The Places that Haunt Us
By Dawn Ius
A dank cellar, a spooky attic, an abandoned Victorian home whose walls were once splattered with blood—these are the haunting places that fascinate Vanessa Savage, and certainly provided inspiration for her terrifying new release, THE WOMAN IN THE DARK.
Part psychological thriller, part horror, Savage’s debut is a suspenseful read that lures you into a murder house—and then immediately locks the doors, forcing you to seek comfort somewhere amid the dark and dusty corners.
“For me, it’s a natural crossover for a psychological thriller to edge into horror,” Savage says. “Beyond a look at the dark side of human nature, we get a glimpse into the unknown, and a safe way to be scared.”
THE WOMAN IN THE DARK provides tangible fear, a testament to Savage’s atmospheric prose. But the novel digs deep into the psychological well-being of its characters, tackling issues of mental health and abuse using powerful storytelling techniques. Savage leans hard on the idea of “isolation” giving “terror” a contained space in which to thrive.
Jane Stanton Hitchcock’s new crime novel—BLUFF—has been on almost every reviewer’s list of most anticipated, best books of this year. Those of us who’ve read each of her novels since she debuted Trick of the Eye in 1992—nominated for Best First Novel for both the Hammett and Edgar Awards—have waited impatiently for this latest suspenseful tale of deceit and revenge, which Hitchcock serves up brilliantly.
I’ve never known anyone like Jane Hitchcock. She’s the best-read person I’ve ever encountered—and can quote lines from Wharton to Tolstoy to Churchill to Balzac at the snap of a finger. She’s dedicated to the craft of writing, turning to a life of crime fiction after creating works for the theater and the big screen—I mean, really, who do you know who has written a play that was staged and directed in London’s West End by Harold Pinter? She’s a glamorous mainstay in a social world most of us only read about in newspapers—dining with lords and ladies, princes and kings, ambassadors—dressed in Chanel and Balenciaga when she isn’t on the treadmill in her sweats.
At some not-too-distant point in time, Hitchcock abandoned ladies’ lunches for the high-stakes poker scene, where she competes in tournaments like the World Series of Poker. She’s married to the fabulous Jim Hoagland, who has won two Pulitzers for his brilliant journalism, and who is devoted to his witty, loving, and wonderful wife.
I met Hitchcock on Martha’s Vineyard in the summer of 1987, when we were both vacationing there. I was a young prosecutor then, longing to write thrillers, and she was the only friend in my pack who believed that I could succeed at changing worlds.
Together, we’ve plotted murders in exquisite detail, exchanged killer ideas, edited each other’s pages, and given book parties—each for the other—more times than I can count. It’s a delight to talk to Hitchcock about her latest triumph.
Macgregor Delivers Synergistic Blend
of Logic and Paranormal
Joanne Macgregor is a counselling psychologist in private practice where she works mainly with victims of crime and trauma. She brings her 20 years of experience as a therapist to her writing—creating deeper characters and realistic psychological reactions. She’s the author of a number of successful books for children and young adults, and she tried her hand at a thriller, Dark Whispers, published in 2014. It was one of the scariest books I’ve read.
In her new mystery thriller, THE FIRST TIME I DIED, she’s moved venue from South Africa to winter in Vermont and added a paranormal twist, but the writing is just as tense.
When Garnet McGee returns to her small Vermont hometown for the holidays, she vows to solve the mystery of the murder that shattered her life 10 years ago. But while trying to rescue a small boy on a frozen pond, she falls through the ice and dies. After she’s resuscitated, she starts hearing voices, seeing visions, and experiencing strange sensations. As a psychology student, she suspects post-traumatic stress disorder and an overactive imagination.
However, trying to catch the killer without embracing her shadow self becomes increasingly difficult and dangerous, because in a town full of secrets, it seems like everybody has a motive for murder.
Here, she takes time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for The Big Thrill.
Guilt and Innocence on Death Row
By Neil Nyren
“If you ask a lucky person to tell you what happened on the worst day of his life, he can do so without hesitation.”
For Rafael Zhettah, the chef and owner of an up-and-coming Houston restaurant, that day was when the police told him his wife of only two years had been murdered in their home. The next worst day was when he found out he was the prime suspect. He had motive, opportunity, he’d been found with another woman, his fingerprints were on the murder weapon—but he insisted he was innocent.
“You can call me the harshest name you like, and I will not disagree….But there is one thing I am not. I am not a murderer.”
The judge and jury disagree. Texas is a death penalty state, with a very busy death row, and that is where Zhettah lands. His shock is enormous—and so is ours.
We’ve all read books about life in prison, seen the movies and television shows, read newspaper accounts, heard the podcasts. Nothing, however, will prepare you for the sheer visceral reality of what David Dow gives us in CONFESSIONS OF AN INNOCENT MAN.
That is only part of the story, however. You’ll know from the prologue that he wasn’t executed, that he is out, a free man. You won’t know how or why, but you do know something more:
“I’ve read interviews of exonerated men who spent years in prison before being released, and they always seem so serene and centered. They betray no hint of vengefulness or rage. I am not one of them.”
