A Novel That Immerses
There’s something very special about a novel that’s steeped in so much detailed historical research that it feels completely real. Easier now than ever thanks to technology, desktop research gets authors some of the way to where they need to go. But when an author achieves total immersion in a culture, the results are spectacular.
TRIAL ON MOUNT KOYA by Susan Spann is one such book. The sixth Hiro Hattori novel, it sings with Spann’s deep love and knowledge of Japan. I sat down with Spann to discuss the novel, some of the research she undertook to write it, and the amazing coincidence that will help her celebrate the book’s release in style.
Can you tell us a little bit about TRIAL ON MOUNT KOYA and your heroes—Master ninja Hiro Hattori and Father Mateo?
TRIAL ON MOUNT KOYA is my dual love letter to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and the sacred mountains of Japan. Hiro and Father Mateo climb to the summit of Koyasan, carrying an urgent message for a ninja spy posing as a priest on the sacred mountain.
When a snow storm traps them on the mountain, and a killer begins murdering priests and posing their bodies as the Buddhist judges of the afterlife, Hiro and Father Mateo must stop the killer before he adds them to his grisly council of the dead.
Bound for Gold – and Glory
By E.M. Powell
The beginning of William Martin’s latest release, BOUND FOR GOLD, is earth-shattering. Literally. It opens in the hours before dawn on April 18, 1906, and the setting is San Francisco. For the few, the very few, who may not know, 5:12 A.M. on that date saw the city hit with a hugely powerful earthquake that caused terrible loss of life. Buildings and infrastructure were left in ruins, damaged not only by the quake but by the fires that broke out as a result.
Martin shows us this momentous event through the eyes of James Spencer, an old man who has been in the mining business for many years and who is now in mortal fear of his life as the world breaks up around him.
If anyone is not yet a fan of historical thrillers, then I can only say to read this opening. It’s truly white-knuckle stuff and I defy anybody not be immediately gripped by this story. Miner Spencer has a past where he had come out west to search for a lost river of gold and that search was carefully documented in a journal. Fast forward to the present day and we have none other than rare-book dealer Peter Fallon, a protagonist familiar to and loved by Martin’s many readers, who is searching for the stolen journal.
The novel is told in a dual timeline, on which more later.
A Twist on Revenge
By Wendy Tyson
They say revenge is a dish best served cold, and with Sandra Block’s latest novel, WHAT HAPPENED THAT NIGHT, that’s indeed the case. Block’s debut thriller, Little Black Lies, the first in her Zoe Goldman series, was a 2016 Thriller Award finalist that earned Block critical praise. Now Block is back with WHAT HAPPENED THAT NIGHT, a morally complex, fast-paced standalone thriller that takes a hard look at what it means when the pursuit of justice becomes personal.
When Dahlia is brutally attacked while at a party at Harvard, her world falls apart. She can’t remember the details, but the physical evidence of rape is undeniable. The police dismiss her, family members seem to blame her, and ghostly, half-formed images of what she endured haunt her. Eventually depression and hopelessness push her to attempt the unthinkable. Five years later, Dahlia has some semblance of her life back. Working a job that’s not challenging, and suffering from PTSD, Dahlia is still plagued by the crimes committed against her—until a video of the attack surfaces on the internet. Although it’s painful to watch, the video fills in many of the gaps in Dahlia’s memory. Armed with new knowledge and five years’ worth of rage, Dahlia uses her wits and inner strength to identify her attackers and go after them in ways they could never anticipate.
A Woman in a Town
When Amy Stuart began work on her first novel, Still Mine, she had every intention of writing a standalone thriller. After about a hundred pages, though, Stuart knew that her main character’s journey was only beginning.
In Stuart’s 2016 debut, Clare O’Dey fled her abusive husband to the insular mining town of Blackmore, where she agreed to track down a missing woman for her enigmatic employer, private investigator Malcolm Boon (incidentally, the same PI who’d been hired by Clare’s husband to find her, only to become her ally instead).
In STILL WATER, out this month from Touchstone, Malcolm sends Clare to a remote Western town called High River, where a woman and her young son have disappeared from a women’s refuge. As in Still Mine, Clare manages to insert herself in the town’s complex dramas as she tries to win the residents’ trust, but her efforts to find the missing mother and son are stymied by the town’s fierce instincts to protect its secrets. Clare, in the meantime, is still reeling from the fallout of her last case and fleeing the life that led her to it: she’s recovering from a gunshot wound, struggling with an addiction to painkillers, and constantly looking over her shoulder for any signs that her husband is on her trail.
“I realized that her arc was going to take longer than one book, because I really wanted her to evolve to a place of being better and doing better,” Stuart says. “The first book takes place over the course of seven or eight days, and that was not gonna happen in that time. I wanted the reader, at the end of the first book, to feel like Clare had begun this process of healing, but that it would take more time.”
Martin Is Coming
“There’s a lot happening these days, so much that some days it feels as if I cannot even keep up with my own life,” George R. R. Martin wrote a few weeks ago.
Add to the list of happenings, George R. R. Martin’s first ever-appearance at Thrillerfest.
