The Last to See Her by Courtney Evan Tate

A woman disappears into the dark city night…

Gen is on the verge of a divorce from her cheating husband. When her sister, Meg, has a convention to attend in the Big Apple, she invites Gen along to celebrate her newly found freedom. But the perfect sisters’ getaway quickly goes awry when a tipsy Gen defiantly throws her wedding ring off the hotel room’s balcony. Then, wanting some fresh air, she decides to take a late-evening walk alone and vanishes without a trace.

The investigation that follows uncovers secrets—and betrayals—between sisters and spouses that will twist the truth in on itself until nothing is clear.

What really happened to Gen and who, besides Meg, was the last to see her? 

π π π π

Available today (December 15th)!

Secrets, secrets, secrets! I love reading books where you think that everything is normal, but it turns out that everyone has a secret and boy are they juicy secrets!

The Last to See Her hooked me in right away. The chapters alternated between the characters’ past and present and of course all of the secrets were revealed. I was curious on what had happened to Gen and what had happened in her past to have her disappear in the present.

I’m knocking the novel off a few stars because of the ending. I was highly disappointed. I was hoping for a great ending, but it just left me confused. I didn’t understand the motives of what some of the characters did. 

3 calculators out of a potential 5. Was hoping for a better ending after a great page turner!

Thank you to Netgallery and HARLEQUIN – Trade Publishing (U.S. & Canada) for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.


Let’s be friends! Goodreads & Instagram

Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger

Be careful to whom you tell your darkest secrets…

Selena Murphy is commuting home from her job in the city when the train stalls out on the tracks. She strikes up a conversation with a beautiful stranger in the next seat, and their connection is fast and easy. The woman introduces herself as Martha and confesses that she’s been stuck in an affair with her boss. Selena, in turn, confesses that she suspects her husband is sleeping with the nanny. When the train arrives at Selena’s station, the two women part ways, presumably never to meet again.

But days later, Selena’s nanny disappears.

Soon Selena finds her once-perfect life upended. As she is pulled into the mystery of the missing nanny, and as the fractures in her marriage grow deeper, Selena begins to wonder, who was Martha really? But she is hardly prepared for what she’ll discover.

π π π π

Available on October 6, 2020!

My early thoughts when reading Confessions on the 7:45 was wow there are a lot of characters. Normally I’m not too bad when it comes to lots of characters, but for this novel I actually had to keep notes in my phone on how the characters were connected and who is who. 

That being said, I really enjoyed the beginning of the novel and I was curious to know how all of the women (Selena, Geneva and Anne) would be connected. Then the novel went on and I started to get bored. I found that some of the mystery was revealed too early (who Anne was) and at the end it just wrapped up way too nicely. I was hoping to get more of a shocker of an ending or more of a thriller. 

3 calculators out of a potential 5. Some parts I enjoyed and some I didn’t. I would recommend for those looking for a book with twists and multiple storylines/characters. 

Thank you to Netgallery and HARLEQUIN – Trade Publishing (U.S. & Canada) for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.


Let’s be friends! Goodreads & Instagram

Q&A with Lisa Unger

Q: Please give the elevator pitch for Confessions on the 7:45

A: Selena Murphy is a young mother who is having a terrible day. When she gets on her commuter train home, it stalls, dying on the tracks. The beautiful stranger sitting next to her strikes up a conversation with a confession. Maybe it’s her awful day, or the drink she shouldn’t have had, or the dark of the train, but, whatever the reason, Selena shares a secret of her own. When the train comes back to life and Selena is finally headed home, she’s embarrassed. What would lead her to confess her darkest secret to a complete stranger? She hopes she’ll never see the mysterious woman from the train, ever again. But, of course, she will. 

Q: How do the ideas come to you for these bestsellers?

A: Every novel begins with a germ. A little zap of interest that starts me on an obsession for a particular topic. It could be a news story I read, or a sentence I hear or just an image that inspires me. One time it was even a piece of junk mail! Then, if that obsession connects to something larger that’s going on with me, I start to hear a voice or voices.I follow those voices, and they carry me through the narrative. 

