Hard-bitten, hard-drinking private investigator Jake Delgado is finally getting his life in order with his new partner, Amos Stillwater. He cuts down his drinking, contributes to the PI firm, and even falls for a local bartender in a sports bar in the Gas Lamp district of San Diego. But his comfortable life is about to be turned upside down when he receives news that his older brother, Freddie, has been found living in Tijuana and is in trouble. Jake is lured down to Tijuana to find his brother, not knowing that a hitman for the Tijuana drug cartel is waiting for him to avenge the death of his brother, whom Jake killed two years earlier. Jake is drawn into the underbelly of Tijuana and, along with his partner and a few friends, fights for his life against the cartel’s main hitman, Raza, who is known as El Matador (the killer). It takes every last ounce of Jake’s strength and courage to march into the hell of Baja California, knowing that he may never walk back out alive.
The Big Thrill caught up to author Ron Parham to discuss his latest thriller, TO MARCH INTO HELL:
DiAnn Mills, author of the new thriller HIGH TREASON, lives up to her tag line: Expect an adventure. One look at her Instagram feed (@diannmillsauthor) gives you the big picture of not just a writer, but also a community leader, a traveler, a fashionista, and a coffee connoisseur.
In fact, she roasts her own beans and starts the grind (both literally and figuratively) at 5 a.m. during the week. “My most productive time is in the mornings,” she says. “At 5:30, I’m on the treadmill working through social media for the day and then my current story. By 7:30, I’m ready for coffee and breakfast. The afternoons are filled with writing blogs, marketing and promotion, learning about the craft, reading, etcetera.” Which is how Mills built a burgeoning career in publishing with over five dozen novels, three non-fiction books, and a barrage of short stories and poems.
HIGH TREASON, about an FBI agent who teams up with a CIA operative to stop the assassination of a Saudi prince on U.S. soil, is her latest published endeavor. It is the third and final installment in the FBI Task Force series, which also includes Deadly Encounter and Deep Extraction. “The objective is to show how the FBI work with other agencies and law enforcement to stop and prevent crime,” says Mills. “Each agency has its specialty, and a task force can be effective and efficient.”
Mills went straight to the source to research interagency relations between the CIA and FBI for her new novel. “The FBI is an amazing resource,” she says. “A special agent answered my questions, pointed me toward other research, and generally encouraged me.” Mills admits this wasn’t the most challenging exploration she undertook for the book. She talks about going “down a path that led to medical research, a trip to MD Anderson Medical Center here in Houston, feet on the ground experiences with the various settings, and lots of ‘think’ time.”
While navigating a tense landscape of secrets and suspicion, resentments and guilt, Nate reconnects with estranged friends and old enemies, and encounters strangers who seem to know impossible things about him. Haunting every moment is the Lake’s sinister history and the memory of wild, beautiful Lucy Bennett, with whom Nate is forever linked by shattering loss and youthful passion.
As a massive hurricane bears down on the Northeast, the air becomes electric, the clouds grow dark, and escalating acts of violence echo events from Nate’s own past. Without a doubt, a reckoning is coming—one that will lay bare the lies that lifelong friends have told themselves and unleash a vengeance that may consume them all.
Author Brendan Duffy spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest novel, THE STORM KING:
Nick Forte has a hard time leaving well enough alone. He seriously injures a man for slapping a woman Forte has never seen before, so when Becky Tuttle comes to him with disconcerting letters sent to her author alter ago Desiree d’Arnaud, he does more than a cursory investigation. Following the thread of Becky’s problem leads through a local cop who takes the situation too lightly for Forte’s taste and into the disturbing world of men’s rights activists, for whom he has no use at all.
Becky’s case isn’t the only thing going on in Forte’s life. A chance meeting with Lily O’Donoghue, a former prostitute whose mother’s death Forte feels responsible for, leads to a blackmailer who has videos of Lily’s former occupation. Forte takes care of the blackmailer with minimal fuss, but learns (again) that no good deed goes unpunished. Forte’s innocent intercession brings him back into the sphere of Chicago gangster Mickey Touhy, who has interest in both Lily and Forte.
Forte’s usual cast of Sharon, Goose, Delbert, Sonny, Jan, and, of course, his daughter Caroline, do what they can to keep him on an even keel. The problem is that Forte’s keel may be permanently damaged and the only resolutions he can arrive at satisfy no one, least of all himself.
Two-time Shamus Award nominee Dana King spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest mystery, BAD SAMARITAN:
By Basil Sands
Thriller fans, let me introduce to you one outstanding writer. Micki Browning is a retired cop who has taken her lifetime of experience chasing the bad guys, and turned it around to create some amazing capers of her own…on paper, that is.
Her latest novel, BEACHED, is the second in her series following marine biologist–turned-divemaster Meredith ‘Mer’ Cavallo. BEACHED is a non-stop mystery thrill ride as Mer finds treasure she isn’t looking for—and enemies she doesn’t want.
This month, Browning took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with The Big Thrill about the inspiration behind the characters—and plot—of her new release.
What can you tell us about BEACHED?
Mer’s life unravels after she finds a plastic-wrapped bundle floating on the waves off Key Largo. Curious, she pulls it aboard her dive boat and lands in the middle of a storm of intrigue involving an obscure legend, an eighteenth-century shipwreck, and a modern pirate who’ll resort to murder to claim the booty first.
By A.J. Colucci
Karen Ellis is the new pseudonym for Katia Leif, the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of crime novels, including the acclaimed book series featuring former detective Karin Schaeffer. In her latest novel, A MAP OF THE DARK, Ellis introduces Elsa Myers, an FBI agent whose unit specializes in child abduction cases.
In A MAP OF THE DARK, Elsa is pulled in two directions. Her father is dying in the hospital, stirring up emotions and a dark secret from her past. At the same time, she lands the case of a missing teenager named Ruby. It becomes a race against time for Elsa and her partner Lex Cole—who sometimes butt heads with each other—in their search for a man who may have been killing for years. As the hunt for Ruby intensifies, Elsa’s world collapses around her. Everything she has buried, from her self-destructive past to her mother’s death, threatens to resurface with devastating consequences.
As Ellis began writing the novel, she realized that A MAP OF THE DARK had three distinct storylines that needed to resonate against each other: the plight of the missing teens, Elsa’s search for the girls with Lex, and Elsa’s personal story in which her father’s terminal illness triggers devastating childhood memories. “It was a tricky balancing act,” Ellis says. So she tried something new—writing each storyline individually and then weaving them together. “I’d never approached a novel that way before and wasn’t sure if it would work, but I found that it allowed me to fully inhabit each distinctive voice before moving on to the next one.”
Like many crime fiction writers, Lynette Eason has always loved mysteries. She grew up reading Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, hooked by the idea that they were “just basically kids who solved mysteries.” Between those childhood favorites and a later love of Alfred Hitchcock, it seemed only natural that, when she finally began to write, it would be in this genre.
