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Anxiety at the highest level!

Letter from the Editor August 2014

     Posted on Mon ,15/09/2014 by Administrator

When someone asks you what you did the week of the Fourth of July, can you tell them you
spent it with the top authors in the suspense/mystery/thriller/horror genre? If you can’t,
then you didn’t attend ThrillerFest 2014 in New York City, hosted by the International
Thriller Writers Organization.

This was the tenth ThrillerFest, with the Thriller Master Award going to bestselling
author Scott Turow. Fellow author Brenda Novak won the Silver Bullet Award, for her
work outside of writing in raising over $2.5 million for diabetes research.
Now if you are asking yourself “What is ThrillerFest?” you might want to go outside
and get hit over the head with a hammer, because if you read or write in the genre,
you have to climb aboard the ThrillerFest train. ThrillerFest is where the industry’s top
authors get together and for four days, split into two parts, and teach classes, talk on
panels about certain topics, autograph their books, and generally hang around talking to
fans and other authors.

The first half of the week was dubbed CraftFest. This year, some of the highlights
included: Steve Berry putting on two classes called “The Six C’s of Story Structure”
and “Who’s Telling the Story and What are They Saying.” John Gilstrap taught “Broken
Bones, Ballistics, and Backdrafts.” David Morrell led the “Should the First Person be Your
Choice?” workshop, along with D.P. Lyle, Steven James, Gayle Lynds, Peter James, Lee
Child, Joseph Finder, and many more.

The second half is ThrillerFest. It’s two days in which your favorite authors sit on
panels and talk about different subjects. Some of the highlights included: “The AHA
Moment: How Important is High Concept and Where do you Find it?” On that panel
was Jon Land with Steve Berry, Boyd Morrison, Douglas Preston, Ian Rankin, and John
Sandford. We could go on and on, but check out the website for a full list of the events,
so you know what to expect when you go next year. For authors, writing is a business. The
only way to have a successful business is to invest in it. If you don’t take the time
and money to invest in your writing to make it better, stick to writing blogs. But
if you’d like to write novels and make a little money while entertaining people,
attend ThrillerFest. You won’t find a more professional organization in the world.
For more information, check out and

The definitions of the genre, every author needs to know.

     Posted on Tue ,19/08/2014 by Administrator

So many times we receive emails from authors letting us know about their book. Funny thing is when you ask them a question about it, or try and get more information, they don’t seem to be able to really explain their book. Marketing is the number one toughest thing for any author to do. Writing the book is easy, that’s their job, but take them outside of that zone and all hell breaks loose. One of the main reasons for this is that authors simply don’t understand the genre they are writing in, and therefore spend countless hours sending out emails to blogs, magazines, etc that won’t ever cover their book. I decided to define the genre.

There are four main writing styles: Suspense, Thriller, Mystery and Horror. Each of them are very unique and have their own characteristics to follow. For an author to know what style of book they have written is the most essential part of marketing it correctly.

Suspense: You are walking up a mountain and when you reach the top, the author hangs you over the edge not knowing if you will fall off or be pulled back.

Mystery: You are walking up the mountain and along the way you find clues to what awaits you at the top. When you arrive the answer is revealed.

Thriller: You run up the mountain as fast as you can, shit is blowing up all around you and when you get to the top you jump off the edge.

Horror: Has no rules. The mountain could be haunted by ghosts or evil spirits or far worse things. You are scared to even open your eyes to see what is at the top.

Sci – Fi: Take any or all of the above mentioned styles and set your book on Mars. (threw in Sci-Fi since it has elements of all four).

Knowing what you write is just as important as what you write. Spend as much time getting to know your story and where it fits inside the genre, and you will be better able to arm yourself with the tools needed to get more fans and readers.

Letter from the Editor – June 2014

     Posted on Mon ,28/07/2014 by Administrator

Not everyone reads the magazine, we know that, so I thought it would be good to post the Letter from the Editor that was published in the last issue. Maybe reading this will want you to read the magazine.


A funny thing is happening today, and I’m not sure you’ve even heard about it. Behind the scenes, it seems that Amazon and some publishers are in a little disagreement. If you listen to some of the authors, they are blaming Amazon and if you listen to Amazon, it’s the publishers to blame. I’m here to set the record straight, because who is to blame?


That’s right, it’s not the publishers fault or Amazon’s fault, it’s Wall Street’s fault. Now I will tell you that this letter might get a little in depth into things that are confusing, but I’ll try to connect all the dots.

Amazon is a publicly traded company, as are HarperCollins (News Corp), Simon and Schuster (CBS Corp), and Hachette (Lagardere Group, France). What you now have is rope-pulling between public companies, because of the unrealistic expectations of Wall Street. If stockholders don’t see growth of three to five percent each year, the stock drops. It’s not enough any more for revenues to stay even or grow at a slower rate, so what you end up with is businesses trying to etch out any type of growth on the sales or profit margin, and this has led to the stalemate you now see.

But how will this affect readers? Well, now that you have seen behind the curtain just a little bit into the back-room dealings, readers will suffer because now Amazon has suspended Hachette titles, leading fans to either go elsewhere (probably pay higher prices) or wait. Now you might think that Barnes & Noble is an alternative place to shop, but hold on. Simon & Schuster and Barnes & Noble have also been having problems.