We’ve already been on a harrowing journey, full of twists and suspense. But as it turns out—the roller coaster ride is only just beginning.
CONFESSIONS OF AN INNOCENT MAN is an explosive novel, as page-turning a debut as you’ll read in quite a while. It’s also one of the most authentic.
“The Meek Get Nothing,”
and Other Advice from the Experts
By Dawn Ius
“The meek get nothing,” New York Times bestselling author Steve Berry told students who took part in the International Thriller Writers first Online Career School, which wrapped up last month.
It was exactly the kind of empowering advice debut author Avanti Centrae had hoped to glean from the program—the ability to take control of her career, no matter what stage she’s at in her publishing journey.
“Steve Berry’s advice to treat writing like a business echoed the theme of the class in a powerful way,” Centrae says, noting that she especially related to his suggestion that writers should always find the courage to “ask.”
Whether that’s how to approach a fellow author for a blurb, obtain sales data from your publisher, or hire a publicist to help market your book, Berry encouraged students to take an active role, especially since many publishers don’t have the resources to support marketing efforts the way they used to.
Creating Suspense Using External
and Internal Storms
By Dawn Ius
It’s often difficult to categorize a Carla Buckley book—a mystery, a novel of suspense, a domestic thriller? In the case of her latest release, it’s perhaps a little of all of the above. And as is true with each of her books, THE LIAR’S CHILD is an addictive, immersive, and propulsive read.
New York Times bestselling author Lisa Unger says “Carla Buckley has a rare gift for character” and that prowess is on full display here, not only in character depth, but also in sheer numbers—with five narrators, this is Buckley’s largest cast.
But at the heart of this story is Sara Lennox, a bit of an outcast whose intentionally quiet and simple life is upended when in the face of an incoming storm, Lennox does something completely out of character: she rescues her neighbor’s children not only from the hurricane’s path, but also from their broken home—without telling anyone.
This bold act provided inspiration for the entire novel.
Christopher Reich Returns to His Roots
with Crown Jewel
Bestselling author Christopher Reich introduces a new hero in his ninth thriller CROWN JEWEL—Simon Riske, an ex-thief turned investigator with a taste for fast cars, high-end gambling, and trouble. The novel takes place in Europe, a place Reich knows well.
While traveling the globe for research on book #10, Reich took some time to answer a few questions from The Big Thrill.
CROWN JEWEL features high finance and Swiss bank accounts, bringing back memories of your debut, Numbered Account. Does it feel like coming home, especially since you lived in Switzerland and worked in finance?
I like to set my stories in areas I love visiting or would like to live. Monaco and St. Moritz, two of the sites in CROWN JEWEL, fit the bill. Having a Swiss father, I spent much of my childhood in Europe, and, of course, my first job was with the Union Bank of Switzerland in Zurich, the setting for my novel, Numbered Account. It’s natural for me to place my characters in these locales and fashion stories based on the people who live there.
As money is the root of all evil—and thus, often figures in my thrillers—it’s natural that Swiss bank accounts play a part.
Living in the Wake of a Serial Killer
By K. L. Romo
How can a wife not know her husband is a serial killer?
In bestselling author Rachel Caine’s newest thriller, WOLFHUNTER RIVER (book three of the Stillhouse Lake series) that’s what the public still wants to understand. How could Gwen Proctor, formerly Gina Royal—the wife of serial killer Melvin Royal—not have known she slept next to a murderer every night? Gwen still asks herself this question every day. But until she’d stumbled upon his last murder—and also came close to dying by his hand—she’d had no idea.
The public won’t let her or her children forget the ordeal. Internet trolls—the Sicko Patrol—relentlessly pursue Gwen and her family. And now, Miranda Tidewell, the outspoken wealthy mother of one of Melvin’s victims, is filming a documentary about her belief that Gwen was not only aware of the killings, but helped to plan them. Gwen and Sam Cade, the brother of one victim and now Gwen’s partner, try to stay one step ahead of the public’s outrage and keep their kids safe. Easier said than done.
To further complicate matters, Gwen can’t escape the phone calls from other women who suspect someone they know might be a murderer. The latest comes from a woman named Marlene in Wolfhunter River. Although disturbed, Gwen isn’t convinced she should get involved—but when Marlene’s 15-year-old daughter calls, terrified she’ll be the next to die, Gwen has no choice but to investigate.
Something terrifying is happening in Wolfhunter River, and now Gwen’s family is in even more danger. Will Gwen be able to protect herself and her children from everyone who wants them dead?
The Secret to Penning a Run Away Thriller
By Dawn Ius
Harlan Coben was sitting on a bench in Central Park watching a musician play some John Lennon when the first scene of his new thriller, RUN AWAY, came to him.
In it, his protagonist—successful Wall Street financial advisor Simon Greene—is sitting on that same bench when he realizes the panhandler in front of him is his drug-addicted daughter, Paige, whom he hasn’t seen in six months.
When he tries to approach her, Paige runs, leading Simon—and readers—down a dangerous trail of secrets, violence, and suspense in a novel that many are calling Coben’s best yet.