Q: Can you explain the popularity of the psychological thriller genre?

A: People have a deep and abiding desire, a need even, to understand themselves and those around them. This includes having some insight into the darkest aspects of human nature. Crime fiction is the perfect place to explore some of the big questions people have about what makes people who they are. Also, in difficult times, crime fiction provides a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end where some type of justice is delivered. Not so with the real world. So I think there is some comfort to be found even in the darkest and most suspenseful novels.

Q: There are so many twists in the story.  Did you know the ending before you plotted all of the surprises?

A: When I sit down to write, I have no idea what’s going to happen, who’s going to show up or what they’re going to do day to day.  And I certainly have no idea how things will end.  It’s kind of a crazy way to write a book, but I’ve never done it any other way.  I write for the same reason that I read, because I want to know what’s going to happen.

Q:  What would you like to do if you were not an author?

A: I don’t know! I’ve never wanted to be anything other than an author. Psychology has always fascinated me, so maybe being a psychiatrist or counselor.

Q:  If Confessions on the 7:45 were made into a movie, which actors would you choose to play the lead roles?

A: I would cast Scarlett Johansson as Selena and Gal Gadot as Martha. The supporting cast would be important, too, and Anne Hathaway would be perfect as Geneva and I’d love to see Bradley Cooper as Graham.

Q:  Which of your books would you like to see televised or produced by Hollywood as a movie?

A: Any of them! Currently, THE RED HUNTER and UNDER MY SKIN are under options. So fingers crossed there! If I had to choose some others, I’d pick FRAGILE or INK AND BONE. I’d love to see my fictional town The Hollows come to life on the big or small screen.

Q: Which came first: the characters or the plot line? 

A: The characters, always. My stories always begin for me with a voice, someone with a story to tell.

Q: Why do you love Selena and why should readers root for her?

A: As most of my characters are, Selena is imperfect. The pressures she experiences from the world around her are matched by those she places on herself. She is struggling, but she also knows she has reserves of strength from which to draw to overcome the obstacles she faces, some of which are catastrophic. I think we’re all stronger and braver than we believe ourselves to be, so when we’re rooting for Selena, we’re really rooting for the warrior within us all.

Q: How do you come up with your stories? Is anything based on or influenced by real life? 

A: Everything in fiction is autobiographical — and nothing is! If we’re writing from a deep and authentic place, then all of our experiences, our observations, the people we meet, the situations we observe, the conversations we have and overhear, inform our fiction. Sometimes inspiration comes from the news, from travel, from questions I have about people and the world. My fiction is always influenced by my real life but in really layered and mysterious ways. 

Q: What was your last 5-star read? 

A: I’ve read so many fantastic books recently! GOOD GIRLS LIE by JT Ellison, IF IT BLEEDS by Stephen King, and LITTLE SECRETS by Jennifer Hillier are some of my favorite recent reads.

Q: What is one thing about publishing you wish someone would have told you?

A: I worked for a publisher before I became an author, so I was lucky to have a lot of insight into the business of publishing. So I suppose I’d like to share what I knew going in that a lot of writers don’t.  I knew that the book contract was not the end of the journey, but the beginning of the writing life. And that no matter where you are in your career — an aspiring writer, or a published writer just starting out, or a mega bestseller, it never stops being about the writing. What you do on the page is always the most important element of your career, so never stop trying to get better.

The Last Wife by Karen Hamilton



Marie Langham is devastated when her childhood friend, Nina, is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Before Nina passes away, she asks Marie to look out for her family–her son, daughter, and husband, Stuart. Marie would do anything for Nina, so of course she agrees.

Following Nina’s death, Marie gradually finds herself drawn into her friend’s life–her family, her large house in the countryside. But when Camilla, a mutual friend from their old art-college days, suddenly reappears, Marie begins to suspect that she has a hidden agenda. And this hunch proves correct when Marie discovers that Nina had long-buried secrets–secrets about a holiday in Ibiza the women took ten years previously, when Marie’s then-boyfriend went missing after a tragic accident and was later found dead.

