Writing an Authentic Thriller: Carin Michaels

Carin Michaels

The writer of this article, Carin Michaels, is a former federal investigator working on her first thriller.  She is also a freelance journalist who has written for Gannett Newspapers, MLive Media Group, Third Street Publications and Crazy Wisdom Journal.  She is also a playwright and has had productions in New York, Chicago and L.A.  She reached out to me and I was intrigued because of her experience, and I think you will be as well, whether you are writing your own thriller or not.

This article was inspired after reading a bad crime thriller. As someone who was a federal investigator, I became incensed when I found the author’s story unbelievable. I have been writing for over 30 years, even though I’m just now working on my first crime thriller. I’ve earned paychecks, been reviewed and have developed a craft. Stephen King wrote in his book, On Writing, that “Every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to teach than the good ones.” Given my unique experiences, I would like to discuss some minimum standards this bad book missed. This critique is an attempt to hone our skills as writers and readers. When creating intriguing crime stories, the basics for a good story are research, character, plot points and passion. read more

Kylie Logan: The Scent of Murder

Kylie Logan, author of numerous cozies in paperback original form, has hit the big time via a Minotaur hardcover with her latest book, The Scent of Murder.  Jazz is a school administrator who also works with cadaver dogs.  As the book opens, she’s taking her dog through his paces in an abandoned building, hoping he’ll find the tooth she hid on another floor.

As she steps back to let the dog work, the dog alerts in the “wrong” place – or is it?  When Jazz investigates, she find, so her horror, the body of a young woman, and worse, she’s a former student at the high school where Jazz works.  While Jazz had known her as a studious and creative young woman, the corpse is full goth – white makeup, black eyeshadow, black clothes, tats, piercings.  She’s puzzled about how this has happened in the few short years since the girl graduated from high school. read more

Reader’s Favorites

In the face of yet another list naming many male, noir writers as “the best”, I asked readers for their favorite books.  You all answered with passion!  As Julia Keller pointed out, “Lists are really just conversation starters.”  You all started the conversation! You all really really love Dorothy L. Sayers and Louise Penny, but the answers ranged from Cornell Woolrich to Donald Westlake to Dorothy Gilman to two titles from the great Canadian suspense writer Chevy Stevens.  I listed the respondents alphabetically, and if you didn’t include a specific title, you’re not here.  But read on!  You may find some food for thought and new books to love. read more

Clara McKenna: Murder at Morrington Hall

This book will be available May 28, 2019.

The first book in the Stella and Lyndy series, Murder at Morrington Hall, is not your typical rich-American-heiress-marries-broke-English-aristocrat story. Kentuckian Stella Kendrick loves horses more than anything in the world. It’s 1905, and she’s excited to journey with her father to deliver thoroughbreds to an English Earl. Upon arrival at Morrington Hall, the Earl and his Countess are appalled at Stella’s straightforward America manners and her lack of understanding of their aristocratic titles and way of life. Their son, Viscount “Lyndy” Lundhurst is utterly charmed. read more

Cozy Queens: Denise Swanson & Heather Blake

The second in a new series from the talented Denise Swanson, and a wrap up to a favorite series by Heather Blake, by our reviewer Cathy Akers-Jordan.

Leave no Scone Unturned, Denise Swanson.

Former corporate executive Danielle (Dani) Sloan helps solves murders, when she’s not busy running her catering business, that is. Set in the college town of Normalton, IL, Dani is busy selling lunches to students and catering private dinners as a personal chef. She can’t help it that she keeps getting involved in murder cases or the fact the she’s attracted to the campus head of security, Spencer Drake. read more

Terry Shames: A Risky Undertaking for Loretta Singletary

Terry Shames A Risky Undertaking for Loretta Singletary is our book club selection for May.  We’ll meet Thursday, May 30, 6 p.m. at the Classic Cup Cafe.

This book is the eighth in a series featuring small town police chief Samuel Craddock, where he follows up on the case of an online dating meet up gone very wrong.   All are welcome to join the discussion!  This book can be purchased at a discount on our online store page.

Christine Trent: A Murderous Malady

The second book in Christine Trent’s Florence Nightingale series is even more gripping than the first. The story opens with a friend of Florence’s innocently heading to the British Museum with her father and on the way, their carriage is attacked and their driver is killed. Because Florence’s friend is married to the secretary of war, the family wants discretion, and they ask Florence to investigate rather than the police.

Of course Florence is no lady of leisure – she’s running a hospital (the center of the action in the first novel) and in this novel, she’s asked to consult when cholera breaks out in the Soho section of London, a notoriously poor and miserable part of the city. She does agree to take on the investigation though. When another of her friend’s servants turns up at her hospital suffering with cholera, she’s on a tear. read more

Elly Griffiths: The Stone Circle

As Elly Griffiths pens her eleventh Ruth Galloway novel, she comes – appropriately, given the title – almost full circle, back to her first novel.  Cast your mind back to Ruth’s teacher Eric and the henge discovered on the saltmarsh and move forward ten years, and Ruth is now dealing with Eric’s son, Leif, who is in town to look at a newly discovered henge.  Just like 10 years ago, two bodies are discovered on the site, one ancient, and one not so ancient.

Somehow Griffiths’ storytelling style is not only plot oriented, it’s character oriented, so she’s taking into account the many happenings in her character’s lives over the past 10 years.  Ruth is the mother of a 10 year old, thanks to a one night stand with the father, Detective Nelson.  Nelson’s wife is expecting a late in life baby at any moment, which may or may not be Nelson’s – she’d been having an affair.  Their older daughters are unaware that Kate, Ruth and Nelson’s daughter, is their sister. read more

Sujata Massey: The Satapur Moonstone

When you’re young and discover you love reading, nothing is better than finding the kind of book that takes you away and absorbs you for hours.  As a child, I felt this way when I discovered books like The Secret Garden, Charlotte’s Web and the entire Narnia Chronicles. Transported.

It’s not so common to find this kind of immersive reading experience when you’re an older reader, so discovering one of these reads is a treasure to be cherished.  That’s a long way of saying that Sujata Massey’s Perveen Mistry series are just such immersive, absorbing and captivating reads. read more

Susanna Calkins: Murder Knocks Twice

Susanna Calkins had a wonderful series set in 17th century England, featuring maid turned bookseller Lucy Campion.  Those were slightly more serious in tone than this delightful new series launch from this talented writer.  Murder Knocks Twice is set in prohibition era Chicago, with all the attendant issues of the mob, the past war, and the depression coming into play.  Series heroine Gina Ricci is out of work and finds a job at a speakeasy through a friend.

She’s a little unsure about working there – she’s worried about what her father will think, for one thing – and for another, she’s replacing a girl who was killed and that makes her slightly wary. Calkins has a brisk story telling style, and she quickly establishes her setting and a wide array of characters.  She’s very good at delineating characters and making them memorable; I was never unsure or trying to remember who she was talking about, and to me, that’s the mark of a very good writer. read more