In case you haven’t already figured it out, I love suspense. So today, in honor of my favorite genre, I’m going to share three of my favorite suspense books with blue covers. Enjoy!
3. Haven of Swans- Colleen Coble
This book blew me away. The villain was super creepy, and the heroine was likable. If you haven’t read it yet, go but it immediately.
2. Last Light- Terri Blackstock
Suspense aside, this is one of the best books I’ve read . . . period. The story is so unique and applicable for our crazy world that if you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend you do.
The Gryphon Heist- James R. Hannibal
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: James Hannibal is amazing and The Gryphon Heist is full of colorful and riveting characters. Read it. You’ll love it. 🙂 And P.S., it’s on Kindle Unlimited if you’re a subscriber.
Let’s be honest. 2020 has been a total rip-off full of plot twists none of us saw coming. Sometimes, my anxiety is off the charts, and prayer and a good laugh are the best medicine. Here are three of my favorite true crime memes. Hopefully, they brighten your day!
3. Maybe this is why I’m single…
2. Check yourself.
How many of you watch an embarrassing amount of true crime documentaries? Which is your favorite?
This is the last installment of Murder at 30,000 Feet! Hard to believe ten weeks have flown by so quickly (pun completely intended.) Next week I’ll hold the drawing for the $50 Amazon Gift Card. Anyone who leaves a comment on all 10 posts will have a chance to win. 🙂
As the plane begins it’s descent, you grab the seat back to steady yourself. A hollow ding sounds over the speakers, and the ‘fasten seat belt’ light flickers on. You meet Mara’s gaze and her brows raise. She’ll never admit to anything. Durland–if that’s even his real name– doesn’t look too forthcoming either with the firm set to his jaw and the steely determination in his eyes.
Maybe Claire Wilson’s social media page wasn’t taken down after her death. Would there be pictures of Mara? Maybe even her brother, Sam? You open your Banter app and search Claire’s name. Bingo! The page is active.
You scroll past a series of posts left by friends and family who mourned her loss and reminisced over happy times they’d shared. Finally, the photos. You thumb through the gallery and stop. There’s Mara. Her arm draped around Claire’s shoulders as the pair stood in front of what looked like a view of the Rocky Mountains. Family vacation, perhaps?
In the next picture, a familiar face joins the pair. You look up and lock eyes with Mashal Durland, who, according to the photo tag, is Claire’s brother Sam Collison. He looks away. Even if Durland–or Collison, rather–tries to smooth-talk his way out of this predicament, he can’t explain away the fact that he is on the same plane with the corpse of the man who most likely murdered his sister.
“This wasn’t the way to handle it.” You lower your phone, shaking your head. “There are laws to–“
“They failed.” Sam runs splayed fingers through his hair. “That monster killed my sister, and got away with it. There was no justice.”
“But you murdered him, and that wasn’t the answer.” Maybe it felt like Jeff Archer had gotten everything he deserved. But murder was always wrong. Your ears pop as the lights lining the runway come into view through the oblong window to your left.
“It wasn’t me.” Sam shakes his head. “I’ll admit, I’ve been tracking him for months. And I knew he’d be on this flight. He’s been tailing Angie. I had to keep an eye on her. Make sure she didn’t end up like Claire. But I didn’t cut that monster’s throat. I was just as shocked to see that dead body as you were, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t happy about it.”
“Why impersonate an officer?” It doesn’t make sense.
“I’d have killed him. Planned to, but someone already finished the job.” He chews the inside of his lip. “The cop act would have been a cover. A way to get off the plane quickly.” He shrugs. “If I had a killer to return to Australia for extradition, they’d let me through, no questions asked.”
“Why should I believe you didn’t do it?”
“If you knew him like I do, you’d realize that I’m not the only one with a vendetta.”
You cut a glance at Mara, but she’s shaking her head. A smirk plays across her lips. Then she glances to something or someone behind you. You look over your shoulder.