Marie used to envy Nina’s beautiful life, but now she feels increasingly trapped in its ever-shrinking world. As she becomes more and more isolated, Marie must uncover what is true, what isn’t, and who she can trust–before the consequences of Nina’s secrets destroy her.

π π π π

Available on July 7, 2020!

I really enjoyed The Perfect Girlfriend by Hamilton, so I was thrilled to sign up for her newest novel, The Last Wife. Both books were similar – they had unreliable, unlikable narrators – but I just couldn’t connect with our main character. Marie was just too much for me. She was creepy and I hated the first part of the novel when she jumped right into her dead friend’s life.

Once Camilla (old friend) comes into the picture, the novel does pick up and I was curious on what really happened on a trip 10 years earlier. I did feel that the novel was a bit too long and some pages could of been cut.

3 calculators out of a potential 5. Definitely check this novel out if you are a fan of unlikable/unreliable characters!

Thank you to Netgallery and HARLEQUIN – Trade Publishing (U.S. & Canada) for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.


Let’s be friends! Goodreads & Instagram

Stranger in the Lake by Kimberly Belle



When Charlotte married the very wealthy and slightly older Paul, it caused a ripple of gossip in their small lakeside town. But her secure, charmed married life starts to unravel when a woman’s body is discovered floating in Lake Crosby, right outside their home. Immediately Charlotte remembers waking up to an empty bed, Paul later saying he went out for an early run. However, when the police begin their questioning, Paul lies and says he was home all morning with Charlotte, pressuring her to confirm his story.

What seemed like a small lie chafes at Charlotte, all the more when she realizes she saw Paul speaking to the murdered woman days before in town, though Paul claims he’s never met her. But surely there’s an innocent reason behind his lies. The victim, Sienna, was a true crime reporter, investigating an unsolved missing persons case that happened decades before and turned into a local urban legend. She was reporting her discoveries by podcast in real time.

As secrets, and people, from Paul’s past begin to surface, and his connection to the unsolved case becomes more direct, Charlotte doesn’t know who to trust – her heart who knows Paul to be a good man or her growing suspicion? Did she marry a killer? Or is someone else watching their every move?

π π π π

Available on June 9, 2020!

What I enjoyed most about Stranger in the Lake was the creepy atmosphere. Maybe it’s because I just finished the TV series Ozark (highly recommend if you haven’t watched it yet), but I found myself picturing an Ozark like community when reading and it just put me in the right mood for a mystery.  Side note: was a bit disappointed that there was no shady business deals.

I was entertained by the mystery (2 women are found dead under a dock), but found that the characters were lacking. The story is told through Charlotte (or Charlie) and I just couldn’t connect with her. She is dealing with the pressures of being a new wife to a rich man and now with a husband who may be guilty of killing women. I wish we got to know her a bit more, especially prior to her relationship with her husband (ie. before she was wealthy).

3 calculators out of a potential 5. Just an average read for me, but still enjoyable. Would recommend if the blurb sounds interesting to you!

Thank you to Netgallery and HARLEQUIN – Trade Publishing (U.S. & Canada) for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.


Let’s be friends! Goodreads & Instagram

Kimberly Belle photo credit Brandon Wattson

Q&A with Kimberly Belle

Q: Please give your elevator pitch for Stranger in the Lake.

A: Stranger in the Lake is a story about Charlotte, a rags-to-riches newlywed whose shiny new life takes a disastrous turn when a stranger’s body washes up under the dock of her Appalachian lake home—in the exact same spot where her husband’s first wife drowned.

Q: Which came first: the characters or plot line?

