By Don Helin
A fabled illusion performed by a stage magician who claims to possess real supernatural powers. A treasure from the colonial era in India when international supremacies vied for power. A phantom trading ship lost over 200 years ago. And a ninja whose murderous intentions in present-day Japan connect the deeds of a long-dead trader who was much more than he seemed…
When Jaya Jones travels from San Francisco to Japan with her stage magician best friend Sanjay—a.k.a. the Hindi Houdini—for his Japanese debut, she jumps at the chance to pursue a tantalizing centuries-old mystery, but when tricks escalate to murder, Jaya soon loses sight of what’s real and what’s a deception.
USA Today bestselling author Gigi Pandian is the child of cultural anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern tip of India. She spent her childhood being dragged around the world, and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Gigi writes the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries, the Accidental Alchemist mysteries, and locked-room mystery short stories. Gigi’s fiction has been awarded the Malice Domestic Grant and Lefty Awards, and been nominated for Macavity and Agatha Awards. Find her online at www.GigiPandian.com.
I had the chance to catch up with Gigi the other day and ask her a few questions.
Someone is filling the desert caves around Phoenix with bodies–a madman who, in a taunting ritual, is leaving behind a record of his crimes etched into the stone. With no leads and no suspects, Detective Alex Mills sees a case spinning out of control. City leaders want the case solved yesterday, and another detective wants to elbow Mills out of the way. As the body count rises, Mills turns to Gus Parker, an “intuitive medium” whose murky visions sometimes point to real clues. It’s an unorthodox approach, but Mills is desperate.
When Parker is brought to the crime scenes, he sees visions of a house on fire and a screaming child. But what does it mean? He struggles to interpret his psychic messages, knowing that the killer is one step ahead and that in this vast desert, the next murder could happen anywhere. Nor does it help that he’s always been unlucky in love and now finds himself the prey of a lovelorn stalker. She is throwing him off his game.
Someone will win this contest, and both Parker and Mills fear it will be the cunning, ruthless killer, who is able to use the trackless landscape as a cover for his brutal crimes.
DESERT REMAINS author Steven Cooper recently discussed his latest mystery with The Big Thrill:
In March 1977, ballistics link murders going back six months to the same Charter Arms Bulldog .44. A serial killer, Son of Sam, is on the loose. But Coleridge Taylor can’t compete with the armies of reporters fighting New York’s tabloid war—only rewrite what they get. Constantly on the lookout for victims who need their stories told, he uncovers other killings being ignored because of the media circus. He goes after one, the story of a young black woman gunned down in her apartment building the same night Son of Sam struck elsewhere in Queens.
Just as he’s closing in on the killer and his scoop, the July 13-14 blackout sends New York into a 24-hour orgy of looting and destruction. In the midst of the chaos, a suspect in Taylor’s story goes missing. Desperate, he races to a confrontation that will either break the story—or Taylor.
LIGHTS OUT SUMMER author, Rich Zahradnik, discussed his latest novel with The Big Thrill:
Andi Comstock isn’t the type of person to tell someone who’s been murdered to take a hike, especially if that someone is an unborn baby, so when angel-baby Lucy asks Andi to find the woman who killed her and her mother before the baby-snatcher strikes again, what’s Andi supposed to do? From past experience, Detective Jack Harmon knows his most valuable information will come via the spirits who talk to Andi after cremation, when they pass from this world to the next. Jack, who is also Andi’s boyfriend, can’t quite get his brain around the fact that Andi has been dubbed The Chosen One, leaving to devise a creative plan to find the baby stealer on her own. Her sleuthing cohort, Father Riley, who often compares her to St. Jeanne d’Arc, urges her to abandon the unorthodox scheme she comes up with, but Andi is set on doing it her way. After all, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.
ANGEL BABIES author, Ann Simas, spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest mystery:
By Karen Harper
Robert E. Dunn, a native of the Missouri Ozarks, wrote his first book at age 11, turning a series of Jack Kirby comic books into a novel. Over many years in video and film production, he produced documentaries, training films, and travelogues. He turned to writing mystery, horror, and fantasy fiction and has published the horror novels, The Red Highway, Motorman, and The Harrowing, and now the Katrina Williams mystery/thriller series, which began with A Living Grave.
Please tell us what your book is about.