The praise comes as somewhat of a surprise to Coben, who admits that even after 31 books, 70 million copies sold, and several successful Netflix productions, his primary goal for every story is to tell one better than the last.
“It’s very hard for me to be objective about these things,” he says. “But I do love this book. And I think it’s resonating for a lot of reasons.”
Not the least of which is the end—a final “twist” that leaves a haunting, lingering effect, long after you’ve navigated the book’s winding journey through hard-hitting themes such as drug abuse, the prevalence of cults, and the impact of DNA technology.
Coben admits he did take an ancestry test—with somewhat disappointing results—but that’s about the extent of his research for this book. Actually, it’s about as much research as he would do for any book.
Unlikely Duo Pen Explosive Thriller
By Dawn Ius
Gary Grossman is no stranger to fiction—he’s a multiple Emmy Award-winning producer and author of bestselling international thrillers including Executive Actions, Executive Treason, and Executive Command. Ed Fuller, on the other hand, comes to thriller writing from a slightly different background.
As a hospitality industry leader, educator, and bestselling author of business books, Fuller might not seem the most logical writing partner for someone with both feet firmly planted in fiction. But the dynamic duo have paired up for RED HOTEL, the explosive first novel in a planned series starring Dan Reilly, a former army intelligence officer turned hotel executive with high-level access to the CIA.
The novel begins with a terrorist attack on a Tokyo hotel, killing dozens of innocents, and producing one suspect—a man Reilly will stop at nothing to track down. The plot moves at breakneck pace and that proves a somewhat unorthodox duo can absolutely produce a riveting commercial thriller.
“When I decided to write a novel, I knew I needed expertise and did not want a ghostwriter, but a partner,” Fuller says. “A friend, Bruce Feirstein, who has been an author and written numerous screenplays, introduced me to Gary.”
By Azam Gill
Christina Hoag’s latest mystery, ANGEL’S LUST, has readers applauding its fast pace, deft characterizations, and unconventional take on the police procedural subgenre.
When an unidentified male body is found in an alley, LAPD Detective Verity Thrett suspects murder most foul. The investigation is burdened with the ambitions of Detective Finbar McNab, a brash new transfer who’ll stop at nothing to get his derailed career back on track. As the detectives investigate the possible homicide, they uncover the existence of a secretive BDSM club and a trail of sex trafficking that leads to solving a cold-case murder.
“I’m fascinated with people who lead double lives,” says Hoag, on the dynamics that drive her new thriller. “People often have secrets that are completely at odds with their public persona. Of course, this is a natural for all fiction writing, but especially handy for mystery and thriller writers. In this book, I explore people’s hidden sexual lives and how this led to a cover-up of a murder and formed the basis of a lucrative business. The detectives unravel these secrets in the course of the investigation, not suspecting where it will lead.”
Hoag’s two other book-length fictional works are the noir crime novel Skin of Tattoos, a finalist for the 2017 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award for Suspense, and the YA thriller Girl on the Brink, named one of Suspense Magazine’s Best of 2016. She has contributed stories to several anthologies, and her short stories have been published in literary reviews.
Besides her fiction work, Hoag is the co-author of Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence, about gang violence mediation and intervention—a subject that caught Hoag’s interest years ago, when she interviewed several Hells Angels about their holiday toy drive. “I found their lifestyle fascinating,” Hoag says. “Later, I was doing a magazine story about gang members from Los Angeles deported to their native El Salvador. It struck me as an odd consequence of immigration, and that became the genesis of my novel Skin of Tattoos. When I moved to Los Angeles in 2008, I worked for the Associated Press and I covered a lot of gang issues—LA being the world capital of street gangs. So, I became more interested in how and why they operate.”
By P. J. Bodnar
When critically-acclaimed investigative journalist Caitlin Bergman is invited back to her alma mater to accept the degree she wasn’t able to complete, she isn’t sure she can—it’s in a place she’s avoided for 20 years.
Realizing she can’t avoid her demons forever, she agrees to go. But while accepting her diploma, she’s drawn into the investigation of a missing student and is forced to face those demons head on.
Author August Norman grew up in central Indiana, but his adopted home has been Los Angeles for the past 20 years. He’s currently working on the follow-up to COME AND GET ME.
Here, he sits down with The Big Thrill to answer a few questions about his heart-pounding debut.
You have written and appeared in movies, television, and stage. Which of these formats do you enjoy the most, and would you rather perform or write for them?
When in doubt, and this goes for most parts of my life, I’d rather be writing, followed by talking about writing, then reading. An actor’s product is market dependent, meaning you can call yourself an actor all you want, but until someone casts you in a project, you’re waiting by the phone for permission to practice your craft, let alone get paid. As a writer, no one can stop you from creating art. They might not buy it, but it’s yours to refine and/or obsess about until finally thrusting it into the world. As far as formats, I love the constraints of TV and film, since you really need to tell your story quickly. But in my experience, long-form fiction’s depth of character exploration and ability to play with the language allows me a far more personal exchange with the reader.
By Karen Harper
Melinda Leigh’s books are known for their suspense, but her in-depth characters and the family dynamics of her stories also keep readers coming back for more.
