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The Big Thrill Discusses CODEX with Lisa Towles

Book Cover: CODEXA whistleblower, a fatal car crash, and a ghastly coverup. Risk is nothing when you have nothing left to lose.

FBI Agent Angus Mariner is off-grid after losing his beloved wife in a tragic car accident. Out of nowhere, he’s approached by an eccentric old man, a billionaire, who gives him a three-million-dollar gift…and is discovered dead the next day. Mariner becomes a person of interest and later a suspect in that investigation as well as the death of a vagrant found on the beach near his residence. While investigating the dizzying turn of events, he is contacted by a journalist, who shares details of secret work his wife had been doing just before her fatal accident. Digging into what feels like unlikely allegations brings him to two unthinkable truths: his wife was a whistleblower about to expose a ring of corruption linked to the eccentric old man, and the fatal car crash was no accident. Out on a limb with no one left to trust, he must decide if he alone can expose the organization’s terrifying agenda and bring meaning to his life’s greatest loss.

Award-winning crime novelist Lisa Towles recently sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss her latest espionage thriller, CODEX.

Author Photo: Lisa Towles

Lisa Towles

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?

This book, all of my books really, required a lot of research and for me that’s a fun part of the process because that means I get to learn about new things – history, technologies, everything. I had 7 beta readers for this book, three rounds with my editor, a separate proofreader, and then I did my own final polishes of the book using something new I’ve been doing lately – reading the book aloud. It’s amazing the things you can identify that no one saw in the previous reads. It’s a long, tangled, wonderful process and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. Storytelling is in my blood and is my greatest joy.

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?

I think the idea of flawed protagonists is well utilized in crime fiction. No one wants to read about a happy, well-adjusted character. As a reader, I’m deeply drawn to flawed, broken characters because when their problems seem bigger than my own, that makes for a great escape, which is the whole point of fiction (for me, anyway). Angus Mariner came to me as a broken man at the very bottom of his life. This place has some advantages of course, the idea of an empty canvas and the opportunity to reinvent. But when that reinvention comes as desperation out of the deepest loss you’ve ever encountered, it makes for a compelling read. I think readers identify with Angus because he’s just lost his wife, and also because he’s an alcoholic digging deep into his mind and heart to find the path toward healing.

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

The name Angus Mariner came to me early in this book and I knew the deepest layers of this book would be about loss and also about the mind. Without giving away the plot, that aspect of the story emerged early. Then I had to research, reflect, and move forward with the story until the rest of it came to me. I’m both a plotter and pantser, so I have the discipline and organization of outlining along with the surrender of just letting those story details emerge on their own time. Sometimes it works better than other times and it’s always different – for every book I write LOL!

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

Foo Fighters “The Pretender” – one of my all time favs from that era
Midnight Oil “Dreamworld”
I create a YouTube playlist of relevant songs for every book I write, to put me into the mood and atmosphere of the story.

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

CODEX connects with some universal human themes – loss/trauma and recovery, substance abuse and reaching an internal place where you choose healing, and I hope others who have endured these human challenges will find comfort and inspiration from Angus Mariner’s heroic story.

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

I just started a new full-time job a few months ago, so it’s been a challenge finding time to write, but I’m currently editing a new Young Adult thriller, Specimen, that will be released in December of 2024. I’m also about 1/3 of the way through a new standalone thriller that I’m excited about.


Lisa Towles is an Amazon bestselling, award-winning crime novelist and a passionate speaker on the topics of fiction writing, creativity, and self care. She has eleven crime thrillers in print with a new title, Codex, forthcoming in June of 2024. Her 2023 thriller, Salt Island (June, 2023) won five literary awards, including a Pencraft, and the second book in her E&A Investigations series following Hot House (June, 2022). Lisa is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers and is deeply committed to supporting writers’ success. She is Board Member of a Bay Area nonprofit ( and speaks frequently to groups of business leaders and writers. She has an MBA in IT Management and works full-time in the tech industry in the San Francisco Bay area.

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