Friday, June 11, 2010

Face of a Thriller

I recently finished reading Face of a Killer, a well-written thriller by Robin Burcell, whose progress I have watched over the years via posts on various Internet lists. She worked in the San Franciso area for more than two decades as a police officer, detective and hostage negotiator. An FBI-trained forensic artist, Robin used that talent with her character Sydney Fitzpatrick in this book, written after producing four Kate Gillespie mysteries..

An FBI agent and forensic artist, Sydney is called on to reconstruct the face of a mutilated rape-murder victim and finds herself entangled in another murder case, that of her father killed more than two decades ago. She visits the death row inmate about to die for the murder and has doubts about his guilt.

A photo sent to her by a friend of her father's, who then commits suicide, adds more complications. When attempts are made on her life, Sydney begins to mistrust a fellow agent she had formerly lived with. The plot moves rapidly as people and events from years ago resurface, and it appears some hidden government group may be responsible for her problems.

In an Author's Note, Robin mentioned that her fictional rogue international financial institution was modeled after the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), target of the biggest banking scandal in history back in 1991. It was called the "Bank of Crooks and Criminals" by the feds. After its closure, a "black network" division was allegedly still in operation using Mafia-like tactics, extortion, kidnapping, even murder, by some accounts.

Using your own career experience as the backdrop for a mystery novel is a surefire way to guarantee authenticity. It's a technique that has been used successfully by newspaper reporters like Michael Connelly, lawyers like Phillip Margolin, and numerous others. Some authors have made writers their protagonists.

Using actual organizations or events to model story lines provides another source for creating realism. Chances are the reader will think this sounds vaguely familiar.

A feeling of authenticity is great, but a mystery requires much more to make it successful. Robin Burcell people's her book with some great characters and does an excellent job of keeping the excitement at a high level. I'm happy to recommend Face of a Killer.

Chester Campbell

Mystery Mania

No comments: