Latest Books

Perfect Touch by Elizabeth Lowell

Perfect_Touch_earlycoverBy Matt Maxwell

Elizabeth Lowell has quietly been stirring up a revolt in both romance and thrillers since the late 1980s. She was one of the leading innovators in the field of romantic suspense, having mastered relationship-driven romance and suspense novels in her earlier career. With Tell Me No Lies, she combined the two genres, giving readers an unexpected ride that continues to today. Her newest romantic suspense novel is PERFECT TOUCH, which tells a tale of family and betrayal set against a backdrop of the rugged Wyoming landscape. High-stakes art deals, murder, and the unexpected dance of new love all come together, satisfying readers of thrillers and contemporary romance alike.

The Big Thrill sat down with Mrs. Lowell to talk about her writing career and what it’s like to break down genre barriers.

You didn’t start out writing suspense at all. How did you begin your career?

I was reading science fiction at the time; my first novel, Change, was science fiction. It is long out of print, but I’m looking at possibly bringing out a digital edition. I’ve got rights to all my science fiction backlist, thanks to contracts that weren’t able to predict ebooks and the world we live in now.

What were you able to take from that experience that makes your other work unique?

Science fiction is the ultimate “What if?” genre, with no limitations required by reality. Suspense is also a “What if?” genre, but the limitations are very much of this Earth!

What led you to add suspense elements to your romance novels? Did that dovetail with your work on Steal the Sun and the Fiddler novels?

My first romance novels were about 200 pages long. There wasn’t room in them for anything but the development of the romance. When I write 400 page novels, then there is room for both romance and suspense. Working on pure suspense (such as Steal the Sun) and mystery with a continuing relationship (Fiddler) made me want to write novels in which the romance and suspense were equal partners.
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Shroud of Roses by Gloria Ferris

Shroud of Roses 300 500The Class of 2000 held one final party in the old gym before the high school was abandoned and boarded up. At midnight, the school emptied for the last time. Or so everyone believed.

Fifteen years later, the building is scheduled for demolition. When a salvage team discovers a skeleton curled up in a locker, a hole in the left temple, Lockport’s chief of police, Neil Redfern, is called in to investigate.

When Redfern learns that his girlfriend, Bliss Moonbeam Cornwall, also graduated that fateful year, he reveals details of the grisly discovery. She insists she knows who his victim is, but before any headway can be made in the case, another grad is killed. Could the two murders be connected?

Despite being warned against meddling in police affairs, Bliss enlists the help of two former classmates to find the killer. But digging into the past proves to be a dangerous pastime. Her unconventional methods jeopardize the investigation, her relationship with Redfern, and her own life.
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Beyond A Doubt by Nancy Cole Silverman

BEYOND A DOUBT front mockWhen Carol Childs is called to the scene of a body dump she has no idea she’s about to uncover a connection to a string of missing girls. Young, attractive women, drawn to the glitz and glamor of Hollywood via an internet promise of stardom and romance, have been disappearing. A judge’s daughter leaves behind a clue and a trip down Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame reveals a connection to a high powered real estate mogul and to a cartel targeting girls for human trafficking.

Old Hollywood has its secrets, its impersonators and backdoor entrances to old speakeasies and clubs where only those with the proper credentials can go. And when Carol Childs gets too close, she finds herself politically at odds with powers that threaten to undue her career and like the very girls she’s seeking, disappear.

*****

“A high-speed chase of a mystery, filled with very likable characters, a timely plot, and writing so compelling that readers will be unable to turn away from the page.” ~Kings River Life Magazine

“This book was a real nail-biter! It kept my attention the entire time. A definite must read. ~Goodreads Review
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The Ultimate Threat by James Osborne

THE ULTIMATE THREAT-2Debut novelist James Osborne has thrown a new twist into those tales of domestic terrorism with his version of guerilla warfare waged by religious extremists in America.

The main protagonist in THE ULTIMATE THREAT is repeatedly challenged by skeptical allies as he charges forward to build an unlikely but plausible alliance to battle the spreading menace posed by freshly trained homegrown extremists. Osborne says there’s a purpose in all of this—a five-alarm purpose.

The novel is a true-to-life account about the rapid spread of religious extremism but with a chilling twist, Osborne explained: “I’ve superimposed this fictional story of terrorism onto genuine surroundings in American cities. The objective is to bring home to everyone in the West the very real danger created by the rapid spread of heinous brutality by these unprincipled savages.

“Make no mistake, we’ve grown dangerously complacent in the West. Unless we demand that our security and law-enforcement agencies be more proactive, we could easily find ourselves subjected to the same unspeakable sadism, and facing tragedies on a much larger scale than we’ve already seen in New York, Paris, London, Boston, and Ottawa. The list can only grow longer. This novel is a wake-up call.”

THE ULTIMATE THREAT is the culmination of more than five years of research and writing. Osborne says that his novel is, unapologetically, “a disturbing look at the heinous crimes of religious extremists, but it is also a deeply compassionate account of the suffering millions of people are enduring daily simply by having been in the wrong place when these savages invaded their homelands.”
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Cracks in the Cobblestone by Susan E. Sagarra

Cover-CracksintheCobblestone - FINAL SMALL - 3-25-15debut-authorSusan E. Sagarra’s debut mystery novel, CRACKS IN THE COBBLESTONE, is the story of two vastly different women who have a mutual obsession with the Titanic tragedy. That calamity presents itself to each woman in different ways to help solve a long-forgotten mystery in the quirky river town of Tirtmansic.

Sagarra has always been intrigued with the historic catastrophe. “I have an unexplained fascination with, or connection to, the Titanic disaster, and my lucky number is 12,” she said. “When I set out to write my book, I looked at the calendar the day I started writing and it was April 12, 2010. So I decided to start part of the novel on April 12 . . . of 1912. I did not even think about the year’s significance until I researched important events and realized the Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, three days after I had determined my written journey would begin.”

But this was only one of several coincidences along the way. Several years earlier, when Sagarra was the managing editor of a St. Louis, Missouri-based newspaper, she had been invited to see the Titanic exhibit at the Saint Louis Science Center. “At the beginning of the exhibit, they give you a ‘boarding pass’ that depicts a real passenger who was on the ship and you have the opportunity to experience the event as that person,” Sagarra said. “The pass gives details about the person and my passenger, a woman named Mrs. Edward Beane (Ethel Clark), was one of just twelve newlywed brides on the ship. At the end of the exhibit, you find out if ‘you’ survived. She did.”