A PARTICULAR DARKNESS is book 2 in the Katrina (Hurricane) Williams series from Lyrical Underground. It follows the events of A Living Grave but the book can stand alone.
In the aftermath of tragic events and the loss of her new husband, Sheriff’s Detective Katrina (Hurricane) Williams is adrift, tethered only to her job. Work is enough for her until a body is pulled from the lake and onto a stinking heap of fish. What seems at first like a simple case of murder over the poaching of paddlefish for domestic caviar quickly forks in two directions.
One way leads under the tents of the Starry Night Traveling Salvation Show and into the presence of its charismatic leader, Roscoe Bolin. The other takes her into the teeth of a joint investigation conducted by the Army CID and FBI.
The two ends of the case tie together when a young man disappears from the evangelical show with a teenaged Peruvian refugee illegally smuggled into the country. The girl is found dead and the boy goes on the run. At every step, the antagonistic feds block Katrina’s efforts to dig into the preacher and the mysterious military men who surround the show. Following the trail of poached fish eggs leads her to a mysterious Russian with connections to both weapon and human trafficking.
When more refugees, all young girls, disappear, Katrina will stop at nothing to find the truth. The fight opens her to danger and opens her heart to the enigmatic Deputy Billy Blevins. Through the shifting shadows of night, murder, and terrible violence in the name of truth, Katrina discovers her own Particular Darkness.
As Sheriff Piper Blackwell rushes to a clandestine meeting with an aging, paranoid veteran who believes spies are trailing his every move, she is caught in a fierce thunderstorm. Pounding rain drums against the bluff, washing away the earth and revealing a grisly secret someone tried to bury a long time ago.
Putting a name to the skeleton on the bluff and searching for the thief who robbed the old veteran of his life’s earnings sends Piper delving into the sleepy towns that dot her rural county. Now she’s digging into pasts perhaps best left alone.
Accompanied by Chief Deputy Oren Rosenberg, Piper seeks to expose a truth someone wants to remain forever hidden. The investigation may have started with a thunderstorm, but Piper aims to finish it and find justice. Uncovering fragments of Spencer County’s history could prove more dangerous—and deadlier—than she ever expected.
Jean Rabe, author of THE DEAD OF NIGHT, recently took time out of her busy schedule to discuss her latest thriller with The Big Thrill:
It’s two weeks before Christmas 1997, and Police Chief Thomas Lynch faces a crisis when Cody Forrand, a six-year-old with a life-threatening medical condition, goes missing during a blizzard. Lynch’s suspicions about who abducted Cody are met with scorn by his detectives, some of whom can’t handle the fact that he’s gay. With half the station out sick with the flu, Lynch seeks outside help: it arrives in the shape of an FBI agent for whom Lynch feels an immediate attraction.
To complicate matters, local crime is on the rise and Lynch finds himself the target of prank calls and hate speech that he worries is the work of a colleague. Time is ticking away, Lynch is struggling to discover who is behind Idyll’s crime spree, and he’s beginning to doubt that Cody will ever be found…
Author Stephanie Gayle sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss her latest novel, IDYLL FEARS:
Employed by Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford at their famous film studios, script girl Jessie Beckett has a reputation as a skilled amateur sleuth. So when a projectionist is shot dead at the movie theatre where he worked, his grieving widow asks Jessie if she can find out who killed him, and why. Who was the mysterious man in the red coat who fired three shots at Joe Petrovitch? And how could he vanish from the balcony with no trace?
To find the answers, Jessie must delve into the dead man’s history and uncover dark secrets from another continent and another era. As she is to discover, the past has a long reach …
The Big Thrill recently caught up to Mary Miley to discuss her latest mystery, MURDER IN DISGUISE:
Rachel Carver blames herself for the death of an innocent woman in her last case as a special agent for the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. Unable to accept her superior’s attempts to cover up the incident, she turned in her badge. But when a former partner asks her to consult on a new murder case, she reluctantly agrees, traveling to a small mountain community, where she’s tasked with leading a group of detectives on a hunt for the killer. What seems to be the act of a loner proves to be much more as Rachel’s team comes under attack—and a detective is killed in the fallout. Rachel’s old employers at the SBI step in to take over the investigation, but Rachel, convinced they are on the wrong track, continues to work the case alone. As she delves into the town’s past, she discovers a secret history that connects the victims—one that makes her the target of a man who would kill to keep it a secret.
