Recommended by Ellen Quint
Discover the perfect summer escape with Josie Brown’s thrilling and humorous novel, THE HOUSEWIFE’S GAMBIT (Book #23 in The Housewife Assassin series). Prepare for a wild ride as Brown crafts yet another major threat to the United States, forcing her dynamic characters to tangle with the bad guys while maintaining their sense of humor.
Meet Donna Stone, the charming housewife and mother with a hidden double life, and Jack, her husband, and partner in a covert black ops organization dedicated to safeguarding US interests. Their roles as lovers (demonstrated in several steamy scenes), parents, friends, and kick-ass agents make them especially appealing. All of Brown’s female characters, the good and the bad, are strong, sassy, and very smart.
Engage with the story’s comic-book-like action scenes, which entertain even at their most absurd. And readers will learn interesting facts about the game of chess, which plays a key role in the plot.
For those new to the series, fear not. THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S GAMBIT provides enough quick backstory to immerse the novice fully. That being said, readers may be motivated to explore the entire series. As a bonus, Book 1: The Housewife Assassin’s Handbook, is available as a free download on Josie Brown’s website. So, whether starting with this book or diving into the series, readers will find a fast-paced, fun, and enjoyable adventure.
The Big Thrill sat down with Josie Brown to discuss THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S GAMBIT, book #23 in The Housewife Assassin series:
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 promoting it. How did you know this was the book you wanted to spend the next couple of years on?
I choose my plot premises carefully. They have to be timely as well as timeless. In espionage, what goes around comes around. The players may change, but the goal remains the same: protect the secrets of your country at all costs.
Throughout the history of our country, treason—sabotage from the inside—is a constant threat. I wanted to analyze it, then address it in the here and now: both technologically and emotionally.
Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?
The book’s premise came out of my anger upon learning that the lives of the brave men and women who serve our country as intelligence operatives abroad may now be in danger because of the Top Secret documents that have recently gone missing from our country’s National Archives. By upping the ante to ten countries’ intelligence directories being up for bid, the twists are many. Everyone attending the auction—enemies and allies—has a unique agenda. It was fun coming up with ways for Donna and Jack to discover and counter their opponents’ goals.
Another issue was that, in doing so, there were a few things they had to keep from each other. When you live together and work together, trust is always the glue. The bond was broken. One of the book’s big reveals is why.
Of course, the greatest take-down is that of the auctioneer: the rogue terrorist known only as The Black King. This is especially important since he has a personal vendetta with Donna.
Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?
I can’t listen to music when I write or read others’ books. I do decompress with movies, though. But usually not in the genre in which I’m writing.
However, I do have authors who inspire me.
The two key plot points of this novel are treason and agents left out in the cold.
Both topics have been so aptly and intelligently addressed by John le Carré, Chris Pavone, and Jason Matthews, to name a few. These authors are my touchstones, as is Martin Cruz Smith, who instills humor and pathos in his stories and his iconic protagonist, Arkady Renko. Smith is also a master at the reveal you didn’t see coming.
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?
Ha! Great question.
The series was born out of my skewed view that not everything and everyone is how we assume it, or them, to be. Even in Main Street America—especially in suburbia—there is subterfuge. Your local small-town cop knows this all too well.
My protagonist, Donna (Stone) Craig has been around for over a decade now. When pitched to New York, the premise of a housewife as an assassin was ahead of its time. The first book went to auction with several houses bidding, only to be shot down “in committee.” The reason given: “No one would believe a housewife as an assassin.”
The biggest advantage to the rejection was that it happened around the same time self-publishing was being avidly accepted by readers. After delivering my last book under contract to New York, I believed in the manuscript enough to put it out there myself. Twenty-three novels later, my legion of readers prove me right. I appreciate their enthusiasm and impatience for more books about Donna’s missions.
Warp speed to here and now, television has caught on to the idea of a sharpshooting housewife with a side gig that puts her in deep, turbulent waters, and publishing is now playing catch-up. Donna Stone Craig is no longer the only suburban lady who lunches between hits.
She is also unique. Like Smith’s Renko, I hope that Donna is someone readers want to hang out with: to know her personally, appreciate, and call “friend.” I write her in first person because it’s the best way for readers to get to know her intimately and feel her emotions. And I appreciate that my readers tell me how much they love her (and worry about her when she’s in dire straits).
In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?
Specifically to this book, the takeaway is that our actions have consequences. For Donna, something she does at the book’s opening caper becomes a reason for revenge. Also, for her and for Jack, holding back when they need to talk things out—personally and professionally—puts Donna in peril.
Despite the dark topics tackled in the Housewife Assassin series, the books have more satire than the usual international thriller. The dark comedy casts the right amount of light on the scary topic of terrorism. I’m happy to hear from my readers that the books educate as well as entertain.
What can you share about what you’re working on next?
Before writing another Housewife Assassin novel, I’m now writing a contemporary stand-alone thriller with a protagonist who isn’t at all what she seems; and, when finding herself in the wrong place at the worst possible time, must go on the run from both the good guys and the nefarious ones. True to life—as well as to my approach to fiction—the book is topical; it melds darkness with farce; the backstory—peeled back in layers throughout the book—holds pertinent clues, and the protagonist is given an opportunity for redemption and closure.
(Let’s hope she doesn’t blow it!)
I’m having a blast with the story. It’s always a lot of fun when a book is writing itself, am I right?
Novelist, journalist, and playwright Josie Brown is the author of 23-novel Housewife Assassin’s Handbook series (Signal Press; previously optioned for television); 8-novel Totlandia episodic series (Signal Press); 3-novel Extracurricular episodic series (Signal Press); and 2-novel True Hollywood Lies series (HarperCollins); as well as stand-alone novels The Candidate, and The Baby Planner (Simon & Schuster).
Her novel, Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives (Simon & Schuster), was optioned by producer Jerry Bruckheimer for television.
To learn more about the author and her work, please visit her website.