A: Plot, always. My stores are very plot driven, and they always begin in my head with a what-if scenario. What if a woman marries way, way up and then her brand new husband is accused of murder? What if it looks like he’s guilty? How much of a role would her newfound wealth—and her fear of losing it—play in her decision to stick by him? That was basically where I began building the plot for Stranger in the Lake. Character came much later, after I’d thought through all the plot points and had them mapped out into an outline. Only at that point in the process do I really start thinking about what kind of person is best dropped into that situation, someone with plenty of blind spots and issues to work through, problems the plot will really shine a spotlight on. For Charlotte, it’s money and everything that comes along with it—security, status in the community, respect. She will have to untangle all these internal issues before her story can be resolved.

 Q: Why do you love Charlotte and why should readers root for her?

A: I love Charlotte because she is a survivor. She was born into the worst possible family, an absent father and an emotionally abusive mother who left her home with a baby for long periods of time, but instead of turning bitter or following in their footsteps, she emerged stronger. She figured out a way to grow into a smart and kind and loving and trusting—maybe too trusting–person. She wants so much more out of life than what her parents offered, and she’s not afraid to work for it.

 Q: What’s the “story behind the story” for Stranger in the Lake?

A: I’ve wanted to write a lake story for a while now. There’s just something about a big body of water–the dark swirling currents, the beautiful but remote setting… It’s the perfect place to set a suspenseful story because you just know something bad is going to happen there.

At the same time, I spend a good deal of family time in the Highlands/Cashiers area of North Carolina. It’s a place of stunning beauty, but where there’s a huge gulf between rich and poor. Wealthy outsiders have come in and completely transformed the area, carving out golf courses and building shops and restaurants and million dollar homes on the lake…and then you have the people who have lived there for generations—the ones flipping the burgers and scrubbing the toilets. This polarity makes for some very interesting dynamics, because when there’s money involved, when people have too much or their basic needs aren’t being met, morals can become questionable. This is something I really dug into for this story.

Q: Last summer when I interviewed you for Dear Wife, you mentioned a project you were working on, and I believe it was Stranger in the Lake:

” I’m currently finishing up a story about a newlywed woman who discovers a woman’s body under their lakeside home dock. The police show up, and in the stress of the moment, she follows her husband’s lead and lies about ever having met the woman. It’s not a big lie, and she doesn’t really think much of it at the time, but soon that one little lie turns into an avalanche. As the police close in on the woman’s killer, she uncovers dangerous truths about her husband and her marriage, as well as dark secrets that have been simmering below the lake’s currents for years. No title yet, but coming sometime in 2020.”

Thinking back to what you told me then, what was the book like then verse how it turned out? Anything that surprises you or that really changed or that stayed the same that you were sure would stay the same?

A: I don’t remember how far I was into writing the story when I answered that question, but it must have been far because that’s pretty much exactly what happens in this story…and exactly the core of the original premise for Stranger in the Lake. A wife who lies for her brand new husband in the heat of the moment, then has to figure out if she did it because she loves and trusts and believes in him, or if it’s maybe a little bit because she doesn’t want to let go of the shiny new life he’s given her. Money complicates things. It muddies emotions and blurs moral boundaries. This is the kernel of the idea that began Stranger in the Lake.

Q: The narration of Dear Wife was so unique, what can you say about the narration/structure of Stranger in the Lake that isn’t going to spoil anything?

A: Stranger in the Lake is told largely through Charlotte’s point of view, with occasional snippets of a story many years in the past. This makes the structure much more straightforward than Dear Wife, and when I began I thought it would be an easier story to tell. Fewer heads for me to crack open for the reader, fewer viewpoints for me to keep string together just so. But once I started writing, I discovered sticking to one point of view made telling the story more difficult. Everything every other character thinks has to be filtered through Charlotte, through her reactions and internalizations. For this and a bunch of other reasons, Stranger in the Lake took me longer to write than Dear Wife.

Q: Which character in the novel is most like you and why?

A: This is a tough one! I’d like to think I have Charlotte’s tough skin and that I share her sense of loyalty, but I’m not sure I could have survived everything she has. My research taught me that far more people follow in their parents’ tragic footsteps than break the cycle like Charlotte did, and I can’t say for certain which side of the equation I would have fallen on. I do also share Paul’s drive, his innate desire to create beautiful things, but I think (hope?) that’s where the similarities between us end. I guess that’s the answer here, that like most authors I put little pieces of myself into every character—the good, the bad, the ugly.  My characters are the best and the worst of me.

