BESTSELLING AUTHOR MARY BURTON FOLLOWS HER SUCCESSFUL “COMPELLING THRILLER,” DYING SCREAM WITH BACK-TO-BACK SUSPENSE IN SENSELESS, ON SALE IN JANUARY AND MERCILESS, ON SALE IN FEBRUARY.
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Mary Burton kept the murder rate soaring in her hometown of Richmond, Virginia for three years as each of her recent highly praised suspense novels was published. Now, it’s Alexandria’s turn. Burton raises the city’s 2011 homicide statistics by six before the groundhog even thinks about seeing a shadow, when SENSELESS and MERCILESS are published back-to-back in January and February.
The people of Mary’s Alexandria, Virginia Homicide Unit, including Detectives Deacon Garrison and Malcolm Kier, are just one of the connections between her stories. Protagonists Eva Rayburn, a convicted felon, and her half-sister Angie Carlson, a high-profile, high-priced criminal attorney, are part of both stories, as is King’s, a no-nonsense neighborhood bar, and Alexandria’s unique mixture of history, prosperity and poverty. As always, Burton’s careful use of forensic detail is evident in each book, a result of her commitment to remain current with science and law enforcement evidence collection procedures.
In SENSELESS, Eva Rayburn has cobbled together a living of sorts as a part-time waitress and bartender, process server, and night attendant at Hannah’s House, a homeless shelter. It is the latter that brings her to the attention of homicide detective Deacon Garrison when a fire destroys the shelter. Though everyone escapes the fire, the body of a woman who has been tortured and murdered is discovered in the yard. She has been branded. Fourpointed stars encircle her navel. That’s what brings crime journalist Connor Donovan into the picture. An anonymous tip alerts him to the branding and the fire. Both are hallmarks of the Sorority House Murder, the case he covered a decade ago that put him on the journalistic map.
The Sorority House Murder and the subsequent fire ended Eva’s life as she knew it. Josiah Cross had raped her, and she remembered struggling, but after that had no clear memory of what happened. Eva, portrayed as a heart-sick scholarship student who became enraged when her rich boyfriend broke up with her, was charged, convicted, and sentenced to ten years in prison. The single star burned into her shoulder is a memento of those lost hours. Thanks to Connor, Eva is back in the media spotlight, her life an open book. Meanwhile, Garrison is certain she
has something to do with murder at the shelter.
As the killer’s confidence grows, another death occurs. Garrison wants answers. He’s determined to find the connection the victims share with a dead rich-kid-rapist and the girl convicted of killing him. Eva wants answers, too. She wants to remember every second of that fateful day. It’s been ten years and now—finally—she’s ready to fight for herself—even if it means dying.
Burton ratchets up the suspense yet again in MERCILESS in which Detective Malcolm Kier and Angie Carlson come up against a brutal,brilliant psychopath who leaves behind the gleaming white and perfectly preserved bones of his victims. Kier—and most of Alexandria law enforcement—believes the murderer is Dr. James Dixon. They blame Angie Carlson for setting him free when she defended him at an earlier murder trial during which he was acquitted. Today, Angie’s not at all sure of Dixon’s innocence and is becoming more and more convinced that the police may be right—she helped let loose a killer. As lead after lead dead-ends a young man claiming to be Eva Rayburn’s half-brother shows up, bringing with him their dead father’s diary. Suddenly, two things are shockingly clear—the killer has always intended to make Angie his ultimate victim, and his madness has roots going back to the Sorority House Murder over a decade ago.
In SENSELESS and MERCILESS, Mary Burton once again brings readers stories enhanced by inexplicable crimes, complex relationships and the strong sense of place they’ve come to expect and applaud, even as they are kept guessing as to whom among her suspects may be guilty and why.
About the Author
MARY BURTON’s southern family has always enjoyed tall tales and a good yarns. Early on, MB realized that Story had tremendous power to inspire strong responses such fear, laughter, love and even sorrow. It didn’t matter if the tale was found in the pages of a book, spoken in hushed tones around a Girl Scout campfire, or spouted at an old fashioned southern family reunion. This appreciation of story motivated MB to earn an English degree from Virginia’s Hollins University.
After decade of working in marketing and sales, MB became convinced she could write and sell one of the many stories buzzing around her brain. Fingers crossed, MB left the marketing profession and devoted all her spare time to writing a novel. Soon after, she sold her first manuscript to Harlequin Historicals. Since that initial sale, MB had written twelve historical romances for Harlequin Historicals, four short romantic suspenses for Silhouette Romantic Suspense and a non-fiction book The Insider’s Guide to Direct Marketing. Her first single title romantic suspense for Zebra I’m Watching You was a December 2007 release.
In 2005, The Unexpected Wife was a finalist Romance Writers of America’s RITA contest and Wise Moves was 2006 nominee for the Romantic Times’ Critics Choice Award. I’m Watching You received critical acclaim from New York Times Best Selling author Carla Neggers who said, “Taut, compelling and emotional, I’m Watching You is romantic suspense at its most riveting. Mary Burton delivers a page-turner.”
MB resides in Virginia where she enjoys yoga, cooking, hiking and the occasional triathlon.
MARY BURTON TALKS ABOUT HER NEW BOOKS, HER NEW
HOMICIDE DIVISION, AND WHY SHE LEFT HOME
TO START KILLING PEOPLE IN ALEXANDRIA…
First of all…
In your new books, SENSELESS (January) and MERCILESS (February), you’ve left behind the characters and the Richmond setting of your last three novels. Why? And why Alexandria?
I lived in Alexandria for several years and fell in love with the place. It is not only very rich with history but it’s in the heart of the bustling DC metro area and the perfect setting for a little murder and mayhem.
What challenges did you face in creating a new team of detectives?
The new team was much like meeting strangers. I knew a little of Detective Malcolm Kier (I’M WATCHING YOU) but detectives Deacon Garrison, Jennifer Sinclair and Daniel Rokov were all blank slates. The best way for me to get to know them was to throw them into tense scenes and see how they react.
Family seems to play a strong role in the relationships between your characters from book to book—especially the bond between sisters, such as that between Eva and Angie. Is this true? And, if so, what pulls you to explore those bonds in so many different ways?
Family can be your best ally and your greatest burden. Families, especially sisters, can be complicated and complications means conflict and conflict means a page-turner of a story.
What difficulties do you face integrating strong relationship subplots alongside the hard edged suspense writing you’ve become known for?
I long ago learned that despite the difficulties of family you still have to get up each day and go to work. Family conflicts only add to the job tensions. And I do work to balance the family/relationship moments of suspense. You need both to make a romantic suspense and it’s finding the right mix that is the trick.
You’re extensive research of law enforcement and forensic procedures includes course work with the Henrico County Citizens Police Academy, the Richmond FBI Citizens’ Academy and the Writers Police Academy in Jamestown, North Carolina. Has that made you a better writer? Does trying to stay grounded in fact make it harder to let you imagination soar?
Staying grounded in fact forces me to solve problems as a real policeman might. I know sometimes the truth must be stretched a little for the sake of story but I do my best to solve the crimes with good detective work vs fancy DNA tests or high tech forensic equipment.
You’ve said that your fascination with law enforcement, especially those who hunt serial killers, began during the twenty years that three different multiple killers—the Southside Strangler, D.C Sniper and Hampton Roads Killer—stalked your home state of Virginia. How does that influence your writing and research?
I’ve never written a novel that’s straight from the headlines. But I do pay attention to many aspects of serial killer cases. I pay attention to how the media covers an event. I pay attention to what people in the community say and how they react to the case. I pay attention to the killer when he’s captured and the reasons for why he did what he did. All these details can add a human element to a story that makes it all the more interesting.
The Hampton Roads Killer didn’t fit the profile of a serial killer, which may have delayed his capture. Do you consider the characteristics profilers attribute to certain types of killers when you create your murderers?
When I’m creating a killer the first and most important question I ask myself is why does he/she kill? Is a character pure evil? Or is he simply very troubled or misguided? Or is he All of the Above? The why tells me so much about the person behind the evil deeds and it sets the tone for the whole book.
Detective Joe Horgas, the first police detective to solve a serial murder case with DNA evidence, is rightly credited for the arrest of the Southside Strangler. It’s been said that Horgas had a “personal quest to stop a serial killer.” Do you think that many in law enforcement do “make it personal?” Is that a good thing? Do any of your protagonists share that trait?
The detectives in my books do make catching a killer very personal. This passion to solve a case is what makes a character or person interesting. Often a driven person who is laser-focused can effect great change, such as catching a killer that no one else can. However, that same focus can also create problems in their personal lives. It’s only natural that if you funnel energy from one part of your life into another, the part that’s been short-changed will suffer.
I like to think that what makes a character great can also destroy him. My characters are searching for balance even knowing that only extreme drive will catch a killer. And that to me is the beginning of great conflict.
If you were able to choose any job in law enforcement, which would it be? Why? And do you think you would still write about crime?
I would go into forensics. The folks who collect data can be so critical to a case. I’ve talked to enough real forensics people to know the work can be very unglamorous and painstaking. But the work is so fascinating that I’d be willing to traipse through waist high weeds, jump in a dumpster or photograph blood splatter patterns.
Some writers have the harsh, gorier plot elements occur “off stage.” You don’t and yet you also manage to blend a strong relationship story into your romantic suspense without it seeming awkward or out of place. How do you achieve that balance?
It’s tough. It’s hard to make time for the romantic moments when the characters on the trail of a killer. But I think it’s so important to make time for the human moments. Those are the moments that readers often carry away with them. Those moments make readers care about what happens to your characters.
Real life is scary enough. Yet people gravitate to crime fiction in it’s multiple forms—books, television, and movies. Why do you think it’s so amazingly popular?
Real life is not only scary but it is also unfair at times. In real life, the bad guy isn’t always captured and victims don’t always get closure. However, crime novels and crime TV give their audiences a sense of justice and closure. The bad guy is almost always caught. I like to give my readers a glimpse into my character’s futures. These futures may not be perfect, but they are happy. My suspense stories not only offer justice but hope as well.
Your earliest books were traditional romance novels, another hugely popular genre of fiction. Do you still believe in “happily ever after?”
I sure do. And that’s why I always end on a happy note. These ending notes may not be as sweet as the romances, but there is always a sense that ‘tomorrow will be a better day.’
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