A Haunting Tale Close to Home
By J. H. Bográn
Karen Dionne’s hardcover thriller has garnered incredible advance praise and starred reviews, and is quickly becoming a familiar name on many readers’ lists for 2017. All well-deserved, as THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER is a haunting tale with a vengeance. This story of a child born to a kidnapped woman and her captor combines a coming-of-age story with a thriller, and, according to Lee Child, “sensationally good psychological suspense”—all wrapped in the voice of a strong character named Helena.
“I’ve always been intrigued by people who rise above a less-than-perfect childhood,” Dionne says, “and certainly Helena’s situation is extreme. That said, I didn’t consciously decide to tell the story of such a woman; instead, I woke up in the night with the first sentences of THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER fully formed in my head. I wasn’t dreaming about this character, she was just there, talking to me.”
As most writers and thinkers know, middle-of-the-night ideas don’t always look quite as wonderful in the morning, but this one did, and Dionne wrote a few paragraphs in the character’s voice. Those paragraphs now comprise the first page of the novel. THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER shares the title with an old children’s story, and the connection came not long after the original idea.
“I love books that offer a modern spin on a fairy tale, such as Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child, so I pulled my childhood fairy tale books off the shelf and started paging through them. When I discovered Hans Christian Anderson’s ‘The Marsh King’s Daughter,’ I knew this dark, complex tale would form the perfect backbone for Helena’s story.”
Most people agree that a story is only as good as its antagonist. In this case, Helena’s father, Jacob, fills the spot with flying colors.
Writing Books to Be Proud Of
By R.G. Belsky
It was 30 years ago that Scott Turow’s blockbuster debut legal thriller Presumed Innocent became a publishing phenomenon—and he’s still going strong.
Turow’s new book, TESTIMONY, features all the gripping courtroom drama, shocking plot twists, and compelling characters that the author is famous for. But this time there’s something new: The setting is far away from his familiar Kindle County.
Bill ten Boom, a lawyer and ex-prosecutor, has left Kindle County to start a new life with a job at the International Criminal Court in The Hague–where he needs to investigate claims of a Bosnia massacre of 400 gypsy refugees more than a decade earlier in which American NATO troops are a prime suspect.
“It’s a little more than the standard midlife crisis,” Turow says of the Bill ten Boom character. “As it turns out, his is related to having found out at age of 40 that his parents and thus he are not completely who he thought they were. That’s the event that has been bubbling beneath the surface for him. He jettisons one thing after another–his marriage, his job, his country.”
Turow says he’s wanted to write a novel set in the international court for a long time, even since he visited The Hague and talked to lawyers there back in 2000. He had to do a lot of research on the story line about a fictional Bosnia massacre and the Roma (gypsies) for this book, but not so much on the international courtroom itself.
“The court was a lot easier,” he explained. “Evidence is evidence…the basic concepts of criminal investigation and prosecution are pretty much the same.”
Falling in Love With Mackinac Island
Unlike most of the suspense/thriller/mystery authors I know, who usually get an idea for a book through character or plot, I always begin with setting. If I can find a place that intrigues me, I’m good to go to create a storyline and characters. I have done this numerous times and have been inspired to write suspense novels set in Amish country, backwoods Appalachia, and Southwest Florida. And when I visited unique Mackinac Island in northern Michigan, I fell in love with the setting and the possibilities for a book.
Unique: No cars allowed on this island; it’s all carriages and wagons. The police ride bicycles. Hundreds of horses are imported for the tourist season but are taken off for the winter when snowmobiles, sleds, and skis prevail. And the island ices in in the winter. Unless you want to catch one of the few airplane flights ($52 one way), or ride the ice bridge on a snowmobile between old Christmas trees stuck in the ice, you’re marooned. Ah, a place for a closed room (or island) murder mystery!
A sealed-off island setting implies the enemy is often “us,” someone you know; that’s the kind of books I like to write. So even though this novel is #3 in a South Shores Series, I made an exception for Mackinac and put a north shore in the series. In FALLING DARKNESS, the island is the location my characters are placed by WITSEC to hide out be protected from the man who wants to shut them up permanently. Surely, he’d never find them there…
A Thriller With a Spiritual Message
Sally Andrew’s debut novel, Recipes for Love and Murder, became an instant success around the world. Alexander McCall Smith said it was “a vivid, amusing and immensely enjoyable read” and called it “a triumph.” Tannie Maria is a memorable character, tenacious but sympathetic, and fixated on cooking and food. In the sequel, THE SATANIC MECHANIC, we start getting hints of what this fixation is about and start to see more deeply into her character as her relationship with Detective Henk Kannemeyer flounders. This is a deeper book than Recipes, but it has the same fun and flair. And great recipes, of course!
Tannie Maria is a wonderful character. Steeped in the traditions of the Karoo, “cooking with love,” and caring, but she’s also as hard as steel when she has to be. Did you set out to understand Tannie Maria more deeply in the new book, or did she just decide to tell you?
My decisions and Tannie Maria’s decisions are usually entwined. One of us may start with an idea and the other will run with it. There were questions raised in the first book about Tannie Maria’s relationship with her late abusive husband, and how this impacted on her psychology. Many women suffer from PTSD after chronic abuse, but I was not explicit about exploring this in Recipes. In THE SATANIC MECHANIC, I go deeper into Maria’s PTSD symptoms. I also show that there is a problematic aspect to her food-obsession (which in book one could have been interpreted merely as a passion for cooking).
