Our Biggest Publishing News Yet! And a Cover Reveal…

During late summer and into the fall of 2014, Ann and I were furiously busy working on a proposal for a new series. As much as we love the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries, we wanted to try our hand at something different to keep our writing fresh. And today we’re thrilled to be able to share the news of our brand new publishing deal with Kensington Books! LONE WOLF will be the first in a three book, hardcover series, edited by Kensington’s Peter Senftleben. In it, we meet Meg Jennings, an agent in the FBI’s K-9 unit, and the handler of Kane, one of the unit’s multi-talented search and rescue dogs. This is a real unit, specializing in search and rescue, drug and explosives detection, and tracking in federal crimes. In this series, we’ll follow Meg and her black lab along with her fellow FBI agents and their dogs as they track down bombers, murderers and hijackers, rescuing the lost and injured along the way. It’s a new publishing house for us and a new series, so we’re going to be trying out a new single pen name this time around—Sara Driscoll. But never fear, nothing will actually change when it comes to the writing; it’s still Ann and I behind the prose.

Huge thanks to our wonderful agent Nicole Resciniti of the Seymour Agencyfor working so hard to put together this deal, literally from its inception. Her Publishers Marketplace announcement went up today:

March 2, 2015 - LONE WOLF by Jen Danna and Ann Vanderlaan

Fiction: Thriller

Jen Danna and Ann Vanderlaan writing as Sara Driscoll’s new suspense series, beginning with LONE WOLF, in which an FBI K-9 handler and her search-and-rescue dog fight to stop a mad bomber targeting sites around Washington D.C., to Peter Senftleben at Kensington, in a three-book deal for publication in Spring 2016, by Nicole Resciniti at The Seymour Agency.

Want to know a little more about LONE WOLF? Here’s the blurb for the FBI K-9s, book 1:

When a madman goes on a bombing spree, an FBI K-9 team of one woman and her dog is the key to stopping him before more innocents die and panic sweeps the Eastern seaboard.

Meg Jennings and her Labrador Kane are one of the FBI’s top K-9 teams certified for tracking and search and rescue. When a bomb rips apart a government building on the National Mall in Washington D.C., it will take all the team’s skill to locate and save the workers and children buried beneath the rubble.

More victims die and fear rises as the unseen bomber continues his reign of terror, striking additional targets, ruthlessly bent on pursuing a personal agenda of retribution. Meg and Kane join the task force dedicated to following the trail of death and destruction to stop the killer. But when the attacks spiral wide and no single location seems safe any longer, it will come down to a battle of wits and survival skills between Meg, Kane, and the bomber they’re tracking. Can they stop him before he brings the nation to the brink of chaos?

We’re looking forward to introducing our readers to Meg and Kane next year!

With all this talk of a new series, we know one of the questions we’re going to get is what is going to happen to Matt and Leigh and the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries? Never fear, a lot is going on there too. The third full length novel in the series, TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER, comes out on February 18th. And we’ve nearly completed the next full length novel which follows it, with a planned 2016 release date. We have no plans to end the series. There may be a bit of a delay between our recently completed fourth novel and the one to follow as we’ll be writing two series (all while I juggle the day job at the lab), but we fully intend to come back and continue the adventures of Matt, Leigh and the team around our contracted installments of the FBI K-9s.

 

Last November we were pleased to show off the new cover for the mass market version of DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT, which Harlequin Worldwide Mysteries released in January 2015.

 

The next full length novel in the series, A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH, will release in mass market paperback from Harlequin Worldwide Mysteries in April 2015. We recently got our first peek at the new cover, which continues the strong series branding:

As before, Worldwide Mysteries likes to write its own material, so we’ve got a brand new and exciting version of the back cover copy for this book as well:

State Trooper Leigh Abbott and forensic anthropologist Dr. Matt Lowell are happy in their new relationship. But their latest investigation is tough to take on, even together: the charred body of ex-Wiccan Moira Simpson was stabbed through the heart with a ritual dagger. Leigh is certain one of the many former friends and lovers Moira alienated with her ruthless egotism is responsible.

Then a local priest is hacked to death with a ceremonial sickle and his body is found burned beyond recognition. Now amid growing panic and community backlash, Leigh and Matt will pursue dark rumors and obscure clues, looking to the past to reveal a killer. But the truth could burn more than their future to ashes.

And that should do for our publishing news this time around. :)

The Launch of A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH

Last Friday, May 9th, I held the launch party for A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH at A Different Drummer Books in Burlington, a bookshop near Toronto that has been a local landmark for over forty years.

As a thank you to our friends, family and readers who came out to the event, I’d prepared a book lovers’ gift basket to raffle off with everything you might want for an evening with your favourite new book—a bottle of wine, chocolate, gourmet cookies, tea, hot chocolate, scented candles, and chocolate covered coffee beans for those nights you absolutely have to stay up to finish! Also, Ian Elliot, the very kind owner of A Different Drummer Books and an all-around great sport, donated a gift certificate to the book store so the lucky winner could pick up more literary goodies.

It was a nice kick to walk into the bookstore to see a stack of our titles:

With the help of family and some very generous friends, there were some lovely refreshments:

I read an except from the beginning of the novel as the team discovers the body that starts this case. Because the main floor of the bookstore was crowded, I got to read from the landing. I felt like Juliet…

After that, we did the signing and mingling. For a while, the bookstore was at full capacity, but later in the evening, the crowd thinned out a bit so you could move around.

(That’s my youngest with her phone glued to her hand…)

Can I just say how surreal it is to have your kindergarten teacher come out to your book launch? She was thrilled to reconnect with one of her students and it was lovely to see her (in black, in the foreground of this photo):

Thanks to Ian at A Different Drummer Books for being such a great host for us that evening, and thanks to everyone who took the time out of their busy evenings to come out and share in the launch. We all had a great time!

The eBook of A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH Is Out!

Amazon has the hardcover version of A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH listed for May 9th release, but we’re happy to announce that the ebook version is now available! So for those who are looking for instant gratification, you can find the Kindle version of book 3 of the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries for a cheap and cheerful $3.19: A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH. If you'd like to wait for the hardcover version, Amazon currently has it for pre-order at nearly 40% off here. For Canadian readers, Chapters/Indigo is carrying the book online and in store. And if you’re thinking ‘Book 3? What happened to book 2?’, our series novella, NO ONE SEES ME ‘TIL I FALL, is available for Kindle here. There's still time to catch up if you've only read DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT so far!

For those who are wondering if they’d like to try the novel Kirkus called ‘A tricky mystery rich in intriguing suspects and forensic detail’, here’s a sneak peek at the first chapter. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE:

      FIRE POINT

 

Fire Point: the temperature at which a fuel produces enough vapor so it continues to burn after ignition.

Sunday, 1:24 p.m.
Harborview Restaurant
Boston, Massachusetts

Sunlight sparkled in lightning-quick flashes on the open ocean as a lone black-backed gull soared on outstretched wings, motionless on the breeze. In the harbor, sailboats unfurled yards of canvas to the cool fall winds, while high above the water, the historic Customs House Tower stood watch over the busy port below.

Inside the restaurant, wide panels of sunlight fell across linen-draped tables set with china and silver. The air was fragrant with garlic and peppercorn as a low buzz of conversation filled the room, punctuated by bursts of laughter and the clatter of dishes.

“And then he jammed his gun in his pants to make a run for it. But while he was wedging it under his belt, it went off and he shot himself in the foot.” Leigh Abbott paused to sip her mimosa. “After that, the foot chase was pretty much a technicality, what with all the limping and whimpering.”

Matt Lowell chuckled as he set his knife and fork on the edge of his empty plate. “I shouldn’t be laughing, should I?”

“Because he’s a murder suspect?” One corner of her mouth tipped up in an almost reluctant smile. “Welcome to cop humor; it’s how we survive the job. This guy was a mistake waiting to happen from the second it occurred to him he could have the family business all to himself after his father died. He just needed to kill his brother to get it. He left a trail of clues a blindfolded rookie could follow.”

Matt’s smile slowly melted away, his face growing serious. “You deserve an easy case. After the last few weeks . . .”

His voice trailed off, but Leigh understood, even without words.

A Trooper First Class with the Massachusetts State Police, Leigh was a member of the Essex County Detective Unit, headquartered in Salem. When a single human bone was found in a coastal salt marsh the previous month, she’d approached Dr. Matthew Lowell in his capacity as a forensic anthropologist at Boston University to help identify the victim. What began with a single set of remains rapidly spiraled into ten murder victims, all dead at the hands of a man determined to see how far he could twist the human mind. Their teamwork solved the puzzle, but the case nearly cost them their lives. Mere weeks later, they’d joined forces again for their second case together, a chilling tale of trust gone horribly wrong.

“This case couldn’t have been more different,” Leigh stated. “You’re right—it was a welcome change of pace after Bradford. Still, I’m sorry I had to cancel dinner last week. Between court and this case—” She broke off as Matt covered her hand with his.

“Don’t worry about it. I understand the job takes priority sometimes. Besides, we traded dinner for Sunday brunch, so it all worked out.”

With a quick flick of his head, he shook his untrimmed dark hair out of his eyes, briefly exposing the thick ridge of scar tissue running into his hair from his temple.

At a sudden shriek, Leigh jerked her hand free, reaching for the weapon that normally rode her hip. But even as her fingers touched soft wool instead of hard metal, her body relaxed as she quickly assessed the harmless scene across the room where a young woman had knocked over a glass of red wine.

Leigh’s gaze drifted back to Matt to find his eyes fixed on her. “What?”

He sat with his elbows braced on the table, watching her over his steepled hands. “You can’t turn it off, can you? You can’t just go out socially and let it all go. Even when a case is closed.”

Embarrassed heat flushed her cheeks at his continued examination. “It’s not like it’s a switch you throw when the clock hits five. Cops are always on duty.” Stubbornness stiffened her spine and she met his gaze head on. “Apparently you can’t turn it off either. You’re studying me like I’m one of your bones.”

“Just trying to figure you out, that’s all.” Reaching out, Matt tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. As his hand pulled away, he ran his fingertips along the curve of her jaw in a subtle caress. “You’re an intriguing puzzle.”

Her eyes locked with his and her stomach gave a slow, sexy roll of anticipation at the heat in his expression. “No one’s ever called me ‘intriguing’ before.”

“I like to think of you as a gift that needs to be unwrapped one layer at a—” Matt frowned as a muffled ring came from the suit jacket draped over the back of his chair. “Sorry, I need to see who’s calling.”

Leigh’s senses instantly went on alert when he froze, his gaze fixed on the name of the caller displayed on-screen. “What is it? What’s wrong?”

“I think I have to take this.”

The edge in his voice made the back of her neck prickle in alarm. “Is it one of your students?”

“No, it’s the Massachusetts State Police.”

“Calling you?” The words burst out, cutting through the buzz of conversation around them. Leigh purposely lowered her voice when several heads turned in their direction. “Why are they calling you?”

“I’m as baffled as you are.” He answered the call. “Lowell.”

Leigh leaned forward, trying to catch any trace of the other end of the conversation.

Maddeningly, Matt relaxed back in his chair even as he cocked an eyebrow at her. “Sergeant Kepler, what a surprise,” he said into the phone.

Only her white-knuckled stranglehold on the edge of the table kept Leigh from leaping to her feet to listen in on why her superior officer was calling Matt. If it was something to do with the Bradford case, he’d have surely gone through her instead.

Matt was silent for a long time as he listened, his hazel eyes fixed on her. “This request comes straight from Dr. Rowe?”

Rowe? Someone had to be dead for the medical examiner to be involved, but the remains must be in bad shape if Rowe was personally requesting Matt’s expertise.

“Whose case is it?” Matt’s eyes suddenly went arctic-cold as his casual air of relaxation dropped away. “No.” The single word was whiplash sharp. “That’s exactly what I mean. I’m not working with him. If you and Rowe want me on this case, you need to transfer it to Trooper Abbott.”

Leigh recognized that stubborn tone; she’d run headlong into it several times—Matt was digging in his heels and wasn’t about to budge.

“Actually my request is quite logical,” he continued. “Trooper Abbott and I had a rough start, but we learned how to work together. She’s familiar now with how my lab operates, and she knows my students and how we process evidence. It would waste my time to have to train a new officer.” There was a pause, and Matt’s eyes narrowed to slits. “Those are my terms, Sergeant. If you want my help on the case, have Trooper Abbott call me with the details.” He abruptly ended the call, his expression grim.

“What was that about?” Leigh demanded.

“Kepler wants me to consult on another case. There’s been a fire in Salem in one of the historical shopping districts. You probably know it—Wharf Street? The body recovered is so badly burned that Rowe needs a forensic anthropologist. He asked for me specifically.”

“That’s no surprise—you work well together. But why do you need me?”

“It’s Morrison’s case,” Matt said shortly. His open palm slapped down on the table hard enough to rattle silver and crystal. “I’ve got the right guy, don’t I? Isn’t he the Neanderthal who gives you a hard time at the detective unit?”

Leigh let out a resigned sigh. “Yes. That’s him.” She met his eyes to be sure he understood without question. “Don’t interfere, Matt. I can handle him on my own.”

“I’m sure you can. But I’m not working with him. And that’s my call to make.”

“Look, you don’t have to—”

Her phone rang.

Matt crossed his arms over his chest, his eyebrows raised in challenge. “Better get that.”

Leigh pointed an accusing finger at him. “You stay quiet. Kepler doesn’t know we’re seeing each other. He wouldn’t approve of me—”

“Fraternizing with your consultant? Too damned bad.” When her glare threatened frostbite to delicate parts of his anatomy, he mimed locking his lips and tossing the imaginary key over his shoulder.

She rolled her eyes and answered the call. “Abbott. Yes, sir.” She slipped a hand into the breast pocket of her jacket, pulled out a notepad and pen, and scribbled quickly. “Yes, I know where that is. I’ll let him know and meet him there.” She clicked off and gestured to the waitress for the check. “Kepler’s pissed.”

“He’s used to giving orders, but he’s not used to someone refusing them.” Matt pulled his jacket off the chair and shrugged into it. “Look, I understand they need help, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to work shoulder-to-shoulder with Morrison. You and I, we’ve developed a rhythm. On top of that, you value my students. If I’m going to bring them into another case, I need to know they’ll be treated well. And I know you’ll work as hard as me to keep them safe.”

“You’re still thinking about the salt marsh.”

He bristled, his shoulders pulling tight and his mouth flattening into a thin line. “I took them into the field and they were shot at. They could have been killed.”

She lightly brushed her fingertips over the back of his hand. “We’ll keep them safe. Are you bringing them in now? Or do you want to see the site on your own first?”

“I’ll bring them in now. My students are familiar with the concepts of burned remains from class, but this will take them from theory to practice. To do that properly, they need to see the remains in situ. And the extra eyes will help.” He met her gaze. “Have you ever dealt with remains like this before?”

“No.”

“Then you need to be prepared. They can be horrific, both by sight and smell.”

She grimaced. “Thanks for the warning. Are your students going to be able to handle it?”

“They’ll be fine. They held up before, didn’t they?”

“They were great.” Leigh looked out over the harbor. Suddenly the day seemed so much darker than ten minutes ago. “I was really looking forward to getting out on the Charles this afternoon,” she said. “It’s the perfect fall day for it—not too cool and not so breezy that the water would be rough and I’d tip us.”

“If I can’t keep the boat upright, then I need to put in a lot more time at the oars. I promise I’ll take you out in the scull first chance we get.” The waitress approached but before Leigh could reach for the bill, Matt slid the young woman his credit card. When Leigh objected, he simply held up a silencing finger. “My treat. You’re not going to insist on splitting everything down the middle, are you?”

“No. But you shouldn’t have to pick up the check every time we go out. You paid the last time.”

“We’ve only been out a few times, so your representative sample is too small to be statistically significant. I chose this place and it’s not cheap, so I should pick up the tab. Also, I suspect a professor’s salary beats a cop’s, so it’s not fair to stick you with the check when I picked the expensive restaurant.”

She glared at him, but remained silent.

“As I thought. You get the next one, okay?” He tucked his card back into his wallet and stood. “Rowe must be using this as another demonstration. Will he still be there when we arrive?”

Leigh rose from her chair. “I’m not sure, but I’ll find out. He may not be able to stick around that long.”

“It’s a good thing we came in two cars. You head back now; I’ll go pick up my students. We’ll be there by two-fifteen or two-thirty at the latest. They’ll hold the scene until then?”

“Yes. When remains are found in a fire, it’s officially designated a crime scene and nothing gets moved until the crime scene techs and the ME get there. The techs are probably on their way right now.”

“Then let’s go.” He circled the table to lay his hand at the small of her back as they headed for the exit. “We’ve got a scene to process.”


For those in the Toronto area, please join me and eleven other authors from the Crime Writers of Canada for a reading at the Manulife Indigo (55 Bloor Street West) at 7pm as part of the Arthur Ellis Awards shortlist event. More details can be found on MC Nate Hendley’s blog: http://crimestory.wordpress.com/2014/04/14/crime-writers-read-at-april-24-event-in-toronto/ Hope to see you there!

Forensics 101: Fire Investigation

Last week we talked about some of the basics of what is involved in fire investigation and who takes part. This week we want to look more closely into what is involved in a fire investigation.

Before even setting foot inside the cooled and potentially stabilized building, a thorough investigation takes place outside the structure, taking into account an arsonist’s possible entry and exit routes, existing sightlines for any potential witnesses, and evidence external to the scene (sometimes this is the only intact evidence that escaped the fire). After entering the scene, the fire investigator is focused on two primary issues—the fire's point of origin and its cause.

To determine the point of origin, the investigator essentially needs to create a virtual reconstruction of the site as it existed before the fire based on burn and fire protection patterns. This requires analysis of the fuel involved in the fire, ventilation, the direction of spread, fire duration, and the materials involved. After reconstructing the flow and outward spread of the fire, the investigator can then follow it backwards to where it started.

What knowledge and tools must a fire investigator have at his disposal to reconstruct the devastation of a fire scene? In A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH, Trooper Bree Gilson of the Massachusetts Fire Marshal’s Office uses a combination of all these strategies to determine the point of origin:

  • Fire dynamics: Fire investigators must be intimately aware of the driving factors in any fire—heat transfer and the buoyancy of hot combustion gases. If those gases reach a temperature of more than 500oC, they become visible as a fire plume. The larger the fire, the taller the fire plume and the more hot gases and particulate matter rise above it in the smoke plume.
  • Heat transfer patterns: How materials are affected by fire varies with the characteristics of that material—its melting temperature and thickness (thin materials transfer heat more rapidly than thick materials). Direct exposure to flame will also affect a material faster than radiant heat. Since the most severe thermal damage and the associated highest temperatures often indicate the point of origin, heat patterns on walls and ceilings will often reveal the location of the initial fire.
  • Soot layering: Soot—composed of carbon particles produced by the incomplete combustion of organic material—is a by-product of fire. These particles are contained in the hot gases and smoke that rise above the fire plume, spreading outward along the ceiling. When those hot gases encounter colder surfaces of the structure that are not yet involved in the fire, the soot particles condense in a layer on that surface. Therefore, if a part of the structure that was fully involved in the fire also shows evidence of soot, then that area of the fire started after the initial blaze.
  • Knowledge of materials: The behaviour of materials in a fire, i.e. the temperature at which thermal damage will affect that material, is crucial in fire investigation. For instance, copper will melt in an 1100oC fire, but steel and iron will not. Glass will melt at 760oC, but if heated to lower temperatures and then rapidly cooled by water spray, a web of microfractures called ‘crazing’ forms within the structure of the glass. Study of the materials in a fire will indicate where the fire started (heavier thermal damage will be located nearest to the seat of the fire), and also provide the direction of travel.

 

  • Interviews with firefighters: Structure conditions can change rapidly while crews extinguish the fire. Often windows are purposely broken by firefighters to ventilate the fire, so post-fire structure condition does not necessarily indicate the initial state of the structure. Interviews with firefighters will indicate conditions at the time of their arrival, as well as throughout the operation. Smoke and ventilation conditions—if doors were left open or if windows were open or broken at the time of arrival—can indicate the direction of travel of the fire prior to the fire fighters’ arrival.
  • Full photographic documentation: Once the scene is released and outside individuals are allowed access, the scene can no longer be considered as untainted evidence. Photographs of the state of the scene prior to release are crucial for later reference and courtroom testimony. Also, since burned structures may be unstable as water-logged walls fall or hot spots rekindle, prompt photos are crucial to document the scene as soon as possible after the fire. Since roofs often collapse during a fire, crucial evidence may be obscured by debris landing inside the structure. Sequential photos must be taken as layers of the scene are removed, revealing additional evidence.
  • K-9 investigators: Many fire departments are assisted by K-9 team members who are trained to isolate and locate the smell of chemical accelerants, helping to determine both the point of origin and the cause of the fire.

 

In cases where a K-9 has not identified an accelerant, the cause of the fire must be determined after the point of origin is located. In some cases, a fuel or heat source may be self-evident by the presence of a heated appliance such as a stove or iron. Some fires clearly lead back to wall sockets, extension cords, or small electrical devices that have failed or been misused. If an accelerant is suspected, samples can be taken from the point of origin for chemical testing.

Next week, we’re going to look at criminal fire investigations and the challenges of collecting evidence when your scene has been destroyed.


A reminder to our readers that A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH will release April 18th and be available shortly thereafter. This is the third installment in the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries, following DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT, and the e-novella, NO ONE SEES ME ‘TIL I FALL.

 

 

 

Photo credit: State Farm and DaveBleasdale

Fire Scene Reconstruction and Investigation

The third installment in the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries—A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH—releases next month. As part of that event, we want to spend the next few weeks talking about some of the science that went into the book—both fire investigation and murder investigation following a fire.

During a fire, the first concern is to rescue any people or pets who might be in danger, followed by protection of that structure and adjacent structures. But once the fire is out and has cooled, the primary concern shifts to determining the cause of the blaze.

Depending on the jurisdiction, this investigation may be carried out by a fire marshall with arrest powers, or local police forces may be called in to assist. In Massachusetts, the location of the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries, the state Fire Marshal doesn’t actually investigate; instead, Massachusetts State Police troopers with full investigative powers are assigned to the Fire Investigation Unit. In A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH, we introduce a new character to the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries—Trooper Brianna ‘Bree’ Gilson from the Massachusetts State Fire Marshal’s Office. A former Salem fire fighter, Bree has crossed over to the police side of fire investigation, training to become a state trooper with the intent of joining the Fire Marshal’s Office. Because of her past experiences as a fire fighter, Bree proves to be a significant asset to Matt, Leigh, and the team in solving two fire-related deaths.

If any victims are found during the course of the investigation, the site is immediately considered a crime scene until investigators can determine the victim’s cause of death. In Massachusetts—with the exceptions of Boston, Springfield and Worcester which all have their own local homicide departments—officers from the Massachusetts State Police Detective Units are called in investigate all fire deaths.

The main difference between homicide and fire reconstructions is the destruction of the scene during a fire, compounded by the action of the fire fighters. Not only have multiple people stormed through the detective’s homicide scene, but items have been displaced by water (200 psi water streams pack a significant punch), melted by heat, and possibily exposed to weathering by elements such as ice and snow after the destruction of the surrounding building. It’s often a signficant challenge for both the homicide investigators and the fire marshal to determine what happened on site before the fire took hold.

Leaving aside potential deaths, what are the questions and challenges faced by the fire marshal? There are several main questions that must be answered in any fire investigation:

  1. What is the point of origin of the fire?
  2. What was the cause of the fire?
  3. Was the fire accidental or intentional?
  4. What accelerants might have contributed to the fire and its subsequent growth?
  5. Who or what was responsible for the fire?
  6. Were any crimes commited concurrent to the fire i.e. breaking and entering, burglary, or murder?

If arson is suspected, three things must be proved:

  1. Physical destruction is a result of the fire.
  2. The fire was started deliberately.
  3. There was specific intent to start the fire—murder, monetary gain etc.

In the case of an associated death, several additional questions must be answered:

  1. What caused the death?
  2. What links the two occurences?

A death associated with a fire is not necessarily homicide; perhaps someone had a heart attack while cooking dinner and a subsequent stove fire burned down the house. But the possibility that a fire might have been set to destroy evidence and mask the identity of a victim must always be considered.

Next week, we’ll delve more deeply into fire investigation and explain how investigators determine the point of origin and how the fire started.


A reminder to our readers that A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH will release April 18th and be available shortly thereafter. This is the third installment in the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries, following DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT, and the e-novella, NO ONE SEES ME ‘TIL I FALL.

If you want a chance to read our newest release weeks before it's available in stores, this is one of your last chances to win a free, signed ARC. Enter to win 1 of 3 copies in the Goodreads giveaway here!

Publishing News and a Cover Reveal!

It’s been a fun week for publishing news for Ann and me. First of all, we’re very happy to announce that DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT is now available in Kindle format. There have been a lot of readers who were waiting for this, so we’re pleased that the novel is available for a cheap and cheerful $3.19, perfect for giving a new series a spin if you haven’t tried us out yet. The Kindle version is available here: Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries #1: DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT.

The e-novella that follows the first series installment will release this fall. As several of you have asked for more information about it, I wanted to include its blurb here:

Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries #2: NO ONE SEES ME ‘TIL I FALL (November 2013)

Only the joint forces of science and law enforcement can help when a young woman is found brutally murdered with her identity erased.

Massachusetts State Police Trooper Leigh Abbott and forensic anthropologist Matt Lowell come together to solve their second case when the remains of a young woman are found, thrown away like garbage at a local landfill. But what seems straightforward becomes something much more sinister when the victim’s bone damage reveals a shocking history of abuse. It will take reliving the horrors of Matt’s military background, all the team’s forensic skills, and Leigh’s intuition combined for them to catch the killer and give the victim the justice she deserves.

And now we move to our other big news of the day. This past week we got our first peek at the cover for A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH. Thanks to the Five Star team and the designers at ENC for once again creating a cover that encapsulates the story’s basic themes:

Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries #3: A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH (May 2014)

At Halloween, Salem, Massachusetts, is a hot spot for Witch and tourist alike. But when a murder spree begins, a cop and scientist must team up to find the killer before a media circus unleashes, panic ensues, and more victims are killed.

Forensic anthropologist Matt Lowell and Massachusetts State Police Trooper Leigh Abbott are called in to investigate burned remains following a fire in a historic antique shop. As Matt, Leigh and their team of graduate students investigate the death, clues point to Salem's traditional Witchcraft community. However, having dabbled in the Craft as a teenager, Leigh is skeptical that someone who has sworn an oath of good to all and harm to none would commit premeditated murder, let alone kill in such a vicious way.

A second body is found in a similar fire and the team begins to suspect that coven members are being framed. Now they must solve the murders before 100,000 tourists overrun Salem for what could be the deadliest Halloween of their lives.

Next week I’ll be preparing to attend Bouchercon, so I’ll be highlighting the forensics panel I’ll be on and the authors who will be participating with me. See you then!

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop–All About My WIP

I’ve been doubly tagged to contribute to the Next Big Thing Blog Hop by two lovely and talented writers—Kate SeRine and Anna Simpson. Kate is the author of the Transplanted Tales series. Her first novel, RED, was released in August 2012, and the sequel, THE BETTER TO SEE YOU, is due out in February 2013. Anna is an aspiring novelist, currently hard at work on WHITE LIGHT.

Rules for The Next Big Thing Blog Hop:
***Use this format for your post
***Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (work in progress)
***Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:

What is your working title of your book?

My current WIP is A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH, the sequel to DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT. Currently, I’m working on the first set of revision notes from our editor. 

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I can’t say a lot about this without giving away too much, but the original idea came from one of our crit team members who saw something she thought would appeal to us (thanks, Lisa!). As soon as we looked into it, we knew we had the basis for a great story. We’ve been sitting on this idea since 2009.

What genre does your book fall under?

Where DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT falls more in the forensic thriller category, A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH is more of a classic forensic mystery.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

This question is easy because we based our characters right from the start on Dylan McDermott and Nicki Aycox. In some ways it’s funny that they were our visual inspiration because they once starred in a TV show together, but I never saw a single episode of it.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Our logline is actually two sentences long, so you're getting that instead...

At Halloween, Salem, Massachusetts is a hot spot for Witch and tourist alike. But when a murder spree begins, a cop and scientist must team up to find the killer before a media circus unleashes, panic ensues, and more victims are killed.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m represented by the fabulous Nicole Resciniti of The Seymour Agency.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

This manuscript definitely rolled out faster than usual because I wrote a lot of it while laid off from the lab after funding ran out. Once I’d done my job searching for the day, I used my free time to write, so a large portion of this book was written in about an 8-week period. But then I put it away while Ann and I worked on our biothriller project. Once it aged a little, we went back to revise it.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan series is the obvious first comparison, simply because of the forensic anthropology angle of the science in the book. But from a male-female lead/group dynamic perspective, it’s much more like the ‘In Death’ series by J.D. Robb.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I used to write purely for fun in high school (waves at co-conspirator R.J. Anderson!), but I stopped when I went to University for my science degree. I got married, had two daughters and worked full time for years before the bug bit again. After working in the same lab for about 15 years, I found my interest drifting back to it again. I met Ann and we formed our partnership. After writing 5 novels for practice, we decided to give professional publication our best shot with a new series. This is the second book in that series.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Our specialty is the real scientific/forensic content that we build into the mystery plot. And for those that like a little romance with their mystery, A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH gets pretty spicy as the male and female leads really move forward in their relationship.

I am now tagging the following fabulous writers:

Jen Blood: Indie author Jen has two fantastic novels out in her Erin Solomon series; her newest installment, SOUTHERN CROSS, is due to be released in March of 2013.

Barbara McCormick-Thomas: Dual novelist and screenwriter, Barbara can do it all!

Marisa Cleveland: Marisa is not only a romance writer, but she’s also The Seymour Agency’s newest agent.

Lea Nolan: Lea’s debut YA/MG crossover novel CONJURE released last month and she has just survived her first blog tour.

Lane Heymont: Fantasy author Lane’s debut novel, The FREEDMAN AND THE PHAROH’S STAFF, is soon to be released by Sunbury Press.

Photo credit: ~Brenda-Starr~