Top 10 of 2020

Amazon published a list this weekend of their top 10 bestselling mysteries/thrillers of 2020 so far. There are books from some big household names: Grisham, King, Baldacci, Coben, Koontz.
 
And right there with them: THIEF RIVER FALLS, with what they call a “jaw-dropping reveal.”

Countdown to Stride

There’s a great article by Chuck Frederick in today’s Duluth News-Tribune about all things Stride and Bourne. Click here to read the article.

We’re in September, so the countdown to the new book has started. The latest Jonathan Stride novel, FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND, releases on September 22. You can pre-order your copy at Amazon, BN, or other retailers.

Want a SIGNED copy? I’ve got two ticketed virtual events coming up later in the month, and buying a ticket gets you a signed copy shipped by the bookstore. Just click one of the links below to buy your ticket:

Bookstore at Fitger’s (September 22, 6:00 pm CT)

Mysterious Galaxy (September 29, 9:00 pm CT)

 

Cross-Over

And so we come to the most recent Jonathan Stride novel, ALTER EGO…at least until September 22, when the new Stride book FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND is finally released.

I’ll tell you a secret. I originally envisioned ALTER EGO as a Cab Bolton novel. Given Cab’s Hollywood mother, it made sense to have him as the hero in a book that focused on the sleazy secrets of a famous actor. However, the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of giving this plot to Stride…so that Stride could deal with an “alter ego” who is filming a movie in Duluth based on one of his cases.

But I couldn’t give up Cab entirely, could I? So ALTER EGO became my first cross-over novel, where Stride and Cab BOTH appear as main characters.

People have asked me whether ALTER EGO was inspired by the exposure of Harvey Weinstein and the eruption of #metoo protests in Hollywood. Actually, I turned in the novel a couple of weeks BEFORE the Weinstein scandal broke in the press. That prompted my editor to ask, “Hey, did you know something??”

So be sure to catch up on all of the Stride books…from IMMORAL through ALTER EGO…because you’ll want to be ready for Stride’s big return in September.

Click to find ALTER EGO at Amazon.

For Your Book Club

One of the most tragic elements of the bombing at the Boston Marathon was the way it violated an event that was so much a part of the heart of the city of Boston. In many ways, Duluth has a similar relationship with its own annual marathon. So when the tragedy happened, I knew that, one way or another, something like this would have to become a part of Stride’s world.

However, I don’t write straight terrorism or political thrillers. My books are more psychological, more rooted in intimate family drama. So I needed to find a way to write about a marathon tragedy — but do it in a way that was true to my storytelling.

MARATHON was the result. It’s rooted in a similar violent act (although I made sure that what happens deliberately occurs offstage). My focus in the book is less on the terrorism itself and more on the aftermath — particularly how suspicion and rumor in the age of social media can tear apart the lives of innocent people. Duluth in MARATHON is at a breaking point (does that sound familiar?), and the novel rips at many of the most difficult social threads before finding ways to bring people together.

This was a tough, emotional book to write. I think it’s that true for readers, too. I had readers who felt overwhelmed and wrote to me unsure of whether they could go on — but once they did, I think they felt a great sense of catharsis at the end of the book. So I hope you take the journey on this one — and that you share it with your friends and book clubs. I believe this is a book worth talking about.

Click here to find it on Amazon.

Past and Present

Readers “met” Stride’s late wife, Cindy, in my fourth novel IN THE DARK — but that was through the unreliable eyes of my book-within-a-book narrator, Tish Verdure. So I wanted to write a book in which I would actually take readers back to Stride’s past, where Cindy is alive…so they can see what their relationship was really like.

After THE COLD NOWHERE, this was the perfect time to write GOODBYE TO THE DEAD, because Stride’s relationship with Serena was at a crossroads. In order to really move ahead, he needed to come to terms with the loss of Cindy — in essence, to say goodbye to the dead. Serena also had to have her own reckoning with Cindy, to realize that the rosy glow of Stride’s memory didn’t necessarily reflect the complexities of his marriage.

So GOODBYE TO THE DEAD has a unique structure among the Stride novels. The first half is set in the past, when Cindy is alive, and the second half is set in the present — and the mystery ripples through the years in between.

This book features the first trial sequence in one of my novels since my very first book, IMMORAL. One of Minnesota’s county attorneys was very gracious in sharing trial transcripts and reading my initial drafts to make sure the legal side of the book felt authentic. The more books I write, the more I find readers with special expertise who are very helpful when I do research.

GOODBYE TO THE DEAD also includes one of the more shocking scenes I’ve written…a violent, emotional shooting inside Duluth’s shopping mall. One of the details I included was abandoned cell phones beginning to ring on the floor of the mall — and it was very poignant to read not long after of that same thing happening in the wake of a real mass shooting.

Click to find the book on Amazon.

Jason Bourne is Back

Jason Bourne is back today! Get your copy of THE BOURNE EVOLUTION now in hardcover, e-book, or audio.

Haven’t read the Bourne books? Or seen the movies? Don’t worry, this all-new take on Bourne stands on its own, so dive in.

The Cold Nowhere

After a two-year hiatus, Jonathan Stride finally returned in THE COLD NOWHERE.

