Tom represent the extremes of a dichotomy that exists in the real world: the split between professional meteorologists who endeavor to present forecasts of major weather events in a responsible, objective manner; and, members of the media who are too often all about generating hype, headlines, and hyperbole. Both characters are products of my imagination.
Brian Pinkerton began his career writing screenplays which streamlined into the cinematic style of his novels that Horror Novel Reviews claims brings back “the feel and style of some of the genre’s masters from decades ago.”
Brian crafts stories that frighten, amuse, and intrigue while often beginning with a “what if?” question. From this first question he then usually leads ordinary people down extraordinary roads to a living Hell.
His newest release, ANATOMY OF EVIL, takes us out of our comfort zone again when an island paradise vacation for a group of friends twists into a nightmare journey through the darkest corners of the human soul, leading to the ultimate showdown between good and evil.
Brian, how did you come up with the idea for ANATOMY OF EVIL?
I have a notebook stuffed with ideas. I’m always adding to it, random concepts that pop up in my head. A small number of them pass the audition process to become novels or short stories. The plot for ANATOMY OF EVIL was scribbled in the notebook under the original title of “Unleashing Hell.” What if a portal to Hell existed someplace on earth?
Tell us about the group of friends in ANATOMY OF EVIL and how their lives are intertwined with their shared experience.
ANATOMY OF EVIL features a group of friends united by their commitment to bring good to the world. They serve together on the board of a community service organization. They are the nicest, gentlest souls you could ever imagine. Then something happens that exposes their darkest, hidden impulses. They begin to change in shocking ways. They become pawns in a much bigger battle between the forces of good and evil.
“Anyone who thinks a college campus is a haven of scholarship and civility hasn’t been paying attention,” says Bourne Morris, former journalism professor and author of THE RED QUEEN’S RUN, the first in a trilogy about campus violence published by Henery Press.
Morris was Chair of the Faculty Senate and taught for twenty-six years at the University of Nevada, Reno. The emeritus professor uses her experience as a professor and campus leader to shape her writing. “Murder, sex, plagiarism, betrayal and binge drinking—all the major academic food groups—found a place in my story,” says Morris. “Furious debates about tenure and curriculum become the stuff of drama. I am now able to live in and call all the shots in a fictional university. It’s heaven.”
THE RED QUEEN’S RUN opens with a faculty quarrel that ends in homicide. A famous journalism dean is found dead at the bottom of a stairwell. The police suspect members of the faculty who had engaged in fierce quarrels with the dean —distinguished scholars who attacked the dean with the brutality of schoolyard bullies. When Meredith “Red” Solaris is appointed interim dean, the faculty suspects are furious. Will the attractive red-haired professor be next?
Jamie Merrow has been writing since Noah was a boy; her quirky, humorous style is ideally suited to the romances she cut her writing teeth on. She turned to writing crime with the Pressure Head series, of which HEAT TRAP is the third book.
When she isn’t plotting the perfect felony or finding new situations for old complications, she’s adept at extracting money from sponsors as part of her role on the organising team of the author/reader/blogger event “UK Meet.” That has also enabled her to experience being on the acquisitions team for a short story anthology, the ideal opportunity for the poacher to turn gamekeeper and see things from the publisher’s side of the fence. Maybe every author should have that chance, then they’d really understand why following the submission guidelines is so important!
Jamie, I have to ask. How on earth can an English rose like you not drink tea?
With the greatest of pleasure. Vile stuff. You know it makes your insides go brown, right? Now, I’ve nothing against a nice herbal tisane, such as peppermint, ginger, or something fruity with cinnamon. Coffee, it should go without saying, is the nectar of the gods. But Camellia sinensis is not, it’s safe to say, one of my best buds (see what I did there?). Anyway, as you hint, I’m so very English—and so very obviously English—that my dislike of dried leaves boiled in water with milk squirted out of a cow is probably all that saves me from slipping into self-parody.