Q: How can everyone find you online during promotional rounds for Stranger in the Lake, since the traditional type of tours won’t be possible?

A: A little pandemic can’t keep this author down! I have lots of online events planned, chats with bloggers and fellow authors and bookstores I’d planned to visit before this thing hit, and lots more in the works. The most up-to-date list is at—and make sure to check back often. I am adding more every day.

Q: What was your last 5 star read?

A: I have a couple recent ones. I tore through the paperback of Heather Gudenkauf’s This Is How I Lied, and I just listened to Kimberly McCreight’s The Good Marriage. Both were absolutely fabulous! And Heather and I will be doing a joint virtual event on my release day, June 9th. Details are on the events page of my website.

Q: What is one thing about publishing you wish someone would have told you?

A: Just one? Hmm, I guess if I have to choose, it would be to trust the creative process. Every story is different, from the idea to the structure to the ease with which the words move from my head to my laptop to finished product. With every new story, I have an a-ha moment when I realize all the methodologies and processes I’ve used in the past won’t work with this one. I have to let all those “rules” go and let the story lead the way. Getting to The End is the hardest thing in the world, but also the most satisfying. There is no better feeling than to hold a finished copy of your book in your hand. It makes all those sleepless nights worth it.

Q: Do you have any specific writing rituals?

A: When I’m writing, I have a hard time sitting still—kind of strange for a job that requires many hours in a chair with a laptop. But it is a laptop so I move around a lot, floating around the house from my office to the kitchen to the living room to the outdoor patio. I change spots depending on my mood or the way the sun is shining through the window. Sometimes figuring out how to untangle a plot knot is as simple as a change of scenery.

Q: What can you tell us about your next project?

A: I am currently working on a story about a home invasion. It’s a premise that has always terrified me, and it hits awfully close to home as it happens a lot here in Atlanta. I even know a family that survived one. I’ve pulled in a few details of their experience for this story, then mixed in plenty more from my imagination. No title yet, but out sometime in 2021.

The Third to Die by Allison Brennan

551-05-Winter-Blog---Mystery-Thriller-2020-640x247 (1)

The Third to Die

Detective Kara Quinn, on leave from the LAPD, is on an early morning jog in her hometown of Liberty Lake when she comes upon the body of a young nurse. The manner of death shows a pattern of highly controlled rage. Meanwhile in DC, FBI special agent Mathias Costa is staffing his newly minted Mobile Response Team. Word reaches Matt that the Liberty Lake murder fits the profile of the compulsive Triple Killer. It will be the first case for the MRT. This time they have a chance to stop this zealous if elusive killer before he strikes again. But only if they can figure out who he is and where he is hiding before he disappears for another three years. The stakes are higher than ever before, because if they fail, one of their own will be next…

π π π π

Available Tomorrow – February 4, 2020!

The Third to Die is the first novel in a new series, which I am excited to read more! There was a lot of characters in this novel, but it mostly focused on Kara Quinn (undercover cop on “vacation”) and Mathias Costa who is leading the investigation. I liked both Kara and Costa, but wish that the novel focused solely on one main character. I didn’t know who the lead of the novel was.

I really enjoyed the mystery and the Triple Killer. This killer is different because he kills only on March 3rd, 6th and 9th. Clearly those days are significant, but the team has a hard time trying to figure out the significance as well as the link between the victims.

4 calculators out of a potential 5. Really enjoyed this novel and will be on the lookout for future novels in the series.

Thank you to Netgallery and HARLEQUIN – MIRA (U.S. and Canada) for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.


Let’s be friends! Goodreads & Instagram

Allison Brennan - photo credit Brittan Dodd

Q&A with Allison Brennan

Q: Tell us a little about your new release, The Third to Die. What character in the book really spoke to you?