Since scoring a Best First Novel nomination in the ITW Thriller Awards for her 2011 debut, She Can Run, Leigh has gone on to publish 18 novels and a string of novellas co-authored with fellow Wall Street Journal bestseller Kendra Elliot. Leigh is currently juggling several ongoing series, including one centered on prosecutor-turned-defense attorney Morgan Dane and her partner, private investigator Lance Kruger. If you love continuing character series where you can really get to know the people in the story, Leigh’s latest Morgan Dane thriller, SECRETS NEVER DIE, is for you.
The Big Thrill recently caught up with Leigh for an inside look at her latest page turner, which finds Dane once again on the trail of a killer.
Seven strangers in a mansion on a luxurious private island. Odd accidents. One by one, they fall. Agatha Christie? Think again.
While THEY ALL FALL DOWN does pay homage to Christie’s most famous work, And Then There Were None, Rachel Howzell Hall’s upcoming release offers a modern take on the locked room mystery.
Miriam Macy, a 45-year-old black woman, accepts an offer to take part in a reality show, only to discover there is something sinister on Mictlan Island, located somewhere in the Sea of Cortez.
With a release date set for April 9, the novel has already earned advance praise from thriller luminaries like Attica Locke, Sara Paretsky, Meg Gardiner, Kristen Lepionka, and James Patterson.
The Big Thrill caught up with Hall—author of the critically acclaimed Lou Norton series— who says with THEY ALL FALL DOWN, she wanted to try something different.
“I remember watching Neil Simon’s Murder by Death. Learning that Simon used And Then There Were None as a foundation for the story made it more interesting, because of my familiarity with the seven deadly sins and Dante’s Inferno,” she says. “ I wanted to have fun with the characters, and I think what was most difficult was finding out ways to murder them according to their sin.
In the dying days of World War II, Pavel Romasko and his Red Army colleagues pick their way through the detritus of a dying Berlin. Stumbling upon the smoking remains of a Nazi bunker, they find something inside that eclipses the horror of even the worst excesses in the city above them.
As the war ends, retribution begins. But some revenge cannot be taken at once. Some revenge takes years.
Which is how, 70 years later, FBI agent Carla Romero and New York lawyer Gabriel Hall are enlisted to investigate a series of blood-chilling crimes that seem to have their roots in the distant past—even though the suffering they cause is all too present. And for one of them, the disappearance of young women is a particularly personal matter.
Author Gary Haynes took some time to meet with The Big Thrill and discuss his latest thriller, THE BLAMELESS DEAD:
Two determined bowhunters, lured by what they believe is a magnificent trophy book elk, search a remote and forgotten corner of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, only to discover an ancient demonic entity hidden away from the civilized world…until now.
The region was considered by the First Nations People to be sacred and forbidden due to its dark and secret history. Most of the locals have always respected this, but the obsession, the delusion of harvesting a trophy animal makes some men cross boundaries.
Join the two hunters on their unique adventure and witness the horrifying evil that is awakened to bestow humanity a glimpse into its accursed future.
Their world, the earth . . . nothing will ever be the same again.
The Big Thrill caught up to author Russ Meidinger for a quick Q&A about his second novel, SKUDAKUMOOCH:
Stag Maguire, a burnt-out journalist hardly able to prop himself up in the wake of tragedy, agrees to help a friend move. They find an urgent message—HELP ME—written on a piece of silk tacked behind a long-forgotten portrait. The message from an address in Berlin is urgent—though it had to have been written pre-World War II.
Curious, Stag and his friend begin to research the address and whoever might have written the message. They trace the address to an apartment, a sealed time capsule that has not been lived in since 1942. And from one phone call to that apartment, the men unleash a nefarious plot and brutal security forces long thought vanquished.
Events begin to cascade without mercy, and Stag—a broken man from the Midwest—finds himself pitted against a vestige of the Third Reich with powerful forces ensuring the propagation of Heydrich’s infamous SD—Nazi’s intelligence agency—in today’s world.
Will ordinary-man Stag Maguire prevail in his lone stand against evil?
Author T R Kenneth discussed her thriller, A ROOM FULL OF NIGHT, with The Big Thrill, and here’s what she had to say:
When Cole Quick returns to his estranged hometown of Teller, Texas, for his alcoholic father’s funeral, it doesn’t take long for old debts, both criminal and psychological, to drag him back into the underworld he fled 13 years earlier.
Fresh off the death of his wife, a former local debutante who swore off her inheritance to skip town with him, Cole soon finds trouble from her family on the other side of the tracks as well.
To escape Teller County with his life intact he’ll have to solve an old friend’s murder, resist powerful forces conspiring to pillage his inheritance, and crack open the debutante town’s sterile outer shell to reveal the dark forces of racism, classism, and corruption operating just beneath the surface.
Author Michael Pool was kind enough to spend some time with The Big Thrill discussing his second novel, ROSE CITY:
Audrey Eames is happy living the wanderer’s life. After a near-death experience in her teens, Audrey can see people’s past lives whenever her skin touches theirs, and afraid of being labeled delusional, she’s never stayed in one place too long or made any deep connections.
