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Forensic anthropologist Christine Prusik has a knack for solving the most unusual cases—and for bending the rules in the process.

When the bodies of young women start appearing in the caves of Indiana and Illinois, Christine immediately jumps into action. But her Chicago field office is undergoing a reorganization, and the boys’ club at the top seem more interested in getting all the paperwork in order than solving the murders.

Christine isn’t going to let a little red tape stop her, and when she discovers that all the bodies have the same mysterious pin-sized bruise on the back of their necks, she realizes she’ll have to confront her own inner demons to find the killer.

Lloyd Devereux Richards sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss his latest thriller:

© Lloyd Devereux Richards

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?

Well, I spent 14 years parttime writing, rewriting, tearing it up, rewriting it over, and over, and over. And then cutting and starting over again. I guess I was hellbent determined to figure out how to tell the story in my head in a compelling way that would intrigue the reader to want to know more. About my protagonist, Special Agent Christine Prusik, the killer, my protagonist’s cohorts, and bosses, all while exploring her (and my own) thoughts about humanity, hostility, alienation, anguish, and the internal and external horrors that abound in this suffering world.

Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?

When I was in law school in Bloomington, Indiana, there were a series of unsolved murders of coeds. I personally knew one of those women who was assaulted but had survived the violent attack. Ten years later, after I had moved to Vermont to work for a company, these unsolved murders surfaced in my imagination and threads of a story began to emerge. 14 years later my book Stone Maidens was published. 11 years after that, Stone Maidens became the #1 bestselling book on because of my daughter Marguerite’s making and posting a 15-second video on TikTok, which was viewed 48 million times after three days (now over 57 million views).

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?

Not so much an empty space, as my first and foremost understanding of the inherent strength of intelligent intuitive women. As I was raised by my grandmother, who was very much a dynamic intelligent and headstrong woman, there was no question that my protagonist Christine Prusik would not only be inspired and intrepid and keen, but also feisty, impatient, and a crime fighter who frequently challenges authority to get a result, e.g., find and apprehend the killer. Christine risks everything all the time, and it results in as many sanctions and restrictions put on her, which she summarily ignores. If not always law abiding, she is honest, though her faults often mean going it alone instead of enabling her team for support.

Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?

Oh sure. Silence of the Lambs, The Red Dragon, both by Thomas Harris; John Grisham’s The Testament; and Stephen King’s Dolores Claiborne. The thread through these titles runs to marvelous descriptive writing, character portrayal, and psychological suspense.

In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?

That life is never what it seems. Though we have laws and rules to help guide us, we all one day may find ourselves in a situation that asks more of us. To go farther, to take a chance, to get the job done. Even if it means bending the rules a little. Or maybe even breaking them if the situation warrants.

What can you share about what you’re working on next?

I am now writing the third installment of Special Agent Christine Prusik and Sheriff Joe McFaron, and it is a doozy. Christine is transferred to Boston and takes on more responsibility. But an unsolved case in Chicago follows her there and threatens her life. Also a second storyline directly involves Sheriff McFaron whose cousin in Vermont urgently asks him to his hunting camp. Unbeknownst to McFaron, his cousin is entangled in a dangerous plot that raises issues national security.


Lloyd Devereux Richards was born in New York City and traveled extensively in Europe, Africa, and Central America before attending law school. He previously served as a senior law clerk for an Indiana Court of Appeals judge, researching and writing drafts for dozens of published opinions, including the appeal of a serial killer sentenced to death. A father of three, he lives with his wife, Cameron O’Connor, and their two dogs in Montpelier, Vermont. This is his second novel, after Stone Maidens.