A: THE THIRD TO DIE is the first book in a new series, which is always exciting. I think what I like the most about THE THIRD TO DIE — and the series concept of a mobile FBI task force tackling complex cases in rural and remote areas — is that I can explore some areas that aren’t often written about. With the vast numbers of crime fiction set in New York City, Los Angeles, and the like, I wanted to do something different. (This isn’t to say other authors haven’t — J.A. Jance has a small-town Arizona series and of course Craig Johnson’s Longmire series in Wyoming are two I enjoy.) I like moving the setting from book to book and keeping the core characters — it’s one reason I had Maxine Revere investigate cold cases in places other than where she lived. Because of the nature of the task force, they will be outsiders wherever they go, and need to learn to work together and trust each other. 

In THE THIRD TO DIE, a serial killer hits a small community outside Spokane, Washington. The Triple Killer surfaces on March 3rd to take three victims before he disappears for three years. But this time, the FBI is on the case early, and they have the best chance of finding him. If they don’t, a cop will end up dead. The best thing about this story is being able to create an ensemble cast of characters. I love shows like BONES and SVU where you have a lead character or two, but the writers spend a lot of time developing everyone else, so you feel like you’re part of a team. That’s what I’m trying to create with the MRT series.

Matt Costa heads the group, and what I love most about Matt is his ability to be a leader. He’s a workaholic, but he trusts his team to do their job. He’ll listen to everyone, but when he makes a decision he stands by it. Detective Kara Quinn thinks, “He’s an alpha male trying very hard, and failing, to be a beta.”

Dr. Catherine Jones surprised me. I pictured her (somewhat) as a female version of Will Graham from THE RED DRAGON (the book, not the movies!), torn apart by what she’s seen, but unable to leave the job behind even if it destroys her family. Knowing she’s a secondary character in this book, I was surprised that her few scenes had such an impact. 

But it was Detective Kara Quinn who really spoke to me. Kara was never supposed to practically take over the book. When I first conceived of the opening, where Kara finds the body, I thought Kara would simply be a witness and that she might investigate on her own and possible even end up a victim herself. But getting into her head, learning about her childhood, watching how she interacts with Matt as well as his team … she intrigued me so much that I hoped she survived (it was iffy there for awhile!) because I wanted to keep writing about her.

Q: You write about some interesting and complex characters in your books. From Investigative reporter Maxine Revere to the Rogan/Kincaid families. What is your favorite type of character to write about?

A: This is a hard question! I like exploring a wide variety of characters, both heroes and villains. I love complex and conflicted characters, like Detective Kara Quinn, who has many strengths and a few weaknesses. I love writing villains and trying to figure out why they do what they do. To me, every great hero has a fatal flaw and every evil villain has a redeeming quality. 

Q: How long did it take you to get your rough draft finished on your latest release?

 A: Generally, a rough draft — which is usually pretty clean because I edit as I go — takes me 10-12 weeks to write. Because I wrote THE THIRD TO DIE “on spec” — meaning, it wasn’t contracted by a publisher — I had to write between other projects that had deadlines. I wrote three complete books while also writing this book, so it took me a little over a year to finish the rough draft. But it wasn’t really “rough” — because I had to step away for weeks at a time, in order to get back into the story, I re-read and edited what I’d written, then wrote the next few chapters. 

Q: For readers who haven’t tried your books yet, how do you think your editor or loyal readers would describe your books?

A: My editor usually tells me that my characters are compelling and I know how to increase the tension through to the climax. My long-time readers usually tell me that they feel like they know my characters and that they can’t put the book down because they have to find out what happens. Most readers say my books are suspenseful. I also hear that my books are “intricately plotted” which makes me chuckle because I don’t plot.

 Q: When writing, how do you keep track of timelines, ideas, inspiration and such? By notes on the computer, a notebook perhaps?

A: I’ve tried every method of note-keeping, but little works for me. When I’m writing, I write notes directly into the manuscript either using the comment function or just typing in the text *** NOTE *** so I can easily search the asterisks. During revisions I have a notepad next to me with the key points my editor commented on, so I can keep those in mind while fixing problem scenes. For ideas I have a computer file called IDEAS (original, I know!) that I add to from time to time, but I rarely have used any of the thoughts I’ve jotted here.

