Indie Spotlight: Mystery, Thriller, and True Crime
In our monthly thematic roundup of BookLife titles, we’re celebrating thrillers, mysteries, and true crime books by indie authors.
The Jade Tiger
About the book: As a former opera singer turned Shanghai nightclub owner, she’s seen and done a lot, maybe too much. With any luck, she’ll leave more than the Jade Tiger casino behind her—along with a murdered husband, a blackmailing torch singer, and Thom Lund, the ex-cop who stole her heart. But Penelope has never had that kind of luck; her past is already waiting for her in New York. When someone murders her chiseling blackmailer at an out-of-control party, Penelope and Thom must navigate double crosses, bad liquor, bootleggers, and dark, obsessive love to find the murderer before the past reaches out to put a noose around her neck.
Author statement: “I had been writing for some time before I stumbled on the idea for The Jade Tiger in the most cliché way possible: I had a dream about a woman who sang opera and ran a nightclub. I couldn’t shake thinking about her. Every time I went to the opera, every noir film I watched, every reference to Prohibition made me wonder who she was and what made her tick. Five years and goodness knows how many drafts later, I had a manuscript I could believe in and an editor to help me with the final polish and design. About a month after release, I was astonished to learn The Jade Tiger was chosen as the 2020 BookLife Prize finalist for mystery/thriller.”
About the book: The young daughter of a prominent attorney has disappeared in this murder mystery set in 1944. What if the disappearance is linked to the abandoned girl kept hidden away in one of the Shelby County orphanages? What if the murder mystery has deeper ties to the town’s elite than anyone imagined?
Author statement: “I’ve long felt drawn to the 1940s. Spiral allowed me to revisit the 1940s while also exploring a mystery that’s fueled by a powerful community and paranormal activity that may be happening in real life. Spiral is a novel that I created from an outline. I listened to music from the 1940s, conducted a fair amount of research, and referenced pictures from that time period to authentically revisit the story’s core.”
Wisps of Gold
About the book: Rose Wood is fresh out of finishing school where her father, taken by gold fever, deserted her five years ago. She returns to her father’s side at the 108 Mile Hotel. But a rotting stench greets her at the door—her father’s corpse left for her to find. Whispers abound that he was killed for his treasure. Blackmail and veiled threats from an unknown enemy compel her to search for her father’s hidden gold vein. As she sinks deeper into the mystery of her father’s death, the line between friends and foes becomes blurred.
Author statement: “As I researched the Cariboo Gold Rush, the legend of the serial killer Agnus McVee inspired me to write a prelude story that involved murder and a treasure hunt. Hence, Wisps of Gold was born.”
Better Haunts and Garden Gnomes
Michelle M. Pillow
About the book: Welcome to Lucky Valley, where nothing is quite what it seems. Lily Goode wasn’t aware that she had an inheritance waiting for her in the form of a huge Victorian house in Colorado. Life might finally be coming together for her. Life is grand—if you don’t count the endless home repairs; dealing with eccentric Aunt Polly, who claims that they’re both witches; Nolan Dawson, the handsome home inspector who seems to have it in for her; and the strange hallucinations and garden gnomes, who are far more than lawn ornaments.
Author statement: “I’ve been a published author for nearly 20 years now, and during that time I’ve had the opportunity to write in many different genres—dark fantasy, historical, paranormal, contemporary, sci-fi, futuristic. One thing became obvious very quickly in my career: for better or worse, I wasn’t a one-genre writer. My muse likes to explore and research, so I let her.”
About the book: Former assistant district attorney Alastair Maddox pursues Prohibition Chicago’s most dangerous monsters after witnessing the deaths of his parents and grandparents as a boy. When a former colleague in the Chicago PD comes to ask Alastair for help, he comes face-to-face with the mysterious Alexandra DeLane. But something’s off. DeLane is way too calm, and her eyes are the color of blood. After she escapes, Alastair goes on the hunt, only to find himself the prey of an ambitious and mysterious mob boss who plots to have him murdered. But Alastair doesn’t stay dead and comes back as something else.
Author statement: “I started writing BloodLaw out of deep love of classic detective mysteries. I wanted to see how I could combine the grittiness of traditional urban fantasy with the carnality of the vampire. There are no perfect characters in this story because there are no perfect people. I wanted the reader to see that. While writing this series, I spent copious hours studying the Prohibition Era, the works of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, and primarily the mob. I wanted the reader to feel like they stepped into the 1920s, an era when the glitz and glam of freedom hid the bubbling darkness of the criminal underworld.”
Edge of the Breach
About the book: In a postapocalyptic world where season of birth determines power—spring healers, summer mages, fall shape-shifters, and winter shields—a man and a woman emerge from tragic childhoods to lead humanity on opposite sides of an interrealm war.
Author statement: “I’m Halo, a Renaissance soul. I bushwhack my way through life—no highways for me. I have been a student, a teacher, a musician, a photographer, a coder, and now, an author. It took some time to find my direction, but each experience enabled me and pushed me closer to the truth. I write about the dark, about the taboo and the unorthodox. A few years back, when the urge to write became too desperate to ignore, I found the pen a lifeline and the words a lighthouse.”
