Thursday, January 27, 2022

An EXCLUSIVE excerpt from a NEW international Bestseller!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: True story. “Lars Kepler” is the pen name for Alexandra and Alexander Ahndoril, a husband and wife writing duo who live in Stockholm.  Listen to this:  Both Alexandra and Alexander were established writers in their own right before they adopted the Kepler pen name together.

At first, they kept their real identities secret—no one knew who Lars Kepler was when they published their debut Kepler novel, The Hypnotist. Their debut was so popular in Scandinavia that there was an actual manhunt to uncover their identities! 


The Swedish media hired a profiler to build a profile of Kepler, and even had a tip line running to try to identify who was behind the pen name. And eventually they were discovered.


But with their identities revealed–their success has continued.  They are #1 international bestsellers and their books have sold more than 15 million copies in 40 languages. Their newest bestseller is


And listen to this, Reds and readers.

Lars Kepler has—have?—arranged for you not only to read an exclusive excerpt of their brand new sure-to-be blockbuster bestseller (and this is not available anywhere else!)

>but they are also giving away THREE copies of the book!


Read the excerpt, then see how to enter to win below.

In this exclusive excerpt from The Mirror Man, detective Joona Linna is called to the scene of a crime in Stockholm, Sweden. A young woman’s body has just been found in a city park, and Joona quickly recognizes her as the very same woman whose unsolved disappearance five years prior sparked national attention. Where has she been all these years? And who could have committed such a heinous crime?

Answering these questions will bring Joona Linna face to face with the most terrifying villain he’s ever encountered.



    by Lars Kepler


“So . . . we’ve followed the people who were in the area before and after the murder. Some of them appear on several cameras before disappearing.”

Johan picks up a pack of Pop Rocks, tears off one corner, and tips the contents into his mouth. They crackle between his teeth, popping and hissing as he brings up the footage.

“What time frame are we looking at?” asks Joona.

“I’ve been checking from nine o’clock the evening before and onward. There are a lot of people milling around then—several hundred pass the playground during the first hour And I stopped at four-thirty the next morning, when the place is crawling with cops.”


“I’ve cut together the relevant clips, person by person, to make it a bit more manageable.”


“Let’s start with the victim,” says Johan, hitting “play.”

The dark CCTV footage fills the screen, a time stamp in the top corner. From the far side of Svea Road, the camera captures the entrance to the Rådmans Street subway station. At the edge of the screen, a section of the park and the rounded façade of the university building are visible. The resolution is fairly sharp, despite the darkness.

“She’s coming soon,” Johan whispers.

The time stamp shows three in the morning, and in the glow of the streetlamp, the heavy rain looks like a series of sloping scratches.

Outside a shuttered convenience store and the steel door of the public restrooms, the pavement is glistening.

A man in a thick coat and a pair of yellow rubber gloves searches the trash can and then shuffles off along the wall of torn posters and pressure-washed graffiti.

Otherwise, the city is almost deserted. A white van drives by. Three men drunkenly stagger toward McDonald’s.

The city seems to darken as the rain becomes heavier.

A paper cup trembles on the low wall surrounding a pond. The water surges

through a grate.

A person enters the shot from the left, rounds the entrance to the subway station, and pauses beneath the overhanging roof, her back to the glass doors.


A taxi passes by on Svea Road. Its headlights sweep over her face and her blond hair. Jenny Lind.

In just ten minutes’ time, she will be dead. Her face is in shadow again.

Joona thinks about her brief struggle, legs kicking so hard that her shoes come off.

When the blood supply to the brain is cut off, the feeling of suffocation is nowhere near as gradual as it is when you hold your breath. Before the darkness finally overtakes you, the feeling is explosive and panicked.

Jenny hesitates and then steps out into the rain, turning her back to the camera, and walks past the convenience store, down the path at the end of the pond. Then she disappears from view.

One of the security cameras from the Public Library has captured her from a distance. The resolution is poor, but her hair and face catch the light from a streetlamp before she enters the blind spot around the playground.

“That’s all we have of her,” says Johan Jönson.


As Joona plays the footage back in his head, he realizes that Jenny knew exactly where she was going, only she hesitated—perhaps because of the rain, or because she was early.

What was she doing in the playground in the middle of the night?

Had she agreed to meet someone?

He can’t escape the feeling that it was a trap.



HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: SO good, right? Incredibly atmospheric and sinister. And cinematic. Thank you, Lars Kepler!

And to enter to win?  Reds and readers, just tell us in the comments who you might imagine playing the role of Joona Linna in an (imaginary) movie.  (I imagine Harrison Ford. But then, I always do.)

And an extra entry if you tell us something about Sweden—have you been there?

(When I went, so long ago, I took a tour of..someplace, and there was one bus with a placard in the window that read: Special bus for Camerafans. I thought—where is Camerafans?)

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

The Stuff of Story and Legends: Ellis Island

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: If you say the words Ellis Island, a picture instantly comes to mind, doesn’t it? And every person who stepped into that place carried a story – – hopes and fears and dreams and beliefs. We could never tell all of the stories, right? And the fabulous Heather Webb has discovered that there’s more to Ellis Island than we even imagined.

Because as Heather discovered, some stories are true, some are created to be “true,” and some stories are so grand--that they become legend.

Legends. There’s not a bone in my body that does not believe Camelot was real. I could be convinced about Atlantis. The room of gold in the Czar’s place. That Anastasia lives. Totally true.

Come with Heather Webb today, to find out about her intriguing new book
THE NEXT SHIP HOME.  (LOOK at that COVER!)  And more about the story below, but here's a hint: An unlikely friendship, a terrible secret, and a system that is out to destroy them

And at the end, a question for you. (And a giveaway!)

The Draw of Legends in Fiction

by Heather Webb

Ever since I was old enough to drag stacks of books around, I lost myself in stories about legendary people and places and events. Mythology, too, and worlds that swept me away to a very different time and place from the four walls of my bedroom. Not much has changed. In fact, not only do I read books about legendary characters and places, now I write them!

 Fiction and the almighty Story with a capital “s” is such a pliant and magical medium all on its own, but stories still somehow become grander—sometimes even withstanding the test of time—when a legend is woven into its tapestry.

What is a legend anyway? A legend is a story from the past that is believed by many people but cannot be proved to be true. And yet, as J. R. R. Tolkien said, “Legends and myths are largely made of 'truth'." If there weren’t some truth to the story, would it be worth passing down over decades and centuries?

Another great quote about legends comes from Sarah Bernhardt, a legend in and of herself, "Legend remains victorious in spite of history." I agree with her—it’s true that legends need time to develop. After the initial event, word of mouth must take over followed by embellishments, thoughtful and also careless chatter, and finally, having the legend immortalized in some way with each generation. These days, that means through some sort of art form or entertainment medium.

What is it about legends that makes them so fascinating? Why are we so drawn to them? Perhaps it is the truth hidden within them, as Tolkien believed. Maybe it’s because they strike upon universal truths that we can all identify with on some level. Or perhaps it’s really because we love a good mystery. Isn’t every legend shrouded in delicious secrecy and mystery? (I know here at Jungle Red Writers, you all love a good mystery!)

Many novels use legends as a basis for their plot and they ripple across all genres. A few that come to mind include:

· Sci-fi based on UFO lore

· Fantasy and alternative histories based on Arthurian legends and all sorts of mythologies

· Historical fiction based on legendary people, events, or places

· Horror is particularly rich in legends with its haunted houses/buildings/locations and fetishizing religious beliefs or practices

· Crime fiction can also see legends incorporated in a myriad of ways. The legends surrounding serial killers for example, or in the Da Vinci Code, the religious legends associated with relics..

The legends surrounding Ellis Island are what drew me in when I first started thinking about writing my new novel that’s set there. The island was a place where captured and convicted pirates took their last breaths on the scaffold before being hung for their crimes.

The island changed names three times and grew from a few acres to 27+ over the course of its prominence. At one time, its waters served as some of the finest oyster beds in the world.

Most recently, the buildings there have served as an immigration center and a detainees’ ward for prisoners of war. Over twelve million people passed through Ellis Island’s storied halls in the six and a half decades it was open. Their essence still permeates every corridor.

Its history is rich, fascinating, hopeful—and far darker than you might first imagine. People, history, and the many, many legends that are a part of Ellis Island. THIS is what brought me to its shores with a notebook in hand, my cellphone poised at the ready for as many photos as the phone would hold, and a head full of ideas ready to be put into words.

The Next Ship Home releases in just two weeks, and I hope I have captured some of those elements of legend in its pages, and also shed light on the truth…or some version of the many truths that exist there.

What kinds of legends hook you? What’s the name of a novel based on a legend?

HANK: Ooh, such a good question! Eager to hear what you have to say. But wait, wait, Heather. We are waiting in the comments--tell an  Ellis Island legend! (Or two!)

(And a copy of THE NEXT SHIP HOME to one lucky commenter!)

Heather Webb is the USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of seven historical novels. In 2015, Rodin’s Lover was a Goodread’s Top Pick, and in 2018, Last Christmas in Paris won the Women’s Fiction Writers Association STAR Award. Meet Me in Monaco, was selected as a finalist for the 2020 Goldsboro RNA award in the UK, as well as the 2019 Digital Book World’s Fiction prize.

Heather’s new solo novel, The Next Ship Home (Sourcebooks/Feb.8), is inspired by true events and reveals the dark secrets of Ellis Island as two unlikely friends challenge a corrupt system, altering their fate and the lives of the immigrants that come after them.

To date, Heather’s books have been translated to sixteen languages. She lives in New England with her family, a mischievous kitten, and one feisty rabbit.


Inspired by true events and for fans of Kristina McMorris and Hazel Gaynor, The Next Ship Home holds up a mirror to our own times, deftly questioning America’s history of prejudice and exclusion while also reminding us of our citizens’ singular determination. This is a novel of the dark secrets of Ellis Island, when entry to “the land of the free” promised a better life but often delivered something drastically different, and when immigrant strength and female friendship found ways to triumph even on the darkest days.


A young Italian woman arrives on the shores of America, her sights set on a better life. That same day, a young German American woman reports to her first day of work at the immigration center. But Ellis Island isn’t a refuge for Francesca or Alma, not when ships depart every day with those who are refused entry to the country and when corruption ripples through every corridor. While Francesca resorts to desperate measures to ensure she will make it off the island, Alma fights for her dreams of becoming a translator even as women are denied the chance.


As the two women face the misdeeds of a system known to manipulate and abuse immigrants searching for new hope in America, they form an unlikely friendship—and share a terrible secret—altering their fates and the lives of the immigrants who come after them.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

The Brilliant Gabriel Valjan

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Like gravity, or quantum physics, Gabriel Valjan is a force of nature. If you know him, you are cheering right now to see him here on Jungle Red. He's the most generous, most thoughtful, most outrageously supportive author in our writing-reading world. With no reason other than his true and honest passion, he constantly promotes and shares and publicists other authors' events and books and successes.

Most authors secretly whine a bit about how much promotion is necessary and expected for their books--but Gabriel, the amazing Gabriel, not only does it without being asked, but does it spectacularly!

Follow him here on Twitter, and be amazed. And awed.

So now,  Reds and readers, the person whose face in in the dictionary when you look up "generous"--has a new book of his own.    

"Wrung their bread from stocks and stones"
    by Gabriel Valjan

The line above is from one of Robert Lowell’s lesser known poems, “Children of Light.” Ephesians 5:8 inspired his poem. I plucked the phrase for two reasons. 

One, Lowell confronted the violence that is the history of New England. Two, I admire the metaphor of finding sustenance from common but difficult materials. Boston is a city haunted by history, most of it unpleasant, but rich for an author of crime fiction, such as myself.

I write about Boston in the 1970s, a time of systemic corruption and institutional racism. A murder in Boston’s Red Light District inspired my third Shane Cleary novel, HUSH HUSH, but I take the details in a different direction.  (If you’re interested in both historical context and the crime, consult Jan Brogan’s Combat Zone.)

Like the poet, the mundane fed my imagination. Located on Columbus Ave. in Shane Cleary’s South End, Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe has been serving customers since 1927. The young Sammy Davis, Jr. used to dance for change outside its doors. For decades, Charlie’s was the only place in Boston where black and white diners could sit and eat together.

To give you a sense of how bad race relations were in Boston, a riot broke out at Carson Beach in 1975 when black protestors tried to use the beach, and the desegregation of Boston schools and public housing was not completed until 1988.

Shane’s South End was a hotspot for traveling African-American and Latino performers who worked the club circuit in town and the burlesque houses in Scollay Square. Charlie’s was a safe space according to The Negro Motorist Green Book. If you know Charlie’s location, then you’re aware that Back Bay Station is nearby.

On the second floor, above Charlie’s, was the office of the first black union in the nation, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. This union, under the leadership of A. Philip Randolph, organized strikes and campaigned for labor laws and racial equity, despite threats of violence. It is from Randolph that his protégé, a theology student at Boston University named Martin Luther King, Jr., had the dream of a March on Washington.

In HUSH HUSH, this history is folded into exposition without becoming didactic. The scene in Chapter 2 that unfolds becomes tense and relevant for readers. You can read it online in the Look Inside feature at Amazon for HUSH HUSH. A man double-parks his Cadillac in front of Charlie’s, two police officers stop, and the Q &A that ensues sounds procedural but it’s all subtext. Shane witnesses it and feels compelled to examine the facts of a case.

Bread wrung from stocks and stones.

History is all around us if we look for it. We should examine both the heights and depths, the dark and the light.

It doesn’t have to be as monumental as the Boston Massacre. It’s often forgotten history that fuels the imagination of writers, like how the Boston Common is the resting place of the colonial American and British dead, or that there’s a small plaque honoring an elm tree in the middle of the Common.

The tree is gone, and a memorial states that the Sons of Liberty assembled there, but it omits one sinister detail. The tree was where criminals, Quakers, and Native Americans were executed.

Has a page from forgotten history or an important public place inspired your writing?

HANK:  That is such a thought-provoking question. And every time I walk on the Common, or in the Public Garden, I think about the people in history who have walked in the same place. It's either inspirational--or chilling.  In The Murder List, the Boston Common bandstand provides  a pivotal moment...for the very reason you suggest, dear Gabriel! 

How about you, Reds and readers?  Or is there a place you think about in a different way because of a book? Or a place you wish you could visit because of a book?

Gabriel Valjan is the author of the Roma Series, The Company Files, and the Shane Cleary Mysteries. He has been nominated for the Agatha, Anthony, and Silver Falchion Awards, and received the 2021 Macavity Award for Best Short Story. He lives in Boston.