A Touch of Clairvoyance
Among Norway’s most popular exports are thrillers written by Jo Nesbø. And yet, English readers had to wait almost 20 years to become acquainted with author Anne Holt, who Nesbø calls “the godmother of Norwegian crime fiction.” Her first book translated into English, 1222, was shortlisted for Edgar, Shamus, and Macavity Awards in 2012, but it was actually her eighth novel featuring lesbian police officer Hanne Wilhelmsen. Holt has also written several standalone thrillers and another series, which follows the duo Johanne Vik and Adam Sturbø. One of these books, Fear Not, was recently adapted for Swedish television as Modus.
Her latest release is ODD NUMBERS, the ninth and penultimate installment of the Hanne Wilhelmsen series. With the explosive start of a deadly bombing directed against the Islamic Cooperation Council headquarters in Oslo, it’s a race against time to identify those responsible before another attack—perhaps during the 17th of May Constitution Day celebrations. Her in-depth exploration into extremism in all its forms gives the complicated storyline a powerful urgency. Not surprising with Anne Holt’s background as a journalist, a lawyer for the Oslo Police Department, and even a brief stint as Norway’s Minister of Justice.
By Sam Wiebe
Sheena Kamal is one of the most exciting new voices in crime fiction. Her debut novel, THE LOST ONES (Eyes Like Mine in the UK), is a harrowing, fast-paced thriller that introduces Nora Watts, an assistant to a legal investigator in Vancouver whose personal demons led to her giving up her child for adoption years ago. When the adoptive parents get in touch to tell Nora her now-teenaged daughter has gone missing, Nora must confront all sorts of danger to find her.
I sat down with Sheena to discuss setting novels in Vancouver, balancing humor with thrills, and literary influences.
From Sheena: Hi Sam, thanks for agreeing to interview me! I was very nervous asking you, because I’d seen you on panels and at Vancouver crime fiction events, and was intimidated by your general air of busyness and your height. (I am intimidated by everyone’s height). So I’m very grateful that you had the time to do it–especially since you were recently Writer in Residence at the Vancouver Public Library and just launched your book Invisible Dead in the U.S.
Happy to do it, Sheena! Let’s start with the protagonist of THE LOST ONES, Nora Watts. She’s highly resourceful and tenacious, while also displaying tremendous vulnerability. How did you come up with her?
Nora came to me very organically. I started becoming serious about writing when I worked in the film/TV industry, so what I saw first was a logline about a woman who discovers the daughter she’d given up for adoption has gone missing, and she doesn’t trust the authorities to look for the girl. Who doesn’t trust the cops? Someone who’s had bad experiences with them, an outsider, a loner. Then I wrote a line about her singing the blues and I suddenly got her personality. I sensed she had a huge identity crisis that’s always hovering over her shoulders. Writing the story can be difficult, but understanding Nora never is.
How was it for you creating Dave Wakeland? Did you think about him a lot first or did he manifest on the page right away?
Discovering Where Monsters Come From
By Dawn Ius
Andrew Pyper takes on the Unholy Trinity of fictional monsters in his latest thriller, THE ONLY CHILD. He brings to life an original beast—one that precedes Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde, and Dracula—and boldly suggests that this monster directly inspired each of those characters.
Oh, and that he is alive today.
It’s a heady thought—and one that may not work in the hands of someone less skilled. But Pyper has woven a dark tale of Gothic suspense that will make you question the origin of monsters and the nature of fear.
“I wanted to know where monsters come from,” Pyper says. “I was thinking of the kind that present as human but aren’t, or not anymore. It sent me to read or re-read some of the 19th century novels that defined the Gothic genre.”
From there, his imagination churned through a series of “What if?” questions that then made Pyper “deeply curious about what such a figure’s existence would be like, what he would want, how he would process his position as the world’s original monster. The concepts became feelings, and the feelings became characters.”
Solving a Tantalizing Historical Mystery
In high school, Melodie Winawer went on a vision quest. “It was a program called Searchers, like Outward Bound. You learned outdoor skills, then had a three-day solo trip into the woods with nothing but a six by eight piece of plastic, six matches, water, a can, and a reel of fishing line. No food, no watch, nothing to read.”
At the beginning of the quest, Winawer was preoccupied with the things she didn’t have, and thought about how she would enjoy it all when she got back. She didn’t bother looking for food, but decided simply to fast.
This gave her three whole days with nothing to do. “I created crossword puzzles, wrote, and sang, but overall, I found myself to be very dull. I realized that it’s not that the world was boring, but that I was.”
This revelation led her to a huge emotional shift in the middle of her second day. “The first night I dreamed I was back at home. When I woke up, I was annoyed to find that I wasn’t. But the second night I dreamed I was home, but I had missed something. I was glad when I woke up to find that I was still out in the woods.”
Ellie Stone Takes a Hollywood Turn
By Alex Segura
Hollywood in the 1960s may strike some as a magical time and place, full of celebrity sightings, historic film moments and a simpler, more glamorous world. But that idyllic idea is destroyed in the pages of James Ziskin’s latest Ellie Stone mystery, CAST THE FIRST STONE, as the young New York newspaper reporter finds herself embroiled in a missing person’s case that has the bigwigs of the movie town jittery, nervous and willing to do anything to cover their tracks.
CAST THE FIRST STONE marks Ziskin’s fifth Ellie Stone mystery, and perhaps his best yet, as he weaves a tale of a lost era and the unjust perceptions and rulings of a time that might remind many of the troubles we see in our own world, today.
The Big Thrill had the chance to discuss CAST THE FIRST STONE with Ziskin.
