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On a typical late summer day, Julia Swann is on the phone with her husband, Michael, when the call abruptly goes dead. Then the news rolls in: A bomb has gone off at Penn Station, where Michael was waiting for a train home. New York City is in a state of chaos.

A frantic Julia races to the city to look for Michael, her panic interwoven with memories of meeting and falling in love with the husband she’s now desperate to find. When someone finds a flier she’s posted and tells her they may have seen her husband, her dreams seem to be answered. Yet as she tries to find him, her calls go unanswered.

Weaving between the aftermath of the explosion and Julia’s memories of her life with Michael, new developments raise troubling questions. Did Michael survive the explosion? Why hasn’t he contacted her? What was he doing when their last call was cut off? Was he–or is he still–the man she fell in love with?

Part family drama, part tragic love story, and part disaster narrative that hits terrifyingly close to home, THE REAL MICHAEL SWANN is a deftly plotted suspense novel with an unflinching portrait of a marriage at its heart, challenging us to confront the unthinkable–both in our country and in our own homes.

The Big Thrill caught up with New York Times bestselling author Bryan Reardon to discuss his latest thriller, THE REAL MICHAEL SWANN:

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

As much as I want the action and drama in THE REAL MICHAEL SWANN to catch hold of the reader, the story is so much about the love between a husband and wife, and their children. And the struggles our families face every day. When someone reaches the last page, I hope they can relate to the characters in the story enough to miss them when they are gone.

Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?

Cell phones. Not that cell phones are new, but I had never dreamed how much of a challenge writing a thriller can be with them in the picture. It is hard to maintain any sort of mystery when the characters can just Google everything as it happens. I imagine that would have made Hercule Poirot’s job a heck of a lot easier.

What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?

Donna Tartt’s Secret History and Stephen King’s The Stand, because the characters that live in these stories are so real and true. The thrills and chills come alive through them, like the action is around you instead of on the page. And Michael Creighton, whose books possess such perfect structure that I learn something new with every read.


Bryan Reardon is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel Finding Jake. Prior to becoming a full-time writer, Bryan worked for the State of Delaware for more than a decade, starting in the office of the governor. He holds a degree in psychology from the University of Notre Dame and lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania, with his wife and kids.

To learn more about Bryan, please visit his website.

Photography credit: Philip Flynn