by Sandra Murphy
This week we have a review of The Finders by Jeffrey B. Burton along with an interesting interview with Jeffrey. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book, and links to purchase it.
The Finders by Jeffrey B. Burton
Review by Sandra Murphy
Mason (Mace) Reid and his dogs live just outside Chicago. The collies, Delta Dawn and Maggie May, and a male German shepherd named Sue (the song, you know?) are trained human remains detection dogs (HRD). It doesn’t matter if the human is recently dead or is a matter of being only bones, HRD dogs can find them. Working with law enforcement, the dogs help bring closure for families as well as provide clues to solve the case.
Paul Lewis, executive director of Chicago Animal Care and Control, is a good friend who also alerts Mace to dogs with potential to become HRD trained. Now there’s a golden retriever puppy who has had a rough start in life that’s caught his attention. Mace names her Elvira, Vira for short.
Although Vira appears to be only nine weeks old, she takes to training like no other. She watches the other dogs and trains herself, too. When she’s a year old, she’s ready for her first search. The location is a recently demolished building, now reduced to rubble, chunks of cement, and piles of bricks. Vira finds the body of a young woman in record time—under two minutes. One odd thing—when she found the right spot, instead of patting with her paw as she was trained to do, Vira began to shake, almost like she was having a seizure. It lasted less than a minute, and she was fine.
Then disaster. While waiting for police to secure the scene, Vira begins to growl, then bark. Standing at full alert, she’s watching the crowd behind police lines, there to gawk. Before Mace can figure out what set her off, she yanks the leash from his hand, runs through the crowd and attacks a man, causing serious damage.
As with any serious dog bite, especially seemingly unprovoked, she’s thought to be a dangerous dog which puts her life in danger. Mace has twenty-four hours to prove she had a reason for the attack or Vira will be put down.
From here on, the story is a race to save the lives of Vira, Mace, Kimmy a policewoman, and a kidnapped teen. Readers will be torn between reading faster and the risk of missing clues. With all the requirements for a thriller—suspense, high body count, serial killer, a deadline—there are moments of humor. Mace is a flawed character but knows it. Freshly divorced, he’s not progressed much past high school level social skills around women. He’s just better around dogs.
It’s a tightrope walk to infuse a book with background on dog training, police procedures, likable characters, and added tension, without using the traditional and hated information dump. Burton manages it flawlessly. This is the rare book that once read, I want to flip from the last page to the first and read it again. And again. Hopefully, there will be many more tales of Vira and Mace to follow.
As Mace says, there are people who like dogs, and there are people who love dogs. This book is for dog lovers.
Interview with Jeffrey Burton:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Jeffrey: I started writing short stories as a hobby more than twenty years ago. Sometimes I’d get a whopping $25 a pop, other times a free issue. It was great fun.
KRL: When did your first novel come out, and what was it called, and would you tell us a little about it?
Jeffrey: Sleuth Slayer came out in 2008, but I wrote that novel with my father. It’s about mystery writers who are getting bumped off per plot devices from their own novels. My father and I would switch off writing chapters. We kept that up until the fourth time he wrote me out of his will. At that point we realized the book was done. It’s a fun read; too bad my sister’s getting the inheritance!
My first solo endeavor was The Chessman, which came out in 2012. It’s about a serial killer in hot pursuit of his own copycat. Originally, it was going to be a short story, like Edgar Allan Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado, where the serial killer is cheerfully explaining to his copycat why he should never have stolen his modus operandi as he performs horrible things to him, but I quickly realized it cried out to be a full-length novel.
Jeffrey: When I began marketing short stories, I noticed the horror stories sold quicker, so then I rattled off a bunch of them for a year or two. I also wrote science fiction and fantasy, but my true love lies in writing mystery novels.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?
Jeffrey: A few years back, I caught a story on the news about a sheriff calling in the cadaver dogs. Evidently, someone had gone missing, was presumed dead, and they were hoping to find the person’s remains. I got to thinking how bomb-detecting and drug-detecting dogs have been done, but perhaps there was room for a mystery about a “very special human remains” detection dog. I set the story in and about Chicago because, sadly, they have one of the higher murder rates in the country. Plenty of work there for Mace and Vira.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Jeffrey: I write to both entertain and provide escapism. Many moons ago I got into a salary dispute at work. As a result, I got demoted (that was fun). I needed the paycheck to cover rent, so life was less than stellar in the months it took to find a new job. During this period, I threw myself into the Mitch Rapp series and let Vince Flynn work his thriller magic. Flynn’s books offered great escapism – a way to take my mind off my situation – until I got hired elsewhere.