James, what can you tell us about your latest Ellie Stone book, CAST THE FIRST STONE?
You got an hour? CAST THE FIRST STONE takes place in February 1962 in Los Angeles. Ellie has been dispatched from provincial New Holland, New York, to profile a local boy, Tony Eberle, who’s landed his first role in a real Hollywood movie. But when she arrives on set to meet him, he’s AWOL and is fired from the picture on the first day of shooting. Then the movie’s producer turns up dead. Murdered. Ellie’s hunt for Tony draws her into the secretive world of Hollywood’s closeted gay community of the early 1960s.
Raising the Stakes—While
Keeping It Real
In THE SPY ACROSS THE TABLE, the fourth thriller in the Jim Brodie series, the main character, an American running a Tokyo security firm, becomes obsessed with getting to the truth of a seemingly senseless double murder of two people he cared about. In so doing, Brodie sets himself on a quest that begins in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco and rapidly leads him across the Pacific to Japan and finally North Korea. He’s a man who won’t give up, no matter what it costs him, and in this novel it costs him quite a lot.
The combination of fiercely original action writing, taut descriptive sequences, and a clever plot populated by ruthless antagonists is as effective in THE SPY ACROSS THE TABLE as in the earlier books in the award-winning series. Kirkus Reviews says of SPY, “Lancet’s hero … is in top form. A solid, consistently smart thriller.” And Publishers’ Weekly says, “Lancet keeps the suspense high.”
What sets this series apart from others, perhaps, is the fascinating duality at the core of Brodie. He’s a resourceful man of action, capable of violence, who’s highly knowledgeable about fine art, and an American who skillfully navigates the subtleties of Japanese culture. Lancet says, “Brodie has an in-depth knowledge of two cultures, Japan’s and America’s, and bits and pieces of a handful of others. It’s a case of 1 +1 + 1 equaling 5. He often sees things from several different perspectives at once, a sort of multidimensional mindset.”
Finding the Terror in the Ordinary
By Dawn Ius
You’ve probably been there. Tired, frazzled, running behind. And then, BAM! You’re stuck at airport security. Now, you’re not only stripping off half your clothes, you’re yanking out your electronics and shooting them through the X-Ray machine, praying you aren’t randomly selected for further screening—you ain’t got time for that.
But what if, when you’re hurriedly gathering your shoes, belt, phone and laptop, you accidentally walk away with someone else’s stuff?
That almost happened to author Joseph Finder when at an airport a few years back, he nearly snagged a Macbook Air, thinking it was his.
“Then I remembered that mine has a large sticker on it, my HELLER license plate,” he says. “So, crisis averted. Until it occurred to me: what would have happened if I’d taken the wrong one? Probably nothing more than a big hassle. But that’s when my warped imagination took hold.”
And thus, THE SWITCH was born.
An Intense Imaginative Journey
When it was time to forge the framework of her second novel, Gwendolyn Womack found structure in an unlikely place: tucked away in a deck of tarot cards.
“I’ve had the idea to write a tarot story for years, where each chapter would be a card,” Womack tells The Big Thrill. “The Major Arcana in the tarot are 22 cards that form a progression, and I wanted to use that as a story arc—start with ‘The Fool’ and end with ‘The World.’ ”
It’s an unconventional approach that pays dividends in THE FORTUNE TELLER, Womack’s follow-up to her genre-bending debut novel The Memory Painter. The new, standalone thriller, which combines elements of romance, suspense, historical fiction, and the supernatural, centers on Semele Cavnow, an antiques appraiser tasked with sorting through the library of a famed manuscript collector. When Semele finds a manuscript that details the creation of the world’s first tarot deck, she’s intrigued; when the ancient text is revealed to be the memoir of a powerful seer who seems to be reaching out specifically to Semele, the appraiser is swept into a dangerous conspiracy rooted in her own mysterious past. It’s a story that’s been brewing in Womack’s imagination for years now, inspired by both history and myth.
“When I was in high school and college I taught myself how to read cards, and tarot history was something I wanted to know more about,” Womack explains. “There is an old myth, completely discredited by historians, that tarot symbols came from ancient Egypt and had been housed at the Library of Alexandria. Well, that myth was just too tempting for me not to explore, particularly since the origins of tarot have never been discovered. As I was finishing writing The Memory Painter, which travels back to ancient Egypt and the Great Pyramid, it felt like the perfect story to write next.”
Diving In and Going Deep
By E.M. Powell
How to start an article for The Big Thrill? Let me count the ways…
On second thoughts, scratch that. I’m doing what Matthew Sullivan, experienced writing contest judge and writing teacher, sees as a common slip in the unsuccessful entries he reads. “It’s something I’ve heard called ‘throat clearing,’ “ he says. “Where a writer starts off by stacking up all the ingredients for the story without actually diving into the story.”
Okay— I should just dive into this this particular story. And the story is that Sullivan’s debut, MIDNIGHT AT THE BRIGHT IDEAS BOOKSTORE, is one of the most original and engrossing thrillers I have read in a very long time.
The book opens with Lydia Smith, a sales clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, an independent store staffed by eccentric individuals and populated by a stream of regular book buyers as well as the BookFrogs. BookFrogs are the lost and lonely regulars who frequent the store, looking for shelter and solace amongst the shelves. Lydia’s life is ordered, controlled, careful. Then Sullivan follows his own advice: “Drama is primarily about conflict, so stories that open in a moment of pure urgency seem to have a leg up.”