Martin will be the Thrillermaster at Thrillerfest XIII in New York City this month, following a period of several years in which he appeared at few conferences. The author of the bestselling series A Song of Ice and Fire will be interviewed onstage by Anne Groell, Executive Editor for Penguin Random House, and the following evening, he’ll receive an award from Lee Child.
Among the exciting project news Martin is sharing is that HBO has greenlit the first of the “successor shows” to its top-rated Game of Thrones series. Martin created the untitled series with producer Jane Goldman, best known for the comic book films Kick-Ass and Kingsman: The Secret Service.
“Taking place thousands of years before the events of Game of Thrones, the series chronicles the world’s descent from the golden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour,” according to HBO. “And only one thing is for sure: from the horrifying secrets of Westeros’ history to the true origin of the white walkers, the mysteries of the East to the Starks of legend … it’s not the story we think we know.”
By George Ebey
Author Kim Alexander’s latest work, THE GLASS GIRL, is the third installment in her ongoing paranormal fantasy series, The Demon Door.
In this installment, newly blessed (or cursed) with wings and fire, Prince Rhuun of the demon realm of Eriis sees hope for his life on the human world of Mistra with his fierce human lover, Lelet va’Everley. She literally went to hell and back to save him, and she’s not about to let anything—or anyone—ruin their perfect future.
All too soon, the claims of family, duty, and justice force Rhuun and Lelet to confront new griefs and old mistakes as they attempt to restore balance to the throne of Eriis. But, with every jealous rumor and each vengeful whisper, friends turn, family schemes, and forgotten enemies creep from the shadows.
The Big Thrill recently checked in with the Alexander to learn more about her exciting series and THE GLASS GIRL.
By Terri Nolan
Sarah Simpson has a decade of experience within the mental health field working with vulnerable people at difficult times. As a private psychological therapist and a consultant for a regional group of family solicitors, she has supported families through times of relationship breakdown and divorce.
It’s natural then, that her debut novel draws from this practice. HER GREATEST MISTAKE is a domestic thriller filled with psychological tension and twitchy, nerve-ending emotion.
Eve and Gregg are the perfect couple. Or so it seems. But when the shades are drawn, their relationship is a study in how a seemingly perfect marriage can be toxic. She is held prisoner in a world of abuse by a truth known only to her. Eve had made detrimental choices in life based on misunderstandings; hindsight cruelly judged her. This perceptual outlook almost seals her fate. Eve’s plight and her need to protect her son drives her resolve to escape by any means.
What was Eve’s greatest mistake? Marrying Gregg? Leaving him? Or leaving him alive? Simpson took time out of her schedule to share some insight about HER GREATEST MISTAKE with readers of The Big Thrill.
By Karen Harper
Autumn Jordan’s new release kicks off with a dynamite opening and then settles into a plot that is ripped from the headlines and features characters that are totally intriguing—and believable.
Since I also write suspense blended with romance, I was thrilled to interview Jordan about LOVED BY DARKNESS and the rest of the books in her impressive cache of work.
Please tell us what LOVED BY DARKNESS is about.
LOVED BY DARKNESS is a romantic mystery/suspense in which a two-year-old child is found adrift on the Atlantic. It’s the job of the Cape James Police Chief, Norris Stiles, to learn who left the girl to die. But new to the area, and to the job as chief, he might be out of his depth. Fortunately help has arrived.
Unfortunately, the feisty and beautiful U.S. Marshal sent to assist could distract him from his obligations.
Burnt out by grueling covert missions, U.S. Marshal Jolene Martinez heads home to the Virginia Coast for a much-needed vacation, only to become embroiled in a heartbreaking child abandonment case. When she saves the child, the case becomes personal for Jolene, and she’s determined to solve the mystery with or without the chief’s support.
As the clock ticks on, both the sweet girl and the charismatic chief pluck at heart strings Jolene believed severed years ago. Duty and desire mix while she and Norris race to eliminate suspects and expose the perpetrator of the sinister act before the tides wash away all evidence and the suspect attempts to harm the child again.
Four and a half years ago, Maggie Frye served as special prosecutor in a remote mountain county in Commonwealth of Virginia v. J.D. Carson. Shaking off echoes of the family tragedy that drove her to be a prosecutor, she did her damnedest, but still is rattled when the jury finds Carson not guilty.
But now another young woman has been killed in chillingly similar circumstances.
Either Maggie prosecuted the right man and got the wrong verdict or she prosecuted the wrong man and got the right verdict. Either way, a murderer went free to strike again.
And there is J.D. Carson — not only still in town, but far too close to the investigation for Maggie’s comfort. This time Maggie’s going to get it right…no matter what it costs her.
USA Today bestselling author Patricia McLinn met up with The Big Thrill to discuss her latest thriller, PROOF OF INNOCENCE:
In this crime thriller, KILLER BY THE ROAD, a distraught individual grows deeper into depression after losing his job and family. He resorts to drinking and his distorted mind turns to vengeance to fix his problems. An incident that has eaten at him for years becomes his internal focus.
With victims showing up in both Chicago, Illinois and Connersville, Indiana from a killer by the road, people are living in fear. With pressures building, both Detective Jack Revelle and Detective Frank Harris strive diligently to catch the killer.
Finally, a tip will send Detective Jack Revelle into a face-to-face game-ending confrontation with the killer.
Ronald E. Hignite, author of KILLER BY THE ROAD, spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his new thriller:
Seventy miles north of Dallas, the Iron River Ranch is pretty much nowhere. That’s what its new owner, Josh Cain, wanted when he came back from Afghanistan. Big skies, quiet nights, no trouble.
One look tells Josh the pretty redhead with the adorable little girl will give him trouble of the most personal kind. But he’s seen trouble before, and he doesn’t scare easy. Not when “accidents” start happening around the ranch. Not when Tory’s best friend back in Phoenix is abducted and brutalized. Not even when it looks like their current problems are only the tip of the iceberg.
But if he gets too close to fierce, determined Tory, Josh knows his nights are going to be anything but quiet. And that’s one possibility no amount of training can prepare him for…
The Big Thrill caught up to New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin and had the opportunity to discuss her latest release, BEYOND CONTROL:
Former pharmaceutical researcher Maggie O’Malley is losing sleep. Her friend Constantine’s aunt is a multitasking sleepwalker who, in addition to wandering her stately home, prepares meals, folds laundry and, one winter night, stumbles across her husband with his throat slit.
It’s a rude and gruesome awakening that’s upsetting to Aunt Polly. And interesting to the police.
Maggie and Constantine work to uncover who killed the cosmetic surgery mogul and why. As they dig into the lives of those who knew him best, they discover that the truth is only skin deep and doctoring perception is a treatment with deadly side effects.
A gripping page-turner with more twists than a surgeon’s suture, 39 WINKS is a tale of lies, betrayals and greed that will keep you up at night. And looking over your shoulder.
39 WINKS author Kathleen Valenti took some time to meet with The Big Thrill and offer some insight into her latest mystery:
The South Seas Room is silver light, generous drinks, and the best band in town. At night, the fashionable crowd leaves swimming pools and beaches to haunt the end of the bar. It’s a friendly place. Go there by yourself, and chances are you’ll leave with company. Someone is borrowing the pretty people though, and not returning them.
Convertibles, neon signs, and Gin Rickeys…a sea of light all the way to the Pacific Ocean. This is January 1948 and Santa Teresa, California…perfume and color so real you might not want to come back.
Author Bob Bickford met with The Big Thrill to discuss his latest thriller, DEEP CHERRY RED:
DON’T BELIEVE IT follows Sidney Ryan, a crime series TV producer who investigates the case of a young med student convicted of murdering her boyfriend while on vacation in Saint Lucia ten years earlier.
DON’T BELIEVE IT reads like a cinematic behind-the-scenes exposé of the juiciest in-depth investigation series, as Sidney rushes to stay one episode ahead of her TV show’s weekly airings, jetting from network meetings in New York, to the scene of the cold case murder on a Saint Lucian island resort, to the prison where her series’ subject awaits exoneration. But as America watches her peel away the layers of deception on prime time, a troubling picture of the truth starts to unfold. Is Sidney working to free an innocent woman wrongfully imprisoned, or is she a pawn in a sinister game?
The Big Thrill caught up to international bestselling author Charlie Donlea to gain some insight into the creation of his latest release, DON’T BELIEVE IT:
Broke, saddled with a mountain of debt, and dependent on his Aunt Callie’s support, aspiring writer Luke Tanner has returned to Kentucky to put his life back together after a failed five-year relationship.
On his twenty-fifth birthday, Luke meets diminutive Pixie Wilder, a long-time performer at the Gilded Lily. After headliner Ruby Dubonnet doesn’t show up, Pixie takes her place as the star of the show—a motive that makes her a suspect in Ruby’s disappearance.
Luke reluctantly agrees to help his newfound friend clear her name. He and Pixie set out to find the missing drag queen, and in the process, put themselves in danger.
Author Michael Rupured spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest mystery, THE CASE OF THE MISSING DRAG QUEEN:
On the evening of Wednesday, July 12, 1922, Los Angeles, California, was the scene of a shocking and deadly assault. The victim was an attractive twenty-one-year-old widow named Alberta Meadows. Her death came as the result of a vicious hammer and boulder attack on a twisting dirt road at the bottom of a hill in the subdivision of Montecito Heights on the city’s northeast side.
The violent act was perpetrated by a romantic rival named Clara Phillips, who lured the unsuspecting victim to the unlikely crime scene. The twenty-three-year-old murderesses’ actions were spurred by jealous rage as Mrs. Meadows was the mistress of Clara’s husband, Armour Phllips, an oil stock salesman who was three years her senior.
Prolific, bestselling author R. Barri Flowers took some time out of his relentless writing schedule to meet with The Big Thrill and discuss his latest true crime release, MURDERESS ON THE LOOSE:
Alexander Volga, a respected philanthropic billionaire, hides a murky lineage with a veil of respectability. He’s gifted with a uniquely devious and sharp mind and responsible for literally millions of lives destroyed. Sensing storm clouds of retribution approaching, Volga prepares for his ultimate deception. He invests his enormous fortune in a mind-bending effort to make his dream of immortality become a reality.
An unexplainable force draws Detective Harriet O’Keefe to Volga. She’s head of a new drug enforcement agency, CRUNCH (Crime and Racketeering Unit of Narcotics-Cocaine and Heroin). “Dirty Harriet,” whose job is to track down the big chieftains of the cocaine and heroin world-the “Merchants of Powder”-finds herself dangerously close to falling for Volga’s lure.
Volga’s estranged godson shares information with Harriet about his godfather’s past. Desperate to find a lead, Harriet dabbles in hypnosis and is shocked when recollections of past life confrontations with Volga are discovered. Harriet dismisses the revelations and decides to deal with Volga in the present with the realization he’s the most wanted and insidious man she ever matched wits against.
With tension mounting from all sides, and uncertain of where loyalty remains, Alexander Volga sets a Machiavellian plan in motion. His digital alchemists have been working feverishly to have him immerse in an entirely synthetic alternate world—a Shangri-La, that will allow him to escape. When the countdown begins, Volga’s enemies better check their life-insurance policies…and Harriet O’Keefe, her heart.
The Big Thrill caught up to author David Orange to discuss his latest thriller, THE POWDER MERCHANT:
A LADY’S GUIDE TO ETIQUETTE AND MURDER isn’t the debut one might expect from a woman who spent most of her adult life in the world of corporate finance. It’s a cozy historical novel set in the late Victorian era, and the heroine is an American heiress forced by circumstance to become an amateur sleuth. The few references to finance are plot-related, authentic to the period, and easily understood by even a layman like myself.
But maybe it’s not so surprising after all.
Author Dianne Freeman is a life-long book lover who pursued writing as a hobby throughout her corporate career and then co-authored a non-fiction book, Haunted Highway, The Spirits of Route 66, before quickly realizing her true love was fiction, historical mystery in particular. In short, she has spent years laying a solid foundation for this well-crafted debut.
Her research led to some unexpected insights. “Victorians weren’t so staid and uptight as I once thought,” she says, “nor were Victorian women meek. In fact, they were very much like we are today, only the technology has changed.”
Asked what authors inspired or influenced her career, she reveals two very different writers: “Edith Wharton, who made me fall in love with the late Victorian era, and Janet Evanovich, who showed me that humor and mystery could coexist.”
After witnessing the horrifying murder of her friend Tom Haley, Mallory Lowe, a cautious university mathematics professor, must emerge from her cocoon to become the gutsy and unpredictable woman she’s always dreamed of being. Running on the guilt of a past family tragedy that she blames on herself, Mallory is determined to find Tom’s now-missing daughter.
Following the clues in a 300-year-old equation left by Tom, Mallory’s search propels her into the tangled threads of a ruthless corporate entity known as Möbius, bent on controlling the world’s most precious resource: fresh water. Mallory is propelled along a perilous journey from the southwest United States through the breathtaking landscape of Switzerland and into the inner workings of a massive hydroelectric dam in Turkey. She solves the riddle of the centuries old mathematics equation—only to discover something more ominous and deadly in the process.
Author Lee Lindauer spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest release, IRRATIONAL FEARS:
After a lifetime of abuse, nine-year-old Rusty Travis and his older brother Bo decide their father must be stopped when, in a drunken rage, he goes after their six-year-old sister. After their vengeance is complete, they seek refuge in the tall oak forest where they stumble upon a mysterious runaway orphan. This leads to uncovering secrets about themselves and their family they never imagined, leading Rusty to question everything he thought he knew. With his brother by his side, they battle with the demons that shatter their world in the sleepy town of Plum Springs.
Author Dan Lawton spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest novel, PLUM SPRINGS:
Sure, it was an accident. But the blaze killed his mom and set his dad on a path to self-destruction. Everything else about that fateful night is full of gaping holes in Theo’s mind, for good reason. Maybe it’s better that way. As captain of the Ellis Hollow Diving Team, with straight A’s and solid friends, he’s only one semester away from securing a scholarship, and leaving his past behind.
But when a family history project gets assigned at school, new memories come rushing to the surface, memories that make Theo question what he really knows about his family, the night of the fire, and if he can trust anyone—including himself.
Award-winning art director and designer-turned-writer Demetra Brodsky spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her new release, DIVE SMACK:
By Dawn Ius
Authors draw inspiration for characters from a number of places—friends and family, a stranger they caught a glimpse of at the coffee shop, exes and crushes. William Boyle’s muse comes in the form of an actress.
Amy Falconetti—the haunting protagonist of his gritty new release THE LONELY WITNESS—is named after Renee Maria Falconettti from The Passion of Joan of Arc, one of Boyle’s all-time favorite films.
“I just kept thinking how cool it would be to have a character called Falconetti—it could have been the name of a ’70s TV detective,” he says. “So I started there.”
More accurately, though, Falconetti’s story began in Boyle’s debut, Gravesend, in which she is a minor character that never fully left the author’s head and heart. When THE LONELY WITNESS begins, almost seven years have passed since the action in that first book, and Boyle was anxious to get to know her better.
“I learned not to expect anything of her,” he says. “I learned that she was a million things, all at once, all of them valid. I learned that she’s haunted, that she’s searching for contentment she’ll likely never find. I learned that she’s impulsive, and I learned to value her unpredictability.”
The reader learns these things as well—especially about her impulsiveness. For reasons she can’t quite understand, Falconetti is captivated by a crime she witnesses, and the murderer himself. Rather than calling the police—as perhaps most in her situation might—Falconetti collects the murder weapon from the sidewalk and soon finds herself on a dangerous hunt for the killer.
Boyle took some time this month to give The Big Thrill readers a behind-the-scenes look at THE LONELY WITNESS.
By Tim O’Mara
In his new thriller, LAST YEAR’S MAN, Paul D. Brazill introduces us to Tommy Bennett, an aging hitman who grows increasingly troubled by his life in London. Hoping for a respite from his violent lifestyle, Tommy decides to head back to his more peaceful childhood seaside home in North East England, only to find the ghosts of his past have come back to haunt him.
Geez, what’s a veteran of multiple murders for hire have to do to catch a break?
Via email—Brazill lives in Poland and I’m in New York City, a seven-hour time difference—I asked Brazill what the deal is with readers’ continued fascination with hired killers. These are men—and occasionally women—who make a living ending people’s lives. Why are we so drawn to them and, at times, actually find ourselves rooting for them?
“Sometimes ties with the past are more like a leash or even shackles,” Brazill says. “Wouldn’t it be great to erase the past? But first, of course, you’d have to erase the people. I think it’s no surprise that hitmen are often referred to as ‘cleaners.’ We all would like someone to tidy up our lives for us from time to time, to tie up those annoying loose ends. Indeed, that’s what crime fiction—particularly the police procedural—does in many ways. It tidies up messy situations. (Noir, on the other hand, creates chaos from order.) The hitman is like an X-rated version of the Good Fairy in Cinderella.”
I ask why Brazill has chosen the novella form for this tale instead of turning it into a longer novel.
By Rick Reed
Jay Brandon is the author of 18 novels, most recently the instant holiday classic Thanksgiving Eve. His 2014 espionage novel Shadow Knight’s Mate has been called “an absorbing, exciting, and absolutely entertaining novel.” His earlier titles include 1990’s Fade the Heat, which was an Edgar finalist and published by more than a dozen foreign publishers. He has a master’s degree in writing from Johns Hopkins University.
In Brandon’s newest novel AGAINST THE LAW, disbarred Houston lawyer Edward Hall is trying to rebuild his life after serving two years in prison for burglarizing the courthouse evidence room. He gets a call from his sister Amy, a doctor who has been arrested for the murder of her estranged husband, also a prominent physician. As Edward tries to steer her through the legal system, it becomes clear Amy wants Edward to represent her. But there is a complication in his doing so: the judge assigned to Amy’s case was Edward’s secret partner-in-crime in the burglary of the courthouse.
Brandon recently sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss his impressive career and offer some advice to writers who are just beginning the journey to publication.
If you’re looking for a truly gripping work of suspense, you should check out Dan Fesperman’s SAFE HOUSES, a spy novel wrapped around a murder mystery set in Cold War-era Berlin.
The story kicks off in 1979, with a low-level CIA official discovering a cover-up that has lethal consequences. In her duties overseeing a network of CIA safe houses in West Berlin, Helen Abell overhears two unauthorized encounters. While one merely hints at a shadowy situation, the other puts her in the crosshairs of one of the CIA’s most ruthless and powerful operatives.
Helen is a capable woman but she doubts herself, mostly because she has grown accustomed to being underestimated. No surprise since she wants to be a field operative for the CIA in the late ’70s, when women were rarely offered those kinds of jobs.
“It’s easier for us to recognize her heroism and her abilities—she’s smart, savvy, bold, persistent—than for her,” says Fesperman. “If we met her at a party, we’d enjoy her subversive wit, although we might not notice her right away. She’d be keeping to the margins, a keen observer awaiting her moment.”
We might as well get something out of the way right now. There is no Ellison Cooper. That’s right—Ellison Cooper does not actually exist. And yet, she does. How do I know? Because CAGED is a first novel written by none other than Ellison Cooper.
Sounds like a riddle, doesn’t it? When is Ellison Cooper not Ellison Cooper?
Allow me to put you out of your misery. Ellison Cooper is the nom de plume of—well, there isn’t much point using a nom de plume if someone like me is going to spill the beans and tell you who Ellison Cooper really is, right?
So I won’t. But what I will tell you is that the facts of Ellison Cooper’s life are startlingly similar to the facts about another woman, who shall remain anonymous but who also claims to have written CAGED.
First, let me tell you something about this new thriller.
Sayer Altair is a Washington, D.C.-based neuroscientist who works for the FBI. (Oddly enough, Ellison Cooper is also a neuroscientist, as is her alter ego, but neither of them work for the FBI, so I’m sure this is merely one of those weird coincidences.) Still reeling from the death of her fiancé, Sayer specializes in analyzing the brains of serial killers. When local police stumble onto a gruesome murder involving a young girl later identified as the daughter of a high-profile senator, Sayer gets a chance to put her knowledge to work as she struggles not only to find the killer but also to find another young girl who, like the earlier victim, is being slowly starved to death while held captive in a cage.
By Azam Gill
New York Times bestselling author Andrew Shaffer’s HOPE NEVER DIES is part quirky mystery-adventure and part bromance, featuring Barack Obama and Jo Biden in the roles of Sherlock and Watson.
Joe Biden, fresh out of a job as vice president, is weighing his options. Then his favorite railroad conductor dies in a suspicious accident, leaving the victim’s family in shreds. Biden decides to take matters into his own hands, and teams up with trusty old Barack Obama to clear up the mystery.
Watching each other’s backs, the duo plumbs the darkest corners of Delaware, well known for being a tax haven for corporations and a front-line casualty of America’s opioid epidemic. Their noir milieu of investigation is a far cry from the five-star haunts of former presidents and vice-presidents as six-figure consultants and lecturers. From cheap motels to tough biker bars, a car chase, a tense showdown on a moving train and more, they tangle with sinister forces. Wilmington, Delaware, Biden’s hometown, opens up its dark underbelly to these endearing investigators by default.
HOPE NEVER DIES offers a fine balance of realism and the ridiculous, blended by Shaffer’s craftsmanship, and will be a welcome comfort for readers pining for the Obama-Biden era.
Up until the last segment of his presidency, Obama had remained an engineer of hope, starting from his authorship of The Audacity Of Hope, to riding his stirring campaign slogan of “yes we can” on which he rode into office. His engineering, partly retrieved by Hilary Clinton, was overtaken by Donald Trump’s promise to “make America great again.”
O’Rorke is called to San Francisco City Hall to meet with Film Commissioner Audrey Pebble. Warner Brothers is preparing to film a major motion picture, Dirty Harry, in San Francisco, with Frank Sinatra set for the starring role as Inspector Harry Callahan.
Pebble knows that O’Rorke has worked as a bodyguard for Sinatra. She hired Harly Walker, a local young artist and musician, to scout the city for locations that would appeal to Warner Brothers. Walker has disappeared and Pebble is desperate for O’Rorke to find him.
The hunt takes O’Rorke and Cosmo to the famed Haight Ashbury Medical Clinic and to some of the darkest, most dangerous areas of the city, including porno movie studios, drug dens, bathhouses and hardcore leather bars.
While searching for Walker, O’Rorke learns that several of Harly’s friends have been murdered in such a painful manner that even the medical examiner is shocked.
O’Rorke races to find the killer—and then comes the hard part: Telling Frank Sinatra that he is not right for the role of Dirty Harry.
Award-winning author Jerry Kennealy spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing the second installment of his Johnny O’Rorke series, DIRTY WHO?:
Once a police detective in St. Paul, Minnesota, Rushmore McKenzie has become an unlikely millionaire and an occasional unlicensed private investigator, doing favors for friends. The favor, this time, is for a friend of a friend – Erin Peterson, a local business person and owner of a growing food company called Salsa Girl. Someone seems to have a beef with her: the outside locks on her factory having been systematically filled with superglue. But for some reason, Erin doesn’t want to report this harassment to the police. As a favor to his poker buddy and hockey teammate Ian, McKenzie agrees to stop by and chat with Erin.
At first Erin denies there’s anything going on and then, when the harassment escalates and threatens her business, she also asks for McKenzie’s help. The further McKenzie digs into the situation, the more complicated – and deadly – it becomes. And somewhere, in the middle of it all, is Erin, playing all sides against the middle, leading McKenzie to wonder if you ever really know who your friends are.
The Big Thrill caught up with award-winning author David Housewright to discuss the latest installment in his P.I. Mac McKenzie series, LIKE TO DIE:
Grant Taylan is an adventurer-paleontologist also known as “The Dinosaur Detective,” a polite term for what he really does, which is track down the more dangerous criminals in the Dinosaurs Fossil Black Market and bring them to justice, sometimes the hard way. But his latest case is about to land him in the strangest situation of a lifetime: a vacation island in the South China Sea known as THE LOST WORLD OF KHARAMU. Developed by the Chinese corporation MuTron International, they’ve taken Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park concept in a very different direction: the ultimate immersive role-playing experience tailored to only the exclusively wealthy elite. With real dinosaurs.
On the resort’s first major beta run, Taylan finds himself fighting dinosaurs, Russians, Vietnamese commandos and his ex-girlfriend in the ultimate vacation gone-wrong, where only the strongest, quickest – and the luckiest – will survive.
Robert J. Stava took time out of his busy schedule to meet with The Big Thrill to discuss his latest thriller, THE LOST WORLD OF KHARAMU:
Melissa McGinty wants more than anything to be a full time, old-school detective like her father, who weaned her on black-and-white film classics featuring Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. But her fledgling detective agency, run out of her home in suburban Washington, D.C. with an all-woman support staff, mostly attracts clients who want proof of their spouses’ infidelity so they can get more alimony.
To make ends meet, she moonlights as an overnight guard with the Supreme Court’s little known police department. Then late one night, a juicy murder falls into her lap when she discovers a dead justice on the floor of the judges’ private basketball court. A light bulb goes on that if she can solve the murder, she’ll be famous, and clients with real cases will come streaming through her door.
Her bosses, who normally take a low-profile approach to their jobs, have different ideas about her involvement in the case, which becomes front-page news after the FBI takes the lead in a crime that could affect who will be the next president of the United States.
On her growing list of suspects are the sitting president, whose election fate is headed for a suddenly evenly divided high court, alt-right fanatics who didn’t like the justice’s liberal rulings — with gun-rights activists right behind. And a stream of corporate executives, whose lawsuits got more winnable with the justice out of the way, make the list of probables even longer.
With the help of a shadowy cyber-expert, a super Internet researcher and a Tarot card-reading assistant who warns her of dangers, Mel persists in tracking down the killer. On the verge of being fired, she almost gets killed in the process as one misleading clue after another brings her closer to the truth. And the solution she comes up with is one of the least likely she could have imagined.
The Big Thrill caught up with Patrick Oster to discuss his latest thriller, THE AMAZON DETECTIVE AGENCY:
Twenty-nine year old Abraham Lincoln has spent his entire adult life running from his past — from the poverty of the dirt-floor log cabin where he was raised, from the dominion of his uneducated father, and from a failed early courtship. But now, in FINAL RESTING PLACE, the third book in the Lincoln & Speed Mystery series, Lincoln’s past is racing back to haunt him.
It is the summer of 1838 and Springfield is embroiled in a tumultuous, violent political season. When a prominent local politician is assassinated and his political rival is arrested, young lawyer Lincoln and his best friend Joshua Speed are on the case to investigate.
It’s no ordinary trial, however, as Lincoln and Speed soon face unwelcome complications. Lincoln’s ne’er-do-well father and stepbrother appear in town and threaten Lincoln’s good name and political future. And before long, anonymous letters start appearing in the local newspapers, with ominous threats that make Lincoln fear for himself and his loved ones. As the day of reckoning arrives, the threats against Lincoln continue to escalate. Lincoln and Speed must identify the culprit and fast, before Lincoln loses the race to outrun his past.
Author Jonathan F. Putnam spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing the third installment of his Lincoln and Speed Mystery series, FINAL RESTING PLACE:
A drowning in a local park is originally written off as suicide by the police until freelance journalist Hannah Weybridge is asked to investigate by the girl’s distraught aunt. Hannah discovers a pattern of Asian girls going missing and is convinced that Amalia was killed. But there seems to be no motive. And all the while Hannah is being stalked by her past, threatening her present.
The Big Thrill caught up with author Anne Coates to discuss the latest release in her Hannah Weybridge series, SONGS OF INNOCENCE:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
So far I am delighted that readers have been swept along by the narrative and are engaged with Hannah and her life. There is cause for hope and optimism at the end which is more uplifting than the previous book, Death’s Silent Judgement.
A 4MK Thriller.
Detective Porter and the team have been pulled from the hunt for Anson Bishop, the Four Monkey Killer, by the feds. When the body of a young girl is found beneath the frozen waters of Jackson Park Lagoon, she is quickly identified as Ella Reynolds, missing three weeks. But how did she get there? The lagoon froze months earlier. More baffling? She’s found wearing the clothes of another girl, missing less than two days. While the detectives of Chicago Metro try to make sense of the quickly developing case, Porter secretly continues his pursuit of 4MK, knowing the best way to find Bishop is to track down his mother. When the captain finds out about Porter’s activities, he’s suspended, leaving his partners Clair and Nash to continue the search for the new killer alone.
Obsessed with catching Bishop, Porter follows a single grainy photograph from Chicago to the streets of New Orleans and stumbles into a world darker than he could have possibly imagined, where he quickly realizes that the only place more frightening than the mind of a serial killer is the mind of the mother from which he came.
Bestselling author J.D. Barker carved some time out of his busy schedule to meet with The Big Thrill and discuss the fourth installment of his 4MK series, THE FIFTH TO DIE:
A world-class thriller with non-stop, heart-pounding tension and action, OBSESSED brings back Matt Curtis and Renee Drummond and their villainous nemesis, Lonnie Jackson. This second installment in Joseph Badal’s The Curtis Chronicles takes the reader from Rio de Janeiro to the mountains of New Mexico to the Mexico/United States border, following a crazed Jackson on his single-minded quest for revenge against the two people he blames for the deaths of his mother and brother and for the destruction of his criminal empire in Hawaii.
OBSESSED is another master stroke of fiction from this Amazon #1 Best-Selling Author, two-time winner of the Tony Hillerman Award for Best Fiction Book of the Year, and three-time Military Writers Society of America Gold Medal Winner.
The Big Thrill caught up with Badal just in time to discuss his latest thriller:
Then the bottom falls out. News breaks that the investment fund her mom runs is a scam and her mother is a thief. Now, instead of friends, the FBI is at her door. Grace is damaged goods.
Millions of dollars are unaccounted for, and everyone wants to know where all the money went. Can she find it and clear her mother’s name?
The key to repairing her shattered life seems to lie in a place deep in the wilderness, and Grace sets out, her identity hidden, determined to find it.
But she isn’t alone.
Sam Rivers, a mysterious loner from school, is on her trail and wants to know exactly what secrets she uncovers. As the pair travels into the wilds, Grace realizes she must risk everything on the dark, twisted path to the truth.