Asked about her writing journey, she says, “I started writing in 1999, but it took a few years before I decided to pursue publication seriously. I began attending writing conferences and working with a mentor and in February 2007, got the call that Harlequin’s Love Inspired line wanted to purchase my first book, which released in February 2008.”
Since then, Eason’s books have hit the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and have won numerous awards, including the prestigious Carol Award. Her latest novel, OATH OF HONOR, is the first of a new series and was inspired by her love of the Tom Selleck television show Blue Bloods. “I’ve always loved the show,” she says, “so when it came time to write up the next proposal, I decided I wanted to write about a law enforcement family. I brainstormed the family and gave them all law enforcement jobs. Except for Ruthie. She’s the black sheep. She rebelled and became a surgeon.”
So how does a South Carolina mom of two with no police background write about a family of law enforcement officers? Primarily by interviewing law enforcement personnel and attending Lee Lofland’s Writers Police Academy, where she not only got to meet some of her favorite authors, like Kathy Reichs and Lisa Gardner, but also got to experience “some pretty cool things” like being an eye witness to a staged hostage situation and shooting at the bad guys in a virtual situation.
Let’s welcome Eason to The Big Thrill.
By E.M. Powell
Every good thriller needs an intriguing protagonist. So it is with Dominic, the titular hero of Mark Pryor’s latest release. Dominic is a prosecutor, a musician, and an Englishman living in Texas. But banish any thoughts of an upright crime fighter, for Dominic is also a psychopath—and one that got away with murder in his first outing in Hollow Man. In DOMINIC, a smart homicide detective starts digging up that past murder, leaving Dominic no option but to come up with a carefully-orchestrated plan that has deadly consequences.
The result is an intriguing psychological thriller, with many twists, turns, and blind alleys to keep the reader guessing right to the very end. And despite Dominic’s psychopathy, the reader ultimately roots for him and wants him to succeed.
Pryor admits that creating an anti-hero was quite a challenge, especially since he ensured that the protagonist of his mystery series, Hugo Marston, is very much in the likeable category. But Pryor also admits that writing Dominic was so much fun. “I could really drop the shackles, as it were,” he says. “I knew from the get-go that Dominic wasn’t going to be likeable, so I had to find other ways for the reader to stay engaged with him. My focus, then, was making him interesting. Making him relatable, too, so the reader has empathy for what he’s going through. I hope, too, that there’s a certain amount of admiration for him—not his moral compass, of course, but his sense of humor and his intelligence.”
A lot of research was needed to really get under the skin of a psychopath and to make Dominic’s behavior credible. Pryor found a wealth of fascinating written material and he spent time talking with a psychologist whose job is diagnosing psychopaths. He also consulted with a female author who has written a book about being a sociopath. “For the record,” he adds, “I’ve learned that there’s essentially no difference between the two.”
By David Healey
Be warned. At one glance, author Shelia Lowe can almost instantly know your deepest secrets and take the measure of your personality. For these insights, she does not rely on clairvoyance or palm reading, but on something seemingly more mundane.
Lowe is a professional graphologist, or handwriting expert. In fact, she is one of the leading experts in the United States, if not the world, and serves as president of the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation. She has written nonfiction books on the topic, Adobe has employed her knowledge in developing its signature recognition software, and Lowe has weighed in on the handwriting of President Trump in media outlets such as CNN and The Boston Globe. (“It’s like a big fence,” she says of the president’s jagged signature.)
It is an expertise that serves her well not just in the corporate world, but in the world of fiction. Since 2007, her popular “medium-boiled” series featuring handwriting expert Claudia Rose has been engaging audiences. Her newest installment is WRITTEN OFF, in which Claudia finds herself flying from sunny California to wintry Maine in order to retrieve the manuscript of a murdered psychology professor. Claudia’s expertise enables her to gain insights into the characters who are now persons of interest in the professor’s death.
There’s more at stake here than catching the killer. The dead professor has left behind a considerable fortune and a mansion. She also has left behind a ragtag mix of troubled students. Again, handwriting plays a role in seeing beyond the facade that characters may be presenting to the world.
When her mother disappears, Jessica Hargrove’s life begins to unravel. And her problems are only just beginning. A horrible secret has been revealed, threatening to destroy three generations of her family, and the one person who may be able to help her is the man she’s never stopped loving, the man who once broke her heart.
LAPD Detective Sean Burke is back in his small hometown, pondering if his career in the big city is what he really wants anymore. As painful as it is to see Jess again, she needs him. He can’t walk away when she’s about to lose everything she holds dear. But will what he discovers ruin their second chance at love?
DEADLY DECEPTION author Marissa Garner spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing the latest book in her Rogue Security series:
Years ago, in the town of Saxon Falls, young Kelsey Willard disappeared and was presumed dead. The tragedy left her family with a fractured life—a mother out to numb the pain, a father losing a battle with his own private demons, and a sister desperate for closure. But now another teenage girl has gone missing. It’s ripping open old wounds for the Willards, dragging them back into a painful past, and leaving them unprepared for where it will take them next.
Bureau of Criminal Investigation agent Mark Foster has stumbled on uncanny parallels in the lives of the two missing girls that could unlock clues to a serial killer’s identity. That means breaking down the walls of the Willards’ long-guarded secrets and getting to a truth that is darker than he bargained for. Now, to rescue one missing girl, he must first solve the riddles that disappeared with another: Kelsey Willard herself. Dead or alive, she is his last hope.
Award-winning author Kylie Brant recently met with The Big Thrill to discuss her latest novel, PRETTY GIRLS DANCING:
Even in winter we sometimes crave a good beach read. And if you’re looking for an intelligent thriller that smoothly merges mystery with high speed adventure, pick up SAILOR TAKE WARNING by William Nikkel.
In his seventh recorded adventure, Jack Ferrell is spending time at Lake Tahoe to get a break from Hawaii. He soon finds himself entangled in a web of violence and death in the seedy world of coin fraud, blackmail, and lost treasure. Why is he so entangled? Because as the author puts it, Ferrell is a lady’s man, and a sucker for a pair of doe eyes that gets him into trouble every time.
“If someone needs help, he’s quick to rush to the rescue,” says Nikkel. “A take care of business kind of guy—a man’s man who’s willing to put his life on the line when necessary. But he doesn’t see himself as a hero. Only as a person who does what needs doing.”
This time Ferrell finds himself the target of a vengeance-driven man named Ryan Chambers who wants the gold and Jack’s head on a platter. Like all good villains, Chambers is a business man enamored with wealth, and more so by his love for gold. And of course, he has a grand evil plan.
