Eight years into his career with the CIA, Karl Baier once again finds himself on the front line of the Cold War. He is stationed in Vienna in the spring of 1955 as Austria and the four Allied Powers are set to sign the State Treaty, which will return Austria’s independence, end the country’s post-war occupation, and hopefully reduce tensions in the heart of Europe. But the Treaty will also establish Austrian neutrality, and many in the West fear it will secure Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe and create a permanent division.
Asked to help investigate the death of an Austrian aristocrat and Wehrmacht veteran, Baier discovers an ambitious plan not only to block the State Treaty, but also to subvert Soviet rule in lands of the old Hapsburg Empire. Then Baier’s wife is kidnapped, and the mission becomes intensely personal. Many of his basic assumptions are challenged, and he discovers that he cannot count on loyalties, even back home in Washington, D.C.
At each maddening turn in the investigation, another layer must be peeled away. Even if Baier succeeds in rescuing his wife, he faces the unenviable task of unraveling an intricate web of intrigue that reaches far back into the complicated history of Central Europe.
The Big Thrill caught up with Bill Rapp to discuss his latest novel, THE HAPSBURG VARIATION:
Bliss needs to rethink her “anything for a buck” approach to life. Lockport’s mayor from hell has her scouting the back roads on her motorcycle, searching for abandoned cemeteries. Her mission: locate, evaluate, and report. Easy money. First day out, she falls into a grave and lands on a pile of bones. Shock turns to outrage when she realizes the skull is missing.
She expects her boyfriend, Police Chief Neil Redfern, to throw everything he has at the crime, but Neil is in the middle of a serious investigation and can’t spare the resources. In his job, missing firearms trumps the desecration of a century-old burial. Bliss won’t accept this decision, and their relationship founders when she senses he’s also keeping personal secrets from her.
Despite Neil’s insistence she leave police work to him, Bliss continues her quest to find the graverobber. She discovers more headless skeletons in the far reaches of the township and stumbles across a dying man poisoned by Jimsonweed.
Not until she narrowly escapes death by the same toxin does Neil concede there may be a link between the gun thefts and the violated graves. On Midsummer’s Eve, Bliss faces their adversary alone. Will Neil find her in time? Or will she join the ranks of the long-dead she has so fiercely championed?
Working the nightshift for fellow detective Sam Kincaid should have been an easy job, but after saving a kidnapped child from a blazing house and attending a drive-by shooting in Beacon Hill, it proves to be anything but. The trouble is the wealthy target, Daniel Hunt, doesn’t want to complain and Grant’s bosses try and shut him down.
Grant isn’t one for shutting down and it doesn’t take him long to discover that Hunt wasn’t the intended target. After a foiled robbery and a squashed dog, the case turns personal, then the stakes really go through the roof.
BEACON HILL author Colin Campbell stopped by The Big Thrill to discuss his latest thriller:
In “Mesa Boys,” Ronnie plots a haphazard heist with a twisted con man. In “The Feud,” tough-as-nails Rex lets his resentment for a local pot dealer cloud his judgement. And in “Bar Burning,” a mysterious drifter goes toe-to-toe with his new lady’s psychotic ex-husband.
ACCIDENTAL OUTLAWS is a hellfire ride through working class America’s angsty underbelly.
Author Matt Phillips spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest novel, ACCIDENTAL OUTLAWS:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
My hope is that readers hop in, latch their seat belts, and enjoy the ride. These stories are a wild journey down a long desert highway––pure speed, fun, and danger.
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
This book draws a direct line to the rural noir thrillers of Jim Thompson, Daniel Woodrell, Harry Crews, Flannery O’Connor, and others. If noir is to be rural, I believe it must be honest in its depictions of the rural mindset and tendency to dabble in the outlaw side of life (whether that’s right or wrong). I hope the book is a contemporary take on the outlaw mindset from my own experience and perspective.
Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?
I was surprised at my own understanding and continued realization of the rural-urban dichotomy. This is a growing rift in American society, and I was interested in exploring this dynamic as a person who, now, lives in a major American city. I used to live in a rural area and it made a huge impact on me (both for good and ill).
No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?
This book, in so many ways, is a subtle exploration of personal ties––you’ll find sons abandoned by fathers, a drifter intent on severing all earthly ties, and often futile attempts at salvaging love and joy.
What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?
Harry Crews wrote the most unique stories––I appreciate his constant willingness to experiment and let his characters lead him to surprise. Thomas McGuane, I think, taught me how to write about family in a compelling way. Ben Whitmer and Joe Lansdale are two writers I’m returning to again and again… Jim Thompson’s Savage Night. Dorothy B. Hughes with The Expendable Man and In a Lonely Place. I’ll stop there because I can go on and on and on…
Matt Phillips lives in San Diego. His books include Accidental Outlaws, Three Kinds of Fool, Redbone, and Bad Luck City. He has published crime stories across the web at Shotgun Honey, Near to the Knuckle, Out of the Gutter’s Flash Fiction Offensive, Pulp Metal Magazine, Fried Chicken and Coffee, Manslaughter Review, and elsewhere.
To learn more about Matt, please visit his website.
How a Newsman Turns News Into Suspense
By E.M. Powell
For those of us who love our thrillers, there’s nothing better than diving into a suspenseful read that grabs from the first page. And so it is with PARTING SHOT, the latest release in the hugely popular Promise Falls series from internationally bestselling author Linwood Barclay. But this being Barclay, there isn’t just one intriguing plot in play—there are two.