J. R. Backlund, author of AMONG THE DEAD, spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his debut novel:
Rob Ramer was the perfect husband until he committed the ultimate family faux pas—he shot his sister-in-law to death. Believing himself under attack by an intruder in his home, he fired back. However, when e-mails are discovered between Rob’s wife, Brooke, and her sister plotting his murder, Brooke is charged with conspiracy and manslaughter in her sister’s death.
Geneva, a third sister, seeks the help of San Francisco astrologer, Julia Bonatti. Geneva has never believed in astrology, but she’s desperate for answers. She’s lost one sister and now it seems she’ll lose the other. Was this a murder plot or just a terrible accident? Is there more to this family than meets the eye? Julia vows to find the answesr in the stars.
Connie Di Marco recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest mystery, ALL SIGNS POINT TO MURDER:
After being laid off from his job as a newspaper reporter in a coastal Florida town, Dexter Vega meets a wealthy retiree who hires him to find his daughter who is supposed to be attending the local college. When Vega visits his client to inform him that his daughter is in Mexico, he discovers the man has been murdered. And Vega’s prints are all over the murder weapon.
As the police build a case against him, Vega flies to Mexico City to locate his client’s daughter, hoping she will help him find the murderer and thus clear his name. But when he finds the woman, she tells him a very different story—nothing is as it seems.
Beaten by thugs and ordered to leave Mexico, Vega returns home to find himself immersed in a web of blackmail, greed, and revenge.
The Big Thrill had the opportunity to discuss THE LAST GIRL with author, Danny Lopez, and here’s what we learned:
Police Chief Aidan Cruz has instructed Sgt. Grace Gabbiano to find out everything she can about a body farm smack in the middle of one of the town’s largest filbert orchards, and to get it done five minutes ago. Six students, led by a teaching anthropologist from the university, seem to spend as much time making whoopee on the grounds of what they fondly call the B-Farm, as they do collecting and recording research data on the thirteen decomposing cadavers planted there. Grace barely gets her report written before a fresh grave is discovered inside the compound, and it doesn’t contain a body donated for research. With the body count rising, the pressure is on for her to find the common denominator among the victims who share no obvious thread other than being female.
Author Ann Simas recently answered some questions for The Big Thrill about her latest release, BURIED TO DIE:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
Coburg, Oregon, a community of around 1,000 residents, is a real town. In actuality, homicides don’t occur there; in fiction, Grace Gabbiano and her crew face murder with regularity. It’s fun creating small-town characters with a vast range of personalities. I want my readers to get a sense, not only of what it’s like to live in a small town, but also what it’s like to be part of a large Italian family.
By Wendy Tyson
THE FIFTH REFLECTION, the new novel by Ellen Kirschman, is the third book in the popular Dot Meyerhoff series featuring police psychologist Dr. Dot Meyerhoff. As a police and public safety psychologist, Kirschman knows her subject. She brings a fresh voice and a chilling sense of realism to her thrillers. Recently, The Big Thrill had the chance to catch up with Kirschman.
Congratulations on your upcoming release. Without giving any spoilers, what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the publisher’s material?
My mysteries are inspired by real officers and real events. What remains hidden are any identifying details. I owe a great deal to my clients. It frustrates me not to be able to thank them publicly.
DEAD SPIDER is Victoria Houston’s 17th book featuring Police Chief Lew Ferris, retired dentist Doc Osbourne, and their friend Ray—all fishing fanatics.
In fact, everyone in Loon Lake is a fishing fanatic, but only Ray “lives in a house trailer painted to resemble a predatory muskie: lurid green scales covering the outside of the little place and capped at one end with a row of gleaming razor-sharp teeth.”
Doc Osborne, deputized to help with forensics, and Ray the playboy fisherman, are the police chief’s murder-solving team. The murder in DEAD SPIDER takes place at a youth fishing tournament. While everyone is watching fireworks, someone walks up to Chuck Pfeiffer, the richest man in Wisconsin, and executes him with a bullet behind the ear.
No one really mourns Pfeiffer. Not his first wife. Not his current, sour-faced and sour-voiced trophy wife. Not his children.
But Pfeiffer’s murder isn’t the only crime Ferris has to solve: Osborne’s granddaughter is caught in a drug sting. And the local nursing home was robbed; residents lost their money, medications, and their guns.