So, when Audrey’s estranged aunt dies and leaves her the historic Soberly Inn and Public House on the scenic Oregon coast, Audrey wants nothing to do with it. She is determined to sell the inn and leave town before someone discovers the power she’s been hiding from the world, but clauses in her aunt’s will seem to block her at every turn.
Yet once ensconced in Soberly’s small town life, the people—particularly the bartender, Kellen Greene—start to grow on her, and she begins to feel that maybe she’s finally found a place of her own. As accepting as the townspeople seem, Audrey fears their reactions—and Kellen’s rejection—and decides to keep her visions a secret. But all is not well in Soberly. Soon after Audrey arrives, people in town start dying in the same manner as in their past lives—but in this lifetime it’s murder. When suspicion starts to fall on Audrey and her new beau Kellen, Audrey vows to use her gift to find the murderer and protect the people she loves—before it’s too late.
Author Nicole Bross met up with The Big Thrill to share some insight into her debut thriller, PAST PRESENCE:
In Anchorage, Alaska, Yup’ik Eskimo chief financial officer and single mother, Esther Fancyboy, walks out of a party and into a blizzard. She is never seen again, leaving behind a seven-year-old son, Evan. The local cops say she’ll come home when she’s done partying, but family friend Maeve Malloy doesn’t think it’s that simple. She goes looking for Esther just as she’s getting bad news of her own, a career-ending accusation.
When Esther’s body turns up in a snow berm and a witness is shot to death in front of Maeve, she suspects Evan might be in danger. Maeve must race against time to save the boy–along with her career, and maybe her life.
The Big Thrill caught up to author Keenan Powell to discuss the second installment in her Maeve Malloy mystery series, HEMLOCK NEEDLE:
Big Anthony Tagliabue is a local character whose woman owns a stable on the eponymous island. She is secretly training a promising filly for the track when she discovers that Tagliabue also harbors a secret: he accepts assignments from a cryptic agent named Giselle. The latest one involves a Russian spy ship transiting the coast on her way back to Saint Petersburg. It’s another dangerous mission from Giselle and it’s complicated by his quest to solve the murder of his mate.
Award-winning writer Paul A. Barra took time out of his hectic schedule to discuss his latest thriller, WESTFARROW ISLAND, with The Big Thrill:
In Russia, the military is anxious to assert its military strength and regain its role as a superpower. The Russian President refuses to greenlight a bold plan to disable American strategic nuclear capability and retake the Ukraine and the Baltic States, fearing the potential consequences of involving nuclear weapons. But the generals won’t have it and at their first opportunity, they overthrow the president in a military coup. Then they use a narrow window to initiate their bold plan—the Zolotov option—which will render all of America’s B2 bombers and ballistic missiles useless. With the US off the board, they swiftly invade the Ukraine with an overwhelming force, an invading army that even NATO can’t hope to resist.
The Big Thrill spent some time with bestselling author Rick Campbell to discuss his latest military thriller, TREASON:
After her husband is controversially acquitted of multiple crimes, now-divorced Abbie Forrest escapes to the peaceful rural town of Taylor’s Bend, intent on focusing on her career as a landscape artist. Estranged from her sister and daughter, Abbie tries hard to forge new relationships in the small community without revealing her own secrets.
Town policeman Rupert Perry is attracted to the quiet woman who lives alone on a large block 15 minutes from town. But Rupe is happy with what he has—part-time hours, a friendly, inclusive community, and freedom to grieve for his late wife away from the well-meaning but overwhelming concern of his old friends.
When a series of peculiar and increasingly frightening events threaten Abbie, she is forced to turn to Rupe for help. But will he be able to prevent the escalation of terror as past wrongs demand revenge?
Author Elisabeth Rose spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest thriller, THE SECRETS THAT LIE WITHIN:
Anthems like “We Got the Beat,” “Our Lips Are Sealed,” and “Vacation” are an indelible part of our collective soundtrack, but more than that, they speak to the power and possibility of youth.
Inspired by punk but not yoked to it, the Go-Go’s broke important musical ground by combining cheeky lyrics, clever hooks, and catchy melodies, perfectly capturing what it feels like to be young and female in the process.
But beyond the Go-Go’s’ effervescent sound and cheerful pop stylings, a darkness underlies many of their lyrics and melodies, hinting at the heartache and frustration inherent in growing up. In other words, plenty to inspire murder and mayhem.
Net proceeds from MURDER A GO-GO’S benefit Planned Parenthood, a crucial provider of women’s affordable reproductive healthcare.
With a foreword by Go-Go’s co-founder Jane Wiedlin and original stories by 25 kick-ass authors, editor Holly West has put together an all-star crime fiction anthology inspired by one of the most iconic bands of the 80s and beyond.
To learn more about this unique collection of stories, The Big Thrill caught up to editor Holly West:
Natalie March is a successful surgeon enjoying a busy life in Washington DC. As her demanding career has left little time for friends or romance, her deepest relationship is with her mother, Vera March, a Russian immigrant and MS patient confined to a rehab center. Vera is still haunted by the fact that her Ukrainian parents were sent to the gulag, Stalin’s notorious network of labor camps, when she was just a baby. All her life she has presumed that they perished there along with millions of other Russian citizens. Natalie would do anything to heal her mother’s psychic pain: it’s the one wound that she, a doctor, cannot mend.
