Interview Questions for JUST REVIEWS
How did you create your main characters? How did Amy Hunter come to handle cases with Luke Bowers? Tell your readers more about each character’s strengths and weaknesses.
Luke Bowers is in the good and evil business, as he says early in the book. And in a sense, Amy Hunter is too, in a different way. Luke is head pastor at Tidewater Methodist Church, Amy is the state police’s lead homicide investigator for Tidewater County. Both are independent-minded and somewhat unorthodox in how they approach their jobs, which is part of what draws them together. Hunter is young, smart and relentless (“kick-ass,” as my editor aptly calls her). Luke has a wry and more patient view of things. A student of human behavior, Luke has seen some of its darker corners over the years (although none quite as dark as what he encounters here).
They team up after an unidentified woman is found dead in a pew at Luke’s church. Hunter is assigned the case, although not everyone in the close-knit community of Tidewater is pleased that a young,
female outsider has the job. While the local sheriff tries to undermine her, Hunter looks for allies in the community and finds one in Luke – particularly after he discovers that a series of numbers left at the crime scene may be a reference to the Book of Psalms. With Bowers’ help, Hunter eventually learns that the motive for the murder extends far beyond Tidewater County.
Over the course of the story, Luke and Amy seem to find something in each other that is missing in their own lives. There’s an attraction between them, although it’s not a romantic one (Luke is married to the wonderful Charlotte; Hunter’s less-than-successful love life is on hold). They’re not literally a team, but they’re good foils and sounding boards. Their relationship will continue to evolve.
Where does the novel take place and why did you choose this setting?
The novel is set in Tidewater County, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. This is a fictitious setting, although it bears some resemblance to the real Eastern Shore – an older and perhaps slightly idealized version. I chose this setting because it’s a place that’s deeply ingrained in my childhood memories. The Shore was where we used to go boating and water-skiing when I was a kid growing up in the D.C. area, a charming place with its own mysterious rhythms and accents. It was a land of oyster-shell roads, cattail swamps, meandering tributaries, working fishing harbors, wooden crab houses along the waterfront, and surprising views of the Chesapeake Bay. There are still many quaint corners to the Eastern Shore.
The Tidewater County setting complicates the crime in a way for Hunter because she has to contend not only with a killer but also with the ghosts of tradition there (a common conflict in many old communities haunted by their own histories). At the end (without giving too much away) the county itself plays a role in stopping one of the antagonists.
What are the reasons why this killer cannot seem to be caught?
The killer has an ability to inveigle himself into the lives of ordinary people. He does this by making them believe he is just like them – and then hides in those lives as he pursues his ends. As the plot unfolds, we begin to learn that he sees himself as a protector of these so-called ordinary people – against what he believes is a predatory society and government. Fueled by dark obsessions, he operates under his own laws, and his own ideas about good and evil, outwitting his pursuers by creating scenarios that seem to be one thing but are actually something quite different.
Did you use any of your journalism experience when writing this novel? Tell people about your journalism career.
I worked as a journalist for many years, in Florida, Maryland and California, covering everything from crime to politics to science to the arts to sports (I was boxing correspondent for Cable Guide magazine for a couple of years). For about 10 years, I was a newspaper editor on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and some of the small-town sensibility of THE PSALMIST comes from that. I think Luke’s sense of curiosity, too, is similar to that of a journalist. And the larger storyline, about the way gambling has affected the American psyche, was a subject I researched and wrote about as a journalist.
What’s next for you?
The second Bowers/Hunter book is THE TEMPEST, which will be out in early 2015. In this book, the seemingly accidental death of a summer tourist has unexpected repercussions when she’s linked to one of the world’s most famous, still-missing stolen paintings – Rembrandt’s 1633 The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, the artist’s only seascape, which was taken from Boston’s Gardner Museum in 1990. The “Psalmist” character also makes an appearance in this book (and will return in the third book in the series, tentatively set for late 2015 or early 2016).