Review for Suspense Magazine
Chilling suspense, a twisted whodunit, and a series of gruesome deaths written by a nurse-turned-author weave into an intricate web of secrets and murder in Alexandrea Weis’s atmospheric YA thriller, Have You Seen Me? [Vesuvian Books, August 17, 2021].
Relentlessly bullied during her years at Waverly Prep, alumna-turned-faculty Aubrey LaRoux is conflicted about returning to campus—an anxiety which deepens to dread when she arrives to find a missing person poster of student Lindsey Gillett. History is now not only Aubrey’s subject, but, worse, seems to be repeating itself: Two girls went missing from Waverly Prep in the 1990s and another—Lindsey’s sister—disappeared while Aubrey was in school. When a small group of Aubrey’s students convince her to investigate the unsolved cases, the secrets she learns of Waverly’s sordid history will put a target on their backs. Not everyone wants Aubrey meddling with the past—especially the ones willing to kill to hide it.
Dark academia meets teen slasher with just a sprinkling of superstition and folklore, Have You Seen Me? has all the hair-raising suspense of Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer with the dark secrets of Jackson’s A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder and the twisty crimes of Sager’s Home Before Dark. This is a slasher worth dying for.
A Nordic thriller in the vein of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Death Wish, Dragon-award nominated and multi award-winning author Gareth Worthington is back with A Time for Monsters [September 28th 2021], a Nordic thriller in which a female serial killer—who only feels emotion when listening to music—is hell-bent on revenge and must outwit a disgraced detective determined to redeem himself if she is to complete her carefully orchestrated plan and cover up the ultimate secret. We chat with Gareth on Monsters, writing, and the move from sci-fi to crime fiction!
A Time for Monsters is your first foray into crime fiction. You usually write action adventures with a science-fiction twist. Why the change?
My agent and friend, Italia Gandolfo, was looking in her stable of writers for someone to ‘write the next Gone Girl’, and she thought I had the chops to do it. I thought about it for a while, and decided to use an idea I had as the basis and so agreed. The rest, as they say is history.
So, what was the idea?
Well, for the longest time I had wanted to write an autobiographical story about growing up in an abusive environment—I endured nearly twenty years of domestic violence in bad neighborhood in frankly a rough city in the UK. Three times I started that book and three times I stopped. In the end, I took all those memories and all that pain and gave it to my main character Rey Blackburn. I made her my what if? As in, what if I’d chosen a very different path in life? What if I’d chosen vengeance? Importantly, I wanted to highlight domestic violence and how it’s normalized and accepted, even today. In the face of global pandemics, wars and racially driven violence, what goes on in people’s homes can seem trivial. It’s not.
Music is a big part of Rey’s character, where she used them to feel any emotion other than anger. How did you choose the songs?
Each and every song in A Time for Monsters really means something to me. I have songs attached to very specific moments in my life and hearing them can pull me from wherever I am into a kind of dark space. Memories long since buried come back and I become suddenly emotional. It’s an odd sensation. There is actually a Spotify playlist for A Time for Monsters. It is an abbreviated soundtrack to my life. You can listen to it here.
Was writing the book cathartic?
Not really. I left behind my anger and hurt a long time ago. And the arrival of my kids shifted any focus from myself to them. What I will say, is that it becomes exhausting sometimes to explain yourself to people—now people can read the book and know. Saves me a lot of time (laughs).
Do you think you’ll write more thrillers?
So, I am working in the sequel to A Time for Monsters now. Not sure when it’ll be ready. But I do like switching genres. I have a medical thriller that released in April with Stu Jones called Condition Black. And I have a sci-fi fantasy book in the works too. I don’t want to become stale!
Originally published on The Nerd Daily.
We chat to author Alexandrea Weis about her new novel, The Secret Brokers [Vesuvian Books, April 7th 2020]!
You can find Alexandrea on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can also check out our review of her previously released novel, Death By The River.
The Secret Brokers has all the classic elements of a good spy thriller: intrigue, romance, corruption… how did you go about the process of weaving these together into what has the feel of classic noir with a modern twist?