Jess Faraday, to list everything she has done professionally would leave you reading for a while. To name a few, Faraday is the author of the Ira Adler series, which includes The Affair of the Porcelain Dog, a Lambda short-listed book, and Steam-punk thriller The Left Hand of Justice, as well as, some short stories, non-fiction articles, and she’s even worked as a mystery editor for Elm Books.
Faraday realized that she wanted to try writing when she found herself more focussed on finishing all her tasks quickly so she could create stories. Her newest novel, FOOL’S GOLD, continues with Ira Adler finally in a better place until something upsets the balance and then puts him on the trail of a larger scale plot, and leaves him questioning his choices. Faraday was kind enough to take time out to talk to The Big Thrill.
Tell me about FOOL’S GOLD.
FOOL’S GOLD is the third historical mystery featuring accidental sleuth Ira Adler. In this instalment, Adler, a confidential secretary, has just gotten his life together—financially, personally, and professionally—when an explosion turns everything upside down. With his London life falling down around his ears, he accepts an invitation to accompany friends to California, where he uncovers a plot that stretches from the back streets of Whitechapel to the dusty dirt roads of Porterville. In addition, some chance encounters make him question whether he wants to return to London at all, or to pursue a new life in a new country.
By Josie Brown
C.J. Box’s novels have been lauded by readers and critics alike for their complex plots, true-to-life characters, and his stark lyrical depiction of the New West.
His latest novel—ENDANGERED—is no exception. Box’s soft-spoken but hard-hitting protagonist, Joe Pickett, is back—and this time, it’s personal. When a young woman found beaten to near death turns out to be Joe’s stepdaughter, Joe’s gut tells him that the perpetrator isn’t the man in custody, but her boyfriend, rodeo champion Dallas Cates. Proving it means facing off with the whole Cates clan, who will do anything to protect Dallas.
What does it take to write books that grab readers both by the hearts and throats? The Big Thrill recently interviewed Box to find out.
Joe Pickett’s relationship with his family—his wife, his daughters—is somewhat complex. How does this help you, the writer and creator, grow and mature the characters, and the series as a whole?
The novels take place in real time. In the first, Open Season, Joe’s oldest daughter Sheridan is seven years old and she’s a major character in the book. In ENDANGERED, she’s a sophomore in college. Over the span of the novels, his three daughters have grown up and are still growing and changing. Joe and his wife Marybeth mature and change as well. I think (hope) this keeps the series fresh both for me and for readers. Things that happen in one book impact the characters in the next. I try to keep it so the reader doesn’t have to completely suspend disbelief from book to book.
Let’s talk about your protagonist Joe, who, for those who haven’t read your wonderful series, happens to be a game warden. Why do you feel he resonates with so many readers—including city dwellers?
Joe Pickett is a game warden. That means he’s a state employee charged with administering the fishing and hunting rules and regulations for his district, which happens to be 2,500 square miles. In my novels, just as in real life, Wyoming game wardens get involved not only with outdoor situations but also with local law enforcement and federal law enforcement agencies. Local game wardens participate in resource, landowner, and environmental issues. Game wardens are independent, heavily armed, and they rarely have backup when they get into tough situations. They patrol via pickup truck, horses, ATVs, boats, and snowmobiles. Rarely does a game warden encounter a citizen in the field who isn’t armed. Therefore, they have to learn to deal with situations in a more nuanced way than calling in the S.W.A.T. team.
The Big Break—Stories of Breaking into the Thriller Game:
Steve Berry’s 12 Years and 85 Rejections
By Jeremy Burns
This fall will mark twelve years since Steve Berry burst onto the scene with his special blend of action, history, secrets, conspiracies, and international intrigue. During that time he’s released more than a dozen bestselling thrillers, seen his books translated into forty languages and released in fifty-one countries, and has become a household name among audiences the world over. His success has given him a platform to garner attention for historical landmarks and libraries in need through his History Matters non-profit organization. For many aspiring authors, Steve is the big time, the level of success that up-and-coming authors dream of. And yet, it was not always that way.
Far from it, in fact.