In terms of The Finders, I’m also hoping to instill a sense of love for animals, particularly those of a canine nature.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Jeffrey: I’m a morning person. I hope to get a solid five or six hours in by noon so I can goof off the rest of the day.
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?
Jeffrey: I start with a concept and a very loose outline. I do this because ideas occur as I write that are suddenly better than anything appearing in my outline.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Jeffrey: The morning. A tall cup of dark roast and my laptop.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Jeffrey: In terms of the short stories, not really, but I was going after both small and online magazines. I’m glad I went this route as my minor successes egged me on to keep going. My only regret was not finding a proper home for Sleuth Sayer. My father and I wound up with a publisher that did us no favors.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Jeffrey: One publisher got his knickers in such a twist that I’d snail-mailed him a manuscript with, god forbid, two-sided print (hey, I was trying to save a tree) that he called up and left the “effenheimer” on my answering machine. You know you’ve made it when they cuss you out!
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Jeffrey: So, I’m signing books at a Barnes & Noble store and a guy comes up and says, “Ellery Queen?” I start telling him how my novel has some legal aspects in it like Ellery Queen, but then he goes, “Alfred Hitchcock?” So, I start telling him that it’s full of suspense like Alfred Hitchcock’s stuff, and then he says, “Where are the Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock magazines?” He thought I worked at B&N. I looked around, spotted the magazine racks, and pointed him in that direction. Fifteen minutes later, he stops by, shows me the magazines he’d picked up, and heads out. The guy never knew I was there to sign books. I loved it.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Jeffrey: I owe St. Martin’s Press two more Mace and Vira books. The Keepers will be coming out in the summer of 2021.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Jeffrey: The books piling up on my bedside table include novels by Michael Connelly, Barry Eisler, Gillian Flynn, Harlan Coben, John Sandford, Lee Child, John Connolly, and Robert Crais.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Jeffrey: I’m such an obsessive-compulsive researcher. If I have an inconsequential character driving a car, I’ll spend a half hour researching the exact type of car that character would purchase. If I have characters meeting at a restaurant, I’ll bring the restaurant’s menu up online to see what food the characters might order. The FBI factors big in The Chessman, and when the publisher bought the rights, he asked me if I’d ever worked for the FBI. I hadn’t, of course, but I spent a ton of time surfing their website.
KRL: What do you read?
Jeffrey: Probably 90% mysteries and thrillers with 5% horror and 5% literature.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Jeffrey: We’ve streamed some old episodes of The Rockford Files during COVID. They’ve held up well, all due to James Garner. In fact, I plan on stealing his answering machine message – “This is Jeff Burton. At the tone, leave your name and message. I’ll get back to you.”
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Jeffrey: Read like a maniac the bestselling novels in your genre. When you’re done with a book, deconstruct both what you liked and what you didn’t like. Perhaps post your critiques on Goodreads.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Jeffrey: No and thank you King’s River Life magazine for letting me bend your ear.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Jeffrey: I swam a lake for my 40th birthday. We were at a rental cabin and I got it in my thick skull I needed to make a statement about turning the big 4-0. This is an even bigger deal because I’m a terrible swimmer. I spent most of the time doing the backstroke but must have added an extra quarter mile due to all the zig-zagging. My wife was in a paddleboat next to me because I didn’t want my statement about turning 40 to include the local authorities dragging the lake. There were a ton of water skiers that day and I’d have to bob up and down in their wake before I could continue swimming. I asked my wife if I could hang onto the side of the paddleboat when the water skiers came by, but she said that would be cheating. Thoughts of retiring on my life insurance danced in her head.
I told the resort owner what I’d done later that evening. He turned white and got all bent out of shape.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
Jeffrey: Website: www.JeffreyBBurton.com Facebook: www.facebook.com/jeffrey.b.burton
To enter to win a copy of The Finders, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “strong,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 12, 2020. 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 goes up next week!
You can use this link to purchase this book from indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy, and KRL gets a portion of the sale:
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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.
Great interview! Count me in!
Great interview! How much life insurance do you have? Must be a lot. LOL
This sounds interesting. Legallyblonde1961@yahoo.com
I loved this interview, feel inspired by the helpful writing tips and look forward to reading these books.
Sounds like an exciting story. Love the dog on the cover too. Thanks for the chance to win a copy. crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com
Sounds like a great book. Looking forward to reading.
Love the picture of the dogs. rmmoss2(at)gmail(dot)com
sounds like a good book.
Enjoyed the post and interview, would love to get a copy! tWarner419(at)aol(dot)com
Just wanted to say that The Finders is a great thriller… and I am looking forward to more in the series. 🙂
Thank you for the chance! mbradeen [at] yahoo [dot] com
The Finders is an excellent book! I was really impressed and looking forward to the next book in the series.
We have a winner!