by: James M. Jackson
Series: Seamus McCree
Release Date: April 3, 2018
Publisher: Wolf’s Echo Press
Amazon | Paperback | Goodreads
If you love the suspense and plot twists of domestic thrillers, this page-turner will be for you. Seamus McCree’s first solo bodyguard assignment goes from bad to worse. His client disappears. His granddog finds a buried human bone. Police find a fresh human body.
His client is to testify in a Chicago money laundering trial. He’s paranoid that with a price on his head, if the police know where he’s staying, the information will leak. Seamus promised his business partner and lover, Abigail Hancock, that he’d keep the witness safe at the McCree family camp located deep in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s woods.
Abigail is furious at his incompetence and their relationship flounders. Even his often-helpful son, Paddy, must put family safety ahead of helping his father. Seamus risks his own safety and freedom to turn amateur sleuth in hopes he can solve the crimes, fulfill his promise of protection, and win back Abigail. Wit and grit are on his side, but the clock is ticking . . . and the hit man is on his way.
The Mind of a Killer
It takes an interesting killer to provide a worthy antagonist for a hero. In the Seamus McCree series readers meet two kinds of killers. One is a professional, hired by others to perform a job. Other than in war, most of us couldn’t do it. We talk about such people as “killing machines,” or “without a conscience.” We want to dehumanize them because deep inside we admit that under the right circumstances, we, too, could kill—but that would be different.
A continuing character in the series is the self-styled “Happy Reaper.” He’s a hired killer who readers first meet in Ant Farm (#1). He returns in Empty Promises (#5) and has a significant role in my work-in-progress, False Bottom (#6). He’s driven to be the best in the business, and as we see in Empty Promises, he spends his down time honing his skills. I find one-dimensional hitmen boring. The Happy Reaper has a code of ethics—not like yours and mine, of course—but one he lives by. That makes him more interesting and allows readers and me to explore deeper issues incorporated in the struggle between him and Seamus.
The other killers populating the series are unprofessional, in which the killing is a means unto an end. Sometimes a person finds themselves backed into a corner and killing becomes (they think) their only way out. Readers can see alternatives, so my task as author is to make a death believable by providing sufficient motivation for the act.
Revenge, which I’ve used as the engine of hate, can be particularly powerful. The event that triggered the revenge can be recent or distant. With distant events, the hurt has had time to fester in a warped mind, magnifying and intensifying the internal damage. I try to put myself in the mind of the killer, to feel their burning need to get even, so when I write its revelation, the truth explodes on the page fully formed. It’s also important for me to lay the groundwork in earlier chapters. The reader may be surprised by who-done-it, but it shouldn’t come as a total shock because the clues were there.
When anger triggers a murder, it is important for the reader to understand why something, perhaps even seemingly trivial, created a lethal response. Was there history between the two? Had the killer been in a similar situation and did not want to repeat the prior outcome? I haven’t dealt with this in my novels, but in real life a mouse of a person who has accepted years of verbal and/or physical domestic abuse, snaps and kills the abuser. For us to make sense of that as readers, we need to be brought into the mind of the killer, to experience what she experienced, to feel the building rage. Then, although we may abhor both the abuse and the killing, we at least understand the motivation.
The most frightening people for me are those who rationalize that killing others is justified to bring about a better world. Because I fear it, I am also drawn to explore it, which I did in Cabin Fever (#3). To write these killers, I must understand their motivation. I block out my abhorrence for their fanaticism and allow them to explain to me what they find so important about their goals that they can justify using murder as a tactic. Once we’ve had that discussion (all occurring in my head—what does that say about me?), I’m in a position to allow the character to present his perspective in the novel through his acts, conversations with others, and internal dialog. Understanding the character’s ambition makes their amoral aspect feel more believable when he appoints himself judge, jury, and executioner.
Being able to glimpse the killer’s motivation from their own perspective is one reason I often prefer reading and writing suspense compared to a traditional whodunit. I’ll be interested in your readers’ take on this point.
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James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree series consisting of five novels and one novella. Jim splits his time between the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Georgia’s Lowcountry. He claims the moves between locations are weather-related, but others suggest they may have more to do with not overstaying his welcome. He is the past president of the 700+ member Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime.
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