Jessica is standing at the emergency exit, hand on the handle. The passengers who had occupied that row run to the back of the plane, shouting, fear lines their faces. Is she crazy? Opening the emergency exit with the plane still in motion could be dangerous, even if you aren’t at cruising altitude.
“Jessica, don’t. Running will only make things worse.” You take a step toward her. Probably not the best idea, but if someone doesn’t diffuse the situation, there might be consequences.
“He killed my sister.” Her knuckles whiten as she grips the handle. “He can’t get away with it. But I can’t spend the rest of my life in jail.” She swallows hard. “I need to help people. To do some good. And ridding the world of that evil man is just the first step.”
The wheels bounce off the runway. You grasp the seat back beside you. “Did you know he’d be on this flight?”
Jessica’s eyes dart to Sam and Mara. She squares her shoulders and yanks the handle. The emergency door flies open, and passengers’ screams punctuate the air. The sudden rush of humid air sucks at your clothing, pulling you toward the opening.
The flight attendant jumps onto the inflated slide and slips down. You cling to the seat, watching her descent. With the airplane still taxiing down the paved strip, the slide flails and pivots, sending Jessica flying through the air. She misses the safety of the cushion, and lands on the pavement. with a sickening thud.
How could she survive such a jarring fall?
The plane stops.
You run to the exit and peer outside, praying the scene won’t be as awful as you imagine. Maybe Jessica will brush herself off and run toward wherever to escape the consequences for her actions.
But her body lays in a mangled heap on the pavement. A dark stain spreads beneath her head. You look away, gut twisting.
Melani Hyatt screams then buries her face in her husband’s chest.
Angie Garrett hold her son close, facing him away from the grisly image that would probably scar his mind forever. Tears streak her cheeks.
Mara and Sam sit in their seats. Mouths agape and eyes glassy.
Griz bows his head. Perhaps honoring her with a moment of silence.
Flashing lights and wailing sirens drown the sobs in the fuselage. Medics rush toward Jessica’s form. One kneels beside her, places his hand on her neck, then shakes his head.
The pilot calls for the passengers to disembark. As if in a trance, the men an women pressing against the emergency exit scatter. Overhead bins click open and shut behind you, but you’re frozen in place.
Such a waste. It’s a blessing Jeff Archer can’t hurt anyone else, but you hate yourself for thinking so. You swallow past the dryness in your throat. Did Jessica really plan this alone? Sure she had motive, but it seems like too elaborate a plot for her to construct single-handed.
You turn, scanning the empty seats. Alone. They’re all gone. Back to their business as if nothing happened at all.
You grab your carry-on and walk the jetway into the airport. Men, women, and children bustle around you as if life hasn’t changed. As if Jessica didn’t jump to her death before your eyes. Somehow, everything feels surreal, like you’re floating through a dream.
Angela and Devon stand near the McDonald’s in the terminal. She has an arm draped around him as he licks at an ice cream cone. Griz stands beside her and rests a hand on her shoulder. Something between them feels familiar. How do they know each other? Mara and Sam join them, faces wreathed in smiles.
Sam glances your way. His grin widens, and he lifts his index finger to his lips.
Your heart plummets into your gut. Jessica didn’t act alone, but how can you ever hope to prove it?
I hadn’t planned on such an unsatisfying ending, so I hope you don’t black-ball me for it. As I was writing, the cut and dried ending I had planned just felt too much like cardboard. This is what came to me organically.
This has been a fun and challenging journey for me, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
Would you like to do another? Is there a particular setting you’d like to see? Drop your ideas below, and I’ll do my best to make them come alive!
As I mentioned above, I’ll draw for the $50 Amazon Gift Card winner next week and post it here. Thanks for keeping with me. I appreciate each on of you!
In honor of my debut novel, The Purple Nightgown, that is set to release March 1, 2021, I want to share my top three favorite books in the True Colors series so far. I haven’t read all of them yet, but I’m working on it. That being said, this list may change as time goes on. I’ll also drop a cover image for The Purple Nightgown at the bottom, so you can share in my excitement!