Many authors have said that Barnes & Noble won’t stock their books, and this includes all the small publishers, which might get lucky and have a couple of books at the local level, but nothing national. Amazon is still the best place to shop for books, since it has the largest selection and best pricing in the industry. Most of the time these little hitches are short-lived and both companies realize that they do, in fact, need each other and find a way to work it out.

There is one solution, however, if you really want a book and don’t want to wait: Get the e-book. E-books are never out of stock and you can have it pretty much in less than one minute after clicking the buy button. It is a little funny that all the talk is based on the print copies, when all we hear is that print is dying. I wouldn’t say dying is the right word, but print is not growing.

The focus should be on selling books to readers. It should be on the authors writing the best stories they can. Sadly, businesses lose their way and simply see the reader as a commodity and not as a valued person helping to keep the doors open.


John Raab


Suspense Magazine

An interview with editor Edward Katsenmeier of Pantheon Books on author Andrew Vachss

     Posted on Wed ,11/06/2014 by Administrator

Edward Kastenmeier is Andrew Vachss’ editor at Pantheon Books and Vintage Crime/Black Lizard. He’s edited 21 Andrew Vachss books over nearly 20 years, one of the longest running editor-writer relationships in crime fiction.

Q: When did you first encounter Andrew Vachss’ crime writing? Were you reading professionally or for pleasure?

Edward Kastenmeier: It was in 1994 when I read DOWN IN THE ZERO. We’d been lucky enough to add Andrew to the growing Vintage Crime/Black Lizard list that year. So I guess you could say I started reading him professionally, but really after the first sentence it was for pleasure.

Q: When Vachss began publishing novels in the 80’s, his stories were unlike any other crime fiction. Yes, FLOOD owed a debt to Chandler and Hammett, but the subject and title character were utterly fresh. And readers responded.

EK: Actually, not only did readers respond and make that book a huge bestseller, society responded. Andrew Vachss is responsible for changing the way we as a society recognize and think about child sexual abuse in supposedly squeaky-clean communities. Before Vachss published FLOOD, nobody wanted to believe that was happening. These kids weren’t protected. Things aren’t perfect now by a long shot, but they are better. And Andrew Vachss deserves credit for that.

Q: People can read more about Andrew’s essential work on behalf of children on his website (insert). Another interesting thing about that first published novel, FLOOD, is the title character. Flood is a woman both vulnerable and extremely powerful. And she’s a force for good. Vachss started something there, too. Characters like Buffy Summers and Lisbeth Sander can be traced back to Flood.

EK: I think that’s right. Vachss excels at showing us the strength in people that society has until that moment on the page thought of as weak and powerless. Femme fatales in noir were powerful , but they were also negative. Especially for the men around them. Vachss’s women tend to be an intriguing mix of raw power, vulnerability, and righteousness. They are effective advocates (if in sometimes unconventional ways) for the powerless and disadvantaged.

Q: What’s it like editing Vachss? Do you have much back and forth on a manuscript?

EK: Andrew Vachss’ manuscripts are incredibly clean. He’s a very meticulous writer. Easy to edit. There are never any large structural questions, only tiny tweaks here and there to tighten a passage or ensure continuity. But even that is rare. The reality is that I get to read Andrew Vachss for pleasure, not excavating. Reading his manuscript is as enjoyable for me as it is for readers when it is available as a finished book in stores.

Q: So you must have been eager to receive the first manuscript when Vachss told you he had an idea for a new series. What do you love best about the new AFTERSHOCK series?

EK: The tension between his two main characters, Dell and Dolly. Dell’s a man who is incredibly concerned with security. He’d build a wall around himself and Dolly and never leave or let the world in if he could. Dolly is the opposite. That’s obviously not a stable situation and there are going to be problems. Dell is a soldier who requires absolutely nobody in this world except for Dolly. Dolly is an ex-Doctors Without Borders nurse who functions as a defacto social worker in her current community. She lets the world in. Dell is a character none of us have much experience with. And if you did meet someone like him, you’d never know it and/or get access to their inner thoughts. Vachss is opening a world that’s hidden to us. And he’s hitting a thread in our culture—vets coming home and needing to try to integrate into regular society. Also the rise of Neo-Nazism in the Pacific Northwest. I won’t be surprised to see a major news story in nine months that seems ripped from the pages of this book. That’s what working with Andrew is like. He’s not flipping through periodicals looking for ideas. He actually works every day with people like the ones he writes about.

Q: That leads me to my next question. Vachss always says he never, ever does research. And then comes this meticulously detailed, totally believable novel that is in part about life as a mercenary in remote and dangerous parts of the world. How does he do it?

EK: Well you have to remember that Vachss was an aid worker in the Biafran War (1967-70). He was on the same planes with mercenaries, in the same communities. Same for members of Doctors Without Borders. Those people were an integral part of his world. And he had to pay close attention to both camps if he wanted to make it out alive. And back then he had the same mission that he lives and breathes to this day: protecting the powerless. Dell and Dolly’s story is a natural extension of that experience and of his mission.

Q: Any words about Andrew Vachss and his novels you might want to leave with crime fiction readers who haven’t read him before?

