Three masters of suspense—Alafair Burke (The Better Sister), Kellye Garrett (Hollywood Homicide), and Alison Gaylin (If I Die Tonight)—joined The Center for Fiction for a discussion of the craft of the thriller and their highly celebrated, twisting and timely mysteries. In Burke’s Find Me, the disappearance of a young woman leaves her best friend reeling and an NYPD homicide detective digging into her own past. In Garrett’s Like a Sister, no one bats an eye when a Black reality TV star is found dead—except her estranged half-sister, whose refusal to believe the official story leads her on a dangerous search for the truth. Gaylin’s The Collective plumbs the dark side of justice and the depths of diabolical revenge in the story of a grieving mother, who, obsessed with the privileged young man she believes to be responsible for her daughter’s death, is drawn into a vengeful, secret “Collective” of women. Bestselling crime fiction writer Jonathan Santlofer (The Last Mona Lisa) moderated.
Photos by Kelsie Lynn Bennett
By Alafair Burke
Published by HarperCollins
Some pasts won’t stay forgotten . . .
She calls herself Hope Miller, but she has no idea who she actually is. Fifteen years ago, she was found in a small New Jersey town thrown from an overturned vehicle, with no clue to her identity. Doctors assumed her amnesia was a temporary side effect of her injuries, but she never regained her memory. Hope eventually started a new life with a new name in a new town that welcomed her, yet always wondered what she may have left behind—or been running from. Now, she’s leaving New Jersey to start over once again.
Manhattan defense lawyer Lindsay Kelly, Hope’s best friend and the one who found her after the accident, understands why Hope wants a new beginning. But she worries how her friend will fare in her new East Hampton home, far away from everything familiar. Lindsay’s worst fears are confirmed when she discovers Hope has vanished without a trace—the only lead a drop of blood found where she was last seen. Even more ominously, the blood matches a DNA sample with a connection to a notorious Kansas murderer.
With nowhere else to turn, Lindsay calls NYPD homicide detective Ellie Hatcher, the daughter of the cop who dedicated his life to hunting the Kansas killer. Ellie has always believed there was more to the story of her father’s death twenty years earlier—and she now fears that Hope’s recent disappearance could be related.
In pursuit of answers, the women search for the truth beneath long-buried secrets. And when their searches converge, what they find will upend everything they’ve ever known.
Like A Sister
By Kellye Garrett
Published by Hachette
In this “tense, twisting mystery” and “absolutely can’t-put-it-down read” (Megan Miranda), no one bats an eye when a Black reality TV star is found dead in the Bronx—except her estranged half-sister, whose refusal to believe the official story leads her on a dangerous search for the truth.
“I found out my sister was back in New York from Instagram. I found out she’d died from the New York Daily News.”
When the body of disgraced reality TV star Desiree Pierce is found on a playground in the Bronx the morning after her 25th birthday party, the police and the media are quick to declare her death an overdose. It’s a tragedy, certainly, but not a crime.
But Desiree’s half-sister Lena Scott knows that can’t be the case. A graduate student at Columbia, Lena has spent the past decade forging her own path far from the spotlight, but some facts about Desiree just couldn’t have changed since their childhood. And Desiree would never travel above 125th Street. So why is no one listening to her?
Despite the bitter truth that the two haven’t spoken in two years, torn apart by Desiree’s partying and by their father, Mel, a wealthy and influential hip-hop mogul, Lena becomes determined to find justice for her sister, even if it means untangling her family’s darkest secrets—or ending up dead herself..
By Alison Gaylin
Published by HarperCollins
Just how far will a grieving mother go to right a tragic wrong?
Camille Gardner is a grieving—and angry—mother who, five years after her daughter’s death, is still obsessed with the privileged young man she believes to be responsible.
When her rash actions attract the attention of a secret group of women—the collective—Camille is drawn into a dark web where these mothers share their wildly different stories of loss as well as their desire for justice in a world where privilege denies accountability and perpetrators emerge unscathed. Fueled by mutual rage, these women orchestrate their own brand of justice through precise, anonymous, complexly plotted and perfectly executed revenge killings, with individual members completing a specific and integral task in each plan.
As Camille struggles to comprehend whether this is a role-playing exercise or terrifying reality, she must decide if these women are truly avenging angels or monsters. Becoming more deeply enmeshed in the group, Camille learns truths about the collective—and about herself—that she may not be able to survive.
Alafair Burke is a New York Times bestselling author whose most recent novels include The Better Sister, The Wife, optioned for a feature film by Amazon, and The Ex, which was nominated for the Edgar Award for best novel. She is also the co-author of the bestselling Under Suspicion series with Mary Higgins Clark. She currently serves as the President of Mystery Writers of America and is the first woman of color to be elected to that position. A former prosecutor, she now teaches criminal law and lives in Manhattan and East Hampton. For more about Alafair Burke, visit alafairburke.com.
Photo Credit: Nina Subin
Kellye Garrett is the author of the upcoming suspense novel Like A Sister (Mulholland Books) and the acclaimed Detective by Day lightweight mysteries. The first, Hollywood Homicide, won the Anthony, Agatha, Lefty, and IPPY for best first novel. It’s also one of BookBub’s “Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time.” The second, Hollywood Ending, was featured on the Today show’s Best Summer Reads of 2019 and was nominated for both Anthony and Lefty awards. She serves on Sisters in Crime’s national board and is a co-founder of Crime Writers of Color. Learn more at KellyeGarrett.com.
Photo Credit: Carucha L. Meuse
USA Today and international bestselling author Alison Gaylin has won the Edgar and Shamus awards. Her work has been published in the US, UK, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Japan, Germany, Romania and Denmark, and she has been nominated for numerous awards, including the Macavity, Anthony, ITW Thriller and Strand Book Award. In addition to her novels, she has published many short stories and collaborated with Megan Abbott on the graphic novel Normandy Gold (Titan/Hard Case Crime, 2018). Her twelfth and latest book, The Collective, has been optioned by Yellow Bird UK (the Millennium trilogy, Young Wallander) for development as a TV series.
Photo Credit: Michael Gaylin
Jonathan Santlofer is the author of the acclaimed historical thriller The Last Mona Lisa, and six other novels, among them the international bestseller The Death Artist, and the Nero award-winning Anatomy of Fear. His memoir The Widower’s Notebook appeared on over a dozen ‘best books of 2018’ lists and was a featured segment on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Santlofer is the editor of seven anthologies, including the New York Times notable book It Occurs to Me That I Am America. His short stories have appeared in The Strand, Ellery Queen, and many story collections. Also an artist Santlofer’s work is in major private and public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago and Tokyo’s Institute of Contemporary Art. He is the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts grants, has been a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome, the Vermont Studio Center, and serves on the board of Yaddo, the oldest arts community in the U.S. He lives in NYC where he is at work on a new novel.
Photo Credit: Clarke Tolton