The Kill Order By Robin Burcell: Review/Interview/Giveaway

Mar 1, 2014 | 2014 Articles, Cynthia Chow, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Cynthia Chow

This week we have a review of the latest mystery novel by Robin Burcell, The Kill Order. We also have an interesting interview with Robin & at the end of this post are details on how to win a copy of the book.

The Kill Order By Robin Burcell

FBI agent, Sydney Fitzpatrick, could never have realized that the investigation she began into her father’s death would place her in the middle of an international plot, risk national security and cost the lives of innocents. Unfortunately, while she may have solved the murder of her father in Face of a Killer, by this fifth in the series Sydney is immersed further in the mystery that began with her father, drew the attention of multiple law enforcement agencies and threatened the safety of a nation.

Unknown to Sydney, a copy of the mysterious codes she discovered during her investigation into her father’s death has been traced to the hard drive of a copier, leading to the demise of a young man and a narrow escape for his roommate, Piper, and a young woman gifted with an eidetic memory. Piper had the bad fortune to have glimpsed the list of numbers and now that they are imbedded in her brain there is no shortage of individuals willing to kill to either destroy the codes or attain them. It is only by good luck and timing that she is rescued by Zack Griffin, a law enforcement agent of ATLAS, a governmental agency so covert that not even the FBI was aware of its existence.

Piper’s photographic memory of the codes to a priceless and devastating computer program and her ability to identify one of her attackers, has Griffin in the unfortunate and uncomfortable position of being forced to again recruit Sydney, a forensic artist who aided him in previous missions. Although they are casually dating, Griffin has yet to inform Sydney that their first contact was actually when he was assigned the task of eliminating her as a possible threat to the nation–permanently.

As agents and Piper are on the run through Italy, Sydney and Griffin find themselves enmeshed in a political web of battling agencies while navigating through the betrayal of ATLAS and proving the traitor within. In this compelling thriller author Burcell also weaves in romance and personal angst between characters in a skillful manner that never distracts from the central plot.

A trained FBI forensic artist with a long career in law enforcement, Burcell incorporates her extensive knowledge in this series of international espionage. While reading all the previous entries in this series definitely helps in following the characters’ progressions and continuous plot threads, back-stories are inserted without the information seeming to be too repetitive for loyal readers. Viewpoints are shared between characters, expanding on each of their personalities and creating a fully developed world of admirable and talented agents.

Considering the revelations by Edward Snowden concerning the activities of the NSA, the plot seems all too plausible, with the result being that this suspenseful novel proves to be as frightening as it is enjoyable.

Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

Interview with Robin Burcell

KRL: How long have you been writing?

Robin: In high school, I always took liberties with school assignments beyond what the teacher had instructed. I started seriously writing around 1990, around the time I was trying to decide if I wanted to go back to school for a teaching credential, or pursue my real dream.

KRL: When did your first novel come out?

Robin: My first book came out in 1995. When Midnight Comes. It was a time travel, romance, mystery. (Why not throw all genres in there for that first shot?) It was about a police woman who goes back in time to solve a murder in both time spans. A fun (and sometimes steamy) novel, it would be similar to the movie Kate and Leopold mashed with a police procedural.

KRL: Have you always written Mysteries/Suspense?

Robin: See above. A better question is why I switched! I tried to write romance, I really did. But I was always killing off people, and one day the light bulb came on and I woke up to the fact I was probably writing in the wrong genre.

KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?

KRL: I had always intended that The Kill Order, was going to be book number two in the series that started with The Face of a Killer. At the end of TFOAK, FBI Special Agent Sydney Fitzpatrick (who also doubles as a forensic artist for the Bureau) finds some numbers in her murder investigation. And though the case in that first book is solved, the answer to what those numbers belong to, wasn’t. I thought they’d be banking numbers, hidden accounts of vast sums of money, and I’d answer it in the next book (not that the books have to be read in order). But I always felt that was too mundane. And so I put it off, delving into another subject matter when The Bone Chamber, the next in the series came out.

It wasn’t until I was about halfway through writing the fourth book in the series, The Black List, when I stumbled across something in my research that I knew right away was the perfect plot point for those mysterious numbers. Since I like to take real historical markers that involve the U.S. government and conspiracy theory that has evolved from it, then tweak it so it fits the plot of my books, this was perfect. A short explanation is that the protagonists are after a computer code that is so powerful, it could devastate the entire U.S. infrastructure of our nation if it fell into the wrong hands, and anyone in possession of it (that isn’t authorized by the U.S.) is under a kill order. “Possess the code, destroy the world.” The scary thing about this story is that it is based on real events and real facts. (Oh, and the setting? U.S. and Venice.)