“His latest plot is a large-scale coin fraud scheme that will net him millions,” Nikkel says. “But when one of the fraudulent twenty-dollar gold pieces is thrust into Jack’s hand by a dying man, Jack is drawn into the enigma surrounding the double-eagle. Ryan Chambers’ problems don’t stop there. Not only does Jack have the coin, he also unknowing intercepts one of three clues leading to a century-and-a-half old cache of stolen gold that Cambers is after.”
Blackchurch is not the sort of place where folks are inclined to be up in each other’s business, and strange house guests at a neighbor’s pad are not likely to be noticed, let alone remarked upon. So on a day in early October, when two beat-up-looking crackers, a pregnant teenage whore, and a small, androgynous Japanese woman in a large-brimmed sombrero, sunglasses, and wrapped in a patchwork down comforter came to call on D’antre Philips with heads full of prophetic visions and tales of the apocalypse already in progress, nary an eye was blinked. When the end times do come to Blackchurch, it’ll be a day like any other day. And the next day will be too.
BLACKCHURCH FURNACE is a scathing satire of faith, family, and all that we hold dear, where the only thing you can believe in are the voices in your own head…and they are every bit as crazy as you are.
The Big Thrill recently caught up with author Nathan Singer to discuss his latest novel, BLACKCHURCH FURNACE:
Among the Irish Travellers living in the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee, no one forgets and no one forgives. And as former Marine MP Brynn Callahan finds out when she returns home, it’s hard to bury the past when bodies keep turning up . . .
After an IED explosion abruptly ends her tour of duty, Brynn arrives stateside with PTSD and her canine partner, Wilco—both of them bearing the scars of battle. With a mix of affection, curiosity, and misgivings, she goes back to Bone Gap, Tennessee, and the insular culture she’d hoped to escape by enlisting in the Marine Corps.
Marginalized and wary of outsiders, the Irish Travellers keep to themselves in a secluded mountain community, maintaining an uneasy coexistence with the “settled” townspeople of McCreary. When Wilco’s training as a cadaver dog leads Brynn to discover a body in the woods, the two worlds collide. Soon it’s clear that Brynn and Wilco are in danger—and they’re not the only ones.
After the police identify the dead woman, Brynn is shocked to learn she has a personal connection—and everything she’s been told about her past is called into question.
Forming a reluctant alliance with local sheriff Frank Pusser, Brynn must dig up secrets that not only will rattle her close-knit clan to its core, but may forever change her perception of who she is . . . and put her back in the line of fire.
Bestselling author Susan Furlong sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss her latest novel, SPLINTERED SILENCE:
When Lewis Wilkins, a physician with a vacation home in Jarrett Creek, is attacked by vicious dogs, and several pet dogs in the area around Jarrett Creek disappear, Police Chief Samuel Craddock suspects that a dog fighting ring is operating in his territory. He has to tread carefully in his investigation, since lawmen who meddle in dog fighting put their lives at risk. The investigation is hampered because Wilkins is not a local.
Craddock’s focus on the investigation is thrown off by the appearance of a new woman in his life, as well as his accidental acquisition of a puppy.
Digging deeper, Craddock discovers that the public face Wilkins presented was at odds with his private actions. A terrible mistake led to his disgrace as a physician, and, far from being a stranger, he has ongoing acquaintances with a number of county residents who play fast and loose with the law.
The Big Thrill caught up to Terry Shames to discuss the latest installment in her Samuel Craddock mystery series, A RECKONING IN THE BACK COUNTRY:
Harry Black has a curse he doesn’t understand, or could it be a gift he can’t escape? He’s the last heir of a dying clan, but there’s a problem. To inherit, he must fulfill the only stipulation in the will—accept the Black Family Legacy. After seven weeks of the same nightmare, Harry is desperate to see a psychologist to be “cured.” But instead of help at the hands of Dr. Virginia Rankin, Harry falls headlong into the legacy’s grip when he experiences an ecstatic utterance and inexplicably reveals information to her that he couldn’t possibly know.
Shocked that this stranger has knowledge of her family’s dark secret, Ginny makes a frantic call to her brother. The call makes the Minority Whip of the US Senate late for a meeting at a world economic summit in DC, delaying him long enough to avoid a terrorist bombing that kills two other senators and dozens more innocent people. By saving the life of Dr. Rankin’s famous brother, Harry has also sealed his own fate. Wanted or not, the Legacy has finally come to him…
The Big Thrill met up with author S. P. Brown to discuss his latest novel, THE LEGACY:
In a Manhattan safe house, Nora Baron—a Long Island mother and drama teacher leading a double life as a CIA operative—meets a spymaster who offers her a top-secret mission. Nora is to take on the role of Chris Waverly, a legend in the field—literally. As Nora’s handler explains, Waverly isn’t so much a person as she is an alias, a cover name shared by several American agents throughout the world. Now, a mysterious ransom note threatens these agents with exposure and certain death.
As the new “Chris Waverly,” Nora travels to Paris to trap the anonymous blackmailer. But from the start, the mission is more dangerous than she could have anticipated. She encounters secrets and lies from her own people, and she’s stalked by shadowy assassins. From the City of Light to a remote village high in the Swiss Alps, Nora follows the trail to a chilling international conspiracy—and the shocking truth about “Chris Waverly.”
USA Today bestselling author Tom Savage spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest novel, THE SPY WHO NEVER WAS:
They glide through dark waters, sleek and silent as death itself. Ancient predators with only two desires – to feed and reproduce. They’ve traveled to the resort island of Las Dagas to do both, and the guests make tempting meals. The humans are on land, though, out of reach. But the resort’s main feature is an intricate canal system . . .
. . .and it’s starting to rain.
Prolific author Tim Waggoner took some time out of his busy schedule to discuss his latest thriller, TEETH OF THE SEA:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope readers will have a blast reading this fast-paced humans vs sea monsters adventure.
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
It’s not only a fun thriller in its own right, it’s also an homage to the B movies I loved as a kid, but modernized and cranked up to 11.
The owner of a delightful Southern café tastes the sharp sting of suspicion in this delectable comfort food mystery . . .
It’s fall in Winter Garden, Virginia, and business at Amy Flowers’ Down South Café has never been better. So when struggling beekeeper Stuart Landon asks Amy to sell some of his honey, she’s happy to help. The jars of honey are a sweet success, but their partnership is cut short when Amy discovers Landon’s body outside the café early one morning.
As Amy tries to figure out who could possibly have wanted to harm the unassuming beekeeper, she discovers an ever-expanding list of suspects—and they’re all buzzing mad. She’ll have to use all of her skills—and her Southern charm—to find her way out of this sticky situation…
HONEY-BAKED HOMICIDE author Gayle Leeson stopped by The Big Thrill to discuss her latest mystery:
Katie LeClair has finally settled down as the new doctor in Baxter, MI. After years of moving, schooling, and training, she wants nothing more than to find a place she can call home, and a small town outside of Ann Arbor seems perfect.