First up, cop turned private investigator Cal Weaver is asked to provide short-term protection to a wealthy young man, Jeremy Pilford, who has been convicted of killing a friend while driving intoxicated. Pilford’s defense, that he has led too pampered a life, means that he is on probation but has escaped prison. The sentence has led to a huge social media backlash, with Pilford an object of hatred and derided as “The Big Baby.” Threats have become physical. Weaver takes on the case, although with some reluctance. Second, we have Detective Barry Duckworth of the Promise Falls Police. Duckworth is called to investigate an assault on another young man, Brian Gaffney. Gaffney has been found wandering around Promise Falls, suffering from amnesia and unable to remember anything about how a large, ugly tattoo was carved onto his back.
Fascinated By the Darkness
Martin Steyn got into writing because of Stephen King’s The Dark Half, and then into writing crime fiction because he was fascinated by what motivated serial killers to hunt strangers for pleasure and how they did it. He began by reading books on the subject, while scanning the local paper for reports on a serial killer dumping the bodies of young boys in the dunes not far from where he lived.
Martin studied psychology and criminology at the University of South Africa. After that he studied serial killers and profiling in earnest, following it up with research into the investigation of violent crime in South Africa.
In 2014 Martin’s first crime novel set in Cape Town, Donker Spoor, was published in Afrikaans and the following year it was awarded an important prize for South African suspense fiction. Earlier this year the English version, DARK TRACES, came out in South Africa, and it has just been released in the US.
Martin places a premium on realism, and it shows in the book. But his character study of his protagonist, Jan Magson, and the people caught up in the killer’s wake are riveting.
By Dawn Ius
The office of a private investigator conjures up images of a dark, gritty room, the scent of whiskey and cigar smoke permeating the thick files of secrets. Stories of cheating husbands and corrupt cops.
These hired guns of old emerged in the wake of the Western hero, transforming into the iconic—and staple—character they represent in today’s crime fiction. But modern PIs have not only shrugged off their proverbial trench coats in favor of business attire, they’ve traded phone booths for smart phones and are embracing bigger, more dangerous missions that span the globe—and every possible sub-genre.
“The PI field offers endless opportunities for authors to explore every literary niche,” says Eric Campbell, publisher at Down & Out Books. “Hard-boiled, soft-boiled, cozy, thriller, high-tech, big city, rural community, and so on. PIs can investigate any kind of case while detectives (cops) are typically restricted to cases where the law was broken. This allows writers of PI characters greater flexibility in developing their stories and bending the law in ways not quite legal.”
That certainly explains why many authors gravitate to this lone-wolf hero, but what is it about the private-investigator character that makes him so endearing to readers? Sure, there are rogue cops, but most law-enforcement characters are true to their profession. So, is it the investigator’s ability to color outside the lines of the law that has given them such impressive staying power? The release this month of a remake of Murder on the Orient Express, starring Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, emphasizes the hold such crime detectors have over readers.
By Joe Clifford
Joe: Hey, Danny? You ready for our interview?
Danny: Hey, man. I am.
Joe: Great! So let’s start with what you are listening to.
Danny: Interestingly enough, the score to Bladerunner 2049.
Joe: Terrific! I’m glad you didn’t come back with “nothing.” Because if you’re at a computer, I assume you have music on.
Danny: I’m bangin’ on a new first chapter to the next Elliot Caprice novel and instrumentals help me get into a good headspace. That, and Delta Blues.
Joe: As long as we are on Elliot… You want to go with how you got here? I mean, Elliot’s journey to the printed page was not an easy, nor fast, one.
Danny: Seeing I’ve told this story in pieces hither and yon, here’s a bit of nuance for you that adds a previously unknown dimension: After succeeding in independent film in the early aughts, personally I just crashed and burned. I didn’t dig who I was and I certainly wasn’t surrounded by people who encouraged me to be authentic and true, so I grabbed a reed and just drove folks out of the temple, man. And then I just stopped everything professionally. All I did was meditate, work out, play golf, volunteer at the Westwood Veterans Administration golf course a few hours per day, and occasionally write. After a few years, I emerged from my asceticism and I started the personal tradition of setting a single New Year’s resolution for myself. The year A Negro and an Ofay found its way to its failed first edition, my resolution was “accept all invitations.” So that’s how it wound up with that first outfit.
A Dark Page of Family History
Crime fiction is as popular in France as anywhere else. Without much hard evidence, I’ve always assumed the French approach to the genre was more literary and political in nature. That isn’t necessarily the case, according to Johana Gustawsson, hailed as an exciting new voice in French Noir: “Our approach to crime fiction is a varied as our landscapes—or cheeses!”
I was fortunate to meet the delightful author in May at Newcastle Noir, where she was on a Nordic Noir panel. I wasn’t the only one surprised to discover that despite her name, Gustawsson was born in Marseille. She studied political science and worked as a journalist before turning her hand to crime. She co-wrote the bestseller On se retrouversa, adapted for French television with great success in 2015. And the same year saw publication of her debut solo novel BLOCK 46, which was awarded the prestigious Balai de la Découverte and the Nouvelle Plume d’Argent.
