Tag Archives: suspense

A day in the life of Detective Nan Vining by Dianne Emley

lying-blindLet me start by saying that I dislike talking about myself. But if I have to describe who I am, I’d say that first I’m a mom to Emily, who’s almost seventeen. Her dad and I divorced when she was a toddler—his choice, not mine. Next, I’d say that I’m the senior investigator in Homicide/Assault at the Pasadena, California Police Department. Then, if I’d had this conversation with you first thing this morning, I’d have said that I’m a devoted life partner and lover to Jim Kissick, who’s a sergeant with the Pasadena PD. Right now, at the end of a long and bewildering day, I’m not at all sure where things stand between Jim and me.

Jim had always been my strong, silent, standup guy. My Gary Cooper (I also love watching classic movies). Jim has guided me through dark times in my life. Terrible times and I have the physical and psychological scars to prove it. Tonight, sitting at my desk in the empty Detectives Section at the PPD, I’m wondering whether I misread those silences of Jim’s. Did I mistake them for solidity and strength when they were in reality concealing secrets? To say that my world has been rocked is an understatement.

The day started normally enough until the middle of the afternoon, when my partner, Alex, and I were called out to the scene of a mysterious death at a huge Pasadena estate. One of the homeowners, Teddy Sexton, had discovered the body of a nude young woman floating in the backyard pool. Jim had been the first officer on-scene. I was happy to see him. I always am because our schedules zig and zag so much it’s hard for us to get together. But he was acting sketchy and evasive from the get go. Things became more odd when I found out, after dragging the information from him, that he’d left the scene of a car accident with injuries to dash over to the Sexton estate because Teddy had texted him. Teddy and his wife, Becca, are old friends, Jim explained. Jim will definitely be reprimanded for abandoning an active incident–possibly even fired—and he risked that to respond to a text?

Things got more disturbing when Becca returned home. You see, the Jane Doe in the pool bears a staggering resemblance to a much younger Becca, but everyone in the Sexton household denied knowing who the victim is. After interviewing Becca, I learned that she and Jim had a close relationship years ago. Very close. Something else that Jim neglected to tell me.

Sitting here at my computer, I’m trying to identify poor Jane Doe, who nobody other than my partner and I seem to care about. I’m also trying to push away an ominous feeling that this case will tear me and Jim apart. He’d be the one I’d turn to in such a situation to talk it through, but I can’t. I’m feeling horribly alone. Em’s spending the night at her girlfriend’s. I might as well keep working because I doubt I’ll get any sleep tonight. I’m not looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings. That’s enough about me. Back to work.


You can read more about Nan in Lying Blind, the sixth book in the “Nan Vining” series.

In a breathtaking infinity pool on a sprawling Pasadena estate, the naked body of a beautiful young woman floats facedown in a drift of rose petals blowing on the breeze. Police sergeant Jim Kissick responds instantly, pulling the dead victim from the water. When his longtime girlfriend, Detective Nan Vining, arrives on-scene, she’s full of questions, and not just about the Jane Doe. Why did the homeowner text Jim instead of calling 911? Jim’s explanation—that he’s simply an old friend of Teddy and Rebecca Sexton’s—doesn’t sit well with Nan. A survivor of a bizarre murder attempt herself, Nan’s instincts for deception are acute. She senses that they’re all hiding something—including Jim, which plunges a wedge deep into their once steadfast relationship.

Then a drought-ravaged lake in a bucolic Central California town reveals a grisly secret. Soon two local detectives arrive in Pasadena to interview Jim and his wealthy friends about a mysterious death from years back, and Nan realizes she has good reasons for her suspicions. Jim’s always been her rock, but suddenly he’s become a stranger. And once Nan identifies her Jane Doe, events careen out of control as darkness from the past threatens to consume the life that Nan has worked so hard to rebuild.

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About the author
Dianne Emley is a Los Angeles Times bestselling author and has received critical acclaim for her Detective Nan Vining thrillers, Iris Thorne mysteries, and The Night Visitor, a standalone paranormal mystery. She’s also published short fiction for anthologies including Literary Pasadena. Her novels have been translated into six languages. A Los Angeles native, she lives in the Central California wine country with her husband, where she’s a pretty good cook and a terrible golfer. About Dianne’s books, Tess Gerritsen says: “Emley masterfully twists, turns, and shocks.”

