Photojournalist Sophie Medina must figure out how the death of a Supreme Court justice and the murder of a homeless man are related before she becomes an assailant’s next target: International photojournalist Sophie Medina and her old school friend Father Jack O’Hara are out for a run on Capitol Hill when they find the body of Associate Supreme Court Justice Everett Townsend lying in an alley, barely alive. When Townsend, a diabetic, later dies in the ER from complications due to hypoglycemia, his death has repercussions for Sophie after Javi Aguilera, a homeless man who is Sophie’s friend and was at the hospital when Townsend was admitted, is murdered.
The night before he died, Javi told Sophie a shocking story about Townsend that could have a devastating impact on the nation’s highest court if word got out. Unable to persuade anyone that what she learned is true and on the run from whoever is protecting Townsend’s dark secret, Sophie searches a collection of her photographs of Washington D.C.’s homeless community, looking for evidence before everything blows up in her face.
“Sophie Medina is a bright new star readers are going to love””
Charles Todd, New York Times bestselling author of the Ian Rutledge mysteries
“Sophie is a tough, relatable heroine” – Library Journal
“Crosby offers a complex portrait of our nation’s capital, with its historic beauty and roiling underbelly of deceit and danger” – Publishers Weekly
“A quick-moving mystery with a wealth of fascinating material” – Kirkus Reviews
“A must-read” – Katherine Neville, New York Times bestselling author of The Fire and The Eight
Ellen Crosby recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest thriller, BLOW UP.
Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?
A photograph in The Washington Post of a clean-up crew bulldozing one of the many homeless tent cities in Washington, D.C. along with a story of one of the tents that was swept up containinf a homeless man who was sleeping inside outraged me so much that I wanted to write about the homeless crisis. With so much news and controversy surrounding the Supreme Court in the last few years I also wanted to write a book that somehow involved a Supreme Court justice and see if I could tie these two subjects together.
A novel is such a major undertaking; there’s the writing of it, of course, then you’re spending months and months revising, polishing, and then promoting it. How did you know this was the book you wanted to spend the next couple of years on?
I do a lot of research for my books and that involves talking to a lot of people who are experts in various subjects, plus I also try to visit as many of the settings in my book as possible. I had so many fascinating people helping me with this book–a funeral director, an estate appraiser, a CIA agent, a D.C. detective, a former Catholic priest, an Iranian friend who publishes gorgeous art books in Britain, a local artist (among others)–that I loved working on and writing this book.
Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?
I think one of the best books/thrillers about the Supreme Court was The Pelican Brief by John Grisham–both the book and the movie. John is a fellow Virginia author who lives in Charlottesville; I was lucky enough to meet him at the 2019 Virginia Book Festival (the last “real” festival before Covid) when I interviewed Don Winslow for a marquee event on a Friday night during Crime Wave weekend; the next day John introduced Don at a sold-out luncheon where we got a chance to chat.
When you first created your protagonist for this book, did you see an empty space in crime lit that you wanted to fill? What can you share about the inspiration for that character?
The inspiration for Sophie Medina came, in part, from my life overseas as a freelance journalist–plus I love photography. As a journalist you can write a lot of words to describe a scene, tell a story, explain something complex–but a photographer gets just one image to do all that. I was intrigued by the idea of searching for that one compelling image to tell an unforgettable story so I made Sophie a photojournalist rather than a print journalist.
In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?
My greatest satisfaction is when someone who has read my book tells me they learned something new–and even better, looked up that subject to learn more about it. I don’t want to be didactic or preachy, but I love subtly teaching something a reader might not know much about–in this particular instance, about homeless people and homelessness. Also–spoiler alert–about doppelgangers and DNA.
What can you share about what you’re working on next?
I’m working on the 4th Sophie Medina book, which is called DODGE & BURN.
ELLEN CROSBY is the author of three books featuring international photojournalist Sophie Medina, the Virginia wine country mystery series, and MOSCOW NIGHTS, a standalone. Her books have been nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark Award and the Library of Virginia People’s Choice Award; THE FRENCH PARADOX was chosen as one of The Strand Magazine’s Top 20 Mysteries of 2021. Previously she worked as a freelance reporter for The Washington Post, Moscow correspondent for ABC Radio News, and as an economist at the U.S. Senate. After living overseas for many years in Europe and the former Soviet Union, she now lives in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. with her husband.
To learn more about the author and her work, please visit her website.