Historical Thrillers

A House Divided: A Lincoln & Speed Mystery by Jonathan F. Putnam

The new arrival of a woman named Mary Todd wedges a rift between Abraham Lincoln and Joshua Speed, but they must resolve their differences if they stand any chance of cracking one of the most harrowing murder cases they have ever faced.

In the winter of 1839, a sensational disappearance rocks Springfield, Illinois, as headlines announce a local man has accused his two brothers of murder. Not one to pass up an opportunity, Abraham Lincoln takes up the case of the accused with the assistance of his best friend Joshua Speed to search for evidence of innocence.

But just as soon as they begin, Lincoln and Speed find their friendship at grave risk of rupture as they vie for the hand of a beautiful new arrival in town: an ambitious, outspoken young woman named Mary Todd. As the trial arrives, can Lincoln and Speed put aside their differences to work together for justice once more? An innocent man’s life may be in the balance—and nothing is as it seems.

Jonathan F. Putnam, author of A HOUSE DIVIDED, spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing the latest installment of the Lincoln and Speed mystery series:
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The Alchemist of Lost Souls by Mary Lawrence

Disgraced alchemist Albern Goddard has just discovered flamula vitae–a dangerous element with deadly potential–and intends to win back his favor with King Henry VIII. However, before he can act on his intentions, the element is stolen. Albern seeks his estranged daughter, Bianca–now pregnant with her first child–for help, fearing the substance could fall into dangerous hands.

When a woman’s body is found behind the Dim Dragon Inn emitting an eerie green glow from her mouth, rumors circulate about how she died. Bianca traces the element to a dead-end believing it is lost and no longer a threat. But when John is conscripted and the element turns up again, Bianca risks her own life and that of her unborn child to prevent it from being used against the king’s army.

The Big Thrill met with author Mary Lawrence to discuss her latest historical thriller, THE ALCHEMIST OF LOST SOULS:
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No Salvation by Jeffery Hess

By David Healey

If there’s such a thing as navy noir, navy veteran and author Jeffery Hess has created just that atmosphere in his taught thriller NO SALVATION, set aboard an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War.

When Commander Robert Porter arrives aboard the USS Salvation, it is clearly a troubled ship. As the executive officer (XO) or second in command of the US Navy aircraft carrier, Porter soon encounters many challenges. First, he must juggle his own racial identity as an African-American officer against a white captain with antiquated ideas about black and white relations.

It doesn’t help that the captain also has some motive in requesting Porter as his XO.

From the moment that Commander Porter sets foot on deck after arriving by helicopter, it’s evident that racial tensions are brewing between the thousands of black and white sailors who call the cramped quarters aboard ship home. With no air conditioning and humid conditions, and little to dispel the boredom, tempers often flare as sailors get on one another’s nerves and hold grudges.

To give the story some context, it’s important to remember that the armed forces remained segregated for much of the 20th century that included World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. Even with racial equality given lip service, the reality of the 1970s was that the military culture was still uneasy about integration. In the conditions aboard USS Salvation, the uneasy racial peace begins to fray.
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The Flagler Hunt by Jeremy Burns

A vacation to the historic city of St. Augustine, Florida, quickly turns deadly for brothers Jon and Michael Rickner as an antiquities dealer is brutally murdered in his shop just minutes after meeting with them. Moments later, Jon and Michael discover an original Edison wax cylinder recording in the wreckage of the shop, one detailing the first step of an audacious treasure hunt devised by 19th-century railroad magnate Henry Flagler to lure rich tourists to his Florida resorts.

But the hunt, abandoned by Flagler on the eve of its announcement, is not as straightforward as it seems. For the tycoon’s innovative attraction is tied to a priceless relic hidden by 16th-century Conquistadors and paid for in blood.

The Rickner brothers are not alone in their quest for Flagler’s prize. Caeden Monk – an infamous treasure hunter exiled from the archaeological community for his destructive methods – and his devious assistant are also on the trail, and they will stop at nothing to claim the prize for themselves.