Connect with Dianne through her website dianneemley.com or visit her on Facebook.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: Leave a comment for a chance to win a Lying Blind e-book (Kindle/Nook open to all) or a signed paperback (US only) of one of the first four books in the Nan Vining series (The First Cut, Cut to the Quick, The Deepest Cut, or Love Kills). The giveaway ends February 27, 2017. Good luck everyone!

Lying Blind will be published as an e-book by Alibi/Random House on February 28, 2017.

A day in the life of Cass Jennings by Matthew Iden

the-winter-overAfter a three hour, bone-rattling flight in sub-zero temperatures, an assessment is in order. But all I can say is that I can’t feel my feet or my hands and I’m not even sure I have a nose left, because that’s how cold it is.

From the “comfort” of the LC-130 military air transport, I squint at the blocky bus-like vehicle coming toward us, dipping and turning as it follows the contours of the ice leading to the runway—no, not runway. Skiway, they call it. Planes can’t have wheels here. Past it, in the distance, I make out tiny figures that emerge from the box of a building that will be home-sweet-home for the next year.

Thoroughly whacked out from lack of sleep, deaf from hours of engine noise, snow blind from the endless field of white in front of me, I feel disembodied. Hardly present. A spectator in my own skin. From moment to moment, I forget where I am and why I’m here. To remember, I have to trace things back from the beginning.

Still images, snapshot memories, pass through my head. Childhood. The nearby watch factory turned museum. Glass cases of gears and cogs, fine-grained spanners and compasses. Hugging the girth of the smoke stack, surely the biggest thing in the world, letting it radiate the sun’s warmth back through me.

My father, worried and confused. My mother, bedridden and wan. A young me by her side, wondering where the tools were to fix her. Tip-toeing, speaking in whispers. Up to and including the funeral.

College. A woman in a world engineered by men. Learning and loving, falling and breaking and coming together, then leaving. Graduating, moving on.

An adult, finally. A real job in the real world, with responsibilities and consequences. A catastrophe and a trial with its public acquittal but private tragedy. Then the years chasing peace, watching it skitter ahead to an oil rig out of Shreveport, a fishery in Sitka, a mining camp in Yellowknife.

Until eventually, short of leaving the planet, there was only one place left. Where people had to be crazy enough to go, but not enough to go crazy. Where nothing but skill and guts and merit got you through and you might be able to show yourself that you had what it took to be normal and helpful and wanted and—

Everyone jumps as a terrific BANG! jolts the plane. The cabin doors yawn wide and air—impossibly cold—rushes down the makeshift aisle. A man in a red parka waddles into view and takes a wide stance at the head of the aisle. He pushes back his fur-lined hood and tugs polarized goggles under his chin, revealing a jovial face.

“After that plane ride, you probably can’t hear me, so I hope you can read lips,” he says and spreads his arms wide. “Ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the bottom of the world. Welcome to the South Pole.”


You can read more about Cass in THE WINTER OVER.

Each winter, the crew at the Shackleton South Pole Research Facility faces nine months of isolation, round-the-clock darkness, and one of the most extreme climates on the planet. For thirty-something mechanical engineer Cass Jennings, Antarctica offers an opportunity to finally escape the guilt of her troubled past and to rebuild her life.

But the death of a colleague triggers a series of mysterious incidents that push Cass and the rest of the forty-four-person crew to the limits of their sanity and endurance. Confined and cut off from the outside world, will they work together or turn against one another? As the tension escalates, Cass must find the strength to survive not only a punishing landscape but also an unrelenting menace determined to destroy the station—and everyone in it.

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Meet the author
In addition to The Winter Over, Matthew Iden is the author of the Marty Singer detective series—A Reason to Live, Blueblood, One Right Thing, The Spike, The Wicked Flee, and Once Was Lost—as well as several stand-alone novels.

Iden’s eclectic resume includes jobs with the US Postal Service, an international nonprofit, a short stint with the Forest Service in Sitka, Alaska, and time with the globe-spanning Semester at Sea program. Trips to Iceland, Patagonia, and Antarctica have given him a world of inspiration. Iden currently lives in Northern Virginia—close enough to the woods to keep his sanity, close enough to the Capital Beltway to lose it.

