You know that feeling you get when you think there might be someone following you? You walk a little faster, and then they walk faster, too? And the faster you go, the faster they go, until at the end it’s straight up race for survival? That’s how Jeff Abbott’s latest standalone, The Three Beths, feels. You’ve been warned.
It’s been a year since Mariah Dunning’s mother Beth vanished from their home in Lakehaven, TX, a comfortable suburb of Austin. The residents there have known each other for years, so Mariah acutely feels the suspicion that’s fallen on her father Craig. One day she briefly catches sight of a woman who Mariah believes might be her mother, and she becomes more determined than ever to discover the truth to her mother’s disappearance. That’s the only way she can prove not only that Craig didn’t kill his wife, but also that Beth didn’t choose to walk out on her daughter. With the help of a crime blogger, Mariah discovers that two other Lakehaven women disappeared recently—both of them named Beth.
In a story with multiple plot lines like this, the pacing is critical and Abbott hits the mark — each part of the story is revealed subtly and at just the right time. That leaves the reader simultaneously wanting to race to the next clue and trying to slow down so as not to miss any important details. And there are just the right amount of twists and turns to keep things lively without going off the rails.
What I’m looking forward to reading in 2018 by Meike Alana
2017 has been a fantastic year for crime fiction fans, but 2018 promises to be even better. Here are just a few titles that I can’t wait to get my hands on:
Dominicby Mark Pryor: Picking up where Hollow Man left off, the titular Austin attorney/musician (who happens to be a psychopath) continues his murderous ways.
A Reckoning in the Back Country by Terry Shames: When a resident of Jarrett Creek is mauled by vicious dogs, Texas lawman Samuel Craddock suspects a dog-fighting ring may be operating in his town.
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani: Originally published in France where it became a #1 bestseller and winner of France’s most prestigious literary prize, the Goncourt, it marks the American debut of an exciting new voice in crime fiction
Into the Black Nowhere by Meg Gardiner: Following last year’s smash thriller Unsub, newly minted FBI agent Caitlin Hendrix investigates a series of murders around the Austin area.
Sunburnby Laura Lippman: The New York Times bestselling author returns with a superb novel of suspense about a woman who knows how to play the long game to get what she wants.
The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell: A Victorian gothic tale about a young pregnant widow who is sent off to her late husband’s creepy, crumbling, and possibly haunted estate.
If I Die Tonightby Alison Gaylin: The award-winning Gaylin brings us an addictive story of psychological suspense told from multiple viewpoints.
A Perfect Shotby Robin Yocum: Yocum’s A Welcome Murder was a 2017 favorite of ours here at MysteryPeople and we can’t wait for this tale of a local basketball star in a small Ohio town who tries to remake his life but instead gets tangled up in murder.
See Also Proof by Larry Sweazy: Sweazy’s series featuring North Dakota indexer Marjorie Trumaine is another favorite of ours. As she’s mourning the recent death of her husband during a particularly harsh winter, she helps investigate the disappearance of a neighbor’s disabled daughter.
A Stone’s Throw by James Ziskin: Ziskin’s series features 1960’s news reporter Ellie Stone, who is one of my personal favorite characters in the genre. This time the intrepid Ellie investigates a double murder set in the glamorous world of horse racing.
Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott: The queen of noir (part of the writing team behind HBO’s The Deuce) returns with a mesmerizing psychological thriller about how a secret can bind two friends together forever or ultimately tear them apart.
The Three Beths by Jeff Abbott: Three women, all with the same name, have gone missing from idyllic Lakehaven. Given that Abbott is one of the best thriller writers of our day, it’s pretty much a given that this is not a coincidence and that there are some sinister goings on here.
Jeff Abbott joins us Tuesday, July 18th, at 7 PM to speak and sign his latest, Blame, which just so happens to come out the day of the event! Come by the store to be one of the first to get a signed copy. Jeff will be appearing in conversation with fellow Austin-based thriller writer, Meg Gardiner. Before the event, our Meike Alana had a chance to interview Jeff about his latest.