Steve’s writing journey doesn’t start in 2003, when he debuted with The Amber Room, or even in 2002, when he signed his first publishing contract with Ballantine Books. Instead, we have to dial the clock back twelve years, when a thirty-five-year-old Berry finally answered that “voice” in his head telling him to write. Over the next decade, Steve would write eight complete manuscripts. In 1995, agent Pam Ahearn recognized his talent and signed him. For many aspiring authors landing a top agent, someone who is in the publishing business and believes in your stories as much as you do, is a major milestone, a validation that you’re doing something right and that your long-awaited window of opportunity is just around the corner. But sometimes, as Steve learned the hard way, that window could actually still be a long time coming.
As Steve finished manuscripts, Pam would send them out to every publisher that handled thrillers back then. Over the next seven years, those five manuscripts Pam submitted racked up rejections.
According to Steve, one big publishing obstacle was the kind of books he wrote. From the onset he wrote what he loved, the same kind of history-riddled, secrets-laced international action thrillers he’s known for today. When he started writing, the publishing industry considered those sorts of books “spy thrillers,” and, with the exception of blockbuster names like Ludlum and Cussler, who brought their own followings apart from ebbs and flows in the popularity of the genre itself, demand for the spy thriller dried up in the 1990s, at the end of the Cold War. Which, unfortunately, was around the time Steve started writing.
By Layton Green
I love international crime fiction—thus this column—and I’d long wanted to read something set during the Troubles (the brutal internecine conflict over the constitutional status of Northern Ireland that I remember so vividly from my youth.) Adrian McKinty, an award-winning Irish writer who grew up in Belfast, was recommended to me by a friend, and so I picked up a copy of GUN STREET GIRL, Adrian’s latest novel featuring Detective Sean Duffy, a Catholic police officer working the mean streets of Belfast during the Troubles.
And what an inspired recommendation it was. A fascinating mystery grounded in historical events, a setting that taught me something about the world, and spare but beautiful prose: GUN STREET GIRL was just what I wanted.
A little about Adrian: he’s written sixteen books in total, including four in the Detective Sean Duffy series. The first three form a loose trilogy, though Adrian tells me that any of the four can be read as standalones. While I’m itching to read the first three, I certainly had no problem jumping right in with GUN STREET GIRL.
Adrian’s complete list of awards and nominations is too lengthy to include. Some of the highlights: he’s been called a “master of modern noir” by The Guardian, and “one of his generation’s leading talents” by Publishers Weekly; he won the 2014 Barry Award for I Hear the Sirens in the Street (an Detective Sean Duffy novel), for which he was also shortlisted for the 2014 Grand Prix de Littérature Policière; The Dead Yard was selected by Publishers Weekly as one of the twelve Best Novels of 2006 and won the 2007 Audie Award for best thriller/suspense; In the Morning I’ll Be Gone won the 2014 Ned Kelly Award for best fiction, was shortlisted for the 2015 Audie Award for Best Thriller, and was named as one of the ten best crime novels of 2014 by the American Library Association.
Writer Amanda Coetzee was born in Bedford, England, has an honors degree in Performing Arts, and has performed in several countries. She worked in adult education (including a brief tenure at Holloway Women’s Prison) before travelling and eventually settling in South Africa. She now teaches English at Potchefstroom. She experimented with various genres, but loves mysteries and finally came to the intriguing story of Harry O’Connor a/k/a Badger.
Harry was abandoned as a young boy and adopted by a clan of Irish Travellers (gypsies). There he earns himself the nickname “Badger” by carving out a reputation as a bare-knuckle boxer who never backs down in a fight. As an adult, Badger joins the London Metropolitan Police and severs all ties with the Irish band until fate draws him back in the first book, Bad Blood (2011). His Traveller roots proved crucial in Redemption Song (2012), and there was more trouble ahead for him in Flaming June (2013). One Shot was released last year. Sarah Lotz (bestselling author of The Three) said: “Badger is fast becoming my favorite crime fiction protagonist” and One Shot is “a cracking read that is her best yet.” I agree. I asked Amanda about writing the book.