The gripping action of BLOCK 46 moves back and forth between England and the coast of Sweden, where the mutilated body of a jewelry designer is found. Her wounds match those of two young boys murdered in London. French crime writer Alexis Castells joins forces with Emily Roy, a Canadian profiler on loan to Scotland Yard, to track down a ruthless serial killer who may be connected to horrific events that took place at the Buchenwald Concentration Camp in 1944.
BLOCK 46 is a dark and complex hybrid of police procedural, psychological suspense, and historical thriller. Johana Gustawsson balances this feat of high-wire juggling with a combination of raw emotion, harrowing violence, and elegant prose.
By Dawn Ius
Lee Child admits he sometimes wonders what it might be like to write a novel without Jack Reacher, something unexpected—a new character, maybe a new genre. Like most authors, he has at least 99 ideas he’d like to pursue.
But he won’t.
“It’s all about having a contract with the reader,” he says. “They want Jack Reacher every year, and for me to deliver anything else would be weird and puzzling. My business is, I’m the Reacher guy.”
And business is very good.
This month, Child releases his 22nd novel featuring the gritty—and swoon-worthy—Jack Reacher, a tall tough guy with no roots, a nose for danger, and a fighting spirit that has spawned dozens of fast-paced action scenes and a sprawling fan club of “Reacher Creatures.”
Picking up where Make Me left off, THE MIDNIGHT LINE begins with Reacher in a more vulnerable state than readers might be used to. Still feeling the sting of rejection after a woman he was “really into” leaves, Reacher wanders into a Wisconsin pawn shop and stumbles across a class ring from 2005—it’s small, for a woman, and her initials are engraved on the inside.
Tracking a Literary Killer
By R.G. Belsky
Layton Green’s new book, WRITTEN IN BLOOD, has an unusual premise for a thriller–a serial killer who leaves behind literary clues from Dostoevsky and Edgar Allen Poe and Agatha Christie with the victims. But then Green loves to write different kinds of thrillers than most authors.
“I was brainstorming ideas for a police procedural, and wanted an idea that would set the book apart,” he said when asked how he came up with the literary concept for WRITTEN IN BLOOD. “It’s a tough and crowded market. What do I love, I asked myself? What do I know? I love and know books, and I decided to weave a literary angle into the story. The bookseller as sleuth idea is an old one, so instead, I decided to give the murderer the literary chops.”
The killings begin when a local bookstore owner in a small North Carolina town is found murdered in exactly the same way as the pawnbroker in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Two more victims are later found at crime scenes like those in Edgar Allen Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue and Agatha Christie’s Five Little Pigs.
The cop who has to stop the killings and figure out why they’re happening is Detective Joe “Preach” Everson – a prison chaplain turned police officer with a troubled past. Everson teams up (both professionally and personally) with a young woman who works at the bookstore and helps him with literary clues.
The Key to Writing Killer Suspense
By A.J. Colucci
Fans of Kate White’s popular Bailey Weggins series will be thrilled to know that after five long years, the character is returning in a seventh novel, EVEN IF IT KILLS HER. This time, Bailey sets out to find the killer of her college roommate’s family. Plagued by guilt that she wasn’t there for her friend after the brutal murder 16 years ago, Bailey goes back to the scene of the crime and begins sleuthing around town. It isn’t long before secrets are unearthed, feathers are ruffled, her life is put in danger, and Bailey must decide how much she’s willing to risk to find out what happened that terrible night.
“I really did miss Bailey, and I was always planning to bring her back,” White said. “But I got sidetracked writing standalones and let those five years go by without a Bailey mystery.” A former editor-in-chief of top women’s magazines and author of several best-selling career books, White sees it as her own lesson learned. “In my career books, I always advise people to be the relentless architects of their careers and to frequently step back and analyze if they’re in the right place, doing the right things. I followed my own advice in my magazine career, but I probably wasn’t as good at that task in the course of writing mysteries and thrillers.”
Readers are sure to forgive her. The story has the same light-hearted humor, twists, cliff-hangers, and red herrings that are hallmarks of the series. And who wouldn’t want to hang around with Bailey Weggins? She’s strong, smart, sexy, with a bit of snarky and badass thrown in. “I’ve loved creating Bailey,” White says. “She’s a little bit like me, but in many ways, she’s not. She’s a freelance true-crime writer who loves the independence that affords her. And she doesn’t relish dealing with bosses. She kisses butt about as well as a blowtorch.”
By Dan Levy
Terrence McCauley recently released his seventh published work (including both novellas and novels) and the third work in his James Hicks series featuring The University. For McCauley, A CONSPIRACY OF RAVENS was a chance to stretch, as it was his first foray into a novel with multiple points of view. We had the chance to learn more about McCauley, his latest work, and his philosophies on writing.
To set the stage, what started you writing stories seven novels/novellas ago? Is that what keeps you writing today?
I’ve always been a big fan of good storytelling, whether it is movies, television or books. I got the urge to try it seriously in college and have been working at it ever since. The interaction with my readers makes it all worthwhile.
Your new novel, CONSPIRACY OF RAVENS, is your first novel with alternating points of view. What made this the time (or the novel) where that was the right thing to do?
In RAVENS, I was telling a far more complicated story than in the previous two novels. Sympathy for the Devil and A Murder of Crows were books that firmly cement the idea of The University and Hicks in the mind of the readers. Knowing they had a good idea of what I was writing about gave me the freedom to expand my narrative to include points of view from other key players in the story. It helped me vary the voice and the motivation to show the reader just how broad the world I had created really was. And the change in POV helped me tell the kind of complex story I wanted to tell without being too heavy-handed about it.
