Nothing But the Truth By Robyn Gigl: Review/Giveaway/Interview

Jun 29, 2024 | 2024 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Claire A Murray

As Pride month comes to an end, we have one more feature to share with you. This week we review the latest mystery by transgender author Robyn Gigl, along with an interesting interview with Robyn. And while Pride month may be coming to an end, KRL’s resolve to cover LGBTQ+ authors and entertainers continues all year long. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book and a link to purchase the book from Amazon.

Nothing But the Truth by Robyn Gigl
Review by Claire A Murray

Defense attorney Erin McCabe’s new client Jon Mazur is a New Jersey State Police officer charged with murdering the reporter writing an exposé on corruption within the state police. Part thriller, part courtroom procedural, Nothing But the Truth takes us beyond those two labels and explores some very personal and important issues when the parties in these proceedings are gay or transgender.

McCabe is transgender and about to be married. Her personal life is on the upswing, but she suffers from a large dose of guilt over how her gender identity affects family members. And not all family accept that identity. Wedding planning. Hostility from her own and her fiancé Mark’s family members. Police corruption. A highly charged murder case where all the evidence points to one person—her client Mazur. Enough to make one’s head spin.

Can she and her law partner Duane Swisher successfully represent Mazur—the white cop charged with murdering a black reporter? Oh, and did I mention that Swisher is black? Well, he has his reasons for accepting the case that McCabe was about to turn down.

No one involved in the case has it easy. From the courtroom to the streets, secrecy reigns. A silent current charges certain characters to act outside their best self-interests to protect someone—but who?
This is no cozy. There’s harsh language … you know, the kind you hear on the streets and wish you could unhear. The language that represents the racism, homophobia, transphobia, and other cruelties thrust on people just trying to live, love, and be true to themselves.

There’s also love. McCabe’s mother, Mark, several family members and their spouses, Swisher, and others who help shore up McCabe’s emotional resources so she can represent Mazur and dig out the truth. She’s not quite sure her client is innocent, but the more barriers she and Swisher encounter, especially those involving the state police and district attorney’s office, the more determined she is to unravel who killed the reporter and possibly set up Mazur.

Nothing But the Truth is an apt title, as Gigl provides medical and legal information many readers may not know about gay and transgender couples having babies with the help of surrogates. The author’s research and clear explanations enhance the reader’s knowledge and understanding of the characters’ emotional journeys. A story, yes. An education, too, wrapped in an engaging mystery with twists and turns at every turn.

Claire A Murray writes crime, mystery, fantasy, and sci-fi short stories and novels. She also writes reviews, hosts Zoom write-ins for aspiring and experienced authors, and is completing a suspense fantasy novel so she can return to her trilogy and two other novels awaiting revision. Play the Hand You’re Dealt is her crime and mystery short story collection. Find her at

Interview with Robyn Gigl:

KRL: How long have you been writing?

Robyn: I started my first manuscript in 1980, which was a few years after I graduated law school. I wrote on yellow legal pads and got about 200 pages of a first draft done, but I never finished. A busy legal career and then three children came along, and that manuscript sits in a briefcase to this day – my briefcase novel!

Fast forward to 2010. That’s when my middle child, Colin, convinced me to do NaNoWriMo with him. That experience brought back the itch to write. By the way, Colin is also a published author. His novel, The Ferryman Institute was published by Gallery in 2016. I started writing again in earnest in 2012. In 2014, I finished a manuscript that was never published, but it did get me my literary agent. In 2015, I started writing By Way of Sorrow, which I finished in September 2018. It was acquired by Kensington in December 2018, and the rest as they say is history.

Robyn Gigl

KRL: Congrats to Colin! Guess it runs in the family. When did your first novel come out, what was it called, and would you tell us a little about it?

Robyn: By Way of Sorrow was published by Kensington in March 2021. It was originally slated to be published in 2020 but was delayed a year by the pandemic.

