Contemporary Thrillers

Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates

Black Chalk by Christopher J. YatesBy Kay Kendall

debut-authorCalling all anglophiles plus fans of psychological thrillers and Oxbridge novels! Here is a dandy book for you by Christopher J. Yates. Even figuring out the title’s meaning provides a puzzle to solve—BLACK CHALK.

The plot unfolds from two alternating points of view. One is told by a first-person narrator, a recluse who lives in New York City in the present day. The second is third person-narration from fourteen years earlier, when five young British students and one American meet at Oxford University. They become friends, and then deadly rivals. They begin a game that seems at first casual and then turns ferocious as it takes over their lives. Four young men and two women, all of keen intelligence and unique personalities, are driven to win.

And so—as Sherlock Holmes famously said to Watson—“The game is afoot.” The prospect of fun, competition, and a cash prize of ten thousand pounds gets the six players to sign up. Yet, losing a round means that a player must perform a humiliating task. Gradually the tasks become excruciatingly upsetting. Finely tuned psyches are damaged. Friendships are broken. Eventually, a life is lost.  What caused this innocent game to become so devilish? Who is the villain in this piece?

Christopher Yates loves puzzles—of this there is no doubt. Even figuring out which main character provides the first-person narration takes more than a few pages to figure out.  Is there something in his English blood that draws him to devise and decode enigmas? Perhaps he had an older relative who worked with Alan Turing at the venerated Bletchley Park during World War II. Suffice it to say, after leaving Oxford and working in the law for a time, Christopher turned to puzzle development, even representing the UK at the World Puzzle Championships. He still freelances as a puzzle editor and compiler.
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Adobe Flats by Colin Campbell

Adobe Flats by Colin Campbell

By Terry DiDemenico

First Boston in JAMAICA PLAIN, then Los Angeles in MONTECITO HEIGHTS, and now Texas in ADOBE FLATS. Jim Grant finds himself an unwelcomed visitor as the novel opens. Unwelcomed is putting it mildly, it resembles outright hostility. But why?

Grant knew why he was in Absolution, Texas. It was the starting point of a simple enough mission. He wanted to return an heirloom to the father of his lover and former colleague. Buying a train ticket to Absolution didn’t cause concern, but the conductor’s reaction to where he wanted to disembark and the wizen man who turned up at the nearly abandoned station did. It is only a short time later that Grant is on the run for his life. Then his simple mission turns to trouble as he works to bring justice to the small town being terrorized by a tyrant. Outgunned and outmanned, Grant relies on his razor-sharp instincts to outsmart and outfight an army of Texans led by a kingpin who has everything to lose.

The brainchild of author Colin Campbell, Jim Grant, AKA Resurrection Man, is an ex-West Yorkshire cop who relocates to the United States and is attached to the Boston Police Department. The nickname came in JAMAICA PLAIN after an image of him, wearing a bright orange jacket and arms outstretched, hit the media.

Grant is an interesting character who brings to mind elements of Jack Reacher and Harry Bosch with his own British twist. That twist comes directly from Campbell. “They say that most authors include parts of themselves in their characters. Ian Fleming liked fine food so James Bond likes fine food. Lee Child favored the head-butt at school so Jack Reacher favors the head-butt. I’m six foot four and wear an orange windcheater. And I’m left-handed. Partly that’s just a creative shortcut. If I don’t have to think about how Grant looks or thinks I can concentrate on the story and the action.”

Campbell continues, “Jim Grant has a similar mindset to me, but he’s better at everything than I ever was. That’s the other thing authors do. James Bond was a better secret agent than Ian Fleming. I’ve never been head-butted by Lee Child.”
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Frenzy by John Lutz

Frenzy by John LutzBy Josie Brown

If you’re looking for an author with a versatile voice, no one fits the bill like John Lutz. At your local bookstore, you’ll find his award-winning novels shelved under Police Procedurals, Espionage, Thriller, and Historical. You’ll also be impressed with the numerous awards he’s garnered: the MWA’s Edgar, the PWA’s Shamus, not to mention the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s Golden Derringer Lifetime Achievement Award.

Hollywood likes what it reads, too. Lutz’s novel SWF SEEKS SAME was made into SINGLE WHITE FEMALE with Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh, and his book THE EX was an HBO movie.

His new novel, FRENZY, is the latest in his series featuring Frank Quinn, a former homicide detective, who goes up against a serial killer he’s crossed paths with before.

Lutz explains why the murderer deserves an encore.

Why bring back this particular nemesis of Frank Quinn’s?

I suppose I sensed that this villain had more to offer. Also, he seemed capable of producing the most angst in Quinn. Quinn understands that it takes a thief to catch a thief, and that might also apply in various ways when it comes to serial killers. It’s the timeless relationship of hunter and hunted.

The body count is fast and furious in this book. It starts out with six dead women in a hotel room, all of whom were tortured before being murdered–same night, same man. How did the plot for FRENZY come to you? 

Possibly Richard Speck gave me the idea. The murders of eight student nurses in the same place at the same time seemed almost incomprehensibly tragic. Also infuriating, because Speck, until the time of his death, seemed only mildly ruffled by the pain and horror he had wrought.
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Everyone Lies by A.D. Garrett

Everyone Lies by A.D. Garrett

By Sandra Parshall

EVERYONE LIES, first in a series by A.D. Garrett, was a hit in the UK, delivering vivid characters, an intricate story set in the violent Manchester, England underworld, and forensics details with the ring of authenticity. The American edition, recently released by St. Martin’s, received raves from Kirkus and Booklist and a starred review in Publishers Weekly, which praised the novel’s brisk pace and its balance between the intricacies of forensics and the cerebral instincts of criminal investigation.

In EVERYONE LIES, two former colleagues who almost destroyed each other’s careers in the past reunite to solve a string of murders that no one else is taking seriously. Kate Simms has spent five years rebuilding her life after being demoted for giving forensics analyst Nick Fennimore privileged information about the disappearance of his wife and daughter. Fennimore has been quietly teaching at a Scottish university and mourning his murdered wife and his still missing child. They should stay away from each other. But if they don’t work together, the killer may never be caught.

The series is a collaborative effort by crime writer Margaret Murphy and forensic scientist Dave Barclay, writing under the pseudonym A.D. Garrett. Murphy, who does all the writing, is the CWA Award-winning author of nine psychological suspense novels under her own name (all now available as e-books through her website). Recently she talked about the new series and about partnering with Barclay.

First of all, Margaret, welcome to ITW! I understand you’re a new member.

ITW has been incredibly welcoming, and I just want to take a moment to say how strongly I feel that both writers and fans benefit from having an organisation like this to introduce readers to writers and to support those writers in their work.
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Evil in Return by Weyman Jones

Evil in Return by Weyman JonesBy Ken Isaacson

After graduating from Harvard University, Weyman Jones served as an enlisted man and then a junior officer in the Navy. He began his writing career with short stories and went on to publish three books for young readers. His historical novel for pre-teens, THE EDGE OF TWO WORLDS, went to seven printings and earned the Lewis Carroll Shelf and the Western Heritage Awards. A non-fiction book on computers was published in several languages, and his biography is included in SOMETHING ABOUT THE AUTHOR, a reference series about prominent authors of juvenile and young adult literature.

Following his retirement as vice president, public affairs for the Grumman Corporation, he began writing thrillers. EVIL IN RETURN is his latest page-turner.

Jones graciously agreed to answer a few questions for THE BIG THRILL.

Tell us about EVIL IN RETURN

The title, “Evil in Return” is from Audin: “Those to whom evil is done do evil in return.” It’s about a contemporary Cherokee who believes he should avenge his ancestors by killing descendants of those who wronged them. The aboriginal Cherokee had a belief system like that. This guy wants to revive the ancient tribal values by posting videotapes of his payback on YouTube for the Cherokee to see.

I think there’s a pattern here. This isn’t the first time you’ve written about revenge or obsession, is it? What is it about those themes that intrigues you?

I think we read fiction to taste powerful emotions and experience high-risk moments. I create characters driven by obsession to meet those expectations.
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The Deepest Dark by Joan Hall Hovey

The Deepest Dark by Joan Hall HoveyBy Amy Lignor

Joan Hall Hovey is the definition of an “artist.” From her writing that has taken the form of suspense novels, as well as short stories and articles, this woman has not only taken the suspense world by storm, but also dabbles in the theater community. In addition, Joan makes time to work with other authors, giving them the information and help they need to embrace their talent and become a part of the literary world.

Born and raised in Saint John, New Brunswick, Joan has a family she adores, including Scamp, the family dog. She looks out every day at tall pine trees and the stunning view of the Kennebecasis River. But although that view is certainly inspiring, her fans will tell you that it is Joan’s view—the scenes and characters within her own creative mind—that is truly unforgettable. This is a talent who brings vibrancy to the page, creating locations that, even in the light of day, chill readers to the bone.

The works of Poe, King, and other masters of the mystery world inspired Joan to write. And now, with her latest novel—THE DEEPEST DARK—she once again hits the nail on the proverbial head, drawing readers into a world of fear that will leave them absolutely breathless.

Let’s begin at the beginning. You have an incredible mind for suspense, and are able to weave together an absolutely frightening plot. When was it that you decided to become a suspense author? Was there a specific reason why you chose that genre?

Like most authors of suspense, I have always been drawn to the dark side of human nature. From childhood I loved anything that was scary; from zombies to vampires to noir movies. Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Vincent Price—these were my anti-heros. I read stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Shirley Jackson, and others. When you love the genre, you immerse yourself in voices that write in that genre, until finally you want your own voice to rise from the page.
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Plagues of Eden by Sharon Linnea and B.K. Sherer

Plagues of Eden by Sharon Linnea and B.K. ShererBy J.H. Bográn

In the new book PLAGUES OF EDEN, Army Chaplain Jaime Richards is back and the race is on to stop a madman bent on unleashing the plagues of ancient Egypt against the modern world. Fiery hail, water to blood, darkness, death of the firstborn. Can Jaime stop the catastrophe and save the mysterious Sword 23 from the clutches of a psychopath?

Interesting plot, but also fascinating is the fact that these two co-authors first met in the sixth grade. I had the opportunity to interview both Sharon Linnéa, and B. K. Sherer. Although I asked them both the same questions, it is interesting how different their responses are.

What can you tell us about Jaime Richards?

Sharon: Jaime is a young woman who is smart, thinks on her feet, is funny, sure of herself, unsure of herself, and will always be found in the thick of things. She acts with courage and determination even when she’s terrified. She’s an army chaplain (and a Presbyterian minister) who has let hard times in her past—including the deaths of her parents when she was young, and the death of her husband, Paul by a suicide bomber—mature into a true compassion for others. As an army chaplain, she is willing to do anything to be with her soldiers in whatever they’re going through.

As an agent of Eden, Jaime saves the world on a regular basis, because—hey, someone’s got to do it. Jaime thinks she has terrible luck with men, but the truth is, she attracts the most interesting guys. Interesting, however, doesn’t mean easy to deal with.

Neither army chaplains (who are noncombatants) or agents of Eden carry firearms, and neither does Jaime. Nor does her fellow agent, the mysterious Yani, for that matter.

B. K.: Jaime really cares about people (maybe too much), and is an excellent problem solver, both of which are very important qualities for a chaplain. Soldiers have all kinds of problems, and very often they just need someone who cares enough to help them think through possible solutions to their problems. These are also critical attributes for an agent of Eden, and this is why the role is such a perfect fit for her. But this also leads to her great frustration: that there are only so many hours in the day and she can only be in one place at a time. Between her personal needs, the needs of her soldiers, and the needs of Eden, something has to give. Most of the time what gives is her personal needs.
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Personal by Lee Child

personalYou can leave the army, but the army doesn’t leave you. Not always. Not completely, notes Jack Reacher—and sure enough, the retired military cop is soon pulled back into service. This time, for the State Department and the CIA.

Someone has taken a shot at the president of France in the City of Light. The bullet was American. The distance between the gunman and the target was exceptional. How many snipers can shoot from three-quarters of a mile with total confidence? Very few, but John Kott—an American marksman gone bad—is one of them. And after fifteen years in prison, he’s out, unaccounted for, and likely drawing a bead on a G-8 summit packed with enough world leaders to tempt any assassin.

If anyone can stop Kott, it’s the man who beat him before: Reacher. And though he’d rather work alone, Reacher is teamed with Casey Nice, a rookie analyst who keeps her cool with Zoloft. But they’re facing a rough road, full of ruthless mobsters, Serbian thugs, close calls, double-crosses—and no backup if they’re caught. All the while Reacher can’t stop thinking about the woman he once failed to save. But he won’t let that that happen again. Not this time. Not Nice.

