The July edition of the Big Thrill is here!

28 new thrillers from ITW Members, including debut novels from Teri Anne Stanley and Wendy Tyson, plus new nonfiction from Steven Philip Jones. Don't miss the Between the Lines Interview with Karin Slaughter by A.J. Colucci; a Special to the Big Thrill: THE KILLING novel: The Rewards and Challenges of Bringing Linden and Holder to the Page by Karen Dionne; a second Special to the Big Thrill: A Q&A with Simon & Schuster Senior Editor Sarah Knight by Barry Lancet; and don't forget to visit the Africa Scene with Annamaria Alfieri.

CLICK HERE to read more!

Contemporary Thrillers

The Black Hour by Lori Rader-Day

black hourBy James W. Ziskin

Imagine being shot at point-blank range in a darkened hallway by someone you’ve never met. And imagine that your assailant promptly turns the gun on himself, depriving you of any chance of knowing why he did it. Somehow you survive the attack and manage to pull through months of surgeries and rehab and return to your job. But what if your colleagues assume you are somehow to blame, that the true motivation for the attack was something you had done? One of the cruelest injuries of the attack is the callous blackening of your name by vicious gossip. And then there is the haunting question in your own head: Why? Why did that young man shoot me?

I recently talked to Lori Rader-Day about her riveting debut novel, THE BLACK HOUR.

THE BLACK HOUR straddles two genre categories, psychological thriller and crime fiction. How would you categorize your book?

My agent called it a thriller. My press called it a mystery. I’ve heard “psychological suspense” a couple of times. I don’t know, really. Nobody knows. The greatest mystery in mystery writing is where the lines occur between marketing terms. I get why we need them—they’re in service of helping readers find the books they’ll like. With so many books being published, helping readers find your book is a real hurdle. Here’s another marketing term: discoverability. I’m hoping THE BLACK HOUR will be stored in the mystery sections of bookstores and libraries, but as for what I call it, I’ve adopted “crime fiction.” It seems the most broadly defined. I can probably promise a crime of some kind will occur.
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Sacrificial Muse by Maegan Beaumont

Sacrificial Muse (1)By Dawn Ius

Maegan Beaumont knows where her dark places are—and she doesn’t mind getting dirty.

Because at the bottom of that black pit is a creative force that drives her writing and inspires the creation of Sabrina Vaughn, the damaged protagonist in Beaumont’s award-winning thriller CARVED IN DARKNESS, and the sequel out this month, SACRIFICIAL MUSE.

Vaughn’s job is to hunt down murderers—a job she does very well despite her dark and tortured past. At seventeen, she was abducted by a psychotic killer, raped and tortured for nearly three months, and then left for dead in a deserted churchyard. She survived.

“There is, in all of us, a will to survive,” says Beaumont, who before becoming a full time writer and mom worked in the mental health field for nearly a decade. “I worked with countless cases of horrific abuse and if there’s one thing I have learned, it’s that the human spirit is resilient.”

Resilience is one of Vaughn’s key character traits. Even before she was abducted, she was always the girl who spent life on the outside looking in, struggling with the hand she’d been dealt and yet determined to persevere.

Beaumont knows a little something about perseverance. As a debut novel, CARVED IN DARKNESS has racked up an impressive number of awards and commendations, including the 2013 Gold Medal for suspense/thriller by an Independent Publisher. CARVED was also a Foreword Book of the Year finalist in the horror category. Despite this, Beaumont admits her publishing journey veers a bit on the crazy side.
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The Fever by Megan Abbott

The Fever_CoverBy Tim O’Mara

Since I’d just spent the previous week preparing for this interview by reading DARE MEand THE FEVER—both of which drip with the drama of teenage girls—I had the strange feeling I’d gone through high school with Megan Abbott. So I asked her, since high school is all about finding a label that fits, how would she label herself as a writer?

“I’m a crime novelist,” she said. “I can’t imagine not being a crime novelist. It’s how I understand story.”

So, what about this whole “Queen of Noir” thing?

“My stories are about people in dark places. To me, they’re stories about power. We can all relate to having something taken away or wanting something so badly. My characters often come from a position of powerlessness and yearning. Facing their own demons, and surviving.”

Yep. Sounds like high school. When I pointed out that if she were walking down the hallways of one of the local high schools, she might very well get stopped and asked to show her hall pass.

“I get that a lot,” she said. “The ‘you-look-so-young’ thing. I think it’s less about the way I look and more about that I’m from the Midwest.” She smiled. “I’m friendly.”

So how’d this friendly person get into the whole thriller/crime/noir thing?

“I’ve been reading thrillers since I was a kid, maybe ten years old. At that age, it was mostly writers like Patricia Highsmith and Ira Levin.” She must have noticed my eyebrows going up. “I was a precocious reader.”

And the brief reference to The Crucible in THE FEVER?
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The Wolf by Lorenzo Carcaterra

wolfBy Austin Camacho

Bookstore shelves are filled with thrillers pitting courageous heroes against organized crime or terrorists. But until now we have not seen criminal and terrorist organizations pitted against each other. This inspired concept is the basis of THE WOLF, the latest novel from Lorenzo Carcaterra.

THE WOLF, the first book in what promises to be a blockbuster series, shows us the events that drive the heads of the International Organized Crime Syndicate to declare war on the international terror networks. It turns out that mobsters can be much more effective than law enforcement, which is out-numbered and encumbered by all those pesky rules.

In the novel, the highest levels of organized crime are led by Vincent “The Wolf” Marelli. He may not be a “good guy” in the traditional sense, but as the author says, if you met Vincent at a party, you’d be charmed by him.

“He’s smart and has a wide variety of interests—from art history to sports to music and movies,” Carcaterra says. “In short, he can speak on any subject and will be as interested in you as you are in him. You could speak for hours and come away having had a pleasant time and yet knowing very little about who he really is and what he really does. He is adept at keeping the focus on you and the glare away from him.”
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The Directive by Matthew Quirk

The DirectiveBy Steph Cha

Matthew Quirk is kind of a big deal. He went to Harvard, where he studied history and literature, and straight after graduation, he went and worked for this magazine of import, name is on the tip of my tongue…ah yes, The Atlantic. As if that weren’t enough to make your mom ask if he’s single, he then went on to write two acclaimed thriller novels, THE 500(his 2012 debut) and the brand new sequel, THE DIRECTIVE, both published by Little Brown.

THE 500 introduced his protagonist Mike Ford, a Harvard Law graduate tangling with the insidious Washington, D.C. elite. That novel won the Black Ribbon Award and the Thriller Award for best debut, and was nominated more or less everywhere else nominations were available. It’s been translated into twenty languages, and is currently in development as a major motion picture with Twentieth Century Fox.

His new novel, THE DIRECTIVE, follows Mike Ford as he plans an audacious heist on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. It’s shaping up to be another great hit that should establish Quirk as a monster in the thriller world.

Mr. Quirk was nice enough to answer a few questions:

You spent five years at The Atlantic, reporting on matters of great intrigue. How did you make the transition to fiction? Was there a particular story or moment that made you think, “This would make a great novel”?

There were countless great stories and moments like that, so many that I almost couldn’t help but start writing fiction.
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Phantom Instinct by Meg Gardiner

PhantomBy Terry DiDomenico

I’ve been a reader for as long as I can remember. I remember reading Nancy Drew and quickly moving on to the Hardy Boys because I craved more action. Mysteries filled the void for a while. Then I found thrillers, starting with David Morrell and Jon Land’s Blaine McCracken. Yes, I was getting action, but in my experience, most of the kicking ass was done by men. That is, until I discovered Meg Gardiner.

In my recent introduction to Meg’s stand-alone novels, RANSOM RIVER and SHADOW TRACER, I found what I consider true thriller, kick ass heroines: Rory Mackenzie and Sarah Keller. From there it was a small leap to follow Harper Flynn in PHANTOM INSTINCT, Gardiner’s latest release.

Gardiner opens PHANTOM INSTINCT with a shoot-out and deadly fire in a trendy nightclub. The bartender, Harper Flynn, tries to move her injured boyfriend, Drew, from the line of gunfire only to lose him to the devastation of the blaze that followed. A year later at a memorial service for Drew, she sees a figure watching from the shadows and wonders who it is and why they are there.

She is convinced it has something to do with the third gunman she saw, but since other survivor reports did not support her claim, the police are uninterested in pursuing what they believe is a figment of her imagination.

Believing she is on to something, Harper contacts Aiden Garrison, a policeman who was in the club on the night of the shooting. He too remembers there was a third gunman but due to a traumatic brain injury called Fregoli Syndrome or face blindness his recollections are deemed to be unreliable.
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Over My Live Body by Susan Israel

Over My Live Body - SIsraelBy Basil Sands

debut-authorThis month THE BIG THRILL introduces to Susan Israel and her debut novel OVER MY LIVE BODY.

Susan hails from Connecticut where she lives with her beloved dog, but New York City lives in her heart and mind and her story. A graduate of Yale College, her fiction has been published in Other Voices, Hawaii Review, and Vignette and she has written for magazines, websites, and newspapers, including Glamour, Girls’ Life, Ladies’ Home Journal, and the Washington Post. As her first full-length novel works its way into the hands of eager readers, she is currently at work on the second book in the Delilah Price series, currently called STUDENT BODIES.

Susan, tell us a little about OVER MY LIVE BODY.

OVER MY LIVE BODY is told from the point of view of my main character, Delilah Price, who realizes she’s the object of affection of a stranger she wants no part of, somebody who doesn’t seem to want to take no for an answer. She doesn’t know what she did to deserve this and doesn’t know how to make him stop and only when violence escalates do the police get involved. A sad truth: this is what usually happens, particularly when the person being stalked isn’t a celebrity of some sort.

How did you come up with your main character Delilah and especially her unique job?

Like Delilah Price, I modeled for art classes but my experience was controlled and comfortable and non-threatening. I started developing the story line then: what would happen to someone in a less-cloistered setting? And of course some of the characters Delilah meets in the course of the investigation tend to insinuate she “asked for it” by posing nude. As if any victim of any crime “asks for it.” Modeling for art classes is more of a matter of numb limbs than sexuality. Artists get that. Delilah poses for art classes, for her peers as well as others in other NYC art classes, to help pay the bills. It can pay pretty well. But she learns there’s a price attached to that, pun unintended.
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Eyes on You by Kate White

eyes on youBy Dawn Ius

Kate White once asked her daughter to stalk her through the woods so she could better understand the feeling of being followed.

While not the most orthodox way to get into the writing zone, it’s one of the many ways this New York Times bestselling author tackles the research required to write her mystery and psychological suspense novels.

Up until a few years ago, much of that research was organic. The protagonists in White’s novels are often entrenched in the sometimes not-so-glamorous world of the beauty and fashion industry—something White knows a lot about as the former Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan, the number one monthly magazine on the newsstand at the time of her tenure.

“It’s great having time now to do more research because it gives me a rest from the actual writing,” she says. “Research allows you to put yourself in the shoes of someone fascinating, and sometimes it provides you with a great idea for the book you’re not expecting. You can come away from it magically inspired. Whereas, writing is hard.”

True—but White makes it seem effortless.

EYES ON YOU, White’s third stand-alone psychological thriller, due out this month, marks her ninth published novel. Like the bulk of her books, EYES ON YOU is a great Who-Dunnit about Robin Trainer, a second-chance media star who must battle a malevolent enemy who won’t stop until Robin loses everything—maybe even her life.

This is the first book in which the mystery directly involves the protagonist’s work—but White is confident the story is relatable for many women, including herself.

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Lights Out! by Donald Bain

Lights Out! by Donald Bain

I’m often asked at writers’ conferences where I get my ideas. With LIGHTS OUT! it began in 1965 on a runway in Cincinnati, although I didn’t start writing it until 2003, almost forty years later.

In 1965 I was a PR executive for American Airlines and had been dispatched to Cincinnati from New York to handle the press at the scene of a fatal accident, and to act as the airline’s spokesman. One of our 727 jets, a relatively new model aircraft (the first tri-motor since the Ford Tri-Motor of the 1930s) had slammed into a hill while on its landing approach, killing everyone aboard.

Two nights later I was on an American Airlines aircraft waiting to fly back home. We were about to taxi for takeoff when the captain announced that there had been a massive electrical failure on the East Coast, shutting down the three New York area airports. I remember sitting there wondering whether it was possible for someone to deliberately cause such an electrical failure, and why a person would do such a thing. I noted my thoughts on an envelope, spent an additional night in Ohio, flew home the next day, and forgot about it.

Fast-forward to 2003. I was busy writing novels in the Murder, She Wrote series of murder mysteries based upon the popular TV show, and working closely with Margaret Truman on her Capital Crimes series. One day another failure of the power grid occurred in the eastern United States and parts of Canada. That started me thinking again: What if? I found the envelope with my notes scrawled on it and began developing a plot for a novel.

What if someone could arrange for a massive power failure and sell the exact date and time of when it would occur? Obviously buyers of such information would have to be unsavory characters with equally unsavory aims. Because the 2003 electrical failure had originated in Canada, I elected to begin the story there. I’ve never been good at writing bigger-than-life heroes, having always preferred to write about regular men and women who fall victim to their weaknesses, and to outside events. I made my main character, Carlton Smythe, a mild-mannered, hapless electrical engineer in a loveless marriage to a wealthy woman whose mother puts Mommie Dearest to shame. My character has been downsized from his job at a large Toronto electrical generating facility. What if he’s invited to present a proposal to the Argentine power authority for upgrading its facilities, and while in Buenos Aires meets a gorgeous, voluptuous Argentinean woman, Gina Ellanado, and falls madly in love? I liked that idea. Smythe would become a man trapped in a monumental male midlife crisis.
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The Flamekeepers by J. Gregory Smith

flamekeepersBy Sidney Williams

The FLAMEKEEPERS, the doomsday cult at the heart of J. Gregory Smith’s new novel of the same name, sounds ominously real.

With a charismatic leader who keeps followers enthralled, the group seems to be on the way to developing a deadly chemical weapon. The novel’s hero, Lukasz Gardocki—his proud Polish-American father wanted him to have a distinct name—is forced to infiltrate the group when the sister of his deceased best friend reaches out to him.

Though former wild child Alecia Motley kicked a drug habit with the help of the organization’s leader, she has made a shocking discovery and works to help Lukasz as the story unfolds. The FLAMEKEEPERS may not just be prepping to survive an apocalypse.

They may be planning to bring one on.

Smith, who also writes the Paul Chang mystery series, set out to create an organization with the ring of authenticity, but he said in a recent interview that no single headline gave birth to THE FLAMEKEEPERS.
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Live to See Tomorrow by Iris Johansen

Live to See Tomorrow by  Iris Johansen
Catherine Ling is one of the CIA’s most prized operatives. Raised on the unforgiving streets of Hong Kong, she was pulled into the agency at the age of fourteen, already having accumulated more insight and secrets than the most seasoned professionals in her world. If life has taught her anything, it is not to get attached, but there are two exceptions to that rule: her son Luke and her mentor Hu Chang. When Luke was kidnapped at the age of two, it nearly broke her.

Now, nine years later, her son has astonishingly been returned to her and Catherine vows never to fail him again. But when her job pulls her away from home, she relies on the brilliant and deadly Hu Chang to safeguard Luke in her absence. Now Erin Sullivan, an American journalist with mysterious ties to Hu Chang, has been kidnapped in Tibet. If Catherine doesn’t agree to spearhead the CIA rescue mission, she knows that Hu Chang himself will go, a possibility she can’t risk. But she will be facing a monster whose crimes stretch back forty years, always eluding the CIA. And the job grows even more complicated when Catherine meets Richard Cameron, a supposed ally who’s clearly not telling all he knows. Their attraction is immediate, but Catherine isn’t at all sure that he can be trusted. If she’s going to rescue this journalist with a story worth killing for, she’ll need to keep Cameron very close.

From the treacherous landscape of the Himalayas to the twisting back alleys of San Francisco, the clock is ticking for Catherine and those she loves most. At every turn she faces a ruthless enemy who is determined to keep the truth buried, even if it means that none of them live to see tomorrow, in this novel from bestseller Iris Johansen.
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Deep Winter by Samuel W. Gailey

deep winterdebut-authorDEEP WINTER by Samuel W. Gailey is a dark, gripping debut novel of literary suspense that The New York Times and other major critics describe as a “beautifully written, suspenseful, page turner.” The book was a debut author pick by Penguin and Good Reads.

Samuel graciously agreed to answer some questions from THE BIG THRILL.

Tell us about DEEP WINTER

DEEP WINTER takes place in 1984 in a small Pennsylvania town where a woman is found brutally murdered one winter night. Next to the body is Danny Bedford, a misunderstood man who suffered a tragic brain injury when he was a child. Because of Danny’s limited mental abilities and menacing size, the townspeople have ostracized him out of fear and ignorance. When the deputy sheriff discovers Danny with the body, it’s assumed that Danny’s physical strength finally turned deadly. But the murder is only the first in a series of crimes that viciously upset the town order—an unstoppable chain of violence that appears to make Danny’s guilt increasingly undeniable. With the threat of an approaching blizzard, the local sheriff and a state trooper work through the pre-dawn hours to establish some semblance of peace. As they investigate one incident after another, an intricate web of lies is discovered, revealing that not everything in the tight-knit town is quite what it seems.
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Voodoo Ridge by David Freed

Voodoo Ridge by David FreedBy Basil Sands

As an Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, most notably with the Los Angeles Times, David Freed counted among his acquaintances con men, commandos, spies, people who get paid to solve homicides, and people who commit them. He chronicled affairs of state, all manner of disasters, both natural and manmade, and the activities of the U.S. military, including Operation Desert Storm, where he reported from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq.

This month THE BIG THRILL is happy to bring you a chat with David Freed about his writing and the release of the latest work in his Cordell Logan series, VOODOO RIDGE.

Welcome David, tell us about VOODOO RIDGE.

Happy to, Basil, and thanks a bunch for the opportunity. VOODOO RIDGE is the third offering (following FLAT SPIN and FANGS OUT) in my Cordell Logan mystery series. Logan is an acerbic former Air Force fighter pilot-turned-government-operator-turned-civilian-flight-instructor eking out a living in the seaside resort community of Rancho Bonita, California. He is also, despite himself, hopelessly in love with his ex-wife, Savannah, who also happens to be pregnant with his baby. When the book begins, Logan and Savannah decide to fly to Lake Tahoe in Logan’s old Cessna 172 to retie the knot. Along the way, Logan spots a glint of metal high up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains that may or may not be the remains of a downed airplane. He agrees to put his wedding plans on temporary hold and guide authorities to the site—a decision that will change his life forever.
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The Buddy System by Brandon Hebert

The Buddy System by Brandon HebertBy Christina Ironstone

Brandon Hebert, author of MY OWN WORST ENEMY and ODD MAN OUT, really delivers with his newest novel, THE BUDDY SYSTEM. It’s a gritty, New Orleans-style cop tale with a comic edge. Brandon unites the two elements together seamlessly. It might have something to do with his Louisianan roots or maybe it’s his sharp intellect. Either way, he’s talented and incredibly humble about it. Brandon’s from a sleepy town in southern Louisiana, where he lives with his wife and three dogs: Lucy, Lily, and Lola. When he has free time you can find him fishing with his dad and spending time with family and friends. For those of you who have yet to have the pleasure of reading his work, do yourself a favor and pick up THE BUDDY SYSTEM.

THE BIG THRILL recently caught up with Brandon who agreed to answer a few questions.

Tell us about THE BUDDY SYSTEM.

THE BUDDY SYSTEM is about two cops and a small time drug dealer that use each other to further their respective career paths in post-Katrina New Orleans.

N.O.P.D detectives Jack Hardy and Early Moore are under a lot of pressure to rein in violence on the streets. They decide to let one of their favorite snitches, local drug dealer Lamont Brown, do some of the heavy lifting and name names on a wiretap unit they’re assigned to. They get the prestige of multiple busts and Lamont can rid himself of the competition.

To quote one astute reviewer: Things go right for about five minutes.

The book has been called “a New Orleans take on The Wire” with “a comic edge.” Going a little further, I always approach my stories from a relationship vantage point. They’re really about the human experience. Jack and Early’s redemption. Lamont’s retribution. Their uneasy friendship which will ultimately be based on some level of mutual respect, however begrudging it may be. Those are emotions we can all relate to. Crime just happens to be the backdrop because it’s interesting to put these people in those situations.
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Ruin Falls by Jenny Milchman

Ruin Falls by Jenny MilchmanBy Jeff Ayers

Jenny Milchman’s debut novel, COVER OF SNOW, received starred reviews from both Booklist and Publishers Weekly. The Associated Press said, “The first-person account told from Nora’s point of view thrusts the narrative full force into horror, sadness and every other emotion Nora experiences as she must start over without Brendan…[W]hat makes Cover of Snow sing is Milchman’s ability to make readers care for Nora as she suffers and starts anew.”

Her latest, RUIN FALLS, is also receiving accolades. RT Book Reviews said, “Milchman has a gift that allows her to delve deep into the mind and psyche of her characters, and fans of dark plots like the works of Gillian Flynn will find another author to savor.”

Milchman is on the road promoting RUIN FALLS, but took the time to chat with THE BIG THRILL.

What sparked the idea for RUIN FALLS?

One night when I was on the road—and readers of THE BIG THRILL might know that I tend to go on the road for a verrrry long time—we arrived at a hotel and were lucky enough to get upgraded to a suite. (Because I go on tour with my whole family—husband working from the front seat, kids “car-schooled” in the back—a suite is a treat. It can get cramped in a car!) Anyway, I was tucking the kids into the sleeper sofa bed when it occurred to me that in a suite, the children sleep beside the exit door, while the parents are a whole room away. This suddenly struck me, in the eerie way of late night arrivals and the disorientation of travel, as extremely scary. I knew that I would have to write a novel that involved a mom sleep-stumbling her way into the outer room of the suite…and not finding her children there. Now, because of the kind of writer—and person—I am, I also knew that the children would have to be safe all along. The mom and the reader would know this. So the suspense in RUIN FALLS derives not from whether the kids will be okay, but from how their mother will get them back.

Speaking of your travels, could you talk a bit about how you promoted your first novel and what you are doing for RUIN FALLS?

Ah! That brings us right to the subject of the world’s longest book tour. I don’t know that this was conceived as a promotional effort, but after taking thirteen long years to get published, the thing I most wanted to do was get out there and connect with readers, writers, authors, booksellers, librarians, and other people who had supported me along the way. I’m also a big believer in the importance of face-to-face in a virtual world. So my husband and I rented out our house, traded two cars in for an SUV that could handle Denver in February, and withdrew the kids from first and third grades. We visited over 400 bookstores, libraries, book clubs and schools, spending seven months and 35,000 miles on the road. It was magical enough that with my new novel just released, we’re heading out again.
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The Keeper by John Lescroart

keeperBy Josie Brown

Time marches on for thriller writer John Lescroart and the lead characters in his bestselling thriller series. Dismas Hardy is enjoying life as an empty-nester, whereas Abe Glitsky is easing into retirement…

Okay, not really.

In THE KEEPER, the seventeenth and latest novel in Lescroart’s bestselling series, San Francisco politics and murder not only make for interesting bedfellows, it showcases the defense attorney and the lately retired police detective-turned-private investigator at the top of their respective games.

Lescroart explains how he keeps his plots fresh and his characters evolving:

In THE KEEPER, the mystery of a domestic murder is wrapped up in the enigma of law enforcement corruption and the conundrum of politicians looking to score points with voters. How did the idea for the plot for THE KEEPER come to you?

Actually, this is one of those times when another novel sparked my imagination. Last year, like everybody else, I read and enjoyed GONE GIRL. By the time I got to the end, I was convinced that the “missing woman” story was one I hadn’t explored too often in my own work (only in THE HUNT CLUB), and that the basic plot idea—especially when the missing woman is married—begged for a different interpretation that I thought would be right up my alley. That’s how it began, but as soon as I started writing, I knew I would have to involve some official corruption and a political tie-in because these things grew holistically from the parameters of the story.
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Stalk Me by Richard Parker

Stalk Me by Richard ParkerBy Lee Lindauer

Your worst nightmare just went viral. After being involved in a road accident and assault, Beth Jordan awakes to find the aftermath being recorded by students with their phones and attacks the crowd. Awaking from a coma she is horrified to discover the event has been shared online by millions of viewers. Beth must use the clips to find out what happened to the driver of the other car but somebody is murdering the owners of the clips. Can Beth track them down before the digital fragments of the event disappear forever?

Just like the riveting way the plot untangles in Richard Parker’s STALK ME, I had to rely on electronic means for this interview. I would have preferred to visit Richard in person in the Salisbury area of the United Kingdom, but alas, it had to be by email. Curses, foiled again!

Please give us a brief bio of yourself and how you ended up writing novels.

My professional writing career began in my late teens when I started submitting comedy scripts to TV. I had a few pieces used and then was offered commissions. I eventually became head writer, script associate, script editor, and then producer. Having ticked all those boxes I needed a new challenge and started writing novels around 1998.

As with your previous two novels, STOP ME and SCARE ME, this one is titled STALK ME. Is there any significance to the similar titles?

I was pleased that my first publisher stuck with my STOP ME title. When I’d finished my second book I had a different title for it but Exhibit A were keen to carry on the ‘Me’ theme. STALK ME seemed like a gift. It fits in with my S&M brand (!)
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Whirlwind by Rick Mofina

Whirlwind by Rick MofinaBy Jeff Ayers

International bestselling author Rick Mofina is known for delivering intense suspense and stories with emotional impact.  In his latest, WHIRLWIND, investigative reporter Kate Page joins the search for a baby who vanished in the arms of a stranger following a devastating tornado near Dallas, Texas.

RT Book Reviews declared WHIRLWIND a Top Pick and said, “Another stellar read that demonstrates Mofina’s one of the best thriller writers in the business.”

Rick Mofina recently chatted with THE BIG THRILL.

What sparked the idea for WHIRLWIND?

No one incident sparked the idea. It came to me when I cast back to some of the toughest moments I’ve ever faced during the years I worked as a news reporter. I was often parachuted into the lives of people at the most difficult times in their lives, often during natural disasters. I’d talked to many people, who’d suffered horrible losses. As I considered the enormous emotional toll, a fictional story began to take shape. I imagined a young wife and mother of two small children, already facing hard times. I saw her at the moment she’d accepted a kind stranger’s help to protect her baby boy as a killer tornado rips through a Texas flea market. But in the aftermath, that mother can’t find her son or the woman who’d been holding him. Then I imagined a reporter, a single mom herself, discovering this tragedy at a time when she’s fighting for her job and trying to hold her life together. I envisioned her vowing to find the truth behind the baby boy’s disappearance, no matter where it led, no matter the cost. I saw their stories, and those of others involved, coming together in a whirlwind of forces so powerful that it surpassed all of their fears and changed them all forever.
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Waking the Dead by Heather Graham

Waking the Dead by Heather GrahamBy Austin Camacho

Heather Graham knows how to weave elements of mystery, romance, and the paranormal into a story that hooks your heart and mind, and she proves it again in her latest novel, WAKING THE DEAD.

Graham gives this contemporary thriller an appropriately timeless feel, as it revolves around a painting whose creator was friends with Lord Byron and Mary Shelley.  And like Mary Shelly’s famous creation, the painting appears to have come to life and brought death to those around it.

When the painting appears in modern day New Orleans death seems to still follow it.  Mystery arises, but even great props don’t make great stories. For that you need fascinating characters, and few are more interesting than Danielle Cafferty and Michael Quinn. Quinn is a private detective while Cafferty owns an antiques shop, but they seem to make the best of their differences and their complex histories.

“They have all kinds of interests,” Graham says. “They’ve made a lot of mistakes in life and learned from them as I think we all do.”

Their very different talents combine to make them surprisingly effective when investigating unusual situations, and this book certainly presents one. These two occasional partners in solving crime quickly make connections between present-day spring in Louisiana and the summer of 1816 when the painting was created, a summer in which the artist and the Shelleys met in Switzerland to explore themes of horror and depravity in their art.

The story works so well because of Graham’s talent for combining elements of multiple genres.  And for her, it seems to come naturally.

“I have read across all kinds of genres all my life,” she says. “I love today in publishing more than ever, because we do cross all kinds of genres!”
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Safe Keeping by Barbara Taylor Sissel

Safe Keeping by Barbara Taylor SisselBy Christine Goff

At the heart of every crime there is a family . . . the fact driving Barbara Taylor Sissel’s fiction. Her novels are issue oriented, threaded with elements of suspense and defined by their particular emphasis on how crime affects families—the victim’s family and the perpetrator’s family. The focus of the stories is not crime per se, but how quickly and irrevocably lives can be altered in one single, shattering moment of misjudgment and how difficult it then is for family members to find their way back onto solid ground.

In SAFE KEEPING, Emily Lebay’s thirty-four-year-old son, Tucker is arrested for murder after yet another woman is found dead in the woods near the Lebay home. Neither Emily nor her daughter, Lissa, can reconcile their Tucker with these brutal crimes. Terrified and convinced there’s been a tragic mistake, Emily and Lissa set out to learn the truth about Tucker, once and for all. And while his life hangs in the balance, what they discover proves far more shocking than their darkest fears . . .

The book has garnered some wonderful reviews:

“Past secrets contribute to present-day angst in this solid suspense novel, and the even pacing keeps the reader’s interest until the captivating conclusion.”—Publishers Weekly

“…impressive writing and affecting subject matter.”—Kirkus Reviews

Reading a book by Barbara Taylor Sissel always begs certain questions. What is justice? Where is the line? What’s the nature of forgiveness? Why is it so hard? And in SAFE KEEPING, what would you do if your grown son was accused of a capital crime?
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Everything To Lose by Andrew Gross

Everything To Lose by Andrew GrossBy Jeremy Burns

He’s got more than a dozen books, including six #1 New York Times bestsellers, under his belt, and now Andrew Gross is set to release his next emotionally-charged thriller. EVERYTHING TO LOSE incorporates everyman heroes thrust into impossible situations, tense familial drama, and a gripping murder mystery set amidst the devastation of Superstorm Sandy. The author sat down with THE BIG THRILL to take readers behind the curtain of his latest thriller.

Tell us about your new thriller, EVERYTHING TO LOSE.

A desperate, determined mom, with a deadbeat husband and a son with Asperger’s, suddenly loses her job and faces a moral dilemma when she bravely tries to rescue a man in an auto accident and comes upon a trove of cash. The question is how far you would go to save your own child? Maybe even something criminal?  Of course she takes it, out of desperation, and there are always consequences. In seconds, Hilary’s life goes from the moral high ground to total freefall.  Throw in dealing with a behaviorally challenged son with the heartbreak and fear of what’s become known as “C-U kids,” callous and unemotional, thought to be the personality disorder that leads to psychopaths. Combined with a twenty-year-old murder in Staten Island that’s been brought back to life by Superstorm Sandy, including some stories of friends of mine devastated by the storm, and you get the nucleus of character and plot that became the novel.

Much of the book’s setting centers around the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, a unique and timely backdrop. What were your own experiences with the storm and its aftermath, and how did you integrate those experiences into your new book?

My own experience was, in one way, inconvenience and irritation, having to go eleven days without power (and plumbing), although we did sneak off to our place in Florida. Trust me, everyone in our neighborhood has invested in generators now. But some close friends suffered greatly. Maybe not in loss of life, but one particular friend had her mother’s house on the Jersey shore completely devastated: everything inside—valuables, family photos, mementos, antiques, china, scrap books, every marker of their lives and history, lost forever, washed out to sea. This was a very poignant story to me, and so in the book, I had one crucial piece of evidence that, seen again, exposes the crime at the heart of my story, which was taken by the storm and then, months later, washed back onshore. It’s what sets everything in motion.  I also set much of the book in Midland Beach, on Staten Island, where eleven people lost their lives and to me was like Ground Zero for the storm.
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Keep Quiet by Lisa Scottoline

Keep Quiet by Lisa Scottoline
New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award winning author Lisa Scottoline is loved by millions of readers for her suspenseful novels about family and justice. Scottoline delivers once again with Keep Quiet, an emotionally gripping and complex story about one man’s split-second decision to protect his son – and the devastating consequences that follow.

Jake Buckman’s relationship with his sixteen-year-old son Ryan is not an easy one, so at the urging of his loving wife, Pam, Jake goes alone to pick up Ryan at their suburban movie theater. On the way home, Ryan asks to drive on a deserted road, and Jake sees it as a chance to make a connection. However, what starts as a father-son bonding opportunity instantly turns into a nightmare. Tragedy strikes, and with Ryan’s entire future hanging in the balance, Jake is forced to make a split-second decision that plunges them both into a world of guilt and lies. Without ever meaning to, Jake and Ryan find themselves living under the crushing weight of their secret, which threatens to tear their family to shreds and ruin them all.

Powerful and dramatic, Keep Quiet will have readers and book clubs debating what it means to be a parent and how far you can, and should, go to protect those you love.
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Missing You by Harlan Coben

Missing You by Harlan CobenBy Robert Rotstein

NYPD Detective Kat Donovan, the protagonist of Harlan Coben’s compelling new novel MISSING YOU, is smart, driven, brave, and persistent. She’s also alone. So when a well-meaning friend submits Kat’s name to an online dating service, she reluctantly logs onto the website. After searching through all too many unappealing profiles, she comes upon a photograph of her ex-fiancé Jeff, who eighteen years earlier broke off their engagement, leaving her heartbroken and desolate. Once the shock wears off, Kat feels a rekindled spark, a renewed hope that she can recapture lost love. But when she reaches out to Jeff, he rebuffs her and disappears into the shadows of cyberspace.

As Kat probes into Jeff’s past, her affection turns into suspicion and then terror. He appears to be entangled in a nightmarish conspiracy, in which monstrous predators prey upon weak and trusting victims. Meanwhile, the body count continues to rise, and Kat must act to save lives, including her own. Her investigation forces her to confront dark events in her past and to re-examine her feelings about those closest to her—her ex-fiancé, her mother, her boss and longtime friend, and her father, a cop whose decades-old murder remains unsolved.

MISSING YOU chronicles a woman’s struggle to survive as her most firmly held beliefs are called into question.  Coben graciously agreed to answer some of our questions about the book.

MISSING YOU explores the dark side of the Internet, and particularly cyber-dating sites. What interested you about this topic?

What doesn’t? We go online, we look at a profile pic, we may even converse—but we have no idea who the person is, do we? So I asked the what-if. What if you went on one of those dating sites and saw the person who broke your heart years ago? What if you reached out and everything went wrong?
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The Player by Brad Parks

The Player by Brad ParksBy A.J. Colucci

Brad Parks is a funny guy. Five books ago, he attended the debut author breakfast at ThrillerFest and used his one minute to give a now-infamous serenade to Brad Meltzer, and last year he performed a hilarious song at the awards banquet with Michael and Daniel Palmer.

However, Brad’s comedic talent shines best in his crime novels, featuring Carter Ross the charismatic, khaki-wearing, street-wise news reporter with a conscience, who stumbles upon murders and investigates crimes with the grit and doggedness of a New Jersey sleuth. THE PLAYER is his fifth book in the series, which mixes actual headlines with colorful characters, plenty of action, and surprising twists.

It’s no coincidence Brad’s main character has a nose for news. Before embarking on a successful career in fiction, Brad spent a dozen years as a journalist working for THE WASHINGTON POST and THE NEWARK STAR-LEDGER, where he covered everything from the Super Bowl to Hurricane Katrina to a quadruple homicide.

In Brad’s latest novel, THE PLAYER, residents of a Newark neighborhood are getting sick—and even dying—from a strange disease. Carter Ross dives into the story—so deep he comes down with the illness himself. With even more motivation to track down the source of the disease, Carter soon hits upon a nearby construction site. But when the project’s developer is found dead, and his mob ties surface, Carter knows he’s looking at a story much bigger—and with even more dangerous consequences—than an environmental hazard.

Brad took some time to chat about his characters, news reporting, and New Jersey, the jackpot state for crime novelists.
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Trilemma by Jennifer Mortimer

Trilemma by Jennifer MortimerAsian-American Lin Mere follows her father’s trail to New Zealand to try to establish a relationship with her father’s estranged family, and maybe rekindle a romance, but she gets distracted by the offer of a job as chief executive. When danger enters Lin’s life from an unexpected source, she has to face an ordeal even more challenging than the battles in the boardroom.Confronting a trilemma—a choice between three bad options—Lin must make her move.

“An utterly engaging tale, with a pitch-perfect plot, jam packed with surprises. This book will bring Jennifer Mortimer front and center onto the thriller stage.”—Steve Berry, NEW YORK TIMES best-selling author of THE KING’S DECEPTION.

“It starts off as a conventional piece of modern literature about the corporate world. It interweaves elements of romance and the uncertainties of family relationships. And, in retrospect, it’s a thriller. Notice the key word, ‘retrospect’. Such is the strength or weakness of first-person narration. Since our protagonist is oblivious to the danger, so are the readers. The result is a clever piece of writing.”—David Marshall, THINKING ABOUT BOOKS.

Interview by Pearce Barnard

Is the book any good?

Who asks that? Yes of course it’s good!
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When Shadows Fall by J.T. Ellison

When Shadows Fall by J.T. EllisonBy A.J. Colucci

J.T. Ellison’s latest contemporary thriller, WHEN SHADOWS FALL, is the third novel in her series featuring forensic pathologist Dr. Samantha Owens. For J.T., it’s been quite a journey to NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author, from her roots in the rural back roads of Colorado and then Washington D.C., where she attended George Washington University and held a succession of über-cool jobs that included White House staffer in the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Since then, she’s had a stellar career producing eleven novels, including the Taylor Jackson series, which was critically-acclaimed, published in over twenty countries and provided the spin-off for the Samantha Owens books.

In WHEN SHADOWS FALL, Sam Owens finds that life is at last returning to normal after she suffered a terrible personal loss. Settling into her new job at Georgetown University, the illusion is shattered when she receives a disturbing letter from a dead man imploring her to solve his murder. There’s only one catch. Timothy Savage’s death was so obviously the suicide of a demented individual that the case has been closed. Sam’s own postmortem discovers clear signs that Savage was indeed murdered. And she finds DNA from a kidnapped child whose remains were recovered years earlier. The investigation takes Sam into the shadows of a twenty-year-old mystery that must be solved to determine what really happened to Timothy Savage. Nothing about the case makes sense but it is clear someone is unwilling to let anyone, especially Samantha Owens, discover the truth.

J.T. graciously offered to answer a few questions about her new book and her life as a writer.

You seem like an author who is not afraid to throw your characters into dark disturbing places, and that includes Sam Owens. Can we expect the same level of suspense, terror, and twists in WHEN SHADOWS FALL?

Even more so, actually. Not only is Sam reluctantly drawn into Timothy Savage’s case, she is faced with an interesting dilemma. She wants to walk away from her career helping law enforcement discover the truth about crimes, but no one wants to see her go. SSA John Baldwin plays a big role in this book, giving Sam a major opportunity to be a part of the FBI, and this case if the perfect jumping off point. This book has a killer at its heart who is so real and so frightening for it, I think it’s one of the tenser stories I’ve told.
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Glass Houses by Terri Nolan

Glass Houses by Terri NolanBy Jeff Ayers

Terri Nolan wowed the thriller world with her first novel that featured investigative journalist Birdie Keane, titled BURDEN OF TRUTH.  Now Birdie is back in another terrific thriller, GLASS HOUSES.

When investigative journalist Birdie Keane’s latest story reveals the shocking truth about a famous cold case, she teams up with her cousin, homicide detective Thom Keane, to deal with the aftermath. The story also gets the attention of a serial killer armed with a revolver and a house key who is killing people in their sleep and finds it amusing to taunt the cousins.

Terri Nolan took some time to chat with THE BIG THRILL.

What sparked the idea for Glass Houses?  

I decided to marry two separate ideas. First, I wanted to delve into the Keane family as character and explore how families shape individuals within a clannish environment. I was especially taken with the idea of pairing two members as dual protagonists. Second, I continue to be fascinated and repelled by the complicated housing issues here in Los Angeles and how corporations and investor groups are driving the home ownership market further away from families.
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Cries of the Lost by Chris Knopf

Cries of the Lost by Chris KnopfMy son’s grandmother, Juana Maria Guruceta, was a young teen the day Generalissimo Franco’s planes rained bombs over the Basque Country, the fiercely independent, highly industrialized and culturally rich region of the Pyrenees, which spreads across Northern Spain and the southwestern corner of France.

Her father, Vicente, a custom gun maker and the trade representative of a group of sporting rifle manufacturers famously established in the Basque Country, was forced to flee with his wife, daughter, and young son.  They barely escaped before their house was destroyed, taking a boat from Bilbao to the coast of France, and then inland, where they hoped to find refuge at a convent.

The convent did not expect a boy to be in the party of refugees and would not allow him to stay within its walls beyond a brief visit.  So yet again they were on the run, this time to Nicaragua where Vicente had visited often in his role as trade emissary.

Vicente subsequently established himself in Nicaragua, resuming his role as a trade representative for gun manufacturers in Europe and the Americas.  Tragedy still dogged the family when Vicente’s young wife died of cancer, then his son of a brain tumor.  To make a bad situation worse, his daughter Juana, my son’s grandmother, became the object of the affections of the Nicaraguan dictator’s son, Anastasio Somoza.
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The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley

The Deepest Secret by Carla BuckleyBy Karen Harper

It was great fun to get back in touch with Carla Buckley for this interview. We lived in the same city before she moved, so it’s fun to catch up with her at ThrillerFest and other conferences. As a board member and Vice-President of awards for ITW, she’s one busy lady, but she made time to answer these questions about her new thriller, THE DEEPEST SECRET. Get ready for another Buckley all-night read!

Tell us about your new February release. 

Diagnosed with XP, a rare medical condition which makes him lethally sensitive to light, Tyler is a fourteen-year-old who desperately wants just one thing: to be normal. His mother Eve also wants just one thing: to protect her son. As Tyler begins roaming their cul-de-sac at night, cloaked in the safety of the darkness, he peers into the lives of the other families on the street—looking in on the things they most want hidden. Then, the young daughter of a neighbor suddenly vanishes, and Tyler may be the only one who can make sense of her disappearance…but what will happen when everyone’s secrets are exposed to the light? As Eve is forced to shield her family from harm, there are some crises she cannot control—and some secrets that not even love can conceal.

Your starred review for THE DEEPEST SECRET in PUBLISHERS WEEKLY stressed what I have always noted is one of your great strengths as a writer: your flawed yet sympathetic suburban family characters. Do you create your characters from your own past at all, from observation or totally your imagination?

Thank you, Karen. It’s the flaws in my characters that make me want to write about them. I love creating worlds of shifting grays, where everything is held in question, where nothing is taken for granted, and where the best decision is not always the right decision. My characters stumble; they make mistakes and do terrible things. But they’re not evil. They’re just human.
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A Measure of Blood by Kathleen George

A Measure of Blood by Kathleen GeorgeBy Don Helin

Kathleen George’s seventh installment in her Richard Christie thriller series is A MEASURE OF BLOOD. In the story, the major crimes commander collects his best detectives to investigate the murder of a woman—an investigation that centers around the son she left behind. The police have just one clue—the man who killed Maggie Brown claims he was the boy’s father. But is it true? The puzzle turns out to be very complex and culminates in a race to save the boy. A MEASURE OF BLOOD is brimming with page-turning action, much of it on the road, some of it set in the theater department at the University of Pittsburgh where George is a professor.

Kathleen George is the author of TAKEN, FALLEN, AFTERIMAGE, THE ODDS (Edgar finalist for best novel), HIDEOUT, and SIMPLE. She is also the editor of PITTSBURGH NOIR. A MEASURE OF BLOOD is her seventh thriller set in Pittsburgh.  As mentioned, she is a professor of Theatre Arts at Pitt and has directed many plays, including several by Shakespeare who is always thrilling. She credits her theatre background with giving her the tools to write thrillers.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Kathleen George and ask her a few questions.
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