One Shot has a complex plot. It begins with what seems to be a drug hit, but it turns out to have a lot more ramifications. Did the novel start with a collection of different ideas or did you have it all coherent at the start? I guess I’m asking if you’re a plotter or a pantser, i.e., do you plot your novels in detail or do you start with a rough idea and play it by the seat of your pants?
I do most of my planning internally before I ever pick up my pen. I start with a subject that intrigues or horrifies me and begin to weave ideas and research together in a random exploration. From there I get serious. I draw plot diagrams and character sketches and have imaginary writing sessions in my head before I start to write. I always have the title before I finish my previous book and despite the attempt at serious planning, the novel often develops in unforeseen directions while I am writing. I think the short answer is I see myself as a methodical writer with a deeply superstitious and intuitive streak…
How can you tell if a historical mystery is going to be as exciting and suspenseful as any futuristic technothriller? Well, if it’s crafted by Thriller Master David Morrell, you can count on it. He proves that with INSPECTOR OF THE DEAD, brilliantly merging historical fact and fiction.
Set in Victorian England, Morrell’s latest novel brings us eye-to-eye with a killer who targets the highest levels of British society. To battle this brilliant murderer, Morrell plucks one of the most sensational personalities from the 1800s and brings him to vibrant life. That protagonist is Thomas De Quincey, whose notorious Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, was the first book about drug addiction.
“It made De Quincey so famous that for the rest of his life he was called the Opium-Eater,” Morrell says. “Because of his opium dreams, he theorized that the mind had caverns and abysses, layer upon layer, with secret chambers in which alien natures could hide undetected. Basically, he anticipated the theories of Freud by three-quarters of a century. In fact, he invented the word ‘subconscious.’ He also influenced Edgar Allan Poe, who inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to create Sherlock Holmes.”
Adding to his accomplishments, De Quincey created the modern true-crime genre. In his On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts,, he dramatized the first media-sensation mass killings in English history, the shocking Ratcliffe Highway murders of 1811. Morrell says De Quincey’s blood-soaked depiction of those killings hooked him into writing about De Quincey.
“The premise of my first De Quincey novel, Murder as a Fine Art, is that someone uses his detailed essay as a blueprint for committing the murders anew,” Morrell says. “INSPECTOR OF THE DEAD continues De Quincey’s adventures when the Crimean War is raging. For a week, the shocking mismanagement of the war actually caused the fall of the English government. The premise of INSPECTOR OF THE DEAD is that someone uses this crisis as the ideal time to try to assassinate Queen Victoria.”
In reality, there were eight attempts to assassinate Queen Victoria, and Morrell incorporates elements of those attacks into his story.
De Quincey works with Scotland Yard detectives in the fascinating early days of crime-scene investigation, but even more interesting is the role played by his twenty-one year-old daughter, Emily, who provides an affectionate view of her opium-eater father, persuading readers to sympathize with him as much as she does. But writing from a female perspective can be a challenge for a male writer, and writing that character in a historical period is even harder, as Morrell says.
By James Ziskin
M. J. Rose is the New York Times bestselling author of fifteen novels, including the Butterfield Institute and Reincarnationist series. Her latest novel, THE WITCH OF PAINTED SORROWS, is the first book of a new trilogy from Atria Books/Simon & Schuster: The Daughters of La Lune. An opulent tale of destiny and reinvention, relentless passion and cabalistic mysticism, of love lost and the pursuit to regain it across death and the ages, THE WITCH OF PAINTED SORROWS is set against the backdrop of Belle Époque Paris.
Sandrine Salome is the wife of a New York banker. And though she enjoys wealth, social position, and a profound, spiritual bond with her adoring father, her marriage is passionless. When her husband betrays her father and drives him to suicide, Sandrine flees secretly to Paris, where she enters her grandmother’s world, a demimonde of courtesans and their wealthy patrons. Here, Sandrine discovers her own burning passions and a promising new life as a painter studying at the École des Beaux-Arts. She resolves never to return to the life she left behind. But an ancestral malevolence lurks in the walls of her grandmother’s mansion. And it wants Sandrine’s heart and soul.