When a young Russian dancer comes to Natalie’s office claiming to be her cousin, and providing details about her family that no stranger could know, Natalie must face a surprising truth: her grandmother, Katarina Melnikova, is still very much alive. Natalie is thrilled to think that her Russian relatives are reaching out after so many years. In fact, her cousin has a darker motive for making contact. Suggesting that her family is in grave danger from Putin’s government, she pleads for Natalie’s help to defect, and Natalie soon finds herself caught in a web of shocking family secrets that will pit her against Russian security forces and even elements within her own government.
How far will Natalie go to find Katarina M. and satisfy her mother’s deepest wish?
Masterfully plotted and beautifully written, FINDING KATARINA M. takes the reader on an extraordinary journey across Siberia—to reindeer herding camps, Russian prisons, Sakha villages, and parties with endless vodka toasts—while it explores what it means to be loyal to one’s family, one’s country, and ultimately to oneself.
Acclaimed author Elisabeth Elo spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest thriller, FINDING KATARINA M.:
Carter’s a homicide cop in Titanshade, an oil boomtown where 8-tracks are state of the art, disco rules the radio, and all the best sorcerers wear designer labels. It’s also a metropolis teetering on the edge of disaster. As its oil reserves run dry, the city’s future hangs on a possible investment from the reclusive amphibians known as Squibs.
But now negotiations have been derailed by the horrific murder of a Squib diplomat. Undermined by corrupt coworkers and falsified evidence, and with a suspect list that includes power-hungry politicians, oil magnates, and mad scientists, Carter must find the killer before the investigation turns into a witch-hunt and those closest to him pay the ultimate price on the filthy streets of Titanshade.
The Big Thrill caught up to author Dan Stout to discuss his debut thriller, TITANSHADE:
By Dan Levy
Writers tend to stick to the type of writing they know. It’s rare when a successful poet also becomes a playwright, or the creator of award-winning radio spots pens a screenplay that makes it onto the big screen.
Even more rare is the engineer who spends a career writing aeronautical technical reports and then gets a thriller published. And then another. Unless, of course, you’re J. E. Holling—whose second novel, AN EVIL AMONG US, released in early March.
“I had no formal education with respect to writing,” Holling says. “Over the course of my education, I took English and composition and wrote book reports in grade school. Then, I took more comprehensive writing when I was in the higher grades.”
Holling says that over the course of his career, he learned to value the importance of clear communication. That helped him with his fiction writing, but still, the shift was a challenge.
“(Technical writing) helped in the sense of establishing structure,” he says. “If you’re going to put technical detail in a story—or a technical report—it has to be structured right. That helped me come up with the overall structure of the novel. The one thing that technical writing did not help me with, or prepare me for, was writing dialogue. There is no dialogue in a technical report.”
The psychological thriller might be the most challenging type to write well, but Laurie Stevens has cracked that code as she demonstrates with her new release, THE MASK OF MIDNIGHT.
The story starts when Los Angeles homicide detective Gabriel McRay confronts an old enemy, Victor Archwood, at that killer’s trial. A surprise courtroom twist surfaces, putting Archwood in the position to get revenge on McRay. One of the sweet twists here is that McRay is a series protagonist who does not see himself as a hero because, as author Stevens says, he sees himself as too damaged. But he’s getting better.
“In the first book, The Dark Before Dawn, you probably would have found him abrasive and short-tempered,” Stevens says. “In THE MASK OF MIDNIGHT Gabriel has undergone some psychotherapy and is a pretty likable guy.”
In this type of fiction, it’s a great villain that makes a hero great. And the theatrical Victor Archwood fills that role to perfection.
“Vic approaches his ‘tasks’ with a certain flair that provides him a lot of entertainment,” Stevens says. “Also, he’s obsessed with the protagonist. Years before, the detective had babysat Vic as a boy, as a Big Brother type, only things went haywire. Now, Vic blames Gabriel for ruining his life. The past plays on Gabriel as well, which makes it easier for Vic to get at him.”
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lynn Cahoon combines dark themes with light-hearted fun in all three of her cozy mystery series: the Tourist Trap series, featuring the owner of a small coffee/book shop; the Farm-to-Fork series, featuring the owner of an Idaho farm-to-table restaurant; and the Cat Latimer series, featuring a Colorado English professor who owns a bed and breakfast. As the titles suggest, these books are comfort food for the mind, and Cahoon often hears from readers who say that her stories have helped them through difficult times.
A prolific writer, Cahoon has 51 distinct titles listed on Goodreads. She writes 2,000 words a day, five days a week, and has been on this pace since beginning her upcoming Farm-to-Fork book in February. “Ten thousand a week gives me a good pace and keeps me in the story,” she says.
Asked how she manages to maintain this demanding schedule while holding down a day job, she says, “I write in bursts. Two fifteen-minute breaks, words at lunch, complete my words as soon as I get home. Then my evening is free. This is a release week so I’m a little behind in words, but I’ll catch up on Saturday. Writing until I hit the 10K.”