By Terri Nolan
Author Lane Stone splits her time between the D.C. area and Lewes, Delaware. STAY CALM and COLLIE ON is set in Lewes, a town with a real-life population a smidgen over 3,000— a number that might suggest that the locals all know each other. Stone capitalizes on her knowledge of the town and roots much of the action in actual locations. One can easily imagine her characters walking down the street among the tourists.
Characters like Stone’s protagonist, Sue Patrick. Patrick is co-owner of Buckingham Pet Palace, an upscale dog daycare and spa. Her business partner is Lady Anthea Fitzwalter, a proper Brit with a sly wit. Together, the two have a savvy and successful business model–despite never having met in person. But that’s about to change.
Lady Anthea arrives in town for a stay that will conclude with the Pet Parent Appreciation Gala at week’s end. The town is abuzz. But even the best laid plans can’t prevent anticipation from going sideways when a murder occurs.
Now Buckingham Pet Palace’s reputation is on the line when their driver is murdered and a swift moving rumor threatens the presumed success of the gala. The two women who have just met must now team up to save their business—and perhaps catch a killer.
By George Ebey
Author James Tucker brings us a new kind of detective in his debut novel, NEXT OF KIN.
A New Year’s Eve celebration begins with the pop of a champagne cork–and ends with the bone-chilling screams of a killer’s victims. Ten-year-old Ben Brook is the lone survivor of the brutal murder of his wealthy family at their upstate New York compound. But from the moment he evades death, Ben’s life is in constant danger. Can NYPD detective Buddy Lock keep the boy safe from a killer intent on wiping out the entire Brook clan?
The Big Thrill recently checked in with Tucker to learn more about his exciting new tale of suspense.
Tell us a little about your main character, Buddy Lock. What has his journey been like up until now?
Too many fictional detectives are superheroes who know everything. I wanted my detective, Buddy Lock, to be smart, but I wanted readers to learn things along with him. He makes mistakes, and his flaws make him more engaging. Yet Buddy is a different kind of detective. He’s a former prodigy at the piano. As a boy and young man, he performed all over the world. But he gave up that life to join the NYPD. He’s relentless about his job and about seeking justice. His musical background and training help him to see detail and patterns that others can’t see, and make him one of New York City’s best detectives.
A military coup has swept through Thailand and one of the effects is the placement of Thailand’s first female prime minister under house arrest. The plan is to hold a show trial, convict her of corruption, and then send her to prison. Once in prison it is easier for the army to eliminate her. But there might be one thing standing in the way–Jack Shepherd.
Jack Shepherd is a lawyer with a reputation as a troubleshooter and is the first person the prime minister’s supporters contact. After all, the plan is simple: sneak into Thailand, grab his old friend from right under the nose of the Thai army, and keep her alive long enough to get them both out of Thailand again. Piece of cake, right?
This is the major focus of Jake Needham’s DON’T GET CAUGHT and the latest installment in the Jack Shepherd series. Jake took some time from his writing to answer a few questions for ITW.
DON’T GET CAUGHT is the first novel of yours I read. I was struck by its ease and authenticity. How do you achieve this?
I’m not comfortable writing about any location that I don’t know well enough to make it feel real on the page. A sense of place might be the single most important element for me in each of my books. I want readers to know how every place I’ve put in every book feels. How it looks, how it sounds, how it smells.
Writing in a comfortable studio surrounded by books, the scenes playing in the mind of Mark Ellis are not nearly as peaceful: German dive bombers machine gunning troops on the run, war-torn London, a woman’s bloody body in a hotel room.
The British author’s latest effort is MERLIN AT WAR, in which much of the plot centers around a mysterious letter left behind by an officer killed by those dive bombers. Interestingly enough, the main character is not a soldier, but Chief Inspector Frank Merlin. While war rages, there is no shortage of home front crimes for Merlin to solve.
“People carried on,” Ellis said. “Life carried on.”
And so did crime.
There’s a scene in Jaws that kept my kids up at night for at least a week. Jaws was a great, frightening story. Which means that Jessica Bayliss’s new YA paranormal/horror thriller BROKEN CHORDS is in good company. There are at least a dozen scenes that made me sleep with the lights on.
Just the tag line scares the bloomin’ bejesus out of me: “They rip, they tear, they feed, and you never come back again.”
If you love the sickly, quaky, I-can’t-do-this-feeling where you cautiously approach a skyscraper’s safety railing, rest your hips securely against its iron edge, take a deep breath, lean over, look straight down the side of the building, and feel the minute vibrations you know precede climactic failure, then you are in the right place. You push off the railing, too late! The anchor bolts screech as they break loose and you fall headlong to whatever comes next—welcome to BROKEN CHORDS.
How do you sleep at night?
I frequently freak myself out. My husband has this periodic limb movement thing when he sleeps. And I just must, absolutely must, come up with a horror-themed explanation. One night, he’s twitching away, and I decide he’s possessed. That the demon can only take over when he’s sleeping, and the twitching is it attempting to get free.
Yikes. Did something like that provide inspiration for BROKEN CHORDS?
