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Book Review – The Short Drop (Gibson Vaughn Series) by Matthew FitzSimmons (@MatthewFitz_1)

June 24, 2016 Leave a comment

The Short Drop (The Gibson Vaughn Series) by Matthew FitzSimmons

Book Description:

An Amazon Best Book of December 2015

The bestseller with over half a million readers that People magazine called a “live-wire debut.”

A decade ago, fourteen-year-old Suzanne Lombard, the daughter of Benjamin Lombard—then a senator, now a powerful vice president running for the presidency—disappeared in the most sensational missing-person case in the nation’s history. Still unsolved, the mystery remains a national obsession.

For legendary hacker and marine Gibson Vaughn, the case is personal—Suzanne Lombard had been like a sister to him. On the tenth anniversary of her disappearance, the former head of Benjamin Lombard’s security asks for Gibson’s help in a covert investigation of the case, with new evidence in hand.

Haunted by tragic memories, he jumps at the chance to uncover what happened all those years ago. Using his military and technical prowess, he soon discovers multiple conspiracies surrounding the Lombard family—and he encounters powerful, ruthless political players who will do anything to silence him and his team. With new information surfacing that could threaten Lombard’s bid for the presidency, Gibson must stay one step ahead as he navigates a dangerous web to get to the truth.

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I’d been in a reading funk lately, starting and then abandoning one book after another. Got very frustrated, but happily, this is one novel that I finished (and in record time too!) The Short Drop was an audible deal offer on Amazon, and I was very curious when I read the book description (A cold case involving the future president’s missing daughter suddenly has new evidence turn up 10 years later). Very intriguing! And I was not disappointed, at all. And I’ve been recommending this thriller to everyone I know since!

This book really lived up to its “live-wire debut” description – it’s a cliché to say this, but I found it to be a literal page turner, with so many unexpected twists and turns, and I never got bored or even felt like putting the book down (what a struggle to find the extra time to sleep/eat/work!). The author managed to keep me guessing, and although I did figure out the ‘big secret’ in the girl’s disappearance before it was revealed, I was surprised when someone I thought was a friend turned out to be not so friendly.

It also helped that I really liked the main character Gibson Vaughn – he’s this (disgraced but still legendary) hacker and ex-marine, who has never gotten over the disappearance of Suzanne Lombard (his childhood friend who was practically his baby sister). From his recollections of the girl, I found myself deeply caring about what happened to her also. And even as the other characters cautioned Gibson about ‘false hope’ – the girl had been gone for 10 years! – I found myself right beside Gibson – hoping against hope that there was a happy ending somehow.

I also want to mention how easy it was to read this book – the writing flow was so good, and I was really immersed in the story. It’s a bit hard to explain (like that so-called x-factor in Hollywood stars), but this author has that special quality that makes me go – this is a good writer, I want to read more of his stuff!

RATING: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

The Short Drop (The Gibson Vaughn Series) by Matthew FitzSimmons (Thomas & Mercer) is available on Amazon and other bookstores (B&N Nookbook, Kobo books, iBooks, Book Depository)

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Book Review – The Racketeer by John Grisham

August 24, 2013 Leave a comment

The Racketeer by John Grisham

Book Description:

Given the importance of what they do, and the controversies that often surround them, and the violent people they sometimes confront, it is remarkable that in the history of this country only four active federal judges have been murdered.

Judge Raymond Fawcett has just become number five.

Who is the Racketeer? And what does he have to do with the judge’s untimely demise? His name, for the moment, is Malcolm Bannister. Job status? Former attorney. Current residence? The Federal Prison Camp near Frostburg, Maryland.

On paper, Malcolm’s situation isn’t looking too good these days, but he’s got an ace up his sleeve. He knows who killed Judge Fawcett, and he knows why. The judge’s body was found in his remote lakeside cabin. There was no forced entry, no struggle, just two dead bodies: Judge Fawcett and his young secretary. And one large, state-of-the-art, extremely secure safe, opened and emptied.

What was in the safe? The FBI would love to know. And Malcolm Bannister would love to tell them. But everything has a price — especially information as explosive as the sequence of events that led to Judge Fawcett’s death. And the Racketeer wasn’t born yesterday . . .