Then she adds, “All the other things fall in after the words. Always get the words first.”
No person is left unscathed, no family untouched. Death grows insatiable.
Alana Vaughn, an infectious diseases expert with NATO, is urgently summoned to Genoa by an ex-lover to examine a critically ill patient. She’s stunned to discover that the illness is a recurrence of the Black Death. Alana soon suspects bioterrorism, but her WHO counterpart, Byron Menke, disagrees. In their desperate hunt to track down Patient Zero, they stumble across an 800-year-old monastery and a medieval journal that might hold the secret to the present-day outbreak. With the lethal disease spreading fast and no end in sight, it’s a race against time to uncover the truth before millions die.
Author Daniel Kalla shared some insight with The Big Thrill about his 10th novel WE ALL FALL DOWN:
When SFPD Homicide Inspector Nick Jarnac investigates the murder of a 19-year-old girl missing for 40 years, her skeleton found in the mud of a construction site near the remains of two dozen Miwok Indians who have been in the ground for two centuries, he becomes involved in a bizarre, complex plot that involves a Macau-based Mafia chief, several crooked state and local politicians, a cross-dressing Mongolian hit man, a 77-year-old private eye and his burned out ex-SFPD partner, who is hoping to make one last big haul before leaving the department.
Award-winning author Jerry Kennealy spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest crime thriller, SILENT REMAINS:
By George Ebey
Caitlin Starling brings us an unsettling tale of terror with her much-lauded debut novel, THE LUMINOUS DEAD.
Gyre Price lies her way onto a solo caving expedition on a mining planet, following the promise of a hefty paycheck and a skilled topside crew to keep her company and help her survive the dangers she’ll face below ground. Instead, she gets Em.
Deceitful, single-minded, and dangerous, Em won’t hesitate to put Gyre in danger to further her own ends. Gyre refuses to die for Em, but finding a way to stop her means staying in the depths of the cave a little longer. And yet the deeper she goes, the less certain Gyre is that she’s alone underground. The way out is long and treacherous, and Em and Gyre might just need each other to survive…
Starling’s debut has earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly, along with favorable comparisons to Andy Weir’s The Martian and Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation. The Big Thrill recently caught up with Starling to discuss her chilling new story.
By Tim O’Mara
Lisa Towles, award-winning author of Choke, ventures into what for many readers will be familiar territory in her latest novel, THE UNSEEN.
Forty years ago, archaeologist Rachel Careski discovered an ancient scroll, which threatened the power of the Church. Descendants of Pope Theophilus, sworn to protect Christianity, believe that Rachel’s brother, Soren Careski, took possession of the deadly scroll after Rachel vanished. But Soren is dead.
Forty years later, Soren’s son, Alex, receives an email from his dead father’s account with an image of the scroll. The same day, Alex’s wife, Simone, is kidnapped, and in London, two antiquarian texts go missing from the British Museum.
The rest, as they say, is fiction.
THE UNSEEN is bound to remind many readers of the works of Dan Brown and other “ancient secret” mystery novels.
“Let me say first that if THE UNSEEN was sharing a bookshelf with one of Dan Brown’s books, it would be an honor,” Towles says. “There are similarities in that THE UNSEEN has two separate story threads that eventually weave together and become inseparably entwined. This is a pattern I see in a lot of thrillers. So, although it’s action-packed, I think the real thrust is the legend of Alex’s past, his family history, his father’s lifelong work, and the hidden artifact that’s influenced centuries of crimes.”
Those separate storylines juggle many characters, and in less deft hands, it might be hard to keep so many balls in the air. Towles makes it look easy.
Richie Makepeace flees to South America after being framed for a double murder in Miami. After settling on La Vaca, a classic tiny town on the edge of the Colombian jungle, he meets Vicki Freeman, a top fashion model with a thing for “bad boys.” While Richie fights falling for her, she and her rich boyfriend devise a wild “adventurous” plan that will rely on Richie helping them, something he does not want to do. But with cash running out, he concedes and sets up what will result in chaos, backstabbing, and bloodshed. The rules of the jungle will prevail and those unprepared will pay the highest price.
Author Glenn A. Bruce carved some time out of his busy schedule to meet with The Big Thrill and discuss his adventure thriller, BANANA REPUBLIC: RICHIE’S RUN:
What if Michael Jordan played one secret pickup game in summer 1996 to pay off a debt so big it would get him banned from the NBA for life? What if that game was on a private court in Malta, and Jordan’s parting gift was a jewel-encrusted pair of Jordan 11s for the king, a pair of shoes so special and rare that they could be worth millions—if they exist?
Follow Jack Palms on a hunt from San Francisco to Hawaii and back across the country as he tracks the man who knows the truth about these shoes, a felon who just skipped bond to chase his dream—and the mythical pair of sneakers that can only go by one name.
The Big Thrill caught up to Seth Harwood to discuss his latest novel, THE MALTESE JORDANS:
Nikki Griffin isn’t your typical private investigator. In her office above her bookstore’s shelves and stacks, where she luxuriates in books and the comfort they provide, she also tracks certain men. Dangerous men. Men who have hurt the women they claim to love. And Nikki likes to teach those men a lesson, to teach them what it feels like to be hurt and helpless, so she can be sure that their victims are safe from them forever.