Get in touch: Facebook, Amazon, @CrimeRighter, or visit www.matthew-iden.com.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win copy of The Winter Over, either paperback (U.S. residents only), Kindle copy, or audiobook, winner’s choice. The giveaway will end February 6, 2017. Good luck everyone!

The Winter Over is available at online booksellers.

A day in the life with Maggie Gardiner by Lisa Black

unpunishedI love newspapers. I always have. So even though overtime calls are not my favorite things in life I was a little excited to enter the huge building which houses the staff, reporters and printing press of the Cleveland Herald. Usually I am entering broken-down old homes and ratty apartments with dishes in the sink and cockroaches in the corners, where the heat and/or air conditioning does not work—which can be more or less a problem depending on the season, which on the shores of Lake Erie can change every ten minutes. Or I’m picking through a vacant lot where a body has been left atop a molding mattress, or a cramped car’s interior where someone decided to end their life with a bullet to the brain. Or—well, you get the idea.

So, the well-lit, climate-controlled, spacious Herald building would have come as a welcome relief in any case, but filled as it was with images of Lois Lane, Humphrey Bogart and Lou Grant, well, I didn’t mind losing a little sleep. Yes, someone was dead, but after ten years as a forensic specialist, I’ve learned not to get that get to me.

Most of the time.

The nice printing supervisor walked me through the building, explaining and/or griping about the difficulties of print journalism today—readership that’s been declining since the 40’s, the loss of the cash cow known as classified advertising to sites like Craigslist and MSN, lay-offs left and right, the harm done a society when there’s no one watching the gatekeepers—but I didn’t get to see Lois or Humphrey. It was the middle of the night, the stories written, the reporters home, only the printing and delivery to thousands of doorsteps left to do before their workday began anew.

We arrived at the print towers. The three-story high ceiling allowed for four towers of steel machinery to function, squeezing an unbroken stream of moving newspaper between huge, horizontal rollers. The rollers were stacked vertically inside the steel-framed towers, and not all the towers were the same size. The tallest had four sets of rollers, others two or one. The paper ribbon stretched from the top of one to the bottom of the next like a spider’s web. The noise drowned out everything else as the printing manager had to shout to explain: “The aluminum sheets are wound around the rolls, there, but they print on a rubber roll next to it, which then prints on the paper. That’s why it’s called offset. There’s one on each side of the paper, so it prints on both sides at once. Every turn prints eight sheets of newspaper.”

I could see the rolls and the paper but there seemed to be much more than that, from the huge boxes feeding the paper in and suspended vats of what must be ink, feeding through metal tubes to a mechanism that ran parallel to the rollers, an array of scaffolding and even steps surrounding each tower. What appeared to be super heavy duty skateboards moved around in a set of tracks that wound around the bottoms of the roller towers. They carried the huge rolls of paper into place. The manager continued: “The taller towers with more rollers are doing the color printing, the shorter ones, all black. Four colors, of course—red, blue, yellow and black. The paper roll then feeds into the folder, where the paper is folded and cut and sent to binding.”

I could have watched the mesmerizing action all day, but my gaze faltered when I saw the body. An unlucky copy editor hung from a long strap tied to the railing at the highest tower. A sad, silent figure against the cacophony of the press—and perhaps, given all the stresses in the industry which had just been described to me, not that surprising.

But then my empathy turned back on myself when I saw who else awaited on the highest tower—Jack Renner. I stopped in my tracks and my heart began to pound in time with the pounding of the huge metal rolls.

Because Jack Renner is a killer.


You can read more about Maggie in UNPUNISHED, the second book in the Gardiner and Renner suspense series.

Maggie Gardiner, a forensic expert who studies the dead, and Jack Renner, a homicide cop who stalks the living, form an uneasy partnership to solve a series of murders in this powerful new thriller by the bestselling author of That Darkness.

It begins with the kind of bizarre death that makes headlines—literally. A copy editor at the Cleveland Herald is found hanging above the grinding wheels of the newspaper assembly line, a wide strap wrapped around his throat. Forensic investigator Maggie Gardiner has her suspicions about this apparent suicide inside the tsunami of tensions that is the news industry today—and when the evidence suggests murder, Maggie has no choice but to place her trust in the one person she doesn’t trust at all . . .

