Mystery

An Excuse for Murder by Vanessa Westermann

By Charles Salzberg

Vanessa Westermann, author of AN EXCUSE FOR MURDER, knows a lot of words. But when she finished her first draft of her first novel, she found she’d used 128,000 of them. That’s when she knew her work had really just begun.

“In the process of trying to find a publisher, I received some valuable feedback that helped improve my writing style,” she explains. “As with most writers, it took me quite some time to sell my book to a publisher—six years, in fact. A fellow Arthur Ellis Awards judge was kind enough to read through my manuscript and gave me constructive criticism. She pointed out that I was making the mistake many new writers make: my writing was too flowery. So, I learned a valuable lesson: less really is more. I stripped down the prose, taking out excess adjectives and metaphors, and the manuscript went from 128,000 words to 75,000 and my writing was the better for it.”

And so, as it turns out, is the reader.

AN EXCUSE FOR MURDER, which combines elements of three genres—cozy mysteries, thrillers, and romantic suspense—features Kate Rowan, the owner of a small bookstore in a borough of London, and Gary Fenris, owner of a securities firm. Kate lives with her great-aunt, and one day she stumbles across the dead body of a neighbor at the bottom of the basement stairs. At first, it’s suspected he died of natural causes but, of course, Westermann wouldn’t have much of a crime novel if that were the case. Eventually, Kate and Gary team up to find out what really happened to a man who turns out to be a little more than simply an innocent boarder.
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The Marijuana Murders by Mark S. Bacon

By Adam Meyer

Mystery novels have been set in virtually every workplace imaginable, from coffee shops to wineries, libraries to law firms. But Mark S. Bacon has come up with a unique setting for his series of books: Nostalgia City, a theme park that aims to recreate a small town from the ’60s and ’70s.

Over the course of his latest novel, THE MARIJUANA MURDERS, Bacon does an excellent job of making the park and the people who run it—as well as the murder investigation that unfolds there—seem real.

Maybe that’s because he’s drawing on his own experience.

As a former reporter, Bacon spent day after day on the police beat. “I learned about police work, the exciting times, and the monotony,” he says. Later, as a copywriter, he worked “in the advertising department at Knott’s Berry Farm, the big theme park just down the freeway from Disneyland.”

He knew he wanted to blend those two experiences for a story, but the question was how?
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The Lost Night by Andrea Bartz

By P. J. Bodnar

At the age of 23, Lindsay’s best friend, Edie, dies during what should have been the greatest time of their lives. Ten years later, Lindsay finds out that not all of their former friends think it was a suicide. 

Lindsay, now faced with the fact that her friend may have been murdered, must confront her own demons to learn what really happened—even if it means uncovering some hard truths about her personal role in Edie’s death.

A journalist by trade, THE LOST NIGHT is Andrea Bartz’s first thriller. Here, she takes time out of her busy schedule to discuss her remarkable novel with The Big Thrill. 

In your other life you write freelance features. What drew you to write thrillers, and which format do you prefer? 

I always loved reading thrillers, so when I decided to try my hand at fiction, I knew I wanted to write a mystery. I like exploring the dark side of things and (safely) feeling afraid—one reason I love horror movies—so I figured I should write the kind of book I’d love to read. Drafting a novel is so different from writing magazine features because with the former, there are no limits or parameters on what happens, and while that can feel overwhelming, it’s freeing, too. I’ve been a journalist for so long that I can almost write a reported feature with my eyes closed, so I’ve enjoyed the challenge of creating an entire world with its own characters and events and rules, and shaping it into a narrative.
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The Devil and the Deep Blue Spy by Tom Savage

By Charles Salzberg

He hasn’t been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate or a king, but Tom Savage’s resume includes a whole bunch of interesting careers, two of which come in handy in his latest thriller, THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SPY, the next installment in the Nora Baron series.

Set in the Caribbean, on both a cruise ship and various islands along the route, Nora, a former actress, and her husband, Jeff, a former CIA operative, try to track down and follow Claude Lamont, a shady French businessman who has a connection to an international terrorist known only as Diablo.

As far as we know, Tom Savage has never been a spy, but he has been an actor, which is a nice talent to have when it comes to fooling people into believing you’re someone you’re not.

But here’s who Tom Savage is: He was born in New York City and raised in St. Thomas, USVI. He and his two sisters were adopted by their maternal aunt after his mother died when he was only two years old. His aunt was a theater actress before she moved to the Islands and started a real estate company. Savage returned to the mainland to attend Hofstra University, majoring in drama and minoring in English.
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The Hiding Place by C. J. Tudor  

Joe never wanted to come back to Arnhill. After the way things ended with his old gang–the betrayal, the suicide, the murder–and after what happened when his sister went missing, the last thing he wanted to do was return to his hometown. But Joe doesn’t have a choice. Because judging by what was done to that poor Morton kid, what happened all those years ago to Joe’s sister is happening again. And only Joe knows who is really at fault.

Lying his way into a teaching job at his former high school is the easy part. Facing off with former friends who are none too happy to have him back in town–while avoiding the enemies he’s made in the years since–is tougher. But the hardest part of all will be returning to that abandoned mine where it all went wrong and his life changed forever, and finally confronting the shocking, horrifying truth about Arnhill, his sister, and himself. Because for Joe, the worst moment of his life wasn’t the day his sister went missing.

It was the day she came back.

*****

“Tudor maintains a tone of creeping dread throughout the book, of something lingering always in the background, coyly hiding its face while whispering promises of very bad things to come. In the last quarter, however, she goes for broke with outright horror, giving readers an effective jolt of adrenaline that will carry them all the way to the terrifying conclusion. Readers won’t know what hit them. Tudor came out swinging with The Chalk Man, but this one puts her firmly on the map. Not to be missed.”—Kirkus

“Tudor has crafted another fantastic horror-tinged thriller (after The Chalk Man, 2018) in the vein of John Connolly and Brendan Duffy” – Booklist

“Some writers have it, and some don’t.  C. J. Tudor has it big time – The Hiding Place is terrific in every way.” – LEE CHILD

“With The Hiding Place, C. J. Tudor has proven that she is a true master at creating perfectly dark, highly propulsive, and tightly coiled mysteries that are utterly impossible to put down. From page one, the reader is pulled in with a gathering sense of dread, and taken on an addictive, thrilling ride to the very last page.” – AIMEE MOLLOY, New York Times Bestselling author of The Perfect Mother

“Dark, gothic and utterly compelling, The Hiding Place pulls off a rare combination – an atmosphere of unsettling evil along with richly nuanced characterisation. – JP DELANEY

*****

C. J. Tudor is the author of The Chalk Man, and lives in Nottingham, England, with her partner and three-year-old daughter. Over the years she has worked as a copywriter, television presenter, voice-over, and dog walker. She is now thrilled to be able to write full-time, and doesn’t miss chasing wet dogs through muddy fields all that much.

Photography credit: Bill Waters

 

 
 

Angel’s Lust by Christina Hoag

By Azam Gill

Christina Hoag’s latest mystery, ANGEL’S LUST, has readers applauding its fast pace, deft characterizations, and unconventional take on the police procedural subgenre.

When an unidentified male body is found in an alley, LAPD Detective Verity Thrett suspects murder most foul. The investigation is burdened with the ambitions of Detective Finbar McNab, a brash new transfer who’ll stop at nothing to get his derailed career back on track. As the detectives investigate the possible homicide, they uncover the existence of a secretive BDSM club and a trail of sex trafficking that leads to solving a cold-case murder.

“I’m fascinated with people who lead double lives,” says Hoag, on the dynamics that drive her new thriller. “People often have secrets that are completely at odds with their public persona. Of course, this is a natural for all fiction writing, but especially handy for mystery and thriller writers. In this book, I explore people’s hidden sexual lives and how this led to a cover-up of a murder and formed the basis of a lucrative business. The detectives unravel these secrets in the course of the investigation, not suspecting where it will lead.”

Hoag’s two other book-length fictional works are the noir crime novel Skin of Tattoos, a finalist for the 2017 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award for Suspense, and the YA thriller Girl on the Brink, named one of Suspense Magazine’s Best of 2016. She has contributed stories to several anthologies, and her short stories have been published in literary reviews.

Besides her fiction work, Hoag is the co-author of Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence, about gang violence mediation and intervention—a subject that caught Hoag’s interest years ago, when she interviewed several Hells Angels about their holiday toy drive. “I found their lifestyle fascinating,” Hoag says. “Later, I was doing a magazine story about gang members from Los Angeles deported to their native El Salvador. It struck me as an odd consequence of immigration, and that became the genesis of my novel Skin of Tattoos. When I moved to Los Angeles in 2008, I worked for the Associated Press and I covered a lot of gang issues—LA being the world capital of street gangs. So, I became more interested in how and why they operate.”
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Past Presence by Nicole Bross

Only by looking into the past can Audrey save her future.

Audrey Eames is happy living the wanderer’s life. After a near-death experience in her teens, Audrey can see people’s past lives whenever her skin touches theirs, and afraid of being labeled delusional, she’s never stayed in one place too long or made any deep connections.

So, when Audrey’s estranged aunt dies and leaves her the historic Soberly Inn and Public House on the scenic Oregon coast, Audrey wants nothing to do with it. She is determined to sell the inn and leave town before someone discovers the power she’s been hiding from the world, but clauses in her aunt’s will seem to block her at every turn.

Yet once ensconced in Soberly’s small town life, the people—particularly the bartender, Kellen Greene—start to grow on her, and she begins to feel that maybe she’s finally found a place of her own. As accepting as the townspeople seem, Audrey fears their reactions—and Kellen’s rejection—and decides to keep her visions a secret. But all is not well in Soberly. Soon after Audrey arrives, people in town start dying in the same manner as in their past lives—but in this lifetime it’s murder. When suspicion starts to fall on Audrey and her new beau Kellen, Audrey vows to use her gift to find the murderer and protect the people she loves—before it’s too late.

Author Nicole Bross met up with The Big Thrill to share some insight into her debut thriller, PAST PRESENCE:
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After You’ve Gone by Kay Kendall

Twenty-three-year-old Walter MacGregor (aka Wallie) craves adventure, her desires whetted by Sherlock Holmes tales. Her prayers are answered when her father’s rum-running brother Rory lands on the MacGregors’ doorstep, fleeing from enraged bootleggers. In quiet Gunmetal, Texas, during Prohibition, Rory’s tales of adventure charm Wallie, but appall her father, a respected judge.

When a freak accident horrifies the small town, Wallie believes she sees a crime scene that shows evidence of foul play. In short, it’s murder. Annoyed that no one agrees with her—including the sheriff and her dad—she sets out to prove her theory. Soon she is knee-deep in flappers and floozies, Chicago thugs sent south by Al Capone, and a crime lord in the sinful port city of Galveston. Her prim aunt wants her to pay more attention to her eligible suitors. Can Wallie stay alive long enough to figure out which one is her true love?

The Big Thrill caught up with author Kay Kendall to discuss the latest installment of the Austin Starr mystery series, AFTER YOU’VE GONE:
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Dead of Winter by Annelise Ryan

A new home, a new marriage, a new family. It’s a lot to sort out. But before medicolegal death investigator Mattie can smooth out the unexpected chaos of her new life, duty calls.

At the local ER, a battered and bruised teenage girl has been brought in by a mysterious man who claimed she’d fallen out of a car. The staff is suspicious, but while they attend to the teenager, the unidentified man slips out. Then the girl dies, but not before informing social worker Hildy Schneider that the man has her little sister as well.

Mattie’s exam reveals forensic evidence of long-term IV drug use and physical abuse, findings consistent with Hildy’s suspicion that the girl was a victim of human trafficking. They are able to confirm her identity as a teen who went missing six months ago, along with her sister—facts that are deeply unsettling to Mattie, who now shares a home with her husband’s teenage daughter.

Working closely with Hildy and Sorenson homicide detectives, including her husband Steve Hurley, Mattie delves into a dark underworld to stop the ruthless trafficking of human lives—before it’s too late for another young girl…

Here, bestselling author Annelise Ryan spends some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest mystery, DEAD OF WINTER:
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When It’s Murder by C. M. Okonkwo

Emilia believes she has come back to life in a different body and is determined to find her family from her former life. The search takes her to Texas, to Samuel Lake’s home, her supposed husband from the former life. She tells him that she was born the day his wife died and that she has come back for a reason, which she doesn’t yet know.

How can she convince Samuel to help her find her purpose without appearing crazy? Find out in this suspenseful mystery novel.

Author C. M. Okonkwo spent time with The Big Thrill and offered some insight into her latest thriller, WHEN IT’S MURDER:
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Miracles by John A. Vanek

By Charles Salzberg

Jake Austin is a busy man. The protagonist of John A. Vanek’s latest mystery, MIRACLES, is not only a Catholic priest with a medical degree but also, when necessary, a crack detective.

The second book in the Father Jake Austin Mystery series opens as Father Jake has recently returned home after a stint as an army medic. In the midst of searching for inner peace, Jake’s life is hurled into the vortex of three storms. His sister is dying in the hospital, and Father Jake must take care of her young son; in another parish there’s a controversial bleeding Virgin Mary statue, and Father Jake is assigned to look into the matter; and there’s a comatose infant hovering precariously between life and death in the intensive care unit of the local hospital. It appears he’s a victim of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), but suspicion arises that his impoverished parents might have had something to do with the child’s affliction.

Like Father Jake, Vanek has also been a busy man. Originally trained in a surgical specialty, he says he switched to radiology “for a saner lifestyle.” Along the way, he took up writing, the result of a creative writing class he took as a pre-med student.

“I fell in love with the craft and I was encouraged by my professor to pursue writing,” Vanek says. “After establishing myself in private practice, I tried to write but quickly discovered I didn’t have the skill set.”

Well into his career as a doctor, Vanek couldn’t shake the writing bug. He decided to learn the craft by taking creative writing classes at local colleges and attending workshops. Initially drawn to poetry, he soon “graduated” to starting a mystery series, making the heroine of his novels a poet. Like many of us, Vanek has two so-called beginner novels that he says will “remain buried forever in my desk drawer. As a proud graduate of the School of Rejection, Revision, and Hard-Knocks, I’m proof that dreams deferred are not necessarily dreams denied.”
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Bar None: A Murder On The Rocks Mystery by Cathi Stoler

Set in New York City, the story features Jude Dillane, owner of The Corner Lounge on 10th St. and Avenue B. When Jude finds her friend and landlord, Thomas ‘Sully’ Sullivan’s work pal, Ed Molina, dead in a pool of blood in Sully’s apartment, she’s sure it’s not suicide as the police suspect.

Going undercover at the Big City Food Coop, Jude discovers a case of major fraud. As she works through the lists of suspects, she finds herself in the killer’s sights and knows her murder might be on the menu, as well.

Award-winning author Cathi Stoler spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest mystery, BAR NONE:
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Dark Streets Cold Suburbs by Aimee Hix

Trying to help a teen in peril proves to apprentice PI Willa Pennington that sometimes home is the most dangerous place of all.

People move to the suburbs for a better life—nice houses, good schools, safe communities. But there’s no place you can go that’s completely safe from danger. Willa Pennington knows this all too well after her first PI case almost got her killed. Helping her old mentor review a decades-old cold case seems much safer. Then she reaches out to a teenager in trouble, and suddenly a new case rips into Willa’s life in a way she could have never predicted. It seems menace is always lying in wait behind someone’s door. Especially on the dark streets of the cold suburbs.

Author Aimee Hix spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest thriller, DARK STREETS COLD SUBURBS. Here’s what she had to say:
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Midnight Blues by Robert D. Kidera

What kind of person would harm a child? P. I. Gabe McKenna and his buddy The Onion find out the hard way, when their plan to ransom a kidnapped boy goes horribly wrong. Finding themselves in a battle against international human traffickers, they rely on the help of unlikely friends in a race against time to rescue dozens of enslaved young victims. In a final, deadly showdown at a New Mexico ghost town, Gabe faces his ultimate challenge. How high a price is he willing to pay? Can he risk death and his own conscience to save the innocent without becoming worse than his enemies?

The Big Thrill caught up with award-winning author Robert D. Kidera to discuss the fourth installment of the Gabe McKenna mystery series, MIDNIGHT BLUES:
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The Book Artist by Mark Pryor

Hugo Marston accompanies his boss, U.S. Ambassador J. Bradford Taylor, to the first night of an art exhibition in Montmartre, Paris. Hugo is less than happy about going until he finds out that the sculptures on display are made from his favorite medium: books. Soon after the champagne starts to flow and the canapes are served, the night takes a deadly turn when one of the guests is found murdered.

Hugo lingers at the scene and offers his profiling expertise to help solve the crime, but the detective in charge quickly jumps to his own conclusions. He makes an arrest, but it’s someone that Hugo is certain is innocent. Meanwhile, his best friend, Tom Green, has disappeared to Amsterdam, hunting an enemy from their past, an enemy who gets the upper hand on Tom, and who then sets his sights on Hugo.

With an innocent person behind bars, a murder to solve, and his own life in danger, Hugo knows he has no time to waste as one killer tries to slip away, and another gets closer and closer.

The Big Thrill caught up to Mark Pryor to discuss the latest release in his
Hugo Marston series, THE BOOK ARTIST:

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Fatal Legislation by Ellen Butler

Lawmaking can be a murderous affair.

If any day calls for a soothing glass of wine, it’s today.

One moment, Capitol Hill lobbyist Karina Cardinal is having a heated discussion with Senator Harper, who just torpedoed her latest health care legislation initiative. The next, after a cryptic remark, the senator is dead at her feet. Hours later, she’s still so rattled she wakes to a freezing apartment because she forgot to close her back door. Or did she?

When her boyfriend, FBI cybercrimes expert Mike Finnegan, is suddenly reassigned to work a new case, he’s got bad news and worse news. The bad: the senator’s death was no heart attack—it was assassination by a hacker disabling his pacemaker. Worse: Karina’s a “person of interest.”

Certain that status could change to “suspect” at any moment, Karina begins her own back-channel investigation into who could have wanted the senator dead. Of course, in Washington, that means playing politics and following the money trail. A trail that leads to more murders…and possibly leaving the door open for a killer to change her status to “dead.”

Award-winning author Ellen Butler took some time to discuss her latest novel, FATAL LEGISLATION, with The Big Thrill:
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Hearts of the Missing by Carol Potenza

When a young woman linked to a list of missing Fire-Sky tribal members commits suicide, Pueblo Police Sergeant Nicky Matthews is assigned to the case. As the evidence leads her to a shocking discovery, she uncovers not only murder but a motive with an ominous, vengeful twist that strikes at the very core of what it means to be a member of the Fire-Sky People. With an intimate knowledge of Fire-Sky customs and traditions, the killer ensures the spirits of those targeted will wander lost forever. As Nicky closes in on the murderer, those closest to her are put in jeopardy. She realizes she must be willing to sacrifice everything–her career, her life, and even her soul–to save the people she is sworn to protect.

Award-winning author Carol Potenza took some time to meet with The Big Thrill to discuss her debut novel, HEARTS OF THE MISSING:
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The Clincher by Lisa Preston

By Wendy Tyson

Lisa Preston’s latest novel, THE CLINCHER, features Rainy Dale, a spirited and outspoken farrier (horseshoer) with a troubled past. This first in the Horseshoer Mystery Series is a fast-paced, exciting ride alongside Rainy as she investigates the murder of her trophy-wife client in rural Oregon.

The Big Thrill recently had the opportunity to talk with Preston about the first in a new series, THE CLINCHER. 

Congratulations on your new mystery series debut, THE CLINCHER. Your main character, Rainy Dale, is a horseshoer—an interesting and original occupation for an amateur sleuth. Why horseshoeing?  

After a couple of standalone thriller and suspense novels, I was interested in doing a series. I wanted to accomplish two things at the outset: create a character with plenty of room to grow, and build a mystery series world that hadn’t already been done. A horseshoer accesses properties of all kinds, yet can go largely unnoticed or ignored by others while working for an hour or a day on someone else’s premises. Part of the shoer’s skillset is observation. The same mind that notices subtle changes in one hoof on one horse can notice a wound, friction between people, a car or tool out of place—and these things can be clues to a crime. 
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Absinthe Without Leave by Carole Nelson Douglas

By Cathy Perkins

Literary chameleon Carole Nelson Douglas has written bestselling high and urban fantasy, historical and contemporary mystery and romance, and thrillers.

Formerly an award-winning, truth-telling, mainstream media, real newspaper journalist, Douglas is an Agatha and Nebula nominee, a USA Today bestseller, and a four-time Rita award finalist. She’s won RT Book Reviews awards for mystery and suspense, for career achievement, and as a pioneer of publishing for her multi- and cross-genre works.

The Big Thrill caught up with Douglas to discuss ABSINTHE WITHOUT LEAVE, the latest in her Midnight Louie series featuring an unsuspected co-detective to two amateur and pro human crime-solvers.

Termed an irresistible combination of Sam Spade and Nathan Detroit, Louie is back with a new partner-in-crime solving—savvy paranormal PI Delilah Street, fresh from the urban fantasy Dark Side of Vegas. Is the notorious late 19th-century drink of absinthe, now a Las Vegas rage, responsible for a magic-act murder? Or runaway human emotions: love, hate and jealousy? Or is some secret governmental undercover mission unraveling? Louie and his human partners will be forced to nose out the killer.

The Midnight Louie series is long running, with many fans, but for readers just joining, or transferring over with this series “mashup,” Douglas shares insight into how she develops main characters and what made her decide to feature a furry sleuth.
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Beyond the Truth by Bruce Robert Coffin

By Don Helin

In this latest mystery from #1 bestselling author Bruce Robert Coffin, Detective Sergeant John Byron faces the greatest challenge of his career.

When a popular high school senior is shot by police following a late night robbery, chaos ensues. The actions of the officer are immediately called into question. Amid community protests, political grandstanding, department leaks, and reluctant witnesses, Byron and his team must work quickly to figure out what went wrong.

And when an attempt is made on the officer’s life, Byron shifts into overdrive, putting everything on the line. Was the attack merely retribution or something more sinister? The search for the truth may come at a price not even Byron can afford.

Coffin is the bestselling author of the Detective Byron mystery series and a former detective sergeant with more than 27 years in law enforcement. At the time of his retirement from the Portland, Maine police department, he supervised all homicide and violent crime investigations for Maine’s largest city. Following the terror attacks of September 11th, Coffin spent four years working counter-terrorism with the FBI, earning the Director’s Award, the highest honor a non-agent can receive.

His short fiction appears in several anthologies, including The Best American Mystery Stories 2016.

Coffin is a member of International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. He is a regular blog contributor to the Maine Crime Writers and Murder Books blogs.

The Big Thrill caught up with Coffin to ask a few questions about his latest release in the Detective Byron mystery series, BEYOND THE TRUTH:
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Past & Present: A Marketville Mystery by Judy Penz Sheluk

Sometimes the past reaches out to the present…

It’s been thirteen months since Calamity (Callie) Barnstable inherited a house in Marketville under the condition that she search for the person who murdered her mother thirty years earlier. She solves the mystery, but what next? Unemployment? Another nine-to-five job in Toronto?

Callie decides to set down roots in Marketville, take the skills and knowledge she acquired over the past year, and start her own business: Past & Present Investigations.

It’s not long before Callie and her new business partner, best friend Chantelle Marchand, get their first client: a woman who wants to find out everything she can about her grandmother, Anneliese Prei, and how she came to a “bad end” in 1956. It sounds like a perfect first assignment. Except for one thing: Anneliese’s past winds its way into Callie’s present, and not in a manner anyone—least of all Callie—could have predicted.

The Big Thrill caught up to international bestselling author Judy Penz Sheluk to gain some insight into her latest Marketville Mystery, PAST & PRESENT:
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The Betel Nut Tree Mystery by Ovidia Yu

What we came to think of as the betel nut affair began in the middle of a tropical thunderstorm in December 1937 . . .

Singapore is agog with the news of King Edward VIII’s abdication to marry American heiress Wallis Simpson. Chen Su Lin, now Chief Inspector Le Froy’s secretarial assistant in Singapore’s newly formed detective unit, still dreams of becoming a journalist and hopes to cover the story when the Hon Victor Glossop announces he is marrying an American widow of his own, Mrs. Nicole Covington, in the Colony. But things go horribly wrong when Victor Glossop is found dead, his body covered in bizarre symbols and soaked in betel nut juice.

The beautiful, highly-strung Nicole claims it’s her fault he’s dead . . . just like the others. And when investigations into her past reveal a dead lover, as well as a husband, the case against her appears to be stacking up. Begrudgingly on Le Froy’s part, Su Lin agrees to chaperone Nicole at the Farquhar Hotel, intending to get the truth out of her somehow. But as she uncovers secrets and further deaths occur, Su Lin realises she may not be able to save Nicole’s life – or even her own.
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Dig Your Grave by Steven Cooper

A killer is on the loose, burying his victims among the dead in Phoenix cemeteries, and leaving ghoulish signs that warn of more evil to come. It’s a crude camouflage that has Detective Alex Mills stumped. As he has done before, Mills turns to his buddy, the reluctant psychic Gus Parker. His visions, as cryptic and baffling as they sometimes are, mean something.

But just as the investigation heats up, and Mills needs him most, Gus Parker goes missing. Rock ‘n’ roll legend Billie Welch, Gus’s love interest, is frantic to find him and turns to Mills for help. Is this a case of a crazed fan who is trying to get to Billie? Is Gus’s disappearance related to the spree of cemetery killings?

There are nefarious secrets hiding in the shadows of the valley’s most well-heeled neighborhoods, and some of the most prominent residents have the most to fear.
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The Housewife Assassin’s Horrorscope by Josie Brown

Donna Stone, her mission leader Jack, and their covert ops team must decipher horoscope tips that contain clues to the names of twelve U.S.-born traitors whose individual acts are the catalyst to treason at highest level.

The Big Thrill caught up with author Josie Brown to discuss the eighteenth installment of The Housewife Assassin series, THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S HORRORSCOPE:

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

Every novel within the series must challenge both the author and her characters. This series looks at the light and dark sides of espionage. Could your neighbor be a spy? Of course—even in America. This latest Housewife Assassin novel brings home that realization yet again.

No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?

This book is much darker than the usual Housewife Assassin novel—certainly a reflection of the times we live in.

But as history has taught us, unless we allow democracy to die in darkness, truth will prevail.
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Path of the Dead by Mark Edward Langley

Ex-marine Arthur Nakai spent years as a member of the Shadow Wolves, an ICE tactical unit tasked by the US government to hunt human traffickers and drug smugglers on the US/Mexico border. He put that life of confronting violence in the darker contours of the desert landscape behind him and settled into a quiet existence in New Mexico with his wife, Sharon, a local TV reporter.

But when Sharon goes missing after crossing paths with a serial killer who has just added to his list of young victims, Arthur’s calm world is shattered. He must return to the darkness of the life he left behind in order to save what matters most to him, and the future he and his wife plan to share together. He can only hope that she is still alive, and that his skills will be enough to find her. So begins the hunt — to find a ruthless killer and save the love of his life.

The Big Thrill caught up with author Mark Edward Langley to discuss his debut novel, PATH OF THE DEAD:
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The Devil’s Wind by Steve Goble

1723–Spider John, longing to escape the pirate life he never wanted, has an honest seafaring job at last aboard a sailing vessel, and is returning to his beloved Em and their child. But when Captain Brentwood is murdered in his cabin, Spider’s plans are tossed overboard.

Who killed Redemption’s captain? The mysterious pirate with a sadistic past? The beautiful redhead who hides guns beneath her skirt? One of the men pining for the captain’s daughter? There are plenty of suspects.

But how could anyone kill the captain in his locked quarters while the entire crew was gathered together on the deck? Before he can solve the puzzle, Spider John and his ex-pirate friends Hob and Odin will have to cope with violence, schemes, nosy Royal Navy officers, and a deadly trap set by the ruthless pirate Ned Low.

The Big Thrill caught up to author Steve Goble to discuss the second installment in his Spider John mystery series, THE DEVIL’S WIND:
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The Blue Kingfisher by Erica Wright

What happens when a master of disguise tries to be herself for once? If you’re private investigator Kat Stone, trouble seems to find you with or without your favorite wig.

Kat knows she’s living on borrowed time, waiting for her violent past to catch up with her. Still, she doesn’t expect men to start falling from the sky. On a desolate morning in Fort Washington Park, Kat discovers the body of her building’s French expat maintenance man atop the Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse. The NYPD is quick to dismiss his death as suicide, another lost soul leaping from the bridge overhead. Kat is less than convinced, especially when she learns about his dangerous side hustle, finding jobs for immigrant members of their community.

Her investigation turns up unexpected connections to Manhattan’s tony art world, not to mention a host of dark superstitions. When she goes undercover with a deep-sea fishing company, she gets a little too cozy with a colorful cast of characters and a couple of jellyfish. Will she find his killer before her past drags her under? From one of the most acclaimed new mystery writers working today comes a riveting novel of suspense that will have you guessing until the last page is turned.

Erica Wright, author of THE BLUE KINGFISHER, took some time to discuss her latest book with The Big Thrill:
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The Spying Moon by Sandra Ruttan

The unexplained disappearance of her mother left her an orphan, so Kendall Moreau became a police officer and pursued a posting in the town where her mother went missing. She is on her way to her first posting when she gets reassigned to a task force in Maple River, hundreds of miles from where her mother vanished.

Moreau doesn’t want to be in Maple River. Most of her team doesn’t want her there, either. She’s partnered with Nate Duncan, whose role on the task force raises suspicions amongst the team because of his family’s criminal connections, adding to Moreau’s sense of isolation.

They are assigned to investigate the death of Sammy Petersen but Duncan’s personal connection to the family and suspects threatens to compromise the investigation.

When a routine break-and-enter call produces a second body, Moreau suspects a connection to Sammy’s death. After someone breaks into her cabin and assaults her, Moreau is forced to decide who to trust. Although she’s still waiting to solve her own family mystery, Moreau is determined to give Sammy Petersen’s family the answers she never received. Can she solve the case before another teenager dies and another family is destroyed?

Sandra Ruttan, author of THE SPYING MOON, spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest mystery:
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Walk a Crooked Line by Susan McBride

By E. M. Powell

WALK A CROOKED LINE is the second of Susan McBride’s thrillers featuring Texas police detective Jo Larsen. It opens with the discovery of teenager Kelly Amster’s body at the base of the local old water tower in what appears to be a tragic, clear-cut case of suicide. But Jo and her partner, Hank Phelps, still need to find answers as to why a young girl would take her own life. As they delve into Kelly’s past, they don’t find ready answers, but instead the pieces of a dark puzzle that drove her to her death. WALK A CROOKED LINE is a taut, suspenseful read that keeps the reader gripped until the final pages.

There’s much to admire too about the character of Jo, who’s no shiny superwoman but rather a real-life, strong woman who possesses a dogged, admirable courage and belief in doing what’s right. McBride acknowledges that she and Jo share quite a bit in common.

“No matter how different I think my protagonists are from me,’’ she says, ‘’a little bit of myself always works its way in. Jo has a lot of traits that I admire: her strength, her persistence, her determination to get justice for victims. I’d like to think I have her grit, but I’m not sure I do! She survived a lot, yet she never gave up. She’s a detective because she wants her life to matter now in a way that it didn’t when she was a child. And she wants to give voice to those who have lost theirs.’’

There’s another aspect as well that will be familiar to many writers. ‘’I do have this sense of being an outsider looking in, no matter how on the inside I seem. Jo and I share that, for sure.’’

The book deals with some difficult subject matter. In addition to the inciting incident of Kelly’s suicide, McBride also addresses the issue of child and adolescent bullying. While she deals with them with sensitivity and without sensationalism, these aren’t easy topics to research and write about.
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Deadly Payload by Karen Randau

Dead birds raining from the sky. Poison in the water supply. Spies on the back porch.

A lifeless crow shatters the windshield as Rita Avery, her daughter-in-law, and her granddaughter arrive at Arizona’s Rim Vista Park. Rita dodges bird carcasses on the road home, where she finds her husband Cliff and son Travis gravely ill from a mysterious pathogen with no cure.

The CDC assembles a team to create a cure, but Rita doubts it will arrive in time to rescue Cliff, Travis, and dozens of her friends and neighbors.

In a race to save her family, her community, and potentially thousands more Americans, Rita launches her own investigation. She partners with a certified herbalist and a homeless war veteran dubbed Crazy Mary.

But the more clues Rita uncovers, the deeper she finds herself in the middle of a ruthless plot that could unleash a wide-ranging American disaster. And the culprits aim to stop her at any cost.

Before it’s too late for her loved ones, Rita must thwart the next attack on innocent civilians.

Murder, spine-tingling trips through Arizona’s rugged wilderness, and callous spies determined to spread havoc – this isn’t your average family outing!

Author Karen Randau spent a few minutes with The Big Thrill discussing the fourth installment of the Rim Country Mystery series, DEADLY PAYLOAD:
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