When a regular PI job tailing Karen, a tech company’s disgruntled employee who might be selling secrets, turns ugly and Karen’s life is threatened, Nikki has to break cover and intervene. Karen tells Nikki that there are people after her. Dangerous men. She says she’ll tell Nikki what’s really going on. But then something goes wrong, and suddenly Nikki is no longer just solving a case—she’s trying hard to stay alive.
Part Lisbeth Salander, part Jack Reacher, part Jessica Jones, Nikki Griffin is a kick-ass character who readers will root for as she seeks to right the world’s wrongs. S. A. Lelchuk’s SAVE ME FROM DANGEROUS MEN marks the beginning of a gripping new series and the launch of a fabulous new character.
The Big Thrill caught up to S. A. Lelchuk to discuss his debut novel, SAVE ME FROM DANGEROUS MEN:
In the tiny village of Caperucita Roja, Mexico, in a laneway just off the main square, stands an old wall. Plaster-cracked and hung with bougainvillea, it’s been painted with a picture of nine running wolves. The image is faded nearly invisible, but the right words can turn the wolves loose—and once set free, they can’t be called back.
A thousand miles north, in Santa Teresa, California, the beach pavilion is in full swing. The oceanfront is overflowing with good bourbon and hot neon, and the Mills Brothers are headlining at the Montelindo Hotel. The sun is warm, the swimming pools are blue—and the very worst fairy tales are coming to life.
This is Springtime 1948—perfume and color so real you’ll want to stay. The wolves are running, and Annie’s back.
Author Bob Bickford spent sometime with The Big Thrill offering insight into his latest thriller, THE ORANGE GROOVE:
Carys Jones is a rare book authenticator working for a prestigious Boston auction house whose fondest wish is to be left alone to pursue her single-minded love of old manuscripts. Her life is simple and uncomplicated until the day her favorite client, John Harper, a wealthy tech entrepreneur and collector of British Dark Age manuscripts, ends up in a psychiatric hospital suffering from hallucinations and mania.
Sent by her boss to authenticate Harper’s collection for a planned sale, Carys is given an offer she can’t refuse: Harper’s entire library of priceless manuscripts in exchange for her help tracking down a tomb described in a single, previously unknown and unrecorded ancient journal. Harper has come to believe through years of exhaustive research that this manuscript is the memoir of the personal priest of one of the most enigmatic figures in history, King Arthur. The monk’s manuscript not only recounts the king’s exploits, but reveals the location of the king’s tomb—and the vast treasure buried with it. Carys accepts the offer and launches her quest.
But Jones and Harper aren’t the only ones looking for the tomb. Martin Gyles, a ruthless, psychopathic black market antiquities dealer, seeks to derail Carys’s search on behalf of an anonymous client. The hunt takes Carys to places she never thought she’d go, both physically and emotionally: first to Wales, her estranged father’s homeland, then to bed with Dafydd, a mysterious Welshman who agrees to help her with the search, and finally, deep inside her own psyche, when the monk who wrote the journal 1,500 years ago appears and assists her in her search.
Author Kris Frieswick took time out of her busy schedule to meet with The Big Thrill and discuss her historical thriller, THE GHOST MANUSCRIPT:
Legends surrounding Rose’s death surface in, of all places, Ukraine during the Chernobyl disaster’s 25th anniversary. Deaths of old men and relatives researching what happened in 1939 have bizarre connections: Murder-suicides in retirement communities, so-called single vehicle accidents, a Chernobyl serial killer, a safe deposit box in one of the Twin Towers in 2001, heroin as a cough remedy, competition between crime families, and even agents working for Putin. The six-degrees-of-separation theory from Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy’s 1929 short story “Chain-Links” comes to life, connecting past and present.
The Big Thrill caught up to author Michael Beres and delved into his historical thriller, THE GIRL WITH 39 GRAVES:
Weaving the Hidden History
of a Girl Most Likely
By Alex Segura
If you’re a fan of hardboiled fiction or comics, the name Max Allan Collins is a familiar one. His CV is loaded with enough awards and accolades to make Meryl Streep blush. He’s written shelves of prose and lengthy runs starring characters like Dick Tracy and Batman. With a list of accomplishments that can be counted in miles, you’d think the veteran writer would settle into a comfortable routine, using the handful of tools and tricks he’s honed over decades to continue to create engaging and compelling narratives.
Well, you’d be wrong.
Collins’s latest, GIRL MOST LIKELY, is unlike any of his previous novels—except in one respect: it’s an addictive, propulsive read that lingers with the reader, loaded with the kind of thrilling, memorable characters that appear almost fully-formed. The protagonist of GIRL MOST LIKELY is Krista Larson, a woman in her late 20s who’s made a bit of history as the nation’s youngest police chief. As the top cop of a small Midwest town, Krista boasts a fine, blue blood pedigree: her father was a detective himself. While the job of small-town police chief can be boring on the busiest days, Krista’s routines get derailed soon enough.