All That Lingers
About the book: The rise of Nazism in Austria catapults Emma’s once-idyllic life in Vienna into chaos. As she grapples with the harsh new reality of her country’s betrayal, she desperately clings to her humanity by hiding her Jewish friends. In the aftermath, she finds solace in helping those in even greater need than herself.
Author statement: “I was born in liberated Rome to a half-Jewish Viennese mother who had found a modicum of safety in Italy after the Nazi annexation of Austria. My early childhood was spent changing countries and languages until we, too, arrived in New York. There, from age seven, I lived in a Manhattan neighborhood of Holocaust survivors and fellow Europeans displaced by war. I absorbed their memories of betrayals and sacrifice, of courage and difficult decisions, of strangers’ kindnesses and sheer luck. I came to understand that their gratitude for having found safety in America was tinged with longing for the lives they’d once loved and had been forced to give up. I learned that the past is never quite past. These lingering shadows of all that had been lost are what inspired me to write All That Lingers.”
Center Stage: A Political Thriller
About the book: Center Stage is a portrayal of a man grappling with his past in the present, in the context of contemporary cultural mores. Rock star Tyler Sloan must navigate his decades-old drug use and lascivious past as he runs for U.S. Senate. Can Americans embrace Sloan or will they cancel his candidacy? Will voters look beyond his past? Can Sloan’s current values overcome attacks from his political opponents? What is fair game when it comes to judging the past of a politician—or a rock star?
Author statement: “I’m an author, political observer, commentator, and lawyer who contributes frequently to RealClearPolitics. My work has appeared in Center Square, Political Insider, Yahoo Finance, and Markets Insider. Having worked for several successful campaigns, my experiences in politics, government, business, and law provide unique insight into the machinations and characters that populate political campaigns—and stories.”
No White Lies
About the book: Award-winning journalist Will McCormick has it all: money, a beautiful family, and a Pulitzer Prize. He also has a dark secret. The story that made him famous all those years ago didn’t quite happen the way he told it, and now someone from his past seems determined to make him pay. No White Lies flings readers through Baghdad war zones to underground Paris, from a remote New Zealand lakeside resort to a Manhattan landfill. It’s a breakneck ride brimming with exotic locations, spies, terrorism, conspiracy, and political intrigue.
Author statement: “No White Lies is not a true story, as claimed in the dedication. The characters are entirely fictional. But it was inspired by real life, in particular my experiences as a foreign correspondent and later national affairs editor of a daily newspaper. Journalism is a profession where the pressures of competition are intense—the pressure to write a catchy intro, to overstate, to blur the line between fact and fiction. It is a profession that is not without blame for the world in which we find ourselves.”
The Peacemaker’s Code
About the book: Professor Kilmer, a renowned historian of war and diplomacy, is collected from his home and whisked off to Washington. Thrust into the highest levels of government as an adviser to the president, the young historian must come to terms with the seemingly impossible, figure out how to navigate a world where not everything is as it appears, and use all the skills and knowledge he has acquired in his life to help save humanity from a conflict of truly epic proportions.
Author statement: “I’m a professor at Harvard Business School, and most of my writing, teaching, and advising involves helping businesses and governments deal with seemingly impossible negotiations and conflicts. I’ve written extensively on the topic of negotiation, but this is my debut novel.”
About the book: A five-year-old unsolved murder, a U.S. senate candidate with a past to hide, and an alleged art forgery that rocks the art world: all pieces of a multidimensional puzzle facing detective Ronni Brilliant and the women of the Monet Detective Agency.
Author statement: “My stories are about people whose lives are altered because of some fissure in the fabric of history, seemingly random occurrences that send ripples through time. A work of art that disappeared 75 years ago, the reappearance of a white-skinned tribe from the time of the Incas, a treasure hidden by the first witch of Ireland, a 100-year-old broken covenant: each of them brings tribulation and transformation to contemporary lives.”
Children’s & YA
The Benevolent Lords of Sometimes Island
About the book: The Benevolent Lords of Sometimes Island is about four middle school friends who evade high school bullies by hiding in an abandoned lake house, then become stranded on a desolate lake island in the middle of Texas during the summer of 1986.
Author statement: “This novel is my response to William Golding’s 1954 novel, Lord of the Flies, which was Golding’s response to The Coral Island by R.M. Ballantyne, an adventure novel from 1858. All three novels tackle the premise of boys stranded on an island, with my novel taking a decidedly modern view of a group of friends working to survive in a situation filled with danger and desperation with only each other to rely on.”
I Escaped the Salem Witch Trials
Scott Peters and Juliet Fry
About the book: Orphan girl Hannah True battles strange happenings, suspicion, and angry villagers when her town believes it is under attack by witches. This is the sixth children’s book in the I Escaped series about brave boys and girls who face real-world challenges and find ways to escape disaster. Follow these inspiring kids while they brainstorm, help others, and hone their problem-solving skills.
Author statement: “The short chapters make for easy wins, and Hannah’s gripping situation keeps even reluctant readers turning pages just to find out what’s going to happen next.”