Q: In The Third to Die, were there any characters that started off as supporting characters, but then developed into a more prominent character?

A: Detective Kara Quinn, who ended up being my favorite character once I was done writing, I’d intended to be a supporting character but as I got into her head, I liked her so much I kept wanting to go back to her. She became much more important to the story — and, ultimately, the series. Detective Andy Knolls, who was a strong supporting character throughout, was originally supposed to be a much more minor character — just the local cop my FBI agents could tap into for whatever they needed. But once he walked out of the autopsy because he thought he would puke, I realized he was a terrific character and I wanted to explore the character of a small-town cop facing a violent crime he was ill-prepared for.

 Q: What advantages or challenges does a writer in your genre face in today’s fiction market?

A: I think all writers, regardless of genre, face an overwhelming marketplace for stories. There are so many books being published today–both traditionally and independently–that standing out can be a challenge. But there are clear advantages to writing mysteries and thrillers — I’ve talked to several bookstore owners and they tell me the genre has been selling much better over the last couple of years. Recently, one bookseller told me, “We used to sell tons of romances. Now, everyone wants mysteries.” There is always a market for good stories well told, and genre fiction is always in demand.

 Q: The Third to Die is the first in a new series from you, called the Mobile Response Team. What made you decide to branch out into another series set in the world of the FBI?

A: I had this idea more than a decade ago. When I participated in the FBI Citizens Academy in 2008, I learned about the Evidence Response Team and how they work within the FBI — basically, they are agents from different squads in one jurisdiction who come together because they have specialized training in order to process and investigate specific types of crimes. One example locally was the Yosemite murders that terrified northern California in 1999, investigated by the Sacramento FBI with crime scenes investigated by the Sacramento ERT.  But ERT agents also have their own cases, they’re only pulled together in extraordinary circumstances. So I mentioned an idea to the public information officer about having an ERT unit that worked around the country (rather than in one limited jurisdiction) and he said he didn’t see how it would practically work. I shelved it, but it nagged at me from time to time. Fast forward ten years and the PIO had since retired. He and I were chatting about another book of mine (I call him regularly for research!) and I talked to him again about my idea, but I had tweaked it. I had the concept of a Mobile Response Team to focus on rural and underserved communities, based on reading about some FBI offices that had huge territories and more limited resources (because of size, location, etc.) He thought about it, and said, yeah, he could buy into it, especially since the FBI is working hard on improving its image. So while it’s not an actual FBI task force, it was plausible. So I ran with it.

I love writing crime thrillers. I’m very comfortable writing in the FBI world, maybe because of all the research I’ve done and maybe because I’m interested in the cases they investigate. Because the MRT team moves around, I can explore a multitude of crimes that interest me. With an ensemble cast of characters, I can focus on different characters in each book, hopefully to make them more real to my readers. Matt and Kara will likely lead each book, but like Catherine was a pivotal character in this book, and Michael Harris will be a pivotal character in the second book, I hope to also go deeper into Ryder, Jim, and the rest of the team.

 Q: I really enjoy the complex story lines and cases you have in your Lucy Kincaid and Max Revere Books. How much research goes into your stories and is there a particular ‘right from the news headlines’ that catches your interest for a possible storyline?

A: I love research! I read widely and have more than 50 research books on my shelf — forensics, true crime, military, criminal profiling, psychology, police procedures, and more. I have contacts in many professions who I can ask questions. Before I start writing, I have to make sure the set-up works. After that, I research as I write. I participate in “generic” research whenever I have the opportunity–talking to people in interesting professions or going on “field trips” (such as to the morgue to view an autopsy or a ride along with the sheriff’s department)–just to keep my general knowledge about law enforcement up-to-date. 

