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Revenge is anything but sweet in this twisty thriller about two women with very different lives locked in the same deadly game. Imagining the best way to destroy a person’s happiness is Crystal Love’s favorite pastime. Devious and unpolished, the formidable loan analyst couldn’t be more out of place in her new town of Santa Barbara, where the beautifully manicured women never age and the ocean views stretch farther than the million-dollar lawns.

Kathi Wright, on the other hand, has made it her life’s work to fit in with the plastic people who surround her. But when her husband—a wealthy bank president—dies suddenly, she’s left with nothing. Then the FBI shows up, asking questions she can’t answer and freezing assets she once took for granted.

Spanning two years and told in Crystal’s and Kathi’s alternating voices, this tautly plotted novel reveals the power of choice and the price of revenge.

The Big Thrill had the opportunity to speak with author Catherine Riggs about her debut novel, WHAT SHE GAVE AWAY:

How does this book make a contribution to the genre?

I have always loved well written domestic suspense novels beginning with Patricia Highsmith and Daphne du Maurier and more recently enjoying the works of authors such as Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins. As I have spent most of my working life in the business world, I feel I can expand the genre by accurately depicting financial subplots that shed light on corporate dishonestly and greed.

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

My protagonist, Crystal Love, began life as the antagonist. As time went by I grew to understand her motives and empathize with her need for revenge. As her character developed, she began to show compassion especially for those our society would consider to be outsiders. Many of my early readers, including my agent and various editors, have come to the same conclusion and found themselves rooting for Crystal.

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

The idea came to me when I read a story about an Olympic gymnast whose parents gave away her twin sister at birth because she suffered from a physical deformity. When the sisters were reunited years later, they initially claimed they weren’t angry. The story just wouldn’t leave my head. Why wouldn’t they be angry? How would someone react? And how would parents live with such a secret? Wouldn’t it gnaw at them each and every day? From there I created a fictional family and thus my novel was born.


Catharine Riggs lives and writes on California’s Central Coast. A graduate of UCLA with an MBA from Drake University, she is a former business banker, adjunct college instructor and current nonprofit executive with a handful of starter novels tucked away in a drawer. WHAT SHE GAVE AWAY is her debut novel. Her first work of psychological suspense features an outsider with a dark past and a bitter grudge who moves to a wealthy beach-side community only to find herself enmeshed in the secrets of her boss and his hapless wife. Riggs is currently at work on the second novel of her Santa Barbara Suspense trilogy. The thrillers are loosely linked by location and secondary characters.

To learn more about Catherine, please visit her website.


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