Stolen Lives follows a team of FBI agents on a kidnapping case that has been hard to crack, and Kelliher realizes that someone on his team may be in on it. What were some sources that informed this novel’s development?
I spent a great deal of time on research, including the FBI website, the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and various law enforcement sites. I interviewed several individuals who were critical to this novel’s success: Police Chief Jamie Graff (one of my characters in my book, though in my books he is a detective), and James Dahlke, a Forensic Scientist. I interviewed and received help from Jay Cooke and Dave Mirra, who are (Dave has since retired) working in IT and Technology.
Mostly, this book is based upon my work as an adjunct educator with the Wetterling Foundation, who works with missing and exploited families, and educates the public on keeping children safe. I also based it upon my work as a counselor, and though this book is fiction, it is heavily based upon fact: stories I heard from kids and parents in my counseling office and the work with the families of missing children. Heartbreaking and tragic. Still angers and saddens me.
Did you plan the mystery at the heart of this story, or did it develop organically while writing?
I am a “pantser.” I don’t plan ahead. I knew the story I wanted to tell, but I let it unfold in its own way. Typically, it isn’t until I am nearing the end of any book when the actual ending “comes” to me.
What scene in the book did you have the most fun writing?
This is a dark book, but I enjoyed the kids’ interaction with each other. I enjoyed the kids standing up to the adults and their willingness to speak their mind to them. Specifically, I enjoyed it when the ones needing to be held accountable were held accountable. I believe in justice, even if life doesn’t always have a Disney ending.
This is book one in your Lives Trilogy. What can readers expect in book two?
There were several loose ends in Stolen Lives. Several of the “bad guys” got away. But a sizeable portion of the next two books, besides catching the “bad guys” is how these missing kids, some of whom were missing and abused for more than a year, reintegrate back into their families. How do they get along without their informal “kid” network? What happens within the family? I answer those questions.
Lastly, George, Brett, Tim, and the Twins (Randy and Billy) play huge roles in Stolen. So, what happens to them? What are their lives like now?
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Stolen Lives, by Joseph Lewis is a fast paced crime novel in the how-catch-‘em mystery genre. It’s the story of Officers Pete Kelliher and Summer Storm who have been trying to track down a group of pedophiles. Finally, a break comes when Native American teenager George Tokay witnesses the murder of a teenage boy in the desert, and reports it to the authorities. For years, Kelliher and Storm have unsuccessfully hunted the pedophiles who kidnapped, raped, tortured and killed young boys. Through years of stumbling blocks and dead ends, the officers now have a solid lead to pursue. With the knowledge Tokay shared, Kelliher and Storm must act aggressively to capture the perpetrators.
Author Joseph Lewis clear writing keeps the focus on the story among a highly detailed world and riveting mystery. His descriptions are sharp and focused, and he creates authentic heart-tugging sympathy for the victims. We get to know the offenders, but Lewis doesn’t focus his writing on the “bad guys.” Instead, he pulls the reader into the lives of the frightened teen-age boys, and what they must endure to survive. Lewis also creates a strong bond among the boys, with Brett being somewhat of a protector of them.
This story reminds me of the popular and much-loved author, Tony Hillerman. Set in the desert of Albuquerque, New Mexico, like Hillerman, the Native American aspect, and imagery, is significant throughout the novel. However, Lewis thrives as an author by not only dealing with the emotions of these surviving boys, but also dealing with the flood of questions and emotions of the parents of the surviving boys.
Stolen Lives is a riveting murder mystery that slowly unravels a puzzling crime that will have readers furiously flipping pages. With realistic characters a reader can relate to and sympathize with, and a fast-paced and action filled plot, Lewis has created an engaging story that is a fantastic start to his Lives Trilogy.
Pages: 259 | ASIN: B094RJ49XD
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Three fourteen-year-old boys are inextricably linked by abduction and murder.
Two of them were just abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they’ll end up like all the others… dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. And the possibility exists that one of his team members might be involved. A fourth boy, George Tokay, a Navajo, holds a key piece to this puzzle and doesn’t realize it.
Kelliher and his team have been on this case for two years. There isn’t much to go on, and each time he gets a break, potential witnesses are found dead. The stories of these boys are like loose threads on a sweater: pull the wrong one and it unravels completely. Slowly, Kelliher realizes that there may be one or more members of his team behind it all.
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Betrayed follows a group of adopted brothers that get sucked into a dangerous mystery with criminal elements. What was the inspiration for the setup to this exciting story?
The characters are the same from my previous books. They are a mismatched, patch worked group of adopted brothers, each carrying baggage from their previous lives. George, who is full-blooded Navajo, receives a call from one of his closest, oldest friends. It is typical for him to want to help. His two brothers, both avid hunters, see this as an opportunity to hunt elk, something neither have done before. Their parents let them go, but only because of George’s ties to his native land, and with the company of his two brothers and two officers who are both friends of the boys and friends of the parents.
It was a way for me to include much of George’s history, yet update it to present time and the present day impact on the culture and climate of the Navajo people. I wanted to further tell the story of the boys, but surround it with a mystery.
Your characters are intriguing and well developed. What were some driving ideals behind their character development?
I believe plot is character driven. If a book or story does not have well-developed characters, there is no story. Think of Friday the 13th. Other than Jason, can you picture any character from that movie? I believe the reader wants to “know” the characters. As much as possible, I believe the reader wants to picture them, hear them talk, see them in action. My writing will always have solid characters defined by their situation and circumstance, and my writing will always have at its core, a thriller/mystery aspect to it.
What were some themes you wanted to focus on in this book?
I wanted to have the characters explore who they are. I wanted the characters to struggle, both from their heart and soul, and from external forces. I wanted “pressure” placed on them in order for them to develop, to grow, and to explore their feelings. You find in Betrayed a struggle with Brian, that in many respects, his two adopted brothers don’t have. George, for the most part, has dealt with the disconnect from his Navajo upbringing and the new life among white culture. George has yet to justify killing, because the Navajo respect life, and killing runs against that grain. There has been so much that has happened to Brett (previous books), that he still struggles with who he is. His trust level will always be rather shallow because of those experiences.
Given this, I wanted these three boys to be thrown into a completely foreign situation, not only in terms of setting and culture, but in terms of having someone after them for no reason they can understand. For Brian and Brett, they traveled to Arizona to hunt and camp. George traveled to Arizona to help find his friend. None of them, nor did their parents, know what they were about to face.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am two-thirds through Blaze In, Blaze Out. It takes place in Northern Wisconsin during bow and arrow deer hunting season. Brian and Brett, and the two cops from Betrayed, are their to fish. Both activities they’ve done before, multiple times without incident. However, a case O’Connor had been working on catches up with him, and before anyone realizes it, all in that party are involved. Again, it is a thriller/mystery. I hope to have it completed yet this winter, and off to an agent or publisher in the spring.
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Betrayed by Joseph Lewis is a contemporary psychological thriller and the third installment in a series revolving around a family of adopted brothers, some of which have had traumatic experiences in the past. George Tokay receives a panicked phone call from his childhood friend, whose brother has mysteriously gone missing. George and his adoptive brothers Brian Evans and Brett McGovern take a trip to Red Rock, Arizona, to aid the law in finding their missing friend. Little do they know, they’re playing with fire in an adventure that will suck them into a world of greed, intimidation and murder. As they focus on solving the mystery a dangerous group on men seem intent on killing them.
The novel is mainly narrated through the point of view of the principal protagonist Brian. An introspective boy, who throughout his journey questions his sexuality and contemplates his place in the world and within his adoptive family; all while keeping a promise even if it could mean his own death. This makes for a believable and relatable character. I found it easy who to understand and connect with him. The story takes place in Red Rock, a small Native-American town located at the top of the Navajo Nation Reservation in Arizona. Lewis does an excellent job of alluding to the readers senses and creating realistic scenes, which make you feel like you are in the story. While the storyline is riveting, with action-packed chapters that make the book hard to put down, an element that was too hard to believe was the fact that the FBI not only recruited three teenage boys to aid them in an incredibly dangerous mission, but also provided them with driving permits, vehicles, and firearms. It is explained that the boys were owed a favor from law enforcement, and its understandable that it was a necessary development story-wise. All things taken into account, the setting and character descriptions were extremely detailed, the story is well paced, the tone is fun and easy to follow.
Betrayed by Joseph Lewis is an enthralling crime thriller that is persistently entertaining. I look forward to reading more books in the series to follow the characters I’ve come to love.
Pages: 339 | ASIN: B08GCTV2XH
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Integrity is protecting someone who betrayed you. Courage is keeping a promise even though it might mean death.
A late-night phone call turns what was to be a fun hunting trip into a deadly showdown. Fifteen-year-old brothers George Tokay, Brian Evans and Brett McGovern face death on top of a mesa on the Navajo Nation Reservation in Arizona. They have no idea why men are intent on killing them.
Betrayed is a contemporary psychological thriller and an exploration of the heart and of a blended family of adopted kids, their relationships to each other and their parents woven into a tight mystery-thriller.
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He blends in. He is successful, intelligent and methodical. There are no clues. There are no leads. The only thing the FBI and local police have to go on is the method of death: two bullets to the face- gruesome and meant to send a message. But it’s difficult to understand any message coming from a dark and damaged mind. Two adopted boys, struggling in their own world, have no idea they are the next targets. Neither does their family. And neither does local law enforcement.
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The bodies of high school and middle school kids are found dead from an overdose of heroin and fentanyl. The drug trade along the I-94 and I-43 corridors and the Milwaukee Metro area is controlled by MS-13, a violent gang originating from El Salvador. Ricardo Fuentes is sent from Chicago to Waukesha to find out who is cutting in on their business, shut it down and teach them a lesson. But he has an ulterior motive: find and kill a fifteen-year-old boy, George Tokay, who had killed his cousin the previous summer.
Detectives Jamie Graff, Pat O’Connor and Paul Eiselmann race to find the source of the drugs, shut down the ring, and find Fuentes before he kills anyone else, especially George or members of his family. The three detectives discover the ring has its roots in a high school among the students and staff.
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