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burntblack_homeNew Orleans Homicide Detective Cliff St. James and his partner Honey are still trying to piece their lives together a year and a half after a killer storm decimated the city. Having fully recovered from near death at the hands of assassins, St. James is now in top fighting form and his sideline martial arts dojo is thriving. But physical ability plays little importance in the bizarre case he and Honey are now ensnared in—a succession of baffling deaths tied to a secretive occult group.

The investigation not only proves frustrating, but also drives a wedge between St. James and Honey, putting tremendous pressure on their relationship. As they probe the puzzling, ritualistic deaths, they uncover high strangeness in the freakish New Orleans netherworld of alternative spiritual beliefs.

Pushing forward an investigation fraught with strange occurrences and brutal death, St. James and Honey catch nothing but bad breaks as they struggle to determine which of their suspects is the killer, or perhaps the next victim.

The author recently answered a few questions for The BIG THRILL:

Burnt Black is your third novel in the Cliff St. James series.  The description sounds like a mystery concerning the occult.  Is this a supernatural thriller?

No.  My heroes face some baffling events, but the killer is all flesh and blood.  New Orleans is a city rich with kind of a scary, voodoo/hoodoo/woowoo past, as evidenced that its cemeteries are huge tourist attractions.  Strange things happen there.  Since my detective hero and his pal Honey are such physically tough characters, I thought it would be interesting to place them in opposition to what appear to be non-physical threats that can’t be overcome with fists or guns.  Their investigation forces them to examine their own beliefs toward the occult, but the book isn’t fantasy or sci-fi.

Did you do a lot of research for Burnt Black?

I have gone back to New Orleans to do research for each of the three CSJ novels I’ve written.  It’s a great excuse to return!  However, the story is not about voodoo per se, but a secret group that is doing all kinds of strange practices.  Generally, I research all of my books extensively and seldom write about a location I haven’t already visited.

Cliff and Honey are something of a very dysfunctional couple.  Do they finally get together in Burnt Black?

Sorry, I don’t kiss and tell.  You’ll have to read the book.  But I will say that in Burnt Black their relationship goes into crisis and then shifts.  I hope to explore the tremendous amount of emotional baggage carried by Honey in future installments.

So are you working on the next in the NOLA series?

Actually, I’m launching a new series with St. Martin’s Press, with the first book, Russian Bride, coming in winter of 2015.  That book is finished.  It’s a fast-paced, knock-down drag-out global conspiracy espionage thriller.  Readers who like Cliff St. James should like the hero of that book, Kit Bennings, who is a military intelligence agent who goes on the run from the bad guys…and the good guys.

I hope to write more Cliff St. James novels in the near future and have lots of ideas for new plots.


ED KOVACSEd Kovacs is the author of the critically acclaimed Detective Cliff St. James series of crime novels. He is a member of the Association for Intelligence Officers, International Thriller Writers, and Mystery Writers of America. He splits his time between his home in Asia and his aircraft hangar home at a Southern California airport.

To learn more about Ed, please visit his website.

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