The Big Thrill Discusses THE LAST REQUEST With Brandon Barrows
Summoned by letter, Holly Shaw and five of her cousins—virtual strangers to each other—have gathered at a grand house in the rugged wilds of Alaska. Equally unfamiliar to Holly is her great aunt Lydia, the woman who has called the family together and is dangling a massive inheritance before them. Her condition: they must remain in the house, with Lydia and her butler and caregiver, until she passes. Anyone not in residence at that time is out of the will, their share of the money split among the others. That night, everyone settles in. And the next morning, the murders begin . . .
Brandon Barrows recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest mystery, THE LAST REQUEST.
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 usually write fairly slowly, but once I got the idea for this novel, it was like the story just flowed out of my fingertips. My previous novel took a year to write, but I had a first draft of THE LAST REQUEST in under two months. I knew as I was working on it that I had something special, something that I really wanted to make outshine everything I’ve done before.
Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?
There are certainly some echoes of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, and while I haven’t read the book in decades, I wanted to both tell my own story and pay a bit of homage to such a classic and important piece of mystery fiction.
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?
Most of my characters are fairly hardboiled–they’re either cops or ex-cops or career criminals or simply people who have no real moral compass (or at least a very flexible one). With the main character of this novel, Holly Shaw, I wanted to create a regular person who was thrown into an extraordinary situation, one that she certainly never imagined herself in and couldn’t hope to rely on her experiences to deal with. Holly’s aunt Lydia describes Holly as “some sort of office girl,” and that’s what she is, really: just an ordinary person with a boring job and too much debt and too little freedom. And then she’s thrown into this nightmarish situation that could result in incredible rewards or literal death.
In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?
I hope readers will be able to see a little bit of themselves in these characters, find someone to identify with and root for. I know that, as an avid reader myself, if I find a character I really identify with—even if I don’t like them—the experience of the book is far richer and more rewarding. I hope to be able to give that to readers with this work.
What can you share about what you’re working on next?
I’m currently working on a more hardboiled, perhaps more traditional mystery, about a sort of prodigal son—or in this case, prodigal father—returned to his hometown after not seeing his son for several years and immediately accused of murder.
Brandon Barrows is the author of several novels, as well as over one-hundred published stories, mostly in the crime, mystery, and western genres. He is a three-time Mustang Award finalist and a 2022 Derringer Award nominee.
To learn more about the author and his work, please visit his website.
THE LAST REQUEST With Brandon Barrows