I sat down with M. J. Rose to discuss her career and her latest novel, the gripping and luxuriant THE WITCH OF PAINTED SORROWS.
You have a passion for art, with roots going back to your formative years when you haunted New York’s greatest museums. Painting is at the heart of THE WITCH OF PAINTED SORROWS, from beginning to end. You present remarkable critical insight and knowledge of art, art history, and the mechanics of painting. Can you tell us something about your background in the world of art?
My grandmother was a painter and my mother a photographer. I loved painting and drawing from the time I can remember and started taking art classes when I was six years old—at the Metropolitan Museum of Art—no less. From there, it was the Art Students League in high school and then onto college where I got a fine arts degree with a minor in art history. I would still be painting if there had been a way for me make a living at it, but try as I might, I just wasn’t very good.
By E. M. Powell
I’m going to start by making a confession. When I got the e-mail asking if I’d be interested in covering Nicole Maggi’s new release, THE FORGETTING, my initial reaction was, “Well, it’s probably not for me.” You see, THE FORGETTING is a Young Adult (YA) thriller and the last time I could be described as a YA was in another century. But then I read the description, and saw that it’s about a teenager who wakes up after a heart transplant—and finds that she’s inherited the memories of her donor. I’ll admit: I’m a sucker for medical thrillers. I was in. Nicole very kindly provided me with a copy of the book, and with a bit of time to spare, I thought I’d get started on a few chapters. I emerged hours later with my afternoon’s other tasks still to do. It is a gripping, original read, and there was so much I wanted to ask Nicole.
Nicole is originally from upstate New York and has worked as an actor. But sunny Los Angeles is where she’s made her home with her husband and daughter, and two oddball cats. Nicole is also the author of The Twin Willows Trilogy.
It’s an intriguing hook to have your heroine, Georgie Kendrick, as the teenage recipient of a transplanted heart. So much of her experience reads as genuine. Have you had experience of this in your life? What research did you do around this topic?
I have not had an organ transplant myself, so I wanted to be sure that I was accurate with the research. I reached out to a couple of transplant recipients but wasn’t able to connect with any, so I relied on information from some other sources. I talked to my own cardiologist and I connected with LifeSource, which is an organization that helps educate the public about organ donation and offers support to donors and recipients and their families. I read a lot about real-life recipients who have gone on to do some incredible things, which I managed to work into the book. And I talked to my dad, who had quadruple bypass surgery over a decade ago, about the physical effects and recovery from open-heart surgery.
Anne Rule crowned Kathryn Casey one of the best true crime writers today, and called DELIVER US, “A true crime classic! A chilling study where both the victim and the stalker are bizarre and inscrutable.”
In DELIVER US, Casey delivers a riveting account of the brutal murders of eighteen young women in the I-45/Texas Killing Fields. Over a three-decade span, more than twenty women—many teenagers—died mysteriously in the small towns bordering Interstate 45, a fifty-mile stretch of highway running from Houston to Galveston. The victims were strangled, shot, or savagely beaten. Six met their demise in pairs. They had one thing in common: being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In this harrowing true crime exposition, award-winning journalist Kathryn Casey tracks these tragic cases, investigates the evidence, interviews the suspects, and pulls back the cloak of secrecy in search of elusive answers.
Kathryn Casey is an award-winning journalist and an author, who has written for Rolling Stone, TV Guide, Reader’s Digest, Texas Monthly and many other publications. She’s the author of seven previous true crime books and the creator of the highly acclaimed Sarah Armstrong Mystery series. Casey has appeared on Oprah, Oprah Winfrey’s Oxygen, Biography, Nancy Grace, E!, truTV, Investigation Discovery, the Travel Channel, and A&E. Casey is based in Houston, where she lives with her husband and their dog, Nelson.
