Monday 28 October 2013


A few years ago I was attending The Writers’ Police Academy in North Carolina. If you haven’t heard of the Writers’ Police Academy (a.k.a. WPA) it’s a great event that brings authors together with law enforcement professionals once a year for an action packed weekend. Law enforcement graciously donates their time to bring us first hand, solid information about their work, techniques and challenges. Being there not only guides my own research, the time spent leads to new ideas and new perspectives on my plot and characters.

Anyway, it was last year and I’d headed down to the academy ready to dig in. The day was hot but no one seemed to care. After an action-packed morning of fingerprinting and ballistics, I headed to the afternoon session, which was a shallow grave seminar. Yep, that’s right. A shallow grave seminar. Lead by a pathologist, the class headed off into the woods. Our first task was to find the mock shallow grave, which turned out to be harder than any of us expected. Once we identified the site, our instructor began a fascinating discussion of how law enforcement finds and how it handles this kind of discovery.

The instant I walked out of the woods, I knew that I had the jumping off point for the book I would begin writing next, NO ESCAPE.

NO ESCAPE features Texas Ranger Brody Winchester and forensic psychologist Jolene Granger. The once married duo joins forces when a dying serial killer announces he will offer a final confession but he’ll only tell it to Jo. Brody and Jo travel to the state prison and meet with Harvey Lee Davis who, good to his word, tells them where they can find the bodies of the victims he buried alive. Jo gets more than she bargained for. Harvey not only tries to get inside her head with hints about her past and her family, but makes it clear that the copycat killer who just emerged from the shadows is not only someone he knows and has been secretly communicating with, but is his apprentice. What began as an effort to bring closure to the family of the missing victims becomes a race against time as Jo and Brody work together to stop this new killer at any cost. And soon enough it becomes clear that Jo is part of his plan to win Harvey’s approval.

I’m always asked where I get my ideas and I can honestly say it’s the research. Whether it’s the WPA, my local Henrico County Citizens Police Academy, a Sisters in Crime meeting or the FBI Citizens Academy, I always walk away with facts and ideas that sooner or later end up in the my next book.

No Escape by Mary Burton
Genre: thriller suspense

About No Escape:
He Was Taught How To Kill

Even behind bars, serial killer Harvey Day Smith exudes menace. Psychologist Jolene Granger has agreed to hear his dying confession, vowing not to let the monster inside her head. And Harvey has secrets to share—about bodies that were never found, and about the apprentice who is continuing his grisly work…

And Now He’ll Teach Them

He buries his victims alive the way his mentor Harvey did, relishing their final screams as the earth rains down. And as one last gift to the only father he knew, he’ll make the most perfect kill of all.

How To Die

Everything about this investigation is unnerving Jo, from Harvey’s fascination with her to the fact that she’s working alongside Texas Ranger Brody Winchester, her ex-husband. Harvey’s protégé is growing bolder and more vicious every day. And soon the trail of shallow graves will lead them to the last place Jo expected, and to the most terrifying truth of all…
Source: Info in the About No Escape was from GoodReads at on 24/09/2013.

Buy Link(s):

Her phone buzzed again twenty seconds later and she snapped it up, annoyed. “Mr. Gentry said this is in reference to Mr. Smith.”

“Mr. Smith?”

“That’s all he’d say.”

“I’ll take the call.” She punched line two. “Mr. Gentry, this is Dr. Granger. What can I do for you?”

A man cleared his throat. “I was the attorney for Mr. Harvey Smith. I assume you are acquainted with him.”

“I am.” She clicked through her memory. “And you defended him at his trial.”

“That is correct, Dr. Granger.”

She picked up a pen and doodled circles on her blotter. “What can I do for you?”

“Before he was arrested three years ago, he contacted me and gave me a package, which I was to deliver to you at the time of his death.”

She held her breath. “What’s in the package?”

He hesitated. “I do not know. All I know is that I got his assurance that it contained nothing considered illegal.”

What did Mr. Gentry consider illegal? When she’d read the trial transcripts she’d judged his definition as relaxed. “Can you send it to me?”

“You are to come to my office and sign for it personally.”

“I don’t have time for that. Would you courier it to me?”

“Mr. Smith was specific that I see you sign for it.”

She didn’t like having her actions dictated by a dead man. But to ignore the package was to ignore possible evidence that could help with the current murder investigation. “I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”

“Good. Very good.” He gave her his address.

The drive across town took twenty minutes, and by the time she parked, a half hour had passed. Gentry’s office was located in a high-rise with sleek glass windows and a marble foyer. A scan of the directory in the lobby and a punch of the buttons and she arrived at Gentry’s tenth-floor office.

The offices were as nice as the entryway, and she could see that Gentry’s practice was profitable. He’d garnered a great deal of publicity from the Smith trial and had shown himself to the world to be a quick-minded attorney.

The receptionist was as sleek as the office and the moment she saw Jo she announced her to Gentry. The attorney greeted her within seconds of her arrival.

Gentry was a short man in his mid-fifties with a thick belly and dark hair that had thinned considerably.

But his suit wasn’t off the rack as it had been during Smith’s trial, but custom. Gold, monogramed cuff links winked in the light from a large picture window behind his desk.

He extended his hand to her. “Dr. Granger. So glad you could come quickly.”

She accepted his hand, noting it was too soft for her liking. “You made it difficult to resist.”

“I am following my client’s instructions.”


He escorted her into his office and to a plush mid-century modern chair by a chrome desk. Behind him, glass windows offered a spectacular view of the river.

“Can I offer you coffee or tea? A soda perhaps?”

“I’m fine. I need to collect what Smith left me and be on my way.”

“Yes.” He reached behind his desk and lifted a small beaten-up shoebox wrapped in duct tape. The box stood in stark contrast to the office’s sleek surroundings. A spider in a lush bowl of cream. A cancer. A reminder that no matter how much money Mr. Gentry had spent on his new life, it had been built on the back of something very ugly.

She accepted the box, noting it wasn’t too heavy. God, but she did not want this box. Did not want this morbid connection to a dead man who’d dedicated his life to evil.

“I have a letter opener if you’d like to open it now,” he said.

She stared at the secured lid. “Thank you, but I’d rather not open it now.”

His face frowned his disappointment. “You aren’t going to open it?”

“Not now.” As he continued to stare she added, “I was to sign for it but I don’t need to open it in your presence.”



He cleared his throat. “If you do not want the box I can take it for you, examine the contents and destroy it.”

She really looked at him for the first time. Keen interest sparked in his gaze. “What was Mr. Smith like when you represented him?”

“Honestly, he was delightful. He was courteous. Kept up with the current events and was always curious about what was going on in the world.”

“I would think he’d have worried about his defense.”

Gentry adjusted a cuff. “He never had a real interest in his case.”

“Odd, considering the consequences he faced.”

“Believe me, we had this discussion many times. I wanted him to be engaged and to worry about what could happen. But he didn’t care, as if relieved to be behind bars. As long as he could read and write he was happy.”

She dropped her gaze to the box and smoothed her hand over it.

He leaned forward. “Do you mind me asking you a question?”

“You may ask.”

“Why ask me to hold a box for you? Who are you to him?”

“I don’t know.”

“Only once did he mention you. He’d been convicted and sentenced to death. I’d come to talk to him about appeals, but he showed more interest in an award you’d earned. It had been written up in the paper.”

She smoothed her hand gently over the rough cardboard as if it could bite. Finally she rose. “Thank you.”

“You’ll let me know what is in the box?”

“Why do you care?”

“The most notorious serial killer in the last fifty years leaves a box in my charge. I’m curious. Curious enough in fact to have it X-rayed soon after he gave it to me.”


“I wanted to make sure there wasn’t anything really unseemly in the box.” He dropped his voice a notch. “I’ve read how killers like him like to keep trophies. Body parts and such.”

Somehow she doubted Mr. Smith would have left her anything gruesome. It would have been rude, uncouth.

She signed the receipt stating she’d accepted the box and with it in hand, she left a disappointed Gentry. Outside the building, she inhaled deeply, savoring the warm air, which eased the chill seeping from the box.

She didn’t think about where she was going because she knew if she thought too hard about her destination she’d find a way to second-guess herself. Going to Brody was getting to be a habit. A bad habit. And if she had sense, she’d find another way. But right now, she couldn’t think of another person to be with when she opened the box.

Fifteen minutes later, Jo walked through the main doors of the Rangers’ Austin office and stopped at the reception desk. “Is Ranger Winchester here? Jo Granger to see him.”

“Let me check.” The officer cast her a skeptical gaze when he announced her on the phone. His eyes widened with a startled surprise. Brody was coming.

Seconds later, Brody emerged from a side door. Jacketless and hatless, he had rolled up his sleeves to reveal tanned muscled forearms. “Jo, is everything all right?”

A week ago he’d called her Dr. Granger. Formality had been a polite a barrier between them. Somewhere along the way that fence had dropped and awareness had developed. They’d never be lovers again, but maybe there could be room for friendship. She certainly needed a friend right now.

“Is there somewhere private where we could talk?”

“Up in my office.” He pulled the box out of her hands as if he understood she hated touching it.

She flexed her fingers as they made her way to his office and didn’t release the breath she was holding until he closed the door behind them.

“Who sent you the box?”

She explained about Gentry and the call.

Brody’s jaw tightened, released. “First the visit. Now the box. Smith can’t stay out of your life.”

“Don’t forget the letter.”

“Smith didn’t write it. It’s a great forgery.”

She smoothed her hands over her skirt, trying to erase the weight of the box from her hands. “They’re taking over my life.”

“No, they are not.” Brody reached in his pocket and pulled out a pocketknife, flipped it open and pressed it to the old cracked tape. “I’m going to open this?” A single nod was all she offered as she folded her arms over her chest and watched.

With a quick sure stroke he pulled the blade over the tape’s crease between the lid and the box and sliced it open. Carefully, he removed the top.

Inside were stacks of letters. He picked up the first and studied the address. “It’s addressed to you. Dated twenty years ago. March 24.”

She frowned. “My birthday.”

Meet Mary Burton:
Mary Burton enjoys the hunt. This New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist, whose work has been compared to that of Steig Larson*, Lisa Gardner**, and Lisa Jackson***, has been intrigued by investigative work and the people who do it since Virginia, her home state, was stung by a string of serial killings that spanned more than twenty years. Not surprisingly, many of her suspense novels are fueled by the acts of multiple killers and the people who pursue them, as is NO ESCAPE, Mary's latest novel and the second in a trio of stories set in and around Austin. There she calls upon the people and resources of the state's lead investigative team, the Texas Rangers.

NO ESCAPE's predecessor, THE SEVENTH VICTIM quickly became a USA Today bestseller. It was praised by reviewers, including Publishers Weekly, which says it "delivers action-packed suspense" and calls it "compelling.” Suspense Magazine hailed it as “an excellent thriller” and a “saga that readers will find unbelievably hard to put down.”

Mary's admiration for the work of law enforcement and the skills, insights and tools necessary to do it, is evident even in her earliest forays into suspense, such as In Dark Waters, in which a romance evolves when the Sheriff's office is called upon to solve a murder in rural Virginia. Future plots explored arson investigation, flaws within a witness protection program, and the reopening of a cold case.

Beginning with her novel I'm Watching You, Mary started connecting several cases and characters within the same department or agency. For I'm Watching You she invented a homicide unit for her hometown of Richmond, defined its strengths, weaknesses and resources, and kept those characters and elements in place through two additional stand-alone, but related, books, Dead Ringer and Dying Scream.

The three-book arc provided numerous creative options, especially as regards character development. This larger canvas allowed her to incorporate more of the forensic and procedural detail that fascinates her and her readers, and created new opportunities to explore dynamics unique to investigators working together over time.

Her other "connected" novels are Senseless, Merciless and Before She Dies, all set in Alexandria, and THE SEVENTH VICTIM, NO ESCAPE and YOU'RE NOT SAFE, which is being published in April 2014.

Mary's research has led her to interview a wide range of law enforcement personnel, to attend forensic seminars and to handle weaponry at the firing range. She is a graduate of the Henrico County Citizens Police Academy and the Richmond FBI Citizen's Academy, and has attended Sisters in Crime's Forensic University program and the Writers Police Academy in Jamestown, North Carolina, where the focus was on undercover work, autopsies, and the theories behind why people kill.

Despite her emphasis on hard facts related to the crimes she writes about, Mary's approach to each new novel is psychological. She backs away from details, whether it's forensic research or a plot point she's already fixating upon. To begin her story she needs answers to three questions about her killers: why do they kill, what demons drive them, and how do they choose their victims. The answers are critical to her plot, she says, just as they are for detectives solving a murder.

A Richmond native whose family roots run as deep as the nation's, Mary has lived there for most of her life. She graduated from Virginia's Hollins University and worked in marketing before deciding to write full time. Her first manuscript, a historical romance, was published in 2000.

Mary wrote several more romance novels and three novellas before embracing the dark world of suspense. She even managed to bring danger to her holiday novella, Christmas Past, which appears in the New York Times bestselling holiday anthology Silver Bells.

The author of twenty published novels and four novellas, Mary is a member of Thriller Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, for which she is president of the Central Virginia chapter. She travels frequently for signings, speaking engagements and other appearances. She is a frequent speaker at conferences, book festivals, book stores and libraries regarding writing and genre fiction, and is frequently asked to present her "Unraveling Romantic Suspense" workshop or her day-long program "Writing Your Book...The First Step."

An avid baker and an accomplished cook, Mary's discovered that the creativity of the kitchen entwines with her professional routine in unanticipated ways. It’s her ideal retreat when the writing hits a rough spot. Once there, she's working out dialogue, untangling plot lines and figuring out how to trap a killer before the oven has a chance to preheat.

When not committing murder, Mary pursues her Baking & Pastry Arts Certificate at the University of Richmond's Culinary Arts Program, and continues her involvement and appearances on behalf of Coordinators2inc, a lifetime adoption resource organization. She and her husband spend time alternately enjoying and lamenting their newly empty nest and spoiling their miniature dachshunds Buddy and Bella.

Mary is currently at work on her next novel, set in Nashville, and anticipating the November publication of her new Union Street Bakery novel, Sweet Expectations, written as Mary Ellen Taylor.
Mary's Link(s):

No comments:

Post a Comment

Due to high volume of spam I have to utilize comment moderation. Please bear with me. Thank you!