Katie quickly gets to work in building a life for herself in Baxter, and beyond reviving her love life, she also finds a pair of business partners in a team of father and son family practitioners. But that idyllic dream is immediately shattered when one of her patients is found dead. That wouldn’t be the worst thing, except the death is ruled a suicide, and as evidence has it, the suicide was a result of the medication Katie had prescribed. But she doesn’t remember writing it.
When a closer investigation reveals it was murder, Katie is catapulted into an off-the-books investigation that leads her down a dark path of past secrets. But someone is willing to kill to keep part of the town’s history in the shadows, and Katie must race to find out who before it’s too late.
National bestselling author Dawn Eastman spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest novel, UNNATURAL CAUSES:
Jack Pellum has spent two years searching for the man who he believes murdered his wife — a man he last saw wearing a peacoat and a fedora. Then a local writer commits suicide, and he leaves a bewildering message that may be the first breadcrumb in a winding trail of unsolved murders: There’s a killer, and he wears a crooked hat.
Michael Underhill’s life is finally coming together. He has a sweet and beautiful girlfriend, and together they’re building their future home. The problem is, Underhill has a past that’s shrouded in darkness, and it’s coming back to haunt him.
These two men are inexorably drawn together in a mystery where nothing can be taken for granted. Filled with devious reversals and razor-sharp tension, THE MAN IN THE CROOKED HAT is a masterwork from “one of America’s best new crime writers” (Lansing State Journal).
The Big Thrill recently caught up with Harry Dolan to discuss his latest mystery, THE MAN IN THE CROOKED HAT:
When the Twin Cities are rocked by the “crime of the century,” Holland Taylor is the one PI who’d rather not be right in the thick of it. Still wounded by the long-ago death of his wife and daughter, Taylor does (delete “simple”) background checks and other simple cases with no interest in more challenging work. But almost by accident, what should have been an easy job becomes something much more far-reaching and dangerous.
Eleanor Barrington, the doyenne of a socially prominent family of great wealth, has been arrested for the murder of young woman. Emily Denys was her son’s fiancée, and Barrington made no secret of her disdain for the victim, convinced that she was trying to take advantage of her son and her family.
Holland Taylor had been brought in to do a full background check on Emily, only to discover that her name and her background were all fabricated. Before he could learn more, she was murdered—shot in the head outside her apartment.
Barrington had been overheard threatening her son’s fiancée and an eyewitness claims to have seen her kill Emily. But that’s not the worst of it. Barrington’s own son has even worse accusations to make against her. And the family, which has a long history in the area, is involved in a controversial business development that has all sides heated.
Caught in the dark tangle of a twisted family and haunted by his own past, Holland Taylor returns in the first new novel in this award winning, critically acclaimed series in almost twenty years. And what Taylor finds is that the truth remains elusive, frequently expensive and quite often fatal.
Award-winning author David Housewright spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest novel, DARKNESS, SING ME A SONG:
That’s the text message Supreme Court Justice Arnold Hirschfeld receives as hearings commence in the U.S. Supreme Court to determine the fate of the 28th Amendment – enacted to criminalize abuse of power on the part of our political representatives.
In court to defend the amendment, retired U.S. District Court Judge Cyrus Brooks observes his old friend and law school classmate Hirschfeld acting strangely and dispatches veteran D.C. homicide detective Frank Lotello to find out why.
In the meantime, Hirschfeld’s precocious and feisty 11-year-old diabetic granddaughter Cassie, brutally kidnapped to control her grandfather’s swing vote upholding or invalidating the amendment, watches her insulin pump running dry and wonders which poses her greatest threat, the kidnappers or the clock. As Brooks is forced to choose between saving our nation or saving the girl.
The Big Thrill caught up with bestselling author Ronald S. Barak to discuss his legal thriller, THE AMENDMENT KILLER:
May, lonely drifter and small-time weed dealer, has spent years running from her ugly past. As a damaging nor’easter takes aim at her sleepy island home of Folly, however, she rushes to shore up, settle in and keep safe. Though most of the islanders have evacuated, May is not entirely alone. Spoiled city kid Curtis, fleeing his own dark secrets, along with naïve local boy Tommy, are also stuck on the island, both boys tweaking, both desperate but only one grows vile and violent. To save the boy and to save herself, May must learn to be bad.
The Big Thrill spent some time with MAY author, Marietta Miles, to discuss her latest novel:
What seemed to be a fairly harmless prank takes a sinister turn when Daisy stumbles upon the body of Wally Stone, the mansion’s manager, who had set a trap for the culprit and was murdered for his trouble. This was clearly no apparition’s doing.
Once again, sisters Daisy and Rose Forrest find themselves up to their eyeballs in all sorts of shenanigans – chasing ghosts, holding séances, searching for priceless Revere silver, and losing a Japanese tourist or two along the way – as they search for a ruthless killer.
Penny Clover Petersen took time out of her busy schedule to meet with The Big Thrill and discuss the latest installment of her Daisy & Rose Mystery Series, PUSHING UP DAISIES:
By George Ebey
With THE DEADLY LIES, author David C. Dawson brings us the second story in his Dominic Delingpole adventure series.
In this latest installment, Dominic and his partner, Jonathan, are on a romantic Spanish honeymoon, and things are perfect… except Dominic has kept a secret from his husband. He’s failed to tell Jonathan that he plans to meet his former lover, Bernhardt, who is speeding on his way from Germany to present Dominic with a mysterious gift.
But before the exchange, Bernhardt is killed in a suspicious car accident. Shortly before he dies, he sends Dominic a bizarre text message that will take the newlyweds on a hair-raising adventure.
Lies upon lies plunge Dominic and Jonathan into an internet crime that could destroy the lives of millions of people. What is the mysterious Charter Ninety-Nine group? And will their planned internet assault force Dominic to choose between the fate of the world and the life of his lover?
The Big Thrill recently caught up with Dawson to learn more about his series and his writing process.
Author Patricia McLinn’s latest Caught Dead in Wyoming installment BACK STORY keeps her characters in the state for which the series is named—but the author writes in several genres, and sets her stories all over the world.
It seems fitting, then, to start her interview with The Big Thrill on a question of geographical importance:
What are some tips for producing the local flavor without being clichéd?
I love—as a reader and an author—having a character who’s new to the setting of the book. That lets the reader experience the setting as a newcomer, too. They notice and experience things that the natives take for granted. They also stumble across things that the natives take with aplomb. Years ago, a friend and I stepped off a cable car in the Alps. The ground was snow-packed. We walked maybe ten feet and realized that behind us, people from our group were falling as soon as they reached the snow. The difference? My friend was from Canada and I grew up in Northern Illinois. We had automatically adjusted the way we moved. The people behind us, from Malaysia and Hong Kong, didn’t know to do that.
Many authors have written both crime and romance. What do you find are the similarities between the two genres?