Award-winning author Amy Fellner Dominy met up with The Big Thrill to discuss her latest thriller THE FALL OF GRACE:
Seven years ago, operative Luke Gallagher vanished to become part of an elite team set on capturing a deadly terrorist. When Luke returns to face those he left behind, their help becomes his only hope of stopping his target’s latest threat of an attack that would shake America to its core.
Private investigator Kate Maxwell never stopped loving or looking for Luke after he disappeared. But she also never imagined he left her or his life by choice. Now he’s back, and together they must unravel a twisting thread of secrets, lies, and betrayal, all while on the brink of a biological disaster.
Will they and their love survive, or will Luke and Kate become the terrorist’s next mark?
Bestselling author Dani Pettrey spent some time with The Big Thrill offering insight into her popular Chesapeake Valor series, and her latest release, DEAD DRIFT:
Beauty, Violence, and Redemption
Karin Brynard grew up in the Northern Cape and many of her books are set in that dramatic, semi-arid landscape. She was a journalist and editor for several of South Africa’s major newspapers before she became freelance to concentrate on her writing.
Her novels—originally written in Afrikaans—have been translated into several languages, and she has won a variety of literary and crime fiction prizes. Her next book, Tuisland (the Afrikaans version of Homeland), shot up to number one on the South African best seller list when it was released in 2016.
We chatted about OUR FATHERS, her latest book available outside South Africa.
OUR FATHERS is a book that tackles big themes in South Africa—the decay of family units, alienation by place as well as race, and different views from different groups as to the relationship between races in the country. Did you set out to address these, or are they the issues that will almost inevitably arise in contemporary South African crime fiction?
If you try and shadow one ordinary cop in the South African Police Service for a day, you will most likely stumble across every one of the “big themes” of this country.
Cops stand at the coal face of all the realities of life here, ranging from racism to the rape of babies and beyond. And that’s where my stories happen too, so addressing the “issues” becomes sort of inevitable.
An Eerie Excellence
Riley Sager’s Final Girls hit bookstores in July 2017 with the kind of buzz most writers only dream of. Pre-publication praise had rolled in from the likes of Entertainment Weekly and BookPage, with Library Journal and Booklist offering favorable comparisons to the work of Gillian Flynn. Stephen King called it “the first great thriller of 2017.” Readers turned out to be just as excited about the book as critics were, catapulting Sager’s debut novel to international bestseller status.
The story that was playing out behind the scenes was perhaps even more intriguing. Final Girls might have been the first anyone heard of Riley Sager, but the writer behind the pseudonym had published a string of mysteries under his real name—a series that, though well reviewed, was never able to break away from the glut of crime novels that crowded bookstore shelves. In fact, Final Girls was to be the author’s final attempt at making a career of writing fiction. Sager says the book’s breakout success was an experience that, at times, almost seemed to be happening to someone else.
“The books I had published under my real name didn’t get anywhere near the attention or the reception [that Final Girls got], so I knew that it was something rare and something special, and I tried to appreciate it as much as I could,” Sager says, during a break from work on his soon-to-be-finished third novel. “But there was also this sense that it wasn’t quite happening. It was very surreal, because my life, for all intents and purposes, has not changed very much. We still live in the same place—we didn’t buy a mansion. [Laughs] But the book just had this whole life of its own, and it felt weird to be sitting at home in track pants and a Mickey Mouse t-shirt and then see my book being mentioned on The View. I don’t think I appreciated it enough, because it was almost like an out-of-body experience.”
Final Girls—a novel that embedded classic slasher-movie tropes in a Gone Girl-esque psychological thriller—enjoyed an appeal that spanned several markets: horror fans embraced its savvy, affectionate dissection of films like Halloween and Scream (not to mention its many genre references), while mainstream suspense fans responded to its story of an unreliable narrator who must revisit the secluded cabin where a gruesome murder spree claimed the lives of her friends years earlier. The book even found an enthusiastic YA following—a phenomenon Sager attributes to the same factors that attract teenage girls to the horror films that inspired it.
A Classic With Delicious Twists
The eerie Manderley estate of Daphne du Maurier’s novel Rebecca has mesmerized not only decades’ worth of readers but also novelists—and for Ruth Ware, the Cornwall estate of Menabilly, which inspired du Maurier, has very particular meaning. The British suspense author, whose novel THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY is winning acclaim, said that Menabilly “was the main reason I chose to set my novel in Cornwall, as a tribute to her fabulous settings.”
Ware explained, “I tend to think of the settings for my novels as another character in themselves. I have to find the right place for my novels, just as much as I have to find the main characters, and they play off each other.”
In THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY, the “character” in question is a Cornwall house called Trespassn, and it’s much more than a slightly crumbling estate of wealth and dark secrets. It’s a property that the novel’s main character, Hal, may or may not be entitled to. Hal is a near-destitute tarot card reader with a stall on the Brighton Pier when she receives a letter saying that her grandmother has recently died and she may be due an inheritance. The problem? Hal believes her grandmother to be long dead. Should she decide to attend the funeral of the mysterious Mrs. Westaway, it’s those abilities to “read” people refined through tarot-reading that could set her own future.