In 1810, Atlas Catesby, a brilliant adventurer and youngest son of a baron, is anxious to resume his world travels after a carriage accident leaves him injured in London. But his plans are derailed when, passing through a country village, he discovers Lilliana Warwick being auctioned off to the highest bidder—by her husband. When the husband turns up dead several weeks later, Atlas is the only one who can help clear her name of the crime.
Fortunately, Atlas is a master at solving complicated puzzles, both with games and the intricacies of human motivation, and finds himself uniquely suited to the task, despite the personal peril it may put him in. But soon Altas learns the dead man had many secrets—and more than a few enemies willing to kill to keep them quiet—in MURDER IN MAYFAIR, the first in a new historical mystery series by D. M. Quincy.
The Big Thrill had an opportunity to sit down with D. M. Quincy to discuss her novel, MURDER IN MAYFAIR:
When the Oakland coroner’s office uncovers a body buried in a shallow grave in the outskirts of the city, homicide sergeant Matt Sinclair expects to find a drug dealer caught in the crosshairs of a turf war. Instead, the victim is identified as Phil Roberts, the commander of the police department’s intelligence unit and Sinclair’s former partner.
Police brass want to pin the murder on a dead member of an outlaw motorcycle gang, and they want the case closed quickly, but Sinclair and his current partner, Cathy Braddock, aren’t satisfied with that answer. As Sinclair delves into the details of Roberts’s past, secrets from his work and personal life come to the surface—secrets that some people will go to any length to keep buried. But Sinclair won’t stop until he finds the truth, even if it means sacrificing his former partner’s reputation and possibly his own career.
With SHALLOW GRAVE, Brian Thiem brings back his beloved detective for a thrilling third adventure in his acclaimed police procedural series.
Author Brian Thiem spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest novel, SHALLOW GRAVE:
It seems about the only thing Ovidia Yu has quit was her quest to become a medical doctor. When she realized it was not what she wanted to do with her life, she turned her attention back to her writing—something she has enjoyed since childhood.
Yu is an award-winning short story writer and playwright with more than 30 plays performed. In addition, she has written novellas, a children’s book (The Mudskipper), and is the author of the entertaining Rosie “Aunty” Lee mystery series whose latest offering is Meddling and Murder.
Here a missing domestic worker is assumed to be a runaway in the midst of a series of home invasions and other unusual events. Aunty Lee, as she struggles to understand, continues her meddling ways, putting herself, her restaurant, and her hard-working domestic worker Nina in jeopardy.
Fellow author Louise Penny said, “Rosie Lee is a terrifically original heroine.” Yet, according to Yu, many readers around the world say Aunty Lee reminds them of relatives—mothers, aunts, grannies. “And I thought Aunty Lee was a typical Singaporean Peranakan Aunty. I hope it means I have captured the well-intentioned busybody traits of the ‘feed you and fix your life for you’ women who were part of my growing up.” (Killer Reads, April 10, 2017)
According to Yu in the same interview, Meddling and Murder has its origins in a newspaper article about a woman who went on a tour of China, met a tour guide who later turned up in Singapore and moved in with her, then started taking over her finances and isolating her from her family. The true crime story allowed Yu to explore other themes, including what it is like to be a foreigner in Singapore, especially if you look like you fit in but don’t and the unconscious assumptions we all make.
Buffalo, New York, private investigator Gideon Rimes, a black Iraq-war vet and retired army CID detective, is hired to protect blues singer Indigo Waters from her ex-boyfriend, a police officer who serves as a driver and personal bodyguard for Buffalo Mayor Ophelia Green. When the boyfriend is murdered, Rimes is the prime suspect. He’s arrested but police are forced to release him due to a lack of evidence. As the cops search for clues to tie Rimes to the murder, he begins his own hunt for the killer, uncovering a plot that involves city leaders, a wealthy business owner, corrupt cops, access to control of a half-billion-dollar project—and a dark family secret that someone will do anything to keep hidden, regardless of who they have to kill…
NICKEL CITY BLUES author, Gary Earl Ross, recently discussed his latest novel with The Big Thrill:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
As a black writer who tries to capture the diverse cultural and social intersections of modern America, I hope readers find NICKEL CITY BLUES engaging and the central characters compelling enough to make them read future Nickel City titles.
