THE DEAD YEARS by Jeffrey B. Burton, feature
THE DEAD YEARS by Jeffrey B. Burton, feature
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The Big Thrill Discusses THE DEAD YEARS with Jeffrey B. Burton

Book Cover: THE DEAD YEARSA serial killer, dormant for years, reawakens after viewing a Netflix docuseries depicting his string of homicides. The killer is not happy with his portrayal and no one in the cast and crew is safe! The first instalment of a gripping new thriller series set in Chicago and featuring a young sibling sleuth-duo and their working dogs.

Siblings Cory and Crystal Pratt are still trying to get their lives together after a tragic accident which killed their parents years ago. The only thing that distracts them now is their jobs. With Crystal working as a newly minted detective at the Chicago Police Department and Cory owning a dog training academy with two human remains detection dogs of his own, their professional paths cross every now and then.

Crime, and especially murder, in Chicago is nothing new, but when a string of killings happen that seem to be connected to a Netflix docuseries and its cast and crew, Cory and Crystal are called in to stop the number of bodies from piling any higher.

Jeffrey B. Burton recently sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss his latest contemporary thriller, THE DEAD YEARS.

Author Photo: Jeffrey B. Burton

Jeffrey B. Burton

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

My wife and I streamed a ton of true crime documentaries during the height of Covid-19. I jotted down the following on a piece of scratch paper “What happens when a serial killer is not happy with his portrayal in a true-crime TV documentary?” and tossed it in my idea drawer (which is where I keep my wallet and car keys). As I was under contract with St. Martin’s Press for a couple more novels, this idea kept staring up at me whenever I opened the drawer to fetch or return my wallet and car keys. I finally got around to writing THE DEAD YEARS in 2022.


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?

The protagonist, Cory Pratt, is a hot mess. He blames himself for the accident that caused his parents’ deaths a few years earlier. His older sister, a Chicago Police Detective, is doing her best to keep him grounded. I love the interplay between the two siblings. Plus, I have an older sister who was kind enough to pull a couple of bullies off me back in my younger days.

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 loved the concept of a serial killer getting pissed off at his portrayal in a Netflix documentary so much, it practically wrote itself.

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

Human remains detection dogs (HRD dogs or cadaver dogs) play a big role in the novel. I’ve been writing about them for years and I hope readers take away a sense of awe and respect for what sniffer dogs can accomplish.

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

The follow-up to THE DEAD YEARS is titled The Second Grave. It comes out in March of 2025.


Jeffrey B. Burton’s critically acclaimed Mace Reid K-9 mystery series (St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur) include The Finders, The Keepers, and The Lost. Jeff’s short stories have appeared in dozens of magazines and anthologies. His short story, “Liza”, appeared in The Twisted Book of Shadows, which won the 2019 Shirley Jackson Award for Edited Anthology. Jeff lives in St. Paul, Minnesota with his wife, Cindy, an irate Pomeranian named Lucy, and a happy galoot of a Beagle named Milo.

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