The Finalist By Joan Long: Review/Giveaway/Interview

Apr 23, 2022 | 2022 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Sandra Murphy

by Sandra Murphy

This week we are review The Finalist, a debut mystery by Joan Long, and we also have an interesting interview with Joan.Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.

The Finalist by Joan Long
Review by Sandra Murphy

When a well-known author died suddenly of what appears to be a reaction to a nut allergy, readers are saddened. Rumors fly because he was so careful. How was he exposed to nuts?

His latest book was nearly finished. To bring it to publication, his widow arranges for a contest. Five authors are chosen to spend a week on the author’s remote island, no way to communicate with the outside world, just a week of reading the finished portion of the book and writing a killer ending. The author who remains true to the brand will get to continue the franchise.

Maybe killer ending wasn’t meant to be taken literally. The first night there, one of the contestants, a beautiful woman whose last best seller was ten years prior, tries to make an extra special impression on one of the judges. Another uses flattery on the widow. The retired football player has a cocky attitude but a short temper to go with it. Risa needs the money as her temp job is running out and she has a daughter to care for. Trent, a man she dated briefly in college, is a mystery. No one seems to know his books, even though being published is a requirement of the contest. He’s sticking close to Risa, closer than she’d like. The next morning, one of the contestants is found floating face down in the water near the pier. It must be an accidental drowning, right?

They almost believe it.

Although there’s no way on or off the island or any way to call for help or the police, they can’t help but feel they’re being watched. Who, why, and how are questions they need answered if they’re all going to survive the week. After all, it looks like one of them took the ‘who do I have to kill to win?’ question a step too far.

This story pulls you right into the scene. Have a tropical adult beverage at hand, wear your flip flops, and dive in. Have plenty of reading time scheduled. You won’t want to put this one down until the last page.

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the Arch, St. Louis, Missouri. She writes magazine articles, specializing in animals, whether pets, domestic, exotic, or wildlife, and takes on eco-friendly topics in hopes of making the planet a greener, cleaner, and friendlier place to live for all creatures. Her short stories can be found in anthologies and her collection From Hay to Eternity: Ten Devilish Tales of Crime and Deception. She’s the editor of Peace, Love, and Crime: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of the ‘60s and won the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s 2019 Derringer Award for her story, Lucy’s Tree. You can follower her on Twitter: @stlsandy, Instagram: stlsandym, Pinterest: @stlsandy, and Facebook: Sandra Murphy

Interview with Joan Long:

KRL: How long have you been writing?

JL: I first attempted to write a book at age ten. Needless to say, I didn’t get very far. Over the years, I wrote when I found the time. I finally became serious about novel writing around 2012.

KRL: When did your first novel come out, what was it called, and would you tell us a little about it?

JL: My first novel launched March 15, 2022. The Finalist is about a single mom who enters a writing competition and finds herself stranded on an island with a killer.

KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense and if not, what else have you written?

JL: I have a graduate degree in Journalism and Communications and have written for universities, healthcare institutions, public television, a magazine, and more. My most recent short story, “The Extra Ingredient,” is published in the Anthony Award-winning anthology Malice Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible. It’s the story of a teenage hostess and a fair-minded cook who match wits in a rural Florida diner.

Joan Long

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

JL: I love warm-weather settings and thought that a remote, tropical island was the perfect place to set a locked-room-style mystery. I chose the characters partly because I wanted to represent a broad range of ages.

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

JL: My goal when I wrote The Finalist was to entertain. As with everything I write, there is an element of good winning over evil.

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

JL: I often write five or six days a week but don’t set strict hours.

KRL: What is your ideal time to write?

JL: I prefer to write in the morning.

KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?

JL: I’m a plotter. Having an outline keeps me on track, although I often adjust the storyline as I come to know my characters better.

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

JL: Yes, I have rejection letters from a number of agents and even a few editors. The key is to never give up.

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

JL: I once entered a mystery writing contest, only to have a judge reject my story because it was a mystery instead of a romance!

KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?

JL: At my first anthology signing, I was seated beside a well-known author. Numerous readers lined up for her signature while only a few asked for mine. But since my line was short, a prominent reviewer who was present struck up a conversation with me. We were able to chat for quite a while, and we’ve been friends ever since. I believe in silver linings!

KRL: What are your future writing goals?

JL: I’m working on a suspense novel (not yet titled) that I hope to finish this summer.

KRL: Who are your writing heroes?

JL: I especially admire Robert Dugoni, whose novel, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, is amazing.

KRL: What kind of research do you do?

JL: For The Finalist, which is set on a tropical island, I researched plant life, cuisine, and—ahem—how long it takes to dig a grave in sandy soil.

KRL: What do you like to read?

JL: My reading tastes vary from non-fiction to YA and Adult Fiction. I especially enjoy mysteries,

suspense, and thrillers.KRL: What are your favorite TV shows or movies?

JL: I don’t watch much TV but do enjoy movies. If something can make me laugh—like Mama Mia! or Clue—all the better.

KRL: Have you any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?

JL: I suggest learning the business of writing as well as the craft. Join groups like Sisters in Crime, listen to seminars, and attend writers’ conferences. The more you learn, the easier the journey becomes.

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

JL: Family and friends call me a “baby whisperer” because of my ability to calm crying babies.

KRL: Is there anything you would like to add?

JL: I’m grateful for everyone who has read and reviewed The Finalist. Huge thanks to all, including Kings River Life, for helping this writer’s dreams come true.

KRL: You are very welcome! Website? Twitter? Facebook?

JL: Website:
Social media:

To enter to win a signed copy of The Finalist, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “finalist,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 30, 2022. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If you are entering via email please include you mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like. BE AWARE THAT IT WILL TAKE MUCH LONGER THAN USUAL FOR WINNERS TO GET THEIR BOOKS DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. A new episode went up this week.

You can use this link to purchase the book. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the Amazon link. You can also click here to purchase the book.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. Thank you for the great review and interview!

  2. Great interview! Count me in!

  3. Great cover! Sounds like a book I would enjoy reading.

  4. Just being on a remote island would be terrifying.
    Adding glory as a prize would lead to lots of
    in-fighting. Going to be lots of intrigue.
    Sounds good. thanks

  5. I always wonder how certain authors are chosen to carry on a series. This is such a fun and original take on that.

  6. Great cover

  7. The Finalist by Joan Long sounds like a great book that would keep me reading past my bedtime!

  8. We have a winner!


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