By Way of Sorrow is a legal thriller featuring criminal defense attorneys, Erin McCabe and Duane Swisher. Erin and Duane are law partners in their 30s, asked to represent Sharise Barnes, a nineteen-year-old transgender sex worker accused of murdering the only son of a state senator, who is one of the richest and most powerful politicians in the state of NJ.

Despite the overwhelming evidence against Sharise, Erin, who is also a transgender woman, and Duane, who is a Black former FBI Agent, are convinced Sharise acted in self-defense. Proving Sharise’s innocence grows harder because the senator will stop at nothing to see that Sharise is convicted – including eliminating witnesses and even Erin and Duane if necessary.

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

Robyn: Yes, all four of my books are legal thrillers featuring Erin McCabe and Duane Swisher. Nothing But The Truth is my fourth novel. Although all four are part of the Erin McCabe series, they are written as standalones, in other words, you don’t have to read them in order.

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

Robyn: I live and practice law in NJ. So, having decided to write a legal thriller, it just made sense for me to set it in NJ because I already knew the law and how the judicial system worked. It also allowed me to have fun bringing real places into the story.

In terms of the characters, as a transgender woman, and an attorney, I wrote what I knew. I also wanted to give a positive voice to the transgender community and to show the real-life issues faced by trans people. There are very few mystery/suspense books that feature a transgender protagonist, as opposed to the transgender character being the victim, or worse, the killer. So, I wanted my protagonist to be transgender to put a human face on a community that many people don’t understand. I also wanted her law partner to be a person of color to allow me to explore the many different forms of discrimination and bias that exist in our society.

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

Robyn: I certainly want my readers to be entertained. If they’re not, they’ll never read my books! But yes, as much as I hope the LGBTQ+ community will read and enjoy my books, I’m writing primarily for cisgender, heterosexual readers who love legal thrillers/mysteries with the goal of entertaining them, while at the same time subtly trying to educate them as to what it’s like to be transgender, and the issues members of the transgender community face on a daily basis. Nothing makes me feel better than to have a reader tell me that having read one of my books they are more understanding of trans people.

KRL: I think that’s great! Do you have a schedule for your writing or just work whenever you can?

Robyn: Whenever I can. I still have my day job as a practicing attorney, so my writing schedule really depends on the demands of my lawyer schedule. Generally, I write nights and weekends, but occasionally, if my day job schedule allows, I’ll take a day here and there just to write. Over the last year, I have slowed down my law practice and have been able to spend more time writing, but I still have no set writing schedule.

KRL: What is your ideal time to write?

Robyn: Between 8:00 pm – 11:00 pm and, on weekends, I also try to write between 10:00 am – 2:00 pm.

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?

Robyn: I don’t outline, but because I was under contract for books 2-4, I had to provide a synopsis of the story before I started writing the novel. Book 1, By Way of Sorrow, was totally by the seat of the pants. Even books 2-4, probably strayed more than a little from the synopsis I had submitted to my publisher.

In order to keep track, I write notes and keep a timeline of events. Of course, as a result of my lack of organization, I often wind up with minor characters who have a different name at the end of the draft than in the beginning.

KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning? Do you feel you faced any special challenges to getting publisher being an LGBTQIA author?

Robyn: The honest answer is, I don’t know what role, if any, me being a transgender author played in my publishing journey – good or bad. By Way of Sorrow went out on submission in September 2018 and was acquired by Kensington Publishing in December 2018. Obviously, no complaints there. However, by the time it was acquired by Kensington, every major publishing house had passed on it, which is certainly not unusual for most debut authors.

The bottom line is that if me being trans had a role, I’m not aware of it. One thing I do appreciate is that when Kensington acquired By Way of Sorry, they were taking a chance on me – a debut transgender author with a book featuring a transgender protagonist – and for that I will always be grateful to Kensington for giving me an opportunity.

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

Robyn: No single rejection/critique comes to mind. The thing I found fascinating was that one editor would love the characters, but not find the story thrilling enough. Another would be engrossed by the story, but not love the characters. It was hard at times to figure out what folks were looking for. But ultimately, I found a home, and all is well.

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

Robyn: At a bookstore signing for my second book, a woman, who was probably in her late 70s, said to me, “I’m a very conservative Republican, but I like mysteries and my daughter gave me your first book and told me to read it. When I found out the main character was transgender, I wasn’t going to read it, but I did, and I’m glad I did. It’s a good book and had me on the edge of my seat. Plus, I learned something about what it’s like for you and your kind. Can’t wait to read this one.” I signed her book, thanked her and she went away happy. I don’t think I changed her politics at all, but at least she has a better understanding of trans issues.

KRL: That’s an awesome story! What are your future writing goals?

Robyn: Keep writing and hopefully, keep getting published. I do have one unique item on my writing wish list. As I referenced earlier, my son Colin is also a published author. I would love to write a collaborative novel with him, a la Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett in Good Omens. I think that would be very special, at least for me.

KRL: That would be wonderful–hope it happens. Who are your writing heroes?

Robyn: I actually have different categories of heroes. Authors who influenced me when I was in my teens, my formative heroes – Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut; my early mystery/thriller heroes – Dashiell Hammett, Agatha Christie and Sue Grafton; LGBTQ+ hero – Joseph Hansen; and legal thriller heroes – Scott Turow and John Grisham.

KRL: What kind of research do you do?

Robyn: Since my series takes place between 2006 – 2010, I had to do research to make sure that whatever technology I referenced was appropriate for the time period. For example, you can’t have a character using an iPhone in 2006, since it didn’t debut until June 2007. Similarly, I have to make sure that various forensic techniques were available during the timeframe of the novels. I also researched to ensure that, from a legal standpoint, my books are 100% accurate. Finally, I did a lot of research, as well as used sensitivity readers, to ensure that characters that I don’t share a lived experience with were portrayed accurately.

KRL: What do you like to read?

Robyn: Just about anything, except romance and horror (sorry romance and horror authors). I love mystery/thrillers. The big names – Harlan Coben, Lisa Gardner, Hank Philippi Ryan, Scott Turow, Tana French, S.A. Cosby. As well as some lesser-known names who are just as good – Wanda Morris, Kellye Garrett, Allen Eskens, Cheryl Head, Tracy Clark, Kelly J. Ford, John Copenhaver, Margot Douaihy, Kim Giarratano. I also enjoy books that aren’t in the mystery/thriller genre – Lamb, The Martian, Lessons in Chemistry, Less, Hell of a Book.

KRL: What are your favorite TV shows or movies?

Robyn: I honestly don’t watch a lot of television. As for movies, it’s kind of an eclectic mix –Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, Local Hero, Waking Ned Devine, the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, La La Land, Barbie and Oppenheimer.

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

Robyn: Don’t confuse rejection for failure. I probably queried and was rejected by over 100 agents before one took a chance on me. And, even then, the manuscript that landed me my agent was never acquired or published. Learn to treat every “no” or “I’ll pass on this” or “this isn’t the right story for me” as a learning opportunity and keep working on your craft. It takes determination, perseverance and a thick skin. But if it’s what you want, keep writing, listening, learning and writing some more.

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

Robyn: I’ve run 5 marathons.

KRL: Is there anything you would like to add?

Robyn: Thank you for the interview. I hope folks will give my books a chance. Even though there’s a transgender protagonist, they’re good legal thrillers, at least according to TIME Magazine, the NY Times, the LA Times, CrimeReads and Publishers Weekly.

KRL: Where can our readers find you online?

X: @robyngigl
Instagram: @robyngigl

You can click here to purchase this book from Amazon.

To enter to win a copy of Nothing But the Truth, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “truth” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 6, 2024. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

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.

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. It sounds interesting!

  2. We have a winner!


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