Character Interviews

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For readers who haven’t yet been introduced to her, Megan Scott is the main character in my Megan Scott/Michael Elliott Mystery seriesShe works as a ghostwriter and loves the anonymity of her job within the safe, organized, and predictable setting of her home office.

Michael Elliott is a crime reporter and the second main character in my series. His criminal investigations plunge him into unpredictable situations, but he credits his gut instincts for getting him out of dangerous dilemmas.

To stir things up in my novels, I intertwine the orderly and behind-the-scenes lifestyle of this young woman with the risky and spontaneous adventures of this young man. The result? A potential for conflicting opinions along the path to solving challenging mysteries!

Although I get into my characters’ heads when I’m writing, I don’t often have an opportunity to sit down and chat with them (in my pretend world, of course). Megan and Michael recently accepted my invitation (still in my pretend world) to answer these questions from readers:

Megan:

1. If you lived alone, what would I find in your refrigerator?

Fruits, vegetables, eggs, cheese, and maybe leftovers like lasagna.

2. What do you admire most about Michael?

Lots of things. On a personal level, he’s caring and he has a generous heart. On a professional level, I admire his high ethics and perseverance. I love how he manages to remain cool in the face of danger. He’s my hero.

3. What do you carry in your handbag?

My phone, e-reader, sunglasses, hairbrush, facial tissues, wallet, ID cards… It’s a large handbag.

4. Do you have any phobias?

Yes! When I was a child, I loved to play hide-and-seek with my friends. One day, I hid in an old trunk. The other children couldn’t find me, but I couldn’t get out of my hiding place either. The clasp on the trunk was stuck. I panicked! My mother found me after my friends told her I’d disappeared. Small spaces still trigger my claustrophobia.

5. What is your worst fear?

I fear for Michael’s safety. Since he’s a risk taker, I’m concerned he’ll get hurt on one of his daring investigative ventures. My job is dull in comparison, so I occasionally accompany him on assignments. It gives me a chance to prevent him from taking unnecessary risks. Of course, he doesn’t know that, so let’s keep it between us, okay?

Michael:

1. If you lived alone, what would I find in your refrigerator?

A bottle of red wine. Leftover pizza.

2. You sometimes bring Megan along on investigative cases. Why?

Megan can decipher clues from the tiniest detail. Although I don’t always agree with her theories, her different perspective helps me solve cases. Want to know a secret? Sometimes I think she comes along just to keep an eye on me. (Shrugs) Maybe I’m imagining it.

3. Do you exercise or are you a couch potato?

I pump iron and jog every morning—unless I spent the previous night on a ride-along with police on drug busts or raids on illegal operations. On weekends, Megan and like to get together with friends, or snuggle and watch a good movie.

4. What are you most proud of in your life and why?

My job as a crime reporter. If I can help bring justice to bear on those who disregard the law, I’ll have accomplished what I set out to do.

5. What is your worst fear?

Losing Megan…and losing her trust in me. She had a rough time after she discovered her husband had cheated on her. His murder left her with lots of answered questions. I want to show her that not all men are disloyal. I’d like to marry her, but I understand her hesitation. I’m willing to wait as long as it takes.

Thank you, Megan and Michael, for sharing your innermost thoughts and feelings.

Readers, you’ll find more inside information on Megan and Michael on my website posts here and here. If you haven’t already done so, tag along with my sleuths on their crime-solving ventures and enjoy the thrills! Each novel in the series is a standalone and doesn’t have to be read in sequence. Visit the Books page on this website to learn more about my books and find the link to your preferred retailer.

Dark Deeds: Motives for Murder

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Jealousy, anger, and revenge rank among the top motives for murder, as does greed for money and power. In Dark Deeds, Book #4 in the Megan Scott/Michael Elliott Mystery series, several motives provide the catalysts that drive the plot.

In the story, Megan and Michael’s plans to spend a quiet vacation at their friends’ lakeside resort are thwarted when they learn about a resident’s untimely death. As the body count mounts, rumors fly. Is a serial killer on the loose?