Nothing is as it seems and everything’s fair game in this wickedly clever new novel from John Grisham, the undisputed master of the legal thriller.

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Okay, how did The Racketeer end up one of Amazon’s mystery/thriller Best Books of the Month picks for October 2012? Must’ve been a lean month or maybe they were judging it by the first half of the book (which was great) and ignored how things went downhill in the second half? I don’t get it. I was so annoyed I wanted to chuck my copy out the window by the time I was done…

The Racketeer introduces the main character, Malcolm Bannister, to us as this 43 y/o black lawyer who is halfway through his ten-year sentence for racketeering. Malcolm explains that he is innocent and reveals the circumstances behind his unjust incarceration. He’s lost his wife to divorce and missed out on his son’s growing up years. Malcolm came across as a disillusioned (ex-idealistic) good & honest guy, so I was really rooting for him when Malcolm reveals that he has a final card to play in his bid for freedom.

Here’s the situation: a federal judge is found murdered –  the FBI is stumped, no leads, no suspects – but guess what, Malcolm just happens to know who did it, and why. Malcolm is willing to name names BUT only for the right price (aka his freedom). Like I said, it’s a GREAT start. There’s suspense, excitement, I’m devouring pages, hoping Malcolm gets some redemption, marveling at how clever he is….  and had things stayed the course, I would have declared The Racketeer one of John Grisham’s best legal thrillers to date.

But. And that’s a big BUT.

But in the second half, John Grisham pulls the rug out from under us. I don’t want to spoil things, so I won’t go into details, but apparently, much of what we’d been told earlier by Malcolm ranged from half-truths to lies.  Needless to say, I was pretty much pissed off for much of the second half of The Racketeer (hence, wanting to throw my copy out the window). The plot changes were so bizarre and came out of left-field. I couldn’t understand what was happening. I didn’t know the main character anymore – Malcolm was turning out the opposite of who he claimed to be, and was off stalking this new character we’d never heard of, and unbelievably, the ‘love of his life’ pops up too (a woman who was barely mentioned in the first half, nary a hint that there was anything more between them other than some flirting). The ending was something out of Wild Things (the movie) mashed with The Sting (the movie). Bizarre, just bizarre.

Malcolm may have sailed off into the sunset much like Neve Campbell’s character in Wild Things, but as far as I was concerned, he’d turned from hero to zero. Good riddance to him. And good riddance to this book too – word of advice, don’t bother.

The Racketeer by John Grisham (Doubleday) is available on Amazon, B&N, Apple iBooks, Book Depository

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Book Review – The Troubled Man (Kurt Wallander Mysteries) by Henning Mankell

October 8, 2012 Leave a comment

The Troubled Man (Kurt Wallander Mysteries)

Book Description:

The first new Wallander novel for a decade, and the final installment in the bestselling series from the godfather of Swedish crime.

On a winter day in 2008, Håkan von Enke, a retired high-ranking naval officer, vanishes during his daily walk in a forest near Stockholm. The investigation into his disappearance falls under the jurisdiction of the Stockholm police. It has nothing to do with Wallander—officially. But von Enke is his daughter’s future father-in-law. And so, with his inimitable disregard for normal procedure, Wallander is soon interfering in matters that are not his responsibility, making promises he won’t keep, telling lies when it suits him—and getting results. But the results hint at elaborate Cold War espionage activities that seem inextricably confounding, even to Wallander, who, in any case, is troubled in more personal ways as well. Negligent of his health, he’s become convinced that, having turned sixty, he is on the threshold of senility. Desperate to live up to the hope that a new granddaughter represents, he is continually haunted by his past. And looking toward the future with profound uncertainty, he will have no choice but to come face-to-face with his most intractable adversary: himself.

About the Author
Internationally bestselling novelist and playwright HENNING MANKELL has received the German Tolerance Prize and the U.K.’s Golden Dagger Award and has been nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize three times. His Kurt Wallander mysteries have been published in thirty-three countries and consistently top the bestseller lists in Europe.

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* Note, the book cover I embedded here is from the UK edition – I just like it better than the US cover

Dang, there’s a part of me that really wishes I didn’t read The Troubled Man – the final installment in Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander Mystery series. Reading this beook just made me feel so depressed afterwards – especially with the way things ended for Kurt [sob]! I won’t spoil details, but man, that was cruel… Yeah, I’ve definitely gone a long way from initially disliking Kurt immensely in the first book to now being brokenhearted by his ultimate fate in this final book.

