A new year is upon us, and that means new books to add to our already toppling TBR piles. Here are the three I’m most looking forward to in 2021.
3. Three Missing Days– Colleen Coble
The first two books in this series have been amazing, so I’m waiting on tenterhooks for book three of the Pelican Harbor Series. April 6, 2021
2. Network of Deceit– Tom Threadgill
Tom Threadgill’s books are thrilling and completely wonderful. I feel like I’ve been waiting for Network of Deceit forever. Maybe because I can barely remember a time before 2020… February 2, 2021
Night Fall– Nancy Mehl
Nancy Mehl’s books are so good that once I get my hands on them, they don’t last as long as I’d like them to. I’m beyond excited for the first book in the Quantico Files series. And isn’t the cover amazing? March 30, 2021
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 can’t tell from my posts, Suspense/Thriller is my favorite genre. I’ve had the hardest time narrowing this post to three authors, so I’m sticking ones I would classify as writing straight-up suspense and not romantic suspense. Since it was literally impossible to choose only three without squeezing out one of my favorites, I’m going to list four for your reading pleasure. And I’ll add links to Amazon or the author’s website to make it even easier for you to check out these amazing works of creepy genius. You’re welcome!
4. Nancy Mehl
Nancy Mehl’s Kaely Quinn series is a treasure! Her plots are unique and intricate. If you haven’t read her books yet, you’ll want to get on that.
The only thing I don’t like about C.C. Warrens’ Holly series and it’s spin-off is the fact that I literally get nothing done around my house when I’m reading one. They are beyond un-put-down-able. Check them out!
James Hannibal’s characters are unforgettable and wonderful on so many levels. You’ll want to start with the Gryphon Heist then move on the Chasing the White Lion. In the words of Adrian Monk, “You’ll thank me later.”
Okay, so if you’ve known me for any length of time, you saw this coming a thousand miles away. The Patrick Bowers series by Steven James . . . well . . . I’m scrambling for the right words to describe it, but the English language is a little lacking. Suffice it to say, the final book in the series, Checkmate, has the most satisfying ending of any work of fiction I’ve ever read. It was so perfect I laid awake in bed until 4 a.m. the night I finished it, thinking about how epic and perfect the whole series ended. If it sounds like I’m over-hyping the series, I guess you’ll have to check it out for yourself.
When Jessica, the flight attendant, reaches your side, her shrill scream stabs your ears.
The US Marshal steps out of the aisle and flashes his badge. The lines on his face deepen as he scans the tight space and the bloody body filling it. He closes the door and glances at you over his shoulder. “The others can’t see this. It’ll only make them panic.”
You nod. He’s not wrong. But how will he investigate and keep an eye on the rough looking woman in cuffs who occupies the seat next to his? “What do you need me to do?”
“Go sit with Mara while I check this out.” He stretches on a pair of latex gloves, turning to Jessica. “Miss, don’t let anyone back here.”
Tears glisten at the corners of her eyes, and one slips down her cheek as she nods.
You ease into the seat beside the handcuffed criminal.
She tosses you a tight smile. “You here to babysit?” Her Australian accent is unmistakable.
“I wouldn’t call it that.” You study her face more closely. Hadn’t a reporter friend of yours wrote an article about this woman? You tilt your head. “Mind if I ask what those are about?” You motion toward the cuffs.
Mara crosses her arms, slumping in the seat. “Just because I’m chained up doesn’t make me guilty.” She chews her lip. “I’ve got a trial coming up for first degree murder, and I killed the guy. But I had to.”
“Did he attack you?”
She sighed. “No. It was what they call a crime of passion on those court shows. I didn’t go into the place looking to kill. But when I saw– I couldn’t help myself.”
Talk about vague. You glance around the corner. When will that Marshal finish up?
“Say, what’s going on back there?” The male half of the honeymooning couple leans over the seat in front of you and lifts a brow. “Melani heard the flight attendant screaming, and asked me to check.”
You glance in the direction of their seats, and Melani peers over the top of hers with wide eyes. “I can’t say.”
The Marshal steps into the aisle and removes his gloves. He opened his mouth to speak, but his eyes cut to the man speaking to you, and he clamps it shut.
“Look. I’m Trey Hyatt.” The honeymooner jabs a thumb toward his wife. “We deserve to know what’s going on.”
By this time a small crowd has gathered. The onlookers nod and chatter in approval to Trey’s declaration of their rights. Devon and his mother stand near where you’re sitting. While his mom wears a look of concern, Devon yanks a little girl’s pigtail then glances away, face wreathed in artificial innocence.
The old cowboy steps into the throng, squashed between row K and a woman wearing a wide-brimmed sun hat.