Stories in the True Colors series follow historical true crimes, so if history and killing is your thing, this series would be a perfect choice. I had the honor of writing a book based on a blog post I wrote in January. Here’s the web address in case you’re interested in a little research before diving in.
In Boston, 1886, Harriet Peters commissions Sarah Jane Robinson to make her a new dress. Both widows are struggling to make ends meet, and they strike up a quick friendship. Harriet feels sorry for Sarah Jane, who has suffered so much loss in her life. But Harriet’s friend, Dr. Michael Wheaton, has concerns that death seems to follow Sarah Jane in mysterious ways Still, Harriet can’t imagine any deceit in her friend, who she comforts through the deaths of her daughter and nephew.
Will Harriet’s trusting nature lead to her own demise as a persistent stomachache starts to plague her?
2. The White City by Grace Hitchcock
While attending the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, Winnifred Wylde believes she witnessed a woman being kidnapped. She tries to convince her father, an inspector with the Chicago police, to look into reports of mysterious disappearances around the White City. Inspector Wylde tries to dismiss her claims as exaggeration of an overactive imagination, but he eventually concedes to letting her go undercover as secretary to the man in question—if she takes her pistol for protection and Jude Thorpe, a policeman, for bodyguard.
Will she be able to expose H. H. Holmes’s illicit activity, or will Winnifred become his next victim?
The Gray Chamber by Grace Hitchcock
On Blackwell Island, New York, a hospital was built to keep its patients from ever leaving.
With her late father’s fortune under her uncle’s care until her twenty-fifth birthday in the year 1887, Edyth Foster does not feel pressured to marry or to bow to society’s demands. She freely indulges in eccentric hobbies like fencing and riding her velocipede in her cycling costume about the city for all to see. Finding a loophole in the will, though, her uncle whisks Edyth off to the women’s lunatic asylum just weeks before her birthday. Do any of Edyth’s friends care that she disappeared?
At the asylum she meets another inmate, who upon discovering Edyth’s plight, confesses that she is Nellie Bly, an undercover journalist for The World. Will either woman find a way to leave the terrifying island and reclaim her true self?
And here is the cover image for The Purple Nightgown. It was a blast to write, and I’m hoping you enjoy it. 🙂
I’m so excited to have my lovely friend, Shaen here for an interview! She’s one of the sweetest, most encouraging people I know, and her cozy mysteries are amazing! Seriously, check them out. You’ll thank me later. 🙂
After the interview, I’ll give you a few ways to connect with Shaen and purchase her upcoming release. There may or may not be a drawing for one of her mysteries down there too.
We’ve all had funny experiences, and that’s no different for a writer. What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever had happen to you as a writer?
I don’t know if this one is funny, or just a near miss! Last summer, I was asked to take part in a suspense anthology with quite a few well-known authors. I was the new kid on the block and had never written suspense before. Needless to say, I was a little intimidated. I went over my story with a fine tooth comb, yet the day before I was supposed to submit it, I realized that one of the other author’s stories featured a main character with the same name as one of mine. I felt like I needed to change it so there wouldn’t be any overlap, and in my panic to find the right name, I ended up mistakenly changing my villain’s name to my editor’s! Luckily, I caught my slip up right before I was sending the email to my editor and changed it again. I can only imagine he wouldn’t have appreciated me immortalizing him as a killer in my story, after all his hard work beating my manuscript into submission, lol!
Oh, my goodness! Keeping fictional characters names from being offensive to a friend or acquaintance can get a bit hairy sometimes. Do you have any quirky writing habits?
Kind of? This is just something I’ve started doing recently, but painted fingernails help me be more productive! Seriously, I know you’re laughing, but for me, it’s the equivalent of Jo (from Little Women) and her askew writing cap. I can look down and see my hands on the keyboard and just feel more professional and put together.
Maybe my chipped nail polish explains my writer’s block. Need to paint my nails tonight. In the Bible, do you have a “life verse” that’s significant to you? Do you find yourself exploring this theme often in your work?
I do! Like a lot of authors, I write about what I’m trying to learn myself, and a verse I often explore, over and over again, from different angles, is Romans 8:28… “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”
In Waves of Doubt, Priscilla has to learn to trust God’s plans and stop doubting His prompting. In A Slowly Developing Story, as a mystery falls together at a frustratingly slow pace, Elizabeth learns to rest in God’s provision. In Bird’s Eye View (my most recent cozy mystery release from Guideposts), Martha discovers her impatience and desire to control her situation don’t serve her well. It’s only when she lets go and submits to God’s overarching plan for her life that the mystery falls into place. I hope everyone who reads my books can take comfort in that truth: God is good and in control, even when things look like they’re falling apart.
In the times we’re in, it’s a comfort to know that God’s in control. That’s one of my favorite themes to read, for sure. Which part of the book creation process do you like best– brainstorming, writing, editing, marketing?
This is going to sound bad coming from a writer, but I actually enjoy the marketing part most! Is that a shocker? Let me clarify by saying that, of course, I enjoy the other parts of the process, too– I wouldn’t be a writer if I didn’t like writing! But crafting the actual book is often an arduous process for me. I’m super detail oriented and have to fight tooth and nail with my tendency to over-work a document. Marketing doesn’t have the same pressure associated with it… I guess it’s like birthing a baby versus sending out birth announcements!
Interesting! But it makes sense. How do you think your writing style has changed over the years?
Hmm, this is an interesting question… I think I’ve found my unique writing voice more as I’ve gotten older, probably because I’ve gotten to know my own self better. My natural voice (which I sometimes adapt based on the genre in which I’m writing) is very focused on crafting beautiful language– a holdover from my days writing poetry in college. When I was younger, I didn’t cultivate this part of my style as much, but now, it’s the part of writing that brings me the most joy 😊
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions and giving us a peek into your process!
Here is the blurb for Shaen’s upcoming release.
Silent Night, Deadly Night. Welcome to a Killer Christmas!
Danger and suspense await you this Christmas season in Mistletoe and Murder: A Christmas Suspense Collection featuring 10 individual novellas of suspense from some of today’s most talented Christian Suspense authors.
Come with us on a heart-racing journey through the holidays as USA Today, Christian Booksellers Association, and ECPA Bestselling authors Mary Alford, Adam Blumer, Liz Bradford, Vicki Hinze, Shaen Layle, Loree Lough, Nancy Mehl, Cara Putman, Lynn Shannon, and Virginia Vaughan, weave tales of suspense that will have you flipping pages well into the new year.
I’m a USA Today Bestselling author who writes inspirational cozy mystery from my home in the Midwest, where I live with my artist husband, Danny, and our two rambunctious, but adorable, little boys. Trained as a literary novelist and with a decade of librarianship under my belt, I love discussing all things bookish with my readers on my website and on social media.
I want to give one of you lucky duckies a copy of A Slowly Developing Story. It’s a fabulous cozy mystery that I’m sure you’ll love! Comment below to be entered in the drawing. I’ll contact the winner on September 10th.
“I don’t have to explain anything.” The marshal crosses his arms and sinks into his seat beside Mara. “You’re looking for someone to blame. No matter what I say, you’re ready to believe I’m guilty.”
He’s right. Suspicion has clouded your vision. Best to keep looking for Sam Collison, since Archer implicated him. You pull out your phone. There must be some way to learn the identity of Sam Collison. After opening your Banter app, you type ‘Sam Collison’ into the search bar. Three pages of search results populate. How will you ever narrow that down?
An idea picks at your brain like buzzards on a fresh carcass. Claire Wilson and Jessica’s sister Tawny were married to the same man, now both are dead. There has to be a deeper connection there. It was too circumstantial these two women should be on the same plane.
You turn to the flight attendant. “Jessica. Was your sister’s husband ever charged with her murder? Did the case go to trial?”
“There was a bail hearing.” Her jaw hardened. “But the DA dropped the charges when he found out the evidence was obtained by unlawful seizure. Without being able to use the evidence against Rick, there was no chance at a conviction anyway.”
And Claire Wilson’s killer was still free, no evidence linked anyone to her crime scene. But Angie had witnessed an argument between her husband and Claire. How did that compute? What if the man who had been married to both Tawny and Claire was involved with Angie as well?
“Angie.” You glance over your shoulder. The dark-haired woman steps into the aisle and moves toward you, Devon close behind her. She meets Mara’s gaze, bites her lip, and looks at the floor. “What did your husband do for a living?”
“He was in sales.” Her answer is clipped.
“Did he travel for work?”
What are the odds all these domestic violence cases are tied to the man lying dead on the restroom floor? But the women tied to these abusive relationships were all married to men with different names. How could–
You scan the flight manifest until your gaze snags on the name ‘Jeff Archer.’ His seat is J3. When you find the his assigned seat number, you pop open the overhead bin. You pull out a black backpack. “Does this belong to anyone here?”
A teenage boy claims it.
Next, you drag out a gray duffel. When you ask who it belongs to, the passengers in row J shake their heads. You pull the zipper. Just a bunch of socks, a few pair of underwear, and–it can’t be. A stack of passports are shoved in and inside pocket. You flip through them. Some contain unfamiliar names, others names you recognize. But the photo is the same in each, and all the pictures match the face of the dead man in the bathroom. You stack the known names into a pile. Jeff Archer, Rick Brandt, Frank Wilson had to be Claire Wilson’s husband, and Roger Garrett must be Angie’s.
The victim had at least five identities besides these. Did each come with a different wife? A fresh story of abuse? Your skin crawls. As much harm as this man has caused, maybe he got what he deserved. The justice system clearly wasn’t adequate to stop his hidden lives, to protect the women and children he was hurting.
You pull out your phone to search the names you don’t recognize. With so much commonality among the passengers, surely there must be a way to narrow down the suspects. Jeff Archer–or whoever he was–had murdered Clair Wilson and Jessica Carmichael’s sister. He had beaten both Angie Garrett and her son. Mara had mentioned killing a man after something she’d witnessed him do. You meet the convicts gaze across the aisle. She lifts her chin and raises a brow. Didn’t all that happen before the flight? Why else would she be in shackles, awaiting trial in Australia?
Unless, it was all a lie. What if Durland wasn’t a real marshal? What if the law officer/criminal relationship between him and Mara was just a ruse to keep them from being implicated in Archer’s murder?
When you open your Safari tab, your last search for Claire Wilson comes up. Her obituary sits at the top of the list. You click it and scan the text for the names of her next of kin.
“…she is survived by her mother, Mara Lynch and her brother, Sam Collison.”
Clue #8 Jeff Archer has many identities. He was married to Claire Wilson, Jessica’s sister Tawny, and Angie Garrett.
Clue #9 The convict, Mara Lynch, is Claire Wilson’s mother.
Next week all the secrets will come to light. Who do you think killed the man in the airplane bathroom?
Not sure about you, but I love a movie that leaves me guessing until the end. Here are my three favorites. Do any of these make your list of top picks?
I realize this is one of those movies you either love or hate. There is no middle ground. And many people think it’s too complicated. Well, I for one love the complexity of dreams within dreams. Even the ending with the spinning top leaves room for questions to arise.
2. Knives Out
With the mansion and house guests, this is like a modernized Clue. The story is so well-done that I was drowning in it before I knew what was happening. Yes, even though I thought I knew exactly what was going on the entire time. (I didn’t) The only thing I’d change if I could would be making Daniel Craig stick with his British accent. The Foghorn Leghorn voice doesn’t suit him at all.
Wait Until Dark
I’m going with a classic for my top pick. Audrey Hepburn does a stellar job playing a blind woman terrorized by drug traffickers. I literally screamed at a scene toward the end. If you haven’t seen this gem, I highly recommend!
