A year after hunting down the terrorist who killed her fiance, CIA analyst Maggie Jenkins finds herself with a price on her head. In retaliation for chasing and killing an elite member of a terrorist cell, Maggie is now on the hitlist of the mastermind behind several terrorist attacks. With Maggie’s movements severely restricted by the presence of a round-the-clock security detail, it’s up to her boss, Warner Thompson, and CIA officer Roger Patterson to find and eliminate the terrorist who stalks her. But when a shadowy Russian operative surfaces and presents Maggie with intel that might lead her to the man who orchestrated her fiance’s death, she can no longer watch from the sidelines. Is she willing to risk her growing relationship with Roger, Warner’s career, and her own life to finally get justice and bring down a major terrorist cell?
“[A] gripping debut and series launch . . . Ouellette, a former CIA analyst, brings plenty of authenticity to this fast-paced spy thriller. Readers will look forward to Maggie’s further adventures. ” — Publishers Weekly
“Every once in a decade you read a book like The Wayward Spy, which is thrilling, addictive, and sends you reading more thrillers, but you’ll go back to this stunning book by Susan Ouellette and reread this tour de force.” — The Strand Magazine, a Top 12 Book of the Year
“The Wayward Assassin is one of the best books I’ve read this year. The action is gripping, the plot full of twists and turns [that] draws you into a roller coaster ride. A must read that should be on every thriller fan’s bookshelf. Ouellette has hit this one out of the park.” —The Strand Magazine
“VERDICT An enjoyable spy thriller from an authentic source.” — Library Journal
“Susan Ouellette has written a well-crafted page-turner that benefits not only from her imagination and way with words—but from her experience. She has walked the halls of the House Intelligence Committee and the CIA and knows those institutions as very few novelists do. ” — Dr. Mark M. Lowenthal, Former CIA Assistant Director for Analysis; Former Staff Director, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
Susan Ouellette recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest thriller, THE WAYWARD TARGET.
Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?
I love the research phase of writing and try to ground all my books in a realistic, historical context. For THE WAYWARD TARGET, I wasn’t sure what that context would be, so I began researching. As soon as I found an historical event that fit the series’ narrative arc, I knew who several of my new characters would be and how and why my protagonist would interact with them.
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’m writing a series of thrillers that we’ve dubbed the “Wayward” books. As the third book in the series, THE WAYWARD TARGET was precisely the story I wanted and needed to write. I knew that my readers wanted to know what happens next to Maggie Jenkins (my protagonist) just as much as I did. Writing this book was like spending time with an old friend (for months and months at a time!).
Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?
I’m a big fan of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and by some strange stroke of fate, so is my protagonist. In fact, she is listening to an iconic Tom Petty song when she receives shocking news and begins her quest for justice.
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?
When I worked for the House Intelligence Committee, my office was located at the base of the dome of the U.S. Capitol. It was there, tucked away in a windowless, secure office, that I began to imagine what I would do if I discovered a spy scandal. From those imaginings came Maggie Jenkins, the protagonist in the “Wayward” series. Like me, we both worked at the CIA and for the House Intelligence Committee. Unlike me, she has a bold, fierce streak that leads her directly into the heart of danger.
What can you share about what you’re working on next?
I’m working on the fourth book in the “Wayward” series. Stay tuned!
Susan Ouellette is the author of The Wayward Spy (Camcat Books, 2021), winner of the Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal for Suspense/Thriller, a finalist in the 2022 BestThrillers.com Book Awards, and a 2021 “Top 12 Book of the Year” (“The Strand Magazine”). The sequel, The Wayward Assassin (Camcat Books, 2022), is full of “exciting action (and filled) with authenticity” (Publishers Weekly). The third book in the series, The Wayward Target, will be released in April 2023. Ouellette’s books draw heavily on her academic studies of international relations and Russian language and culture at both Harvard University and Boston University. As the Soviet Union teetered on the edge of collapse, she worked as an intelligence analyst at the CIA, where she earned a commendation for her work done during the failed 1991 Soviet coup. Subsequently, Ouellette worked on Capitol Hill as a professional staff member for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI). There, she participated in several overseas staff and congressional delegations focused on intelligence cooperation with allies and classified operations against adversaries. She later worked as a government contractor and freelance researcher, analyzing terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
To learn more about the author and her work, please visit her website.