Sagarra dug out the boarding pass from her trunk of memorabilia and researched Ethel Beane. She ended up paying homage to Mrs. Beane in the book.

The next serendipitous event occurred when she received a gift from her brother. “He gave me a book called I Survived the Titanic, by Lawrence Beesley. Mr. Beesley described how he had survived in lifeboat No. 13, which spooked me. He was in the same boat as Ethel Beane. My brother did not know I describe this woman in my novel when he gave me the present.”
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Shadow Hunt by Michael Pedicelli

­­shadowMax Barrett, the protagonist of this espionage thriller, is an elite intelligence operative driven hard by events from his past. He is a member of a military unit so covert that its code name is changed every few years to remain hidden. Barrett’s new assignment is to lead a team that will secretly protect Sara, the President’s only daughter, during a U.N. humanitarian trip to Nigeria. The problem is that the Secret Service does not want him or his team anywhere near the First Daughter. Infighting ensues but soon gives way to reluctant cooperation when she is kidnapped during a deadly ambush. Worse yet, her true identity had been hidden for this trip, which gives Barrett his second bit of bad news: an insider has to be involved.

Alone and cut off from his normal resources, Barrett is forced to use all of his skills, experience, and contacts—including some shady characters outside the intelligence community—in a race against time to save Sara’s life. The trail leads Barrett on a worldwide hunt, through a labyrinth of clues that reveals a chilling truth: the kidnapping was only a small part of a much more ambitious plan. A plan with the ultimate goal of destabilizing the world.
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Protocol Zero by James Abel

protocalJames Abel is a pseudonym for journalist Bob Reiss, who has covered the Arctic—the setting for PROTOCOL ZERO—for the magazines Smithsonian, Parade, Readers Digest, and Outside. He also wrote the nonfiction book The Eskimo and the Oil Man about the opening of the Arctic, advised 60 Minutes on Arctic issues, and has appeared as a guest on Morning Joe, Dan Rather Reports, Al Jazeera, and Nightline, discussing Arctic security and potential conflict.

PROTOCOL ZERO begins as a party of four scientific researchers, a family of three and their guide, makes a satellite call for help, but by the time Alaskan police arrive they are all dead. It looks like a murder/suicide, but then Marine bio-terror expert Joe Rush discovers that all the dead were sick with the most fatal disease on earth, yet one that never afflicts people in groups. At least until now. Through the ages, this very real disease has given rise to myth, terror, and folk tales.

Has the microbe evolved into something even more terrible, or has it been genetically engineered? And if the latter, who is behind it? More people are falling ill in Alaska. Soon the area will be quarantined, and the race will be on to stop the illness.

How did your work as a journalist in the Arctic lead to the plot for PROTOCOL ZERO?

The region is warming so fast that scientists believe that the next big outbreak of illness may come from a cold region, not a hot one. Add to that the competition between Arctic nations for territory, the race to get oil out of the ground there, the fact that the biggest new diamond mines on earth are in the Arctic…well, the real world provides all the elements of a thriller.
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The Eternal World by Christopher Farnsworth

The Eternal World CoverBy Christopher Farnsworth

I think on some level, we all believe we’re going to live forever. There’s a kind of mental block we share that keeps us from looking too far down to the end of that road.

I’m not exempt. I’ve always had a suspicion in the back of my mind that I would outlive everyone I loved, that I would survive as everyone around me passed on. Then I held my newborn daughter in my hands. At that moment, it dawned on me that my clock was ticking faster than hers, and that she would see a world that I could only imagine.

That’s why I wanted to write what would become THE ETERNAL WORLD. There’s nothing like the prospect of your own mortality to get you thinking about eternal life.

In the book, the three main characters are all given a chance to sample the water from the Fountain of Youth. In 1527, a young conquistador named Simon stumbles upon the Fountain and the Native American tribe, the Uzita, who guard it. He betrays Shako, the woman who loves him and saves his life, and as a result, her entire tribe is slaughtered. Almost five centuries later, when the water runs out, Simon hires a brilliant researcher named David Robinton to duplicate it. David is faced with the greatest medical triumph of all time, if he can make it work. He could cure death itself—but only if he survives the centuries-old battle between Simon and Shako.

I’ve been very lucky: I’ve had very little direct experience with death. Aside from my grandparents, I haven’t lost anyone I love. And even my grandparents held on long past any reasonable expectations. My grandfather made it to 90 despite heart attacks and a broken back. My grandmother made it to 93. My father is still hammering up drywall in his seventies. My mother does more before breakfast than I manage to accomplish in an entire day.
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Center of Gravity by Laura McNeill

center of gravityWith the idyllic Gulf Coast of Alabama in the backdrop, protagonist Ava Carson finds herself ricocheted into a web of secrets and lies in Laura McNeill’s debut, CENTER OF GRAVITY.

McNeill took some time out of her schedule this month to answer a few questions for The Big Thrill about her novel and what’s next for her writing career.

Tell us about CENTER OF GRAVITY

On the surface, the novel is about the dissolution of a picture-perfect family. The story follows Ava Carson as she navigates through bitter shock and pain after her husband announces he’s leaving the marriage.

Things get much worse, however, after Mitchell files for divorce and demands full custody of the couple’s children. It’s then that Ava is forced to wake up and face the truth that her husband is not the charming, loving man she believed she’d married.

Sounds a bit like Sleeping With the Enemy.

Like Martin in Sleeping With the Enemy, Mitchell is definitely controlling, jealous, and increasingly violent. As a powerful member of the community, he skillfully manipulates public opinion, placing Ava in devastating situations with her own friends and family.

Unlike Price’s novel, though, CENTER OF GRAVITY includes an additional domestic suspense angle, with the couple’s young children caught in the middle of Ava and Mitchell’s custody battle.
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Devil’s Pocket by John Dixon

Devil's Pocket Cover NewerThe follow-up to the critically acclaimed Phoenix Island, which reads like “Lord of the Flies meets Wolverine and Cool Hand Luke” (F. Paul Wilson, creator of Repairman Jack) and inspired the CBS TV show Intelligence.

With a chip in his head and hundreds more throughout his body, sixteen-year-old Carl Freeman was turned from an orphan with impulse control issues into a super-soldier. Forced into the mercenary Phoenix Force group, he begins to fear he’ll never escape. Sent to a volcanic island to fight for them, he’ll compete in a combat tournament that awards teens with survival for merciless brutality. But just when all looks lost, he spies a friendly face…and possibly a way out.

*****

On Phoenix Island:

“Fantastic… superbly suspenseful… unpredictable and frightening. Phoenix Island will blow you away.”~Mark Sullivan, New York Times bestselling author of Rogue and co-author of Private Games (with James Patterson)
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The Love-Haight Case Files by Jean Rabe and Donald J. Bingle

love-haight+coverBy Ronnie Allen

I had the pleasure of talking with two multi-published authors, Jean Rabe and Donald Bingle, who recently released—as a collaboration—THE LOVE-HAIGHT CASE FILES: Seeking Supernatural Justice. This novel is a fun ride with paranormal creatures known as OTs—Other-Than-Human—as they wreak havoc through the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. As you can tell from the title, this novel has a lot to do with the law. You’ll meet Gargoyles, Ghouls, Vampires, Fey, Ghosts, and Zombies whose characters are so well developed they might sound like living and breathing humans until you read their colorful descriptions and realize they are anything but. Each one has a unique voice—some comedic, some mysterious, and some ominous.

There’s a mix of life in this district. The OTs live amongst the humans who perpetuate many of their problems. Attorneys Thomas Brock and Evelyn Love crusade and protect the rights of these OTs. We see them in the courtroom fighting for a father’s right to see his children, and in the streets overcoming danger as they protect the lives of gargoyles doomed to die when buildings they protect are demolished, fighting breed-specific legislation, and saving a vampire being framed. I’m not telling you more. You’ll have to read the book. The plot encompasses the real life concerns and emotions of many in an urban-fantasy world.

Rabe and Bingle recently answered a few questions for The Big Thrill.

Jean and Don, I’m thrilled to be talking with you today. With thirty-one novels and four thrillers and countless stories, respectively, I’d certainly appreciate your expertise as well as I’m sure our readers would. To start, how did your collaboration evolve for THE LOVE-HAIGHT CASE FILES: Seeking Supernatural Justice? How did you divide the labor, so to speak, and what roles did each of you have? What ground rules did you set for accountability?

Jean: We approached the novel as “cases,” and we divided the work that way. I’d take a case, Don would take a case, we’d banter ideas back and forth, and we’d proof each other’s work. Made for a clean manuscript, consistent characters and dialog, and allowed the book to come together smoothly.
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Best Laid Plans by Allison Brennan

best_laid_plansNewly minted FBI Agent Lucy Kincaid is settling into her job in San Antonio, Texas, when the corpse of Harper Worthington, the husband of a sitting congresswoman, is found naked in a motel on the wrong side of town. It’s up to Lucy to locate the last person to see him alive: a teenage prostitute who seems to have vanished into thin air.

When forensics determines that Harper was poisoned, Lucy and her new by-the-book partner dig deep into his life to find out who might want him dead. Why did Harper lie to his wife and his staff? Was he involved in an illicit affair? Embezzling money? Laundering money for a drug cartel? Or was he simply a pawn in someone else’s dangerous game?

Lucy’s boyfriend Sean Rogan is hired by Harper’s company to run a security audit, causing friction between Lucy and the FBI. But when Sean finds a high-tech bug in Harper’s office, an entirely new threat emerges–a far-reaching conspiracy run by a ruthless killer who will do anything to get what he wants, and kill anyone who gets in his way. And the person between him and victory is Lucy Kincaid.
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Wolf Trouble (SWAT 2) by Paige Tyler

Wolf Trouble Hi-Res NYT 72By Paige Tyler

If you remember from Book 1 in my Special Wolf Alpha Team Series (Hungry Like the Wolf), the Dallas SWAT Team is made up of sixteen alpha werewolves. When you think of the word “alpha” you probably naturally think big, strong guys. And up until WOLF TROUBLE (Book 2 in the SWAT Series) you’d be right. There were sixteen alpha guys on the team, and in the Pack. But now you get to see how the dynamics change when the next alpha to join the Pack is a woman. Not only is she strong and aggressive like the guys, but she’s sexy as hell, too.

In my SWAT Series, werewolves aren’t turned from a bite, but rather by having a gene that turns on during a traumatic event. And the heroine Khaki Blake experiences one heck of an event that not just turns her into a werewolf but also forces her to leave her old life behind for a new one.

When she joins the Pack, she doesn’t expect her new teammates to be so attractive. But while they’re all big, tall and droolworthy, only one of them makes her forget her own name—her squad leader Xander Riggs. You guessed it—things are about to get complicated.
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Zero World by Jason M. Hough

Zero-World-Cover-1400pxPublished in rapid succession, Jason M. Hough’s first three novels, The Darwin Elevator, The Exodus Towers, and The Plague Forge, earned mountains of praise and comparisons to such authors as James S. A. Corey and John Scalzi. Now Hough returns with a riveting near-future spy thriller that combines the adrenaline of a high-octane James Bond adventure with mind-blowing sci-fi speculations worthy of Christopher Nolan’s Inception.

Technologically enhanced superspy Peter Caswell has been dispatched on a top-secret assignment unlike any he’s ever faced. A spaceship that vanished years ago has been found, along with the bodies of its murdered crew—save one. Peter’s mission is to find the missing crew member, who fled through what appears to be a tear in the fabric of space. Beyond this mysterious doorway lies an even more confounding reality: a world that seems to be Earth’s twin.

Peter discovers that this mirrored world is indeed different from his home, and far more dangerous. Cut off from all support, and with only days to complete his operation, Peter must track his quarry alone on an alien world. But he’s unprepared for what awaits on the planet’s surface, where his skills will be put to the ultimate test—and everything he knows about the universe will be challenged in ways he never could have imagined.
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Laying Down the Paw by Diane Kelly

laying down pawBy Diane Kelly

Readers often want to know where writers find their inspiration. Some writers find inspiration in the headlines. Others find it in the people around them or in experiences they’ve had. In the case of my Paw Enforcement K-9 cop series, inspiration simply licked my ankle. One look down at my black and tan Shepherd mix and I realized a dog like him would make a great character for a mystery series.

Yep, I’m a big animal lover. My husband and I share our home with three dogs and six cats. Being outnumbered more than four-to-one by furry, four-footed creatures qualifies me as a “crazy cat lady” and violates a number of city ordinances. Still, even though I can’t get out of my house without fur on my clothes, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Along with the plastic poop bags and hacked-up hairballs, my dogs and cats bring love and laughter to our lives.

One of the wonderful things about dogs is their emotional honesty. Dogs don’t hide their feelings. If they’re happy, their wagging tail lets you know it. If they’re feeling threatened, the ears go back and the teeth come out. If they don’t want to move from their favorite spot on the couch, they give you a look of unmistakable disdain that says, “I was here first. Buzz off, mere human.”
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The Confessor by Mark Allen Smith

confessorEveryone is looking for Geiger . . .

Cold, emotionless and with an innate ability to recognize lies, Geiger was the best of the best in the field of Information Retrieval. Until he was asked to break his only rule and do the unthinkable – to torture a child. Something broke in Geiger’s neatly controlled mind, opening up a flood of terrible memories long kept at bay. And now Geiger is missing, presumed dead.

But, with no body ever found, there are a number of people invested in finding out the truth. One of those people is Harry Boddicker, Geiger’s old handler and friend. Another is his bitter rival, Dalton, who is determined to find Geiger and extract a final confession from him, before carrying out his deadly revenge.

But no one has reckoned on Zanni Soames – a woman more dangerous than any of them could imagine, and hell-bent on winning the race to find Geiger first.

The new novel from Mark Allen Smith is a masterfully written thriller that will send you spinning from New York to Paris and back again, and into the darkest depths of the man known only as Geiger.
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Crushed Velvet by Diane Vallere

CrushedVelvet_coverBy Diane Vallere

Last September, news of a drug laundering operation in the Los Angeles fashion and textile district hit the airwaves. Officially called Operation Fashion Police by the FBI, the raid resulted in a haul of multi-millions of dollars cash, all in hundred dollar bills. The money was profit from the narcotics trade, most of it discovered in duffle bags and cardboard boxes. Several of the boxes were even conveniently marked “1 million.”

Now that was nice, don’t you think? Criminals labeling their own evidence.

The raid was considered to be the largest in history. Current reports state the combined value of cash and property seized at $140 million. Nine arrests were made. All pled not guilty.

The gist of the laundering operation was this: Mexican drug cartels in the United States gave bags of cash to businesses in the Los Angeles fashion district, who used the money to make or import products that would then be sold to Mexican distributors for pesos. The pesos were returned to the Mexican drug cartel.

Simplified, it would be like me selling drugs and then giving you the money I made to buy widgets. You then sold the widgets to a third party and gave me the money you made. I put the clean—laundered—money in the bank and no one would be the wiser. Seems simple, right?
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Dream a Little Scream by Mary Kennedy

By Mary Kennedy

Seven Things You Really Want To Know About Dreams

dream a little screamAs a practicing psychologist, I find that my clients are fascinated by dreams. Most of them have read a little Freud, who called dreams “the royal road to the unconscious.” Freud believed dreams can help us access our innermost thoughts; our fears, wishes, and desires. Think of dreams as a window into our unconscious life. They can be humorous, erotic, tantalizing or terrifying.

When I came up with the premise of the Dream Club Mysteries, I envisioned a group of Savannah women who would meet once a week to eat some fabulous Southern desserts and talk about their dreams. And of course, they would solve a murder or two in every book. I thought this might be an intriguing plot device and could pave the way for some interesting characterization.

As the women reveal their dreams, they realize that they held hidden clues to the crime scene, usually in symbolic form. Sometimes they even uncover the identity of the murderer. But were these clues really “revelations” from the subconscious or merely coincidences? I remembered Freud’s claim, “There are no coincidence.” I chose to sidestep the question and leave it up to the reader to decide.

When I’m asked to speak on dreams, I find that people have strong beliefs—and sometimes misconceptions—about dreams. Here are a few questions I’ve come across.

You can only dream about things you’ve experienced in real life. Is this true?

No, of course not. Anything can happen in a dream. You can take on a new persona, explore lands both real and imaginary, and have adventures worthy of Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean. Since dreams are not subject to time and space constraints, you can share a plate of marrons with Marie Antoinette (“Let them eat cake!”) one night and be part of the first space mission (“Houston, we have a problem”) the following evening.
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The Blind by Shelley Coriell

The_Blind_Low_ResShelley Coriell’s THE BLIND is another dark and twisty romantic thriller in the Apostles Series. The Big Thrill caught up with Coriell to discuss her critically acclaimed series, as well as what’s lurking in her future.

Tell us about THE BLIND, the third book in your Apostles Series, which features an elite team of FBI agents who work outside the box and at times, above the law.

THE BLIND is the story of Special Agent Evie Jimenez, a fiery female FBI bombs and weapons specialist who teams up with Jack Elliott, a buttoned-up billionaire philanthropist and art collector, to track down a serial bomber who uses bombs and live models to create masterful art that lives and breathes—and with the flip of a switch, dies.

Set in the eclectic streets of the downtown Los Angeles Arts District, THE BLIND is a story of art and beauty and ultimately, power. As work-a-holic Evie hunts down an increasingly deadly serial bomber, she finds herself fighting intense feelings for Jack, a powerful businessman with control issues, and struggling with her femininity, and ideas about family. Explosions are going off everywhere in Evie’s world.

Evie Jimenez, the heroine in THE BLIND, is an FBI bombs and weapons specialist. What inspired you to write such a strong female character?

While drafting THE BLIND, I joked around that this book should come with a warning label, something like: Warning: Strong Woman Ahead! I blame my daughters.
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Flambé in Armagnac by Jean-Pierre Alaux, Noël Balen, and Sally Pane (translator)

flambeBy Sally Pane

Imagine yourself in a corner of France, with its customs and history, its Armagnac and duck confit. Then add some mystery. That was my world as I translated FLAMBE IN ARMAGNAC, the French title of this latest installment in the Winemaker Detective series by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen.

In the heart of Gascony, a fire ravages the warehouse of one of Armagnac’s top estates, killing the master distiller. Wine expert Benjamin Cooker is called in to estimate the value of the losses. But Cooker and his assistant Virgile want to know more. How did the old alembic explode? Was it really an accident? Why is the estate owner Baron de Castayrac penniless? How legal are his dealings?