Why, oh why, couldn’t you have just left Kurt’s ending open-ended for the fans, Henning Mankell?! smiley emoticons

So, obviously The Troubled Man really packed an emotional wallop for me (see emoticon above)… but I have to admit that the mystery per se wasn’t as good as in Henning Mankell’s previous Kurt installments. Maybe it’s because I just don’t care much for Cold War espionage mysteries, but I found this case involving the disappearance of an old man, sleeper spies, and mysterious foreign submarines back in the 1980s just – well – boring. And I didn’t even have the emotional satisfaction of the case being wrapped up definitively since nobody even knew that Kurt had solved the mystery in the end.

I wanted Kurt to have an exciting and meaty mystery for a send-off, but I didn’t get that here.

Warning for fans, the whole atmosphere in this book is really extra mournful and depressing. Mankell made me feel like being aged 60 (Kurt’s age here) is more like 80 what with the preoccupation with death, regrets and goodbyes that happen throughout the book (Example, people from Kurt’s past resurface only to say goodbye like a dying  Baiba, an alcoholic Mona, etc.)  Didn’t Mankell get the memo that 60 is the new 40 nowadays? (Exhibit 1: Liam Neeson)

The Troubled Man (Kurt Wallander Mysteries) by Henning Mankell is available on Amazon as a Kindle edition, Hardcover edition, Paperback edition and Audible Audio Edition. * Also available in Amazon UK

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Indie Saturday – Author Alana Woods on her Thrillers ‘Automaton’ and ‘Imbroglio’

August 25, 2012 7 comments

Today, we have author Alana Woods featured on the blog’s ‘Indie Saturday‘ for her debut award-winning best-selling suspense legal thriller Automaton and follow-up suspense espionage thriller Imbroglio.

Here are 5 star reviews of Automaton and Imbroglio (respectively) from book blogger Here’s The Right Side Of It:

‘It’s difficult to decide where to begin with Automaton. This is an exemplary novel by a master of the craft. Set in Australia, it is so deep, so well written, so intelligently thought out and flows so smoothly that I felt like a participant and personal observer within the events, rather than a reader who was sitting comfortably in my office as the story unfolded. Woods’ experience as a Court Reporter makes her tale as authentic, intriguing and interesting as any you’ll ever read. It’s not a quick, shallow read – it’s a real novel … Regretfully, I can only give this one 5 stars. I assure you I’m waiting for Alana Woods’ next novel.’

‘Alana Woods’ suspense novel Imbroglio. This lady can definitely spin a tale … In short, it’s what any card-carrying crime fiction fan is looking for … ‘


Alana Woods writes :

Alana Woods

So, when is a good guy a good guy, or a bad guy a bad guy, or good bad, or bad good?

It’s the question occupying the minds of Elisabeth Sharman in Automaton and Noel Valentine in Imbroglio.

And when is a girl telling the truth or taking you for a sucker?

That’s the question occupying Robert Murphy and David Cameron – the aforementioned good guys, or are they the bad guys?

Let’s take Elisabeth Sharman and Robert Murphy first because they’re the main players in my debut novel Automaton, an award-winning best-selling legal suspense thriller.

Murphy is Sharman’s instructing solicitor in a murder trial, but he’s having a hard time of it. She’s prickly, unfriendly and downright uncommunicative until the night she lets him take her to bed. Problem is, the next morning she goes right back to being prickly, unfriendly and uncommunicative. He can’t help but think she seduced him to keep him quiet. But he’s hooked and when all’s said and done, they both have the interests of their client to look out for. A client who’s only 19 and allegedly can’t remember committing the crime he’s on trial for.

There are so many skeletons stuffed into the closets in Automaton they rattle.

A book store manager once remarked to me about Automaton ‘It’s quite literary, isn’t it’. I considered it to be a terrific compliment.

Once you’ve figured out the relationships in Automaton you can try to unravel Noel Valentine and David Cameron’s in espionage suspense thriller Imbroglio.

Not easy, I’ve been told. Valentine saves Cameron’s life and finds herself in a resulting spiral into trouble that has her head spinning. She’s already on very shaky mental ground because of something in her past. She desperately needs to care about something and her choice just maybe couldn’t have been worse. But when the bad guy’s gorgeous, it can be hard to see straight, let alone think straight, right? There’s car crashes, sharks, guns, traitors. It’s a wonder anyone survives until the end.

More on Alana Woods!

When I first started work, it was as a publications typist at a weapons research establishment. It helped put me in the right frame of mind when I wrote Imbroglio some years later.

Later I spent five years in court reporting. That’s when the idea for Automaton occurred. I’d sit in court and watch the accused and their families. Some were lost, had no idea what was going on. The words spoken may have been familiar but the language used was foreign. My heart used to break for the parents especially.

In fact, my jobs generally have been good sources of material for books. I’m working on a corporate crime novel at the moment that’s a direct result of my years as an editor and subsequently Director of Publishing at the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. I’m tossing up whether to make it a trilogy. I know series are popular and sell well, but I also note a trend to short novellas in series. I like long books, so if I do decide on a trilogy I’d like each one to be the length of a traditional novel, which requires a bit of work!

Born in England but an Aussie in heart and soul, at the moment Alana Woods has a hankering to buy a masseria in Puglia and go live there. The food and wine are to die for. She just has to convince her other half … and learn Italian.

Writer, editor, book reviewer, reader, traveller, food and wine lover – all of these describe Alana.


Alana Woods’ books are all available in Kindle and paperback formats on Amazon. Samples are available on her Scribd.Com page (and also embedded here)

You might also like to check out her 25 essential writing tips: guide to writing good fiction that she wrote after critiquing manuscripts for many years. It’s aimed at aspiring authors but if the reviews are anything to go by seasoned authors are also giving it the thumbs up.

You can also check out Alana Woods’ Amazon author page for more info and her other books.

You can follow Alana on: her website: alanawoods.com, Facebook: alanawoodsauthor, Twitter: @alanaewoodsGoodreadsGoogle+ and Shelfari

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Do you want to be a featured ‘Indie Saturday’ author too? Go here for more info!

Read an embedded sample of “Automaton” and “Imbroglio” after the jump!

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Indie Saturday – Author James A. Anderson on his Thrillers ‘The Daily Express Chronicles’ (Deadline and The Scorpion)

August 18, 2012 1 comment

Today, we have author James A. Anderson featured on the blog’s ‘Indie Saturday‘ for his planned trilogy of thrillers ‘The Daily Express Chronicles‘ which are set in a fictional Toronto newspaper. He has self-published two of the books already : Deadline and it’s sequel, The Scorpion.


James A. Anderson writes :

Thanks for the invitation to address your readers. I hope you enjoy books as much as I do. I’m an avid reader and have been all my life.

I am a retired Canadian journalist, 64 years old, with a 35-year career as a newspaper reporter and editor. It was an extremely satisfying and fun career and I use a lot of my experiences in my novels. Many of the news stories in both books are real cases fictionalized. I started writing thrillers two years ago after I retired.

I’ve been writing stories since I was about 8-years old. But I seriously began writing in my teens and sold my first short story to a Canadian teen magazine when I was 16. I wrote my first novel, a spy thriller when I was 18 but it didn’t sell or get published. It really wasn’t very good and too derivative of James Bond. But I enjoyed the challenge of writing a novel.

I became interested in journalism and pursued a 35-year career as a reporter and editor for weekly and daily newspapers after university. But it didn’t leave much time for fiction writing so I put it on the back burner until I retired four years ago and started to write thrillers based on my newspaper experiences.

My current release is The Scorpion and is a sequel to my first thriller Deadline. It contains murder, action and romance woven around a series of sub-plots which gives readers an insight into how daily newspapers operate and pursue their stories. It is the second of a planned three-part trilogy.

Deadline, my first novel, combines murder, action, and romance, with a glimpse into the world of big city media. This thriller, set over a 24-hour period in a fictional Toronto newspaper — the Daily Express, follows four central characters in Toronto and Afghanistan as they cope with both personal and professional deadlines in their lives.

A serial killer — The Wolfman – prowls the streets of Toronto kidnapping young professional women, then targets crime reporter Katie Cannon who has been writing about his rampage.

