Senior Special Agent Sayer Altair studies the minds of psychopaths. But even she didn’t expect to uncover a killer within the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Rooting him out and exposing internal corruption got her a bullet wound and six months of desk duty. Now, she’s finally back in the field, called in when an off-duty FBI agent and his cadaver dog fall into a sinkhole filled with human bones.
Found deep in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, the skeletal remains date back almost two decades, the same time a beloved local teen disappeared. The cold case quickly heats up when Sayer’s team finds two fresh corpses among the bones. When a gruesome clue ties these new bodies to a woman recently kidnapped along with her young daughter, Sayer has to uncover the connection between the old bones and the new bodies before the mother and child become the next victims.
But the killer is one step ahead, attacking her team and sabotaging their efforts. With Sayer’s investigation compromised and unsure of who to trust, she receives unwanted help from Subject 037, one of the anonymous psychopaths she is currently studying. She has the chilling realization that he’s someone powerful in Washington D.C.—and he is not about to let a mundane serial killer jeopardize his own ominous agenda for Sayer…
Critically acclaimed author Ellison Cooper sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss her latest thriller, BURIED:
What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?
All the paragons of the modern thriller have influenced my career. I read and love everything from James Rollins’s SIGMA series to the dark domestic thrillers of Lisa Gardner to the humorous mysteries of Kellye Garrett. An older book that I read as a child that I suspect had an inordinately large influence on my career was House of Stairs by William Sleator. I view House of Stairs as one of the first psychological thrillers, complete with mind control and a horrific, Escher-like setting. There is no way a nine-year-old child should’ve been reading it but I love it to pieces.
What’s the one question you wish someone would ask you about this book, or your work in general? And, please answer the question too!
I wish someone would ask me more about the writing community because I’ve worked in a number of industries and have never experienced the level of mutual support and kindness that I’ve seen from fellow writers. And that includes everyone from the thriller luminaries who so kindly agreed to read and blurb my books even though they had no clue who I was, to my fellow debut authors (class of 2018) who have formed an amazing network as colleagues and friends.
Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?
BURIED features a K9 Search and Rescue duo. I’m certified in K9 Wilderness Search and Rescue and thought it would be easy to write about these characters, but I realized that FBI handlers work very differently than the kind of training I was familiar with, so I had to do the research to make sure I got it right! As with all my books, I also had to learn way more than I ever expected to about human DNA. Finally, I also learned that writing your second book is really damn hard.
What attracts you to this book’s genre?
I like to think about murder? Honestly, this is what I love to read. BURIED walks the line between high-octane suspense thriller (with plenty of action) and police procedural — my two favorite genres.
Ellison Cooper has a Ph.D. in anthropology from UCLA, with a background in archaeology, cultural neuroscience, ancient religion, colonialism, and human rights. She has conducted fieldwork in Central America, West Africa, Micronesia, and Western Europe. She has worked as a murder investigator in Washington DC, and is a certified K9 Search and Rescue Federal Disaster Worker. Her debut novel, Caged, was named one of the best books of summer by Publishers Weekly and the New York Post. She now lives in the Bay Area with her partner and son.
To learn more about Ellison and her work, please visit her website.