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Between the Lines: MatchUp by Dawn Ius

The Battle of the Sexes
Spills Onto the Page

By Dawn Ius

The highly anticipated follow-up to the New York Times bestselling anthology FaceOff is MATCHUP, 11 original short stories from 22 of the most thrilling authors in the genre—with a twist.

“We decided that stories written by a man and a woman together might sharpen the edge—they might have a natural tension between their protagonists,” says MATCHUP editor, author Lee Child. “We have 22 big names, which spreads the appeal very wide. Can’t fail, really.”

And of course the book did not fail, drawing in boatloads of readers and critical praise from places like Publishers Weekly: “Highly recommended.”

However, just to keep things interesting, there was a little drama along the way.

Despite the star-studded roster, many of the pairings had to work through a few…challenges. Like Sandra Brown’s fear of collaboration, Nelson DeMille’s technophobia (he still writes long hand), or how on earth Lara Adrian might turn back the clock on her protagonist, Lucan Thorne.

The authors of MATCHUP not only rose to the challenge, but as evidenced in the stories, exceeded expectations. Steve Berry co-pens his first Cotton Malone story in the first-person point of view, Sandra Brown learns how to play nice with others, Jack Reacher finds the one woman in the world who might be immune to his charm, and David Morrell successfully puts Rambo back in our minds.

“Each of the 22 writers who contributed approach their storytelling differently,” says Sandra Brown, whose story with C.J. Box takes one of her characters to Wyoming, Jackson. “Each works at his or her own pace, has unique writing habits, a distinct ‘voice,’ traits and trademarks of their fiction. But unanimously, we want to create readers and keep them entertained.”

The stacked list of contributors helps, but underpinning it is the commitment each of these authors has to their craft, their readership, and the organization that made this all possible.

“When David Morrell and I started International Thriller Writers, we needed a way to finance the organization,” says Gayle Lynds, who partners with Morrell in MATCHUP for the action-packed, humor-infused short, Rambo on Their Minds. “So, I looked around and realized there’d never been a thriller anthology of original short stories.”

The result was Thriller: Stories to Keep You Up All Night, which was edited by James Patterson.

“He had no reason to trust an unknown, untested organization of crazy thriller writers, but still he called me, and agreed. His help was like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval,” she says.

With Patterson’s help, Lynds and a few trusted authors such as Steve Berry pulled together a roster of writers willing to donate any profits from the anthology to support ITW. “The result is that MATCHUP is the latest tradition of ITW writers supporting fellow writers through the written word,” says Lynds. “All of us are proud of it.”

Eric Lustbader, who shares the page with J. A. Jance in Taking the Veil, couldn’t agree more.

“I wanted to be a part of MATCHUP because these anthologies are an important part of ITW’s mission, and because it deepens the sense of community we have with ITW,” he says.

It also means the members—from seasoned pros to debuts—don’t have to pay a membership fee, a perk that is almost unheard of among author and writer collectives. That’s just as important to the authors of MATCHUP as the need to tell thrilling, original stories.

“I wanted a hand in this to see what these folks could come up with,” says Child.

For a sneak peek, scroll down for exclusive interviews and content.

 

Honor & …

By Sandra Brown & C.J. Box

When Lee Child asked Sandra Brown to be a part of MATCHUP, she sputtered a litany of polite declinations. After none made a dent, she flat out told him the truth. “I don’t write short stories. I lack the talent for it. Any attempt I made to write one would result in something lousy.”

Not to worry, Child assured her. “You won’t have to do all the writing. The story will be a collaboration.”

Strike two.

Brown is a self-proclaimed mama bear when it comes to her work. “I might have an ugly cub, but it’s all mine, and I protect it. Partnering would be a recipe for disaster. So, I told Lee, ‘thanks for asking, but No.’”

Call it charm or gentle harassment, Brown eventually gave in. “Lee and Steve Berry prevailed and paired me with C. J. Box. Poor guy.”

The resulting story, Honor & …  is far from the disaster Brown predicted. The tale takes place in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, home for C. J. Box’s popular series character, rough around the edges game warden Joe Pickett. There he runs into Lee Colburn, who Sandra Brown fans may remember as the rugged protagonist from her bestselling novel Lethal.

“In our initial conversation, C. J. and I established that we had two characters that couldn’t be more different, which, from a storytelling point of view, was a boon,” Brown says. “Right off the bat, we had conflict, not only with the bad guys, but between Pickett, who is honorable and duty bound to do the right thing, and Coburn, who is anti-Pickett. Pickett takes people to jail. Coburn takes no prisoners.”

But rather than find themselves on opposing sides of the conflict, the two characters form a “bromance” that results in witty dialogue, page-turning suspense, and a satisfying end that answers the question posed in the story’s intriguing title.

“I can’t speak for C. J., but when I worked on their dialogue, it flowed naturally,” Brown says. “I merely had to write down what they said. The two of them sparred continually, but the life-threatening circumstances made them codependent. Out of that grudging reliance on each other, a mutual respect emerges.”

Brown can personally relate on some levels. Although she went into this project with reservations, “C. J. made it easy, painless, and actually fun. Now I get to bask in the glow of his achievement. And I didn’t have to decline Lee Child’s request—and who would want to do that?”

Despite the success of this story, fans shouldn’t get too excited about seeing more “shorts” from Brown—she’s a novelist through and through.

“I look at this roster of bestselling writers and still can’t figure out why they wanted me, but I’m so proud to be on that list. An anthology like this brings to readers’ notice writers that might otherwise have been overlooked or dismissed as ‘not someone I would read.’”

To read Honor & … fans need only to flip to the first story.

 

Footloose

By Val McDermid & Peter James

As Lee Child notes in the anthology introduction, the idea for Footloose came to Val McDermid while she was having her feet worked on by a brisk German reflexologist. While lying there, she began to ruminate about a foot-fetish killer obsessed with finding the most perfect pair of feet—and wanting to keep them forever.

“I always find the hardest part of starting any story is what I call ‘finding the way in,’ ” says Footloose co-author Peter James. “It’s a kind of lightbulb moment in which you know, in your heart, you have something that excites you and you want to write.”

That’s exactly how he felt when McDermid suggested this idea for MATCHUP—which led them each down the murky and often shocking rabbit hole of foot- fetish research, including the notion that each individual may have a personal gait that is as unique as their DNA.

“The thing that most astonished me during our research for Footloose, was the number of fetish websites,” he says. “I’m sure if the police ever seize my computer, they’ll have a field day questioning me.”

Particularly in light of the fact that James’s “foot” research isn’t finished—at the time of this interview he was en-route to Rotherham, in northern England, to retrace the steps, for a TV documentary, of a man known as the Rotherham Shoe Rapist.

“This was a man who between 1983 and 1986 raped a series of women who wore stilettos, tied them up, and then took their shoes,” he says. “When the police eventually caught up with him, they found 126 pairs of ladies shoes, from victims, beneath a trapdoor in his office. Each pair was lovingly wrapped in cellophane and tied with a blue bow. I used this as inspiration for an earlier Roy Grace novel, Dead Like You.”

In Footloose, Grace is hot on the heels of another killer, where he is paired with Val McDermid’s Carol Jordan and Tony Hill, for a unique installment in MATCHUP that is both darkly macabre and filled with terrible—but hilarious—puns about feet.

 

Faking a Murderer

By Kathy Reichs & Lee Child

Fans of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher know him to be a man used to doing the intimidating. So, it’s perhaps ironic that when the creator of such an iconic and beloved character was paired with a writer (and character) known for her thoroughness, he found himself a bit on the receiving end of that intimidation.

“I love Kathy Reichs as a person and as a writer, but she’s also a world-famous scientist,” Child says. “Compared to her, I’m just a scuffler. I transferred all those feelings onto Reacher. He’s a knockabout maverick with no respect for rules, but he had to be on best behavior around Temperance Brennan, just like I had to be around Kathy.”

He needn’t have worried. Reichs says that while Brennan and Reacher are opposites in many ways—she is cerebral, fixed in place, he is more intuitive, a free-ranger—Reichs was thrilled at the idea of working with the “funny, flexible, and of course, fabulously handsome” Lee Child.

“Our characters are different, but I think we approach the creative process in a similar way. Perhaps because we both have experience in writing screenplays. Whatever the reason, the pairing worked beautifully,” Reichs says. “Reacher’s brawn and Brennan’s brains clicked from the outset.”

There’s even a hint of romance between the two characters in their MATCHUP story, Faking a Murderer—a page-turning tale that speaks to society’s fascination with true crime and fictional mayhem.

“I think Brennan is quite smitten with Reacher. And who wouldn’t be? Good looking guy like that, came all the way from another city to help her out,” Reichs says. “However, during the story, they are both focused on clearing her name and catching a killer. But who knows what happened after the closing sentence?”

Fans of both characters are sure to have fun filling in those blanks.


Past Prologue

By Diana Gabaldon & Steve Berry

New York Times bestselling authors Diana Gabaldon and Steve Berry were tasked with a significant collaboration challenge for their MATCHUP story, Past Prologue. How would they seamlessly meld the 18th-century world of Gabaldon’s Outlander series (time travel and Jamie Fraser included) with Berry’s modern-day thriller hero, Cotton Malone?

The result is brilliant, making this particular match up one of the most anticipated in the anthology.

“Together, Diana and I worked through the plot, going over what we wanted to stress, things that should be in it, and the timeline,” Berry says. “She took care of all things Scottish since, as she correctly noted, that’s not my strong point. The result is a merger of her fantastic world with my thriller character. It’s a story we think both of our fan bases will enjoy.”

No question, but for Berry, the potentially complicated plot wasn’t the only issue he had to overcome. Like Sandra Brown, he considers himself somewhat short-story challenged, which is why he gave over the reins to Gabaldon to carve out a surprising first draft.

“Initially, the story was in third-person. To my surprise, Diana told it all from Cotton’s point of view. When I read it, I realized the tale screamed first person,” he says. “Of course, I’ve never written in first person. So, I gave it a shot and re-wrote everything to first person, past tense.  When my wife, Elizabeth, read that draft, she said it needed to be first person, present tense. I re-wrote it again.  Diana loved the changes. First person, present tense is as close as a reader can get to a story. There’s a real immediacy.”

Though this was Berry’s “rookie” attempt at first person narrative, it won’t be his last. As he revealed in an earlier interview with The Big Thrill, his 2018 Cotton Malone thriller will be his initial foray into first person (past tense), novel length.

Until then, fans can dive into Past Prologue which takes Cotton Malone back in time— where he briefly encounters a heart-broken Jamie Fraser—in his quest to chase down a 15th century grimoire.

Yes, kilts are involved.

 

Rambo On Their Minds

By Gayle Lynds & David Morell

Perhaps one of the most natural author pairings in MATCHUP is that of Gayle Lynds and David Morrell—the two co-founded International Thriller Writers, are close friends, and have worked together in the past.

That said, Rambo, Morrell’s iconic character from First Blood, and Liz Sansborough, the kick-ass female spy who first appeared in Lynds’s New York Times bestselling novel Masquerade, had not.

If that were not challenging enough, Morrell hadn’t quite figured out how to revisit Rambo, particularly in light of the fact that technically (spoiler alert), he’s dead.

“Colonel Trautman, the man who trained him, kills him,” Morrell says. “In the first version of the film adaptation, Rambo dies also, but in a different way—he committed suicide. Test audiences rioted, forcing the producers to return to Hope, B.C., and film a new ending, in which Rambo lives. Hence the possibility of sequels, which weren’t planned.”

Morrell wrote novelizations for the second and third movies, making a note for readers about the differences between his original script and what was on the screen. The only way he could justify writing a new story about Rambo, then, was in a prequel—but that didn’t quite fit the story he and Lynds wanted to tell for MATCHUP.

“Eventually, we figured out how to include him in a way that’s legitimate as well as a tribute to how much he gets around,” Morrell says.

The result is an action-packed adventure with a deeply emotional connection, which Morrel credits to the love between Lynds’s characters, Liz and Simon.

“Who knew Liz would turn out to be such a great character?” Lynds says. “When I began her, I knew only that she and her cousin looked alike, and her cousin was the book’s star, with amnesia and a long and dangerous road ahead. So, the reader and I caught only tantalizing moments in the real Liz’s life. That was in Masquerade. When Liz and her cousin reappeared a couple years later in The Coil, Liz took over full-blown as a formidable character, opinionated, smart, and thoughtful, but with lethal skills she thought she’d put to rest.”

Turns out Sansborough’s skills weren’t that difficult for Lynds to pull out of remission.

“Bringing back Liz was like bringing back the best part of myself,” she says. “I can’t tell you what I had for breakfast yesterday, but I’ve forgotten nothing about her. Indelible, and completely unplanned.”

Which is in stark contrast to Lynds’s creative process—and the method of collaboration for Rambo on Their Minds. Lynds and Morrell spent several hours on the phone planning the story, and then took turns writing the scenes, adjusting the plot to uncover the hidden emotions, motives, and humor as they went along.

Fans will want to savor this story as, sadly, neither character is apt to make a reappearance anytime soon.

 

Short Story

By Karin Slaughter & Michael Koryta

When Karin Slaughter agreed to be a part of this anthology, she had two conditions. One, that the story take place in 1993 so she could explore Jeffrey Tolliver’s younger years, and second, that she be paired with Michael Koryta.

MATCHUP Editor Lee Child says he readily agreed to both provisions. Thankfully, so did Koryta, who embraced the challenge of taking Joe Pritchard back to the 1990s. For Koryta, whose Pritchard stories were always told in first person, MATCHUP also afforded him the opportunity to change his point of view.

Through the course of the writing, both authors learned something new about their characters—and each other. But to find out, you’ll have to read Short Story, a tale that begins with Tolliver in his underwear and morphs into a great thriller with just the right amount of macabre, and a blast of familiar Slaughter humor.

As Child notes in the introduction, readers are not only in for a great story, but also some fun insider information—Koryta fans, for instance, will connect with one of the story’s characters who is named after a bet he lost to the novelist Alafair Burke. Can you pick out which one?

 

Dig Here

By Charlaine Harris & Andrew Gross

Dig Here was inspired by a research trip taken by Andrew Gross—but to say that Charlaine Harris was dubious about sending her series character, Harper Connelly, to Alexandria, Egypt, is a mild understatement.

“Harper had never, in my imagination, left the continent of North America, and I was pretty sure she didn’t have a passport,” Harris says. “So, I had to change my thinking about her to encompass this sudden and lengthy trip.”

This was the first hurdle in the seemingly unlikely collaboration between Harris and Gross, two authors who, by their own admission, are about as much alike as their protagonists. But Harris admits, weaving Connelly and Gross’s gritty detective, Ty Hauck, into the story was easy once the authors hammered out the plot.

“A family wealthy enough to hire Ty was also wealthy enough to hire Harper, who was the only one of my series characters likely to be called in on such an investigation,” Harris says. “But Ty is a skeptic, as professional investigators tend to be, and Harper, though equally professional, depends on a supernatural talent for her skill—or rather, a talent caused by being hit by lightning. This is a lot for Ty to handle, and while she is prepared to disregard him, he’s maybe not as prepared to learn to respect her.”

Of course, mutual respect does emerge—on the page, and in the writing room. While Harris is a veteran short story writer, Gross has less experience with the format—but as a former cowriter with James Patterson, he’s no stranger to collaboration. The melding of each author’s experiences and skills churned out an entertaining entry in MATCHUP, a thrilling story that will appeal to fans of both authors.

 

Deserves to Be Dead

By Lisa Jackson & John Sandford

Lisa Jackson and John Sandford attacked their collaboration a little differently than many of the author pairings in MATCHUP—once Sandford came up with the initial idea for the crime story, he went ahead and wrote the entire first draft, leaving holes for Jackson to fill in.

Some of those gaps included the backstory for Detective Regan Pescoli, the protagonist from Jackson’s bestselling To Die series who, in the MATCHUP story, Deserves to Be Dead, locks horns with Sandford’s Virgil Flowers while they’re on the case to catch an insidious murderer.

“I edited the manuscript giving Regan perspective and backstory, and adding in what I wanted, especially reworking the ending but all in all, John did write the entire story and he achieved a great balance, I think,” Jackson says. “My hat’s off to him.”

In fact, Sandford is the primary reason Jackson agreed to be a part of MATCHUP—the opportunity to work with a master.

“I’m a big fan of John’s,” she admits. “But it was also important to do something gratis, for the good of writing and thriller fans. I’ve met a lot of the contributors and wanted to be a part of something so unique. This is a great way for fans of one author to get to know a new one or two or twenty!”

 

Midnight Flame

By Lara Adrian & Christopher Rice

In many cases, the authors in MATCHUP have been asked to stretch their skills, work outside their comfort zones, and open themselves up to the foreign concept of collaboration. But Lara Adrian and Christopher Rice had a unique challenge to add to the mix—creating a world in which both their characters could exist.

For their haunting paranormal story Midnight Flame, that meant turning back the clock—at least for one of them.

“For the story to work, Lara’s character, Lucan Thorne, had to enter the action from a present-day frame in a series that’s advanced years into the future,” Rice says. “I really credit Lara for being open to that idea.”

Rice is also grateful Adrian was open to the idea of introducing Thorne to Chris’s Desire Exchange series character Lilliane in New Orleans, during a theft.

“I came up with the circumstances around why Lilliane would be in the French Quarter, and what she’d have in her possession that would be worth stealing, and Laura found a way to make Thorne’s adventures fit into my ideas,” Rice says. “And she captured Lilliane perfectly in her first draft, largely because she’d read The Desire Exchange books featuring Lilliane, which again, was so generous and lovely of her.”

From that point, everything else kind of locked into place, including the process for their collaboration. Rice, having just finished co-writing a book with his mother, Anne Rice, says the story flowed naturally between them, with each peppering in the details that would bring their characters to life.

“Since Lara comes from romance and I’ve been writing in romance now for a few years, I think it was interesting for both of us to write a story with a male and female character where we knew they weren’t going to end up together by the end of it,” he says. “I can’t emphasize enough how generous Lara was with this.”

 

Getaway

By Lisa Scottoline & Nelson DeMille

Unlike many of the authors in MATCHUP, Lisa Scottoline and Nelson DeMille had little trouble pairing their characters.

“John Corey is in law enforcement and Bennie Rosato is a lawyer, and they’re geographically close—New York and Philadelphia—so Lisa and I had a lot of opportunities to put them together,” DeMille says. “That being said, we chose a chance encounter at a lake rather than a professional encounter. The real challenge was to get two alpha-personalities to put aside their egos and work together. I’m talking about the characters, not the authors.”

What made it work is that the characters and the authors are professionals, he adds.

“All four of us—John Corey, Bennie Rosato, Nelson DeMille, and Lisa Scottoline— respected one another and we knew when to listen, and when to compromise,” he says. “With alpha personalities it’s always about us, but it’s for the reader.”

And in Getaway, readers are in for a real treat. The story begins with Corey and Rosato out of their element, away from the city, both chilling out at an isolated lake in upstate New York.

“We agreed that there was a terrorist training camp in the woods, and before I could figure out the rest of the plot, Lisa sent me a complete first draft,” DeMille says. “All I had to do was put wisecracks in Corey’s mouth.”

Unfortunately, his attempts at charming Rosato are thwarted—despite the kind of chemistry on the page that makes you want to root for them, even if just for this story.

“Lisa let me know that Bennie was in a committed relationship, and though Bennie found John attractive, she was not going to cheat on her boyfriend,” DeMille says. “Corey gives it a good try but has to gracefully accept defeat in love.”

 

Taking the Veil

By J.A. Jance & Eric Lustbader

You might be tempted to raise a curious eyebrow at the author pairing of J. A. Jance and Eric Lustbader—and they wouldn’t blame you.

“When Steve Berry called me to tell me he’d paired me with Judy Jance I was quite surprised,” Lustbader says. “But as Steve pointed out the whole point of MATCHUP was to pair up authors whose style and milieu were dissimilar. As Steve said, ‘We want you guys to try working out of your comfort zone.’ He wasn’t kidding with the two of us.”

For starters, neither Jance nor Lustbader had collaborated before, and at first glance, their characters—Bravo Shaw and Ali Reynolds—seemed lightyears away from each other.

“That was before I read the latest Ali Reynolds novel and I was introduced to Sister Anselm, one of Ali’s best friends,” Lustbader says. “That clicked with me right away because my protagonist, Bravo Shaw, from The Testament series, deals in ancient religious artifacts outside the scope of Catholic orthodoxy. That was the peg on which we began our work.”

It wasn’t smooth sailing. After hashing out the first five pages, Jance and Lustbader found themselves deadlocked. So, they called Steve Berry and asked for advice. The boost was exactly what they needed for Lustbader to carve out a first draft.

The result is a smart thriller that sucks you in from the first page. In the process, Lustbader says he and Jance learned a little about each other—and a lot about how best to work together.

“The key to collaboration is keeping your ego on the shelf,” he says. “It’s like a marriage: to make it work you need to compromise and to communicate honestly.”

 

 
 

Africa Scene: Arthur Kerns

Finishing the Job

By Michael Sears

Arthur Kerns writes thrillers set around the world and featuring a free-lance protagonist, Hayden Stone, who gets into a lot of trouble trying to sort out the bad guys. His methods are often unconventional, so the trouble is as much with the powers-that-be as the terrorists themselves. Both want him out of the way. Currently there are three books in the series: The Riviera Contract, The Yemen Contract, and THE AFRICAN CONTRACT, all published by Diversion Books.

Following graduation from college, Arthur did a stint with the U.S. Navy amphibious forces, and then joined the FBI with a career in counterintelligence and counterterrorism. After the FBI, he consulted with the intelligence community and other U.S. government entities. His foreign assignments for them have taken him all over the world. I asked Arthur about his career and how it led to his writing.

You have firsthand experience of the type of work that you write about. How much has that experience helped you with your novels, and how much did you need to brush aside to keep things fast-paced and exciting?

My plots and story lines are original and I make an effort to avoid using any cases I worked on or had any knowledge of. The last thing I want to do is unintentionally reveal any sources or methods that might put a person’s life in jeopardy. That said, I do enjoy bringing in the flavor of intelligence work and use many of the problems and challenges people in the intelligence game face on a daily basis as a background. Much of the work can be deadly boring, like sitting in a car on surveillance or listening to a wiretap. Then when the action begins, things get interesting.
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International Thrills: Israel Centeno

A Literary Thriller Taking on Venezuela

By Layton Green

A long time ago, in what now seems like a galaxy far, far away, I was a young lawyer in a corporate law firm writing a novel in what stolen hours I could find, usually late at night or on weekend mornings.  Chasing the dream, I decided to quit my job and move to an island off the coast of Venezuela. The island was called Isla de Margarita, a little slice of troubled paradise that has provided a lifetime of literary fodder. But that’s a story for another time. I fell in love with the country and finished a good bit of my novel in the four months I lived there. When I learned that a decorated Venezuelan novelist—a political exile living in the United States—had written a literary thriller set in Caracas called THE CONSPIRACY, I jumped at the chance to interview him. Though my expectations were high, the novel exceeded them, as did the dialogue with the author. Israel Centeno has given us a frank and fascinating glimpse into his literary career, the circumstances that led to his exile, and the state of affairs of modern Venezuela.

Thanks for taking the time to chat, Israel.  We’re thrilled to have you.  Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you came to live in the United States?

Caramba! That’s a complicated story. To make it simple, I have been a writer for over 30 years. For a long time I made literature in my own country. My first book came in 1991, my first political thriller. At that moment instead of causing me problems, that novel launched me, it won me the equivalent of our national prize for literature, and established me as a writer. That’s how my career as a published writer began, and that’s continued now for a long time, though I’ve had  a lot of challenges. I’ve written more than just thrillers; I combined many genres to participate in the writing of the modern novel. Critics have called it gothic realism. A realism where elements of gothic literature appear in the story. More classical elements. Later, at some point in 2000, it occurred to me to write a novel about someone who had come to power based on the promise of leftist revolution. Really I was thinking a lot about how Hitler came to power, and about Chavez too. Something I had begun to address in my book Exile in the Bowery. About how the radical left had raised arms and essentially become as fundamentalist as the far right. Writing that book had consequences for me. The president himself used it as proof that people had it out for him. A government minister I knew thought that I was relishing in an attempted assassination attempt on him in the 1960s. I was labeled as a traitor, with all that means. In leftist Venezuela, being labeled a traitor is like being called that by the mafia. I was beaten in the street, they attempted to stab me, they threatened my daughters, and broke my electronics when I would return to the country from literary conferences. I was a dangerous man. They considered me a rat. I had no other option but to leave my country and seek exile. That’s how I came to the United States, where I came into contact with City of Asylum, Pittsburgh, a nonprofit organization that has been essential to my stay here, and which commissioned the translation of this novel into English.
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The Silence by Mark Alpert

The Role of Real Science in Thrillers

By April Snellings

If a decade of writing science thrillers has dulled Mark Alpert’s enthusiasm for his craft, you certainly can’t tell it from speaking with him. When he talks about his latest release, THE SILENCE, Alpert doesn’t offer any of the rehearsed answers to which popular novelists sometimes default. Instead, he gives an enthusiastic crash course in brain science, nanotechnology, and gene editing—not to mention the alchemy of splicing those lofty ideas into fast-paced, intensely readable thrillers.

Alpert, a self-described “lifelong science geek,” spent years oscillating between the worlds of science and writing before he settled into a career that combined the two disciplines. He holds a degree in astrophysics from Princeton, and another in poetry from Columbia University. He worked as a reporter for newspapers and magazines before becoming an editor at Scientific American in 1998; ten years later he published his first novel, 2008’s Final Theory.

This month finds Alpert wrapping up his first sojourn into yet another world: young adult literature. Alpert’s third YA thriller, THE SILENCE, hits bookstores on July 4 from Sourcebooks Fire. It’s the final installment in a trilogy that began with The Six in 2015 and continued last year with The Siege. (If you missed those first entries, you’re in luck; the publisher released paperback reissues of both volumes in June.)
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Need You Dead by Peter James

A Creative Catharsis 

By Alex Segura

When bestselling novelist Peter James started work on what was to become his 13th Roy Grace novel, NEED YOU DEAD, he knew he had to up the ante—for himself, his protagonist, and the reader.

But inspiration came from an unexpected and unpleasant place: frightening audio of a domestic brawl that escalates to murder.

“I always try to raise the bar with every book,” James said. “Three years ago I listened to a 911 call made to the LAPD by a woman whose estranged, violent husband was trying to break into the family home. The call started quietly, the woman clearly afraid, saying she had locked herself in her bedroom and her husband was trying to break into her house.  Before the call handler had dispatched a police car to the scene, she began screaming that the man was now in the house.  Then we could hear hammering sounds, and the woman now crying, stammering that he was trying to break the door down. Her voice turned to utter stark terror as he succeeded. We then heard five gunshots. He had shot her dead.”

The deadly call lingered with James, and spurred him to craft the story behind what he’d listened to, as a form of creative catharsis.

“The sheer horror of it remained with me for many months afterwards, and still does today,” James said. “I became fascinated by what the backstory might have been.”

The journey lead James to NEED YOU DEAD, and a character named Lorna Belling.
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The End of Temperance Dare by Wendy Webb

A New Kind of Haunted House

By Nancy Bilyeau

There’s an irresistible pull to a haunted-house story told well, and THE END OF TEMPERANCE DARE is told very well indeed. Part of what makes the novel special is the setting: Cliffside Manor, used as an elite retreat for artists, was once a private hospital for tuberculosis patients, one where inexplicable tragedies took place. But this mansion doesn’t loom on the moor in England or rise atop a cliff in Maine. The story takes place on the shores of Lake Superior, with very of-the-moment characters, while drawing potent atmosphere from the richly drawn location. As the plot tightens, the strange loveliness of the manor on the lake takes hold. As Publishers Weekly says, “Webb succeeds in escalating suspense while keeping her story grounded.”

Journalist Webb, who lives in Minneapolis, has been dubbed the Queen of the Northern Gothic. Here, she tells The Big Thrill what motivates her to write such winning fiction, and why following your own instincts is the key. Looks as if the practitioners of Swedish Noir should watch their back!
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UNSUB by Meg Gardiner

Writing the High-Octane Thriller

By R.G. Belsky

Meg Gardiner used to be a lawyer. Then she taught college students. Along the way she even managed to be a three-time champion on Jeopardy! But she knew what her real goal was.

“I wanted to be a writer,” says Gardiner, whose new thriller, UNSUB, has gotten extraordinary acclaim and already been bought by CBS for a TV series. “I always wrote, whether it was for a class or the high school newspaper. I published my first short story when I was in college. When I was teaching, I wrote short magazines pieces. And I always had in the back of my mind that I would write a novel.”

UNSUB, her 13th book, introduces a new series character in Caitlin Hendrix —a young police officer on the trail of a legendary serial killer called the Prophet in San Francisco who, 20 years earlier, had ruined  her own father’s career as a homicide detective. Now the Prophet has begun killing again and leaving taunting clues for police.

Asked how she would describe it to readers, Gardiner says: “High octane, emotionally satisfying, intriguing—I hope they’ll bite their nails down to the quick but never stop turning the pages.”
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The Hacker Chronicles by Patrick Oster

Aloysius Wachter, a clandestine hacker forced by circumstances to turn amateur detective, recounts several of his adventures that begin with spotting a murder on his first night on the job at a city agency that monitors everyone and everything through a 10,000-camera system.

The improbable hero starts sleuthing to save a beautiful young woman falsely suspected of the crime. He battles disbelieving cops, feds and Israeli hit men, and soon he’s being chased by Chinese cyber-spies and Russian hackers in episodes ripped from 21st Century headlines.

Helping him are two pals: Vassily, a Russian hacker on the run from his former gang, and Michelle, Vassily’s girlfriend, a Chinese hacker who used to work for the People’s Liberation Army. By the end of their adventures, Vic, Vassily and Michelle muse that their lives seem like a bizarro tale out of Alexander McCall Smith’s imagination, jokingly calling themselves the No. 1 Hackers Detective Agency.

Patrick Oster recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his novel, THE HACKER CHRONICLES:
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Don’t Close Your Eyes by Holly Seddon

Twin sisters Robin and Sarah haven’t spoken in years.

Robin can’t leave her house. A complete shut-in, she spends her days spying on her neighbors, subtly meddling in their lives. But she can’t keep her demons out forever.

Sarah will do anything to get her daughter back, but she’s unraveling under the mounting pressure of concealing the dark secrets of her past. And her lies are catching up to her.

The novel takes readers back in time to witness the complex family dynamics that formed Robin and Sarah into the emotionally damaged, estranged young women they’ve become. As the gripping and intricate layers of their shared past are slowly peeled away, the shocks and twists will keep readers breathless long after the final page.

Here, DON’T CLOSE YOUR EYES author Holly Seddon discusses her latest book with The Big Thrill:
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A Matter of Trust by Nancy A. Hughes

A tragic auto accident? No! The accident was staged, and young Doctor Ward murdered. But why? And by whom? The only witness, a DUI motorist, flees the scene. In the aftermath, his widow, Kingsley, impulsively accepts a job in a small-town central Pennsylvania bank, but trouble follows her. She uncovers a loan scam that implicates senior management. Angry and frustrated, she vows to solve both crimes herself, risking her job, her reputation—and even her life.

Author Nancy A. Hughes recently discussed her latest novel, A MATTER OF TRUST, with The Big Thrill:

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

I hope readers cannot put it down. That whatever life is throwing at them, they can retreat into my story. That they enjoy the twists, turns, surprises, and ending, and are left hoping there will be a sequel. I hope they enjoy the characters, forgetting that they are not real, but people they’d enjoy knowing and identifying as friends.
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Murder of the Doctor’s Wife by R. Barri Flowers

On the evening of Monday, February 25, 1867, Mary Ellen Coriell was brutally murdered at her home in Newmarket, New Jersey. The cold-blooded nature of the murder was shocking enough for residents of the town and elsewhere, but even more disturbing was that the culprit turned out to be the victim’s housemaid, an attractive young Irishwoman named Bridget Durgan.

The circumstances surrounding the murder—including jealousy, obsession, and delusion—were as old as time itself. The crime would come at a very steep price for the murderess who would be executed for the heinous act.

The sad tale of Mary Ellen Coriell’s untimely demise at the hands of someone she trusted and was ultimately betrayed by is a must for students of history, true crime, and homicide.

The Big Thrill recently caught up with the prolific R. Barri Flowers to discuss his latest true crime book, MURDER OF THE DOCTOR’S WIFE:

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

A sense of true history in reading the compelling tale of Bridget Durgan and the lengths she was willing to go to in ridding the competition for her imagined true love in this 19th century crime of passion.

Readers will also get a bonus historical true crime short, “Murder of the French Lover,” which chronicles the May 21, 1892, scandalous murder of Madame Lassimonne in Paris, France, by romantic rival, Claire Reymond, and its stunning outcome.
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Final Girls by Riley Sager

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.
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Trance Logic by Richard Rowland Billingsley

Rainbeaux Le Blanc is a woman running from secrets into mystery. A Remote Viewer with the Defense Intelligence Directorate, she discovers they are working with a demon known as the Blasphemer. Rainbeaux leaves the DID and tries to hide. But The Blasphemer finds her and turns those closest to her against her. Rainbeaux must face and defeat something she doesn’t understand, that can swat her like a fly.

Author Richard Rowland Billingsley spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his novel, TRANCE LOGIC:

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

This is the beginning of a series. I hope readers will get into the strong characters, and want to follow them through many more adventures. I also hope that readers will be introduced to new ideas and concepts they hadn’t heard of or considered before.
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Perish From the Earth by Jonathan F. Putnam

When a crooked card game leads to murder, young Abraham Lincoln, and his real-life best friend Joshua Speed, are forced to solve the crime. They soon discover, however, that far more than the identity of the criminal is at stake.

The murder takes place aboard a steamboat owned by Speed’s father, and Speed enlists Lincoln to defend the young artist accused of the crime. As the day of judgment hurtles toward them, Lincoln and Speed must fight to save not only the life of Lincoln’s client but also the merit of Speed’s good name.

PERISH FROM THE EARTH also involves a real-life murder that, while nearly forgotten today, was one of the most infamous crimes of the 19th century, provoking newspaper headlines from coast-to-coast and playing a key role in plunging the nation toward civil war. This murder upends Lincoln’s case and forces him to make a fateful choice—one on which the future of the nation may hang. If his client doesn’t first.

The Big Thrill caught up to PERISH FROM THE EARTH author, Jonathan F. Putnam, to discuss the second Lincoln & Speed Mystery:
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Death’s Footprint by Donna Warner & Gloria Ferris

What’s your life worth? If the price isn’t right….you die!

They call him Dr. Death. Not a surprise. Lucas Stride’s philosophy lectures promote humanitarian actions since we never know when the Grim Reaper will come for us.
Before the professor’s lecture at the Quebec City morgue, he receives a threat, insisting he assign a cash value to his life. If the note’s author isn’t satisfied with the amount, Lucas dies.

While Lucas struggles to comply with the extortion demand, Toronto cop, Jordan Blair, arrives for a tryst with private investigator, Darcy Piermont.

Her plans are derailed after Darcy is asked to locate a family friend missing since the morgue tour with his class. In their search for the professor, Jordan and Darcy uncover a series of crimes that conclude with the reality of — death.

The Big Thrill had the pleasure to discuss DEATH’S FOOTPRINT with authors Donna Warner & Gloria Ferris:
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Battle Scars by David M. Salkin

Marine Corporal Sean Nichols is wounded in a devastating ambush that takes the lives of his three friends and leaves him an amputee. If not for the heroism of his sergeant, Deke Tilman, who pulled him out of the road, Sean would have surely died with his fire team. With the help of Deke, Sean now embarks on his next mission—recuperate from his serious injuries, and visit the families of his fallen comrades as he tries to make peace with such profound loss.

BATTLE SCARS is a thought-provoking drama with compelling characters that illustrates the resiliency and strength of the human spirit, the power of love and friendship, and the ability to overcome even our darkest moments. Gritty realism and original storytelling breathe life into BATTLE SCARS as it inspires us with a surprising tale of heroism and the great sacrifice made by our modern war fighters. A novella you can read in a few hours, but will think about for days.

Author of BATTLE SCARS, David M. Salkin, discussed his latest book with The Big Thrill:

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

Unlike my usual thrillers, which are written simply to entertain my readers, BATTLE SCARS is written to tell the important story of the wounded warrior, and the experiences of today’s modern war fighter. A tale of patriotism, heroism and brotherhood, BATTLE SCARS will leave the reader thinking about the story long after they close the last page.
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Buried to Die by Ann Simas

Police Chief Aidan Cruz has instructed Sgt. Grace Gabbiano to find out everything she can about a body farm smack in the middle of one of the town’s largest filbert orchards, and to get it done five minutes ago. Six students, led by a teaching anthropologist from the university, seem to spend as much time making whoopee on the grounds of what they fondly call the B-Farm, as they do collecting and recording research data on the thirteen decomposing cadavers planted there. Grace barely gets her report written before a fresh grave is discovered inside the compound, and it doesn’t contain a body donated for research. With the body count rising, the pressure is on for her to find the common denominator among the victims who share no obvious thread other than being female.

Author Ann Simas recently answered some questions for The Big Thrill about her latest release, BURIED TO DIE:

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

Coburg, Oregon, a community of around 1,000 residents, is a real town. In actuality, homicides don’t occur there; in fiction, Grace Gabbiano and her crew face murder with regularity. It’s fun creating small-town characters with a vast range of personalities. I want my readers to get a sense, not only of what it’s like to live in a small town, but also what it’s like to be part of a large Italian family.
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Lockdown by Laurie R. King

A community comes together when threatened by someone with a thirst for revenge in this stunningly intricate, tautly plotted novel of rich psychological suspense from the New York Times bestselling author of the Mary Russell mysteries.

Career Day at Guadalupe Middle School: A day given to innocent hopes and youthful dreams. A day no one in attendance will ever forget.

A year ago, Principal Linda McDonald arrived at Guadalupe determined to overturn the school’s reputation for truancy, gang violence, and neglect. One of her initiatives is Career Day—bringing together children, teachers, and community presenters in a celebration of the future. But there are some in attendance who reject McDonald’s bright vision.

A principal with a secret. A husband with a murky past. A cop with too many questions. A kid under pressure to prove himself. A girl struggling to escape a mother’s history. A young basketball player with an affection for guns.

Even the school janitor has a story he dare not reveal.

But no one at the gathering anticipates the shocking turn of events that will transform a day of possibilities into an explosive confrontation.
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Resurrection America by Jeff Gunhus

By Austin Camacho

I believe the scariest thrillers are those rooted in fact. So despite its science-fiction spin, RESURRECTION AMERICA will chill any reader to the bone.

It all starts when helicopters and armored vehicles filled with soldiers in Hazmat suits quarantine the small mountain town of Resurrection, Colorado. The town follows martial law out of fear of an airborne virus, but Sheriff Rick Johnson isn’t buying the official version of events. Johnson is a good man who has managed to retain his sense of decency and morality after seeing the worst atrocities of war and, as the author tells us, he steps up to defend his community: “He clings to his small, failing town, understanding that it has become symbolic of his own ability to survive. He doesn’t view himself as a hero, but he’s a man of action who will do anything to save the people he cares about.”

As Johnson investigates, the cover story unravels and he discovers the military’s presence and the salvation they offer isn’t what it seems. A massive plot is underway, driven by a chilling super-patriot named Colonel Keefer.

“While Rick hopes for a return of community, Keefer plots to forcibly reshape the world to match his vision of America’s greatness, no matter how many people must die to make it a reality,” Gunhus says. “He personifies the danger of patriotism devolving into ultra-nationalism, reflecting, in my opinion, dangers we face today in our current politics.”
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The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker

By E.M. Powell

There are plenty of serial killer thrillers out there, but probably not so many where the murderer dies as an opener. Yet so it is in J.D. Barker’s THE FOURTH MONKEY, a gripping and pacey read that has the killer, literally, under a bus in the first pages.

The question that forms in the reader’s mind is one that Barker asked himself when the intriguing premise first occurred to him. “I decided that the killer should die at the beginning of the story,” he says. “That created a few complex problems, the least of which was where to go from there.”

As with so many good ideas, it needed that certain moment to make it spring to life, and for Barker, that was in the line at the grocery store back in 2014. “There was a rather rotund woman in line ahead of me in one of those electric carts,” he explains. “A boy of about eight years old was standing behind me with his father. The boy said something about the woman, I didn’t hear what exactly, then his father leaned down and said, ‘Speak no evil, son.’ As soon as I heard that, a number of thoughts flooded my head—Who says that? What exactly is happening back at their house? By that night, I had the basis for my killer’s childhood and the story found its way to paper quickly.”

It’s very (VERY) difficult to talk in any detail about the book as spoilers would inevitably arise. But it’s not going to spoil anyone’s read to say that Detective Sam Porter is no superman, but a diligent, courageous professional, battling terrible events in his own life.
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Dead Spider by Victoria Houston

By Alison McMahan

DEAD SPIDER is Victoria Houston’s 17th book featuring Police Chief Lew Ferris, retired dentist Doc Osbourne, and their friend Ray—all fishing fanatics.

In fact, everyone in Loon Lake is a fishing fanatic, but only Ray “lives in a house trailer painted to resemble a predatory muskie: lurid green scales covering the outside of the little place and capped at one end with a row of gleaming razor-sharp teeth.”

Doc Osborne, deputized to help with forensics, and Ray the playboy fisherman, are the police chief’s murder-solving team. The murder in DEAD SPIDER takes place at a youth fishing tournament. While everyone is watching fireworks, someone walks up to Chuck Pfeiffer, the richest man in Wisconsin, and executes him with a bullet behind the ear.

No one really mourns Pfeiffer. Not his first wife. Not his current, sour-faced and sour-voiced trophy wife. Not his children.

But Pfeiffer’s murder isn’t the only crime Ferris has to solve: Osborne’s granddaughter is caught in a drug sting. And the local nursing home was robbed; residents lost their money, medications, and their guns.
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Kill Devil Falls by Brian Klingborg

By Karen Harper

Brian Klingborg comes to this first novel with screenwriting and publishing credentials. Even reading about KILL DEVIL FALLS, I’m impressed with the fantastic setting for a rural noir, as well as the irresistible title. This premier book is prime for screen treatment.

And as a former teacher of writing, I must say, any writer could learn a lot from Klingborg’s take on dialogue, and the discipline it takes to get a book written.

In this interview with The Big Thrill, Klingborg shares some of that expertise and provides insight into his debut, KILL DEVIL FALLS.

Please tell us what your book is about.

KILL DEVIL FALLS is about a U.S. Marshal, Helen Morrissey, who travels to a remote, and nearly abandoned mining town high in the Sierra Nevada mountains to collect a fugitive.  Soon after she arrives, her car is sabotaged and the fugitive is murdered.  Now she’s trapped in this godforsaken place, surrounded by a handful of menacing oddballs and outcasts, while she tries to figure out who the killer or killers are, and why the murder was committed.
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The Fifth Reflection by Ellen Kirschman

By Wendy Tyson

THE FIFTH REFLECTION, the new novel by Ellen Kirschman, is the third book in the popular Dot Meyerhoff series featuring police psychologist Dr. Dot Meyerhoff. As a police and public safety psychologist, Kirschman knows her subject.  She brings a fresh voice and a chilling sense of realism to her thrillers.  Recently, The Big Thrill had the chance to catch up with Kirschman.

Congratulations on your upcoming release. Without giving any spoilers, what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the publisher’s material?

My mysteries are inspired by real officers and real events. What remains hidden are any identifying details. I owe a great deal to my clients. It frustrates me not to be able to thank them publicly.
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He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly

By J. H. Bográn

Just like the two sides of a coin, each person in a dispute can only tell his or her side of the story—their truth as they perceive it, or as they want to project it. Nobody puts this theory to the test better than Erin Kelly in her new novel HE SAID / SHE SAID, in which her main character Laura accidentally interrupts an encounter between a man and a woman during the total eclipse of the sun.

Laura knows that she saw something terrible. The man denies it. It is her word against his, while the victim seems grateful. Months later, the woman turns up on Laura and her husband Kit’s doorstep like a lonely stray. But as her gratitude takes a twisted turn, Laura begins to wonder? Did she trust the wrong person? The Big Thrill had the opportunity to chat with Erin Kelly about her latest book.

What can you tell us about developing Laura and Kit as characters?

I was so lucky with this couple; they came to me, if not fully formed, then pretty whole. They are my peers, so I had all the references I needed at my fingertips, but it went deeper than that. Sometimes I know what my characters did, but not why they did it. Sometimes, I know who my characters are and what they’re capable of, but not what my story needs them to do. This time, I knew both those things. The fun was in working out the details: what was Kit’s planned career that was so derailed by the events of 1999? What is it about Laura that makes her so determined to stick to her principles even when that means breaking a different moral code? By looking into their childhoods and their family dynamics, I was able to put flesh on their bones.
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American Static by Tom Pitts

By George Ebey

Fast-paced thrills await in author Tom Pitts’s latest novel, AMERICAN STATIC.

After being beaten and left for dead, Steven finds himself stranded alongside the 101 freeway in a small Northern California town. When a mysterious stranger named Quinn offers a hand in exchange for help reuniting with his daughter in San Francisco, Steven gets in the car and begins a journey from which there is no return. Quinn has an agenda all his own and he’s unleashing vengeance at each stop along his path. With a coked-up sadist ex-cop chasing Quinn, and two mismatched small town cops chasing the ex-cop, Steven is unaware of the violent tempest brewing.

The Big Thrill recently caught up with Pitts to learn more about this supercharged new tale of crime and suspense.

Tell us a little about your main character, Steven. What’s his journey been like up until now?

In many ways, Steven is like all of us were at his age. He’s naive, but he thinks he knows everything about anything. He grew up in a hip but sheltered household, raised by hippies in the deep woods of Northern California—the kind of parents who thought they were doing their boy a favor by keeping him from the world’s evils.
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Persons Unkown by Susie Steiner

By G. Robert Frazier

Even as the excitement over Susie Steiner’s first crime novel, Missing, Presumed, is reaching new peaks, the author’s second book in the series featuring Detective Manon Bradshaw, PERSONS UNKNOWN, hits stores this month.  Missing, Presumed was recently shortlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, one of the UK’s most prestigious awards for crime fiction.

If anything, however, the new book ramps up the stakes for Steiner’s protagonist, with those she loves among the suspects in a high-profile murder case. Add to that a detective who is five months pregnant while trying to be a good mother to her two children, and the complications multiply.

“The story is based on a real miscarriage of justice, which took place following a stabbing in London in 2011,” Steiner says. “I heard the story—or the remarkable ‘twist’ in the story—from a lawyer friend of mine over dinner. I then contacted the barrister in the case, and interviewed him, then the solicitor, and got a copy of the pathology report. So the spine of my story took place in real life.”

A former journalist for The Guardian, Steiner took time out of her busy schedule to share some additional insights with The Big Thrill into her character and her writing life.
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Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen

By Jaden Terrell

Mary Torjussen’s debut novel, GONE WITHOUT A TRACE is a fascinating exploration of obsession and the narratives we create about our lives. The book is set on the Wirral, near Liverpool, England, a setting with which Torjussen is intimate. But where Torjussen loves to walk by the river with friends and plot her novels, Hannah, her protagonist, seems much more driven. Driven to be named the youngest director in her accounting firm, driven to run every morning before work so as to beat her best friend in a 10k, driven to have—or at least, seem to have—the perfect life. That is, until her boyfriend, Matt, vanishes. Then she’s driven only to find him.

The book is what some would call a domestic thriller and others might call psychological suspense, a story that could most closely be compared with Gone Girl and Girl on a Train. Asked how she would classify it, Torjussen says, “I’d call it domestic noir, where the threat comes from our family and friends, so that our home is no longer a safe haven. It’s such a great genre to write, as it allows me to include subtle threats that mean the character concerned can’t call the police or confide in someone, for fear of being thought crazy.”

Although this is her first book, Torjussen is no stranger to writing. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Liverpool John Moores University and taught in Liverpool for several years. When asked about her writing journey, she says, “I’ve always wanted to write so when my children were in their teens and I suddenly had a lot of free time, I studied an MA in Creative Writing. I wrote two novels, but couldn’t find an agent to represent me. Then the college I was teaching at closed and I decided to use the payout to take a year off work and write a novel that I hoped would sell. Luckily the gamble paid off and GONE WITHOUT A TRACE has now sold in the UK, US and Canada, and in several foreign languages.”
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Hellmouth by Meredith Anthony

By Myles Knapp

First, the important stuff.

Lee Child calls HELLMOUTH, “A delicious mix of charm and menace — psychological suspense at its finest.” Jeffrey Deaver calls it, “Fast, stylish, and diabolically clever.”

And they’re right!

But don’t just take our word for it. Check out this interview in The Big Thrill, in which I ask Meredith Anthony a few questions about her new thriller, HELLMOUTH.

Your lead character, Helen Goode is not a typical thriller hero. How did you decide what physical, intellectual, and emotional characteristics she should have?

So many thrillers are male dominated and the hero is usually handsome, tall, strong. All that.  If it is woman-centered, she’s always young, blonde, blue-eyed, gorgeous, slim—usually has martial arts skills or is a cop or ex-cop.  I wanted the least likely protagonist.  A slightly dumpy middle-aged woman with a sedentary life and no physical skills.  None.

Which comes first in importance for you? Plot? Or Character?

Definitely character. After you build a complicated person, a plot will amble up and climb in their car.

I love unconventional heroines. What I loved about Girl on a Train is that the crime is solved by a disorganized, unhappy, black-out drunk. That kills me.  I love the unexpected. Look at Denise Mina’s Paddy Meehan series. Same thing. It’s like Bridget Jones with murders.
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Two Nights by Kathy Reichs

A standalone thriller featuring a “tough-talking, scarred heroine” from the author of the Temperance Brennan series, the basis for the hit TV show Bones.

Meet Sunday Night, a woman with physical and psychological scars, and a killer instinct…

Sunnie has spent years running from her past, burying secrets and building a life in which she needs no one and feels nothing. But a girl has gone missing, lost in the chaos of a bomb explosion, and the family needs Sunnie’s help. Is the girl dead? Did someone take her? If she is out there, why doesn’t she want to be found?

It’s time for Sunnie to face her own demons—because they just might lead her to the truth about what really happened all those years ago.

International bestselling  author Kathy Reichs took time out of her busy schedule to discuss her latest novel, TWO NIGHTS, with The Big Thrill:
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The Dogs of War by John Wayne Falbey

They’re here. In America. Thousands of Islamic terrorists committed to a rabid jihad that ends only when they’ve butchered the last man, woman, and child. Worst of all, they have nukes. The Day of Jihad is at hand. The odds of Western civilization being snuffed out grow stronger each day.

Compounding the threat, the Chinese are solidifying their grasp throughout Asia, while behind the scenes they sponsor the Islamic terrorists. Once an ineffective and weakening America crumbles, the Chinese are ready to extend their dominion over the entire planet. The Russian president is strengthening his grip on Europe and in the Middle East. Cyberwarfare is ramping up from Beijing to Moscow to Pyongyang to Tehran. And AGU—the Alliance for Global Unity—is orchestrating it all.

Only the shadow government known as the Society of Adam Smith, or SAS, may be capable of dealing with this threat. And it desperately needs the skills possessed only by that deadliest of hunter-killer teams, the Sleeping Dogs, including their newest member, an Australian.

With his rogue brother, the monstrous Maksym intent on killing his family, can Brendan Whelan reunite the Dogs in time?

The Big Thrill spent some time with John Wayne Falbey discussing his latest thriller, THE DOGS OF WAR:
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The Drowned Girls by Loreth Anne White

He surfaced two years ago. Then he disappeared.

But Detective Angie Pallorino hasn’t forgotten the violent rapist who left a distinctive calling card—crosses etched into the flesh of his victims’ foreheads. When a comatose Jane Doe is found in a local cemetery, sexually assaulted, mutilated, and nearly drowned, Angie is struck by the eerie similarities to her earlier unsolved rapes. Could he be back?

Then the body of a drowned young woman, also bearing the marks of the serial rapist, floats up in the Gorge, and the hunt for a predator becomes a hunt for a killer. Assigned to the joint investigative task force, Angie is more than ready to prove that she has what it takes to break into the all-male homicide division. But her private life collides with her professional ambitions when she’s introduced to her temporary partner, James Maddocks—a man she’d met just the night before in an intense, anonymous encounter.

Together, Angie and Maddocks agree to put that night behind them. But as their search for the killer intensifies, so does their mutual desire. And Angie’s forays into the mind of a monster shake loose some unsettling secrets about her own past. How can she fight for the truth when it turns out her whole life is a lie?

THE DROWNED GIRLS author, Loreth Anne White, discussed her latest novel with The Big Thrill:
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Vice City by S. A. Stovall

After twenty years as an enforcer for the Vice family mob, Nicholas Pierce shouldn’t bat an eye at seeing a guy get worked over and tossed in the river. But there’s something about the suspected police mole, Miles, that has Pierce second guessing himself. The kid is just trying to look out for his brother anyway he knows how, and the altruistic motive sparks an uncharacteristic act of mercy that involves Pierce taking Miles under his wing.

When Miles wants to repay Pierce for saving his life, Pierce shouldn’t see him as anything but a convenient hookup…. And he sure as hell shouldn’t get involved in Miles’s doomed quest to get his brother out of a rival street gang, the Cobras. He shouldn’t do a lot of things, but life on the streets isn’t about following the rules. Besides, he’s sick of being abused by the Vice family, especially Mr. Vice and his power-hungry goon of a son that treats his underlings like playthings.

So Pierce does the absolute last thing he should do if he wants to keep breathing—he decides to leave the Vice family in the middle of a turf war.

S. A. Stovall was gracious enough to spend some time with The Big Thrill discussing her novel, VICE CITY:
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Retalio by Alison Morton

Early 1980s Vienna. Recovering from a near fatal shooting, Aurelia Mitela, ex-Praetorian and former foreign minister of Roma Nova, chafes at her enforced exile. She barely escaped from her nemesis, the charming and amoral Caius Tellus ,who grabbed power in Roma Nova, the only part of the Roman Empire to survive into the 20th century.

Aurelia’s duty and passion fire her determination to take back her homeland and liberate its people. But Caius’s manipulations have isolated her from her fellow exiles, leaving her ostracized, powerless, and vulnerable. Without their trust and support, Aurelia knows she will never see Roma Nova again.

The Big Thrill recently caught up with Alison Morton, author of the Roma Nova thriller series, to discuss her latest book, RETALIO:
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Treble at the Jam Fest by Leslie Budewitz

The Agatha-Award winning Food Lovers Village Mysteries return with Treble at the Jam Fest.

Erin Murphy, manager of Murphy’s Mercantile (aka the Merc), is tuning up for Jewel Bay’s annual Jazz Festival. Between keeping the Merc’s shelves stocked with Montana’s tastiest local fare and hosting the festival’s kick-off concert, Erin has her hands full.

Discord erupts when jazz guitarist Gerry Martin is found dead on the rocks above the Jewel River. The one-time international sensation had fallen out of sync with festival organizers, students, and performers. Was his death an accident—or did someone even the score?

Despite the warning signs to not get involved, Erin investigates. And when the killer attacks, she orchestrates her efforts into one last crescendo, hoping to avoid a deadly finale.

Award-winning author, Leslie Budewitz, spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest Food Lovers Village Mystery, TREBLE AT THE JAM FEST:
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Flashmob by Christopher Farnsworth

As a fixer for America’s one percent, John Smith cleans up the messes of those rich enough to afford him. But he’s no ordinary gun for hire. Smith is a man of rare gifts, including the ability to read minds. Arriving at the wedding of Kira Sadeghi, a reality television celebrity he recently saved from kidnappers, Smith witnesses a group of gunmen open fire, hitting the bride and others. Though he’s unarmed, Smith cripples one of the killers and is able to pry one word from his mind: “Downvote.”

Eager to learn more, Smith hacks into the brain of an FBI agent investigating the attack to discover the Bureau has been investigating a nefarious new threat called “Downvote,” an encrypted site on the “dark net” that lists the names of celebrities and offers a hefty bounty for anyone who can kill them—unleashing an anonymous and deadly flashmob with a keystroke.

Finding a mastermind on the internet is like trying to catch air—unless you’re John Smith. Motivated by money and revenge, he traces a series of electronic signatures to a reclusive billionaire living at sea, accompanied by a scary-smart female bodyguard who becomes Smith’s partner in his quest. The hunt for their prey will lead from Hong Kong to Reykjavik to a luxury gambling resort deep in the Laotian jungle. Yet always this criminal mastermind remains one step ahead.

The only way Downvote’s creator can stop Smith is to kill him . . . because while this diabolical genius can run, there’s no hiding from a man who can read minds.

FLASHMOB author, Christopher Farnsworth, discussed his latest novel with The Big Thrill:
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The Last Good Man by Linda Nagata

Scarred by war, in pursuit of truth: Army veteran True Brighton left the service when the development of robotic helicopters made her training as a pilot obsolete. Now she works at Requisite Operations, a private military company established by friend and former Special Ops soldier, Lincoln Han. ReqOp has embraced the new technologies. Robotics, big data, and artificial intelligence are all tools used to augment the skills of veteran warfighters-for-hire. But the tragedy of war is still measured in human casualties, and when True makes a chance discovery during a rescue mission, old wounds are ripped open. She’s left questioning what she knows of the past, and resolves to pursue the truth, whatever the cost.

The Big Thrill caught up with author Linda Nagata to discuss her military thriller, THE LAST GOOD MAN:
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Murder in Mayfair by D. M. Quincy

In 1810, Atlas Catesby, a brilliant adventurer and youngest son of a baron, is anxious to resume his world travels after a carriage accident leaves him injured in London. But his plans are derailed when, passing through a country village, he discovers Lilliana Warwick being auctioned off to the highest bidder—by her husband. When the husband turns up dead several weeks later, Atlas is the only one who can help clear her name of the crime.

Fortunately, Atlas is a master at solving complicated puzzles, both with games and the intricacies of human motivation, and finds himself uniquely suited to the task, despite the personal peril it may put him in. But soon Altas learns the dead man had many secrets—and more than a few enemies willing to kill to keep them quiet—in MURDER IN MAYFAIR, the first in a new historical mystery series by D. M. Quincy.

The Big Thrill had an opportunity to sit down with D. M. Quincy to discuss her novel, MURDER IN MAYFAIR:
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Exodus ’95 by Kifir Luzzatto

Claire learns the secret of her dying New York neighbor: the whereabouts of Moses’ Biblical staff. With the help of an Israeli engineer and the money of a Russian oligarch, Claire sets out to recover the staff, but finds herself in a race against fanatics who will do anything to keep it from coming to light.

“Then the LORD said to Moses: Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.”

EXODUS ’95 author, Kifir Luzzatto, recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest novel:

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

In the words of one of the first reviews it got, “to be entertained from the first page of the story right through to the very last page.”
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Gitmo by Shawn Corridan & Gary Waid

Retired smuggler Dixon Sweeney exits Raiford after eight long years behind bars, vowing “From here on out, things are gonna be different.”

And boy is he right: his wife has left him, emptied his safe deposit box, moved their entire house to Key West, and is shacking up with Sweeney’s former partner and Best Man. Worse yet, Buck Wiggins is after him for a sixty-five grand debt. But Sweeney’s broke! So Buck sends Gooch and Gunther Canseco, twin towers of steroidal ape stuff, to tune Sweeney up each week until he pays Buck back.

And he thought life in prison sucked.

When a mysterious Cuban-American approaches Sweeney with an offer, Sweeney is forced to accept. The payoff? A cool half mil. The problem? The money is hidden inside a house in Cuba. Worse yet: on Guantanamo Naval Base, a.k.a. GITMO.

Strap on your seat belt and prepare for the ride of your life, as unlikely hero Dixon Sweeney and his beat-up Chris-Craft challenge the Gulf Stream, waterspouts, man-eating sharks, the crazy Canseco twins, the Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, the entire Cuban military, and one super sexy senorita in this hilarious romp through the Florida Straits.

The Big Thrill caught up with authors Shawn Corridan and Gary Waid to discuss GITMO:
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Blood and Needles by Billy Lyons

Twenty-five year old Steven Jameson is a junkie who lives on the streets and finances his habit by robbing unsuspecting tourists. One Saturday night he meets a beautiful stranger named Anna Marie Jennsen, who tells him that she’s the leader of the Morphia Clan, a family of vampire addicts. Anna Marie offers Steven membership in the clan, provided he can pass the gruesome test of loyalty she requires. Steven is transformed into a vampire and formally inducted into the clan, where he quickly makes friends with his fellow vampires. Among these are Teresa, a tiny, offbeat vampire who appears to have joined the clan in her late teenage years and Eric, who Steven immediately dislikes and distrusts. Steven’s story climaxes during a raid on a large pharmaceutical manufacturer, during which he discovers that not everything is as it seems, and that there are hidden dangers everywhere.

The Big Thrill caught up with Billy Lyons to discuss his debut, BLOOD AND NEEDLES:
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