STIFF PENALTY, released in February by Kensington, is the sixth book in the Mattie Winston mystery series by Annelise Ryan (the pen name of author Beth Amos). Like so many writers, as a child Amos usually had her nose in a book and dreamed early on of being a writer. Like perhaps not so many, she wrote hundreds of short stories and has saved all her rejection letters to prove it. Doubting her ability to support herself through writing, Amos decided to pursue a career in nursing. She never stopped writing, however, and at the age of forty sold her first full-length novel, Cold White Fury, to Harper Collins. Amos was off to the races. In addition to her first novels with Harper Collins and the Mattie Winston series, she writes the Mack Dalton mystery series under the pen name Allyson K. Abbott.
STIFF PENALTY is edgy, smart, and crisp, the characters distinctive, sometimes quirky, but always believable. The tension and suspense so expertly crafted by Amos are enhanced by a good dose of wry humor, and her medical knowledge lends rich credibility to her story. When you visit her website, be sure to take a look at her workshops on building characters, suspense, and other valuable writing tips. She’s got a lot of good advice!
Amos took time to talk with The Big Thrill about the writing life.
Medical Examiner Mattie Winston, your central character, is six foot tall, insecure about her looks, politically incorrect, and has a quite active libido—somewhat different from most female protagonists. What was the inspiration for her character and is there a message you want your readers to grasp?
Despite her differences, I think Mattie is in many ways the universal woman. We all have insecurities about how we look, and we all have naughty, politically incorrect, or even mean-spirited thoughts at times. Mattie is tall because I’m tall and the difficulties and insecurities that go along with that are something I know. Mattie often says the things I wish I could say. And I think Mattie’s desire to be loved and appreciated is a universal need that most women can relate to. Mattie has insecurities, but she’s a strong, independent woman who learns to trust her instincts, live with her shortcomings, and make the most of her strengths. She has a strong sense of who she is and what she wants, and she’s not afraid to go after it. Okay, maybe she’s a little afraid, but her fear empowers her in many ways. If there is a message of any sort in there, it’s that we’re all okay the way we are, and we shouldn’t be afraid to reach for those goals and desires.
By Dawn Ius
Leslie Budewitz started writing at the age of four—on her father’s desk. Literally. She would scrawl on top of the wood with her crayons, pencils, or whatever she could find.
Thankfully, her parents were understanding, and to this day, Budewitz’s mother, now eighty-nine, buys her daughter notebooks and pens for Christmas, a loving reminder about the concept of paper.
Harriet the Spy inspired Budewitz to use the notebooks, a habit still, but she concedes they’re more of a journal than a secret spy record.
In them, she jots ideas for recipes and stories—both of which are passions she’s combined to write cozy mysteries, such as her latest, ASSAULT AND PEPPER, the first in her new Spice Shop series.
“One challenge of starting a new series—and a big part of the fun—is populating the story and getting to know the characters,” she says.
In ASSAULT AND PEPPER, Pepper Reece is the proud new owner of the Spice Shop in Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market, and by Budewitz’s own description, someone who “totally does not mind being the poster child for the cliché, life begins at forty.”
“After thirteen years of marriage, she discovered her police officer husband and the meter maid in a back booth in a posh new restaurant practically plugging each other’s meters,” she says. “She moved out and bought an unfinished loft in a century-old downtown warehouse. Then the law firm where she’d worked imploded in scandal and took her job with it. So naturally, she tossed her office wardrobe, cut her hair, and bought the Spice Shop, a forty-year-old institution that had lost its verve.”
By John Clement
LADLE TO THE GRAVE is the fourth installment in the Soup Lover’s Mystery Series by Connie Archer. The books follow the story of Lucky Jamieson, whose life was turned upside down when her parents met an untimely death in a car crash on an icy road. Lucky has returned home to the cozy, idyllic town of Snowflake, Vermont, to run her family’s popular soup shop, “By The Spoonful,” but (as is wont to happen in these cozy, idyllic towns) murder is afoot…
The latest book opens in the woods. It’s almost May, and some of Snowflake’s local ladies have organized a celebration to welcome the arrival of spring. But it doesn’t quite go as planned, does it?