Meanwhile, Trevor Trevanian, a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, is abducted by al-Qaida and taken on a perilous journey to Pakistan to face an uncertain fate.

I originally planned this as a single novel but reader reaction has been so great and I received many requests in reviews and emails to continue the series. People wanted to know what happens to these characters. So the idea for The Scorpion was born. The Toronto Daily Express chronicles continued, picking up a year after where Deadline left off, bringing more news stories, more murder, action and romance.

This fast-paced, page-turning thriller will keep readers on the edge of their seats as the novel, like its predecessor, carries multiple alternating story lines involving a murder trial, a mad hospital bomber, and newspaper managing editor Braden Young who is facing a health crisis, a diagnosis of prostate cancer. The book follows one week in the life of the newspaper.

The Scorpion is a terrorist. A nameless, faceless killer leading a team that plans to attack North America bringing death and destruction in a daring scheme called Operation Saladin. The central plan is to blow up the CN Tower in Toronto with a suitcase nuclear device. A sidebar to the operation is an assassination attempt on the Prime Minister of Canada at his official residence 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa.

Reporter Katie Cannon and Daily Express Publisher Andrew Chase are planning their wedding with the reception to be held in the revolving restaurant atop the CN Tower, but their happy day may bring more than they expect.

Foreign correspondent Trevor Trevanian, who was kidnapped by Al-Qaeda and taken to meet and interview a high profile Al Qaeda leader in Deadline, has left Afghanistan and is now stationed in London, England. He meets a mysterious young lady Lynne Whitfield, allegedly another journalist, but actually an MI-6 agent who is assigned to follow him hoping he will lead them to Al-Qaeda contacts. She and Trevor attend the wedding in Toronto and play a key role in trying to prevent the CN Tower attack.

In writing The Scorpion, I decided to make the series – now subtitled The Daily Express Chronicles – a trilogy. I plan to start writing book #3 this fall and will wrap everything up. I then want to try something new.

More on James A. Anderson!

My favorite author is probably Michael Connelly. Like me, Connelly is a former newspaper reporter who writes fast-paced, page turning thrillers. I can only hope to some day write as good as he does. Selling millions of copies also would be nice.

I like to listen to classical music when I write. Mostly Mozart or Beethoven. I find them soothing, inspirational and great background music.

I usually write every morning from 9-12. I’m retired so don’t want to do it full-time. I have family, dogs and other interests. The afternoons and evenings are usually free for those things. But mornings are my writing time. It’s also when I’m at my freshest.

The books that have most influenced my life and creative writing are thrillers, mysteries and spy novels. Love ‘em. My favorite writers are Michael Connelly, Lee Child, John Le Carre, Ian Fleming and others of that ilk.

Before I release my novels I have them read by critique partners or beta readers. My spouse, family and friends and former journalism colleagues read my early drafts and are most helpful in spotting my flubs and making suggestions to improve the manuscript or the story line. You need that independent input because as author you are often too close to the story.

Thanks for reading this and if you try my novels, I hope you enjoy them. I always appreciate reader comments and suggestions for future works. You can find my email in my author profile on www.amazon.com or Facebook me at: James Anderson or Twitter me at: @janders003.

James A. Anderson is a retired journalist and graduate of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. He lives in London, Ontario, Canada with his wife Sherry and two basenjis, Remba and Wakili. They have two married children and four grandchildren.


Both Deadline and The Scorpion are available in ebook and paperback from www.amazon.com, www.smashwords.com, www.lulu.com, www.kobo.com

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Read an embedded sample of “The Scorpion” after the jump!

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Indie Saturday – Author Ty Hutchinson on his Darby Stansfield Thriller Series

August 11, 2012 Leave a comment

Today, we have author Ty Hutchinson featured on the blog’s ‘Indie Saturday‘ for his Darby Stansfield Thriller Series. The series – described as “Tarantino meets The Office with a splash of romance” – is currently available as a bundled set (featuring CHOP SUEY, STROGANOV, LOCO MOCO plus a bonus novella THE ST. PETERSBURG CONFESSIONS).


Ty Hutchinson writes about the birth of his character Darby Stansfield

People always ask how I came up with Darby Stansfield.