When Michael makes a connection to a cold case, evidence points to an ex-convict looking for revenge. Here’s a brief excerpt from Dark Deeds where Megan learns how the ex-con masterminded a notorious robbery that took place in Montreal during the 1990s:

“Three men had tunneled through steel and concrete to break into the vault of a private investment company. From more than a thousand safety deposit boxes, they stole ten million dollars in gold bars and cash. The ringleader, Rusty Homer, then fatally shot a police officer who intercepted his escape. Rusty Homer’s two accomplices drove off with the bulk of the stolen goods, leaving him to face a jail term of twenty-five years. None of the stolen goods were ever recovered.”

As for Rusty Homer, revenge would be an appropriate motive for settling the score once he got out of jail. Decades behind bars had given him lots of time to plot a path of vengeance against two partners who had abandoned him at the scene of the crime. If he got lucky, Rusty might even find the gold bars they stashed away years ago.

We can easily add anger and greed to his growing list of motives for murder.

When the ex-con is rumored to be in the area, Megan and Michael increase their efforts to locate him. But despite a meticulous investigation, they soon realize they’re dealing with a formidable opponent who enjoys playing dangerous mind games with them. Moreover, they’re at a disadvantage: Rusty Homer has had reconstructive surgery. He could be anyone.

What could be creepier than that?!

To find out where you can get your copy of Dark Deeds, visit my Books page for links to major book retailers.

Broken Trust: Backdrop

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My research into illegal drug trafficking in Canada’s capital city was essential to creating the backdrop in Broken Trust, the fifth novel in the Megan Scott/Michael Elliott Mystery series. I discovered that the presence of a synthetic ingredient called fentanyl in illegal drugs sold on Ottawa streets was—and still is—contributing to a growing number of fatalities.

And it’s not only happening in Ottawa. Law enforcement officers across Canada and the USA increasingly find that illegal street drugs like cocaine and heroin are tainted with fentanyl. This so-called “designer” ingredient is manufactured in China and easily crosses our borders in tiny amounts, escaping inspection. At 50 to 100 times more toxic than morphine, fentanyl is causing widespread deaths and overdoses. If caught in time, overdose victims can be treated with naloxone to reverse the effects, but the outcome isn’t always favorable.

I set up several scenes in Broken Trust to illustrate the fatal consequences of fentanyl usage and the uphill battle that law enforcement and medical staff are facing. From the alleged suicide of a young mother to the overdose of an unsuspecting teenager on a city street, the scenes reflect the real life situations confronting our first responders.

In one particular scene from Broken Trust, police investigators follow up on leads to a chain of illegal drug suppliers. Megan Scott and Michael Elliott ride along with the Ottawa Police Service Drug Unit during a raid on a suspected drug-manufacturing ring in an Ottawa suburb. Here’s an excerpt:

Michael and I sat inside an unmarked police van a block down from the drug unit’s target destination—a two-story home in a middle-class suburb of Ottawa. The tension in the van was as palpable as the rare torrent of summer hail hitting its roof like an endless round of bullets.

Detective O’Rourke stood by, keeping an eye on the visuals transmitted onscreen while communicating with his tactical team through radio headsets. Once in a while, the detective exchanged several words with his team members. Otherwise, he sat in silence and waited.

The hail stopped. Rain replaced it with a nerve-racking pitter-patter over the next hour that had me wishing I’d brought along a pair of earplugs.

But we were stuck here until the mission was over, our bulletproof vests adding more weight to our bodies as if to ensure we stayed grounded.

“We’ve been monitoring this home for months after we got a tip from an anonymous source,” Detective O’Rourke said. “An unhappy client.” He grinned.

“Sounds familiar,” Michael said. “My best informants are people who were dissatisfied with the way they were treated by drug gangs.”

“There’s no loyalty in that business.” The detective put a hand to his headset and listened. He uttered a command, then looked at us. “It’s going down now.”

Goosebumps rose along my arms. I glanced at Michael. He sat, hands clutched, waiting.

Loud popping sounds in the distance.

Gunshots!

Engines revving.

Squealing tires.

More shooting!

Vehicles roaring by.

Gunshots blasting the van!

We all hit the floor!

 

Want to know what happens next? You’ll find this book and others in the series on this website’s Books page with clickable links to your preferred retailer.