Diving headlong into a breakneck pursuit of the truth, Jon and Michael must outwit Monk, discover the secret behind Flagler’s abandoned treasure hunt, and unravel a deadly riddle hidden for centuries in the very foundations of America’s oldest city before an unfathomable treasure is lost forever.

The Big Thrill spent some time with bestselling author Jeremy Burns learning more about his latest thriller, THE FLAGLER HUNT:
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Once More Unto the Breach by Meghan Holloway

Rhys Gravenor, Great War veteran and Welsh sheep farmer, arrives in Paris in the midst of the city’s liberation with a worn letter in his pocket that may have arrived years too late. As he follows the footsteps of his missing son across an unfamiliar, war-torn country, he struggles to come to terms with the incident that drove a wedge between the two of them.

Joined by Charlotte Dubois, an American ambulance driver with secrets of her own, Rhys discovers that even as liberation sweeps across France, the war is far from over. And his personal war has only begun as he is haunted by memories of previous battles and hampered at every turn by danger and betrayal. In a race against time and the war, Rhys follows his son’s trail from Paris to the perilous streets of Vichy to the starving mobs in Lyon to the treacherous Alps. But Rhys is not the only one searching for his son. In a race of his own, a relentless enemy stalks him across the country and will stop at nothing to find the young man first.

The country is in tatters, no one is trustworthy, and Rhys must unravel the mystery of his son’s wartime actions in the desperate hope of finding him before it’s too late. Too late to mend the frayed bond between them. Too late to beg his forgiveness. Too late to bring him home alive.

Author Meghan Holloway spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her historical thriller, ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH:
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The Blameless Dead by Gary Haynes

In the dying days of World War II, Pavel Romasko and his Red Army colleagues pick their way through the detritus of a dying Berlin. Stumbling upon the smoking remains of a Nazi bunker, they find something inside that eclipses the horror of even the worst excesses in the city above them.

As the war ends, retribution begins. But some revenge cannot be taken at once. Some revenge takes years.

Which is how, 70 years later, FBI agent Carla Romero and New York lawyer Gabriel Hall are enlisted to investigate a series of blood-chilling crimes that seem to have their roots in the distant past—even though the suffering they cause is all too present. And for one of them, the disappearance of young women is a particularly personal matter.

Author Gary Haynes took some time to meet with The Big Thrill and discuss his latest thriller, THE BLAMELESS DEAD:
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The Ghost Manuscript by Kris Frieswick

Carys Jones is a rare book authenticator working for a prestigious Boston auction house whose fondest wish is to be left alone to pursue her single-minded love of old manuscripts. Her life is simple and uncomplicated until the day her favorite client, John Harper, a wealthy tech entrepreneur and collector of British Dark Age manuscripts, ends up in a psychiatric hospital suffering from hallucinations and mania.

Sent by her boss to authenticate Harper’s collection for a planned sale, Carys is given an offer she can’t refuse: Harper’s entire library of priceless manuscripts in exchange for her help tracking down a tomb described in a single, previously unknown and unrecorded ancient journal. Harper has come to believe through years of exhaustive research that this manuscript is the memoir of the personal priest of one of the most enigmatic figures in history, King Arthur. The monk’s manuscript not only recounts the king’s exploits, but reveals the location of the king’s tomb—and the vast treasure buried with it. Carys accepts the offer and launches her quest.

But Jones and Harper aren’t the only ones looking for the tomb. Martin Gyles, a ruthless, psychopathic black market antiquities dealer, seeks to derail Carys’s search on behalf of an anonymous client. The hunt takes Carys to places she never thought she’d go, both physically and emotionally: first to Wales, her estranged father’s homeland, then to bed with Dafydd, a mysterious Welshman who agrees to help her with the search, and finally, deep inside her own psyche, when the monk who wrote the journal 1,500 years ago appears and assists her in her search.

Author Kris Frieswick took time out of her busy schedule to meet with The Big Thrill and discuss her historical thriller, THE GHOST MANUSCRIPT:
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The Girl With 39 Graves by Michael Beres

Rose Buckles, murdered near the Wyoming-Utah line in 1939, isn’t quite buried. Decades later, men from an FDR CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camp cling to strands of hair.

Legends surrounding Rose’s death surface in, of all places, Ukraine during the Chernobyl disaster’s 25th anniversary. Deaths of old men and relatives researching what happened in 1939 have bizarre connections: Murder-suicides in retirement communities, so-called single vehicle accidents, a Chernobyl serial killer, a safe deposit box in one of the Twin Towers in 2001, heroin as a cough remedy, competition between crime families, and even agents working for Putin. The six-degrees-of-separation theory from Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy’s 1929 short story “Chain-Links” comes to life, connecting past and present.

The Big Thrill caught up to author Michael Beres and delved into his historical thriller, THE GIRL WITH 39 GRAVES:
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Dragonfly by Tom Lowe

By Charlie Cochrane

Writing historical stories without falling into cliché takes a bucketload of skill. Tom Lowe demonstrates that dexterity in his latest thriller, DRAGONFLY.

The ninth book in the Sean O’Brien series finds the former Miami homicide cop matching wits with an assassin who’s killing off retired CIA agents. When the killer sets his sights on one of Sean’s closest friends, Sean lands himself squarely in the middle of a deadly plot that stretches across borders—and into the past.

The Big Thrill caught up with Lowe to talk about the challenges of weaving together fact and fiction, the demands of juggling three ongoing series, and the benefits of giving his longest-running character an unconventional sidekick.

Interweaving real events and characters with a fictional story risks ending up with a finished product that’s unconvincing. (I call it the “Oh dear, I see the Titanic’s sunk” effect.) How do you guard against that?

By its very nature, historical fiction is an oxymoron. History, especially well-known history, is set in stone. That doesn’t mean the ripples from it can’t be fictionalized in the novel form. Historical events can provide exceptional leverage for the writer to use as background to base a story. I believe authors have a creative license to whisper, “What if?” and then follow the wellspring of their imagination as it flows from an event in history that will give the story added credence. That, of course, can be a double-edge sword. The creative liberty can’t cross the line and paint history with brushstrokes that will alter it. But the author can work along the seams and create characters and events that possibly could have had a connection to the background of that specific point in history. For example, my novel The Jefferson Prophecy deals with Thomas Jefferson before he was president and then from when he authorized the nation to go to war against the Barbary pirates. I knew I couldn’t change any event involving Jefferson in terms of what he did or didn’t do, as it was documented in history. However, I knew that Jefferson was a gifted cryptographer, a man who’d invented the cipher-wheel used for decades after his death to send and receive covert messages. That’s where I whispered, “What if?” and let the story begin.
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The Widows by Jess Montgomery

THE WIDOWS is a gripping historical mystery about two women whose lives collide when the man they both love is murdered.

When Lily Ross learns that her husband, Daniel Ross, the town’s widely respected sheriff, is killed while transporting a prisoner, she is devastated and vows to avenge his death.

But just hours after Daniel’s funeral, a stranger appears at Lily’s door: Marvena Whitcomb, a coal miner’s widow, who is unaware that Daniel has been killed and begs to speak with him about her missing daughter.

Soon Lily and Marvena realize that Daniel was not the man that either of them believed him to be—and that his murder is far more complex than either of them could have imagined.

Set in 1920s’ Ohio against the backdrop of coal mining, prohibition and women’s rights, THE WIDOWS is inspired by the true stories of two women: Maude Collins, the first female sheriff in the state of Ohio, whose husband died in the line of duty in 1925, and Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, the prominent labor and community organizer.

Award-winning author Jess Montgomery spent some time with The Big Thrill sharing some insight into her latest work of historical fiction, THE WIDOWS:
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Edinburgh Dusk by Carole Lawrence

By Nancy Bilyeau

With the arrival in 2017 of Edinburgh Twilight, a historical mystery featuring as its protagonist Detective Inspector Ian Hamilton, Carole Lawrence won a large, enthusiastic readership. Also writing as C. E. Lawrence and Carole Bugge, she has nine published novels, six novellas and a dozen or so short stories and poems to her credit. Her work has received starred reviews from Kirkus, The Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, The Boston Herald, Ellery Queen—the list goes on.

In her newest release in the series, EDINBURGH DUSK, Lawrence weaves a delicious mystery yet again. A female physician, Sophia Jex-Blake, calls on Detective Inspector Ian Hamilton to investigate the suspicious death of one of her patients—a railroad lineman who may have been poisoned. For the first time since a fire killed his parents, Hamilton enters the Royal Infirmary to ask for the insights of a certain brilliant medical student named Arthur Conan Doyle.

Lawrence took The Big Thrill behind the scenes of her writing process, to show just how she evokes a dark-tinged page-turning story set in the middle of a Scottish winter in the late 19th century.
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The Monastery Murders by E. M. Powell

By Wendy Tyson

E. M. Powell, author of the bestselling Fifth Knight medieval thrillers, has returned with the second installment of her Stanton and Barling Mysteries, THE MONASTERY MURDERS.

In THE MONASTERY MURDERS, Aelred Barling, clerk at the court of Henry II, along with his assistant, Hugo Stanton, are sent to investigate a brutal murder in a remote abbey in the Yorkshire Moors. It’s Christmastime, and the monastery, with its isolated location and unyielding culture, is the perfect backdrop for murder—or, in this case, a series of murders.

“The setting of my fictional Fairmore Abbey is integral to the plot,” Powell says. “The vast majority of the action takes place there.”

But the setting presented challenges too. “In some ways, that was very restrictive in that everything has to take place within the confines of the abbey walls.” It wasn’t only the physical structure of the setting that offered obstacles. “The medieval monastery was like a mini society,” Powell says, “with its own rules and laws, and was rigidly structured with almost every moment of every day accounted for. I had to make sure I reflected that. Developing distinct secondary characters was also quite a challenge as, unsurprisingly, almost everyone is a monk.”

The monastery setting, like a great locked-room mystery, only adds to the suspense of THE MONASTERY MURDERS. Indeed, it lends a deep sense of intrigue and foreboding. “The challenges also became, I think, one of the novel’s greatest strengths,” Powell admits. “Readers have said how much they like its claustrophobic atmosphere and the tense, volatile internal dynamics—as well as all the other murders, of course.”
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The Blues Walked In by Kathleen George

In 1936, life on the road means sleeping on the bus or in hotels for blacks only. After finishing her tour with Nobel Sissel’s orchestra, nineteen-year-old Lena Horne is walking the last few blocks to her father’s hotel in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. She stops at a lemonade stand and meets a Lebanese American girl, Marie David. Marie loves movies and adores Lena, and their chance meeting sparks a relationship that will intertwine their lives forever. Lena also meets Josiah Conner, a charismatic teenager who helps out at her father Teddy’s hotel. Josiah often skips school, dreams of being a Hollywood director, and has a crush on Lena. Although the three are linked by a determination to be somebody, issues of race, class, family, and education threaten to disrupt their lives and the bonds between them.

Lena’s father wants her to settle down and give up show business, but she’s entranced by the music and culture of the Hill. It’s a mecca for jazz singers and musicians, and nightspots like the Crawford Grill attract crowds of blacks and whites. Lena table-hops with local jazzmen as her father chaperones her through the clubs where she‘ll later perform. Singing makes her feel alive, and to her father’s dismay, reviewers can’t get enough of her. Duke Ellington adores her, Billy Strayhorn can’t wait to meet her, and she becomes “all the rage” in clubs and Hollywood for her beauty and almost-whiteness. Her signature version of “Stormy Weather” makes her a legend. But after sitting around for years at MGM as the studio heads try to figure out what to do with her, she isn’t quite sure what she’s worth.

Marie and Josiah follow Lena’s career in Hollywood and New York through movie magazines and the Pittsburgh Courier. Years pass until their lives are brought together again when Josiah is arrested for the murder of a white man. Marie and Lena decide they must get Josiah out of prison—whatever the personal cost.

Bestselling author Kathleen George spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest thriller, THE BLUES WALKED IN:
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Fear the Reaper by David Simms

A psychologist unearths America’s darkest secret through the terrors of an asylum in 1933 Virginia, where the elite aim to eliminate millions of “unfit” citizens.

The truths that have been erased from history come to life in this thriller about the nation’s ugly and forgotten chapter.

Still haunted by the death of this wife and son during childbirth, psychologist and WWI vet Samuel Taylor accepts a position at Western Valley Hospital. Superintendent Joseph Dejarnette leads the movement to purify humanity by exterminating anyone the Society, led by the kings of industry, deemed to be “defective” or “unfit.” Sam begins to question his sanity as the mysteries of the area emerge from the shadows, compelling him to dig deeper into the horrors of the movement, realizing how complicit he is in the deaths around him. The proof he ultimately uncovers may doom everyone he holds close while influencing the world’s most heinous act in history.

The Big Thrill spent some time with author David Simms, gaining new insight to his second novel, FEAR THE REAPER:
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Final Resting Place by Jonathan F. Putnam

Twenty-nine year old Abraham Lincoln has spent his entire adult life running from his past — from the poverty of the dirt-floor log cabin where he was raised, from the dominion of his uneducated father, and from a failed early courtship. But now, in FINAL RESTING PLACE, the third book in the Lincoln & Speed Mystery series, Lincoln’s past is racing back to haunt him.

It is the summer of 1838 and Springfield is embroiled in a tumultuous, violent political season. When a prominent local politician is assassinated and his political rival is arrested, young lawyer Lincoln and his best friend Joshua Speed are on the case to investigate.

It’s no ordinary trial, however, as Lincoln and Speed soon face unwelcome complications. Lincoln’s ne’er-do-well father and stepbrother appear in town and threaten Lincoln’s good name and political future. And before long, anonymous letters start appearing in the local newspapers, with ominous threats that make Lincoln fear for himself and his loved ones. As the day of reckoning arrives, the threats against Lincoln continue to escalate. Lincoln and Speed must identify the culprit and fast, before Lincoln loses the race to outrun his past.

Author Jonathan F. Putnam spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing the third installment of his Lincoln and Speed Mystery series, FINAL RESTING PLACE:
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The Fairfax Incident by Terrence McCauley

By David Healey

Set in 1933, THE FAIRFAX INCIDENT by Terrence McCauley seems at first to be a traditional noir detective story with a Raymond Chandler-like vibe. However, it soon becomes apparent that Charlie Doherty is an evolved and nuanced private eye. Imbued with a sense of history and complex characters, there’s more than meets the eye at first glance in this novel—much like the case that Doherty takes on.

The novel begins with Doherty interviewing the widow of a wealthy New Yorker who appears to have committed suicide. However, the widow insists that her husband did not shoot himself. Thus begins a case that leads Doherty through a twisty plot filled with politics and intrigue.

The author’s earlier trio of thrillers was actually set in the near future, with some futuristic predictions that have already come to pass. In Sympathy for the Devil, for example, he incorporated the kind of fingerprint recognition technology that exists today but that was more predictive of the future when the book came out.

Now, he’s delving into the past with a series of novels set in the 1930s.
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The Long Silence by Gerard O’Donovan

February, 1922. Hollywood is young but already mired in scandal. When a leading movie director is murdered, Irish-American investigator Tom Collins is called in by studio boss Mack Sennett, whose troubled star, Mabel Normand, is rumoured to be involved.

But Normand has gone missing. And, as Collins discovers, there’s a growing list of suspects. His quest leads him through the brutal heart of Prohibition-era Los Angeles, from speakeasies and dope dens to the studios and salons of Hollywood’s fabulously wealthy movie elite, and to a secret so explosive it must be kept silent at any cost…

Inspired by the unsolved real-life murder of movie director William Desmond Taylor, THE LONG SILENCE is the first in a richly evocative, instantly compelling series of new noir mysteries set in Hollywood’s early days.

The Big Thrill caught up to novelist Gerard O’Donovan to discuss his latest thriller, and his first in a new series of historical crime thrillers set in 1920s Hollywood, THE LONG SILENCE:
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A Dying Note by Ann Parker

It’s autumn of 1881, and Inez Stannert, still the co-owner of Leadville, Colorado’s Silver Queen saloon, is settled in San Francisco with her young ward, Antonia Gizzi. Inez has turned her business talents to managing a music store, hoping to eventually become an equal partner in the enterprise with the store’s owner, a celebrated local violinist.

Inez’s carefully constructed life for herself and Antonia threatens to tumble about her ears when the badly beaten body of a young musician washes up on the filthy banks of San Francisco’s Mission Creek canal. Inez and Antonia become entangled in the mystery of his death when the musician turns out to have ties to Leadville, ties that threaten to expose Inez’s notorious past. And they aren’t the only ones searching for answers. Wolter Roeland de Bruijn, “finder of the lost,” has also been tasked with ferreting out the perpetrators and dispensing justice in its most final form. Leadville’s leading madam Frisco Flo, an unwilling visitor to the city with a Leadville millionaire, is on the hook as well, having injudiciously financed the young musician’s journey to San Francisco in the first place.

Time grows short as Inez and the others uncover long-hidden secrets and unsettled scores. With lives and reputations on the line, the tempo rises until the investigation’s final, dying note.

Award-winning author Ann Parker spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest novel, A DYING NOTE:
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The Eterna Solution by Leanna Renee Hieber

Leanna Renee Hieber brings Victorian London and New York to life and fills both cities with ghosts and monsters. Two groups of paranormally talented investigators discover that the Eterna compound—thought to be the key to immortality—is, instead, a powerful protective charm. That protection is sorely needed, for both England and the U.S. are under attack by dark forces.

Having vanquished the demonic pretender to the British throne, the now-united forces of the Eterna Commission and the Omega Department reach America ready to take on a new menace. But like the United States itself, this evil is rapidly spreading from sea to shining sea. Will the new magic our heroes have discovered be strong enough to defeat it?

With its blend of Victorian details, complex plots, and compelling characters, Hieber’s fascinating historical fantasy continues to earn critical acclaim.

Award-winning author Leanna Renee Hieber recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest novel, THE ETERNA SOLUTION:
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Merlin at War by Mark Ellis

By David Healey

Writing in a comfortable studio surrounded by books, the scenes playing in the mind of Mark Ellis are not nearly as peaceful: German dive bombers machine gunning troops on the run, war-torn London, a woman’s bloody body in a hotel room.

The British author’s latest effort is MERLIN AT WAR, in which much of the plot centers around a mysterious letter left behind by an officer killed by those dive bombers. Interestingly enough, the main character is not a soldier, but Chief Inspector Frank Merlin. While war rages, there is no shortage of home front crimes for Merlin to solve.

“People carried on,” Ellis said. “Life carried on.”

And so did crime.
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This Side of Murder by Anna Lee Huber

England, 1919. Verity Kent’s grief over the loss of her husband pierces anew when she receives a cryptic letter, suggesting her beloved Sidney may have committed treason before his untimely death. Determined to dull her pain with revelry, Verity’s first impulse is to dismiss the derogatory claim. But the mystery sender knows too much—including the fact that during the war, Verity worked for the Secret Service, something not even Sidney knew.

Lured to Umbersea Island to attend the engagement party of one of Sidney’s fellow officers, Verity mingles among the men her husband once fought beside, and discovers dark secrets—along with a murder clearly meant to conceal them. Relying on little more than a coded letter, the help of a dashing stranger, and her own sharp instincts, Verity is forced down a path she never imagined—and comes face to face with the shattering possibility that her husband may not have been the man she thought he was. It’s a truth that could set her free—or draw her ever deeper into his deception…

Award-winning author  Anna Lee Huber recently discussed her latest thriller, THIS SIDE OF MURDER, with The Big Thrill:
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Edinburgh Twilight by Carole Lawrence

As a new century approaches, Edinburgh is a city divided. The wealthy residents of New Town live in comfort, while Old Town’s cobblestone streets are clotted with criminals, prostitution, and poverty.

Detective Inspector Ian Hamilton is no stranger to Edinburgh’s darkest crimes. Scarred by the mysterious fire that killed his parents, he faces his toughest case yet when a young man is found strangled in Holyrood Park.

With little evidence aside from a strange playing card found on the body, Hamilton engages the help of his aunt, a gifted photographer, and George Pearson, a librarian with a shared interest in the criminal mind. But the body count is rising. As newspapers spin tales of the “Holyrood Strangler,” panic sets in across the city. And with each victim, the murderer is getting closer to Hamilton, the one man who dares to stop him.

The Big Thrill had an opportunity to discuss EDINBURGH TWILIGHT with author Carole Lawrence:
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After the Ides by Peter Tonkin

By David Healey

Veteran author Peter Tonkin has written a number of books, thanks in part to his hard-driving writing schedule. (If you want some motivation as an author, follow Peter on Facebook and try to keep up with the pages written that he posts daily.) His most recent novel is AFTER THE IDES: CAESER’S SPIES THRILLER BOOK 2, set in ancient Rome in the wake of Julius Caesar’s assassination.

This busy writer, retired teacher, and world traveller took some time out recently to answer some questions about Romans, research, and writing in general.

Thrillers such as yours require a tremendous amount of research to make them plausible. What fact did you discover in your research that stood out for you? 

It’s difficult to pin down just one.  I love the fact that Artemidorus really gave Caesar a list of his murderers on the way into the fatal Senate meeting.  That Antistius the physician carried out on Caesar’s body the first recorded post mortem in history.  And that Antony’s wife Fulvia drove pins (and a stylus?) through Cicero’s tongue when his head was spiked in the Forum 22 months later – because of the terrible damage his speeches had done to her husband, her family and their fortunes in the interim.

As a writer, how do you get the voice right for characters who lived thousands of years ago? 

“Right” is not really the correct term.  I try and make them credible and convincing.  As Lindsey Davis said when discussing her brilliant Falco novels, it is the suspension of disbelief that’s important.  I love to get my facts right, including events, characters and relationships, so Antony has a particular ‘voice’ and Octavian another–extensions of their characterisation in my stories.  Reflections of their characters in history as presented by the most up-to-date research I can find.
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Call of Fire by Beth Cato

When an earthquake devastates San Francisco in an alternate 1906, the influx of geomantic energy nearly consumes Ingrid Carmichael. Bruised but alive, the young geomancer flees the city with her friends, Cy, Lee, and Fenris. She is desperate to escape Ambassador Blum, the cunning and dangerous bureaucrat who wants to use Ingrid’s formidable powers to help the Unified Pacific—the confederation of the United States and Japan—achieve world domination. To stop them, Ingrid must learn more about the god-like magic she inherited from her estranged father—the man who set off the quake that obliterated San Francisco.

When Lee and Fenris are kidnapped in Portland, Ingrid and Cy are forced to ally themselves with another ambassador from the Unified Pacific: the powerful and mysterious Theodore Roosevelt. But even TR’s influence may not be enough to save them when they reach Seattle, where the magnificent peak of Mount Rainier looms. Discovering more about herself and her abilities, Ingrid is all too aware that she may prove to be the fuse to light the long-dormant volcano . . . and a war that will sweep the world.

Author Beth Cato spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest novel, CALL OF FIRE:
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Perish From the Earth by Jonathan F. Putnam

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

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

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

The Big Thrill caught up to PERISH FROM THE EARTH author, Jonathan F. Putnam, to discuss the second Lincoln & Speed Mystery:
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Battle Scars by David M. Salkin

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

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

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

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

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

A beautiful American spy flees into the night. On her own, she must live by her wits to evade capture and make it to the safety of the Allied forces.

Lily Saint James grew up traveling the European continent, learning languages as she went. In 1938, her mother’s abrupt death brings her back home to Washington, D.C., and after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Lily comes to the attention of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Her knowledge of German, French, and Italian makes her the perfect OSS Agent, and her quick thinking places her as a nanny in the household of an important German Army Colonel, where she is able to gather intelligence for the Allies. After her marketplace contact goes missing, she makes a late-night trip to her secondary contact only to find him under interrogation by the SS. When he commits suicide, she flees into the frigid winter night carrying false identification papers that are now dangerous and a mini film cartridge with vital strategic information. In order to survive, Lily must make it out of Germany, into the hands of Allied-controlled France, through a path fraught with peril.

The Big Thrill caught up with author, Ellen Butler, to discuss her novel, THE BRASS COMPASS:
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Murder Between the Lines by Radha Vatsal

By E.M. Powell

For many writers, the excitement of being a published debut novelist is quickly followed by the enormous challenge of the second novel. Some really struggle with writing a second book or sequel in a series, particularly when that debut has been successful, which Radha Vatsal’s historical mystery,  A Front Page Affair, most definitely was. Yet for Vatsal, writing her new Kitty Weeks novel, MURDER BETWEEN THE LINES, was easier then book one.

“Being a debut author is fun but also scary,” she says. “There’s a steep learning curve.  Everything you’re doing, it’s for the first time.  For me nerves were baked right in to the experience.’ When it came to writing the second book, those anxieties had lessened.  “It was very freeing and I felt like it flowed easily compared to the first one.”

And flow it does. Vatsal’s young female journalist protagonist Kitty Weeks returns in this pacey, cleverly-plotted story set in New York in 1915-16. Kitty, who works for the New York Sentinel Ladies’ Page is tasked with writing a piece about Westfield Hall, a prestigious girls’ boarding school. Kitty expects to find an orderly establishment teaching the safe, standard fare for schoolgirls in 1915, such as French and dancing. But she’s surprised and intrigued to see the work of students like Elspeth Bright, the daughter of a scientist heavily involved in naval technology, who has inherited her father’s interest and talent for scientific inquiry.

A terrible tragedy strikes soon after their meeting when Elspeth is found frozen to death in Central Park. The doctors proclaim that the girl’s sleepwalking was the cause, but Kitty isn’t convinced. Determined to uncover the truth, the intrepid Kitty’s investigations involve her in a dangerous scenario—a murder that may involve Elspeth’s scientist father and a new invention by Thomas Edison. As with Kitty’s first outing, there are plenty of plot twists and turns to keep the reader guessing right to the conclusion.
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South California Purples by Baron R. Birtcher

The year is 1973, and the last of America’s soldiers are returning home from Vietnam, often shouted down and spat upon by protesters, while the first toxic cracks of mistrust have begun to appear at the highest levels of government. The American Indian Movement has entered into a bloody occupation of Wounded Knee, gas shortages have pushed the economy into deep recession, and violent civil unrest is captured in living color and broadcast nightly on the evening news. But rural Meriwether County, tucked away amid the sweeping river valleys and serrated mountain ridges of southern Oregon, has been left largely untouched by time. Until now. South California Purples is part contemporary western, and neo-noir, a novel of loyalty, passion and murder, crafted with lyrical prose and unforgettable dialogue that weaves together the sometimes poignant, often violent, strains of the 1970s, and the human cost of a nation in transition. This is the first of a new series.

Author of SOUTH CALIFORNIA PURPLES, Baron R. Birtcher, recently spent some time discussing his latest novel with The Big Thrill:
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Red Sniper by David Healey

RED SNIPER is the story of a rescue mission for American POWs held captive by the Russians at the end of World War II.

For these American POWs, the war is not over. Abandoned by their country, used as political pawns by Stalin, their last hope for getting home again is backwoods sniper Caje Cole and a team of combat veterans who undertake a daring rescue mission prompted by a U.S. Senator whose grandson is among the captives. After a lovely Russian-American spy helps plot an escape from a Gulag prison, they must face the ruthless Red Sniper, starving wolves, and the snowy Russian taiga in a race for freedom.

In a final encounter that tests Cole’s skills to the limit, he will discover that forces within the U.S. government want the very existence of these prisoners kept secret at any price.

David Healey sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss his latest novel, RED SNIPER:
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