Be Afraid (book)
The woman twisted at her bindings. She rolled her head from side to side as if willing this nightmare to end.
Backing up to the room’s threshold, Madness stood silent, savoring the scene one last time. Finally, Madness retrieved a box of matches from the deep pockets of a blue windbreaker. He dug out a single match and struck it. The flame danced and swayed as if begging to be sent out on-stage.
A breeze caught the flame and blew it out.
“What’re you waiting for?” Jonas asked.
One. Two. Three. Savor. Savor. Savor.
“I can shoot now?” Excitement and fear rumbled under the words.
With that prologue scene, Richmond native and New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Mary Burton plunges the reader into the sinister domain of a madman and his accomplice in her latest book, Be Afraid, released at the end of April by Zebra Books, part of Kensington Publishing. The book is the second in her latest romantic-suspense thriller series, set in Nashville, Tennessee. The series follows the Morgan family, three brothers and one sister working in criminal justice and living in the shadow of their late father, Buddy, an ace detective. In Be Afraid, detective Rick Morgan struggles to get to the bottom of a recent rash of murders reminiscent of a cold case from 25 years earlier. Enlisting the help of forensic artist Jenna Thompson, a woman with a troubled past on leave from her law enforcement position in Baltimore, the two work to discover who’s behind the killings.
Writing crime thrillers is something Burton had always longed to do. When her children were infants, her full-time marketing job became too much to balance, so she tried her hand at being a novelist. She’s never sure when inspiration for her next crime story will strike. The idea behind writing about a forensic artist in her latest book came from an exhibition she saw at the Smithsonian, detailing how such artists are able to accurately produce pictures of suspects based on witnesses’ descriptions. “I was just fascinated by that and I got obsessed with facial reconstruction,” she says.
Burton, who lives in western Henrico County, has been called the “modern-day queen of romantic suspense” by the online Book Reporter Network. She is currently writing her 30th novel. Among her résumé of romantic thrillers, three have been set in Richmond: Dead Ringer, I’m Watching You and Dying Scream. She became intrigued by Nashville after attending a mystery writers conference there, and decided it would make a good setting.
In a review of her 2014 novel Cover Your Eyes, the first in the Nashville series, Publishers Weekly noted, “Burton’s trademark is providing the serial killer’s viewpoint without giving anything away, and by feeding the reader tiny details one at a time, she keeps the tension building.”
To help make her writing more realistic, Burton enhanced her knowledge of law enforcement by attending the Henrico County Citizens Police Academy and the Richmond FBI Citizens Academy. “If you want to write a mystery, there’s some great resources in the Richmond area,” she says. “There’s nothing like just doing and seeing.”
A member of the Central Virginia Chapter of Sisters in Crime — a networking and professional development organization for writers — Burton advises others with their own projects. Tina Glasneck, who is publishing her third novel this fall, says having Burton as a resource has been priceless. “One of the greatest conversations we’ve had was when she said, ‘Well, Tina, you have to understand that when the villain is chopping the victim up and putting them in a trash bag, that’s just a normal day at the office for them.’ That conversation just always sticks out in my head.”
Burton is also a member of Virginia Romance Writers. Fellow member and historical romance author Cathy Maxwell has known her since before Burton published her first book in 2000. A Powhatan County resident, Maxwell says that she and Burton used to meet to exchange 20 pages of the book they were working on and receive feedback from one another. “It pays to have someone with a good, educated eye to take a look at what I’m doing,” Maxwell says.
Burton is a Romance Writers of America RITA Award finalist in Romantic Suspense for her 2014 novel You’re Not Safe; the winners will be announced in July. Meanwhile, the crime-solving Morgans of Nashville have their hands full. Burton’s third book in the series, I’ll Never Let You Go, is due out in November.