EK: Nobody is better at what Andrew Vachss does. His ability to write a sentence that makes you want to read the one that follows is unparalleled.

SHOCKWAVE: An Aftershock Novel, is available in hardcover and eBook from Pantheon Books on June 8, 2014.

Andrew Vachss book cover

New releases

     Posted on Sun ,27/04/2014 by Administrator

We are starting something a little new by getting publishers to give us their list of new releases.  If you haven’t heard of these books, shame on you.  Check them out on Amazon or other book sites.

New Release Section:


“Mark of Evil” by Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall. February 4, 2014

“Storming the Black Ice” by Don Brown. February 25, 2014

“Retribution,” by Anderson Harp releases March 1

“The Collector of Dying Breaths” by M.J. Rose releases on April 8

“The Lincoln Myth” by Steve Berry releases on May 20

“THE TROOP” by Nick Cutter releases February 25, 2014

“ABOVE” by Isla Morley releases March 4, 2014

“THE BUTCHER” by Jennifer Hillier releases July 15, 2014

“ONE OF US” by Tawni O’Dell releases August 19, 2014

“CRY FATHER” by Benjamin Whitmer releases September 16, 2014

“LOVE AND TREASURE”, a novel by Ayelet Waldman releases April 1, 2014

“AND THE DARK SACRED NIGHT”, a novel by Julia Glass releases April 1, 2014

“THE CASEBOOK”, a novel by Mona Simpson releases May 1, 2014

“THE PAINTER”, a novel by Peter Heller releases May 9, 2014

“THE SON” by Jo Nesbo releases May 15, 2014

“The Blood Promise”: A Hugo Marston Novel by Mark Pryor Jan ’14

“The Last Death of Jack Harbin”: A Samuel Craddock Mystery by Terry Shames Jan ’14

“Castle Rock” by Carolyn Hart Feb ’14,

“In the Morning I’ll Be Gone”: A Detective Sean Duffy Novel (Book Three of the Troubles Trilogy) by Adrian McKinty Mar ’14, Trade Paperback

“Dante’s Poison”: A Mark Angelotti Novel by Lynne Raimondo May ’14

“No Stone Unturned”: An Ellie Stone Mystery by James W. Ziskin Jun ’14

“Reckless Disregard”: A Parker Stern Novel by Robert Rotstein Jun ’14,

“The Black Hour” by Lori Rader-Day Jul ’14

“Blind Moon Alley”: A Jersey Leo Novel  by John Florio Aug ’14

“Cat on a Cold Tin Roof”: An Eli Paxton Mystery by Mike Resnick Aug ’14

“The Button Man”: A Hugo Marston Novel by Mark Pryor Sep ’14

“The Sun Is God” by Adrian McKinty Sep ’14

“Black Karma”: A White Ginger Novel by Thatcher Robinson Oct ’14

“Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek”: A Samuel Craddock Mystery by Terry Shames Oct ’14

“The Life We Bury” by Allen Eskens  Nov ’14

“Deadly Ruse”: A Mac McClellan Mystery by E. Michael Helms Nov ’14

“MISSING YOU” by Harlan Coben releases March 18, 2014

“A WANTED WOMAN” by Eric Jerome Dickey releases April 15, 2014

“SUSPICION” by Joseph Finder releases May 27, 2014

“WHAT HAS BECOME OF YOU” by Jan Elizabeth Watson releases May 1, 2014

“THE LORD CAME AT TWILIGHT” by Daniel Mills available now







Which tablet is the best for reading your “scary stories” by guest blogger Andrew Lisa

     Posted on Tue ,11/02/2014 by Administrator

Best Tablet Computers with which to Read Your Scary eBooks


From Bram Stoker to Stephen King, horror lovers are lucky to live in an age in which every scare, sleepless night, and standing hair is available for the taking without a visit to the bookstore or a library.

Tablets bring the scares to you, but which one is right? Check out this list before you decide which tablet you’ll use to scare yourself to death.

2014 is shaping up to be the best year so far for tablets and e-readers.

Apple iPad Air

The Apple iPad Air is lighter, thinner, and more powerful than its predecessors, but it brings all the awesomeness of the previous generation’s brilliant Retina Display. Just 9.7 inches at its longest, and weighing in at a single pound, the iPad Air can be held comfortably with one hand and is the lightest in its class. Driven by a new 64-bit A7 CPU, it’s got not just muscle, but nearly 12 hours of battery life. As competitors nibble away at the edges, iPad Air proves Apple is still a force to be reckoned with.

Entry price: $499.

Kindle Fire HDX

When you think of horror eBooks, you think of Amazon – and if you’re only in it for the reading, the Amazon Kindle Fire might be the best in its class. When coupled with an Amazon Prime membership ($79/year), the seven-inch Kindle Fire HDX brings with it an incredible array of books, movies, and television programs for free. Its super-fast quad-core speeds, backed up by a 1920 x 1200 screen, definitely beat out the Nexus 7 – all with more than eight and a half hours of battery life. Live video support is available literally at the touch of a button – the Mayday button, that is – on the tablet 24/7.

Entry price: $199.