The Marshal clears his throat and motions for silence. “Okay. Hush! I’ll tell you what I know. But remain calm.”
The droning voices dull, and the Marshal continues. “I’m US Marshal Ken Durland.” He glances at you. “Someone found a body in the restroom.”
A collective gasp rises, and the talking recommences with fresh gusto.
“Quiet!” The old cowboy raises his voice over the throng, sounding more commanding than you anticipated. With a name like Percival, shouldn’t he have a timid voice? “Let the Marshal finish. I, for one, would like to know what this means for those of us on the plane. We’ve got lots of hours left to spend together. Wouldn’t it be nice to know if one of us is a killer?”
A hush descended.
“Thank you.” Marshal Ken nodded. “What was your name?”
“You can call me Griz.” Okay, now that name makes sense.
The Marshal adjusts his shoulder holster. “I found an ID on the body. The victim’s name is Jeff Archer. That’s all I know at the moment.”
Turbulence rattles the airplane, and you grasp the arm rests, lifting silent prayers for safety.
“What are you going to do?” Devon’s mom scrubs a hand over her face.
“I’ll place a call to headquarters and see if they can dig up any information on Mr. Archer. That should give me some idea who we might be looking for, and –“
“Do you think the killer’s still on the plane?” Trey reaches for Melani’s hand.
Marshal Ken nods slowly. “His body’s still warm. He hasn’t been dead more than an hour.”
The woman in the sun hat lifts a hand to her mouth.
Melani breaks into sobs.
Devon’s mother casts a glance at the prisoner beside you. Not a fearful one. Then she hustles her boy back to their seats despite his protests about wanting to see grandma. That kid’s impatience might be the death of all the passengers.
“Thanks for keeping an eye on Mara.” Ken returns to his seat, and you step into the crowded aisle. He grabs the phone from the seat back and holds it to his ear.
Another jerk of the plane sends you barreling into the old cowboy. He grips your arms and sets you on your feet. Lightning flashes through the window.
Could this flight get any worse? First a dead body, now a storm.
As Marshal Ken rams the in-flight phone into the cradle, a low growl escapes his lips.
You meet his gaze, hoping your look asks ‘what’s wrong?’ instead of ‘is this how we all die?’
“The storm cut out the connection. Looks like we’ll be doing this the old fashioned way.”
A lump forms in your throat. “We?”
“Can’t do it on my own.” He rubs his hands over his pant legs. “I’ll have Griz keep an eye on Mara here. Then we can ask some questions.” He gestures for you to lean closer.
When you’re out of earshot of the milling flyers, he holds up a photograph, lined with wrinkles, as if it had been stored in a pocket for years. “I found this on him.” You study the picture. A young woman sits at a picnic table, her face toward the camera. She holds a little girl in her lap. Both are smiling. You run your thumb over the place where the woman’s eyes had been gouged out. Jagged edges of the glossy paper scrape your skin.
What could this mean? Why carry around a vandalized photo? You narrow your eyes. Something about the woman’s face strikes a familiar chord, but maybe you’re just imagining it.
You glance at the closed restroom door. Was the man inside the victim of a senseless killing, or did he carry sinister secrets of his own?
Clue #1 The photograph
Thank you for joining me for the second week of our ongoing Friday mystery! In case you didn’t notice, I used Penelope Kaye’s suggestion for Percival’s nickname, so I’ll be sending her a $10 Amazon gift card.
I’ve created a Character/Crime-Solving Word document for those of you wanting to take notes as the weeks progress. It would be a way to keep your suspicions and the clues organized. Also, there will be additional characters added in the coming weeks, so I will create supplements to add as we progress in the case.
Comment on every post while the mystery lasts, and you will be entered into a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift card.
I’m so excited for the opportunity to introduce you to James Hannibal. Not only is he at the top of my list of favorite authors, but he’s been a major blessing to me since I met him at the ACFW Conference in September. He’s got a heart to help put an end to the exploitation of children, and Compassion International plays a part in his newest release, Chasing the White Lion. Be sure to read to the end to learn more about this organization that brings hope to at-risk children around the world and how you can make a positive difference in the life of a child.
His stories are on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspenseful from start to finish, his characters will stick with you long after you read the last page, and the positive messages he includes are both challenging and uplifting. If you haven’t read his work yet, you’re missing out. In the words of Donald Trump, ‘Everyone knows it, and everyone agrees.’ He took the time to answer some of my most burning questions, and I’m looking forward to sharing them with each of you.
1. Your characters—among everything else—really make your books unforgettable. What is your process for creating such diverse and relatable characters?