I should have a brilliant answer but I don’t. I actually thought up the plot first. I thought it would be funny if a telecom company targeted criminal organizations and sold them wireless business solutions. If their product could help organizations like McDonalds or Apple, why not organizations like the Mafia or the Yakuza? From there the story unfolded.

How could a company do this? Why would a company do this? That was my first hurdle.

I quickly realized it would have nothing to do with the company. This would be the doing of one individual. Someone who felt the cards was stacked against him. If this person really wanted success, he would have to get creative and try something different.

What if the company had working for them a desperate salesperson that go’s rogue? That’s pretty much how Darby was born.

I knew he couldn’t be like others; he had to be different. He had to approach problems with unlikely solutions. Deciding to take on a criminal isn’t normal. It was important that Darby not be normal, like most people. His brain was wired differently. He’s not a criminal himself. He means well. He’s kind of a screw up, though. He’s like Larry David but with an edge. It’s probably why he’s polarizing for some. You either love him or you hate him. Some people have asked me if I’m Darby. The answer is yes and no. There are elements of myself in Darby, but I’m not really like him in real life. I would need bigger balls to be him.

Once I had those two elements in place it was just a matter of telling the story and that’s exactly what I did. I really filled in the story as I wrote. It was as if someone were sitting next to me asking, “And then what happened?” That could be the reason why my chapters are so short or it could be because of my background in advertising. All those years of telling a story in thirty seconds might have handicapped me. Who knows? I like short chapters, though. It makes me feel like the story is moving along.

With that said, it’s probably time I move along. Thanks for listening.

My name is Ty Hutchinson. Most days I’m a writer in the ad business. My work has appeared in all the major advertising award shows and reported on in publications like Advertising Age, Creativity, Communication Arts and Archive.

While advertising is a blast, I wanted to tell stories that were bigger. I’ve since created the Darby Stansfield thrillers and a few other pager turners. I’m in the midst of creating a new thriller series featuring one feisty woman. You can visit my blog at tyhutchinson.wordpress.com for the latest on my books and what’s going on in my head.

When I’m not building brands or writing thrillers, you’ll find me traveling the world, playing video games, eating, reading, and exploring SF’s Chinatown.


Darby Stansfield Thriller Series (Books 1-3 & Bonus Novella) by Ty Hutchinson is available at Amazon in Kindle format.

You can also check out Ty’s Amazon Author’s page for more info about his other books!

To learn more about Ty, follow  Ty on his website/blog: http://tyhutchinson.wordpress.com/, Facebook page: tyhutchinson.author and Twitter: @latersbra. Read excerpts from his books on his Scribd.Com page! Drop by and say hi!

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Do you want to be a featured ‘Indie Saturday’ author too? Go here for more info!

Read an embedded sample of “Darby Stansfield Thriller Series” after the jump!

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Indie Saturday – Author Courtney Vail on “Kings & Queens”

August 4, 2012 1 comment

Today, we have author Courtney Vail featured on the blog’s ‘Indie Saturday‘ for her YA mystery thriller Kings & Queens.

Here’s a short synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Majesty Alistair wants police to look further into her father’s fatal car wreck, hopes the baseball team she manages can reclaim the state crown, aches for Derek…or, no…maybe Alec…maybe. And she mostly wishes to retract the hateful words she said to her dad right before slamming the door in his face, only to never see him again.

All her desires get sidelined, though, when she overhears two fellow students planning a church massacre. She doubts cops will follow up on her tip since they’re sick of her coming around with notions of possible crimes-in-the-works. And it’s not like she cries wolf. Not really. They’d be freaked too, but they’re not the ones suffering from bloody dreams that hint at disaster like some crazy, street guy forecasting the Apocalypse.

So, she does what any habitual winner with zero cred would do…try to I.D. the nutjobs before they act. But, when their agenda turns out to be far bigger than she ever assumed, and even friends start looking suspect, the truth and her actions threaten to haunt her forever, especially since she’s left with blood on her hands, the blood of someone she loves.


Courtney Vail writes about where her characters from Kings & Queens came from:

The main protagonist in Kings & Queens is Majesty Alistair. She is a tomboy with spirit and always has determination to win. At first, all I had was her name and that bit of info. I also knew she would be the manager of her high school’s baseball team on which her two best friends, Alec and Derek, play. For months, I’d had this sort of love triangle thing in mind, but no plot. I’m a suspense writer, I NEED plot. I don’t mind a romantic subplot but I needed way more than that. I wanted to have a book that featured a strong teen girl too. At the time I was spinning my ideas—in 2005–there weren’t a lot of strong girls out there in YA. And I wanted to have a girl with this internal kick-butt nature. And one night I dreamt I was running in the woods for exercise and overheard these two teens planning a church massacre and I escaped them in this little town. That dream gave me the seedling for my plot and also the locale, Cedar Creek, a semi-small rich town.

When I got that initial spark I had no clue this whole royal thing would emerge. The plot keep twisting and turning and taking me by surprise. And my book took on a live chess feel, with a move-for-move strategy, and there are references to Kings and Queens and Pawns and a Royalty Circle. And two Pawns even die on a chessboard floor actually, which I didn’t even intentionally insert. It then bugged me that her name was Majesty. I don’t like things to be that matchy matchy in books. It just comes across as gimmicky and not really cute at all. I considered changing her name, but then I realized, her being pinned with such a funky name all her life actually forced her to choose between taking on antagonists or buckling to them. Instead of shriveling from the onslaught on insults, she rose up and developed a quick wit and a pithy tongue and a desire to win.

All of these things about her, all that might, and also the vulnerability to fail and fall because she shoots so high, would be non-existent is she were an Ashley. I mean, I could certainly write them in, I could create an Ashley like that, but there’d be no true source for that wellspring of strength. It would seem fake and unreal, like I was just trying to make a kick-ass girl because that’s what’s hot right now. Majesty, the noun, is all about prominence, might, and being on top, and Majesty, my character, aspires to all that so she can represent the name she holds.

She has to go all Veronica Mars when she overhears two fellow students planning a church massacre and cops don’t believe her, and her inner strength is what pulls her through the ebbs of betrayal and danger on her way to the truth. So, I really couldn’t rename her. She wouldn’t let me. Because of everything it embodies and fashioned within her, I love her name. It is both her persona and her quest. And I can’t see her as anything else.

And then there’s Derek, my parallel protagonist. He’s rough around the edges, curt and untrusting. One of my friends was abused as a child, and he killed his dog out of anger one day, and that gave me the basis for Derek. His personality is nothing like my friend’s, and Derek is far more damaged, but that source of pain and brokenness is the same.

Some readers are confused when I open his POV, because, at first, it feels like aimless bopping around and that he doesn’t seem to have a connection to the mainline, but he does in a huge way… in a way he’s not even aware of. Some readers feel like the story is adrift in the first few chapters, but every scene is pertinent to understanding the intricate plotline and how people were set up and manipulated within it. It’s a dense mystery-thriller, packed with details and subplots that are all closely interwoven.

And then there’s Warren, my third main POV character. I wanted to have a character that was a loner but also someone who couldn’t be pigeonholed into any particular box. He’s nerdy intelligent but also a lapsed Goth. He has abandoned the culture for the most part, but he still primarily wears his hair spiky, dark clothes and lipstick. He’s not the main character in my story, but he tends to be the fan favorite. He’s a likeable loner. I think readers can identify with his pain and involuntary isolation. His voice is very sardonic and tense, but he really, just like everyone, wants to be liked. And no one appreciates him.

That’s a little bit about my characters. So if you like intricate, twisty thrillers and are ready for a rollercoaster ride and an intense mind warp, check out Kings & Queens and meet my crazy characters.

Thanks so much for having me! I had a blast.

COURTNEY VAIL writes totally twisted YA and adult suspense. She enjoys braiding mystery, suspense & romance with some kind of weirdness. Her addictions to crazy coffee concoctions, Funny Bones, Ben & Jerry’s, and bacon keep her running and writing. She currently lives in New England with a comedian stud and a wild gang of kidlets.


Kings & Queens by Courtney Vail (Little Prince Publishing) is available at Amazon in Kindle and Paperback formats.

You can also check out Courtney’s Amazon Author’s page for a listing of her other books!

To learn more about Courtney, follow  Courtney on her Facebook page: kingsandqueensnovel, Goodreads page and Twitter: @cvwriter. Drop by and say hi to her!

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