Interesting question. As authors, we often talk more about differences in genre than similarities. Both crime and romance revolve around basic human urges—for safety/justice in the case of crime novels and for connection in the case of romance. Not only basic urges, but positive ones.
On a less high-faluting level, for me—as an author and as a reader—the essence is characters. In both romance and mystery, I want to experience a story through characters I enjoy spending time with. So, for both kinds of stories, I aim to create characters a reader can empathize with, can be comfortable with and can respect.
By Dan Levy
Who doesn’t love a story that starts with a protagonist to whom life hasn’t dealt a great hand? Maybe she’s a bit rebellious and hasn’t quite found her place in the world. Then, when she least expects it, finds her calling and perseveres until she reaches her goal? In many ways, that’s the story of author T.R. Ragan.
Today, Ragan, a once struggling romance writer, has found a home in the thriller genre. HER LAST DAY, which debuted October 24, is Ragan’s 17th published novel, and premiers her Jessie Cole series.
Below are excerpts from an email interview conducted with Ragan for The Big Thrill, which were edited for style and length.
What started you writing 17 novels ago? Is that what keeps you writing today? Or, have you found new/different motivations?
Pregnant with my fourth child and on leave of absence from work, I was bored. My sister handed me a romance novel and instantaneously I was taken to another world. The escapism I experienced was life changing. I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, and I started writing that day.
In the beginning of my writing journey, I wanted to show my kids that hard work, perseverance, and determination would get me that coveted publishing contract. That determination, and also the contest wins and signing with an agent, kept me motivated for many years. My passion for storytelling keeps me writing every day.
By Derek Gunn
I started reading F Paul Wilson back in 1981 with The Keep, and the book remains on the top shelf, the one reserved for my favorites, to this day (along with quite a few of his other books). This novel kicked off the truly excellent Adversary Cycle which brought in several characters, Repairman Jack being the most famous, with 23 books at this point, from other books in a wonderful apocalyptic series.
Fast forward more than 30 years and Wilson has written in nearly every genre: science fiction, fantasy, horror, young adult, a children’s Christmas book (with a monster, of course), medical thrillers and political thrillers. He has been a regular visitor to the New York Times bestseller list and has won many awards, including the Bram Stoker. The Keep was also made into an excellent movie.
THE GOD GENE is the second book in the ICE Sequence which began with Panacea in 2016. I was planning on waiting for all three books before I started these, something I like to do with favourite authors so I don’t have to wait for the next piece if they leave it on a cliffhanger. Anyway, the need to do a review meant that I had to read both books in quick succession. Not a chore in any way, I can assure you.
The first book introduces us to Rick and Laura as they search for the fabled panacea of legend. Despite a single cure-all being medically impossible, Assistant ME Laura Fanning finds herself with dead bodies which are in impossible condition. Her investigations lead her on a quest financed by a terminally ill multi-millionaire. Of course, the hunt is not without its perils, as religious fanatics are determined to wipe all traces of the panacea from the earth.
Wilson is a qualified MD and his knowledge shines throughout the story. The characters are believable, likable, and the story flies along at an alarming pace. I would recommend reading Panacea before reading THE GOD GENE, as there is a large back story which is important for the continuing story.
THE GOD GENE begins about a month after the first book. Rick’s brother has gone missing and his erratic behaviour before he disappeared, and a mystery surrounding a previously unknown species, lead Rick and Laura in a search that will, again, pit them against dangers and impossible revelations about the world in which we live.
The theme of “outside” influences on the human race again comes to the forefront in this book. The idea that evolution, miracles and unexplained phenomena throughout mankind’s history is a recurring theme in Wilson’s books, and he handles the disbelief of a modern doctor and the uncompromising fanaticism of religious groups with equal gusto. Influences and story threads from Panacea continue to impact in this novel as the mystery grows.
I had become quite jaded with thrillers that all had similar plots where ancient mysteries come crashing into modern life and mayhem and violence ensue. The ICE sequence is different. It looks forward rather than back. It confronts moral dilemmas and questions mankind’s place in the universe. It poses questions that are difficult to answer.
I was lucky enough to get a few questions to the author for The Big Thrill.
Detectives in Search of Themselves
By Alex Segura
The sparks that eventually evolve into fully-formed novels appear to writers in different ways. A bit of dialogue. An evocative image. An unforgettable plot twist. It can vary, but it’s that initial burst of inspiration that gets the wheels rolling toward writing an actual book, even for the most well-known novelists. And, sometimes, that lasting, memorable bit appears completely out of left field.
Such was the case with the story behind the latest, all-but-guaranteed bestseller in Robert Crais’s long-running Elvis Cole/Joe Pike series, THE WANTED. Like previous Cole/Pike novels, it all started with an image. This time, however, the launching visual was a bit unexpected: a cat. Regardless, that mental picture drew Crais into the next story he wanted to tell in his long-running series, setting the stage for one of Crais’s most evocative novels, which pulls his beloved characters, Elvis Cole and Joe Pike, into a dark underworld of high-stakes robbery, double-crosses, and murder.
“THE WANTED begins when a single mother comes to Elvis—she’s found things in her son’s room that disturb her,” Crais said. “Large amounts of cash, a $4,000 Rolex, things like that, fancy clothes. And the kid lies to her of course. And she comes to Elvis and says I want you to find out what he’s doing. And she of course is paranoid because he is a high school student. She believes he’s somehow involved in drugs or gangs. But it turns out not to be that at all. It’s something just as bad, maybe worse considering what happens along the course of the story. But for Elvis he finds himself in this, again, springing forth from that first moment when I knew there was a story in that moment with Elvis and his cat. He finds himself in a family unit, a dysfunctional family unit, where in essence he becomes the father figure by default.”
Crais, who in addition to writing dozens of bestselling thrillers, has a TV resume that includes stints on the writing staffs of shows like Miami Vice, Cagney & Lacey, and Hill Street Blues, points to his two detectives’ evolving lives and backstories as the main reason he continues to chronicle their adventures, decades later. Oh, and that darn cat.
“It’s always about a character moment,” Crais said. “In this book, I think it was the notion of Elvis realizing that he’s at a point in his life where personally all he has to show for himself is his cat. Now that in and of itself doesn’t lead to any kind of a story, but I think about these characters a lot. I mean, Elvis and Joe, the first book, was published in 1987. And [laughs] maybe it’s a sign of long term madness but these guys have been in my head pretty much every day for 30 years. They’re sort of like roommates; they’re shadow figures behind the plant in my office.”
While Crais’s best work is deftly plotted and loaded with suspenseful twists and unraveled mysteries, it was the idea of having Cole explore his own life choices and mortality that most interested Crais as he dove into THE WANTED.
“I find Cole and Pike fascinating. That’s why I guess I’ve given so many novels to them,” Crais said. “I guess I was seeing Elvis being in a very thoughtful, introspective mood. And his cat, who’s a main character in the book, walks in and Elvis had one line; one line came to me in that moment. And it’s Elvis saying, ‘I don’t have kids, I have a cat.’
