Here’s another round of great suspense. I may be stretching what some would consider red, but these books all rest at the top of my list. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
3.Loves Music, Loves to Dance by Mary Higgins Clark
Even though this book was written in 1991 and there are a few pop culture references that show it’s age, Loves Music, Loves to Dance kept me turning pages late into the night. Talking about it makes me want to read it again.
2. Chasing the White Lion by James Hannibal
In keeping with The Gryphon Heist from last week’s post, this list would be sorely lacking if I failed to mention Chasing the White Lion. So far, this book is the one to beat of all my 2020 suspense reads so far. I got so attached to the character that I wanted to start over as soon as I read the last sentence.
The King by Steven James
Have you ever read anything by Steven James? If not, you totally should. Patrick Bowers and Tessa are two amazing characters that will stick with you for the long haul. The heart-pounding suspense in this series and this book in particular are off the charts!
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?
“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. 🙂
I’m thrilled to introduce you to my friend, Virginia Vaughan! Just last week I finished her newest release, Texas Twin Abduction, and I enjoyed it so much. There were twists and turns until the very end!
Let’s get right into the interview, then I’ll let you know how you can connect with Virginia and win your very own copy of Texas Twin Abduction.
What are your favorite books from childhood and why?
When I was a child, I fell in love with Gothic romances and authors like Phyllis A. Whitney and Willo Davis Roberts. For me, the combination of romance with danger and suspense was so exciting! It was the beginning of my love affair with romantic suspense.
2. Do you have any quirky writing habits?
I have a couple of quirky writing habits. I love to listen to 70s disco music when I write and you might even catch me dancing along to it, too, lol. My writing process is also kind of wacky. I write my books completely out of order. Sometimes when I’m writing a scene, I don’t even know where it will go in the book. Once I finish writing, I then have to put all the pieces together like a giant jigsaw puzzle. It’s a crazy process, but it works for me.
3. What do you love about the genre in which you write?
I am a fan of true crime and obsessed with digging into unsolved murder cases and mysteries. I love knowing that I can combine that passion into the stories I write and even draw ideas and create my own mysteries. Also, I get to kill people with little or no consequences. What could be better than that, lol?
4. In the Bible, do you have a life verse that is significant to you? Do you find yourself exploring this theme often in your work?
My go-to Bible verse is Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” There have been so many times in my life when circumstances have knocked me to the ground and I didn’t know if I even wanted to get back up. But when I think on this verse and realize that God has plans (plural!) for my life, it gives everything meaning. It gives me a reason to continue on despite the difficult times. I cling to this verse whenever things go wrong and am reminded that I’m supposed to be living for God’s will and not my own. Because many of my characters are like me and have made mistakes, they often also need this reminder.
5. Which part of the book creation process do you like best– brainstorming, writing, editing, or marketing?
I love brainstorming new ideas! My favorite thing is to wipe my whiteboard clean and start with a fresh, new story. I get as excited about starting to plan out a new story and imagining scenes in my head as I do plunging into a good story to read. I also enjoy the actual writing process. I’m a pantser at heart so this is the time when I really get to know my characters.
Comment below to win a copy of Texas Twin Abduction! I’ll be drawing on Monday, August 10th.
This twin’s past is a blank…
And she might not have a future.
Waking up in a bullet-ridden car with a bag of cash and a deputy insisting she’s his ex-fiancée, Ashlee Taylor has no memory of what happened—or of Lawson Avery. But with her twin missing and someone hunting her down, she must trust him with her life. Can Lawson save her and her sister—even as Ashlee’s forgotten secrets become an inescapable trap?
Virginia Vaughan is a multi-published author of inspirational romantic suspense. Blessed to come from a large, southern family, her fondest memories include listening to stories recounted by family and friends around the large dinner table. She was a lover of books even from a young age, devouring gothic romance novels and stories of romance, danger, and love. She soon started writing them herself. A former investigator for the State of Mississippi, Virginia utilizes her criminal justice background with her love of writing to transform words into powerful stories of romance and danger. Connect with Virginia through her website www.virginiavaughanonline.com or her email list at http://eepurl.com/dtFeVP.
Call me crazy, and you’d probably be right, but I love me some true crime television, and Investigation Discovery is my favorite channel. It’s fortunate I don’t have cable, because if I did, I’d spend all my free time watching criminal investigation shows that I’d likely never get a word written. Although, in my defense, some of these shows could be considered ‘research’ as I plan the story lines for some of my upcoming projects. Especially #2.
3. Evil Lives Here
This show comes from a different angle than most true crime offerings. Instead of seeing the case from the eyes of investigators or crime writers, Evil Lives Here focuses on the morderers’ family lives. Although, their families remember happy times, there were always signs that something wasn’t quite right. Personally, I feel that looking at evil people from this point of view helps me see the perpetrators as human rather than just bad and two-dimensional. The episode that hit closest, literally, followed Robert Hawkins. He was the Von Maur shooter in Omaha–just a couple of hours from my hometown.
2. Web of Lies
I enjoy this show quite a lot. As helpful as the internet is for work and communicating with friends, it’s a really good way for murderers to meet potential victims. Seriously, watch a few episodes, and you’ll view the world wide web in a different way.
1. People Magazine Investigates
This show tops the list, since the crimes it covers involve some of the most high-profile murders in the recent past. The episodes are so well-researched and intriguing, that I couldn’t help but give it the spot of honor.
