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The rainbows-and-unicorns period of her friends-to-lovers relationship with Mike Finnegan officially over, Karina Cardinal is taking a tactical retreat. No way is she calling him for rescue from one of her infamous “scrapes.” Too bad trouble, if not her middle name, is a close relative.

Sadira Manon, friend and colleague of Karina’s sister Jillian, has been dropping way too much cash on designer labels for a middle school teacher. Even one who moonlights as a jewelry store clerk. But when she’s accused of theft, the loose diamond falling out of her purse is enough for the police to sing the song of their people—”Miranda Rights.”

Karina, Jilly, and Silverthorne Security join forces to investigate who’s setting Sadira up to take a fall, and why. They dig up a shady tangle of Russian mob ties and gambling debts. By the time Karina realizes they’ve dug too deep—and maybe a little too far outside the law—Jillian’s in trouble, and the only way out of this particular pot of hot water is to make that phone call…and hope Mike doesn’t let it go to voicemail.

International bestselling and award-winning author Ellen Butler stopped by The Big Thrill to tell us about book three in the Karina Cardinal mystery series, DIAMONDS & DECEPTION:

Which took shape first: plot, character, or setting?

Since this is the third book in the Karina Cardinal series, the character and setting had already been developed. However, the plotline quickly took shape while I was writing the second Karina Cardinal mystery. I knew I wanted to incorporate some sort of jewel theft, and the human trafficking aspect. What took the most effort was determining how to bring Karina into the storyline in the most organic way possible.

Without spoilers, are there any genre conventions you wanted to upend or challenge with this book?

This is book 3 in the Karina Cardinal mystery series and as readers will note, this is not a murder mystery. Since Karina is an amateur sleuth, I’ve made a conscious decision NOT to have victims dying like flies around my main character at every turn. Though she’s got the curiosity of Jessica Fletcher, her life has far less death surrounding it. While the second book, Fatal Legislation, did involve murder, the first book, Isabella’s Painting, and the latest installment, DIAMONDS & DECEPTION, deal with other types of crime-solving.

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 hilarious acid trip scene in Karina’s hallway is loosely based on a true story (not my own). And that’s all I’m going to say about it.

What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?

The biggest challenge was researching the disturbing underbelly of gang life and human trafficking in my local area. When I came across an initiative in the northern Virginia area called Just Ask, I began to realize how pervasive the situation is, and how many women and children are forced into that lifestyle around the world. As far as the biggest opportunity, I am working with two human trafficking organizations on education initiatives during their annual conferences in 2019 and 2020.


International bestselling and award-winning author Ellen Butler presents book three in the Karina Cardinal mystery series! Fans of Melinda Leigh and J. D. Robb who love the humor of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum will adore this gripping mystery adventure. Her experiences living and working in the Washington, D.C. area inspired the mystery series, and she deftly incorporates her Capitol Hill perspective to create smart and witty characters.

To learn more about the author and her work, please visit her website.


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