“To the outside observer that may not seem like much, but that was the hook for me,” Crais continued. “Here’s this man, Elvis Cole, alone in his A-frame one night, and all I saw was this three second little clip, and that just moved me so deeply and in that moment my heart almost broke. It’s emotional hooks like that that really go in deep for me and drive me to chase stories. So from that singular moment, I built the story that became THE WANTED.”
Crais finds himself as engrossed in the evolution of his protagonists as his legions of fans. The difference is he has a major hand in guiding them along from book to book.
“They are men I wish I knew, they are men who, though I know an enormous amount about them, I don’t know everything about them,” Crais said. “I guess in a way that’s what I’ve continued to pursue over the course of all their novels. In each new book, I’m learning something new about Elvis Cole and Joe Pike.”
The latest Cole/Pike novel propels the characters forward, down a path Crais has been exploring since the very first Cole adventure, The Monkey’s Raincoat.
“THE WANTED goes back to Elvis’ ongoing arc across the series, and it took me a few books before I realized this, but at its core Elvis is constantly trying to create a family for himself,” Crais said. “There’s an old saying I heard a long time ago and it goes something like this — ‘Detectives are in search of themselves.’ That just struck me as true for Elvis Cole and for the stories that I’ve told in all his books. Ultimately, the detective is looking for a wholeness, he’s doing all the other things we want him to do: He’s uncovering the truth, he’s solving the crime, he’s being the avenger, he’s being the protector, but he does these things for a reason, and in Elvis’ case I think it’s because he has this big need to be that figure, not only in the lives of others but in his own life too.”
Crais made his writing bones working for television, but after a decade in Hollywood, he left the medium to take a stab at novels. It wasn’t until Crais channeled the skills he honed writing for the small screen that he saw some success, and connected with his passion for the work.
“When I left TV, I very much wanted to write books, and I started trying to transition out of TV,” Crais said. “But I had this notion in my head, erroneous and moronic, that the way writing was committed in television and films was by definition hackwork, and that true artists did not employ things like structure, or forethought, or any nonsense like that. A true artist simply approached the blank page, and began to type or scribble. Your eyes kind of roll back to your head. Yeah, and then without ever really thinking about something or investing in it, you get to the end. And you’ve got this marvellous story that you’ve created by magic. So I tried that, and that didn’t work.”
“Then I tried a second time, and I approached it in the same generalized way I’d done the first time, and I ended up with this mammoth 550 page stack of pages, and I realized, after re-reading it, that I had a 500 page beginning, and a 50 page ending, and no middle,” Crais said. “I put the brakes on after that second debacle and said, ‘You know, you’ve been telling some pretty good stories and writing some pretty good scripts in television, doing it the way you learned how to do it in television and movies, so maybe you should actually step back, employ all the lessons you’ve learned, think about these things, develop your characters, come up with an outline, find a story that actually matters to you, and approach it the same way you’ve approached everything you’ve been writing for the last 10 years.’ And that’s what I did with The Monkey’s Raincoat, and it ended up being a pretty good story.”
It’s that lesson that continues to inform Crais to this day, as the international bestsellers stack up and his series and standalones continue to collect high praise and readers. It’s also the strongest bit of advice he’d give to a writer breaking into the field today.
“Keep at it. Write what you love,” Crais said. “That may sound simplistic, but, I’ve just met so many people who, and all they wanna yap about is what’s hot now, what so-and-so publishers are buying now, or whatever the market is. Look, I guess that works for some people but not me. If you’re gonna invest this much time and energy and your life into something, well then, you might as well do it putting something down that you dearly love, you dearly enjoy, you wanna pursue and are inspired by. Because I have this innate belief that if you love it and you are inspired by it and entertained by it, then other people will be also.”
Credit for cover photograph: Kim Stanley Robinson
Finding the Humorous Edge
By R. G. Belsky
Award-winning thriller author D. P. Lyle loves to write about murder—the fictional kind in his novels, and the real thing too.
Lyle’s new book, A-LIST, is about a star actor accused of killing his young girlfriend. It’s the second in the Jake Longly series, featuring an ex-baseball pitcher and somewhat unorthodox private investigator who works (not always well) for his father.
“In this one,” Lyle explains, “Jake and girlfriend Nicole are asked by Nicole’s uncle Charles Balfour—big-time producer and director—to go to New Orleans, where Uncle Charles’ franchise A-List actor Kirk Ford has awakened with a dead girl in his bed at the famous Monteleone Hotel. Oh, the girl is a college co-ed who just happens to be the niece of Tony Guidry, a ruthless, mafia-type. Things go sideways in a hurry.”
Lyle says he created the Jake Longly character, who first appeared in Deep Six last year, to make this series comedic as well as a good mystery/thriller.
“I wanted Jake, the protagonist, to have certain qualities. Good-looking, always a hit with the ladies, not overly ambitious, not the smartest guy on the planet but smart in his own way, and likable. I also wanted him to have conflicts with his father, who is an entirely different person than Jake. But mainly, I wanted him to be a handsome, ex-jock who more or less skates through life, having fun and avoiding major conflicts.”
By Dawn Ius
“I specialize,” Agatha Christie once said, “in murders of quiet domestic interest.”
More than 100 years after the publication of The Mysterious Affair at Styles—her first novel of “quiet domestic interest”—readers continue to crave the classic whodunit, a story with a puzzle that they can solve alongside the protagonist. Novels with romantic subplots but no sex on the page, and notoriously absent of gore—a chance to enjoy the company of old friends, perhaps, with a little murder on the side.
By definition, the cozy mystery stands in sharp contrast to more male-oriented popular fiction, the hard-boiled thrillers unabashedly keen to transport readers on adventures filled with assassins, political intrigue, sex, and gratuitous violence. Cozies, on the other hand, strive to deliver a mystery within a world that is safe and relatable—but is then upended with a sprinkle of mayhem.
These stories often take place in quaint villages, beach towns, or small B&Bs, and the protagonist is more of a knitter than an international woman of mystery. Indeed, of greater importance than the murder itself is the occupation or hobby of the amateur sleuth when not solving puzzles.
“While the amateur detective has certainly stood the test of time, today’s amateur sleuth may be a doctor or lawyer or farmer,” says Wendy Tyson, author of both the Greenhouse Mysteries and Allison Campbell series. “They may not have access to the same tools as a police officer or private detective, but because of their regular profession, might be proficient with computers or know hackers who can get access to information. The amateur detective provides the writer with great freedom, and that freedom can translate into richly drawn worlds and characters with interesting personalities and unique jobs.”