The deeper the winemaking detective digs, the more suspicious he becomes. There is more than one disgruntled inhabitant in this small town. As readers are witness to the time-honored process of Armagnac distillation, the day-to-day activities of the hunt, the marketplace, and the struggles for power within the community, they get a glimpse of the traditions of southwestern France. Similarly, they are introduced to characters from all walks of life—landed gentry with noble titles, former aristocrats contriving to hold on to their status, and the working-class salt of the earth. Each has a story to tell, and Cooker has to listen carefully in order to piece together the mystery of the Chateau Blanzac inferno.

One of the colorful characters in the story is the “roving distiller,” a man who inherited the craft of turning wine into Armagnac by way of an intricate yet medieval-looking machine called an alembic that he hauls from estate to estate with his tractor. The transformation of simple alcohol into the highly prized eau-de-vie seems symbolic of complex human relationships the reader encounters in the village.
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Coercion by Tim Tigner

COERCION CoverI was snugging a green beret onto my crew-cut scalp when I heard the report: The Berlin Wall, Tom Brokaw announced, has fallen.

I’d just completed years of military training. I’d parachuted into stormy swamps, memorized Soviet battle plans, and “learned Russian so you didn’t have to.” Then the enemy my generation had grown up with, and the career for which I’d sweat and bled, crumbled on the six o’clock news.

What are you going to do now? Mom asked.

I went over to the dark side. I moved to Moscow. The Wall had fallen and then the Curtainlet the pillaging and plundering begin! Of course it was the locals now known as oligarchs who ransacked Russia by the billion. I did OK, landing a corporate gig peddling Western medicine.

Years passed—tough perestroika years—and my sworn enemies morphed into best friends. I came to understand that defeat had cost them more than jobs and traditions. The collapse of the Iron Curtain had also crushed their pride. They’d been a superpower one day, and destitute the next. Talk about a tough pill to swallow.

I tried to imagine how I’d react, if American pride became an illusion. I thought about how hard I’d fight to prevent it. With clenched fists, I vowed that I’d use everything I had learned, every tool at my disposal. Then I put myself in my new friends’ shoes, and asked:
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Drop Dead Punk by Rich Zahradnik

drop_dead_punkColeridge Taylor is searching for his next scoop on the police beat. The Messenger-Telegram reporter has a lot to choose from on the crime-ridden streets of New York City in 1975. One story outside his beat is grabbing all the front page glory: New York teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, and President Ford just told the city, as the Daily News so aptly puts it, “Drop Dead.” Taylor’s situation is nearly as desperate. His home is a borrowed dry-docked houseboat, his newspaper may also be on the way out, and his drunk father keeps getting arrested.

A source sends Taylor down to Alphabet City, hang-out of the punks who gravitate to the rock club CBGB. There he finds the bloody fallout from a mugging. Two dead bodies: a punk named Johnny Mort and a cop named Robert Dodd. Each looks too messed up to have killed the other. Taylor starts asking around. The punk was a good kid, the peace-loving guardian angel of the neighborhood’s stray dogs. What led him to mug a woman at gunpoint? And why is Officer Samantha Callahan being accused of leaving her partner to die, even though she insists the police radio misled her? It’s hard enough being a female in the NYPD only five years after women were assigned to patrol. Now the department wants to throw her to the wolves. That’s not going to happen, not if Taylor can help it. As he falls for Samantha—a beautiful, dedicated second-generation cop—he realizes he’s too close to his story. Officer Callahan is a target, and Taylor’s standing between her and some mighty big guns.
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Words in the Dark by Giulia Beyman

WordsintheDarkAfter the sudden loss of her husband, Joe, Nora Cooper makes a startling discovery: shortly before his death, Joe secretly sold their newly purchased dream home on Martha’s Vineyard, where the couple had planned to retire.

Nora doesn’t know what to think. As she searches for answers, she is tormented by grief and doubt—until she starts receiving mysterious and inexplicable messages in Scrabble letters, messages that Nora believes could have been written only by Joe.

Using a strength she didn’t know she had, Nora follows these strange clues to discover the truth about Joe and their life together—and navigates the danger inherent in her new, special gift.
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Energized by Mary Behre

energizedIn the new Tidewater novel by the author of Guarded, a kiss between strangers draws both into unexpected danger and unforgettable desire . . .

She’s searching for a sign . . .

Hannah Halloran has always believed in her gift. The things she sees through her psychic touch have never led her wrong before. Not when they led her to an unforgettable night with a sexy marine at a bar. Not when she felt a need to leave her home and find the sisters she barely knows. And not now, when she is an unwilling witness to a brutal murder . . .

He’s ready to show her . . .

All Niall Graham wants is some peace. He’s recovering from the horrors of war, struggling to save his family’s restaurant, and desperate to forget Hannah, the beautiful woman who left him with memories of a mind-blowing night together and a bogus phone number. But a quiet life is hard to manage—especially when Hannah strides back into his restaurant with the news that a serial killer is on the loose and lurking closer than anyone could have guessed . . .
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Texas Prey by Barb Han

texas preyThe hunted becomes the hunter as the past threatens a small Texas town once again… 

Rancher Brody Fields stops cold when he receives a plea for help from Rebecca Hughes. The onetime love of his life, who was abducted along with her brother fifteen years ago, now believes the kidnapper has returned to tie up loose ends. Rebecca needs Brody’s help bringing the kidnapper—or killer—to justice.

For Brody, the job is risky, but the real danger is their unexpected Texas-sized attraction. As they uncover answers to difficult—and deadly—questions, Brody has a question of his own: Can he trust the woman who once shattered his heart?
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Soul Mates by John R. Little

Soul Mates CoverIdentical twins share a connection that even modern science doesn’t fully understand. Closer than mere blood can bind, deeper than any sibling bond, one cell, one mind, one beginning.

Alannah Clark has found the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with. A magician – but magicians have secrets – secrets that might outweigh Alannah’s own dark corners. But nothing remains hidden forever.

Magic, thrills, romance, suspense, and sorrow are the emotions of John R. Little’s newest and darkest thoughts. Fans are sure to get a thrill ride as he unleashes his newest adventure.