When stylish Hillary Whitney dies alone in a locked, windowless conference room at the offices of high-concept magazine RAGE Fashion Book, her death is initially ruled an unfortunate side effect of the unrelenting pressure to be thin.
But two months later, a cryptic note in her handwriting ends up in the office of the NYPD and the case is reopened, leading Det. Mark Hutton straight into the glamorous life of hardworking RAGE editor Catherine Ono, who insists on joining the investigation. Surrounded by a supporting cast of party girls, Type A narcissists and half-dead socialites, Cat and her colleague Bess Bonner are determined to solve the case and achieve sartorial perfection. But their amateur detective work has disastrous results, and the two ingenues are caught in a web of drugs, sex, lies and moisturizer that changes their lives forever.
Author Barbara Bourland discussed her debut novel, I’LL EAT WHEN I’M DEAD, with The Big Thrill:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
A new understanding of the pressures that modern women face every single morning when they get dressed—and of course, the satisfaction of having been wildly entertained.
By Terri Nolan
Elena Hartwell is a novelist, a playwright, and a teacher. A renaissance woman. Her recent novel, TWO HEADS ARE DEADER THAN ONE, features private investigator Eddie Shoes, and is the second in the series.
Hartwell says if Kinsey Millhone and James Rockford had a love child, it would be Eddie Shoes. As homage to the noir private detective, Hartwell has taken that classic character—the hard bitten, loner, male PI—and, first, turned him into a woman who’s not so much hard bitten as she is practical and logical, and, second, not so much a loner as she is a person who was once on her own and now finds herself surrounded by friends and family. Eddie is a new classic.
TWO HEADS ARE DEADER THAN ONE begins with a plea for bail money from Eddie’s high school friend. Eddie’s decision to free her friend sets the stage for more trouble than she imagined. Humor brackets the serious aspects of the human experience explored in the novel. Readers will be thrilled and amused at the same time.
Introduce us to your protagonist. How was she “born”?
My protagonist was born on a road trip. My husband and I were driving across Washington State and for some reason he made up the name Eddie Shoes. I thought that’s a perfect name for a female private eye. I started to think about what this character would be like. What kind of person would be named Eddie Shoes? I realized she would be quirky and a little irreverent and not take life too seriously. She would also be independent and a bit suspicious of people. So that’s where I started with her.
Sherry Knowlton, author of the Alexa Williams suspense novels, was born and raised in small-town Pennsylvania, where she developed a lifelong passion for books. Like so many authors, she was the kid who snuck a flashlight to bed at night so she could read beneath the covers.
Knowlton’s interest in the written word never faded. Her novels focus on contemporary issues and DEAD OF SPRING, her new release, is no exception. An environmental crisis is at the heart of this latest story, which deals with fracking and government corruption. As the current crisis unravels, a parallel historical story tracks the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear incident.
In researching her novel, Knowlton drew on her personal experience living in Pennsylvania during the Three Mile Island episode. Written material on the Internet, state regulations, news clips, and interviews of experts provided additional background material. Knowlton said, “One of my most useful bits of research came when I visited a landowner in northern Pennsylvania who had leased his land to an energy company for fracking. He leased in the early days of fracking in Pennsylvania and was unaware of the problems he might encounter.” This man shared his experience, showing the process that transformed his property from a beautiful woodland into an acre of gravel and machinery. Pristine drinking water now requires constant filtering for showers and bathing, and his life is a constant battle with the energy company for compensation.
Buddy and Martha Whitacre, a blue-collar couple, celebrate early retirement with a trip to Spain. They return home to discover that they’ve been wiped out by the investment fund that made retirement and travel possible. DAMN NEAR BROKE is the tale of how they deal with impending poverty, each other, and especially the shame of it all.
Seniors fleeced by a phony investment scheme, why did you choose this story line?
Since I’m far too young to be an AARP member, I steal the monthly magazine out of a neighbor’s mailbox. Nearly every issue has horror stories of people who’ve fallen victim to a variety of scams and articles warning of new twists in impoverishing seniors.
You’ve labeled this as a cautionary tale, rightfully so. Is this based on a true story or did it almost hit anyone close to home?
Fortunately, I’ve experienced nothing of this sort up close and personal.