Meike Alana: Your protagonist is Jane, a young woman struggling with amnesia. You’ve done a marvelous job of depicting the insecurity and angst that any post-adolescent female feels, and here that’s heightened by her inability to remember pivotal moments of her life. What was your inspiration for the character?
Jeff Abbott: I was basically terrified of writing a 19-year-old female protagonist, but I wanted to write about someone who wasn’t quite a fully formed adult, and who had lost her own memory of those critical high school years where so many young women and men get a sense of who they are and who they want to be. I was hesitant to try this, but some of my fellow authors like Laura Lippman and Megan Abbott encouraged me. Plus, I have two teenaged children, and I think being around them and their wonderful friends gave me some insights into how they think about the world. I think it is all about writing with sensitivity to a character and finding common ground and understanding. No, I don’t know what it’s like to be an amnesiac teenager. I do know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed, or alone, or as if no one understands you or likes you. We’ve all been there. But the specifics of what a person feels at a certain point in their life is of course different. I just tried to use my imagination responsibly and respectfully.
Jeff Abbott joins us Tuesday, July 18th, at 7 PM to speak and sign his latest, Blame, which just so happens to come out the day of the event! Come by the store to be one of the first to get a signed copy. Jeff will be appearing in conversation with fellow Austin-based thriller writer, Meg Gardiner. Before the event, our Meike Alana had a chance to review Abbott’s latest, set in a wealthy lakeside community with plenty of secrets…
Review by MysteryPeople Contributor Meike Alana
Jeff Abbott is one of the most versatile authors in the crime fiction genre, and his broad story-telling talents are on full display in his latest thriller. The deeply psychological Blame has it all—a cast of fully-realized complicated characters with plenty of secrets, and a tightly-wound suspenseful plot with so many twists and turns that you’ll never see the ending coming. I’m just glad Blame came out during the longer days of summer because this is one of those books that will keep you up at night–first you won’t be able to put it down until way past your bedtime, and then you’ll lie awake trying to puzzle out the characters’ secrets and the plot’s riddles.
Interview by MysteryPeople Contributor and Blogger Scott Butki
K.J. Howe has written a thriller full of multiple plot twists that will have you looking
over your proverbial shoulder. How appropriate that the author of the debut novel The Freedom Broker may be better known as the executive director of ThrillerFest, the organization’s annual conference held every July in New York City.
“Kidnapping fascinated me because it is such a painful and unusual experience, a purgatory of sorts. When you’re a hostage, you’re still alive, but you’re not really living.”
The book comes with quotes praising it from authors throughout the mystery and thriller community including James Patterson, Clive Cussler and Scott Turow. For her debut Howe has picked a fascinating yet disturbing topic: the practice of kidnapping for ransom. She has spent two years researching the topic, interviewing former hostages, negotiators, hostage reintegration experts, special forces operatives, and K&R insurance executives.
The premise is that there are 25 elite professionals who travel undercover to the deadliest spots in the world to bring hostages home safely by any means necessary. Only one of those 25 elite response consultants is a woman.
As we wait patiently for the wild mood swings of a Texas winter to die down, we’ve got plenty of events coming up to strike a mystery lover’s fancy – no matter the weather outside. Jeff Abbott ushered in our 2016 events this past Tuesday, speaking and signing his latest thriller,The First Order.
In The First Order, Jeff Abbott has written yet another great thriller about his protagonist hero, Sam Capra, and his continuing adventures and mishaps.
This is Abbott’s fifth novel in the Sam Capra series and I keep thinking one of these is going to be a dud – no offense, Jeff – but he keeps pulling it off. Each has enough excitement that it should come with a warning: Don’t read before going to bed… because there’s enough adrenaline to keep you awake.
“Usually when an idea with this many facets comes to me, I know it’s one good enough for a book.”