Reacher never gets too close. But now a killer is making it personal.
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The Commuter by Patrick Oster

The Commuter by Patrick OsterBy Jeff Ayers

debut-authorIt seemed an innocent enough idea. After Barnaby Gilbert got laid off with a nice severance, his boss suggested he take up a new hobby to fill up his free time. On his regular commuter train, Barnaby got an idea what that hobby would be. He decided to satisfy a curiosity he’d long had. An avid birder, he began tracking some regular passengers—people he’d always wondered about—to see where they went and what they did. In following a Chinese man, a schoolgirl, and a sexy woman, he used the same techniques he had to add hawks and herons to his life list. But in THE COMMUTER, a quirky, compelling, tongue-in-cheek thriller, he found out pretty fast that humans were a much more dangerous species.

Patrick Oster is a managing editor at Bloomberg News in New York. He was previously editor-in-chief of the National Law Journal and has worked for Business Week in Europe, Knight Ridder in Mexico, and covered the White House, State Department, and the CIA as Washington Bureau Chief of The Chicago Sun-Times.

He recently took the time to chat with THE BIG THRILL.

When did you realize you had the writing bug?

While doing some long-form journalism that used personal tales to tell a real-life story. For example, while reporting from Mexico I did a big take-out on what had happened to Oscar Lewis’s Children of Sanchez, one of whom I met while covering Mexico City’s twin earthquakes in 1985, 25 years after his classic work.

I used that story as part of my 1989 book, THE MEXICANS: A PERSONAL PORTRAIT OF A PEOPLE. And Lisa Drew, my editor at William Morrow, the hardcover publisher, said my use of real life short-stories in the book indicated I had some talent to write fiction, which is just another kind of story telling. So how could I not give it a try?

Working in journalism, what prompted you to want to write books?

For THE MEXICANS, it was mostly a desire to tell a fuller, more interesting story than is allowed in the space allotted newspaper stories. I also had accumulated a lot of information about Mexico in my four years there that never made it into my daily newspaper stories.
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Alien Hunter: Underworld by Whitley Strieber

Alien Hunter--the Underworld by Whitley StrieberBy Derek Gunn

Whitley Strieber needs no introduction to readers of my generation. The superb WOLFEN and THE HUNGER shot him into the limelight and the equally noteworthy COMMUNION and NATURE’S END served to keep him there to this day. We have had mostly non-fiction in later years, though many consider his work on THE VISITORS and alien abductions to be fiction and file it as such in bookstores. While this has been a constant argument with Strieber’s work over the years, and Strieber is adamant that his work on aliens is factual, there is one point that is irrefutable—he is a superb author and capable of delivering fantastic work.

His latest novel, ALIEN HUNTER: UNDERWORLD is the second in his Flynn Carroll series. It is a thriller of the highest order. I had not read the first in the series but it doesn’t take too long to catch up and enjoy the ride.

Flynn Carroll works for a very secret organisation. He is tasked with finding and stopping the most lethal and driven criminals on the planet. To make it even more difficult, the criminals are, in fact, from another world and have access to technology so far ahead of ours that they anticipate every move he makes.

Recent events see Flynn operating on his own and he is forced to seek help from some old friends whose skills may just help even the odds. Added to the mix is the police force from the alien world who want to censure Flynn for their own reasons but are reluctant to help clean up their mess.

Flynn also discovers that all is not as it seems within his own organization and that there are things they do not want him to know. As time runs short and the alien mastermind gets ever closer, Flynn is forced to examine not just his enemy but his own origins as well.
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24: Deadline by James Swallow

24 Deadline by James SwallowBy Jeff Ayers

On May 5, 2014, Jack Bauer returned in “24: Live Another Day” to restart the ticking clock on the groundbreaking and Emmy Award-winning drama. 24: DEADLINE will answer some of the questions of what happened to Jack in the four years between the end of season eight and the new “24: Live Another Day” event series.

The time is 5:00 p.m.: One hour ago, federal agent Jack Bauer was declared a fugitive. If he wants to survive, he must get out of the country, and he doesn’t have much time. With his former colleagues in the Counter Terrorist Unit now dead, under arrest, or shut down, Jack has no resources to call upon, no back-up, and nowhere to go—only his determination can drive him on. 

One thing remains clear to him: the promise he made to his daughter Kim. Jack vows that he will see Kim one last time to tell her he loves her—before he drops off the radar forever.

Tor/Forge books editor Melissa Frain said, “Few shows have ever been able to achieve what “24” has on television. As passionate fans of the show ourselves, we’re thrilled to help fill the gap between the devastating events of last season and Jack’s highly anticipated return in “24: Live Another Day” with 24: DEADLINE. And regarding the author, James Swallow: “With his background as a veteran tie-in author and a long-time fan of “24,” we think James has the perfect sensibility to tell the world just what happened to Jack Bauer after the clock wound down at the end of season eight.”

With that in mind, THE BIG THRILL took the time to chat with James Swallow.
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The Perfect Stranger by Wendy Corsi Staub

The Perfect Stranger by Wendy Corsi StaubBy John Raab

New York Times bestselling author Wendy Corsi Staub returns with her latest book THE PERFECT STRANGER. Staub has written more than seventy-five books and continues to raise the bar in the suspense-writing genre. Her last book THE GOOD SISTER has been optioned for television by Fox, and she will release another book this year called THE BLACK WIDOW. Her trilogy, which ended in early 2013, won the 2013 Westchester Library Association Washington Irving for fiction award.

Staub has sold over four million copies of her books, and has also written under the pen name Wendy Markham, whose name could be seen on the USA Today, Barnes & Noble and BookScan bestseller lists.

She is here to tell THE BIG THRILL about her latest book, THE PERFECT STRANGER.

What can you tell us about the book that is not on the back cover?

The heroine and her fellow bloggers are breast cancer survivors. They’ve all turned to the Internet for kindred support that they couldn’t find in their own daily lives. They’re strangers who have gradually let their guards down online because they’ve been in each other’s shoes; they can share things with each other that their family and friends in the real world couldn’t possibly understand. That bond has strengthened them, but—they realize too late—has also made them vulnerable.

Landry Wells is your main character in THE PERFECT STRANGER. Who is she?

Landry is a genteel southern wife and mother who has always lived her life according to plan, only to have it turned upside down with a cancer diagnosis. You don’t face your own mortality and wage a fierce battle against a deadly disease without being profoundly transformed. Landry has recently learned how to put aside her natural reserve and reach out to strangers, offering—and drawing—strength. Her hard-won battle not only shattered her carefully constructed walls and taught her that there are no guarantees, but left her virtually fearless—which is a good thing, because a new predator now has her in the crosshairs.
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One Kick by Chelsea Cain

One Kick by Chelsea CainBy Dawn Ius

New York Times bestselling author Chelsea Cain launches into August with ONE KICK, the first in a thrilling new series featuring Kick Lannigan, a young woman whose tragic past has given her a special—and deadly—set of skills.

“Famously kidnapped at age six, Kick captured America’s hearts when she was rescued five years later. Now, twenty-one, she finds herself unexpectedly entangled in a missing child case that will put her talents to the test.”

Though a definite departure from the Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell thrillers for which Cain is known, ONE KICK embodies the same heart-pounding brilliance HEARTSICK fans have come to know and love.

“This book is positioned to reach a wider audience,” Cain says. “Some readers are afraid of the HEARTSICK books—many people thinks of them as horror. I’ve dialed it down a little in ONE KICK.”

Though she admits, for some, the distinction is faint.

Since childhood, Cain has been drawn to the thriller genre, getting her literary feet wet with detective stories and mysteries.

“I wanted high stakes, puzzle and peril,” she says. “I loved looking at the yellow spines of those Nancy Drew books and knowing there was another one. There was always such a great comfort in knowing the character survived.”
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Cross Purposes by Thomas B. Sawyer

Cross Purposes  by Thomas B. SawyerBy Azam Gill

CROSS PURPOSES introduces a finely drawn Manhattan private investigator, Barney Moon, who upholds Spade and Marlowe’s moral order.

The creative genius behind Barney Moon is Edgar- and Emmy-nominated, Thomas B. Sawyer, who is a novelist, screenwriter, and playwright. He was the head writer/show runner of the classic CBS series, Murder, She Wrote, for which he wrote twenty-four episodes. He has also written two other high-concept thrillers, NO PLACE TO RUN and THE SIXTEENTH MAN.

In CROSS PURPOSES, PI Barney Moon is a driven man. He lives to solve cases. But as a born-and-bred New Yorker, Barney considers anything outside of New York alien territory. And the worst place of all is Los Angeles, which is exactly where his next case takes him.

Unlike his PI, Sawyer is a Chicagoan transplanted to Los Angeles via New York. Even so, he can identify with Barney’s plight. Sawyer was kind enough to grant an exclusive interview to THE BIG THRILL.

MURDER, SHE WROTE brought you worldwide recognition. How do you feel about it today?

One of the most-fun, most-satisfying experiences of my life. I’m forever thankful for the luck to have worked with and written for Angela. A long-running hit like that is sooo rare in a career. And the bonus of working with Jerry Orbach and so many other wonderful actors is almost indescribable.

Novelist, script writer, TV director, lyricist, writers’ teacher and mentor —which is your favorite hat?

Love all of ‘em, but I guess I’d have to say that being writer/show runner is the best and most satisfying, long term. Antic, social, but still with lots of control.
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Lethal Code by Thomas Waite

Lethal Code by Thomas Waite

By Brian Knight

LETHAL CODE tells the shocking and frighteningly possible story of a massive, anonymous cyber-attack on the United States by an unknown enemy and the unforgettable men, women, and children who fight back against the invisible invasion.

Thomas Waite’s new novel, LETHAL CODE, is available now, and Mr. Waite is here to talk about it.

Tell us a bit about LETHAL CODE.

Sure. Back in 2012, former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta gave a startling speech about U.S. vulnerability to cyber warfare. He said that our country could face a “cyber Pearl Harbor” attack that would cause massive physical destruction and loss of life. LETHAL CODE is essentially a fictional, yet plausible, novel about such a horrific scenario. In my book, unknown terrorists have crippled the nation’s power grid and brought our country to its knees. Widespread panic and violence ravage the country and the terrorists issue their ultimatums and vow an apocalyptic reckoning.

The heroine in LETHAL CODE is Lana Elkins, head of a major cyber-security company—and former top NSA operative—who returns to her roots to spearhead the Agency’s frantic efforts to combat the enemy’s onslaught on its own terms. While she and her superiors take action to infiltrate a terrorist hotbed overseas, much closer to home ruthless jihadists with a nuclear bomb hijack a busload of schoolchildren—including her own daughter—and race toward a rendezvous with Armageddon in America’s largest city.

LETHAL CODE isn’t meant to just be a fast-paced cyber-thriller; it is a cautionary tale for a public largely unaware of a potential cyber war of cataclysmic proportions from an unseen enemy. I did a lot of research and interviewed quite a few experts for this novel. So while LETHAL CODE is a work of fiction, most of the technologies, cyber attack vulnerabilities and cyber war scenarios are based on facts. The novel is the first of a new series of cyber-thrillers. I am currently working on finishing the second.
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Ice Shear by M.P. Cooley

Ice Shear by M.P. CooleyBy Steph Cha

M. P. Cooley is having a good summer, thanks to a frosty winter thriller of a debut novel. ICE SHEAR launched just last week, to much praise and fanfare, including a nod from the one and only Oprah (it was listed as one of the best reads of this summer by O, the Oprah Magazine). The novel, per a starred review in Publishers Weekly, offers a “strong, fast-paced narrative and an intriguing heroine” as well as a plot that encompasses “politics, a burgeoning meth industry, and biker gangs.” It features glittering ice and lots of bad people, and you know you’ve been missing your fictional meth fix since the end of Breaking Bad.

It’s been a busy week in Cooley’s corner, but she was nice enough to sit down with THE BIG THRILL and answer some questions:

Congratulations on your new book! How does it feel? Did you do anything fun to celebrate?

It feels wonderful. I’m writing a series, and it’s easy to get caught up in the next target and the next deadline. I try to celebrate the milestones in small ways, but for my publication day I had a huge party and book launch!

What’s been the most exciting part of the process?

Finding my people, definitely. My agent Lisa Gallagher and I bonded over our love of the same crime writers. A passionate belief in female heroes who are strong yet vulnerable led to long discussions with Rachel Kahan, my editor, and was one of the main reasons I signed with Morrow. And conferences are incredible, meeting readers and writers who are as passionate about crime writing as I am.
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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 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 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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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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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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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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