What are your favorites? Maybe I’ll find some new titles to add to my list.
The marshal takes a step back. “What do you mean, I’m not on the manifest?” His brow furrows. Either there’s simple explanation, or he should get an Oscar for the innocent act he’s playing.
“Your name’s not listed.” You cut a glance at his prisoner, Mara, who keeps her eyes trained on the floor. “She is, but you’re not.” You scan the list once more. “The marshal who’s listed in the seat next to her is Toby Scott.”
Marshal Durland’s shoulders relax. He steps toward you, and you swallow the building lump in your throat. “Toby asked me to trade assignments with him at the last minute.”
But why wouldn’t they have updated the manifest? The weight in your gut says all is not well in Whoville.
“Let’s see your credentials.” Griz steps beside you, arms crossed. Thank goodness, you’re not the only one who finds this fishy as the day is long.
The marshal fumbles, then pulls out a leather wallet-looking thing. He lifts the flap. The ID looks legit enough, but as well-thought out as the murder appeared, you guess a good deal of planning went into it. If Marshal Durland–or whoever this person was–had set this scheme in motion days ago, he would’ve had time to get a phony badge made. Fourteen year-olds got fake IDs all the time, for crying out loud.
You glance at Griz. He seems level-headed, but his eyes narrow, mirroring your own suspicion. “Take a seat next to the convict, marshal.” Distrust drips from every word.
“What do you plan to do?” Durland brushes back his jacket, revealing a pistol in his shoulder holster.
The passengers let out a collective gasp.
“You threatenin’ me?” Griz takes a step forward, clearly unintimidated. The way that network of scars crisscrosses his face, he’s probably seen worse than an air marshal with a 9mm.
“Please don’t flash your weapon.” Jessica steps behind the marshal, using her most soothing flight attendant’s voice. “You’re frightening the passengers.
Durland lets his coat drop and conceal the hand gun. “I’m just doing my job. Don’t interfere.” The marshal stuffs his badge into this pocket. When he pulls his hand out, a scrap of paper flutters from his pocket to the floor. He quickly moves his foot to cover it, but Jessica beats hims to it.
She unfolds the paper, and her eyes widen.
You extend a hand, and she slips you the sheet. It’s a handwritten blueprint of the airport in LA. You tilt the map for Griz’s inspection.
The old cowboy puffs out a breath. “Looks like you’ve got a lot of explaining to do, Durland.”
Clue #7- Marshal Durland has a map of the LA airport.
Well, the end is in sight! Thank you all for sticking with me. If you haven’t had a chance, comment on the older Murder at 30,000 Feet posts to be entered in the $50 Amazon gift card drawling at the end of the mystery. 🙂
As much as I love me some Criminal Minds, there are a few other television shows with detectives I love. Some a little more comical than the straight-faced Aaron Hotchner, but still a blast to watch. Hey, we can’t all be simultaneously stone-faced and amazing. And P.S. the male main character in my trilogy was definitely patterned after Hotch. Here’s my personal list of favorite television detectives.
3. Patrick Jane- The Mentalist
This man can sniff out a lie a thousand miles away, and it’s a treat to watch him in action. “Being sorry is a far worse punishment than being dead. Everybody dies. Very few people ever feel truly sorry for the bad things they’ve done.” -Patrick Jane
2. Columbo- Columbo
He’s literally the most frumpy, unassuming detective of all time. But he notices things that the garden variety detective misses. It’s safe to say he annoys suspects into confessing. “Just one more thing.” -Columbo
Adrian Monk- Monk
Not only is Adrian Monk obsessive in the extreme, he has a tragic backstory that made me want to give him a hug (which he would have hated, by the way) and root for him as he sought justice for his wife’s murder. He’s the perfect blend of aggravating and lovable. “It’s a gift, and a curse.” -Adrian Monk
There are so many other television detectives out there that I’m sure I missed your favorite. Drop your top picks in the comments below!