 

No Way Out

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A narrow road meanders through icy, snowy woods behind the fictitious Verdell College School, the setting in my mystery novel, Icy Silence. The road leads to a river where the bodies of two young students are found submerged in a car. Even while the police investigate the mysterious deaths, gossip about a potential Romeo-and-Juliet-style incident spreads through the corridors of this exclusive boarding school.

When ghostwriter Megan Scott and investigative reporter Michael Elliott visit the school for a weekend career presentation, the forces of nature prevent them from leaving. Mrs. Desmond, the “tough as nails” school dean, gathers staff and students to inform them about a disaster that could have dire consequences for all of them.

Here’s an excerpt from her speech:

“As you know by now, this ice storm is not to be taken lightly. The province has declared a state of emergency. We have no power. This translates to no electricity, no heat, and no way to communicate with the outside world. Regarding the latter, please conserve the power in your phones by turning them off. You’ll want to call your family to tell them you’re okay when the power returns.”

Grumbles resonated as students empathized with one another on their mutual loss.

The dean went on. “The ice storm continues to create treacherous situations. Tree branches have littered the campus, blocking lanes. Before we lost power this morning, we’d already learned that roads in the area had been closed due to fallen trees and live wires. In other words, you can’t get to Verdell and you can’t leave it—even if you wanted to.”

And then:

“We don’t know how long this storm will continue,” the dean said. “Though our bottled water and food supplies are adequate, they will have to be rationed… Smaller portions will be served.”

When the dean confirms rumors about a potential killer in their midst:

Expressions of fear and disbelief surged across the room like a tsunami until a collective roar swelled in the air. The students’ faces mirrored their panic.

An ominous situation on all counts! If you haven’t read Icy Silence, click on Books to find out where you can get your copy.

Dark Deeds: Setting the Mood

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The opening scene of Dark Deeds finds ghostwriter Megan Scott and investigative reporter Michael Elliott driving along an isolated country road at night. They put their busy work schedules on hold and are looking forward to a relaxing weekend with friends at a lakeside resort. But that’s not going to happen.

In setting the ambiance for my mystery novel, Dark Deeds, I established an ominous mood in the first few pages to give readers a feel for the rest of the story. Imagery as seen through Megan’s eyes is part of that process. In this excerpt, she shares her thoughts:

Towering trees on both sides of the road blended into the starless sky, obscuring defining lines. The night was as soundless as it was black. We might as well have been in the middle of nowhere.

A brief banter between Megan and Michael ensues, but their conversation is cut short by a sudden intrusion. The mood darkens and Megan reacts:

The sound of sirens crept up on us. 

My heart beat faster.

A fire truck raced past—it red light flashing, tires spewing dust and stone pellets onto our windshield.

I flinched, raised my hand in a protective gesture.

Another unexpected sight raises the level of Megan's anxiety:

As we neared our destination, billows of white smoke rose above the trees to our left and vaporized in the air. My hand trembling, I pointed it out to Michael. “Isn’t that where we’re heading?” 

“Yes, and it doesn’t look good.”

Megan and Michael’s worst fears are realized when they arrive at the resort owned by their friends, Jessica and Ethan. Again, as told through Megan’s point of view:

I froze. A fire truck’s light bar flashed on Jessica and Ethan’s two-story clapboard house, thick smoke and flames shooting upwards….

I had my hand on the door handle before Michael turned off the engine…

I jumped out and raced toward the scene, my heart thumping.

These excerpts build up to the first dilemma in the story—a threatening fire. My sleuths encounter many more predicaments—and get into a lot more trouble—when they discover a frozen corpse, search for a missing child, and hunt for an elusive killer.

One reviewer described Dark Deeds as “extremely well-plotted and punctuated with shocks … delivers great twists and turns.” Another reader described it as “a solid well-written, taut mystery.” I'm so happy to hear that readers enjoy my mysteries. It motivates me to keep on writing and doing what I love!

If you haven’t yet read Dark Deeds, you're in for a thrilling ride. Visit my Books page to find out where you can get your copy.

Happy reading!

www.sandranikolai.com/books