This Jim West mystery/thriller, the seventh in the series, finds Jim traveling to Fabens, TX, in an effort to locate an old acquaintance who had written Jim a cryptic letter asking for his help in finding a briefcase. In Fabens, he discovers that someone has murdered his friend. Jim provides a copy of the letter to the local police explaining that he has no idea where the briefcase is or how to decipher the sets of numbers provided in the letter. Figuring there is nothing more he can do, Jim starts his trek home. He plans to spend a night or two relaxing at the Lodge in Cloudcroft, NM, on his way, only to find that he is being followed. An ominous, unidentified phone caller gives Jim an order—find the briefcase and turn it over to him within a week. A violent confrontation in Cloudcroft verifies Jim’s worst suspicion, a Mexican drug cartel wants the briefcase. The confrontation also brings the FBI into the picture. They also want Jim to continue his search. The search takes Jim to the New Mexican ghost town of Chloride where the final confrontation takes place and Jim finds out who the bad guys really are.
Author Bob Doerr spent some time discussing his latest novel, GREED CAN KILL, with The Big Thrill:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope readers find that this book tells an interesting and fun to read story. They should find the use of Fabens, Texas, Cloudcroft, NM, Truth or Consequences, NM, and the ghost town of Chloride, NM, as seldom used but fascinating settings for a mystery. Finally, I hope readers take away a hunger to read other Jim West books they may not have already read.
Baltimore police officer Fia Mckee is suspended for excessive use of force. Given a second chance, she’s sent to work undercover for the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau (TRPB) at Gulfstream Park in Florida, where her assignment is to spy on two racetrack workers suspected of illegal activities and whose horses continue to outperform all expectations.
To complete her cover story, Fia moves in with her semi-estranged brother, Patrick, and his daughter, Jilly. Fia’s investigations become twofold when Jilly disappears after an off the grid Cuban gang steals her beloved pony for horse meat. Along the way, Fia encounters, a (very handsome) do-gooder who’s close on their trail, and a cabal of super wealthy gamblers who will stop at nothing to ensure they always win.
The Big Thrill caught up with Sasscer Hill to discuss her latest novel, FLAMINGO ROAD:
By Karen Harper
Karen Katchur writes suspense novels that beautifully blend a compelling setting with a realistic story. Her background in criminal justice makes her work feel “you-are-there” authentic. The focus on family also moves her novels into the realm of psychological fiction.
This month, Katchur took time out of her busy schedule to provide insight into her thrilling new release, THE SISTERS OF BLUE MOUNTAIN, and share with The Big Thrill some of the secrets behind her success.
Please tell us what THE SISTERS OF BLUE MOUNTAIN is about.
For Linnet, owner of a Bed and Breakfast in Mountain Springs, Pennsylvania, life has been a bit complicated lately. Hundreds of snow geese die overnight in the dam near the B&B, sparking a media frenzy, threatening the tourist season, and bringing her estranged younger sister, Myna, to town. If that isn’t enough, the women’s father has been charged with investigating the incident. But when a younger expert is brought in to replace him on the case and then turns up dead on Linnet’s property, their father becomes the primary suspect. As the investigation unfolds, the sisters will have to confront each other, their hidden past, and a side of Mountain Springs not seen before.
Dark, gritty, disturbing. Those are the types of characters you’ll encounter in the award-winning stories within this collection. Tough people in a tough world. But also real people, struggling with difficult decisions when faced with unthinkable circumstances. What happens when you discover a dead body but can’t go to the police because of your own dark past? Or your father’s dark past? What might a woman resort to when her husband doesn’t hold up his end of a bargain? What frightening surprises lie buried beneath the beaches of North Carolina? Or in the desolate hills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains? Or in the swamps of the New Jersey Pine Barrens?
These are stories that are as dark, gritty, and disturbing as the characters who inhabit them, yet there is a pervasive humanness which forces us to empathize. That asks us to understand why people sometimes do what they do. Perhaps that’s the reason these stories have been chosen for the Best American Mystery series, honored by The Atlantic Monthly’s Student Writing Contest, not to mention various other awards and honors. Perhaps that’s why these stories will stick with you well after the reading has commenced. Always gnawing at you, unrelenting, asking, “What would you have done in that situation? Would you have behaved any differently?”