This series came from another, The Nicci Beauvoir Series, that introduced Dallas and his crew of spies. I wanted to take his character into a spin off because I loved writing his cold, edgy personality. I have always loved cold, dark characters, but with Dallas I wanted to write about a man torn between his heart and his head. A man who has tried to change his ways, only to end up with a broken heart, and crawls back into the world of shadows he once occupied. To make him a lost and trying to hide in our modern world seemed a good fit.
I know you’re from the New Orleans area, and you bring some of that N’awlins flair to your writing. What made you choose the French Quarter for Carl Bordonaro’s home and/or inspired some of the interesting decorative flourishes that you described?
Carl Bordonaro is another character I brought over from the Nicci Beauvoir Series. He and Cleveland appeared in Sacrifice from the previous series. Carl is a favorite and based on many New Orleans characters I have known. Having grown up in the French Quarter, I have always strived to flesh it out in my books—to show the real side of the city, and not the one the tourists see. There is a rhythm to New Orleans, a spicy smell and tingling sensation it gives you—or maybe it’s something only the locals feel—but I wanted to embody that in the novel. To help the reader get a sense of the city from the people who live there. And Carl’s home on Esplanade Avenue does exist. I passed it every day for years.
Animals, and Gwen’s relationship with them, are a big part of her character—from her dog Harley, cat Lawrence, and of course, her horses! You are a permitted/certified wildlife rehabber with the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries—how does this influence how you write about animals?
Animals are imprinted in my heartbeat. I could not survive without them. I have always been an advocate for all things furry, and in this novel, I got to write about something I did when I was young, rescuing racehorses. One of the horses mentioned in the novel, Whippadu, was mine. I felt it important to educate people about the plight of racehorses in the industry and show Gwen as someone who is a lot like me. I also placed her farm in Folsom, La. not far from my own residence. But being able to write about animals, and Gwen’s love for them, was rewarding.
Just for fun, if The Secret Brokers got the movie treatment and you could pick the cast, who might your dream team be?
Dallas August – Zac Efron
Gwen Marsh – Olivia Munn
Carl Bordonaro – John Goodman
Cleveland – Michael B Jordan
I don’t want to give away the twist at the end, but you did such an incredible job of it that I couldn’t resist asking—who’s the real star of this story, Dallas August or Gwen Marsh?
Dallas, because he is like all of us. No matter how smart, how educated, and how good a spy you are, there is always someone else one step ahead. I also love writing this character. He has so many layers and is so intriguing. He will always be a favorite.
Lastly, what can we expect next for Dallas and Gwen, and the Secret Brokers series?
The next book will grapple with their complicated relationship and their dark world of shadows. We will learn about Gwen’s past, and see more of the day-to-day operations of Dallas organization—his spies, their assignments, and the clients he struggles to appease.
Inspired in part by true events, Death by the River by Alexandrea Weis and Lucas Astor [Vesuvian Books, October 2018] is the kind of skin-crawling, queasy-feeling-in-the-pit-of-your-stomach story that needs to be told and demands to be read.
Twin sisters Leslie and Dawn might share the same dirty blonde hair and blue eyes, but that’s where their similarities end. Leslie is sharp-tongued and quick-witted, dating a sweet boy named Derek from the other side of the tracks that her mother doesn’t approve of. Meanwhile, Dawn is living every small town, Southern girl’s dream: she’s head of the cheer squad and the girlfriend of the high school’s star quarterback—who also happens to be rich, handsome, and with a pedigree that has the whole town eating out of its palm. Unfortunately, all of Dawn’s dreams are about to come crashing down, because Beau Deveraux is not the catch of the generation. He’s a misogynistic, sadistic psychopath with some serious anger issues and a deep hatred of women—but that’s just the sort of thing his father has spent a lot of good money on keeping quiet.
Beau might be Dawn’s boyfriend, but it’s Leslie that is the object of his infatuation. When his plan to woo Leslie by keeping her sister close doesn’t go according to plan, Beau’s frustration finds temporarily—and increasingly violent—reprieve in punishing other women as stand-ins for the one girl “crazy enough” to not be interested (eye roll). Beau’s progression from manipulator, to rapist, to murderer is a journey through psychosis that begins with terrorising his own mother and ends with more than one dead body floating in the Bogue Falaya River near the ruins of the abandoned St. Francis Seminary where high school students like to party on the weekends and where wild dogs—and a spectral lady in white—are said to only appear when death is near.
This story is, admittedly, not for the faint of heart. It’s violent and comes with a trigger warning on sexual assault with scenes in the book that range from subtle verbal abuse to full-on rape. Nevertheless, Weis and Astor capture Deveraux’s deplorable misogyny and psychotic tendencies with a delicate grace that makes the story captivating while still coating you in that icky feeling that doesn’t wash off in the shower. The guy doesn’t have a single redeemable bone in his body, but that doesn’t make him an unrealistic antagonist. In fact, it might be just what makes him feel so damn familiar. Every woman has known a man like Beau Devereaux, and if you haven’t…well, it’s probably because you didn’t know you did. This reviewer certainly has, and everything from Beau’s subtle exploitations to his overt sexism ring painfully true.
Readers may not appreciate Beau’s increasingly erratic descent into madness or the fickleness of teenage fidelity—and there’s nothing about this story that makes it a heartwarming read—but that doesn’t stop Death by the River from being a book that every teenage girl should read. As Weis states in her endnote: Beau’s victims keep quiet for the same reason many young women do today—fear of reprisals, humiliation, peer pressure, and lack of trust in a system that largely ignores or blames them. While this truth doesn’t make Death By the River a pleasant read, it does make it an important one--the type of cautionary tale that keeps you alive by reminding you that sometimes the biggest horrors aren’t the monsters hiding under the bed or the ones that exist somewhere else in the world, but the ones hiding in plain sight. And the best way to beat them? Bring them out in the light and expose them.
Note: Death by the River contains extreme sexual violence and may be triggering. Read with caution.
For Sam Geisler, the titular character in Cassondra Windwalker’s new murder-mystery series, Sam Geisler: Murder Whisperer, the path to redemption is one forged through darkness. Preacher Sam, the first instalment of Windwalker’s latest experiment in the beautiful, sometimes redeemable depravity of the human experience arrives from Black Spot Books in September 2019, and at one-part cosy murder mystery and one-part psychological thriller, well, the Preacher is ready to hear your confessions.
Sam Geisler used to be an upstanding member of his community—the town pastor, doting husband, supportive brother and uncle, and in possession of an ear you can’t help but whisper secrets into. But despite his good deeds, Sam was crippled by a seedy addiction that ultimately cost him the things he loved most, namely all the previous. Now, he’s starting over—jobless, on the verge of divorce from his estranged wife, and living an intentionally technology-free life as penance while he eeks out the days working in his sister Dan’s café/bookshop, being a stand-in for a father for his young nephew, and toiling away his--er—tensions in late-night gym sessions. But, out of all the punishments Sam is experiencing, perhaps the worst is that which he has imposed upon himself: a hefty dosing of guilt, both about what he cannot change and that which he failed to.
While Sam’s quest for redemption effectively and voluntarily ostracises from his community, it nonetheless also pivots him into a critical—and somewhat blissfully removed from his previous obligations with the church—role when one of his former parishioners is suddenly arrested for the murder of another. Amanda has seemingly murdered her best friend, and she’s not interested in speaking to anyone about her role in Amy’s death—not even her husband, her defense, her children, or even her new pastor. She is, however, willing to speak with Sam, though she even withholds the whole story from him, seeking not absolution but instead forgiveness for a crime it is obvious to everyone she didn’t commit. The only other person she’s talked to from behind prison bars is, ironically, Clay, Amy’s widowed husband, something that only fuels speculation about what really happened that night in the small fabric store that the two women had owned together. Amanda’s involvement in Amy’s murder is not the most scandalous part of the crime, though, it’s in the greater evil that she was trying to prevent—a ferreting out of darkness that, hopefully, will perhaps help Sam to find his own way to salvation, both in his eyes and everyone else’s.
If you’re ready for more Sam (and Dani, too) there’s a Geisler story called “Feeding the Dog” published in the Roanoke Review as well as another mention for Sam in Cassondra Windwalker’s contribution to the upcoming winter-themed Black Spot Books Anthology, A Midnight Clear (available November 5, 2019).
Lindy Miller Ryan is an author, editor, and spooky things enthusiast who occasionally makes crafty things and bakes.