BROKEN CHORDS was born because I had to pee in the middle of the night while camping. Not what you were expecting, right? Camping bathrooms are never conveniently located. To reach it, the fastest route was through a damp, cold, misty playground in the wee hours of the night (no pun intended), and I’m thinking if those swings start moving—I’m so out of here.
The playground scene with the swings in your book is some creepy, creepy stuff. What writers inspire you?
I’m sure this isn’t a big surprise—Stephen King. But also folks like Christopher Moore (I love silly paranormal/horror). I love Holly Black, who does YA and MG, and Maggie Stiefvater, who does YA; both put in just enough lyrical voice while keeping their books very plot-focused and highly character-driven. And Molly Harper (adult UF and romance) because her voice is so funny and snarky. If I could channel all five of them, I’d be the perfect writer.
Complete this sentence. Fans of _____________ will find BROKEN CHORD very appealing.
The Call by Peadar O’Guillin and Apartment 16 by Adam Nevill.
There’s a lot of URST (unresolved sexual tension) in BROKEN CHORDS.
BROKEN CHORDS is essentially a YA and you totally need swoony romance in YA. (Okay, you don’t absolutely need it; I actually wrote two YA thrillers in the recent months with zero romance, but it just goes so well!)
Any other books we should look for? Or forward to?
I love to write and need be working on a project at all times. It’s literally my stress release. My recent books have all been YA, and my last couple have been thrillers. I’m so excited about one my editor has (a thriller with magical realism) and the one I just finished (pure contemporary thriller with a very intense/psychological frenemy story). Fingers crossed I’ll have news to share about them sometime in the future.
Jessica Bayliss is a clinical psychologist and fiction author of BROKEN CHORDS (Leap Books, October, 2017) and Ten Past Closing (Sky Pony Press, spring, 2018). Her agent is Dr. Uwe Stender of Triada US Literary Agency. She is the creator of PsychWRITE, a service that offers consultation and coaching for writers along with craft workshops and webinars. She grew up loving all the scary stories, and now they’re in her blood.
To learn more about Jessica, please visit her website.
By Dawn Ius
Few authors revisit their debut after it’s published—at least not beyond typical nostalgia for it being the first. But Michael Slade has not only cracked the spine on his first thriller, he’s completely gutted and re-imagined it, giving it new life not only on the bookshelf as a limited hardcover, but also coming to the small screen in 2018 as an eight-part TV mini-series.
HEADHUNTER, first published in the 1980s, is a horrific tale that grew out of his pioneer ancestors’ frontier history with the Wild West Mounties, his mom’s 1944 adventures in “the Land of the Headhunters,” the death of Slade’s dad when Slade was nine and the crisis that produced, along with ten years of practicing criminal law with modern-day Mounties in a hundred murder cases—many involving insanity.
“When e-books came along, the paper edition was scanned into a Word file. That gave me the opportunity to re-imagine the story the way it would have been written back then had I known what I know now,” Slade says.
“My pre-law studies were in modern history. It takes thirty years, a professor said, to objectively understand current events. Because HEADHUNTER captures my real-life homicide experiences in the sexual underground of Vancouver during the Sexual Revolution, and thirty years have passed since its original publication, there was more to write in the horrific plot of my most personal novel.”
No way could Slade leave the book in a form that, in his opinion, wasn’t his best. So he dropped every other project—including the fifteenth novel in his Special X series—and carved out two years to completely re-conceive his first “Mountie noir” thriller. This month, a legion of fans is frothing at the mouth to get their hands on an updated novel that—even back then—was both terrifying and disturbing.
Slade took some time to talk to The Big Thrill about the story that ignited his writing career and first brought him to the attention of horror fans.
It’s been five months since Special Agent Sydney Parnell survived a violent confrontation with a gang of brutal thugs, an encounter that left her physically and emotionally scarred. Deep down, Sydney fears she isn’t ready for another investigation. But when a woman is murdered on the train tracks and a child goes missing, she knows she’s the only one who can lead the hunt for the killer. While Denver police and the FBI chase down blind alleys, Sydney focuses on a single cryptic clue left behind at the crime scene—one that will send her down a path of greed, violence, and long-ago love.
With Denver beset by a series of monsoonlike thunderstorms that threaten to flood the city, Sydney and her K9 partner, Clyde, must wade through a murky trail of murder that stretches back thirty years—all to rescue a child…and catch a killer with a long memory and an insatiable appetite for destruction.
Award-winning author Barbara Nickless was kind enough to discuss her latest novel, DEAD STOP, with The Big Thrill:
By Wendy Tyson
Mark Bacon’s second novel in his popular Nostalgia City mystery series, DESERT KILL SWITCH, takes readers back to the Arizona retro theme park, Nostalgia City—only this time former cop Lyle Deming is in a race to clear the name of his almost-girlfriend Kate Sorensen when she’s accused of murder.
Bacon recently took time out of his schedule to sit down with The Big Thrill and talk about the inspiration behind his new release.
Congratulations on the recent release of DESERT KILL SWITCH. The first book in the Nostalgia City mystery series, Death in Nostalgia City, introduced readers to ex-cop turned cab driver, Lyle Deming. What elements from Lyle’s past have made him the man he is today?
Lyle actually has a reasonably happy life, but one he can’t always fully enjoy due to his anxiety disorder. Hard to tell whether the anxiety was the cause or effect of things that befell him.
