KILLER SECRETS by Kathleen Donnelly, feature
KILLER SECRETS by Kathleen Donnelly, feature
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The Big Thrill Discusses KILLER SECRETS with Kathleen Donnelly

Book Cover: KILLER SECRETSA small town’s deadly past is exposed in the newest installment of the suspenseful National Forest K-9 series by Kathleen Donnelly.

Until an avalanche ripped down a mountainside, exposing a serial killer’s dumping grounds, Antler Valley, Colorado, was a quiet town. Now Forest Service officer Maya Thompson and her beautiful K-9, Juniper, must catch the murderer before they become the next targets.

With the neighboring town’s new overconfident sheriff deterring the entire investigation, a murderer on the loose and heartthrob deputy Josh Colton racing through her mind, Maya is at a crossroads. Josh is ready to go all in, but Maya has one foot out the door. As she lets her guard down, she needs to accept that she’s falling deeply in love with him, no matter how risky it may be.

When evidence from the Antler Valley victims links the murders to deaths in other ski towns, secrets long buried are unearthed. Maya and Juniper must run toward an answer, though finding it might lead them directly into a fatal trap…


Author Photo: Kathleen Donnelly

Kathleen Donnelly

Award-winning author Kathleen Donnelly recently sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss her latest romantic suspense, KILLER SECRETS.

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

Every winter avalanches become a serious hazard. There are avalanche crews to make sure highways stay open and ski areas have avalanche K-9s to help find someone buried in the snow. I also read an article about how people often go missing in the mountains never to be found again. I combined those two ideas into an avalanche, created by two backcountry snowboarders, exposing the bodies of several missing persons. From there, I knew that my protagonist Forest Service law enforcement officer, Maya Thompson, and her K-9 Juniper would be called into action. I also thought it was a great opportunity to introduce another K-9 into the story—a human remains detection dog named Finn.

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 love my characters, exploring their lives and where they go next. Writing gives me the chance to escape into their world. I find the research fascinating too. There are so many different jobs for K-9s. I’ve enjoyed researching those jobs and learning more about working dogs and their handlers through writing my books. For KILLER SECRETS, I was able to discuss human remains detection dogs (HRD) with a friend who works search and rescue with her HRD dog.

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

I create playlists for each book. That playlist is full of a wide variety of music from Metallica to Lauren Daigle. Talk about opposites! But the music helps inspire different scenes and helps me brainstorm. Although, I can’t listen to music while I write. The music just helps me with the brainstorming process for scenes.

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 first created Maya, I thought one thing that would make her different is that she was a military K-9 handler who no longer wanted to work dogs. This was because due to handler error, she blamed herself for the death of her military K-9 when she was in Afghanistan. I wanted to explore handler errors because it’s not often discussed. I also wanted to show what it’s like working and bonding with a new dog. I know whenever I start working with a new dog, that it’ll take about a year of working together before we’re a solid team.

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

I hope readers enjoy the K-9 work and the setting in the mountains. I enjoyed researching avalanches and the equipment that many backcountry recreation users own to help survive avalanches. I also think themes for this book include survival and the past coming back to haunt someone.

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

I have some more book ideas in the works that all have K-9s. I look forward to sharing more about these upcoming books soon.


Award-winning author Kathleen Donnelly has been a handler for Sherlock Hounds Detection Canines—a Colorado-based narcotics K-9 company—since 2005. Enjoying the work and partnership with the dogs, in 2010, Kathleen became part owner of the company. She loves crafting realism into her fictional stories from her dog-handling experience. Along with working dogs, Kathleen trained horses and enjoys spending time with her own mare. Her love of the mountains came from growing up in Colorado. Her debut novel, Chasing Justice, won a Best Book Award from the American Book Fest, a PenCraft Award for Romantic Suspense and was a 2023 Silver Falchion finalist in the Suspense category and Readers’ Choice Award. She lives near the Colorado foothills with her husband and four-legged coworkers.

To learn more about the author, please visit her website.



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