Lenovo Miix 2

For Windows lovers, the Lenovo Miix 2 is powered by a quick Atom Bay Trail CPU and puts the entire Windows 8.1 experience in your hands with a sharp-looking eight-inch tablet. Even better, the pricey Office Home & Student software comes built in at no extra cost. Its 1280 x 800-pixel display is nice and bright, but not offensive, and works perfectly with the Live Tile interface.

Entry price: $299


When it comes to bang for the buck, there is ASUS’s MeMO Pad HD 7, and there’s everything else. A nice, bright 1280 x 800 screen is backed up by a powerful quad-core processor. For the price, it has a very high-quality camera both in the front and the rear, and comes with a full 16GB of internal storage. Not enough room? It accepts micro SD cards for expansion. Nearing 10 hours of battery life and including a wide array of custom Android features, there is simply nothing better for the price.

Entry price: $129.99

Horror book lovers rejoice – the perfect tablet is out there for you.

With an incredible array of affordable, powerful tablets to choose from, this year is shaping up to be the best so far for mobile media. Get a tablet, get a subscription, and get reading!

Andrew Lisa is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. He writes about technology and electronics.

Suspense Magazine December 2013 Issue

     Posted on Sun ,01/12/2013 by Administrator

I won’t say to much about this yet, but I wanted to let you all know that the winner of “The Crimson Scribe” award for the best book of 2013 is M.J. Rose “Seduction”. The process was not easy this year, as it seems every year we have more and more submissions to go through and more voters. We were very pleased with the response this year from the fans and judges. This year like last year we are going to give the magazine away for free to everyone and will post the link here along with several other places, including Facebook, Twitter and more.  If you want it emailed to you directly right when it comes out, simply email

Thanks again everyone for all your support, see you all very, very soon!!

John Raab

CEO / Publisher

Suspense Magazine

Special guest post by William Petrocelli “The Curse of the Cross-Genre”

     Posted on Tue ,05/11/2013 by Administrator

The Curse of the Cross-Genre

As an author, I spent five years thinking about writing The Circle of Thirteen.

As a bookseller, I spent about thirty years learning why such a book could be a problem.

Why? It’s because it’s is a cross-genre book, and books like that don’t fit easily into any of the traditional categories that publishers, booksellers, and others in the business use to classify books. To put it simply, they don’t know where to shelve it. My publisher has classified The Circle of Thirteen as a “fiction-thriller,” and that’s as good as anything I could come up with.

Every writer faces this problem to some extent. You write something that fits in one category, but you wish that reviewers and readers would also consider it from another angle. The publisher picks a category, but the “whole” of that choice frequently doesn’t express the sum of its parts. For example, Jonathan Kellerman’s 1985 novel When the Bough Breaks was one of the first U. S. crime novels to tackle the issue of child abuse.  Yet in any bookselling database, you’ll find it under “mystery” rather than “sociological breakthrough.”

And there are genres within genres. Each sub-genre is supposed to simplify the classification process, but some of them become ends in themselves. If one writer sells a lot of vampire books, you can bet that every major publisher in the country will be looking for a vampire book to fill out that subgenre – that is, until the vampires are killed off by zombies.


But ask authors about their own books, and what you will get is a much more nuanced description. No one tries to write a book just fit in a particular genre. An author always feels like there is something unique about his or her book – some way of approaching it that is outside bounds of conventional genres.

So when a book like The Circle of Thirteen is deliberately cross-genre, the author – that’s me – tries to cut through all the labels and suggest different ways to approach the story.

Here goes:


Look at it as a thriller. In the early pages of the book a major terrorist plot hits the United Nations and the assembled world leaders. For the rest of the book, the reader follows Julia Moro, the U.N. Security Director, as she tries to foil the plot.

Look at it as future fiction. Most of the story is set in the middle decades of the 21st century. The texture of the story is familiar but also a bit surprising. The story is close enough to the present day to seem like a plausible extension of our own world.


Look at is as a drama of human emotions. There is a love story in the novel – two of them, in fact. Beyond that, there is a family story that is at the emotional center of the book: the relationship between Julia and her grandmother, Maya.

Look at it as a novel of ideas. A novel set in the near future has to touch on the most important issues of today, because they are also likely to be the issues of tomorrow. A story like this has to say something about climate change, the degradation of the environmental, the concentration of wealth into a few unscrupulous hands, and the changing role of women in society.


Can we make a new genre out of all these things?

About The Circle of Thirteen and William Petrocelli

How far do the ripples of violence go? The Circle of Thirteen begins with a mindless act of family violence in 2008 and spans seven decades, finally culminating in the desperate effort by Julia Moro, the U.N. Security Director, to stop a major act of terror.  In this rich, textured thriller, Bill Petrocelli weaves the story around themes of poverty, political corruption, environmental disaster, and the backlash against the rising role of women.

In 2082, as a catastrophic explosion threatens to destroy the new United Nations building in New York, Julia Moro finds herself on the trail of the shadowy leader of Patria, a terrorist organization linked to bombing attempts and vicious attacks on women. One of those groups of women – the Women for Peace — was headed by thirteen bold women who risked their lives to achieve world peace and justice.

Weaving back and forth in time, this gripping narrative illuminates the unbreakable bond between strong women, providing an emotionally grounded window into the future’s unforgettable history. This is a thrilling ride that will mesmerize until the end.