Scott Loring Sanders took some time to discuss his latest book, SHOOTING CREEK AND OTHER STORIES, with The Big Thrill:
When the Jarrett Creek Fire Department is called to douse a blaze on the outskirts of town, they discover a grisly scene: five black young people have been murdered. Newly elected Chief of Police Samuel Craddock, just back from a stint in the Air Force, finds himself an outsider in the investigation headed by the Texas Highway Patrol. He takes an immediate dislike to John Sutherland, a racist trooper.
Craddock’s fears are realized when Sutherland arrests Truly Bennett, a young black man whom Craddock knows and respects. Sutherland cites dubious evidence that points to Bennett, and Craddock uncovers facts leading in another direction. When Sutherland refuses to relent, Craddock is faced with a choice that will define him as a lawman—either let the highway patrol have its way, or take on a separate investigation himself.
Although his choice to investigate puts both Craddock and his family in danger, he perseveres. In the process, he learns something about himself and the limits of law enforcement in Jarrett Creek.
A tried and true adage is to write what you know. The difficult part is taking what you know and making it interesting reading for an audience. This is well executed by Lynn Chandler Willis in her latest novel, TELL ME NO LIES, the debut Ava Logan Mystery.
The heroine of TELL ME NO LIES, Ava Logan, is the publisher of the newspaper for the small town of Jackson Creek, North Carolina set in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. Like her character, Willis has lived her entire life in North Carolina and owned a small-town weekly newspaper. Both Ava and Willis have two children, are single mothers, and have dogs named Finn.
TELL ME NO LIES finds Ava in the middle of covering the local election, just weeks before Election Day. Then the simple act of dropping off her friend’s toddler after a night of babysitting changes everything. Her friend is dead, and Ava wants to know why. Juggling her two teenage children, her friend’s orphaned toddler, and her own muddied past, Ava’s digging for the truth puts her and those she loves in danger. It is imperative the killer is found before either Ava or someone she loves ends up dead.
Ava Logan stands as her own person. She brings a backstory that is “tragically realistic” according to the author with “enough struggles to help shape her character without defining it.” Willis wanted to make sure that Ava was not “broken” and sees Ava as “that magical combination of strength and vulnerability. She’s not perfect. She’s many things, but she is not broken and she’ll be the first to tell you that!”
Sebastian Snow is the owner of Snow’s Antique Emporium. With an encyclopaedic knowledge of the 1800s, Sebastian and his Emporium seem to be a magnet for murderous mysteries. After The Mystery of Nevermore, Sebastian is now happily dating lead homicide detective, Calvin Winter, but when a brick is thrown through the Emporium window, Sebastian finds himself swept up in a series of grisly murders.
Author C. S. Poe tells me about her latest novel THE MYSTERY OF CURIOSITIES, the second instalment of the Snow and Winter series, as well as about her inspiration for the story and what drives her to write gay mysteries.
THE MYSTERY OF THE CURIOSITIES is Book 2 of the Snow & Winter series. Where is Sebastian Snow after the events of The Mystery of Nevermore?
Sebastian Snow is in a much healthier place after Nevermore—physically, mentally, and emotionally. He came out of an intense murder mystery relatively unscathed, and he and lead homicide detective, Calvin Winter, are happily dating. If it wasn’t for the fact that he’s become prone to trouble, Sebastian may have gotten through Valentine’s Day without having to put his sleuthing hat back on.
Katie Taylor is the perfect student. She’s bright and funny, she has a boyfriend who adores her and there are only a few months left of school before she can swap Banktoun for the bright lights of London. Life gets even better when she has an unexpected win on a scratch card. But then Katie’s luck runs out.
Her tragic death instead becomes the latest in a series of dark mysteries blighting the small town. The new school counsellor Polly McAllister, who has recently returned to Banktoun to make amends in her own personal life, is thrown in at the deep end as the pupils and staff come to terms with Katie’s death. And it’s not long before she uncovers a multitude of murky secrets. Did Katie have enemies? Is her boyfriend really so squeaky clean? And who is her brother’s mysterious friend?
With Banktoun’s insular community inflamed by gossip and a baying mob stirring itself into a frenzy on social media, DS Davie Gray and DC Louise Jennings must work out who really murdered Katie before someone takes matters into their own hands…
The Big Thrill recently discussed THE DAMSELFLY with author S. J. I. Holliday: