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Heartbreaking and Tragic

Joseph Lewis
Joseph Lewis Author Interview

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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“A harrowing and unforgettable FBI thriller.” –
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.

Tokyo Zangyo

Tokyo Zangyo (Detective Hiroshi Series Book 4) by [Michael Pronko]

Tokyo Zangyo, by Michael Pronko, is the engrossing story of Detective Hiroshi Shimizu, who is put in charge of solving the case of murder victim Shigeru Onizuka. Under the authority of Detective Sakaguchi, Hiroshi must delve into the unsavory practices of a large corporation located in Marunouchi, Japan’s business district, to uncover the truth. As Hiroshi sets out to investigate Onizuka’s death, purposely set up to look like suicide, he finds himself entangled with questionable people and suspecting some he trusts. While considering these revelations, Hiroshi finds himself plunged into a corrupt world of sexual exploitation, harassment, and cloak-and-dagger practices.

Author Michael Pronko writes this mystery convincingly. He has created realistic characters the reader will sympathize with, and some they will loathe. He puts the reader into each situation and transitions the scenes smoothly. Pronko also gradually reveals the true character of Onizuka, the victim. We, like Hiroshi, learn about Onizuka’s personality as each new aspect is discovered. Pronko’s dialogue is engaging and crisp. His characters’ words reveal what is necessary to develop the story, and keeps it moving along toward the inevitable climax. Like all great mysteries, Tokyo Zangyo has its twists and turns, as well as a few red herrings and surprising revelations. Pronko clearly and cleverly ties up all the loose ends in a way that feels satisfying and entertaining.

While the unique and exotic (at least to me) character names were interesting and gave the story an air of authenticity, I had difficultly pronouncing the character names in my mind, which pulled me from my suspension of disbelief. However, I was so captivated by the story I was able to fall back into the action, due to Pronko being a talented writer.

Tokyo Zangyo is yet another thrilling crime fiction story by prolific mystery writer Michael Pronko. With a believable cast of characters, an engrossing storyline, and superb writing, Pronko has delivered a hard-boiled whodunit any murder mystery fan will enjoy. Tokyo Zangyo is one of the best in the mystery genre.

Pages: 340 | ASIN: B0964KJH49

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A Spell of Rowans

A Spell of Rowans by [Byrd Nash]

A Spell of Rowans is an emotional thriller following three siblings dealing with the aftermath of their mothers death while also carrying the scars of abuse. Their mother harassed the townsfolk and became the ire of many. When Victoria’s mother dies and her assistant is murdered, Victoria sets out to uncover the truth and protect her family.

Victoria is a standout character in this riveting story. She is the middle-child and had to deal with trauma her entire life. She is easily one of the most compelling characters in the story, but author Byrd Nash’s writing elevates the intrigue of literally all other characters in the story.

Rachel Rowan’s family is a compelling cast to follow. Each character is given a unique twist to make them memorable and some character have surprising depth to them. This murder mystery is imbued with an intriguing sense of magic that permeates the entire story. I was taken in by the thick atmosphere created in this story and how well it captured the small town vibe. But besides the magical realism that is always entertaining, and the beguiling mystery driving this story, this is also a deep and impassioned exploration of family and childhood trauma that feels authentic.

I feel as if the author’s aim was to make readers feel every emotion the characters feel throughout this story because all the characters are emotive and those emotions are often explored in depth and with dramatic effect. These stirring emotional moments are balanced with a bit of magic that feels fun and always interesting.

A Spell of Rowans is an enchanting mystery thriller with a fantastic ending. This is a rousing fantasy novel that deals with some heavy topics but is never weighed down by them and never forgets to entertain the reader first and does a fantastic job of giving readers a good balance of action, intrigue, and drama.

Pages: 390 | ASIN: B0982C72QJ

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The Narcissism of Small Differences – Book Trailer

The Narcissism of Small Differences is a noir detective novel about the guiding influences of memory and the subconscious mind. It’s also a story about how insignificant the differences are between the defenders of law and order and those who live in the world outside of it. And, while it is also a fast-paced police procedural, in the end this is the story of Conor Delaney, a man who can see into the dark.

The story starts with a traumatized, ten-year-old Conor Delaney sitting at the kitchen table of Grandmother Raven, a powerful Ojibwe Midewikwe. Before he leaves her doublewide on the frozen shores of Lake Superior, she holds a ceremony for him, heals his trauma and dubs him Owl Eyes for his ability to see into the dark.

As an adult, he is the head of Delphi Investigations and Research. In this role he ferrets out corporate misdeeds like bank fraud, money laundering and market manipulation. He will ultimately find that these corporate crimes are at the heart of his first murder case; one that the perpetrator of three gruesome murders forces him into. The police team he joins is headed by his good friend, Mel Thorogood, Assistant Police Chief.

Another of his friends is Dr. Phil, a former Jesuit, psychologist and carney barker, who murdered six abusive priests. He is now a permanent resident at the State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Delaney thinks him to be among the most moral men he knows. Dr. Phil is still a formidable forensic psychologist and profiles the killer as a malignant narcissist who may be a woman. He also lays to rest the notion of a serial killer.

Mackey Stately is the City’s crime boss and a close friend of Delaney’s since childhood. He is pledged to help Delaney with this case. Other unconventional friends, including Henri Bouchard, his Ojibwe brother, help him bring this case to a conclusion. The journey to that goal is grounded in St. Paul, Minnesota, but also involves excursions through Belfast, Kansas City, Tulsa, St. Peter, Minnesota, and St Petersburg, Russia.

But it is the journey into Delaney’s subconscious mind and dreams that bring the investigation to its astonishing conclusion.

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Rogue Justice

Rogue Justice by [Ben Nicholls]

Ben Nicholls’ Rogue Justice is a thrilling crime fiction novel following two detectives that are hunting a serial killer through a small town who is carrying out his own brand of brutal justice. The town is on edge and detective Englund and Hicks are in a race against time to find the killer before the town implodes.

One of the greatest strength of this story is the masterful use of point of views. Whether they be the killer, the detectives on the case, the victims, or even innocent bystanders, the story gives us an extensive view of what is happening. Although the perspectives leave you wondering where it’s all going, the point of views are always coherent and cohesive, across multiple chapters and storylines. The action and intrigue are slowed down by the plethora of characters, or by the way some characters lose themselves in their memories. This provides great depth of character and is a sharp contrast to the fast-paced chapters.

The characters were all compelling, which helps to sustain the high level of intrigue throughout the book. Detective Englund, despite his drier moments, was riveting and I found myself following his story with close interest. Equally, the murderer was cold and calculating, which was a thrill to read. While they were not the most humane characters, they were definitely cunning and thoughtful, giving a real impression of the cat chasing the mouse.

The slow unraveling of the mystery at the heart of this story is interspersed with moments where characters wandered about their lives and the daily banality of it. This provides moments of respite before we are taken back to the action.

Rouge Justice is a captivating murder mystery with a good amount of thought for the phenomenal amount of planning the killer would have gone through. While the novel is lengthy I think crime fiction fans will find an enthralling mystery at the heart of this story.

Pages: 700 | ASIN: B0958M7KM1

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The Memory Bell

The Memory Bell by [Kat Flannery]

The Memory Bell follows a woman who is gifted an old family heirloom. But when a dead body is found outside of town and the heirloom is broken, things start going awry very quickly. In attempting to piece together the broken family heirloom Grace realizes that some pieces are missing. The hunt for those missing pieces will lead Grace down a dark road filled with shocking family secrets.

I was all set for a cozy mystery set in a small town. A simple mystery, a quirky character, a quick wrap up. But I was pleasantly surprised to find a deeply emotional and complex family drama at the heart of this crime fiction novel. This is a thrilling murder mystery that is effortlessly combined with a compelling family saga.

Author Kat Flannery provides readers with a fast paced story with a well defined mystery at the heart of the novel that slowly unravels as the story progresses, ensuring readers are constantly engaged with this spellbinding book. I’m from a big city, so the small town setting felt exotic to me (odd to say I know), but Author Kat Flannery is able to imbue the town with a mix of beauty and intrigue that serves as a fantastic backdrop to this intriguing whodunit story.

Grace and detective Bennet are well defined characters. Grace is a bit naïve at first, but this, to me, is what makes her character charming and what makes her easily endearing. This sets her up to be a character that is fun to follow because you always want to see how she’s going to react to the dramatic events and revelations.

The Memory Bell is a suspenseful murder mystery that will appeal to readers looking for a dramatic crime novel that plumbs the depths of a family with dark secrets.

Pages: 251 | ASIN: B094S7DJH3

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Unforgiven – Book Trailer

Once a victim, she’s now a vigilante. An addictive and suspenseful thriller for readers of Candice Fox and Sarah Bailey.

Lexi Winter is tough, street-smart and has stood on her own two feet since childhood, when she was a victim of notorious paedophile the Spider. All she cares about now is a roof over her head and her long-term relationship with Johnny Walker. She isn’t particular about who she sleeps with … as long as they pay before leaving.

Lexi is also an ace hacker, tracking and entrapping local paedophiles and reporting them to the cops. When she finds a particularly dangerous paedophile who the police can’t touch, she decides to gather enough evidence to put him away. Instead, she’s a witness to his death …

Detective Inspector Rachael Langley is the cop who cracked the Spider case, 18 years earlier – but failed to protect Lexi. Now a man claiming to be the real Spider is emulating his murderous acts, and Rachael is under pressure from government, media and her police colleagues. Did she get it wrong all those years ago, or is this killer is a copycat?

Lexi and Rachael cross paths at last, the Spider in their sights … but they may be too late …

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What Drives the Serial Killer

Lynn-Steven Johanson
Lynn-Steven Johanson Author Interview

Havana Brown follows detective Erickson on a bloody case to find a serial killer preying on women in Chicago. What were some sources that informed this novels development?

Since this was a prequel to my novel Rose’s Thorn, there were only a few references to the backstory in that novel: Joe’s prior relationship with Destiny, his nervous breakdown, and the serial killer. So, when I decided to write a prequel, I had to construct the story around those things. But the story itself came strictly out of my imagination.

What were some new dimensions of detective Erickson’s character that you wanted to explore in this book?

Joe won’t let go of a case and will do whatever it takes including working himself into the ground to solve it. A paradox exists in that he decides to make a life change and begin taking good care of his physical health while at the same time ignoring his psychological health. And he begins a romance with a woman who is an intellectual and physical match for him. She will be a recurring character in subsequent mysteries. In addition, I wanted to explore his relationship with his father, since it was only touched upon in Rose’s Thorn.

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

Oddly enough, I don’t think of themes in my writing. I focus on characters and telling the story but not so much on theme. Now that I think about it, I guess I would say that obsession is the main theme. Joe’s fixation with catching the serial killer leads to his self-destructive behaviors. And obsession is what drives the serial killer to continue murdering young women.

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

I recently finished the first draft of the third installment in the Joe Erickson Mystery series. It should be published by Level Best Books next spring.

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In this prequel to Rose’s Thorn, Detective Joe Erickson discovers a clever and vile serial killer preying on women in Chicago. Only a few cat hairs provide clues to the perpetrator of six mutilation murders. Joe’s razor-sharp intuition and unorthodox methods ultimately lead him on a trail fraught with twists, turns, and close calls. But pushing himself day and night begins taking its toll, and his obsession with apprehending the killer will be his undoing.
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