William Petrocelli is co-owner, with his wife Elaine, of the Book Passage bookstores in Northern California. His books include Low Profile: How to Avoid the Privacy Invaders and Sexual Harassment on the Job: What it is and How to Stop It. He’s a former Deputy Attorney General, a former poverty lawyer in Oakland, and a long-time advocate for women’s rights. The Circle of Thirteen is his first novel.

More information about The Circle of Thirteen can be found on, including tidbits about the inspiration behind the novel and Bill’s event schedule. He can also be found on Twitter @billpetrocelli. 

Why do we love Horror by Kate Supino. 9 Scariest Horror movies and their impact.

     Posted on Tue ,05/11/2013 by Administrator

9 of the Scariest Horror Movies and the Impact They Have on Our Impressions of Superstition

9 of the Scariest Horror Movies and the Impact They Have on Our Impressions of Superstition

Superstitions are nearly always rooted in half-truths. The horror movie industry preys on our willing suspension of disbelief to take advantage of these centuries-old notions and make us believe they’re grounded in reality.

Check out the following nine movies and the impact they’ve had on our superstitions.


In Candyman, a cynical grad student couldn’t leave well enough alone and chants the perp’s name five times in front of a mirror. Big mistake. Every audience member knows not to chant any old names successively or that demon or spirit will come to get you. You can’t even say the name Voldemort anymore without people running and screaming away.

The Shining

The Shining, starring Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall, made us believe that being possessed is not only possible – it can happen to anyone at any time. It also made us very leery of any writer who quickly churns out pages and pages of manuscript.


Halloween, starring Jamie Lee Curtis in her silver screen debut, cemented our suspicions that evil spirits are allowed to have a field day with us mortals once every year on Halloween. In some states, we don’t even allow our children to trick or treat on the actual date. Wonder why…

Images like these feed into our belief that witches meet over boiling cauldrons.

Friday the 13th

If there’s ever a good day to stay home in bed to avert disasters, it’s Friday the 13th, and the movie by the same name gave us just the evidence we needed. This movie proves that a) Friday the 13th is unlucky, and b) bad things happen at summer camp. But then, we all knew that.


The mistake that the creators of the Poltergeist movie series allegedly made was to use real human remains in a movie about the desecration of sacred Indian burial grounds. Within six years, four of the main characters died suddenly in circumstances ranging from the expected to the bizarre.


If Carrie didn’t teach us to be nice to the weird, shy girl who dresses funny, then there’s no hope for us. Schoolgirls around the world fear what is different, and Sissy Spacek was certainly different, what with all those freckles and freaky telekinetic powers.

Maybe he’s just looking for his tennis shoes?

Final Destination

Final Destination and all its subsequent incarnations preys on our unconscious suspicion that we all have a specific date to die – and you can’t win at cheating death. Because if you try, death will come at you with a vengeance.


In Signs, actors Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix live out one of our worst fears – that aliens will eventually come to get us. Thankfully, they always land on Earth with an Achilles heel.

The Exorcist

Ouija boards open the door to the devil, who then perverts and possesses sweet, innocent young girls like the one actress Linda Blair portrayed in The Exorcist. Since that movie, no mother on earth will allow her daughter to play with one of these “toys.” It’s even been suggested that the movie was based on a true story.

Whether or not we say we believe in superstitions, when one appears in a movie, we all recognize it. Most of us have grandmothers who throw salt over their shoulders to dispel evil spirits or who avoid black cats, which are said to be witches in disguise. Part of the fun of the movies is seeing these superstitions brought to life in horrible ways, and then going home to our own safe beds.

Kate Supino is a professional freelance writer and small business owner who writes extensively about tools like time tracking software for best business practices.

Special Excerpt “Dixon Grace: 1.9.7 Hamburg” by Alexa Camouro

     Posted on Tue ,05/11/2013 by Administrator

Landeskriminalamt, Hamburg

15 September, 2011, 8:16am

The room is rectangular. Not very big, but it feels big because there’s just one table and two chairs. Plastic chairs in black, a metal table with a vinyl covering that looks sticky, that’s stained with the rings of coffee cups and water glasses.

The usual standard stuff in a room that’s mostly off-limits. Nothing fancy or comfortable or aesthetically pleasing.

“Function over form,” she says softly, looking down at the floor and seeing small holes where a chair – a special chair – could be bolted down.

She’s sitting in one of the black plastic chairs, slouching really, arms folded, and wearing clothes thrown over her baggy sleeping underwear; her sleeping costume, as Astrid would call it.

They hadn’t allowed her to get dressed. No bra. No shoes. Not even a chance for a morning pee.

What a way to wake up, she thinks. But where was Ben? Why hadn’t he been there when they came, when they stormed in with helmets on and automatic weapons raised? Oh, but he’ll be pissed all right. They kicked the door down.

This makes her smile, then she shakes her head.

Come on, she tells herself. The room. Focus on the room. It’s about four metres by three by three. So, an area of twelve square, volume of thirty-six cubic. Like the business class section of a plane, roomy and high-ceilinged. No. The ceiling’s too high. Because all those plane designers are little people, building claustrophobic cabins with tight seats and limited leg room, big enough for them but no one else. Kids maybe.

