Cathy Perkins’s fourth novel, CYPHER, just released and Rachel Grant, bestselling author of the Evidence series, says it’s “A twisty mystery mixed with a compelling romance. CYPHER kept me up long after I should have gone to sleep!”
In CYPHER, when a hit-man mistakenly kills the wrong person, a Greenville, SC detective confronts hidden agendas and conflicting motives in a powerful local family while trying to control his attraction to the intended victim—a woman who should be dead but instead is hell-bent on saving the remnants of her family. Unwilling to stand by while her family and world are destroyed, she rips apart the secrets surrounding Cypher, the company her father built and will take any measures to defend.
An award-winning author, Cathy Perkins works in the financial industry, where she’s observed the hide-in-plain-sight skills employed by her villains. She writes predominantly financial-based mysteries but enjoys exploring the relationship aspect of her characters’ lives. A member of Sisters in Crime, RWA (Kiss of Death chapter) and International Thriller Writers, she is a contributing editor for THE BIG THRILL, handles the blog and social media for the ITW Debut Authors, and coordinated the prestigious Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense.
When not writing, she can be found doing battle with the beavers over the pond height or setting off on another travel adventure. Born and raised in South Carolina, the setting for CYPHER, HONOR CODE, and THE PROFESSOR, she now lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs, and the resident deer herd.
Three of your novels are set where you were born and raised in South Carolina. What is it about the state that makes for intriguing mystery settings?
South Carolina is a state in transition, still coming to terms with its past and struggling to define its future. My South, the South of my novels, is so much more than the stereotype you see too often in stories that are set there. Although there are successful family businesses located throughout the entire United States, with CYPHER I wanted to layer in the family dynamics that are particular to the South—the expectations and obligations of family ties.
Cara Wainwright is a strong heroine who goes against her family to find answers. How tricky was it to pair her romantically with the detective in charge of solving the murders surrounding her family?
Originally I hadn’t planned to have Cara and David romantically involved, but I quickly saw the potential for conflict and knew I had to explore that relationship. Each of them had to overcome inherent suspicion and questions about the other’s motive while dealing with this enormous crisis surrounding Cara’s family and Cypher, her family’s business.
While struggling to stand up to her father and overcome his generation’s tendency to put women on a pedestal, Cara is perceptive enough to realize he’s hiding secrets—secrets that could potentially kill all of them—but she won’t turn against her father unless she’s absolutely sure he’s done something wrong. She’s pushing from inside the family and inside the company, creating ripples with unintended consequences. Although she’s attracted to David, she doesn’t know if he’s manipulating her to get to her family or if he’s genuinely interested.
David, on the other hand, doesn’t really believe Cara is involved in the murders, but every time Cara does something without telling him or revealing what she suspects, mistrust raises its head. At his darkest moments, he believes she’s using him to direct the investigation away from the truth. He’s pushing the investigation from outside the family and company, making the guilty parties lash out at whoever they can reach.
Your books are a blend of mystery, suspense, and romance. Which are you most drawn to writing and how much heat can we expect in CYPHER?
I loved plotting CYPHER! The story twists and twists and I knew I had a winner when my beta readers constantly demanded the next section, yelling, Who did it? The suspense is wrapped around the mystery, raising the stakes and driving the action forward.
I don’t really think of David and Cara’s relationship as a romance since it doesn’t conform to many of the expectations of that genre. I looked at the relationship as raising the internal conflicts and hugely increasing the stakes on a personal level. That said, the physical part of the relationship is much more focused on the evolving emotional intensity rather than body parts.
How much did you draw on your career in the financial industry to write a mystery involving a family business?
In my “day job” I’ve dealt with the psychological aspect of parents passing a family business to either the next generation or to outside management. Trust me, there are huge issues involved with either decision. I used both the financial “secrecy” that can surround the finances of a privately held company and the emotional triggers of succession planning to amp the conflict.
Did you find that you had to conduct research to write CYPHER? And if so, did your research affect the direction of the plot or characters?
My research was less in the characters and internal conflict and more in the twists of the external plot. I don’t want to give away a huge plot twist, so I’ll just say I actually read the FBI white papers that my detective found and I did Internet research into the task force Detective Morris tapped into. Yeah, it’s fiction. But I try to get the details right.
Did any real-life financial stories with a twist come to life in the writing of CYPHER, or any of your novels?
By now, I suspect you realize I tap into my network of law enforcement professionals and financial resources when I’m writing. I can’t stand to have obvious details completely wrong!
While I haven’t directly pulled in clients for my stories, I am working on a new book that definitely pulls in family companies and their succession challenges. On the law enforcement side, in addition to nurturing existing relationships, I’m on the DEA’s mailing list. In spite of that, I don’t have a passion for writing true crime. For me, the story is as much about the characters as it is the action sequences, and I prefer to go where my characters and the story takes me.
It can be difficult to write authentic crime fiction as law enforcement evolves with the times. How do you keep up-to-date on modern day law enforcement tactics and keep it credible to your readers?
Good question! Nothing makes me toss a book faster than someone who has no clue about law enforcement. One of those “happy moments” as an author came when a law enforcement member contacted me and thanked me for “getting it right” for one of my earlier stories. By now, the basics of law enforcement are ingrained and are easily woven into the story. I’m constantly checking in to make sure my forensic and technology are consistent with current techniques, software updates, data bases…
Now that you live in Washington, can you see yourself writing a future mystery set in this state?
Do you have your crystal ball polished? I’m currently working on a much lighter story set in the Washington Mountains. Stayed tuned, my agent is thrilled!
An award-winning author, Cathy Perkins works in the financial industry, where she’s observed the hide-in-plain-sight skills employed by her villains. She writes predominantly financial-based mysteries but enjoys exploring the relationship aspect of her characters’ lives. A member of Sisters in Crime, RWA (Kiss of Death chapter) and International Thriller Writers, she is a contributing editor for The Big Thrill, handles the blog and social media for the ITW Debut Authors, and coordinated the prestigious Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense.
When not writing, she can be found doing battle with the beavers over the pond height or setting off on another travel adventure. Born and raised in South Carolina, the setting for CYPHER, HONOR CODE and THE PROFESSOR, she now lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd.
To learn more about Cathy, please visit her website.