More Faces is a crime short story collection from A Chaser on the Rocks author Simon Maltman. The 12 mystery noirs included feature published and previously unpublished stories and all series shorts currently available. Take a journey across Northern Ireland, through the beauty and darkness, with the fresh new voice in Irish Crime Fiction.
“I’m amazed how a writer can cram so much into such a short space of narrative. You hit the ground running and it’s a sprint finish.”
~ Crime Book Junkie
“A punchy tale, told plainly, with plenty of pace… of old fashioned thuggery and backstreet skullduggery.”
~ Murder, Mayhem and More
“…a snappy read that gives a fresh glimpse into a life of crime and where it can lead you.”
Author Simon Maltman discussed his short story collection, MORE FACES, with The Big Thrill:
On Tuesday, May 9, 1893, seven-year-old Emma Werner was the victim of a brutal and lethal attack in Chicago, Illinois. The dreadful murder came at the start of the city’s much ballyhooed 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, also known as the Chicago World’s Fair. It coincided with the heinous crimes of ruthless serial killer Herman Webster Mudgett, who built a hotel called the World’s Fair Hotel to house and profit from the Fair visitors needing a place to stay. The hotel was a death trap for unsuspecting, mostly female, guests and employees alike.
Emma’s killer was twenty-one-year-old George Craig, who worked as a painter at the World’s Fair. By the time the Fair was over, the mayor of Chicago, Carter Harrison, would be assassinated by Patrick Eugene Prendergast, a disgruntled newspaper worker. And before the shocking final disposition to the murder of Emma Werner could come to pass nearly four years later, Craig and Prendergast would cross paths in jail, Mudgett and Prendergast would be executed, and Craig would be set free in what many saw as an unbelievable miscarriage of justice and misguided sense of compassion for the cold-blooded child killer.
The tragic tale of Emma Werner’s short life and its chilling convergence with other tragedies against the backdrop of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair is revealed in the pages of this historical trip down memory lane.
An addictive novel of psychological suspense from the award-winning author of Night Night, Sleep Tight, about three generations of women haunted by a little girl’s disappearance, and the porcelain doll that may hold the key to the truth . . .
Seven-year-old Lissie Woodham and her four-year-old sister Janey were playing with their porcelain dolls in the front yard when an adorable puppy scampered by. Eager to pet the pretty dog, Lissie chased after the pup as it ran down the street. When she returned to the yard, Janey’s precious doll was gone . . . and so was Janey.
Forty years after Janey went missing, Lis—now a mother with a college-age daughter of her own—still blames herself for what happened. Every year on the anniversary of her sister’s disappearance, their mother, Miss Sorrel, places a classified ad in the local paper with a picture of the toy Janey had with her that day—a one-of-a-kind porcelain doll—offering a generous cash reward for its return. For years, there’s been no response. But this year, the doll came home.
It is the first clue in a decades-old mystery that is about to turn into something far more sinister—endangering Lis and the lives of her mother and daughter as well. Someone knows the truth about what happened all those years ago, and is desperate to keep it hidden.
Growing up, Bianca St. Ives knew she was different from all her friends. Instead of playing hopscotch or combing her dolls’ hair, she studied martial arts with sensei masters and dismantled explosives with special-ops retirees. Her father prepped her well to carry on the family business. Now a striking beauty with fierce skills, the prodigy has surpassed the master.
She’s known as the Guardian. Running a multinational firm with her father, she makes a living swindling con men out of money they stole—and she’s damn good at it. She does things on her own terms. But her latest gig had a little hiccup—if you count two hundred million dollars and top secret government documents going missing as little. Her father also died on the mission. The thing is, the U.S. government doesn’t believe he’s really dead. They’ll stop at nothing to capture Richard St. Ives, a high-value target and someone who has been on most-wanted lists all over the world for over two decades, and they mean to use Bianca as bait. With only a fellow criminal for backup and her life on the line, it’s up to Bianca to uncover the terrifying truth behind what really happened…and set it right, before it’s too late.
Galina Rostova, the hot new star of Moscow’s theater scene—and mistress to a powerful Russian general—has reached out to the CIA. In exchange for information vital to U.S. security, she requests asylum in America. The Company’s top pick for the mission is Nora Baron. The wife of a CIA operative, this Long Island mother and drama teacher has proven to be an asset in the field before. And as an actress herself, her cover will be convincing.
Disguised as a television news host, Nora heads to Venice, Italy, where Rostova is appearing in Chekhov’s The Seagull. As the cameras roll during their mock interview, the starlet will make her escape—or at least that’s the plan. But when the defection goes off-script, the two women are on the run from Russian agents. And when a snowstorm buries Venice, clogging the streets, waterways, and airport, the stage is set for tragedy—with several lives at risk of a final curtain.
The Big Thrill recently spent some time with USA Today bestselling author Tom Savage discussing his novel, THE WOMAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH:
It seems about the only thing Ovidia Yu has quit was her quest to become a medical doctor. When she realized it was not what she wanted to do with her life, she turned her attention back to her writing—something she has enjoyed since childhood.
Yu is an award-winning short story writer and playwright with more than 30 plays performed. In addition, she has written novellas, a children’s book (The Mudskipper), and is the author of the entertaining Rosie “Aunty” Lee mystery series whose latest offering is Meddling and Murder.
Here a missing domestic worker is assumed to be a runaway in the midst of a series of home invasions and other unusual events. Aunty Lee, as she struggles to understand, continues her meddling ways, putting herself, her restaurant, and her hard-working domestic worker Nina in jeopardy.
Fellow author Louise Penny said, “Rosie Lee is a terrifically original heroine.” Yet, according to Yu, many readers around the world say Aunty Lee reminds them of relatives—mothers, aunts, grannies. “And I thought Aunty Lee was a typical Singaporean Peranakan Aunty. I hope it means I have captured the well-intentioned busybody traits of the ‘feed you and fix your life for you’ women who were part of my growing up.” (Killer Reads, April 10, 2017)
According to Yu in the same interview, Meddling and Murder has its origins in a newspaper article about a woman who went on a tour of China, met a tour guide who later turned up in Singapore and moved in with her, then started taking over her finances and isolating her from her family. The true crime story allowed Yu to explore other themes, including what it is like to be a foreigner in Singapore, especially if you look like you fit in but don’t and the unconscious assumptions we all make.
When Elaine’s housekeeper and crackpot filthy rich cousin descend on Giulia and demand she find out who’s trying to steal sweet, fragile Elaine’s family business out from under her, that’s a different story. They want DI to provide Tarot readings, ghost hunting sessions, and even an exorcism.
Ghost hunting? There are apps for that. Tarot readings? Experts in the skill are right across the street. Exorcisms? Having a priest for a brother-in-law comes in handy. Giulia plunges into a crash course in all things supernatural, convinced everything happening to Elaine is stagecraft.
Except when it isn’t. Giulia’s about to discover a new dimension to sleuthing, if she can survive attempted murder long enough to see through the web of lies around her client.
Former nun-turned-author, Alice Loweecey, spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest cozy mystery, THE CLOCK STRIKES NUN:
While off to a promising start, the weekend quickly goes awry as murder interrupts the fun and the hostess is accused of the shocking crime. Izzy quickly realizes it is up to her to save her innocent friend and bring the murderer to light.
Keen intuition and quick wit are Izzy’s only tools. She must use them to find the dark truth before the killer brings her investigation to a dead stop…
The Big Thrill recently had the opportunity to discuss THE GIRLS’ WEEKEND MURDER with author, Lynn McPherson:
When People’s Republic Flight 91 crashes in northeastern Ukraine with a U.S. diplomatic agent onboard, U.S. Diplomatic Security Service Agent Raisa Jordan is sent to investigate. The agent was escorting a prisoner home from Guangzhou, China, along with sensitive documents, and it quickly becomes apparent that the plane was intentionally downed. Was it to silence the two Americans onboard?
To avoid a diplomatic incident, Jordan must discover what the Americans knew that was worth killing hundreds to cover up. With Russia deeply entangled in the Ukraine and the possibility that China could be hiding reasons to bring down its own plane, tensions are high.
As international relations and even more lives hang in the balance, Jordan races to stop a new Cold War.
The Big Thrill had the opportunity to discuss RED SKY with award-winning author, Chris Goff:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
First, I hope they are entertained. This is an international thriller laced with espionage, politics and intrigue. Second, I hope they learn a little something about the geopolitics of Eastern Europe and China. I learned much more than I could include in the pages while researching the novel, and the region is fascinating.
Roxanne MacFarlane is the Extractor—a former CIA agent who specializes in rescuing people from dangerous situations. She lives on the edge and works outside the law, but desperate families know she’s the only operative who can bring their missing loved ones home. Driven by guilt over the loss of her sister to a polygamous cult, she will stop at nothing to save her clients.
When Dave and Jenny Carson ask her to find their daughter, Emma, and extract her from a charismatic cult leader who preys on young women with guilt issues, Rox is eager to help them. But the experimental treatment she just started in order to improve her atypical brain patterns forces her to face conflicting newfound emotions while working feverishly to find the secret compound and craft a strategy to get Emma out.
When the bodies of young women who match Emma’s description turn up, Rox must fast-forward her plans. But the situation is more complicated and dangerous than she realizes, and her own life is soon in jeopardy. Can Rox save Emma and bring down a ruthless predator before more young women fall victim?
The Big Thrill recently spent some time with prolific author L.J. Sellers discussing her latest thriller, GUILT GAME:
When the United States realizes that Brunei is building an island right next to the wreck-site of a missing U.S. bomber carrying nuclear weapons, THE TEAM must be dispatched to help recover the nukes. THE TEAM, the CIA’s most effective tool to combat terrorism, is made up of SEALs, Force recon Marines and CIA black-ops agents. With their unique blend of talents, they can take on any enemy, anywhere on the globe.
Disguised as oilmen working a semi-submersible oil platform, THE TEAM finds themselves facing Chinese military patrols, ISIS terrorists and a dangerous nuclear bomb recovery in six-hundred feet of water, while their boss at home, CIA Director Wallace Holstrum, is charged with a crime that could end his career and land him in jail—unless his agents can help figure out who’s really behind the nasty allegations.
In typical Salkin style, THE TEAM will keep you up past bedtime as you race to the heart-pounding end of DANGEROUS GROUND. The Big Thrill had the opportunity to discuss David M. Salkin’s latest book in THE TEAM series:
After the devastating loss of her husband in Iraq, Morgan Dane returns to Scarlet Falls, seeking the comfort of her hometown. Now, surrounded by family, she’s finally found peace and a promising career opportunity—until her babysitter is killed and her neighbor asks her to defend his son, Nick, who stands accused of the murder.
Tessa was the ultimate girl next door, and the community is outraged by her death. But Morgan has known Nick for years and can’t believe he’s guilty, despite the damning evidence stacked against him. She asks her friend Lance Kruger, an ex-cop turned private eye, for help. Taking on the town, the police, and a zealous DA, Morgan and Lance plunge into the investigation, determined to find the real killer. But as they uncover secrets that rock the community, they become targets for the madman hiding in plain sight.
Wall Street Journal bestselling author Melinda Leigh spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her most recent novel, SAY YOU’RE SORRY:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I write twisted fiction that is rooted in reality. I want readers to be challenged to think outside of the box and perhaps see a perspective they never considered before.
Anastasia Phoenix, a mix of Nancy Drew meets Buffy Summers, is a witty, “butt-kicking teen” hunting for her missing sister in Diana Rodriguez Wallach’s new release PROOF OF LIES. This globe-trotting young adult spy thriller, is a suspense-filled page-turner from start to finish—inspired by a Boston University professor.
“I was attending a college fair in Philadelphia and listening to students talk about Boston University,” Wallach says. “One kid spoke about a very unusual professor, one who was a former communist spy for Czechoslovakia during the Cold War and who now taught budding journalists how to tell if they were being fed false information. I never had the pleasure of taking his course; however, years later when I decided to attempt a YA thriller packed with super spies, that story came back to me. I wanted my world of espionage to be focused on a unique specialty that offered me both creative freedom and a focus that could hold the interest of teen readers; disinformation fit the bill.”
Wallach says she eventually got to meet the spy who inspired her and they “had a fascinating conversation in his home that led to many of the espionage elements in PROOF OF LIES, as well as the name of the CIA agent that appears at the end of the novel, Martin Bittman.”
The inspirations behind Anastasia herself are closer to home. Wallach has combined her best-loved heroines from TV and literature to shape a determined, intelligent lead character that will excite teen readers. Coupled with Marcus, Anastasia’s emotional anchor throughout the novel, the pair cross countries in a tumultuous adventure, and it’s these scenic locations that really bring PROOF IN LIES to life.
Gambini is back! Hot on the heels of rescuing his cousin Bill and Bill’s friend, Stan from an Alabama electric chair, our wildly inappropriate hero, Vincent Gambini heads home to Brooklyn where he attempts to establish a successful law career. Meanwhile, Lisa aches to have a wedding band placed around her finger and her biological clock is still ticking away like mad. Vinny and Lisa have been together ten long years. She’s waited so very patiently for him to complete law school and pass the bar. Winning his first case was the last piece of the puzzle, and now nothing can stand in the way of true love, except that between them they don’t have two nickels to rub together, and Vinny is about as romantic as a box of frogs.
In the course of building his practice, Vinny is reunited with Joe, his walking, talking embarrassment of a brother, Lisa’s nudging parents, Ma and Augie, and his dear old friend Judge Henry Molloy, who refers him the mother of all capital murder cases.
Theresa Cototi is young and pretty but far from innocent, and darn her luck … her boyfriend has just been scraped off the pavement after taking a header from eight- stories up. You’d better believe she’s going to trial, charged with murder one.
Aided by Lisa and a ragtag team of misfits, Vinny defends his client against overwhelming odds. Our endearing neophyte attorney must match wits with a cunning DA and a formidable influence peddler, who appears to anticipate his every move. In the balance hangs the life of a woman he believes to be innocent. Or is she?
Yes, Vinny may have finally won his first case but his and Lisa’s story is far from over.
Am I sure?
Yeah! I’m pos-i-tive!
Kat Martin is a well-oiled writing machine.
She’s written 68 historical and contemporary romantic suspense novels, been published in 20 foreign countries, and has had 15 novels in a row on the New York Times bestseller list. I wanted to ask her if I could rub her head for luck, but instead I asked about the secret to her prodigious output.
“The secret to my productivity is that I don’t have kids and I am a workaholic!” she says. “Plus, I love writing. Also, my husband loves writing, so that’s mostly what we do.”
With a major in Anthropology, she’s clearly fascinated by people and their motivations. “Anthropology is the study of people,” she says. “Every writer is an amateur psychologist, so they kind of work together.”
She brings this understanding of human psychology to her latest novel, BEYOND REASON. Carly Drake, a strong-minded girl-next-door who has recently inherited her grandfather’s trucking company, and Lincoln Cain, a wealthy competitor with a checkered past, both struggle with a fear of love and the vulnerability that goes along with it. In their shared commitment to solving the murder of Carly’s number one driver while honoring her grandfather’s memory, both begin to lower their emotional defenses. The result is a satisfying read with a good balance of action and romance.
Here, Martin chats with The Big Thrill about her new book and her writing process.
Remy Boudreaux is back in his hometown, New Orleans. He’s there with three of his fellow Dallas SWAT officers for a week of training with the NOLA PD. On the eve of a tropical storm, Remy and his buddies prowl the French Quarter. One tantalizing scent captures Remy’s senses, forcing him to follow until he is face to face with Triana Bellamy—his beautiful high school crush.
After reconnecting, Remy and Triana are close—very. Remy struggles to keep things casual. Ever since his partner—and first love—was killed on the job, he’s kept women at a distance.
But when a mysterious wolf pendant ropes them both into danger, Remy’s protective instincts kick in. He may have to reveal his true self…and hope Triana accepts him.
New York Times bestselling author, Paige Tyler, spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest novel, WOLF HUNT:
Creating a Spy
When I first began plotting out THE ALICE NETWORK, I knew my heroine would be a spy. She was going to work for French aristocrat Louise de Bettignies, who under the code name of Alice ran a network of agents in German-occupied France during the First World War. My heroine would be recruited by her, would have harrowing adventures, and would be named Eve—that much I knew right away. Figuring out the rest was a little trickier, because the words “female spy” come pre-loaded with expectations.
Hollywood, James Bond, and the film noir tradition have given us plenty of preconceptions about female spies. Sleek assassins with stiletto knives in their stiletto boots, sexy hackers with thumb drives full of nuclear codes in their bras, sultry femme fatales seducing state secrets out of oblivious men over champagne and pillow talk—say “female spy” and the resulting image is flamboyant, glamorous, and above all sexy. But the realities of spying weren’t so picturesque—and a woman who succeeded as a spy in real life would be very different from your average James Bond espionage queen hiking her couture evening gown out of the way so she can snap a man’s neck with her thighs.
The Alice network’s agents relied more on stealth and observation than glamour or secret-agent skills. Louise de Bettignies’ sources were ordinary men and women who observed the German invaders, eavesdropped on them, rifled their paperwork, and secretly passed any information gained back to British intelligence. Getting German attention was dangerous; it was far better for your spying and your health if they didn’t notice you at all—to this end, women and teenagers were often recruited, since they were less likely to be suspected. And a successful spy probably wasn’t swanning around a fancy party in a glittering gown, the center of all eyes—she was far better off serving the canapes, storing away every tidbit of information in earshot while going completely unobserved.
Lily Saint James grew up traveling the European continent, learning languages as she went. In 1938, her mother’s abrupt death brings her back home to Washington, D.C., and after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Lily comes to the attention of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Her knowledge of German, French, and Italian makes her the perfect OSS Agent, and her quick thinking places her as a nanny in the household of an important German Army Colonel, where she is able to gather intelligence for the Allies. After her marketplace contact goes missing, she makes a late-night trip to her secondary contact only to find him under interrogation by the SS. When he commits suicide, she flees into the frigid winter night carrying false identification papers that are now dangerous and a mini film cartridge with vital strategic information. In order to survive, Lily must make it out of Germany, into the hands of Allied-controlled France, through a path fraught with peril.
The Big Thrill caught up with author, Ellen Butler, to discuss her novel, THE BRASS COMPASS:
When stylish Hillary Whitney dies alone in a locked, windowless conference room at the offices of high-concept magazine RAGE Fashion Book, her death is initially ruled an unfortunate side effect of the unrelenting pressure to be thin.
But two months later, a cryptic note in her handwriting ends up in the office of the NYPD and the case is reopened, leading Det. Mark Hutton straight into the glamorous life of hardworking RAGE editor Catherine Ono, who insists on joining the investigation. Surrounded by a supporting cast of party girls, Type A narcissists and half-dead socialites, Cat and her colleague Bess Bonner are determined to solve the case and achieve sartorial perfection. But their amateur detective work has disastrous results, and the two ingenues are caught in a web of drugs, sex, lies and moisturizer that changes their lives forever.
Author Barbara Bourland discussed her debut novel, I’LL EAT WHEN I’M DEAD, with The Big Thrill:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
A new understanding of the pressures that modern women face every single morning when they get dressed—and of course, the satisfaction of having been wildly entertained.
A pitcher. A president. Two men become linked by events when the stakes are highest. The Chicago Cubs have finally won a World Series for the first time since 1908. Now they want to build a baseball dynasty. To do so, they trade for star pitcher Trey Van Ohmann. Meanwhile, the Cubs’ biggest and best-known fan, Luke Murphy, is running for re-election as President of the United States.
But world events and powerful, unknown forces conspire against them. To succeed, they must overcome terrorism, scandals, and threats to their lives and those around them. The baseball season and a presidential campaign that could be ripped out of today’s headlines intertwine in one fateful October.
In this follow-up to his award-winning novel, Killing the Curse, Dennis Hetzel once again combines sports, politics, thrilling action, and memorable characters. The Big Thrill had the opportunity to ask him some questions about SEASON OF LIES:
Buffalo, New York, private investigator Gideon Rimes, a black Iraq-war vet and retired army CID detective, is hired to protect blues singer Indigo Waters from her ex-boyfriend, a police officer who serves as a driver and personal bodyguard for Buffalo Mayor Ophelia Green. When the boyfriend is murdered, Rimes is the prime suspect. He’s arrested but police are forced to release him due to a lack of evidence. As the cops search for clues to tie Rimes to the murder, he begins his own hunt for the killer, uncovering a plot that involves city leaders, a wealthy business owner, corrupt cops, access to control of a half-billion-dollar project—and a dark family secret that someone will do anything to keep hidden, regardless of who they have to kill…
NICKEL CITY BLUES author, Gary Earl Ross, recently discussed his latest novel with The Big Thrill:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
As a black writer who tries to capture the diverse cultural and social intersections of modern America, I hope readers find NICKEL CITY BLUES engaging and the central characters compelling enough to make them read future Nickel City titles.
Once a police detective in St. Paul, Minnesota, Rushmore McKenzie has become not only an unlikely millionaire, but an occasional unlicensed private investigator, doing favors for friends and people in need. When his stepdaughter Erica asks him for just such a favor, McKenzie doesn’t have it in him to refuse. Even though it sounds like a very bad idea right from the start.
The father of Malcolm Harris, a college friend of Erica’s, was found murdered a year ago in a park in New Brighton, a town just outside the Twin Cities. With no real clues and all the obvious suspects with concrete alibis, the case has long since gone cold. As McKenzie begins poking around, he soon discovers another unsolved murder that’s tangentially related to this one. And all connections seem to lead back to a group of friends the victim was close with. But all McKenzie has is a series of odd, even suspicious, coincidences until someone decides to make it all that more serious and personal.
Author David Housewright recently sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss his novel, WHAT THE DEAD LEAVE BEHIND:
When FBI agents barge into the home of Sidney Cranmer, accusing him of possession of child pornography, the respected literature professor’s life becomes a nightmare. Cranmer insists the illicit material is not his, but the charge appears airtight, and his academic specialty—the works of suspected pedophile Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland—convinces investigators he is lying.
The Honorable David S. Norcross regrets not recusing himself from this routine criminal case, especially considering that his girlfriend, Claire Lindemann, knows the defendant and is convinced he is innocent. Soon, she will take matters into her own hands. Meanwhile, a family tragedy leaves Norcross responsible for his two young nieces, and a separate investigation identifies a murderous predator still at large. Now Judge Norcross must navigate through a maelstrom of deceit, revenge, and unspeakable evil looming over everyone he loves.
THE ONE-EYED JUDGE author, Michael Ponsor, chatted with The Big Thrill about latest legal thriller:
When a packed commuter train runs over a body on a stretch of track known to locals as “Suicide Mile,” it soon transpires that the man was a victim of a calculated murder.
As the investigation evolves and a pattern of murders is uncovered, Detective Sergeant Kay Hunter realizes the railway’s recent reputation may be the work of a brutal serial killer.
With a backlog of cold cases to investigate and while attempting to uncover who is behind a professional vendetta against her, Kay must keep one step ahead of both the killer and her own adversaries.
When a second murder takes place within a week of the first, she realizes the killer’s timetable has changed, and she’s running out of time to stop him.
WILL TO LIVE is the second book in a new crime thriller series featuring Kay Hunter—a detective with a hidden past and an uncertain future.
Author Rachel Amphlett chatted with The Big Thrill to discuss her latest novel, WILL TO LIVE:
John Farrow is the pen name of Trevor Ferguson, a literary legend in his native country of Canada. Writing as John Farrow, he’s the author of the Storm Murders trilogy. PERISH THE DAY is the third in the trilogy, a novel about which Lee Child stated, “The best yet in one of my favorite series —I love Émile Cinq-Mars.”
PERISH THE DAY opens with a co-ed found murdered on campus. Coincidentally (or not), a college custodian is also dead. While an epic rainstorm assails the Holyoake, New Hampshire campus, a third crime scene is revealed: a professor, formerly a spy, is found shot in his home along with a mysterious note warning him to run. Coming up against campus secrets, Émile Cinq-Mars must quickly uncover the links between disparate groups before the next victim is selected for an elaborate initiation into murder.
I caught up with Farrow recently and asked him about the world—and protagonist—of PERISH THE DAY. The lead detective, Émile Cinq-Mars, appeared in two novels prior to the Storm Murder trilogy, one with him toiling in mid-career, and another with him as a young beat cop. In the Storm Murders, Cinq-Mars has retired from the force, although not, as it turns out, from investigating murder. Retirement has offered Cinq-Mars the freewheeling latitude of an amateur sleuth, yet provided the background and contacts of a professional investigator. While he was never a homicide detective—he still solved murders—his continued investigative activity in retirement isn’t a stretch.
A new life stage, however, has brought new challenges. His younger wife wants to change her career, and other questions dog them: Will they move? Will they remain a couple? The weather has also turned adverse. The “storms” of the Storm trilogy harness the atmosphere of the various locales: blizzards in Quebec, Louisiana hurricanes, storms at sea, a mountain tempest in New Hampshire.
The first was a low level gangster named Carlo “Carly Nickels” DeCenzo—lying on a slab in the Blount County morgue with Sam’s name and phone number written on a scrap of paper in his pocket.
Next there’s Gino Musucci, infamous Northeast crime boss who says he wants to retire and relocate—to Sam’s town of Prospect, Tennessee.
And there’s Dixie Foster, Sam’s former secretary and the woman who wanted to steal him away from his wife. Sam wonders why she’s turned up after eighteen years.
With DeCenzo’s murder unsolved, another body shows up in a Prospect motel—that of a retired detective and co-worker from Sam’s past.
When Sam receives a letter from an old mobster who warns him about a contract on his life, he wonders: Is this any way for a cop to spend his time on the “peaceful side of the Smokies?”
Uriel E. Gribetz was born and raised in the Bronx, New York, and served nearly thirty years in the public defender’s office in that borough. He took up creative writing at the age of eighteen, at the Bennington Writers Workshop, and has published short stories and essays, along with two novels. His first novel, Taconic Murda, was released in 2014.
HUNTS POINT, Gribetz’s new release, was actually the first book he worked on. Set in his beloved Bronx, the story revolves around a damaged hero named Sam Free who seeks justice for the weak, this time a young man called Jonah who is wrongfully convicted of a grisly murder. HUNTS POINT was released this April by Perfect Crime Books. The Big Thrill interviewed Gribetz about the novel.
Your latest publication centers on a wrongful conviction. Tell us about the young man, and how your life as a public defender helped you create this character.
Sometimes things happen to people that they have no control over and these events shape their lives. Recently I had a seven-year-old client whose mother’s boyfriend murdered his mother and his siblings. The client was stabbed fifteen times, but he survived. How do you get past something like that? I see horrible, awful things that happen to people, yet they are able to survive and go forward.
In the book, Jonah, as a child, was nearly murdered by the Super’s helper in his building. That event shaped him. Jonah’s story is his quest to no longer be a victim of his circumstances. In fact, when Sam Free visits Jonah in prison, Jonah tells Sam that he refuses to be a victim anymore. The strength and resiliency of the human spirit is truly amazing, and I try to capture that with Jonah.