The Big Thrill Discusses HANGING THE DEVIL With Tim Maleeny
When a helicopter crashes through the skylight of the Asian Art Museum, an audacious heist turns into a tragedy. The only witness to the crash is eleven-year-old Grace, who watches in horror as her uncle is killed and a priceless statue stolen by two men and a—ghost? At least that’s how the eerie, smoke-like figure with parchment skin and floating hair appears to Grace. Scared almost to death, she flees into the night and seeks refuge in the back alleys of San Francisco’s Chinatown.
Grace is found by Sally Mei, self-appointed guardian of Chinatown. While Sally trains Grace in basic survival skills, her erstwhile partner Cape Weathers, private detective and public nuisance, searches for the mysterious crew behind the robbery before they strike the museum a second time. As the clock winds down, Cape enlists aid from some unlikely allies to lay a trap for a ghost who has no intention of being caught—nor of leaving any witnesses alive to tell the tale.
Bestselling author Tim Maleeny recently spent time with The Big Thrill to discuss Book #5 in his award-winning Cape Weathers Mysteries, HANGING THE DEVIL.
Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?
I was visiting the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and found myself counting the exits and studying the security cameras, skylights and guard patrols, when I realized a story I’d been planning was going to start there, in that very building, when a helicopter crashed and a heist turned to tragedy. I finally had my beginning, now I just had to write the art novel I’d been dreaming about for years.
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?
My dual genre-defying protagonists are a private detective named Cape Weathers and Sally Mei, an assassin who was raised by the Triads since she was an orphan. From opposite worlds with opposing worldviews, their unlikely partnership is accentuated by a supporting cast that nod to the conventions of the mystery genre while turning them upside-down, staying true to the pacing and suspense readers demand but twisting sideways enough to keep them guessing.
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?
What began as a simple heist novel took on the scope of a thriller after I began researching the world of forgeries, global smuggling and the illegal art trade. And once my characters took shape, the decision to experience the crime through the eyes of an eleven-year-old witness changed the stakes entirely—from that point on, I couldn’t write fast enough, I was hooked emotionally and knew I had more than enough story for a thrilling novel.
In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?
Beyond a roller coaster tour of the global market for counterfeit art, this novel is very much about what it takes to keep a family whole, an exploration of how far someone will go to keep someone they love safe, and a journey to discover whether it’s really possible to rebuild a life after the one you thought you’d have forever is torn apart.
Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?
So many nonfiction books, including a memoir by the head of the art crimes unit of the FBI, a number of terrific documentaries about forgers and stolen art, and my own tours of museums around the country. For films, both the original and remake of The Thomas Crown Affair were great references, serious heists that didn’t take themselves too seriously, smart capers that were endlessly entertaining.
What can you share about what you’re working on next?
Currently working on another thriller in the Cape Weathers series, a standalone heist novel, and an adventure for young readers.
Tim Maleeny is bestselling author of the award-winning Cape Weathers Mysteries, including Stealing The Dragon and Boxing The Octopus, as well as the standalone thriller Jump, which Publishers Weekly describes as “a perfectly blended cocktail of escapism.” The Irish Times says, “If comic crime fiction is your thing, Maleeny delivers in spades.” Tim’s short fiction appears in several major anthologies and has won the prestigious Macavity Award for best story of the year. His latest novel is a global art heist called HANGING THE DEVIL. Tim lives and writes at an undisclosed location in New York City.
To learn more about the author, please visit his website.
HANGING THE DEVIL With Tim Maleeny