Jeff Abbott has found success in several of the mystery & suspense subgenres. Whether whodunnits, everyman thrillers like Panic, or his action spy series featuring Sam Capra, Abbott navigates through the genre fluidly to provide thrills, kills and chills. It’s no surprise that his list was one that showed the range of the genre.
MysteryPeople’s Molly Odintz and Scott Montgomery were invited to be moderators at the 19th Annual Texas Festival Of Books held at the state capitol last weekend. It was Scott’s fourth time moderating at the festival and Molly’s first time ever. They both survived to tell the tale to report back.
Crime fiction had its strongest presence yet at the festival with six panels and three one-on-one interviews with the likes of Walter Mosely and James Ellroy. Even before the actual festival got underway, I got to sped some time with the authors. Timothy Hallinan, author of the Junior Bender and Poke Rafferty series, shared some BBQ as we talked books and his time working with Katherine Hepburn. I also got to spend some time with friends Harry Hunsicker, Mark Pryor, and the three authors who make up the pseudonym Miles Arceneaux before they went to their panels. Then I had my own.
First up was an interview with Craig Johnson, who’s latest book, Wait For Signs, is a collection of all the short stories featuring his Wyoming sheriff hero, Walt Longmire. He told the audience that Walt’s last name came from James Longmire who opened up the trail near Washington’s Mount Rainer and had the area named after him. He felt the combination of the words “long” and “mire” expressed what his character had been through. He added it also passed the test for a western hero name in that it could easily be followed by the word “Steakhouse.”
My panel discussion, Risky Business, had Jeff Abbott and debut author Patrick Hoffman looking at the art of thriller writing. The discussion got interesting when when it got into the topic of being categorized in a genre. Jeff said he wanted to get pigeon holed, “That way I know I’m selling.” He added it has never interfered with the type of book he wanted to write. We also got into an interesting talk about use of location. Patrick Hoffman talked about how he would often use his company car to drive to the location of his San Fransisco centric, The White Van, and write there on his lunch hour. Jeff and I also had fun drawing as much attention we could to our friend, author Meg Gardiner, who was in the audience and should have known better.
By the time the festival was over my body dehydrated, my voice was shot, and my blood alcohol content was questionable. Can’t wait til’ next year.
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of moderating two mystery panels at the Texas Book Festival. This was my first try at moderating panels and I am so thankful to MysteryPeople and the Texas Book Festival for giving me the opportunity to channel an NPR interviewer.The first, a panel on International Crime, featured authors Kwei Quartey, on tour with his latest Darko Dawson novel, Murder at Cape Three Points, and Ed Lin, with his new novel Ghost Month. Kwei Quartey’s novels take place in Ghana and increasingly focus on the economic and social imbalances of modern day Ghanaian life. Ed Lin has previously written novels depicting the Asian-American experience, including his Detective Robert Chow trilogy, set in New York City, and Ghost Month is his first to take place outside of the country.
We talked about what it means to write international crime fiction, the place of food in the detective novel, fiction as a method of dealing with historical and current societal trauma, and how to escape from a crashing helicopter. Both authors are published by SoHo and you can find their books on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
The second panel, looking at crime noir, brought together authors Rod Davis, with his latest, South, America, and Harry Hunsicker, with his new novel The Contractors. South, America follows a Dallas native living in New Orleans as he finds a dead body, gets tangled up with the dead man’s sister, and must go on the run from mobsters. The novel reaches deep into the twisted Louisiana web of racism and poverty to write a lyrical portrait of two desperate people.
Harry Hunsicker is the author of many previous novels, and his latest, The Contractors, explores the blurred lines between public and private when it comes to law enforcement. His two protagonists are private sector contractors working for the DEA and paid a percentage of the value of any recovered substances. They get more than they bargained for when they agree to escort a state’s witness from Dallas to Marfa with two cartels, a rogue DEA agent, and a corrupt ex-cop following them.
We talked about the meaning of noir, the craft of writing mysteries, the purpose of violence in fiction, and stand-alones versus series. South, America and The Contractors are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.