Twenty years ago this month, Intrigue released UNDER THE KNIFE by Tess Gerritsen, who of course would go on to become the bestselling author of awesome thrillers. (Fun fact: the other Intrigue released that month was SWITCHBACK by Catherine Anderson, another future New York Times bestselling author. Quite an auspicious month!). I was still relatively new to Intrigue, having only started reading the line a couple months earlier. UNDER THE KNIFE was the book that not only cemented my love of the line, but made it clear that this was the kind of story I wanted to write. I didn't just want to write mysteries, as I'd always thought. I wanted to write THESE.
The book had all the hallmarks I had already come to associate with the line. Strong characters with a juicy interpersonal conflict. A great mystery with plenty of suspects. A well-developed love story. Numerous twists and turns. Suspenseful sequences. But what really stood out about it was how emotional it was. I found the hero's story incredibly moving, and the ending in particular hit me hard. The story's emotional impact was what made it something extra-special and a book I knew would really stick with me. As far as I was concerned, the book contained everything a great read could--and should, and set the bar for what I wanted to try and accomplish in my own stories--that perfect combination of mystery and emotion.
It seems somehow fitting that my latest book, STRANGER IN A SMALL TOWN, is being released almost exactly twenty years later. (Okay, it’s technically a May release, but it’s already available on eHarlequin, so close enough. ) It's a book that means a lot to me, partly because I think it really exemplifies the kind of story I've always wanted to write since reading UNDER THE KNIFE, combining a mystery I hope will keep readers guessing with (at least for me) that level of emotion I’ve been aiming for from the beginning. It’s the story of two people, both running from their pasts in different ways and for different reasons, bound together by the creepy, crumbling house that each has been drawn to. The house has largely been abandoned since two people were murdered there almost thirty years before, a crime that remains unsolved. The heroine is determined to restore the house; the hero hires on to help her while keeping his true motives secret. But no one in the town wants the house restored, least of all the killer. When the danger surrounding the house escalates, the hero and heroine are driven to try to solve the murders. Over the course of the story, they work to find the truth, and in the process find the strength to face their respective pasts and move on into the future.
All of my characters mean a great deal to me, but I especially felt for these two people, two lost souls who find a connection when neither expects it. I just "got" them on a level I hope comes across on the page. I admit, there were a few points while I was writing it where I felt a lump in my throat. A tear or two may have even been shed. I can’t guarantee that anyone else will have the same reaction (though I certainly wish I could!), but I do hope anyone who decides to take a chance on the book will enjoy it and maybe even find themselves as caught up in the emotions of the characters' story as I was.
In the meantime, what are some of your favorite emotional reads that really got to you and stuck with you? Do you have any books that really made you cry?