Jack Renner is a killer with a conscience, a vigilante with his own code of honor. In the past, Jack has used his skills and connections as a homicide detective to take the law into his own hands, all in the name of justice. He has only one problem: Maggie knows his secret. She insists he enforce the law, not subvert it. But when more newspaper employees are slain, Jack may be the only person who can help Maggie unmask the killer– even if Jack is still checking names off his own private murder list.

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About the author
Lisa Black has spent over 20 years in forensic science, first at the coroner’s office in Cleveland Ohio and now as a certified latent print examiner and CSI at a Florida police dept. Her books have been translated into 6 languages, one reached the NYT Bestseller’s List and one has been optioned for film and a possible TV series. Connect with Lisa at lisa-black.com.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a print copy of Unpunished. US entries only, please. The giveaway ends February 1, 2017. Good luck everyone!

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

A Day in the Life with Linda Varner by Elizabeth Heiter

stalked“What happened to Haley Cooke?” asked one of Haley’s classmates, wearing a cheerleading outfit.

“Kidnapped. Probably dead,” a newscaster answered, her voice low and somber, like she was sharing a secret.

“No!” Linda Varner wanted to scream. Her daughter wasn’t dead. Her daughter was missing. She was out there somewhere, just waiting for the police to do their jobs and find her. Just waiting for some good Samaritan to recognize her and call the hotline.

“She ran away,” Linda’s ex-husband – Haley’s father – said, shaking his head.

He looked so matter-of-fact, so blasé about the whole thing that Linda wanted to scream. She wanted to run over to her ex’s house and slam a baseball bat through his window the way he’d once threatened to do to her head. She wanted to shut him up, stop him from talking to the cops and the reporters and social media, telling his lies.

Haley hadn’t run away. Some maniac had grabbed her, stolen her away, and since no one else seemed to be able to find her, it was up to Linda.

“Haley!” Linda jolted upright in bed, breathing fast, tears clouding her vision.

Her husband sat up more slowly and she could actually hear him swallow back a sigh. “Honey, you’re having another nightmare.”

No, she wanted to argue. This was real. This was her life now. Her only daughter missing for almost a month and no new leads.

“Did you take the medicine your doctor prescribed?” Pete persisted, wiping the tears from her cheeks.

She nodded. It was the only way she could get any sleep at all. Usually the pills sent her into a blissful darkness where Haley wasn’t missing and Linda’s sole purpose wasn’t a non-stop mission to find her. But every once and a while, they seemed to just turn her life into high-def, a blaring movie she couldn’t escape.

Pete tugged her to him and she let herself relax in his embrace. “You need to sleep,” Pete reminded her. “Maybe you should think about going back to work.”

“No.” Going back to work meant eight fewer hours every day where she could be doing something to help find Haley.

She’d worked in Human Resources for a huge corporation, earning promotions faster than she’d ever thought possible when she’d returned to work after her divorce from Haley’s father. She’d loved it more than she’d expected to, but it had been simple to walk away when Haley went missing. When days turned into weeks and still there were no answers.

How was it possible for a seventeen-year-old girl to walk into her high school for cheerleading practice and then simply disappear?

The truth was, it wasn’t possible. Someone must have seen something. Someone knew where Haley was. So, every day, Linda searched for that person – by making pleas on whatever news stations would have her, on social media, at the police station.

She knew how many cases the police had. She’d seen their stacks of case files when she visited the station every day. And she knew the best way to keep them invested in finding Haley was to keep the pressure on: make sure that the whole country was watching.

Linda pushed away from her husband and climbed out of bed.

“What are you doing?” Pete asked. “It’s four in the morning.”

“Someone’s awake now,” Linda replied. “I’ll try social media, see if anyone has any leads.”

“You know how many wackos are on the Internet,” Pete said, throwing off his own covers even though she knew he was exhausted. “You’ve got to stop doing this to yourself.”

She spun to face him, willing him to understand. “I have to do this, Pete.”

Furrows formed between his sensitive eyes, the feature that had drawn her to him in the first place. “I know. I’ll make you some coffee.”

As he trudged down the stairs, she tried to feel grateful for his support. She knew she was lucky to have him, especially with Haley’s father making his crazy accusations. And she knew he wanted his step-daughter to be found unharmed.