My characters almost always start as people in my life, at least the good guys. Maybe that’s why I struggle with the bad guys. I don’t want to see people I know in that light. In one way or another, I have personal relationships with my cast of good guys, even when one character is an amalgam of several people, because I have personal relationships with the people who inspire them. The closest I’ve come to doing this with a bad guy was to use a horrible person I’d been studying in the intelligence world. I’d studied him so much that I felt like I knew him, and he inspired the villain in Shadow Catcher. Unfortunately, I wound up making the guy so close to the real villain that I got myself in trouble with the Chinese government.
2. If you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year while writing a book that took place in that same setting, where would you choose?
Tough question. I’ve done this with London (sort of). I was flying a regular route to London as an airline pilot while working on the Section 13 books. They’re about a secret society on Baker Street. I spent anywhere from five to ten days a month in the city during that time.
I’m about to kick off a fantasy series set in a well-established world. I’d love to spend a year as a guardian at the labyrinthine castle of Lightraider Academy, nestled high in the Celestial Peaks and warmed against the long months of snow by a thermal spring. To get close to this fantasy setting, I’d need to arrange a stay at Hochosterwitz Castle in southern Austria. Anyone who wishes to support this effort, please send donations.
3. What was your favorite childhood book?
Hands down, my favorite book as a child was the Horse and His Boy from The Chronicles of Narnia. I recently learned from author and C.S. Lewis expert Matt Mikalatos that this story is a stylistic departure from the rest of the series. The Horse and His Boy is a plot-driven, boyhood adventure story, while the others have more fable-like styles. This is likely why it appealed to me more than the others as kid.
4. Have you visited any of the locations in Chasing the White Lion?
Washington D.C. was a second home for a while, and I did some time in Eastern Europe. I’ve never been to the Greek Isles, Russia, or Thailand. I created the Greek Isles scenes from pure research. For the other two, I have former “business associates” who helped me out
5. Who was your favorite character to write and why?
I have a lot of fun with Finn. We share a daredevil spirit. Sometimes I use Finn to relive the glory days of my youth. At other times, thanks to Finn, I find myself begging my wife to let try something I’ve never done and definitely shouldn’t.
“Honey, this is necessary research,” I always say.
“No,” she always replies. “No it’s not.”
6. How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I like to have nine months. One month to plan, seven months to write, and one month to revise.
7. Do you hide secrets/inside jokes in your books that only a few people will find?
I can neither confirm nor deny. I will say The Fourth Ruby has a scene that has special meaning to U.S. Air Force Academy graduates. The Nick Baron series also includes decipherable codes for serious code aficionados. The acknowledgements include a hidden message that require old-school code-breaking knowledge, and the text of each book holds the clues.
8. What do you hope your readers will take away from Chasing the White Lion?
I hope readers see two things from Chasing the White Lion. First, through Valkyrie, I hope they see how we con ourselves. We sell ourselves lies that might hold us back in our relationship with Christ or hold us back from having a relationship with Him at all. Second, through Compassion International’s role in the story, I hope readers see the value of sponsoring a child in need. Compassion is a real organization, and the hope and sense of identity they bring to families and children around the globe helps slam the door on human trafficking.
9. Who is your favorite author?
C.S. Lewis is my favorite, with Clive Cussler’s later work coming in a close second. Clive is the undisputed master of adventure, and he realized later in his career that he didn’t need the foul language or other stuff to make his stories exciting. Taking that stuff out made them so much more readable.
10. Compassion International played a part in Chasing the White Lion, made me want to sponsor all the children. How did that partnership come about and how did it impact the development of the book?
I’ve been partnering with Compassion for a while. It’s a passion for my whole family. When I realized I wanted to make human trafficking a subject matter in the book, I went to the people who I trust most regarding child dignity. Compassion deals with hard topics in the real world, including child poverty and human trafficking. They manage to do this while respecting the dignity and likeness of Christ of these kids. I knew I needed their help to do the same. In talking it out with my contacts there, I realized I needed to write many scenes we’d normally see from the villain’s perspective from a kidnapped child’s perspective instead. I’m so glad it’s been effective. Since the start, a portion of every book sold has gone to Compassion’s work. Now, even better, if one of your readers chooses to sponsor a child through Compassion.com, they can send their initial receipt to me at jamesrhannibal.com, and I will send them a free signed copy of the book as a gift of thanks.
If you’d like to consider sponsoring a child through Compassion International, here is the link to their website: https://www.compassion.com/sponsor_a_child/?referer=603603 It’s a great cause, and not only will you have a positive impact in a child’s life, but you’ll get a signed copy of Chasing the White Lion. It’s a win-win!
I’m giving away a copy of The Gryphon Heist and Chasing the White Lion to one lucky winner on May 8th. Please comment below with your email address for an entry into the drawing. Feel free to share this post with anyone you know that loves free books and has a heart for children at risk of being sold into human trafficking.