Certainly not! It’s a murder mystery after all. I had a lot of fun imagining this scene and it actually turned out a bit more humorous, I think, than I had originally anticipated (that’s if you ignore the death throes of the local woman.)
New England has a rich and fascinating history, but also a dark one. At the time I was working on LADLE TO THE GRAVE, I was reading a very well-researched non-fiction work on the Salem Witchcraft trials of 1691-1692. This book was far more chilling than any horror story I could have imagined. So I think a bit of that concurrent reading inspired the pagan scene. Now, I’m not equating paganism with horror, not at all; however, that’s not how the early Puritan colonists would have viewed it.
Growing up in New England I always felt the shadow of its Puritanical past, its history of witchcraft trials, even its Indian massacres. And I’m reminded of Shirley Jackson, a transplanted Californian, who said she was inspired to write The Lottery and other horror stories after her years of living there. I understood what she meant about the “hauntedness” of that part of the country. That’s one of the reasons it’s been so enjoyable for me to write a series set in Vermont and to juxtapose the comfort and safety of the village against the sense of danger lurking in the woods.
By Derek Gunn
Lovecraftian Horror, the Elder Gods and anything Eldritch related is notoriously difficult to do well. The problem is that it is very difficult to get the right tone. Many of the attempts I have read fall into the fan fiction arena and, while there is nothing wrong with fan fiction, per se, the quality of Lovecraft’s writing makes most attempts pale in comparison. August Darleth and Robert E. Howard both got it right, and their stories stand proud in the list of wonderful Eldritch literature. And now we have another name. Douglas Wynne has managed quite a feat with RED EQUINOX.
The first thing that will strike you is the sense of place. Whether it is in a quiet church, in abandoned buildings, or on the city streets, the attention to detail of where the characters are is impressive. And it doesn’t get in the way of pace either. He takes time to set a scene, building a sense of impending terror, creepy imperfections that you notice out of the corner of your eye but can’t quite put your finger on—and all without losing the reader in a mire of long, unnecessary descriptions. I was hooked from the start.
I will not give too much away as regards the plot as one of the best things about the better tales of the Elder Gods is what isn’t blatantly stated. A ripple in still water is better than a gush in these tales, and the first part of the story is all about building tension. Of course, that changes later on.
The novel opens with Becca Philips’ journey to her grandmother’s funeral. Becca is an urban explorer and photographer. We are quickly introduced to a grandmother steeped in mystery and with a history of exploring the world’s cryptic past. Secrets abound about her grandmother but, with her death, these are lost.
Back in Boston, Becca visits an abandoned asylum and we are introduced to characters on both sides of the unfolding storyline. Cultists abound. There is a strange homeless man who is more than he seems and a creeping horror that is worming its way into our world.
If Becca can’t solve the mystery of her late grandmother’s gift, then the world will be lost to a sweeping horror beyond the realms of horror.
By Wendy Tyson
Jean Heller is no stranger to the world of investigative reporting, and in her latest thriller, THE SOMEDAY FILE, Jean’s knowledge and experience show. THE SOMEDAY FILE follows the sharp and spirited Deuce Mora, a columnist for The Chicago Journal, in her dangerous quest for justice as she unravels the truth behind a fifty-year-old crime. Well-plotted and tightly-written, with a fascinating glimpse into the sometimes grim reality of print journalism, THE SOMEDAY FILE is a thrilling read.
Jean graciously agreed to answer a few questions for The Big Thrill.
What can you tell us about THE SOMEDAY FILE that’s not on the back cover?
This is a book about obsession, guilt, obligation, and overcoming impossible odds under incredible pressure. Deuce Mora is a columnist for The Chicago Journal, a newspaper like most in the United States struggling against financial ruin in a digital world that seems to have left traditional newspapers in the gutter. She tries to interview an aging, low-level mobster who is living on beer, bourbon, and regret for the one mistake in his life that cost him everything. Deuce’s questions trigger a horrendous event that propels her into the nightmare of a fifty-year-old crime. To solve it, she must fight the cops, the Mob, politicians, prosecutors, and even her own editor. At the very least, Deuce’s quest will ruin her reputation and cost her job. Just as likely, it will cost her life.