As a child, he was constantly in the shadow of his much older brother, and Lyle received the majority of the parental criticism his overbearing father dished out. As a young child, he soaked up much of his brother’s focus on rock ’n’ roll and hot cars, and thus his interests were different from other kids his age.
FBI Special Agent Drew Cady is reluctantly drawn into investigating the assassination of a sitting United States senator. Strangely, the senator’s death is linked to a murdered Baltimore junkie with an identical M.O. – a single stab wound to the heart and a typed eulogy left at the scene.
As Agent Cady deals with a professional hit man known only as the Canadian, a breakthrough Alzheimer’s drug, a misanthropic hacker, and a Mexican drug cartel, he peels back the layers of deceit and comes to realize that even the reddest of red herrings can bite. And unfortunately for all involved, the killings have just begun.
THE EULOGIST author, Jeffrey B. Burton, recently met with The Big Thrill to discuss his latest novel:
Damon Traynor leaves a glittering career on Wall Street to set up his own private equity business. When it is the winning bidder in the multi-billion dollar auction for a government-owned defense company, his firm’s future success looks certain.
But soon after the deal closes, Damon makes an alarming discovery—something that makes the recent acquisition worthless. Then he learns he was duped by the financially-strapped federal administration and that there are many others in the same position. Facing financial ruin, he investigates the US treasury officials behind the transaction.
What Damon uncovers is a terrifying web of organized crime—extending all the way to the White House itself—involving blackmail and assassination on an industrial scale. When those around him begin to die, Damon finds himself locked in a deadly battle with the leader of the free world.
Author Martin Bodenham met with The Big Thrill to discuss his his novel, SHAKEDOWN:
For PI Eddie Collins, the moment Carla Rizzoli sashays into his office casts him deliciously into a scene from a classic noir. Only this femme fatale is a sweet ghost from his past, a time when he made his living exclusively as an actor. Then she was a full-time actress too, and they’d dated briefly before an old flame came back into her life. Now she’s known as Velvet La Rose and making a steady living as an exotic dancer at the Feline Follies. She needs Eddie’s services to find her missing brother Frankie Rizzoli, who sent her a cryptic message warning her to watch her back.
Eddie falls hard for Carla, who hasn’t given up on acting. In fact, she’s about to start work on a B-movie, Festival of Death. Now motivated by more than a paycheck, Eddie searches for Frankie, last seen hiding out among the homeless. Frankie was once a member of the military police, and an old photo identifies an old army buddy, James Curran, who starts to cross paths with both Eddie and Carla with increasing frequency.
What is Frankie mixed up in and why doesn’t he want to be found? How does James Curran figure in? As Eddie questions the residents of Skid Row and works undercover as an extra in Festival of Death, he searches in vain for the links between Frankie and James and Carla. He needs answers soon, or Carla may slip through his fingers again, this time into oblivion.
The Big Thrill recently caught up with author Clive Rosengren to discuss the third installment of the Eddie Collins Mystery series, VELVET ON A TUESDAY AFTERNOON:
Reeling from family betrayal and tragedy, Gabe McKenna charts a new course as historical consultant on a motion picture filming in New Mexico. Before you can say “Action!” he is entangled in a web of illusion and deceit, where death plays a starring role. With the help of The Onion, a private investigator and long-time friend from New York, Gabe peels away layer after layer of dishonesty, battles brutal drug cartels, is accused of murder, and must unmask a mysterious, seductive woman to reveal the truth in a world full of lies.
The Big Thrill caught up with author Robert D. Kidera to discuss his latest novel, CUT. PRINT. KILL.:
Michael North is a hero, with a bullet in the brain to prove it. A bullet which has rewired his neural pathways and heightened his sense of intuition.
A bullet which is driving him mad.
Working for an extra-governmental agency called The Board, North knows one thing for sure.
He is very good at killing very bad guys.
But what happens when a hero is ordered to kill a good woman rather than a bad man? Because it turns out that rising political star Honor Jones, MP can’t stop asking the right questions about the wrong people.
He should follow orders.
Not least because he’s running out of time. North always knew the bullet in his brain would kill him.
Then again, what if he’s wrong? What if it’s not the bullet, but Honor Jones who’ll be the death of him?
Judith O’Reilly, the bestselling author of KILLING STATE, spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her first novel:
Down in Key West, Sherri Travis and her best friend Marley are looking for a little fun in the sun. Promising to be back for last call, Marley leaves the Rawhide Saloon with an Elvis impersonator. She doesn’t return. With Hurricane Alma turning toward Key West, and the police saying Marley must be missing for seventy-two hours before they start searching, Sherri and Lexi Divine, a six-foot tall drag queen, hunt for Marley amidst the chaos of the evacuation.
LAST CALL author Phyllis Smallman spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest novel:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I want readers to understand how someone can drown in their own home. In LAST CALL I was writing my worst fears, which makes a great basis for a thriller. We owned a home on the west coast of Florida for two decades. When hurricane insurance became too expensive, we dropped the coverage. From May until November we worried.