Writing at a Fever Pitch
Deon Meyer is renowned for his cliff-hanging thrillers. He’s one of South Africa’s most popular authors and successful world-wide. His books have been translated from the original Afrikaans into 27 languages and have won a slew of prizes, and last year his novel Dead Before Dying was adapted as a TV miniseries in Germany under the title Cape Town. Deon also writes and produces movies and TV series for the South African market.
With all that going on, you’d think that he would be content to play out his ever-popular characters. Not if you know Deon. This year saw the release in English of a blockbuster stand-alone thriller set in South Africa in the near future titled FEVER.
Here’s how Marcel Berlins in the London Times summed it up: “It’s a crime thriller, but it’s far more. The first sentence is: ‘I want to tell you about my father’s murder.’ The actual crime takes place more than 400 absorbing, emotional and atmospheric pages later; the solution comes even later than that. The narrator, who is aged 47, tells of his teenage years when his father founded a small settlement, safe from a virus that has killed most of the world’s population. But as the community grew, so did their problems, their jealousies and the moving relationship between father and son. There are shades of Cormac McCarthy’s superb The Road, but FEVER grips even more.’
For me, this is Deon’s break-out book. Stephen King thinks so too, commenting that FEVER is “Reminiscent of The Stand and The Passage. Great stuff.”
Deon, I guess you must be very tired of this question by now, but I have to ask it. What persuaded you to set aside your highly successful and acclaimed contemporary police procedurals and thrillers for a post-apocalyptic future saga?
The Darkness That Never Leaves
By Layton Green
World-weary private investigators, talking cats, political intrigue, and a murder mystery that reaches into the troubled past of South America: What’s not to like? This month’s globe-trotting literary adventures take us to Chile, a country that stretches almost the length of South America and is home to some of the world’s best hiking, wine, and ski trails. Though known for beautiful nature and the warmth of its people, it carries the dark stain of the Pinochet regime, a brutal military dictatorship in power from 1973 to 1990.
Our interview subject, Ramón Díaz Eterovic, explores the lingering impact of the regime in DARK ECHOES OF THE PAST, the first of his best-selling novels featuring private investigator Heredia to be translated into English. Ramón is one of Chile’s most beloved authors, and delivers that rare breed of crime novel: a page-turning mystery that serves as a medium for an incisive examination of society and the human condition.
Ramón has also published novels, books of short stories, children’s books, and poetry. His work has won numerous awards, been translated into a dozen languages, and has appeared on Chilean television.
This interview was translated by Patrick Blaine.
Thanks for taking the time to chat, Ramón. We’re thrilled to have you. Can you tell us a bit more about your background? Where are you from and how did you come to be a writer?
I was born in the city of Punta Arenas, on the shores of the Strait of Magellan in Chilean Patagonia. It’s a snowy, windy place that was settled at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century by immigrants from a number of countries. My maternal grandfather was one of them, and came from Croatia. In this city I lived out my childhood and teen years. When I was 17, I traveled to Santiago, the capital of Chile, to study political and administrative science at the University of Chile. I currently split my time between Santiago and Villarica, in the south of Chile, a place characterized by beautiful lakes and volcanoes.
By R.G. Belsky
I spent a lot of years covering sensational real-life murders as a tabloid journalist in New York City. Now I write about fictional crimes as a thriller author. For me, it’s been the perfect combination. And that’s why whenever people ask me where I get the ideas for my crime novels, I tell them: “Hey, I just went to work in the newsroom every day.”
My upcoming thriller YESTERDAY’S NEWS in the spring of 2018 is about a reporter’s obsession with finding a long-lost missing child. But no crime novel could ever compare to the real-life story of Etan Patz, the 6-year-old boy who disappeared walking to the school bus on Prince Street in Soho in 1979, and became the most famous missing child case in New York City history. For years afterward, there were false tips, false leads, and false hopes about finding answers to what happened to Etan. In the end, a clerk at a bodega back then at West Broadway and Prince, only two blocks away the Patz home, was convicted of murdering him. The bodega is no longer there. But walking down Prince Street still brings back memories of that long-ago day when a little boy seemingly vanished into thin air.
I’m also working on another new thriller called The Perfect Victim about a murder in Central Park, which has been the scene of some of the most famous New York City crimes. The most notable were the Central Park Jogger (a woman jogger attacked and left for dead while running near the park’s 102nd Street Traverse Road) and the Preppie Murder Case (a young woman strangled to death behind the Museum of Modern Art at Fifth and 83rd by her date who claimed they were having “rough sex” that got out of hand). There have been many other notorious violent crimes in Central Park over the years, especially in the ‘70s and ‘80s when crime rates in the city soared. Things are safer now. But these hundreds of acres of grass, trees, and nature in the middle of New York City—where New Yorkers walk the trails, attend concerts and even go boating—is still a helluva good spot for an author to plot a murder.
The most famous tabloid crime story ever in New York City is Son of Sam, who murdered six people and wounded seven others during a series of random shootings that terrified the city from the summer of 1976 until his capture in the summer of ’77. I wrote my 2016 thriller, Blond Ice, about a woman serial killer who is a female version of Son of Sam—murdering men on the streets of New York just for the thrill of it. There were eight different shooting scenes for the real-life Son of Sam, David Berkowitz, throughout the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn. But perhaps the most notable site was near the Hutchinson River Parkway in the Bronx where, after fatally killing a young man and woman sitting in a parked car, Berkowitz left behind his first note to the police and media in which he called himself “Son of Sam.”
Then, of course, there are the sites of the Greatest Restaurant Mob Hits in New York–where top underworld gang bosses were murdered as they dined. I’ve used elements of these in my books, as have many other authors, as well as movies and TV shows like Goodfellas and The Sopranos. The most famous mob restaurant murders are: Paul Castellano on his way into Sparks Steakhouse, on 46th Street between Second and Third Avenues in midtown; Crazy Joe Gallo at Umberto’s Clam House on Mulberry Street in Little Italy; and Carmine Galante at Joe and Mary’s Italian Restaurant in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. (This last one was immortalized by a classic Page One tabloid picture of the dead Galante lying there with an after-meal cigar still in his mouth.) Sparks is still at the same location; Umberto’s is now a few blocks away from the original site; and Joe and Mary’s is gone.
The most high profile celebrity murder in New York was the death of John Lennon in 1980 by stalker Mark David Chapman outside the Dakota, Lennon’s apartment building on Central Park West and 72nd Street. I used that tragic event as partial inspiration for my 2015 thriller Shooting for the Stars, about another celebrity gunned down on the streets of New York—only this time there turns out to be a serial killer who is targeting famous people for death. The Dakota building is still at the same location and, across the street in Central Park, is Strawberry Fields, which was created to honor Lennon’s memory.