She knows this. She toured the interiors department, had a class with six Hobbit-sized cabin designers. For the first lesson, they even sat in two lines of three, one behind the other, chairs close together and shoulders almost touching, like they were on a flight somewhere.

She laughs a little.

Stop it, she says to herself. The room. Concentrate. That mirror on the wall. They’re watching.

She decides the room is more swimming pool than airplane interior. An upside-down pool, replete with greyish-blue walls and a metallic, chemical smell. Chlorine dried by the sun; the backyard pool of a foreclosed house left to rot in a Melbourne suburb. The result of a financial bubble bursting, some sub-division contracting company going bankrupt, the houses half-built, with all those young couples now riddled with debt and living with their parents again, or bunking in a caravan in front of a friend’s house. The Australian dream gone horribly wrong.

That’s better, she thinks. Run with that. Feel the sadness and loss. The anger. All those people drowning in an ocean of debt, the way I’m drowning in this upside-down pool. All those people who went after something and failed, or had it taken away from them, wrestled away at gun-point, woken at dawn by half a dozen guys in riot gear who shout “Keine Bewegung” when you’re still asleep, then cuff you and haul you away. And you can’t shout or protest because your mouth is still furry with sleep and you’re somewhere between dreamland and reality and you’d been having the nicest dream of empty beaches and softly peeling waves and gulls squawking and you could almost taste the salt of the water on your tongue and that’s the place where you most want to be.

Not here. Not in this room. Not even in this country.

Having lost the focus, she rubs at her wrists, to try again.

She wonders why they cuffed her, like she’s some criminal mastermind they chased halfway across Europe; some massive deployment that required the coordination of police forces from several countries. Car chases, jumping out of trains at high speed, false IDs, disguises, Swiss bank accounts, that sort of thing.

And she wonders why they said nothing, except “Keine Bewegung.” Didn’t say what she’s done, just barged in and dragged her from the bed. Some slight act of mercy meant she had a millisecond to throw on pants and a shirt.

Then cuffed.

At least they didn’t use those plastic handcuffs, she thinks. The ones which cut off the circulation and leave red welts that take years to disappear, making people think you tried to commit suicide once. So, that works in their favour. Old-fashioned, dangling, S&M cuffs. And they weren’t rough, either. Another plus. They were just … brisk. Yeah, that’s it. Brisk. In a hurry, as if someone was timing them. A training drill.

She shakes her head. “This must be some kind of mistake,” she says to the mirror.

God, I look awful, she thinks, running her hands through her still sleep-matted hair.

She hates the stringy feel of the blonde dye job. And it needs to be re-dyed.

She runs her hands through it again, nearly pulling the hair from its roots. What it needs, she thinks, is a double wash and a hundred brush strokes. Double wash and a hundred brush strokes. The way mum had done it. Brush out all the crap, brush the blonde away, get back to the roots. Such beautiful hair, until she cut it all off and left.

She starts to cry. She focuses harder. The memories, the loss, all the things she missed out on, things she didn’t get.

Real tears come and she doesn’t wipe them away. They run down her cheeks and drip onto her shirt.

The door opens. She sits up straight and gathers herself.


He’s a big man, and he seems to fill the room, breathing in deeply and sucking the air out of it. He’s a bit paunchy, heavy all over, but not fat. Solid. She wonders if he was an athlete when he was younger. He has that filled out look of a guy who played a lot of sport, then was happy to stop going to training, to let himself go. Now, he’s kilos in three figures. A muscular lump.

He’s dressed in new cheap clothes, the kind of stuff that hangs on massive racks at discount department stores. Stuff that’s sorted by colour and always on sale. Clothes made of plastic. On him, they don’t fit exactly right, and the colours don’t suit him, certainly not that yellow pullover. It makes her think someone else bought the clothes for him, or ordered them from an online catalogue. A wife dressing her husband the way she wants him to look.

He closes the door, then stands at the table, almost readying himself to sit down, like he doesn’t quite trust the structural integrity of that little plastic chair. He has a thin blue dossier in his right hand and some kind of book or magazine. He places both on the table. She sees it’s a book of logic problems, with a pen hooked into the cover. There’s a folded corner, half-way through, marking the page and puzzle he’s up to. Nearly every page has been dog-eared, making the top of the book fan open slightly.

The man sits down slowly. The chair slides on the floor a little, but holds.

“Wie geht’s?” he asks.

“What am I doing here? What’s going on?”

“Moment. Moment.”

He zips down the ill-fitting yellow pullover and plucks a pair of glasses from the pocket of his shirt. He has big hands, meaty and swollen, with a couple of the knuckles bulging; fingers once dislocated and not quite put back into place, maybe snapping them in himself and getting it wrong.

Heroin addict hands, she thinks. But he’s no addict.

She does not want to be touched by those hands.

He puts his glasses on, pushes the book of logic problems somewhat reluctantly aside and flips open the dossier. He smoothes his moustache with a massive index finger as he reads, or pretends to read. His moustache is perfectly trimmed to the corners of his mouth.

“Australierin,” he says.


“You are from Australia.”


He looks up, thick brown eyebrows almost knitted together. “Sie sprechen Deutsch, oder?”