As you note, The Chicago Journal is a newspaper struggling to survive in a digital world. You are well acquainted with journalism. In fact, you’ve had quite a career yourself, a career that includes eight Pulitzer Prize nominations. How have your experiences in the field of journalism impacted your novels? Deuce Mora’s character?
If I hadn’t been a journalist, I couldn’t have written the book. I was trained as a projects and an investigative reporter, which taught me legitimate ways to find elusive information. A retired New York City police detective said he was recommending the novel to young cops as a how-to on digging out information bad guys don’t want them to know. He told me my novel would be more effective than a police manual because the information is delivered in the context of a fascinating mystery, so young cops are more likely to remember it. And writers write what we know, or at least we should. I had so many incredible experiences as an investigative reporter I could populate a lifetime of thrillers. As for Deuce Mora, she’s younger than I am and taller than I am. But her sense of humor, her smartass responses to life, and her self-doubts are all mine.
By Dawn Ius
In his twenty-five years as a business executive and management consultant, Douglass Seaver has authored dozens of articles, guest editorials, and even a chapter in a marketing book. Now, Seaver adds a full-length novel to his already impressive publishing resume, with the debut of his international suspense, THE FOURTH RULE.
THE FOURTH RULE is the story of two brothers—one a missing Green Beret, the other, Matthew Grant, charged with keeping a secret. When the CIA approaches Grant to help solve the mystery of his brother’s disappearance, readers are taken on a twisting journey of suspense and intrigue, culminating in a high stakes gamble of life…and peace.
Here, Seaver talks about what inspired THE FOURTH RULE, his transition to fiction, and what he’s working on next.
Congrats on your debut, THE FOURTH RULE. It sounds fascinating. What was the inspiration for this story?
When I was fourteen, my dad told me a story about a man who rose every morning, got dressed, had breakfast with his family, and left for work. He rode the elevator down to the lobby, exited his apartment building, walked across the street to the local bakery, and bought a chocolate croissant. He returned to his building, went down to the basement, hid the white bakery bag with the croissant, and went on to work. At the end of the day, the man returned to his building, went to the basement, threw the bag and the chocolate croissant into the furnace, and then went up to his apartment and family.
Four decades later, I remembered the story, and it led me to think about keeping secrets. I became fascinated by the impact secrets might have on those who keep them. That curiosity became the backbone of the plot for my novel.
By George Ebey
Author Gigi Pandian’s latest book, QUICKSAND, gives us the third entry in her Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt series.
This time around, Jaya Jones finds herself on the wrong side of the law during an art heist at the Louvre. To redeem herself, she follows clues from an illuminated manuscript that lead from the cobblestone streets of Paris to the quicksand-surrounded fortress of Mont Saint-Michel. With the help of some interesting characters, Jaya delves into France’s colonial past in India to clear her name and catch a killer.
The Big Thrill recently caught up with Gigi to learn more about her and QUICKSAND.
Can you tell us a little about QUICKSAND and the series it’s set in?
QUICKSAND is the third book in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery series, but it stands alone, too. In each book in the series, history professor Jaya Jones solves a present-day crime linked to a historic treasure that has to do with India’s colonial history.
In QUICKSAND, Jaya has the best intentions but finds herself part of an art heist at the Louvre. She discovers that the theft is part of a much bigger treasure hunt that has led to murder, and to set things right she enlists the help of an ex-thief and a ninety-year-old French stage magician. The hunt takes them from Paris to Les Machines de l’île in Nantes to the ancient fortress of Mont Saint-Michel, where Jaya discovers hidden secrets of France’s colonial past. But a dangerous thief will do anything to silence Jaya before she can reveal what she knows.
The previous two books—Artifact and Pirate Vishnu—have been treasure hunts that led from San Francisco to the Highlands of Scotland and the southern tip of India, respectively.