By Jeremy Burns
It’s Americans’ favorite time of year: tax season. With a tax code at tens of thousands of pages and an entire industry built up around helping ordinary citizens figure out exactly how much they owe, paying income tax has been among our most maligned of patriotic duties for nearly a century.
But what if federal income tax is, in fact, illegal?
Such is the bold question at the heart of Steve Berry’s latest thriller, THE PATRIOT THREAT. Once again, series hero Cotton Malone undertakes a globetrotting adventure to uncover the truth behind an explosive historical secret.
The government of the United States draws ninety-one percent of its total revenue from personal and corporate income tax. The tax codes that allow the government to levy the tax are built upon the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, but what if that amendment was never properly ratified? And what if proof of that failure fell into enemy hands? THE PATRIOT THREAT offers just such a scenario, built—as with all Steve Berry adventures—upon real, but little-known historical facts. Discrepancies in the amendment’s wording and cryptic warnings from the Secretary of State who presided over the process in 1913 could point to as many as twelve states’ ratifications being void, nullifying the amendment, eliminating the government’s ability to collect income tax, and bankrupting the country in one fell swoop.
When an exiled member of the North Korean elite, Kim Yong Jin, stumbles across documents that could destroy the United States, he sees his opportunity to win back his place in power. And unlike most of characters throughout his career, Berry loosely based Kim after the real deposed heir to the North Korean throne—Kim Jong Il’s older brother and political exile, Kim Jong-nam. The fascinating real-life scenario leading to his exile gives the antagonist a plausible and strong motivation for his actions throughout the story. Lucky for America that Cotton Malone is on the same Mediterranean cruise as Kim. Backed by Magellan Billet agent Luke Daniels and director Stephanie Nelle, Malone must stay a step ahead of Kim and ferret out some hidden truths, long buried in the past.
Treasury agent Isabella Shafer is a new character helping out, potentially filling a void left by Cassiopeia Vitt (but not to worry, Berry says, Cassiopeia will return). Kim’s daughter—Hana Sun—is another character Berry says he enjoyed writing, a smart yet conflicted young woman who proves an interesting dynamic in the tale. Her presence also allowed Berry to examine the awful North Korean death camps, where 200,000 people are currently confined.
CITY OF BLOOD, Frederique Molay’s gripping thriller that held the French enthralled, is now set to work its magic across the spectrum of the English speaking world.
In the novel, which was recently translated into English, a major Parisian modern art event gets unexpected attention on live TV, causing Police Chief, Nico Sirsky, and his elite crime squad, to rush to the La Villette Park and Museum complex, built on the site of the French capital’s former slaughterhouses. Three decades after a tragic banquet, renowned artist Samuel Cassian is inaugurating the first archeological dig of modern art. Excavators uncover a skeleton in the presence of the international press.
Two questions smolder: could the bones be those of the artist’s own son, and does that death have anything to do with the current string of nightclub murders by the “Paris Butcher”?
The investigation takes Nico Sirsky and France’s top criminal investigation division from artists’ studios, to autopsy theaters and nightclubs in hopes of tracking down the murderer who threatens to turn the City of Lights into a City of Blood.
Writing has always been a passion for Molay, author of the award-winning international bestseller The 7th Woman. A laureate of Science Po, France’s prestigious Higher Institute of the Social Sciences, she began her career in politics and administration. She relinquished her position as Chief of Staff for the Deputy Mayor of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Paris, for election to the local government in Saône-et-Loire. She also spent her nights pursuing a passion for writing, nourished since she wrote her first novel at the age of eleven. After The 7th Woman took France by storm, Molay dedicated her life to writing and raising her three children. She has five books to her name, including three in the Paris Homicide series.
By George Ebey
New Zealand resident and author Sharlene Almond brings us INITIATED TO KILL, the first instalment in her new series that blends aspects of history with a modern day twist.
In this first outing, two men from different generations are initiated into a powerful organization that has sought control of the world and uses their power for destructive ends.
The Big Thrill recently caught up with Sharlene to learn more about this series and her plans for the future.
Tell us a little about INITIATED TO KILL.
INITIATED TO KILL is the first in the Annabella Cordova series. All of the books in the series have a part-historical, part-present day focus.
In this story, Annabella Cordova quickly becomes embroiled in a conspiracy involving the university she studies at. When her roommate goes missing, it becomes very personal. Her past gradually unveils, as she is closer to this than she could have possibly imagined. A childhood accident causing permanent deafness enables Annabella to use her other senses to read facial and body language, and detecting lies in people, including suspects.
What first inspired you to write tales involving history and modern-day crime?
When I was younger, I had a little notebook in which I would jot down ideas of things one day I would like to write about.
By John A. Connell
There is a whole world—literally—of thrillers and mysteries being produced in non-English speaking countries, a rich tapestry of characters and stories, many of which, unfortunately, never make landfall on Anglophone shores. Great stories, no matter the genre, can transport you to other lands and offer worldviews of people from different cultures, to see an alternate vision of the world through very different eyes. Combine that with a passion for thrillers and mysteries, and, voila, you have all the ingredients for a truly compelling read. So when the opportunity came up to write about Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne’s thriller SHADOW RITUAL, I jumped at the chance.
Two savage murders set opposing forces on a deadly collision course that spans the European continent. One is a sinister occult society with Nazi roots on the cusp of discovering the final pieces of a puzzle that could reveal an ancient Freemason ritual that promises to unleash immense power. The other is crack police detective and high-ranking Freemason Antoine Marcas, who reluctantly joins fiery intelligence officer Jade Zewinski in a desperate chase to track down the ruthless assassins. To identify the perpetrators of an ever-widening spiral of violence, they, too, must unravel the secrets of the mysterious ritual, and in doing so they become the assassins’ next targets.
Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravennes live and write in France, and their thrillers, featuring Antoine Marcas, have been translated into seventeen languages and sold over two million copies worldwide. SHADOW RITUAL, the first book in a series of nine Marcas thrillers, has sold 250,000 copies, and is the first to be translated in English. Let’s hope there are more English translations of their Antoine Marcas series to come.
By Dawn Ius
In his twenty-five years as a business executive and management consultant, Douglass Seaver has authored dozens of articles, guest editorials, and even a chapter in a marketing book. Now, Seaver adds a full-length novel to his already impressive publishing resume, with the debut of his international suspense, THE FOURTH RULE.
THE FOURTH RULE is the story of two brothers—one a missing Green Beret, the other, Matthew Grant, charged with keeping a secret. When the CIA approaches Grant to help solve the mystery of his brother’s disappearance, readers are taken on a twisting journey of suspense and intrigue, culminating in a high stakes gamble of life…and peace.
Here, Seaver talks about what inspired THE FOURTH RULE, his transition to fiction, and what he’s working on next.
Congrats on your debut, THE FOURTH RULE. It sounds fascinating. What was the inspiration for this story?
When I was fourteen, my dad told me a story about a man who rose every morning, got dressed, had breakfast with his family, and left for work. He rode the elevator down to the lobby, exited his apartment building, walked across the street to the local bakery, and bought a chocolate croissant. He returned to his building, went down to the basement, hid the white bakery bag with the croissant, and went on to work. At the end of the day, the man returned to his building, went to the basement, threw the bag and the chocolate croissant into the furnace, and then went up to his apartment and family.
Four decades later, I remembered the story, and it led me to think about keeping secrets. I became fascinated by the impact secrets might have on those who keep them. That curiosity became the backbone of the plot for my novel.
By George Ebey
Author Gigi Pandian’s latest book, QUICKSAND, gives us the third entry in her Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt series.
This time around, Jaya Jones finds herself on the wrong side of the law during an art heist at the Louvre. To redeem herself, she follows clues from an illuminated manuscript that lead from the cobblestone streets of Paris to the quicksand-surrounded fortress of Mont Saint-Michel. With the help of some interesting characters, Jaya delves into France’s colonial past in India to clear her name and catch a killer.
The Big Thrill recently caught up with Gigi to learn more about her and QUICKSAND.
Can you tell us a little about QUICKSAND and the series it’s set in?
QUICKSAND is the third book in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery series, but it stands alone, too. In each book in the series, history professor Jaya Jones solves a present-day crime linked to a historic treasure that has to do with India’s colonial history.
In QUICKSAND, Jaya has the best intentions but finds herself part of an art heist at the Louvre. She discovers that the theft is part of a much bigger treasure hunt that has led to murder, and to set things right she enlists the help of an ex-thief and a ninety-year-old French stage magician. The hunt takes them from Paris to Les Machines de l’île in Nantes to the ancient fortress of Mont Saint-Michel, where Jaya discovers hidden secrets of France’s colonial past. But a dangerous thief will do anything to silence Jaya before she can reveal what she knows.
The previous two books—Artifact and Pirate Vishnu—have been treasure hunts that led from San Francisco to the Highlands of Scotland and the southern tip of India, respectively.
Susan Froetschel’s 2013 novel Fear of Beauty and its just-released sequel, ALLURE OF DECEIT, mark a strong departure from her previous mysteries, leaving more conventional settings behind and immersing readers in the daily life of a village in Afghanistan. Fear of Beauty, the story of an illiterate Afghani woman who must circumvent the rules of her society to learn the truth about her young son’s death, received numerous honors, including the Youth Literature Award from the Middle East Outreach Council, a best mystery-suspense award from the Military Writers Society of America, and a nomination for the Mary Higgins Clark Award.
ALLURE OF DECEIT continues the story of these Afghan characters. After a tech entrepreneur dies in a terrorist attack, organizations in developing countries scramble to grab the vast fortune that will be distributed through his posthumously-created foundation. The farming village of Laashekoh, Afghanistan, is chosen by a health team promoting reproductive rights as a recipient of the foundation’s largesse—although the local people feel no need for this outside interference. When a group of aid workers visiting the village goes missing, foul play is suspected.
Fraud, murder, and culture clashes fuel the conflict, but Froetschel describes ALLURE OF DECEIT as, above all, “a family saga” centered on the husband and wife who appear in both novels.
Would you tell us more about ALLURE OF DECEIT and its characters? Do many of the characters from Fear of Beauty make return appearances?
Fear of Beauty is the story of an illiterate woman, Sofi, who is desperate to learn the truth about her son’s death, and ALLURE OF DECEIT is the story of her husband, Parsaa, and his efforts to protect the village of Laashekoh, isolated and rural with a micro-climate ideal for farming, from change. Parsaa is a village leader who is relieved that U.S. troops have left Afghanistan, but must still contend with charities that try to deliver unwanted assistance. His son, Siddiq, who has a mind of his own, balks at leaving the village to attend school, and questions a village practice of shaming entire families for crimes committed by any one family member. A director of a huge charitable foundation manipulates funding and programs to figure out why her son was killed. Parsaa secretly visits a childhood friend for help understanding the persistence of aid workers, but the friend has ulterior motives.
David Swatling’s debut thriller CALVIN’S HEAD, set in Amsterdam, is suspenseful, atmospheric, violent, and yet playful. Literary while very much accessible. Using rotating points of view, the story is about what happens when a young homeless man with a dog attempts the riskiest gambit imaginable: trying to manipulate a calculating, conscienceless killer.
After a career of acting followed by journalism, Swatling, who has lived in Amsterdam since the 1980s, branches out into fiction with impressive results. He sold his novel to Bold Stroke Books.
You grew up in a small town. How did you land in New York City?
As a kid I dreamed a Disney agent would discover me mowing the lawn and whisk me away to Hollywood to be the next Huckleberry Finn. That never happened. But when I got to Syracuse University to study theater, I had no intention of remaining in rural upstate New York. My new destination: the bright lights on Broadway. That never happened either. I did play the butler in an Off-Broadway hit, The Passion of Dracula.
Did anything in your acting career help you later on with your storyteller craft?
Absolutely—everything from theater history to acting class! It’s all about story, whether it’s Shakespeare or Sam Shepard. From classics you learn about structure, pacing, conflict, climax, all the elements to keep an audience on the edge of their seats. As an actor you get inside a character’s head, create his back story, figure out how he moves, how he thinks. The playwright provides dialogue but the rest is up to you and your imagination. I think that’s why many thriller authors have a theater background.
By E. A. Aymar
I almost missed the deadline for this article and it’s all Barry Lancet’s damn fault. I got so absorbed in his second thriller, TOKYO KILL, that I ended up reading it slower than I usually do, savoring each line, observing how expertly and subtly the plot twists and complications were built. Those who are familiar with Lancet’s JAPANTOWN, which was a Barry Award finalist for Best First Novel and optioned for television by J. J. Abrams and Warner Bros., will be excited to catch up with Jim Brodie’s newest adventure, which takes place largely in Japan and pays homage to that country’s beautiful and mysterious customs and society.
These customs are introduced to the reader both through Brodie’s interactions and personal knowledge, as well as through his side career as an art collector. The two cases he’s been involved with have both involved relics related to Japan’s past, and the country’s history is revealed to the reader as Brodie begins to unravel the mysteries behind the homicides that end up on his doorstep.
In addition to his writing, Barry Lancet has worked in publishing. He resides in Tokyo, and was gracious enough to answer some questions about his work (the Russian spy story is especially fascinating):
Your debut novel JAPANTOWN won four “best” book citations, is a finalist for a Barry Award, and has been optioned for TV by J. J. Abrams. Do you feel any pressure for the next installment in the series?
No, I’ve been too busy. JAPANTOWN reprinted three times before publication, and a fourth was scheduled the week the book came out. All the interest generated a lot of interviews and talks so, ironically, I had no time to think about the second- or third-book jitters when it came time to write them. I just jumped right into stories. I already had several threads for the books in mind, and so it was a smooth transition.
TOKYO KILL begins with a Japanese proverb, The reverse side also has a reverse side. What does that mean to the story?
The quote is true of the Jim Brodie books and life in Japan in general. Think of it in terms of a coin. You look at a coin, and you think, “Okay, the coin’s on heads.” Something happens and the coin is now on the reverse side, tails. But then something else happens, the coin’s face changes again, but it is neither heads nor tails. It’s something else entirely. Does the coin have three sides? What’s going on?
By Jeremy Burns
Ridley Pearson has dozens of published novels under his belt, including international thrillers that span continents, conspiracy-laden crime thrillers, and even adventures set behind the scenes at Disney World. With his latest novel, the third installment of his Risk Agent Series, Pearson takes readers into the high-stakes world of art theft set against the equally fascinating backdrop of Istanbul. The author sat down with THE BIG THRILL to give readers a glimpse of the excitement to come.
Tell us a little about yourself.
First and foremost, I’m a dad and husband. Marcelle and I have two daughters, who are seventeen and fifteen, and a young man who came late to our extended family, a son from Kenya, who’s twenty-one. I’ve been a storyteller for most of my life, including time spent as a musician and screenwriter. I’ve been incredibly fortunate and often lucky in my publishing life. I have forty-eight published novels behind me, and I hope a good deal more in front.
Tell us about your new thriller, THE RED ROOM.
THE RED ROOM is the third novel in an espionage series that features two protagonists (a challenging concept). The John Knox and Grace Chu books are more character-driven than my procedural crime novels, but have the same focus on fast pace and high stakes. THE RED ROOM is set in Istanbul and involves the sale of “gray market” art.
By Ian Walkley
They say it helps to write what you know. Michael Niemann—a Ph.D and Adjunct Professor of International Studies at Southern Oregon University—has the right background to offer us a taut, authentic and intricate thriller of Africa that will satisfy fans of Wilbur Smith and Gerald Seymour.
In LEGITIMATE BUSINESS, protagonist Valentin Vermeulen, a Belgian investigator for the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services, is tasked with a routine audit of the UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur when a UN policewoman is killed. Her best friend claims she was targeted because she complained about shoddy armored personnel carriers (APC). Vermeulen’s investigation leads him to a gunrunning scheme operated by a British military contractor with more at stake than a few APCs with bad starters. The civil war in Darfur is about to turn much deadlier unless Vermeulen can prevent a cargo of stolen missiles from reaching its destination.
Michael graciously agreed to answer some questions for THE BIG THRILL.
Why did you make your protagonist, Valentin Vermeulen, a UN investigator? Do you have a background in the UN?
Once I decided to pursue writing fiction, I wanted to write thrillers and mysteries that were international in scope. John le Carré is probably my strongest influence in this regard. His novel THE CONSTANT GARDENER is, in my opinion, the finest example of such writing. Finding the right protagonist was one of the biggest obstacles. I didn’t want to create yet another intelligence agent, who, by definition, has to follow particular national loyalties—probably a reflection of my hybrid background, a German who’s lived in the U.S. for over thirty years. That led me to the UN. I came across a news story about an investigation of Pakistani peacekeepers. That introduced me to the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). I dug up every bit of information I could find and the character of Valentin Vermeulen began to take shape. OIOS investigators don’t carry weapons, have no powers of arrest, nor are they allowed to use force. But they have a lot of latitude in their investigations, as long as they are UN related. I try to exploit that contradiction as much as possible.
Who does the U.S. government call upon when a mission requires perfect stealth, execution, and discretion? Meet the newest recruits to the expanding Sigma Force universe—former Army Ranger Tucker Wayne and his stalwart companion, Kane, a military working dog of exceptional abilities — in:
THE KILL SWITCH
The mission seems simple enough: extract a pharmaceutical magnate from Russian soil, a volatile man who holds the secret to a deadly bioweapon. But nothing is as it appears to be. A conspiracy of world-shattering scope unravels as Tucker and Kane struggle to keep one move ahead of their deadly enemies.
From the frozen steppes of Russia to the sun-blasted mountains of South Africa and Namibia, a biological threat millions of years in the making strikes out at the heart of America. All that stands in the way from a global apocalypse: one man and his dog. But can even Tucker and Kane thwart an ecological menace out of the ancient past to save the world’s future?
By Tom Wilde
One of the first people who read my novel THE BLOOD OF ALEXANDER thought that the story really shows my love of history.
She was dead wrong.
It wasn’t love of the subject that drove me to write it, quite the contrary: It was my frustration with of all of the impenetrable mysteries that abound throughout human history. All those things we have lost, forgotten, or just plain destroyed that sparks my imagination while simultaneously vexing me and robbing me of sleep.
Plato’s Atlantis, was it real? What about the City of El Dorado? What became of the Lost Roman Legion? Or the Amber Room? Or the Roanoke Colony? Genghis Khan wanted to insure that his tomb remained undiscovered, and so far, he’s pulled that one off.
Whatever happened to Alexander the Great?
In October 1943, a U.S. destroyer sailed out of Philadelphia and supposedly vanished, the result of a Navy experiment with electromagnetic radiation. The story was considered a hoax—but now Juan Cabrillo and his Oregon colleagues aren’t so sure.
There is talk of a new weapon soon to be auctioned, something very dangerous to America’s interests, and the rumors link it to the great inventor Nikola Tesla, who was working with the Navy when he died in 1943. Was he responsible for the experiment? Are his notes in the hands of enemies? As Cabrillo races to find the truth, he discovers there is even more at stake than he could have imagined—but by the time he realizes it, he may already be too late.
Cotton Malone and his fifteen-year-old son, Gary, are headed to Europe. As a favor to his old boss at the Justice Department, Malone agrees to escort a teenage fugitive back to England. After a gunpoint greeting in London in which both the fugitive and Gary disappear, Malone learns that he’s stumbled into a high-stakes diplomatic showdown-an international incident fueled by geopolitical gamesmanship and shocking Tudor secrets.
At its heart is the Libyan terrorist convicted of bombing Pan Am Flight 103, who is set to be released by Scottish authorities for ‘humanitarian reasons.’ An outraged American government wants that stopped, but nothing can persuade the British to intervene.
Except, perhaps, Operation King’s Deception.
Run by the CIA, the operation aims to solve a centuries-old mystery, one that could rock Great Britain to its royal foundations.
CIA Operative Blake Antrim, in charge of King’s Deception, is hunting for the spark that could rekindle a most dangerous fire: the one thing that every Irish national has sought for centuries-a legal reason why the English must leave Northern Ireland. The answer is a long-buried secret that calls into question the legitimacy of the entire 45 year reign of Elizabeth I, the last Tudor monarch, who completed the conquest of Ireland and seized much of its land. But Antrim also has a more personal agenda, a twisted game of revenge in which Gary is a pawn. With assassins, traitors, spies, and dangerous disciples of a secret society closing in, Malone is caught in a lethal bind. To save Gary he must play one treacherous player against another-and only by uncovering the incredible truth can he hope to stop the shattering consequences of the King’s Deception.
In The Emperor’s Tomb, New York Times bestselling author Steve Berry’s newest, the tomb of China’s First Emperor, guarded by an underground army of terra-cotta warriors, has remained sealed for more than 2,000 years. Though it’s regarded as one of the greatest archaeological sites in the world, the Chinese government won’t allow anyone to open it. Why?
That question is at the heart of a dilemma faced by former Justice Department operative Cotton Malone, whose life is shattered when he receives an anonymous note carrying an unfamiliar Web address. Logging on, he sees Cassiopeia Vitt, a woman who’s saved his life more than once, being tortured at the hands of a mysterious man who has a single demand: Bring me the artifact she’s asked you to keep safe. The only problem is, Malone doesn’t have a clue what the man is talking about, since Cassiopeia has left nothing with him. So begins Malone’s most harrowing adventure to date—one that offers up astounding historical revelations, pits him against a ruthless ancient brotherhood, and sends him from Denmark to Belgium to Vietnam then on to China, a vast and mysterious land where danger lurks at every turn.
In Crescent Dawn , Dirk Pitt returns, in the extraordinary new novel from the #1 New York Times-bestselling author.
In A.D. 327, a Roman galley barely escapes a pirate attack with its extraordinary cargo. In 1916, a British warship mysteriously explodes in the middle of the North Sea. In the present day, a cluster of important mosques in Turkey and Egypt are wracked by explosions. Does anything tie them together?
NUMA director Dirk Pitt is about to find out, as Roman artifacts discovered in Turkey and Israel unnervingly connect to the rise of a fundamentalist movement determined to restore the glory of the Ottoman Empire, and to the existence of a mysterious “manifest,” lost long ago, which if discovered again…just may change the history of the world as we know it.
Cussler began writing novels in 1965 and published his first work featuring his continuous series hero, Dirk Pitt, in 1973. His first non-fiction, The Sea Hunters, was released in 1996. The Board of Governors of the Maritime College, State University of New York, considered The Sea Hunters in lieu of a Ph.D. thesis and awarded Cussler a Doctor of Letters degree in May, 1997. It was the first time since the College was founded in 1874 that such a degree was bestowed.