Because I read widely, and keep up-to-date on crime related news, many ‘right from the headlines’ stories catch my eye, but I rarely write about them. It’s usually a couple stories that I see together that give me an idea. Such as reading about a storm that unearths bones might interest me, but then I’ll read an article about a missing person or a mortgage fraud scheme and twist all the articles into one idea that’s completely different from the original stories. I’ve read a lot about human trafficking, and my second MRT book touches on that based very loosely on an article I read about how coyotes go back and forth across the border and the cost to their victims (financial, emotional, physical) coupled with another article I read about an abandoned camp that may or may not have been used for criminal activity, on top of a conversation I had with my brother-in-law, a wildlife biologist, about birds.

Q: What do readers have to look forward to in the future from you?

A: After THE THIRD TO DIE, the next Lucy Kincaid book will be out on March 31, where Maxine Revere gets to join Lucy in San Antonio — but with a twist. In CUT AND RUN, Lucy is investigating the cold case and Max is investigating the recent murder. I’m almost done writing the Lucy book that follows — COLD AS ICE (10.27.20) as well as finishing the revisions of the second MRT book (currently untitled) coming out in the spring of 2021. I also have an idea for a trilogy about a female private investigator that I’m super excited about, and I’ll be starting the first draft of the third MRT book this spring. Oh — and there will be two Lucy Kincaid novellas coming this summer!

Q: What advice do you have for someone working on their first book?

A: Create good habits. Write regularly–create a schedule that fits into your life and stick to it, whether it’s an hour every morning before the kids get up, two hours at night when you used to watch television, or every Sunday afternoon. You need to make sacrifices to find the time to write, but if it’s important, you’ll do it. (For example, when I was working full-time out of the house AND had three young kids, I gave up television for three years and wrote every night from 9 to midnight.) Also, learn how to discern constructive criticism–some advice is good, some isn’t. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to take and what to leave, but it’s important. Generally, advice that is constructive will help you see your flaws while also motivating you to keep writing; advice that is destructive will make you feel like a failure. Don’t listen to the destructive advice.

Q: What is the hardest part about writing for you?

A: Procrastinating. I get easily distracted, especially when I’m just starting a book. So I guess that means the beginning is hard, hahaha. Once I am deep into the story — somewhere between 100-150 pages — something clicks and then I can’t write fast enough. In fact, I’ve often said that it takes me twice as long to write the first 100 pages than it does to write the last 300 pages!

Q: Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you work writing into your existing schedule?

A: Before my first book came out in 2006, I worked full-time and I only had nights to write. I wrote every night when the kids went to bed, from 9 to midnight. Now I write full time, and I treat it as a full-time job — I start after the kids go to school (about 8 am) and generally wrap up before dinner (about 6 pm). Not all those hours are spent writing — I’ll research, read, spend time on social media — and sometimes I’ll write at night, especially if I have to take a day off for errands or I have an imminent deadline or if I’m super excited about the scene I’m writing. Because my time is flexible, I can go watch my daughter’s softball games or take a day to research on-site (like a ride-along.) I also write on the weekends, but only if we don’t have family things planned (or a softball tournament!)

Q: What is your favorite line from your book?

A: I don’t have a favorite line, per se. I have a couple favorite scenes. When Matt first comes to town and he and Kara walk through the crime scene. Matt’s conversations with Ryder Kim, his jack-of-all-trades analyst. Kara’s scenes with her grandmother. The climax was hugely fun to write, and needed a lot of choreographing on my part to make sure it made sense! There’s a scene from a child’s POV that was very emotional to write and stuck with me for a long time. I think Kara has most of the best lines, to be honest, and one of the best exchanges between her and Matt was after a press conference Matt gave with the Spokane PD, when Kara was in the audience trying to figure out if the killer was watching the speech. Matt was irritated because he hadn’t seen her, and Kara decided to have fun with him. At the end, as she’s about to leave the room:

Kara smiled and handed Matt his wallet. “You were too easy.”

Matt took his wallet, looking both surprised and angry, but also impressed. “You stole my wallet?”

“You gave me shit because you thought I’d bailed on you–I was just having fun. Don’t take it personally. I’ve been picking pockets since I was a little kid.”