Robin Burcell

KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?

Robin: Definitely entertainment is first on my mind. I want someone to pick up one of my books and not be able to put it down. I love it when I get emails from readers, complaining that they stayed up way too late, trying to finish it! Beyond the entertainment factor, I like to write about things that interest me, and conspiracy theory involving government has always been intriguing. I suppose it comes from the belief that in some of these tales, there is a bit of truth (which is why I always try to put a “fact or fiction” author’s note at the back of the books).

KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?

Robin: I try to write everyday. But some days that just doesn’t work out. Especially at the beginning of a novel, when I’m mulling over details, plot points. I tend to write in bits and pieces, then get up, distracted, waiting for something to click. I get my best ideas when I’m doing something else, perhaps because it frees up my mind. But once I get past the halfway mark and things are starting to click in place, I write for much longer periods of time.

KRL: Do you outline? If not…

Robin: Every book I swear I’m going to outline, then I waste a month trying to outline, so I finally give up and just start writing. This is good and bad. One, at least I’m doing something productive, but it (more often than not) results in me having to rewrite the beginning few chapters extensively as I iron out plot points in the book. The few times I have outlined, the story always ends up significantly different, so I’m just not sure this is the right method for the way my mind works. (Or maybe I’m just outlining wrong.)

KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?

Robin: If I had my ideal, I’d be getting up at dawn and stepping out to my ocean view office, and be done with my word count by noon. Alas, I haven’t won the lotto yet to buy that ocean view, and I’ve never finished the word count by noon. My real life work spot consists of my living room-turned-office. I start after my first cup of coffee, break for lunch, then go back until dinner time. Toward the end of the book I’ll be writing all day and into the night. Sometimes 15 hour days.

KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?

Robin: I’m not sure it was more difficult than anyone else at that time. I had the usual number of rejections, along with dozens of false starts on books I thought were good ideas, but never was able to get past the first few chapters. For me, what made the transition was one of those: having the right book in front of the right person at the right time. That’s really the secret. The problem arises in getting the “right” part right.

KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?

Robin: Many! But my favorite was when I got a sound rejection from an agent I had queried. She (or an assistant?) had written “YUK!!!” across the face of my query letter for my time travel romance mystery (of which the partial was attached). Now I’d like to think it wasn’t sent on purpose, that it was probably something they were supposed to file away as a warning, should I query again, or to warn the agent not to bother reading, especially with the rather concise, triple exclamation descriptor on the face of it. Who knows? But I received it with my partial, and I was devastated. What made me think I could write? Here I’d thought this was a great book, and I had the talent needed to make it. And one word scrawled across the front in very large letters proved me wrong. Now I had to wonder if I was wasting my time. But the very next day, I got a phone call from RWA (Romance Writers of America), saying that the same partial was a finalist in their Golden Heart contest, and, oh, by the way, they wanted to know if they could give my phone number to one of the judges, an editor at HarperCollins, who wanted to talk to me about the book. Hmmm… Let me think about that. Yes!!! (Note the triple exclamation marks.) This same editor bought it, and that was how my first sale was made. And the book was a finalist for the RWA Rita (which is the equivalent of the MWA Edgar) for Best First Book. Needless to say, I did not call that agent looking for representation.

KRL: Most interesting book signing story?

Robin: I was signing at Sacramento State University for a lecture recently. The bookseller had mentioned to me that she was currently in the middle of reading The Bone Chamber, and that she loved it. Not that I didn’t believe her, but you always wonder if booksellers say it just to be polite. I finished the lecture and was leaving the university right around rush hour. There was a huge line of cars just trying to get out of the university, waiting for the signal to turn. We were there for several minutes, and I noticed the woman driving the car next to me was reading a book while we were stopped. I recognized her as the bookseller. And the book? The Bone Chamber. To me, that was a very high compliment that I rated traffic jam status!

KRL: Future writing goals?

Robin: I’m finishing up the next Sydney Fitzpatrick book, but currently mulling over a YA story that’s been on the backburner. Sort of an adventure thing. We’ll see what happens.

KRL: Writing heroes?

Robin: Tough question, because I can’t think of names right now. But when I lament that real life has gotten in the way of writing (and it has several times in a very big way), and I fret over my lack of writing time, or that I just can’t concentrate due to the stress of what’s going on, I hear stories of writers who are writing through major life events themselves. It helps to know we aren’t the only ones having difficulties.

KRL: What kind of research do you do?

Robin: I’ve done armchair research (internet, library) and on location research, including Europe. I also interview experts in matters beyond my range of knowledge. For instance, if I need to blow up something (which I tend to need to do in about every book), I consult bomb experts. And since I have never been an FBI agent (only a street cop and detective), I consult friends in the FBI. And while I want the stories to be as accurate as they can be, I never let the facts get in the way of a good plot line. Sometimes you have to bend the truth to make something happen. (But I do try to mention what is not real in the back of the book.)

KRL: What do you read?

Robin: I read everything! Something I’ve always said, no matter the genre, a good book is a good book, is a good book. So on my bookshelves, you’ll see everything. Mysteries, romance, science fiction, fantasy, etc.

KRL: Favorite TV or movies?

Robin: Depends on the mood I’m in. I don’t care for the realistic police shows. Been there, done that, and they don’t usually get it right. But give me Monk, Psych, Covert Affairs, pretty much anything on the USA channel, and I’m there. I want to be entertained, and I love to laugh. I also love the mystery shows on BBC. Actually the BBC could read the phone book on TV and I’d probably tune in.

KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?

Robin: The best advice came from John Lescroart: Write a page a day and you’ll have a book done in a year. Great advice. It’s so daunting to face that blank page, thinking you have nearly 400 to fill, especially if you’re writing and working a job full time. In truth, I got more writing done while working another job, probably because I knew that tiny slot of time after I got home was so valuable. The other piece of advice is how I started. I told my husband that I wanted to write, and I was going to have to devote as much time to it as I would a job, and better yet, pretend it was a second job. He can’t come in and talk when I’m working. He has to pretend I’m somewhere else, because every time there’s an interruption, that glimmer of a great idea I had could be lost. He respected my wishes, and this has helped immensely. The other thing that helped when I was working was that I only watched TV when I was multi-tasking (not writing). Dishes, cooking, TV, that’s okay. Writing, TV, not okay.

KRL: How do you feel about the growing popularity of e-books?

Robin: On the one hand, I think it’s great. It’s really opened up a whole new market. Readers can adjust print size, or read in the doctor’s office on their phones, etc. What’s not to love? As for the ease of anyone publishing, I think there are definitely kinks to work out. It used to be that “New York” was the gatekeeper, the vetters of writing, so that you knew you were spending your money on something that had at least been read by an agent or editor (with whom we hoped had good taste). The problem with that method is that if the book you were writing didn’t appeal to said agent or editor (see YUK!!! story above), good writers were often passed over. The way the publishing world works now, people like me could get that story published with ease. But so can anyone else, so it makes it more difficult for the good writer to avoid being overlooked in the vast number of authors publishing their own e-books. So, short answer? E-books are great. It’s an exciting time to be a writer.

KRL: Do you read e-books yourself?

Robin: Yes. Probably not as many as paper books, but I have read a good number, and I have a good number sitting on my iPhone and in the cloud.

KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

Robin: I am a Whovian, no doubt about it, and my readers will definitely catch some nods to Doctor Who in the books. (It’s not easy to write in a science fiction reference into an international mystery thriller.) But if you asked my husband what would surprise people about me, he’d say, “You were a cop for 27 years, and you can’t kill a spider.”

KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?

Robin: Website:


KRL: How do you compete in an overcrowded market?

Robin: By writing the best book you can. After that, it’s like throwing spaghetti on the wall. You hope it sticks. More importantly, you hope people see it while it’s stuck up there.

To enter to win a copy of The Kill Order, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Kill,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 8, 2014. U.S. residents only.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.


  1. I really enjoy reading Robin’s books and would love to read the new one.

  2. I was not bothered by not knowing what the numbers were all about in The Face of a Killer, but now I am anxious to read The Killing Order to find out. Luckily, I am almost caught up reading this series, just 100 pages left in The Black List.

  3. Nice advice to share

  4. We have a winner
    Lorie Ham, KRL Publisher


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