“Do you speak German?”

“Sorry. No.”

“Why not?” he asks, checking the dossier again. A finger taps against the paper. “You are here since nearly two years.”

“Well, excuse me,” she says. “I never got the chance to start. And every time I tried, people spoke back to me in English.”

“Yes. Blame us for that. It is the fault of us that you cannot speak our language.”

“Uh-huh. You got that right.”

He grunts and goes back to the dossier. She sees his eyes move to the book of logic problems.

“You do them in English?”


“That’s a good way to practice. For learning, I mean.”

“I am willing to work at a new language,” he says, without looking up.

“Yeah, but English is the world’s most illogical language. There’s all these rules, then all these exceptions to the rules.”

“I do not understand.”

“I’m rambling. Sorry.” She gestures at the book, happy to have something to talk about, a focus. “But those are tricky, because of the double negatives and the double meanings.”

He checks the dossier and looks up. “You are English teacher.”

“And that’s also why I never learned German. I speak English all day.”

“Is no excuse.”

“I guess not. Have I been arrested by the language police?”

“That is not funny.” He spreads his arms in order to signify the room they’re in, and says, “All this, is no joke.”

“I know.”

“And, Miss Dixon, do you know why you are here?”

She laughs.

This makes him angry. “Why are you laughing?”

“I’m sorry. It’s just so old fashioned, to call someone Miss with their first name. So Victorian, or deep south America a hundred years ago.”

“I do not follow.”

“Ah, I get it. You think Dixon’s my surname.”

“That is how it is written here. Grace Dixon.”

“It’s wrong,” she says. “Why do you people always get my name wrong? It’s Dixon Grace.”

“No. It is Grace Dixon. Because it is here in the file.”

She laughs incredulously. “Yeah. Sure. You’re freaking file is right and I’m wrong. I told the git in the foreign office several times that Grace is my surname and still he put it down like this. Same with my bank card, and my insurance card. Why would you all think you’d know my name better than me? Such arrogance.”

The man crosses his big forearms tightly, like an oversized kid in a huff. “This is not a good start.”

“I guess I got hauled out of the wrong side of the bed this morning.”

“Miss Grace.”

“You can call me Dixon.”

“I will not. Miss Grace, do you know why you are here?”

“I asked you the same question,” she says. “I don’t have a clue, logic or otherwise.”

“This is very serious.”

“I agree with you on that. It’s definitely a serious room, with some serious-looking bolt holes in the floor, and a serious mirror which some serious people are probably looking through.” She waves at them. “And it’s definitely a serious matter when you arrest someone for no reason.”

“We have a reason.”

“What is it?”

“A source.”

“To hell with that,” she says. “I don’t want to hear any of it. I want to contact my embassy. Now.”

“We contacted them.”

“That’s great, but I want to contact them. There is no reason for me to be here. I’ve led the life of a saint in Germany.”

“Please. Calm down.”

“I’m calm. I’m seeing nothing but yellow sun. Maybe on a different day with you, I’d be seeing red.”

He tugs self-consciously at the yellow pullover, zipping it up, then down, then rubbing his forehead and retreating to the dossier. He lets out a loud sigh.

“My name is Kriminaloberkommissar Gerd Schultze. I work in LKA5.”

“Ell car aah phoonph?”


“Is that where I am?

“Yes,” Schultze says. “Wirtschaftskriminalität.”

“Love the compound nouns, but it’s all Greek to me.”

“You should learn German then,” he shouts. Then he controls himself, clearly aware there are people watching and judging. He even gives the mirror a brief, apologetic glance. “My department is responsible for economic crime.”

“Like insider trading, that sort of stuff?”

“Sometimes, yes.”

She shrugs. “I don’t have any shares. And I paid all my taxes last year. This year too. Paying ahead like a good citizen. I have an accountant who organised that for me.”

“Very smart. The tax system here is complex.” Schultze checks the dossier again. “Especially when you are Selbstständig.”

“Right, a freelancer. It was the only visa I could get. But in the end, I didn’t get it. They gave it to someone called Grace Dixon. Never met her. Maybe she’s the one you want.”

A smile stretches below Schultze’s moustache, a thin line of relative exasperation that breaks long parentheses at each corner of his mouth, bracketing the hair.

“I read that Australians like to joke,” he says, sounding very informed, “but this is serious. Can you be serious?”

“Sure. Of course. I’ve got nothing but respect for the police. I’ve done nothing wrong and I’ve got no idea why I’m here.” She speaks to the mirror. “Can we make this quick? I’ve got classes to teach.”

“Ahem, the crime is Wirtschaftsdelikt,” Schultze says formally. “Economic spying.”

“Economic spying? Do you mean corporate espionage?”

Schultze snaps his fingers. “That is it. I made a direct translation.”

“And you’re sure you’ve got the right person?”

“Our source named you.”

Dixon crosses her arms and sits back. “Who was that exactly?”

“I cannot say.”


Schultze looks at the dossier.

“Because he wasn’t there when the cavalry arrived,” Dixon says. “He must’ve left when I was asleep. Rather convenient, don’t you think?”

“We need to stay on the topic. I will ask you some questions and you will answer them.”

“I wouldn’t believe a word he says.”