Los Angeles, 1908: In Chinatown, the most dangerous beat in Los Angeles, police matron Anna Blanc and her former boyfriend, Detective Joe Singer, discover the body of a white missionary woman, stuffed in a trunk in the apartment of her Chinese lover, who has fled. If news gets out that a white woman was murdered in Chinatown, there will be a violent backlash against the Chinese, so Joe and Anna plan to solve the crime quietly and keep the death a secret. Meanwhile, the Hop Sing tong has kidnapped two slave girls from the Bing Kong tong, fueling existing tensions, threatening a bloody tong war that would put all Chinatown residents in danger. Joe orders Anna out of Chinatown to keep her safe, but to atone for her own family’s sins, Anna must stay to solve the crime before news of the murder is leaked and Chinatown explodes.
Author Jennifer Kincheloe spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest novel, THE WOMAN IN THE CAMPHOR TRUNK:
Freshly minted college graduate Maggie O’Malley embarks on a career fueled by professional ambition and a desire to escape the past. As a pharmaceutical researcher, she’s determined to save lives from the shelter of her lab. But on her very first day she’s pulled into a world of uncertainty. Reminders appear on her phone for meetings she’s never scheduled with people she’s never met. People who end up dead.
With help from her best friend, Maggie discovers the victims on her phone are connected to each other and her new employer. She soon unearths a treacherous plot that threatens her mission—and her life. Maggie must unlock deadly secrets to stop horrific abuses of power before death comes calling for her.
The Big Thrill caught up with author Kathleen Valenti to discuss her novel, PROTOCOL:
In DOWN TO NO GOOD, the sequel to Down Solo, PI Charlie Miner, freshly revived from his own murder, gets a call from Homicide Detective Dave Putnam. Self-styled “psychic to the stars” Tamara Gale has given crucial information about three murders, and the brass thinks it makes the Department look bad. Dave wants Charlie to help figure out the angle, since he has first-hand experience with the inexplicable. Trouble is, Charlie, just weeks after his full-death experience, once again has severe cognitive problems and may get them both killed.
DOWN TO NO GOOD author, Earl Javorsky, spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest novel:
With their headquarters destroyed and the world held hostage, members of Kingsman find new allies when they discover a spy organization in the United States known as Statesman. In an adventure that tests their strength and wits, the elite secret agents from both sides of the pond band together to battle a ruthless enemy and save the day, something that’s becoming a bit of a habit for Eggsy…
Author Tim Waggoner took some time out of his busy schedule to discuss his latest novel, KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE, with The Big Thrill:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope the movie’s fans will get a deeper appreciation for the film by reading the novelization, and that they’ll enjoy the extra material that wasn’t in the film.
In B R E A T H E, a top U.S. scientist, Dr. Nell Northam, is abducted in Manhattan by two men in a van. The President directs his top security advisor, Donovan Rourke, to find her. Dr. Northam is taken to a cabin in the Adirondacks where her abductors force her to complete their weapon. But Nell finally escapes and explains to Donovan that the horrific weapon is about to kill thousands of innocent people. As they rush to stop the attack … they realize they’ve been completely misled and that the weapon is being delivered in a unique way no one could possible imagine … or possibly stop.
The Big Thrill caught up to Mike Brogan to discuss his latest thriller, BREATHE:
Reeling from her recent divorce, Kate Fox has just been sworn in as Grand County, Nebraska Sheriff when tragedy strikes. A railroad accident has left engineer Chad Mills dead, his conductor Bobby Jenkins in shock. Kate soon realizes that the accident was likely murder.
Who would want to kill Chad Mills? Kate finds that he made a few enemies as president of the railroad workers union. Meanwhile his widow is behaving oddly. And why was his neighbor Josh Stevens at the Mills house on the night of the accident?
While her loud and meddling family conspires to help Kate past her divorce, State Patrol Officer Trey closes in on Josh Stevens as the suspect. Kate doesn’t believe it. She may not have the experience, but she’s lived in the Sandhills her whole life, and knows the land and the people. Something doesn’t add up—and Kate must find the real killer before he can strike again.
The Big Thrill caught up with Shannon Baker to discuss her latest novel, DARK SIGNAL:
The Wade House has been reduced to ash, but the dreams that plagued Becca Philips and Jason Brooks when they slept in that abomination continue to haunt them. After years of facing trans-dimensional monsters in the service of SPECTRA, a few lingering nightmares are to be expected. But when Becca starts singing in her sleep—an ancient song that conjures dreadful things from mirrored surfaces—she fears that the harmonics she was exposed to during the Red Equinox terror event may have mutated not only her perception, but also her voice. It’s a gift—or curse—that she shares with a select group of children born to other witnesses of the incursion.
While a shadowy figure known as the “Crimson Minstrel” gathers these children to form an infernal choir, something ancient stirs on the ocean floor. And Becca, hearing its call, once again finds herself running from an agency she can no longer trust, into the embrace of cosmic forces she can barely comprehend.
The Big Thrill spent some time with CTHULHU BLUES author, Douglas Wynne, discussing his latest novel:
In his new religious thriller, Matthew Peters brings readers international action, heart-gripping suspense, and a secret so terrible it could change the world.
The story kicks off with the gruesome murder of a U.S. presidential aide, which is only the tip of an iceberg. Only ex-Jesuit Nicholas Branson and Jessica Jones have a hope of discovering the awful truth in time to save a persecuted religious group from extinction. But they could be thwarted by a megalomaniacal pope and an ultra-secretive U.S. governmental force.
Branson and Jones are, on the surface, unlikely heroes who might save the world. Nicholas Branson is a renowned historian of Christianity whose intellectual development has outpaced his emotional maturity.
“He had a hard time growing up,” Peters says. “His stepfather was an alcoholic and Branson became one as well. If we met him at a party, it would be difficult to form an opinion of him, as social events make him uncomfortable. Having been sober for several years, he can no longer rely on alcohol as a social lubricant. He’s also an introvert by nature and might come off as aloof. Branson is more of an anti-hero than a hero, though at times he demonstrates extraordinary courage.”
By Sonja Stone
This month, RYAN QUINN AND THE LION’S CLAW—the second novel in Ron McGee’s middle grade adventure series—was released to eager fans. His debut, Ryan Quinn and the Rebel’s Escape, introduced readers to hero Ryan Quinn, whose parents covertly work for the Emergency Rescue Committee, an organization that performs perilous rescue missions around the globe.
McGee took time to speak with The Big Thrill about his latest novel, his experience writing for television, and how to introduce global issues in an exciting, youth-friendly way.
I love that your adventure series isn’t fantasy-based. You’ve successfully written fantasy before (Disney Channel’s Halloween hit Girl vs. Monster). Why did you decide to keep the Ryan Quinn novels grounded in reality?
So many of the books available to kids and teens are steeped in fantasy and dystopian worlds. I love those books and devour them myself, but I also love the real-world action and adventure found in adult thrillers. With Ryan Quinn, I hoped to create a hero for younger readers who doesn’t have powers or magic to rely on. Ryan’s pretty exceptional as teens go—he’s been unknowingly trained by his parents to be a spy from a young age—but in the end, he only has his wits, his skills, and his friends to rely on when he’s in trouble. In that way, he’s not that different from any one of us.
Nicole Nelson and Ahmed Masud are a dynamic, highly successful Philadelphia couple. They are partners in a thriving plastic surgery practice, are very much in love, and they adore their young son, Alex. But cracks are beginning to appear in their fairy-tale life: lingering post-9/11 prejudice against Arab men, accumulating malpractice lawsuits for Ahmed, and most recently, pressure from Ahmed’s wealthy family in Cairo for him to return to Egypt—permanently—with his son.
The Masud family pressure becomes a demand as the Hosni Mubarak regime is seriously threatened by protestors in Egypt. Ahmed’s family owes their control of the Egyptian cotton empire directly to Mubarak cronyism. If Mubarak goes down, the Masuds will surely lose their wealth, maybe even their lives. They need Ahmed back in Egypt to implement their plan to move their fortune and family out of Egypt and into South America.
Ahmed must make a decision—stay with Nicole in America or obey his father. And what about their son?
Tragic consequences, which Ahmed could have never foreseen, propel both the Masud family and the Nelson family on a path toward unspeakable tragedy.
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Patricia Gussin discussed her latest novel, COME HOME, with The Big Thrill:
For the forces of evil, Sam Roberts is catnip. Even during periods of calm, Sam knows that evil is just biding its time before challenging him again. So when he is asked to defend a wealthy shut-in charged with murder, he is suspicious. Why is the largest and wealthiest law firm in town hiring an outside attorney who is a sole practitioner to represent Mr. Blake May?
Sam’s client resides in the sublimely creepy Frost Home, a “haunted” mansion given a wide berth by the residents of Champaign, Illinois. The house has been engulfed in rumors of death, missing children, and mystery since before the Civil War. Blake May is accused of not only murdering his girlfriend but decimating the remains until they look like marinara. But the agoraphobic middle-aged man rarely, if ever, left his rooms. If he indeed killed Heather, why can’t the police find a murder weapon? Everyone seems to want Blake declared insane rather than acquitted.
Sam and his buddy Bob Sizemore know that Heather’s grizzly fate can’t be blamed on something as mundane as murder. There is a force at work in the house, and it seems to emanate from the mirror hung in the room where the remains of the body were found. Can Sam and Bob end the Frost Home’s eerie legacy of evil?
HABITAT FOR HUMAN REMAINS author Scott A. Lerner discussed his novel with The Big Thrill:
A smartly dressed man has been found unconscious at the local racecourse and is rushed to the hospital, where he subsequently dies. But who is he? Where does he come from? He had no form of identification on him, and no one claims the body.
Doctor Chris Rankin, a specialist who treated the deceased–and who struggles with mental health issues–is intrigued by the nameless dead man, obsessed even, and starts asking questions. However, someone doesn’t want the questions answered and will go to any lengths to prevent it, including an attempted murder. But when no one will believe that someone tried to kill Chris, the doctor is left with no option but to discover who the nameless man was and why he died . . . preferably before following him into an early grave.
New York Times bestselling author Felix Francis spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest novel, PULSE:
Living on a farm with four hundred goats and a cantankerous carnivore isn’t among vegan chef Brie Hooker’s list of lifetime ambitions. But she can’t walk away from her Aunt Eva after the dairy’s pot-bellied pig unearths a skull. The skull belongs to Eva’s husband, who disappeared years before, and the sheriff, kin to the deceased, sets out to pin the murder on Eva. He doesn’t reckon on Brie’s resolve to prove her aunt’s innocence.
Death threats, ruinous pedicures, psychic shenanigans, and biker bar fisticuffs won’t stop Brie from unmasking the killer, even when romantic befuddlement throws her a curve.
Author Linda Lovely recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her novel, BONES TO PICK: