The Tempest is actually the second book in the Bowers and Hunter series by James Lilliefors, but it's the first one read by Prose 'n Cons. Briskly paced and smartly written, you can enjoy he Tempest without reading its predecessor - but our guess is, you'll want to go back and enjoy the first installment.
Based in a fictional county on Maryland's eastern shore, the unlikely duo of (married) Pastor Luke Bowers and homicide detective Amy Hunter work to solve the murder of Susan Champlain, one of the "summer people." The case is particularly important to Bowers since, just before she was killed, Susan visited him. She told the pastor that her husband threatened to make her "disappear" because of a photo on her cell phone. But what is so special about the photo? And how can Bowers and Hunter find the killer if they don't know the reason for the murder in the first place...? Prose 'n Cons had the pleasure of conducting one of our "five question interviews" with author James Lilliefors. Here's how it went:
PnC: In The Tempest you have created a gripping mystery without the sometimes confounding side-trips, flashbacks, and abrupt plot transitions other mystery/suspense writers employ. Do you write good, straight-forward mysteries because that is what you enjoy reading - or is there another reason?
JL: I like to let the characters determine where the story's going, and, when possible, to give the mysteries of human behavior equal billing with the mystery of who did the crime. If characters want to take side trips, that's fine, although I insist that they hook back up in some way with the main story - in this case, the fate of the missing Rembrandt painting. I do like books that seem to have a destination, even if we don't know what it is until we get there.
PnC: For a pastor, Luke Bowers has a somewhat complicated relationship with two women: his wife, and Amy Hunter. There is no overt sense of divided affection on Luke's part, but certainly the possibility seems to exist. In future books, how far might these boundaries be stretched?
JL: Amy Hunter seems to have a crush on Luke Bowers, yes, although Luke's wife Charlotte is more aware of it than Amy is (or Luke, for that matter). Above all, Bowers and Hunter share a professional respect, which allows them to work well together. They're both in the "good and evil business," as Luke says, even if their jobs are quite different. At the same time, there's a subtler, more personal attraction between them, based on something missing in each of their lives. I don't know that it will develop much beyond that - but who knows?
PnC: Why did you create a fictional Maryland county rather than using a real one? What specific county, if any, is Tidewater based on?
JL: There's greater freedom in being able to invent the details of a fictional county. Besides, if I'd used a real Maryland county, the real-life sheriff and prosecutors might've sent a posse after me! Although the setting is fictional, the essence of Tidewater County - Maryland's Eastern Shore - is real, a place I'm very fond of and have been visiting all my life.
PnC: What is the best and worst thing about writing a series of books?
JL: The best thing is seeing the characters evolve. Unlike characters whose lives are contained in a single book, series characters go on, taking unexpected turns that can seem bewildering at the time but inevitable in hindsight.
This is still a new series, so I haven't found a "worst" thing yet. I do anticipate readers may want characters to develop a certain way and become disappointed when they don't (already I've heard from a few people who want Sneakers to have a more prominent role).
PnC: Moving forward, do you see yourself working on books outside of the Bowers and Hunter series, or are you - as Prose 'n Cons reported Longmire author Craig Johnson as saying - happy sticking with "what I write right now."
JL: Yes, I do see myself working outside the Bowers/Hunter series. In fact, I'm doing that now - finishing the third installment in another series, featuring brothers Charles and Jon Mallory. The Mallory books are very different - high concept, geopolitical espionage stories. Charles Mallory is an intelligence contractor and former CIA agent; Jon is an investigative journalist based in D.C. The first two books were Viral and The Leviathan Effect. The third should be out next year.
For more information about James Lilliefors, visit his web site: JamesLilliefors.com.