MARATHON: The Echo Chamber

Are we more divided than ever before?

Sometimes it seems that way.  Tragedy doesn’t bring us together the way it once did.  Too often, rather than turning to each other for support, we retreat to separate corners and to our own political philosophies.

The rise of social media seems to have accelerated this divisiveness.  If you agree with someone, social media is an echo chamber reinforcing what you think.  If you disagree, it’s an information superhighway crowded with road rage.  That’s why I chose to make social media an important theme in MARATHON – because sites like Twitter and Facebook have become players in shaping how we react to the world.

Look at Twitter, for example.  There’s something about that 140-character limit on Twitter posts that washes away restraint and encourages people to hurl spicy little fireballs at one another.  As one of my characters in MARATHON complains to her husband, “I always know when you’re looking at Twitter.  Your face gets so angry.”  She’s right.  Twitter can be a perfect little outrage factory.

Social media not only makes us angrier, it also makes it easier for us to leap to the wrong conclusions.  That’s especially true in the aftermath of tragic events.  Information spreads lightning fast – but so does misinformation.  What starts out as news quickly becomes an online breeding-ground for rumor and speculation, and the results can easily spiral out of control.

Stride doesn’t just have to solve a murder in MARATHON.  He also has to deal with a powder keg of online paranoia that threatens to burst from the virtual world into the real world of Duluth.

MARATHON: A Tale of Two Cities

On April 15, 2013, two pressure-cooker bombs detonated in the crowd during the Boston Marathon.  Three spectators died in the explosions, and hundreds were injured.

Every terrorist attack horrifies us with its senseless violence and loss of life – but I think the Boston bombing prompted a special outrage, because it violated an event that represents the best of what people can strive for and achieve, and because the marathon itself is so much a part of the identity of the city of Boston.

It’s not often that I create a plot that is directly “ripped from the headlines,” but no one will miss the fact that the real-life events of the Boston bombing inspired MARATHON.  Duluth, like many cities, offers an annual race that plays host to tens of thousands of runners and spectators from around the world.  As a result, I wanted my Duluth-based police lieutenant, Jonathan Stride, to deal with all of the challenges and raw emotions of a similar tragedy.

However, the explosion in MARATHON, with its unsettling parallels to what happened in Boston, is only the beginning.  The story of this novel is really a story of how hatred in all its forms becomes a self-perpetuating cycle of violence, loss, and revenge.

My books often deal with sensitive themes, and I try to deal with these issues in shades of gray, not just black or white.  That’s especially true of MARATHON.  I wanted to write a lightning-paced thriller that also deals openly and honestly with issues of anger, prejudice, and extremism, especially when amplified by the echo chamber of social media.

There are no super-heroes or super-villains here, just ordinary people.  Some struggle to do the right thing; some do evil things.  Most have good intentions – but we know where good intensions can lead.  In the middle is Stride, trying to find the truth and bring people together despite their bitter divisions.

MARATHON is available for pre-order now online and through your local bookseller.

Available Now

My latest thriller, THE NIGHT BIRD, is available now in Kindle e-book, hardback, paperback, and audio. Don’t miss it!

Romantic Times calls it a Top Pick and says: ““Freeman’s latest psychological thriller is sure to seize readers and not let go… Gripping, intense and thoughtful, The Night Bird is a must-read.”

The book was selected as a Kindle First title by Amazon and spent most of January at #1 on the Amazon Kindle bestseller list — an amazing honor.  More than 1,400 readers submitted reviews during the first month, and I’ve been delighted by the overwhelming reaction from people who loved the book.

THE NIGHT BIRD is all-new for me:  It introduces a new hero, Frost Easton, and a new setting in the romantic locale of San Francisco.  My family has lived in the Bay Area for decades, so the region feels like home to me.  This is also my scariest, creepiest book to date — and my readers know that’s saying a lot! This book deals with the unsettling possibility that your memories can be manipulated, so you’re never sure exactly what is real.

Enjoy!

Kindle First

The official release date for my new San Francisco-based thriller THE NIGHT BIRD is February 1.  BUT, if you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can get the e-book for your Kindle for free right now.  The book is one of six novels selected for the “Kindle First” program in January — and it’s already #1 on the US Amazon Kindle Bestseller List.

Not an Amazon Prime member?  You can also enter the Goodreads giveaway.  We’re giving away 100 (yes, 100!) free copies of THE NIGHT BIRD, so enter before January 31 to be part of the drawing.  You can enter here:

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/216595-the-night-bird