“Ben. Benjamin Steckdorf. He called this in, didn’t he?”

“No, he did not,” Schultze says, and Dixon decides that he’s lying. “Now, my questions.”

“Let’s go. Get it over with. Are you recording this?

“We are.”

“Filming it too?” She runs her hands through her hair and checks herself in the mirror. “I look terrible. That’s really brutal, you know, to pull someone out of bed before they’ve even had a shower and brushed their teeth. Do you treat your wife like this? Are you married, Gerd?”

“Kriminaloberkommissar Schultze.”

She watches Schultze play with the wedding ring, pushing it up to his big knuckle and twirling it a few times.

“You’ll never get that off,” she says. “I hope you love your wife because that marriage is forever. Or you’ll have to chop your finger off. What did you do to your fingers anyway? They look wrecked.”

“Handball,” he says, looking at them. “But we must talk about you.”

“That’s big here, isn’t it? I have some friends who play basketball and I went to watch a game. They always have to play on these rubber floors. They’re so dusty, the players slip all over the place and twist their ankles. It’s dangerous.”

“They are handball courts, not basketball courts.”

“That’s right. Because a real basketball court is made of wood.”

“Look, we must focus on why you are here.”

She shifts in the chair. “I’m sorry, Gerd. I’m cranky when I get up too early. When I don’t get my morning shower and coffee. I’m a girl who likes routine.”

Schultze claps his hands together once. “Right. Miss Grace, what do you know about planes?”

“Airplanes?” she says, shrugging. “They fly, sometimes crash. They never have enough leg room, not even for little old me. And they’re an awful thing to sit in for the twenty-four hour trip to Australia.”

“You teach at the … uh … at the big plane company across the Elbe.”

“You mean Flussair?”

He grimaces, and nods once.

“You can’t say the name?”


“Hah.” In a mock serious tone, “Yes, Mr Schultze. I teach at the big plane company on the other side of the river. Isn’t that well said? No one will ever know.”

“When did you start there?”

“Almost a year ago. My language school organises classes there.” Sarcastically, “Can I say the name of the school?”

Schultze checks the dossier. “Multilinga.”

“Why can we say that name and not Flussair?”

“Because I say so.”

“Hah. You don’t scare me,” Dixon says roughly. She just keeps herself from jumping up and attacking Schultze. Not to hurt him, but to show him that she could take him down, easily.

“I only want answers. And facts.”

Dixon nods slowly. “They know already, don’t they? And they want to keep their name out of the press, out of the police files. Keep everything nice and clean.”

“I am right. You know a lot about this.”

“And so I should. According to you, I’m a corporate spy.”

“You admit it.”

“More Aussie humour, I’m afraid. You’ve got the wrong Dixon Grace, or Grace Dixon, or whoever. The wrong girl.”

Schultze clasps his fingers together, seeming to restrain himself. Dixon wishes he would get up and try something. He looks like he wants to.

Come on, lard bucket, she thinks. Try me.

Schultze taps the table three times with that combined fist, which is the size of a small pumpkin.

“Grace Treya Dixon,” he says, reading from the dossier. “Sorry. Dixon Treya Grace. Born in Narooma, New South Wales. Female. Twenty-six years old.”

“Wow. You must fly through those logic problems.”

The very faint sound of a woman laughing makes Dixon look at the mirror.

“What kind of name is Treya?”

“It’s my middle name. Would you like to call me Miss Treya?”

“You are very rude,” Schultze says. “This name, are you a native?”

“A what?”

“A native from Australia.”

“Do you mean an Aborigine?”

“Yes.” Nodding with embarrassment and avoiding Dixon’s eyes, “Yes.”

“I’m not. It’s Indian. Sanskrit, actually. It means walking in three paths.”

“You are Indian,” Schultze says, pouncing on the fact. He takes the pen from his logic problems book and makes a note in the file. The pen seems to get lost in his big hand.

“My grandmother is, but I’m Australian. And that means I get to call my embassy to ask for support.”

“Ah,” a big index finger in the air, and a moustache smiling, “but you say you did nothing wrong.”

“Which is precisely why I want to call my embassy, so I can get out of here and get on with my life.”

“Please, calm yourself.”

She takes a deep breath. She knows she’s pushing it, knows she has to, up to a certain point. She also knows that she has rights.

“You don’t seem to think this is a mistake,” she says.

Schultze has something of a hopeless look on his face, like he’s powerless to the facts. “I only know what I know,” he declares. “Now, you came to Germany in January last year. May I ask why?”

“Obviously to steal secrets from plane company X.” She sighs and lowers her voice. “I have a friend here. We met at school in Narooma. She was an exchange student.”

“Astrid Thielen.”

“How do you know that?”

“It is in the file.”

“So you got her name right.”

“You registered at her apartment,” Schultze says, also reading out the date and address.

“Yeah, so I stayed with her for a bit, then I took a room in a shared flat in the Portuguese Quarter. It was really cramped. Bathroom was a closet. It was awful.”

“And you moved in with Benjamin Steckdorf in January of this year.”

“Why are you repeating this?” Dixon asks. “You’re not exactly the world’s greatest interrogator.”

“I wish to establish the facts.”

“For a crime I have nothing to do with?”

The door opens and a woman enters.