 

“There are two words you don’t often, if ever, hear when describing a ‘horror’ writers’ work – Wordsmith & Elegant. But, that’s exactly what kept running through my mind as I read John R. Little’s Soul Mates. If you’ve never read any of Little’s work, you’re really missing out. Not only does he weave a wonderfully horrific tale, but commands his prose like so few in the writing community can do on a consistent basis. I’m dead serious about that and Soul Mates is no exception. I’ve read everything Little writes and you should too. You’re most certainly in for tasty treat with this one!”
~Ty Schwamberger, author of The Fields, Deep Dark Woods & Escaping Lucidity
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The Collector by Anne-Laure Thiéblemont and Sophie Weiner

The Collector_coverMarion Spicer spends her days examining auction catalogues and searching for stolen works of art. She is a top-notch investigator when it comes to eighteenth-century art. But for her it’s just a job and her life is well ordered. All this changes when she inherits a huge and very prestigious collection of pre-Columbian art from a father she never knew. There are conditions attached: she must first find three priceless statues.

That is when her troubles begin. Her father’s death sparked much greed, and Marion finds herself facing the merciless microcosm of Paris art auctions and galleries, with its sharks, schemes, fences, traps, scams, and attacks. Her quest draws her into a world where people will kill for a love of beauty.

“The story is captivating, with twists and turns and murders, along with a dive into the little-known world of art specialists and counterfeiters.” ~Elle Magazine (Readers’ Panel)

“A well-written plot with all the necessary ingredients: a few deaths, lost objects and a whole collection of worrisome characters…Ideal for a moment of relaxation.” ~Elle Magazine (Readers’ Panel)
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The Three-Nine Line by David Freed

three nineMore than forty years after their release from the notorious “Hanoi Hilton,” three American prisoners of war return to Vietnam to make peace with their most brutal former captor, a guard whom they’ve dubbed, “Mr. Wonderful.” The U.S. State Department hopes reconciliation will help cement a major trade agreement between Washington and the Vietnamese. But when Mr. Wonderful is found murdered, the three ex-POWs are accused of the crime and the multi-billion dollar deal threatens to unravel. Enter pilot, still-aspiring Buddhist, and former military assassin Cordell Logan.

Working with a newly formed covert intelligence unit that answers directly to the White House, Logan is dispatched to Hanoi to identify the real killer as the trade agreement threatens to implode. What he soon uncovers proves to be a vexing and increasingly dangerous mystery. Who really killed the guard and why? Unlocking the answers will test every ounce of Logan’s ingenuity and resolve, while risking his life as never before.

Like its three predecessors in the Cordell Logan mystery/thriller series Flat Spin, Fangs Out, and Voodoo Ridge, The Three-Nine Line is a classic, pulse-pounding page-turner. Legions of loyal readers and critics alike, from Booklist, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Library Journal to Noir Journal and the Associated Press, have hailed the series for its taut writing, finely wrought characters, flashes of wry humor, and full throttle pacing. The Three-Nine Line may well be the best yet.
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Second Chance by Linell Jeppsen

second chanceThe Wilcox and Son Detective Agency is working on its second case file, but Matthew and his son Chance are beginning to think they might have bit off more than they can chew.

Their investigation into a series of claim-jumps near the booming mining community of Wallace, Idaho, suddenly turns deadly as one witness after another turns up dead. It turns out that the theft of land and mineral rights is only the beginning of a much deeper conspiracy…

Matthew and Chance follow the leads as best they can, knowing full well that their investigation has turned into a game of cat and mouse … but who is the cat in this deadly contest?

Starting in the deep woods of North Idaho and culminating in the finest, most exclusive ballrooms of high society in Seattle, Washington, follow Matthew and Chance Wilcox as they match wits against one of the worst criminals they have ever faced!
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The Rabbi’s Knight by Michael J. Cooper

rabbiThe year is 1290–twilight of the Crusades. War-weary Knight Templar, Jonathan St. Clair, is garrisoned in the port city of Acre and more interested in learning Kabbalah than fighting Moslems. He possesses an ancient scroll with a cryptic inscription, the key to unlocking the secrets of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

But none of the Jewish scholars in Acre can decipher the inscription. And time is running out. Acre will soon come under siege, and the one man able to decipher the scroll’s meaning, Rabbi Samuel of Baghdad, has been targeted for assassination.

Deep in enemy territory, St. Clair apprentices himself to Rabbi Samuel as they travel to Jerusalem, risking everything to fulfill their shared and sacred destiny as guardians of the Temple Mount.
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Perdita by Faith Gardner

perditaSure, Arielle won’t deny that she has a vivid, even wild, imagination. Sure, it sometimes runs away with her. And yes, it’s true that she never recovered from the drowning death of her older brother, Justin, ten years ago, when Arielle was a little child. She almost hopes that ghosts are real, so that she might see Justin again.

But ever since the misty morning when Arielle stumbles on the macabre sight of the body of her sister Casey’s best friend, Perdita, being lifted from a nearby pond, ghostly images begin to appear to Arielle. Can they be Perdita, reaching out as speculation about her death ramps up from suicide to foul play?

Perdita’s younger brother, Tex, is back from private school, and Arielle can’t get him off her mind, although he’s a beautiful boy with scary secrets. Worse yet, there’s no one to tell: big sister Casey’s off to college, and Arielle discovers her own sister’s cache of secret writings, along with a bizarre note from Perdita. What’s real? What’s fantasy?

In a compelling tale that hurtles toward a stunning conclusion, the imprint of grief and the boundaries of human imagination are stretched to their limits.
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The Hunters by Tom Young

Writing Military Thrillers That Take Flight

hunters2By Nancy Bilyeau

For more than 20 years Tom Young, a journalist with the Associated Press, was in the Air National Guard, serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, flying combat missions to Bosnia and Kosovo and additional missions to Latin America, the horn of Africa, and the Far East.  He put his love of flying, journalism background, and familiarity with the military to excellent use in his fiction. Young’s eight novels have earned critical acclaim, with Kirkus writing that The Warriors is “an expertly rendered tale of lingering hostilities rooted in the former Yugoslavia” and in The Renegades, Young’s “grasp of military terminology, esoteric paraphernalia and ethos are spot-on… ­turned into page-turning fiction.”

In THE HUNTERS, Young’s continuing characters, Colonel Michael Parson and his friend Sophia Gold, take on a mission like no other: Parson, on leave from the Air Force, plans to fly relief supplies into Somalia in an antique cargo plane. Awaiting them: An al-Shahaab leader who has declared all aid a sin against God and will direct attacks against planes and convoys to stop it.