What are your favorite true crime shows? I’d love to hear your thoughts and check out any that I’ve not seen before.
You follow Marshal Ken Durland with your mind scattering a hundred directions. Who killed Jeff Archer. And why? As you pass each row, passengers turn to stare. When you walked to the restroom earlier, none of the faces looked anything but innocent–except maybe the prisoner and that degenerate little boy, Devon, sitting behind you. You rub the ache in your lower back.
The marshal stops and motions to a passenger, and Devon’s mother steps into the aisle. She grips Devon’s hand and the four of you find privacy with the rolling refrigerators in the crowded flight attendant’s space.
“We have to ask you a couple questions.” Durland pulls a notepad and pen from his pocket. “What’s your name, ma’am?”
“Angie Garrett.” Her gaze drops to the floor. Is that a touch of an Australian accent? Maybe she’s going home. If that’s the case, she can’t have anything to do with Jeff Archer’s murder. At least you’ll be able to trust someone on this airplane.
Devon starts making clicking noises with his tongue.
“Stop it! Things are bad enough without constant noise.” Angie rubs her temples.
His eyes grow wide, and the obnoxious sounds die in his throat. Had his mother ever spoken harshly to him?
“Mrs. Garrett. Where are you from?” Marshal Ken asks.
“It’s Miss Garrett.” Her jaw hardens and she swallows hard. “I’m originally from New Castle in Australia.”
“Were you in the US on vacation?” The marshal jots something in his notebook.
She shakes her head. Concern clouds her eyes. Devon grips her hand and nestles close to her. Maybe the little shyster has a sweet streak beneath all the aggravation.
“Why were you in Los Angeles?”
“I-I was married to an American. We lived in Bakersfield.” Angie wraps an arm around her son.
“So your trip to Australia is a vacation. Do you plan to visit family?”
Angie chews her upper lip. “We’re moving in with my parents-well, with my dad. Things didn’t turn out for us in America.”
You study Angie’s face. Though she’s young, stress lines her face. The shadows under her eyes tell a story that is far from pleasant. How did you not notice earlier? Had her husband abused her? It would hardly be a question you could ask with her son around. You glance at Devon. Had he been mistreated? Bruises pepper his arms. Were they the result of the normal wear and tear boys his age endured, or had his father–or would it have been his stepfather–inflicted them?
Despite the sore muscles in your back, your heart softens toward the boy. Yes, he’s still impossible, but who knows what the poor kid has been through.
“It was a rocky marriage, I take it.” The marshal leaned against a rolling refrigerator.
Angie nodded slowly. “We had to leave. We’ll be safe with Dad.” She glanced down at her son and smiled. “Isn’t that right, Dev?”
The boy nodded. “Yep. He’s gonna take me to see kangaroos!”
“Just a couple more things, then I’ll let you get back to your seat.” Marshal Durland slid what looked like the mangled photograph out of his pocket. “Do you know anyone by the name of Jeff Archer?”
Angie’s lips formed a line, and she raised her brows. “Never heard of him.”
“And do you recognize the woman in this picture?” He held it up.
Her eyes widened slightly, lightened by recognition.
“You know her, don’t you?” You lean forward. What was the connection between the two women?
“Not personally.” Angie’s brow puckered. “A few months ago, when I came home from Walmart, that woman was in my house. She was in a heated argument with my husband. I didn’t catch what they were fighting about. But Craig, my husband, sent her away. She was so angry. When she stomped out of the house she used some words I’d rather not repeat in front of Devon. And the way she looked at me.” Angie clasped a hand to her throat.
“Any idea what her name is?” the marshal asked.
“I only heard bits and pieces of the end of the fight, but my husband called her Claire.” She shrugged. “That’s all I heard.”
Claire. The name fit in your disjointed memory. You’d seen the woman before too. Maybe not in real life as Angie had, but in an article.
Claire . . . oh, what is her last name? Harris? No. It started with a W. Or did it? Sometimes when you’re certain about the first letter of a name, you find you were very wrong when the truth comes out.But W fits somehow. Williams? Wilton? Wilson?
You whip your phone from your pocket as Marshal Durland sends Angie and Devon back to their seats.
“You look like you’re onto something.” He takes a step closer and peers over your shoulder at your phone.
“The woman in the picture is Claire Wilson. I’m almost positive a friend of mine wrote an article about her. I just have to find it.” You type ‘Claire Wilson’ into a search engine, but there are too many results. Such a common name. So you add ‘Bakersfield’ to the criteria.
An obituary pops up along with a picture. Your mouth goes suddenly dry, and you consider grabbing a Coke out of one of these fridges. But you wanted a whole can, not a flight attendant’s tiny swallow. “Here she is.” You angle the phone so Durland can get a better look.
“She died last month.” He studies the screen. “It doesn’t give much information, and that’s never a good sign.”
You scroll down the list of search results, and an article with your friend’s name beside it snags your attention. Bingo! When you bring up the article, your stomach turns. Crime scene photos. Claire Wilson was murdered. And her killer is still at large.
Clue #2 The woman in the photo is Claire Wilson
Thank you for joining me for week three! If you’d like me to send you a Word doc listing the characters along with some of their information, let me know in the comments! Who would you and Marshal Durland like to interview next? I’m taking suggestions 🙂