I sometimes call this novel the “Duluthiest” of my books, because there are scenes set in many of the city’s most iconic locales, including Canal Park, the DECC convention center, and the ore boat museum William A. Irvin (renamed here for my friend and Duluth News-Tribune writer Chuck Frederick). This book also forces Stride and Serena to confront the fractures in their relationship from THE BURYING PLACE.

People often ask me how I develop my plots — and there are a lot of answers to that question. Sometimes I’ll be inspired by true-life crimes. Sometimes I’ll work from a file of ideas and themes I keep adding to whenever a concept pops into my head. And sometimes I simply start with a “scene” and see where it takes me. That’s what happened with THE COLD NOWHERE.

All I knew about the book when I began plotting it was that Stride would arrive home late at night and find a teenage girl hiding in his bedroom closet. She’s soaking wet, and she says someone is trying to kill her. I didn’t know who she was, or why she was being targeted, or what her connection to Stride was — but as I answered all of those questions, the plot took shape.

That scene was also how I introduced the first new series character in the Stride books — the pretty but very troubled teenager Cat Mateo — who has played a key role in every novel since then.

Find it here:
https://amzn.to/3eUaMmh

A Stride Two-Fer

After THE BURYING PLACE came a Jonathan Stride two-fer: my Stride short story “Spitting Devil” and the novella TURN TO STONE.

I took a break from Stride for a couple of books back then, writing THE BONE HOUSE (the first Cab Bolton novel, set in Florida and Door County Wisconsin) and then the stand-alone SPILLED BLOOD, which went on to win the Thriller Award for Best Hardcover Novel from the International Thriller Writers Association.

But Stride was still busy behind the scenes. “Spitting Devil” takes place shortly after the close of THE BURYING PLACE and is a wonderfully creepy look at a young wife named Alison Malville who is slowly going insane as she suspects her husband of being a serial killer. (Special note: the Malvilles reappear several books later in crucial roles in the full-length Stride novel MARATHON.)

Then, as we were getting ready for the launch of the next Stride book THE COLD NOWHERE, my editor and I decided to “re-introduce” Stride to readers who had missed him for a couple of years. So I wrote the novella TURN TO STONE, which is all-Stride — no Serena, no Maggie. TURN TO STONE takes Stride to a small town in Wisconsin to visit his mother’s grave — and he becomes enmeshed in a very dark mystery. This novella is also the only book in which the ending surprised even me! I thought I knew how everything was going to wrap up…but then, as I wrote the final chapter, the entire story turned on its head. Stride saw it coming — but I didn’t. But then again, he’s the detective, not me.

“Spitting Devil” and TURN TO STONE were both released as e-book and audio exclusives. Click below to find them on Amazon:

TURN TO STONE
SPITTING DEVIL

I also have a limited number of special print editions of both stories that we made for sale at library events. You can order those from the Spitting Devil and TURN TO STONE pages at my web site (bfreemanbooks.com).

The Burying Place

The fifth Jonathan Stride novel, THE BURYING PLACE, begins with one of my all-time favorite scenes, as a young Duluth cop named Kasey Kennedy gets lost in the fog on her way home and stumbles into a horrific crime in progress.

In this book, Stride is recovering in a cabin in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, from the things that happened in the previous book, IN THE DARK — and his relationship with Serena is feeling the strain. I mentioned last week that there’s a scene in IN THE DARK that foreshadows all the fissures that break open among Stride, Serena, and Maggie in THE BURYING PLACE.

Interestingly, the characters saw it coming before I did. I didn’t know what was going to happen to them as I started this book, and I was shocked to see the direction they were leading me. But around the same time, I got the proofs for IN THE DARK, and I realized that the emotional groundwork had already been laid.

An amazing team of producers is working with the AMC television network to launch a Stride TV series, with season one based on THE BURYING PLACE. So read it now — and cross your fingers that we’ll also see it on the small screen soon.

Click here to find it at Amazon or at Bookshop.org.

In the Dark

This week: IN THE DARK, the 4th Jonathan Stride novel.

When we first met Stride in IMMORAL, he was grieving the loss of his long-time wife, Cindy — and that loss has cast a long shadow over the entire Stride series.

I wanted readers to have a chance to learn more about Cindy and how Stride’s relationship with her developed. So IN THE DARK (which appeared in the UK under the title THE WATCHER) is about the murder of Cindy’s sister, Laura, during a long-ago summer when Cindy and Stride were first becoming involved as teenagers.

When a journalist comes to town to write a book about that unsolved crime, Stride gets pulled back into a summer that transformed his life — and he must also deal with violence that ripples from the past into the present. Using chapters from the journalist’s story, the “book within a book” format lets the reader see Stride’s past through Cindy’s eyes.

The last chapter of this novel still brings me to tears whenever I read it. And pay close attention to the chapter where Stride and Serena are in his attic as he digs through boxes of photos and letters from his late wife. Many of the fractures between Stride and Serena that break open in the next book — THE BURYING PLACE — are telegraphed in that scene.

One more little secret about this book: In my first draft, the twist ending was totally different! I changed it during the editing process, but there are still lingering hints in the book about the alternate ending. Can you figure out what the original twist was?

Click here to find out more about the book.