You set your book in Somalia. Is it fair to say that is the most dangerous place on earth?

At the moment I don’t know if it’s more dangerous than Syria or Iraq but it’s certainly giving those places a run for their money.

And you were drawn to it for THE HUNTERS.

It’s a place that’s interested me for a while. The Black Hawk Down incident took place the year that I was going through basic training and certainly that situation caught our attention. I knew some people who were there around that time. I had squadron mates who flew in there, flying in relief supplies. I had never been in Somalia myself but I had been next door.
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Speaking in Bones by Kathy Reichs

How She Gets It Right in Her Best-selling Series

speakingBy Nancy Bilyeau

With its whip-smart, hyper-focused protagonist, forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan, the “Bones” thriller series stands out for both its authenticity and its excellent pacing. Author Kathy Reichs, herself a certified forensic anthropologist, has written seventeen bestsellers and her novels are the basis of the long-running Fox series “Bones.” In an interview with The Big Thrill, Reichs, the winner of International Thriller Writers’ Silver Bullet Award for 2015, speaks frankly about the importance of accuracy in both the forensic sciences and the thriller-writing field, and shares some of the secrets to her writing success.

One of the things that interests me most about SPEAKING IN BONES is it shines a light on web-sleuthing. The key character Hazel Strike sets the plot in motion when she pushes her way in to see Dr. Brennan because she’s become obsessed with a missing-person case. Hazel doesn’t know the girl in question but has become an amateur sleuth using the Internet, and then takes it further, with frightening results. What led you to the phenomenon of web-sleuthing?

It’s like any book. I’m always on the look-out, my antennae are always up, for interesting things going on. Somewhere along the way I stumbled onto web-sleuthing. My son and I write the Virals young-adult series, and we did something in our third book about Geocaching. It’s a game people play online. So when I heard about web-sleuthing, it sounded similar in that thousands of people worldwide do it. I thought my readers might like to find out about it and about sites that have unidentified remains and sites that have missing persons.

Do you feel that the lines are blurring between professional forensics specialists and web-sleuths on the solving of crimes?

There are some people who say, “Oh if I had it all to do over again, I’d be a forensic anthropologist or a forensic scientist.” I think it’s a way that people can enter that world. It’s almost like thriller readers. They want a glimpse into a world. They don’t necessarily want to go to a crime scene or perform an autopsy or be in the forensic lab. This takes it a step further: they’re actually working with real cases out there, from the privacy of their own home.
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Death By Deceit by Mauro Azzano

death by deceitA fire in a warehouse brings Detective Inspector Ian McBriar to investigate. Inside, the body of the warehouse manager, burned in the fire, is found to have been killed before the fire was set.

The dead man had something of great importance; but was he killed because he was part of a conspiracy, or because he had discovered the conspiracy?

The third book in the Ian McBriar Murder Mystery series takes readers back to Toronto in the 1970’s, this time starting with a death that should not have happened, and a trail of bodies going back a decade.

“Another great book in the series!”

“Meet my newest friend, Ian Mc Briar.”

“Is Azzano on to a new form in crime fiction?”
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FireCop by R. J. Beam

FireCopFire Cop tells the story of two police officers working in a typical Wisconsin city dealing with the resurgence of methamphetamine. Officer Ben Graystock takes the law into his own hands when he starts to set dealer’s homes on fire. Meanwhile police officer and volunteer firefighter Stuart Thompson is assigned to investigate these arsons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

black eyed susansFor fans of Laura Lippman and Gillian Flynn comes an electrifying novel of stunning psychological suspense.

I am the star of screaming headlines and campfire ghost stories.

I am one of the four Black-Eyed Susans.

The lucky one.

As a sixteen-year-old, Tessa Cartwright was found in a Texas field, barely alive amid a scattering of bones, with only fragments of memory as to how she got there. Ever since, the press has pursued her as the lone surviving “Black-Eyed Susan,” the nickname given to the murder victims because of the yellow carpet of wildflowers that flourished above their shared grave. Tessa’s testimony about those tragic hours put a man on death row.

Now, almost two decades later, Tessa is an artist and single mother. In the desolate cold of February, she is shocked to discover a freshly planted patch of black-eyed susans—a summertime bloom—just outside her bedroom window. Terrified at the implications—that she sent the wrong man to prison and the real killer remains at large—Tessa turns to the lawyers working to exonerate the man awaiting execution. But the flowers alone are not proof enough, and the forensic investigation of the still-unidentified bones is progressing too slowly. An innocent life hangs in the balance. The legal team appeals to Tessa to undergo hypnosis to retrieve lost memories—and to share the drawings she produced as part of an experimental therapy shortly after her rescue.
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Special to The Big Thrill: The Big Break with Joseph Finder

The Big Break: Breaking Into the Thriller Game

Joseph Finder’s Road to the Bestseller List

The_FixerBy Jeremy Burns

Joseph Finder is considered a modern master of the thriller genre. A founding member of the International Thriller Writers, his accolades include a Gumshoe Award (Company Man), a Barry Award (also for Company Man), the Strand Critics Award for Best Novel (Buried Secrets), and the ITW Award for Best Novel (Killer Instinct). His books are critically acclaimed New York Times bestsellers, and two of his books have been turned into Hollywood blockbusters (High Crimes and Paranoia). But Finder’s writing career hasn’t always been so rosy. In fact, some of the obstacles in his path might have seemed nigh impossible at the time, making his current level of success all the more impressive, a testament to what he sees as one of the most invaluable traits a professional writer can have: perseverance.

While touring the country for his latest book, THE FIXER, which released June 9, Finder took some time out of his busy schedule to take us on his road to success—potholes, detours, and all. Though extremely humble, his determination and the fruit it has borne should prove inspirational to all who make the bold leap to pursue their lofty publishing goals or dreams. Here’s what he had to say:

Tell us about your journey into writing.

I’d wanted to write since I was a kid, but I was talked out of it by my elders (my grandfather and my parents), who sensibly urged me to get a “real job.” So instead I thought about academia and business and thought seriously about a career in intelligence. But what I really wanted to do was write.

And what I wanted to do most of all was write novels. But I didn’t have the courage to try fiction, frankly. So when I was twenty-three, I came up with an idea for a nonfiction book, about the relationship between American businessmen and Russia. (I was inspired by the Martin Cruz Smith novel, Gorky Park.) I got an agent and sold it to a publisher. The truth is, I think I wrote a nonfiction book because I didn’t have the courage to try a novel. After that book was published, I kept getting asked, “What’s your next book?”

I still wanted to write a thriller, but I didn’t have the guts to try it. At the time I was reading a lot of thrillers, and I kept saying to my girlfriend (later, my wife), “I can do this!” She finally called me on it and said, “well, are you going to just keep talking about it or are you going to do it?” (Though she used a more earthy expression.) I think I needed a kick in the butt.

It’s interesting. Even a fairly confident guy like me was cowed by the prospect of writing a novel, probably because of all the unknowns—am I any good at it? Will I get an agent? Will it sell?

I was teaching writing at Harvard at the time and would get up early and spend a couple of hours working on the novel that eventually became The Moscow Club.
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Special to The Big Thrill: Dual Time Line Thrillers

Riding the Pretty Horses: thoughts on dual time line thrillers

smalldeathBy Manda Scott

Writing a thriller is like riding a horse: some days it plods along with its nose to the ground and you’d go faster if you got off and carried the wretched thing, while on others it spooks at every plastic bag in the hedge and bolts at speed in directions you never imagined going.

Once in a rare while, you and your mount click into a rather miraculous harmony that carries you forward smoothly, effortlessly, beautifully… until the next plastic bag (or the phone call from an editor), brings it all crashing down.

Still, there are some kinds of writing that have always struck me as way more scary than the standard “get on a horse and make it go” variety. Writing a dual timeline novel particularly, feels more like the circus trick where you stand on the backs of two over-bred greys and send them spinning round the ring in the hope that neither will decide to bolt off at right angles: you have to be a hardcore adrenaline junky even to contemplate it.

We’re all on the edge of that, or we wouldn’t be here. By definition, a thriller mingles uncertainty with anticipation in just the right adrenaline-surging proportions, but even so, when we wake up one morning with the next book pushing on the borders of consciousness and part of its many demands is that there be two (or more) timelines, we know that it’s going to be harder than anything else that came before it. Getting it right is not just twice the challenge of a linear narrative, it’s challenge squared.

So, as always, when starting something new, we look at who does it best and learn from them.

Robert Wilson’s Gold Dagger winner, A Small Death in Lisbon, is a good place to start.

“It’s easily forgotten, Inspector, that history is not what you read in books. History is a personal thing. And people are vengeful creatures.”
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International Thrills: A Conversation with John Connolly

songofshadowsBy J. F. Penn

John Connolly is the bestselling author of the Charlie Parker mysteries, the Samuel Johnson novels for middle-grade readers, and co-author of the Chronicles of the Invaders plus other works.

His latest book, A SONG OF SHADOWS, is the thirteenth book in the Charlie Parker mystery series.

USA Today bestselling thriller author J. F. Penn interviewed John for The Big Thrill.

Your latest book, A SONG OF SHADOWS, weaves European history into a string of murders in Maine, all while Charlie Parker recovers from devastating injuries. How much of the story is based on historical truth? Why did this particular aspect of Nazi history interest you?

My eye had simply been caught by the ongoing attempts of the United States to extradite an alleged former Nazi named Hans Breyer to Europe to face war crimes charges. (Breyer died last year just before he could be extradited.) I began to wonder how many of these men and women were left, and how seriously the hunt for them was being taken.

Out of that research came a lot of surprising details about just how little energy the Allies invested in bringing these people to trial, and how the British and American authorities protected them, mainly in order to milk them for intelligence about the Soviets. I found it fascinating, and just hoped that readers would find it fascinating too.

It then turned out to be very topical because just as the book came out Oskar Gröning, the “bookkeeper of Auschwitz,” went on trial, and I suppose that the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps also reminded people of what had taken place in them.

I suppose I was also aware that it’s really hard to find anything new to say about the Nazis and the Holocaust, so in that sense I was a bit reluctant to take on the subject. Yet those old men and women nagged at me, and their cases found a resonance in one of the recurring questions in the Parker books: are we defined only by the wrongs that we do, and are some wrongs so terrible that they cannot be forgiven?
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Africa Scene: Mike Nicol Speaks

Power PlayBy Michael Sears

Mike Nicol is one of the leaders of South African crime fiction, and his Revenge trilogy—Payback, Killer Country, and Blackheart—are important novels of the dark side of twenty-first century South Africa. After an excursion with new characters, Mike has returned to the next generation of the Revenge trilogy characters in POWER PLAY. For my money it’s his best thriller so far, and that’s starting from a high base. Deon Meyer has said of Mike’s style that it is “by far the best in South Africa” and that he creates “deliciously complex characters.” If you haven’t read any of his books yet, you can start with this one as a standalone. After that you’ll want to read all the others.

Before coming to crime fiction, Mike wrote four acclaimed literary novels, non-fiction, poetry, a memoir, a book on the 1994 South African election, and collaborated on the mammoth Mandela: The Authorised Portrait. Mike has been a freelance journalist, author, reviewer, and lecturer for more than thirty years. In 2007 he started the Crimebeat website , which is the window on South African crime fiction to this day.

I asked Mike about POWER PLAY and how he came to write it.

Christa—Mace’s daughter in your trilogy—is back with a vengeance. She’s grown up, has a spell in an elite army unit under her belt, and has even changed her name to Krista to make a point. She and a partner now run her father’s security firm. What persuaded you to revisit the characters from the Revenge Trilogy in the next generation?

Not sure, actually, what drew me back. I had created two new characters for Of Cops & Robbers (with every intention of doing more books with them) but something about the earlier books kept niggling. I suppose it has something to do with the rise of the serial character, in that it’s difficult to leave them alone. That said, I didn’t want to trot out Mace Bishop and Pylon Buso for another round. I’d taken them through three books and I felt that was enough. Also one of the most enjoyable parts about writing a novel is creating new characters. Serial characters are a bit like old jerseys—comfortable and comforting—but the grit of a new character is exciting. And Krista-renamed seemed to offer new possibilities even as I revisited an old theme—guarding the rich and famous. So I could do two things: continue a series but with a new character. POWER PLAY has become the fourth book in the “trilogy.” Of course there may be more to come.
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