One of the exciting things about attending writers’ conferences is discovering authors whose works you might never otherwise experience. Such is the case with authors R.G. Belsky, Baron R. Birtcher, and Danny Ray Lindsey, who have each enjoyed award-winning success at Killer Nashville with the following books.
Yesterday’s News by R.G. Belsky
Clare Carlson, the main character of R.G. Belsky’s Yesterday’s News, does what any good journalist does: she asks lots of questions and she doesn’t stop asking until she gets answers. Such persistence garnered Clare a Pulitzer Prize for her coverage fifteen years ago into the disappearance of eleven-year-old Lucy Devlin. So, when the case nears its anniversary, Clare’s instinct for asking probing questions kicks in all over again.
The news director for Channel 10 News in New York , Clare quickly jumps back into the role of reporter in a quest to learn once and for all what happened to Lucy. She also promised Lucy’s mother, Anne, she’d never quit trying to find her, so there’s that. And for added incentive, Anne, who Clare learns is suffering from a terminal bout of cancer, also claims she has new evidence.
Clare begins with a simple interview with Anne, then follows the string of clues from there to the murders of six other children found in an unmarked grave, to additional witnesses and/or suspects, including Anne’s estranged husband, a local politician who previously oversaw the investigation, and a motorcycle gang. Some are more cooperative than others with their answers, some open the door to new lines of inquiry, and some seem to be holding back secrets that Clare is determined to uncover. Clare, who narrates Yesterday’s News, has secrets too – secrets that propel the story in unexpected directions.
As cold cases go, the trail to the truth heats up quickly, creating a riveting page-turner for readers.
Belsky’s own years as a journalist are evident, but he’s also a skilled novelist. Clare’s resolve and emotional desire to finding Lucy make her a sympathetic and likable heroine. Her secrets make her flawed and real.
Fistful of Rain by Baron Birtcher
“I’ve got bodies stacking up like cordwood in this county, and I’d like for you to explain your involvement.”
In other words, Sheriff Ty Dawson isn’t happy and he isn’t about to take “I don’t know anything” for an answer. Dawson, who became the somewhat reluctant sheriff of Meriwether County at the end of Baron R. Birtcher’s previous novel, South California Purples, has adroitly grown into the role in his latest outing, Fistful of Rain.
Last time, Dawson found himself contending with outlaw bikers, dope dealers, and wild mustangs while simply trying to tend to his own ranch and decompress from service in the Vietnam War. This time around, a reclusive hippie commune and a local politician hellbent on driving them out of the community collide, leaving a trail of vandalism, arson, and violence for Dawson to clean up.
Set in the mid-1970s in rural Oregon, Birtcher paints a vivid sense of place and time for readers, proving that no place went untouched by the turbulence and unrest gripping the nation’s populace. Birtcher keeps the novel moving at a brisk pace, yet lingers in all the right spots to allow his characters, and readers, time for insight and reflection.
Serial Justice by Danny Ray Lindsey
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Serial Justice, the new novel from Danny Ray Lindsey, is its bad guys. They are, after all, supposed to be the good guys.
And before you worry about spoilers, don’t. The novel makes no secret about who is pulling the trigger in each murder or who is calling the shots behind the scenes. Heck, the book blurb itself spells it all out for you.
What Serial Justice does is turn the crime novel on its head by making vigilantes out of characters who should otherwise be sworn officers of law and order.
The two culprits in a rash of killings involving convicted sex offenders are, in fact, retired law enforcement operatives. Both are following the secret directives of the head of the FBI’s Sex Crimes Division, Cliff Nolan, a 40-year veteran who is dying of cancer, and later his two successors who he lets in on the plan. The plan, by the way, is simple: exact final judgment on sex offenders released from prison after serving minimum sentences.
The novel follows cops-turned-killers George and Penny as they crisscross the country in their RV seeking out their targeted parolees and plan their demise. Their expert skills and tactics enable them to carry out each execution with cold-blooded efficiency, leaving nary a clue nor witness behind that can identify them to local authorities. The pair even review their murderous exploits with detailed “After Action” reports to help make sure they left nothing behind that can be traced to them.
Of course, the trail of bodies eventually garners the notice of a pair of honest investigators in the FBI, Jim Dawkins and Joan Kesterling. As they race from murder to murder in search of clues, Nolan and his partners quietly monitor them in case they get close. It’s not until the pair enlist the help of a group of computer analysts at the FBI that the pieces to the puzzle begin to take shape.
Lindsey, who won the Killer Nashville Claymore Award, has crafted a fascinating police procedural that will leave you questioning which side you should be on: justice or vengeance?