But as much as he loved Haley, it was different. Linda had carried Haley in her belly for nine months, rejoicing in those little movements, even the morning sickness because she’d wanted a baby so badly. The years had passed too quickly: Haley had gone from diapers to pigtails to cheerleading pom poms in the blink of an eye. But there was supposed to be so much more to come: Watching Haley graduate. Walking her down the aisle at her wedding. Holding Haley’s hand as she brought her own baby into the world.

Linda couldn’t give up on those dreams any more than she could give up on Haley.

But day after day, as the news stations slowly lost interest as there was nothing new to report, everyone around her was beginning to accept something Linda could never believe.

Haley was never coming home.


Stalked is the fourth book in the Profiler suspense series, published by MIRA, December 2016.

If you’re reading this, I’m already dead. . .

That’s the note seventeen-year-old Haley Cooke leaves behind when she disappears from inside her high school. FBI profiler Evelyn Baine is called in to figure out who had reason to hurt her. On the surface, the popular cheerleader has no enemies, but as Evelyn digs deeper, she discovers that everyone close to Haley has something to hide. Everyone from estranged parents to an older boyfriend with questionable connections to a best friend who envies Haley’s life.

Secrets can be deadly. . .

One of those secrets may have gotten Haley killed. If she’s still alive, Evelyn knows that the more the investigation ramps up, the more pressure they could be putting on her kidnapper to make her disappear for good. It’s also possible that Haley isn’t in danger at all, but has skillfully manipulated everyone and staged her own disappearance. Only one thing is certain: uncovering Haley’s fate could be dangerous—even deadly—to Evelyn herself.

Read an excerpt at elizabethheiter.com/stalked

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About the author
Critically acclaimed author Elizabeth Heiter likes her suspense to feature strong heroines, chilling villains, psychological twists, and a little bit (or a lot!) of romance. Her research has taken her into the minds of serial killers, through murder investigations, and onto the FBI Academy’s shooting range.

Elizabeth writes a suspense series called The Profiler series and a romantic suspense series called The Lawmen series. Her novels have been published in more than a dozen countries and translated into eight languages; they’ve also been shortlisted for the Daphne Du Maurier award, the National Readers’ Choice award and the Booksellers’ Best award and won the RT Reviewers’ Choice award.

Learn more about Elizabeth and her books at elizabethheiter.com, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Pinterest or on Goodreads.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a print copy of Stalked. US entries only, please. The giveaway ends December 31, 2016. Good luck everyone!

My Musing ~ Stalked by Elizabeth by Elizabeth Heiter

Stalked by Elizabeth by Elizabeth Heiter is the fourth book in the “Profiler” series. Publisher: MIRA, December 27,  2016

stalkedIf you’re reading this, I’m already dead. . .
That’s the note seventeen-year-old Haley Cooke leaves behind when she disappears from inside her high school. FBI profiler Evelyn Baine is called in to figure out who had reason to hurt her. On the surface, the popular cheerleader has no enemies, but as Evelyn digs deeper, she discovers that everyone close to Haley has something to hide. Everyone from estranged parents, to an older boyfriend with questionable connections, to a best friend who envies Haley’s life.

Secrets can be deadly. . .
One of those secrets may have gotten Haley killed. If she’s still alive, Evelyn knows that the more the investigation ramps up, the more pressure they could be putting on Haley’s kidnapper to make her disappear for good. It’s also possible the teenager isn’t in danger at all, but has skillfully manipulated everyone and staged her own disappearance. Only one thing is certain: uncovering Haley’s fate could be dangerous—even deadly—to Evelyn herself.

From beginning to end, the fast-paced and frenzied action never stopped and I was rewarded with a solid plot with plenty of twists and turns to keep me engrossed all that was happening within the pages. With the intensity of this multi-plot tale moving at a good pace, it was hard to put this book down, quickly becoming a page turner. The narrative was explicitly detailed giving me enough supposition to see into the role that Evelyn and the other cast were playing that set the tone of this well-written drama. The author did a great job in telling this story and the more I read, the more I came to understand what Evelyn and Kyle do, and how it related to their daily life as well. I also liked watching both these characters grow into their own. This was an enjoyable read and I look forward to more adventures with Evelyn, Kyle and their friends.

FTC Full Disclosure – I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.