There are many more famous crime locations in New York, such as: The No. 2 downtown subway train between Union Square and Chambers Street, where Bernhard Goetz became known as the Subway Vigilante after shooting four men he said were trying to rob him; the house in Massapequa, L.I. where teenaged Amy Fisher, dubbed the “Long Island Lolita” in the media, shot the wife of her married lover Joey Buttafuoco in 1992; and even all the way back to the Kitty Genovese murder outside a Kew Gardens apartment building in 1964, which became legendary because many people supposedly heard the Genovese woman’s screams for help as she was being attacked but never called police (although the accuracy of this has since been brought into doubt).
But my own most memorable crime location was a topless joint called Herbie’s Bar in the Jamaica section of Queens where in 1983 a man held up the place, killed a man and then (for some bizarre reason) cut off the victim’s head. The result was the most famous New York Post tabloid headline ever: HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR. I was a part of the Post newsroom then that came up with that unforgettable story and headline. Which just goes to prove that truth is really sometimes even stranger than fiction, Because, even as a fiction writer today, I could never make up a New York City crime that could quite compare to that one.
When Research Turns Deadly
By J. H. Bográn
Con Lehane’s MURDER IN THE MANUSCRIPT ROOM features a new case for his character in New York City’s 42nd Street Library. This time, a murder takes place in what may be the sanctum sanctorum of a library: a manuscript room.
Raymond Ambler is far from the typical sleuth with street smarts. He’s a thinker and an observer more than he’s an action hero. While he works in a library, Amble is in fact a curator of the library’s (fictional) crime-fiction collection. “Curators in libraries are subject-area specialists,” Lehane explains. “They don’t have to be experts in library science, which I’m not. Not that I’m an expert in crime fiction, but I know more about it than I know about library science.”
The story begins when Ambler begins to suspect that a researcher in the library—an Arab scholar studying ancient Islamic texts—might be under surveillance by some agency or other of the government. “Librarians are more committed to protecting the liberties this nation embraces than probably any other organized group—except maybe writers—including lawyers, politicians, academics, all of whom have caved in the past to ‘legitimate’ forces attempting to limit freedom of speech and inquiry in the name of protecting such things,” says Lehane.
Planting the Perfect Mystery
By E.M. Powell
Wendy Tyson is back with SEEDS OF REVENGE, the third installment in her popular Greenhouse Mystery series and has delivered another great cozy.
It opens with her heroine, professional farmer and amateur sleuth, Megan Sawyer, battling her way through a December snowstorm back to her home in the small town of Winsome. Megan picks up a female stranger stranded on the side of the road. The young woman is Becca Fox and she’s the niece of Merry Chance, Winsome’s nursery owner and town busybody. Becca thinks that her aunt is supporting her in her new perfumery business. But Merry has an ulterior motive: she wants to reunite Becca with her estranged father, Paul. Forget any idea of tearful family reunions. Becca promptly accuses her father of murdering her late mother—and he turns up dead shortly after. Megan soon realizes that Becca’s not the only person in Winsome who despised Paul. In the midst of growing threats that could ensnare her own family, Megan must uncover the truth before someone else in Winsome is murdered.
The intriguing plot that has murder and sinister events taking place against the backdrop of a chocolate box cover setting is something that Tyson very much intended. “The holiday season definitely inspired the book,” she says. “The winter holidays are often a time of contrasts. You have festive lights and gift giving and feasts, but you also have bad weather and feelings of loss and the recognition that not everyone has plenty. You have homecomings, but with homecomings come old conflicts and resentments. And on a vegetable farm, you have much needed downtime, but you also have less income. I attempted to capture those contrasts in SEEDS OF REVENGE. In Winsome, this gorgeous historic Pennsylvania town, you have an image of quintessential Christmas warmth and welcome, yet something evil is lurking beneath.”
The Fears of the Ordinary Woman
To wear a crown is no easy feat, but if anyone can carry it off, it’s Mary Higgins Clark, who has been dubbed the Queen of Suspense. With EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE, which she co-wrote with Alafair Burke, Clark delivers her 47th novel of suspense. It’s been estimated that Clark’s books have sold more than 100 million copies.
Trend watchers may say that for a few years now, the domestic thriller has been the hottest novel in suspense fiction, but Clark’s been hitting the top of the bestseller list with this type of book since the 1970s. So is she the originator of this subgenre? “Since most of my novels have a home base and involve people in normal situations whose lives are suddenly turned around, then I guess I am a domestic thriller,” Clark says.
The winner of multiple awards, Clark is the past chairman of the International Crime Congress and past president of the Mystery Writers of America. Her publisher, Simon & Schuster, funded the Mary Higgins Clark Award, given by the MWA to authors of suspense fiction.
EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE is the latest book in the Under Suspicion series Clark co-writes with Alafair Burke. The protagonist, Laurie Moran, is the producer of a cold-case-file TV series, smart and tough when she needs to be. While vulnerable over matters of the heart—and a widow with a child—Laurie Moran is fully capable of playing politics at work, which becomes necessary in this novel. The new male host is pushing for a show exonerating a man he personally knows murdered his much-older girlfriend, a wealthy woman who was thrown off the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art during an invite-only event.
Zeroing in on Emotional Challenge
It’s a problem that bedevils even the best thriller writers: when it comes to a series character, how do you strike a balance between sketching a satisfying arc and staying true to the qualities that attracted readers to your protagonist in the first place? For Jon Land, author of the Caitlin Strong series, the answer lies not in changing the character, but in challenging her.
“I start every one of the Caitlin Strong books with a concept not just for the plot, but also for a new emotional challenge facing Caitlin,” Land says. “The key word there is ‘emotional,’ because, more than gunfights, that’s what draws people to—and back to—the series.”
In STRONG TO THE BONE, Land’s eponymous heroine must face an ordeal that’s harrowing even by thriller standards. The series’ ninth installment, out this month from Forge Books, finds the fifth-generation Texas Ranger on the trail of the man who drugged and sexually assaulted her eighteen years ago. Excavating this episode from Caitlin’s past, Land says, gave him an opportunity to take his popular character into unexpected territory.
“We never knew about this incident prior to this book,” Land explains. “So making it the emotional focal point makes STRONG TO THE BONE feel fresh and original, almost like you’re reading Caitlin for the first time even if you’ve read the other eight entries in the series.”
Cait Pepper, owner of the Bening Estate vineyards, and navy SEAL Royal Tanner return to help friends who recently acquired a vineyard in Livermore, California. Sadie, an Amish girl, and her husband, Danny Lord, are excited about their new adventure of owning their own vineyard until agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency knock on their door. When Danny bought the property, he neglected to check the previous owners’ background and didn’t know about their drug connections. Desperate to save her friends from danger and embarrassment, Cait is torn between helping the Lords or the actors in her Shakespeare Festival. Will Cait’s cop skills be enough to save the Lords from the drug dealer—and the DEA—while avoiding another tragedy that could put her Shakespeare Festival in peril?
The Big Thrill caught up to author Carole Price to discuss her latest novel, VINEYARD PREY: