By L.J. Sellers
“A compelling plot, thick suspense, a cunning villain, a shattered cop, and a victim who wants answers at any cost place Tentler in the same category as bestselling authors Lisa Jackson and Beverly Barton.” This RT BOOK REVIEWS write-up says it all—Leslie Tentler is a top-notch thriller author, and her third book in the Chasing Evil Trilogy, EDGE OF MIDNIGHT, may be her best yet.
In this third story, crime reporter Mia Hale is discovered on a Jacksonville beach—bloodied and disoriented, but alive. She remembers nothing, but her wounds bear the signature of a sadistic serial killer. After years lying dormant, The Collector has resumed his grim hobby: abducting women and taking gruesome souvenirs before dumping their bodies. But none of his victims has ever escaped—and he wants Mia back, more than he ever wanted any of the others.
FBI agent Eric MacFarlane has pursued The Collector for a long time. The case runs deep in his veins, bordering on obsession…and Mia holds the key. She’ll risk everything to recover her memory and bring the madman to justice, and Eric swears to protect this fierce, fragile survivor. But The Collector will not be denied. In his mind, he knows just how their story ends.
Tentler tells us more about this gripping novel in her own words:
What inspired the plot for EDGE OF MIDNIGHT?
Well, the setting was inspired by a trip I took to Florida a couple of years ago. I fell in love with the Jacksonville and St. Augustine areas and wanted to write a story set there.
As far as the plot, I knew that I wanted to up the stakes for special agent Eric MacFarlane. I wanted to make his hunt for a serial killer very personal, so I decided to have the killer take someone very close to him before disappearing off the radar. The story begins three years later, when the killer appears to resurface in another state. Things just sort of took off from there.
There’s also something the serial killer does to his victims. Let’s just say that was inspired by me accidentally nearly tearing off a fingernail.
Is your protagonist based on a real person? How much of her is autobiographical?
No one in the story is based on a real person. And I have absolutely nothing in common with Mia Hale, the story’s heroine. I guess the only connection is that Mia is a newspaper journalist, and as someone with a background in public relations and media relations, I do know several reporters and have worked with reporters in the past.
What kind of research did you do for the story? Any work with FBI agents?
Because all three stories in the Chasing Evil trilogy are about federal agents working serial murder cases, I did a lot of online research into investigational protocol. The great thing is that there is so much information online—everything from the stages of rigor mortis to blood spatter analysis.
I also took an online course on homicide investigations that was taught by a retired detective. It was very helpful.
What else do you want readers to know about the novel?
I’ve already had quite a few readers tell me how much they liked Mia. As the only person to have ever escaped the serial killer known as “The Collector,” Mia plays a big role in helping the FBI. She’s also been through a lot in her life beyond being abducted and nearly killed by a psychopath. She’s fragile but very strong at the same time.
Do you study real-life serial killers, and if so, what have you learned that surprised you?
I did study real-life serial killers, and it’s true that there are several unifying characteristics, predetermining factors that many of them have. Although I can’t source the statistic, I also recall reading that at any given time there are approximately twenty serial killers operating in the United States.
As part of my research, I also stumbled over a website that sold artwork from well-known serial killers. That was surprising and interesting in a very macabre way.
The Chasing Evil trilogy has different characters for each book. Is there a common thread in the stories?
Each book in the trilogy is about a different agent working for the FBI’s Violent Crimes Unit. Each story is also about a completely different investigation. So the unifying thread is that all these agents work for the same unit. They also have the same boss, SAC Johnston, who is the only crossover character in each book.
While this meant that I had to build a whole new story each time instead of relying on characters and locales that had been already established in other books, it was also very freeing creatively in that I got to “start fresh” each time.
Did you have all three novels in mind when you started this series? How far ahead do you plot and plan?
When I wrote the first book, MIDNIGHT CALLER, I had never intended it to be part of a series. I’d really thought of it as a standalone novel. When the publisher offered me a three-book deal, it was their idea that the trilogy be only loosely connected, with each story about a different federal agent.
That being said, I’m not really a plotter. I prefer to have a general idea for a book and let things flow from there. That’s definitely the way I wrote MIDNIGHT CALLER. With the other two books, however, the publisher required that I turn in an outline so I was forced into some plotting.
What can readers expect from you next?
I’m currently working on another book that centers on a homicide detective in Atlanta and his ex-wife, who is an ER doctor. It’s another romantic thriller, but maybe a little slower paced than the breakneck speed of the Chasing Evil books.
Who are your favorite authors and what are you reading now?
Due to writing deadlines, I haven’t been doing much reading over the past couple of years. With the trilogy now behind me, I did just start the third book in Chelsea Cain’s series about Portland police detective Archie Sheridan. It’s been on my TBR pile for a while now.
I enjoy a lot of authors, but I guess my favorites are Anne Rivers Siddons, Pat Conroy, and Jodi Picoult.
Leslie Tentler worked in PR as a writer and editor for nearly two decades before pursuing her love of writing fiction. She is the author of the Chasing Evil trilogy from MIRA Books, which includes MIDNIGHT CALLER, MIDNIGHT FEAR and EDGE OF MIDNIGHT. She resides in Atlanta.
To learn more about Leslie, please visit her website.