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Getting My Characters Into A Tight Spot

Emily Donoho Author Interview

Overturned follows a NY City detective through his two-decade-long career and the questionable decisions he had to make resulting in an investigation of police misconduct. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

I wanted to write about miscarriages of justice. Back in 2016, the New York Times and Village Voice published a story about a Brooklyn homicide detective, now retired, who had done a bunch of dodgy, unconstitutional things to secure murder convictions back in the 1990s. Five or six of these people had been exonerated by DNA evidence after serving long sentences. The detective bribed witnesses into saying they saw something when they didn’t; he coerced confessions, manipulated line-ups. Basically the stuff Vito does in Overturned. However, in real life, nothing happened to this guy beyond some accusatory newspaper articles. But for the sake of storytelling, I needed the stakes to be higher for my cop characters. A few articles in the Times isn’t really an existential threat to their lives or livelihoods. It took me a little while to work out what that could be, and I felt that a wrongfully convicted defendant coming back for revenge was a tired trope and not very realistic. Then I was rewatching The West Wing, and it got to that arc where Toby is investigated by a federal grand jury for sharing classified information. Aha! I thought; a federal grand jury was the perfect vehicle for getting my characters into a tight spot.

Boswell starts off believing he is doing the right thing in life, that the police are always right, he slowly learns that is not always the case but is too deep into everything. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

Alex first came to life in my first novel, In the Canyons of Shadows and Light. Although he has his issues, he’s a mensch. A genuinely nice guy and a cop who cares about the people he is policing. There are a lot of people in police departments like this — despite the systemic racism and all the issues with police departments. It’s an exploration of how Good People Do Bad Things.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Institutional complacency and corruption. The psychological effects of dealing with brutality and inhumanity every day. The toxic masculinity embedded in certain subcultures. But also the life and vibrancy of New York City and resiliency.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I am changing focus completely and working on a novel about wild horses in Scotland, and it will be available sometime next year.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook

Alex Boswell, a young New York City detective, joins an elite Manhattan homicide squad in the late-1980s, the dawn of the crack cocaine epidemic that would see the tragedy of addiction and violence touching every corner of the city, destroying thousands of lives. As a young detective facing entrenched power structures and a grinding treadmill of violence and death, Alex finds himself driven into making unconscionable choices that will haunt him forever.

Two decades later, Alex must face his past when courts overturn the wrongful convictions of people he’d arrested, and a federal grand jury opens an investigation into police misconduct and abuses of power.

A soaring epic of life and death, power, injustice, and at its heart, humanity, unfolding on the New York City streets.


Overturned by Emily Donoho is a gritty crime thriller that follows detective Alex Boswell. After joining an elite homicide squad in New York City, Boswell is forced to decisions that will forever haunt him. Decades later the courts begin to overturn wrongful convictions due to police misconduct, Alex must face his demons in court.

Author Emily Donoho has written a powerful story of crime, drugs, deceit, and injustice. I was instantly immersed in this world of crime and police unfairness. Donoho’s vivid descriptions set the standard high and you feel as though you are watching a movie.

I enjoyed the sequence of time as each chapter follows a different year in Boswell’s life and career. We get to see Boswell’s character develop and progress which added a different layer to his character and allowed us to see what shaped him into the person he is now. He starts off with the view that the police are always right and can do no wrong. As his career advances so does his moral campus, but by this point, he is in too deep with the police force status quo. He ends up making choices that haunt him and that he must answer for when an investigation is opened.

There is another aspect of the book that I really liked. This book is reminiscent of the tv show, The Wire, which was a pleasant surprise. The author uses police terminology which was hard to follow but the author includes a glossary for the reader to refer to for a better understanding which I found to be very helpful.

Overturned by Emily Donoho is a thrilling read that I recommend to those who enjoy a gritty plot, with real characters and a complex story. I wholeheartedly recommend this to all crime and drama enthusiasts.

Pages: 848 | ASIN : B09XPKGZB4

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