by Sandra Murphy
This week we have a review & giveaway of Cypher, the new mystery by Cathy Perkins. We also have an interview with Cathy. At the end of this post are details on how to win a copy of Cypher, and at the end of the review is a link to purchase the book where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Cypher By Cathy Perkins
Review by Sandra Murphy
Cara Wainwright is tired and only wants to get some sleep. When she gets back to her condo, the whole building is roped off with crime scene tape. There are police cars and news vans everywhere. Things get worse when the first police officer she approaches takes her to detectives for questioning.
Two bodies were found in her bed. The man has identification, but no one can find the woman’s purse. It’s assumed she’s Caroline (Cara), based on photos in the condo. So how can this look-alike woman standing outside the building say she’s Cara?
Natalie and Cara are long-time friends and similar enough in looks that people often assume they’re sisters. So if the visiting Natalie and her boyfriend were killed execution style, who was the intended victim? Natalie hasn’t always been the good girl like Cara but there doesn’t seem to be a motive. Reese–he lives beyond his means, pays cash for new toys like a BMW and is known to be a source for party favors (drugs). However, he’s a pretty low level seller so why go after him?
Cara’s family is rich, as in very rich. Still she’s not the designer clothes, flashy car, and photo in the paper kind of gal. She has a job, a puppy named Bella, a terminally ill mom, a brother who is being groomed to run the family company (something to do with military contracts) and a distant and cold father. There’s no disgruntled ex although there is that one guy who basically stalked her. He’s back in town but doesn’t seem to have the brains to do the job or the means to hire it done.
Cara refuses the offer, well order really, to stay at her family’s home. Her father is in the midst of negotiations over a loan due and can’t be bothered. He just wants her out of the public eye and somewhere safe so he can concentrate on business. Cara checks into a hotel instead and is attacked a second time. Luckily, the folks in neighboring rooms hear the ruckus and call for help.
Help arrives in the form of Detective David Morris, who Cara first met at the crime scene. There’s an attraction between them but both are leery of acting on it–well, except for that one toe-curling kiss. She’s still a suspect, a victim or a target and he’s on the job.
The more Cara’s father insists she go to his house and stay put, the more she fights back. A trip to the mall for new clothes–she’s never going back to her condo–shopping is a must, visits to her mother, ditto. She and puppy Bella go to stay at the family’s lake cabin, not the big flashy one, but the original, weathered and cozy cottage. She also decides it’s time to get involved in the family business since that could well be the source of all the trouble.
The story turns on family dynamics. Mom is in charge of the house and kids, Dad takes care of business, Son will take over for him, Daughter should find a nice man and settle down. Cara’s father takes the Father Knows Best attitude to an extreme and it could cost him everything.
Cara and David are both likable people and readers will hope for a good outcome from their mutual attraction. Perkins shows the best and worst of relationships, family-style and within the police department.
You’ll think you’ve figured it out a dozen times. You’ll be wrong.
With no loose threads at the end of the book, this appears to be a stand-alone (not the first in a series).
Previous books include: The Professor, Honor Code, and For Love or Money.
Use this link to purchase this book and a portion goes to help support KRL:
Interview with Cathy Perkins
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Cathy: I’ve been an avid reader all my life and wrote childhood stories that thankfully no one will ever see. Once I launched into a professional career, my writing became technical–although reading for pleasure definitely continued. About eight years ago, I had an out of town consulting job that required a lot of driving, which in turn led to a lot of daydreaming. At some point I realized those daydreams had dialogue and scenes, and I started writing them down. That story is safely tucked away in a drawer but I was hooked!
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? A little about it?
Cathy: With my second manuscript, I inched out and showed the story to a few people who encouraged me to keeping writing. One new friend suggested I join Romance Writer’s of America for their education offerings and the contest circuit. At first I resisted since I don’t write romance, but this was back when Romantic Elements still existed within RWA and I do like having a relationship as part of my stories.
That second manuscript, The Professor, won a number of chapter contests and was a finalist in the Golden Heart, the unpublished counterpart of the Rita. Carina Press (a division of Harlequin, now Harper Collins) released The Professor in 2012. The paperback was released earlier this year for distribution to the World Wide Mystery book club. The Professor is a serial killer book. Readers tell me they love the characters and have suggested more than once that Agent Mick O’Shaughnessy deserves a series.
Cathy: My stories are predominately mystery/suspense, but I tend to make them more character-driven than strictly action-oriented. I enjoy the way the character’s internal and relationship conflicts play into the external plot. Sometimes it’s fun to explore family dynamics; in other stories, the relationship adds to the conflict or raises the stakes.
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?
Cathy: Most of my books are set in the South (where I grew up). South Carolina is a state in transition, still coming to terms with its past and struggling to define its future. My South, the South of my novels, is so much more than the stereotype you see too often in stories that are set there. My most recent book, Cypher, draws on this setting, but adds in a layer of family dynamics that was wonderful to explore. Although there are successful family businesses located throughout the United States, with Cypher I wanted to layer in the aspects that are particular to the South–the expectations and obligations of family ties.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Cathy: I write primarily to entertain. As I write and develop the characters and plot, I realize I’m exploring aspects of their lives that readers experience along with the characters. As the characters make choices, it offers a glimpse at a different perspective. I don’t deliberately set out to teach or preach, just ask readers if they want to come along on the journey.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Cathy: I still work a demanding “day job” which I enjoy, so while I try to set aside the early morning for writing and evenings for editing, sometimes reality puts a wrinkle in that.
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?
Cathy: Most of my stories start with a “what if?” For example, without giving away the plot and all the twists, Cypher began with, What if a hitman killed the wrong person?
The “whys” lined up from there–why was the killer sent to murder the heroine? Why wasn’t she home? Why was her friend there and mistaken for her? The characters grow and become three-dimensional as I think through the implications and how that character will react to events unfolding around him or her. In Cypher, both Cara and David have to fight for what they really want, and each has to trust the other, something that doesn’t come easily for them. Because I love tightly plotted stories that twist and turn, I generally outline the major story lines. I’m always surprised when I finish the first draft and find small setups and details that my subconscious added. During edits, I weave these bits into the story to build out a suspect or enhance a theme.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Cathy: I’m a night owl, so once I decide to quit my day job I suspect you’ll see lights on at my house in the wee hours of the morning.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Cathy: Everyone’s goals and path to publication are different. I’m glad I’ve published with two well-respected publishers but I’ve also enjoyed the creative and marketing control that’s available with independent publishing. I can easily see that I’ll continue as a hybrid author.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Cathy: Do you remember the flooding in Nashville a few years ago? A group of wonderful authors participated in a fundraising auction and I “won” a critique with Toni McGee Causey. Rather than pat me on the head and tell me my baby was lovely, she explained in detail what wasn’t working and why. It was fabulous and opened my eyes to things I can do even better in each succeeding story. Toni’s become a wonderful mentor—she blurbed my latest book and her praise means the world to me because I feel I’ve worked hard to earn it.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Cathy: I feel I’m still growing and learning as an author. As I said earlier, I prefer writing mysteries. I enjoy exploring various points along that spectrum—after the dark twists of Cypher, I’m loving the lighter amateur sleuth story I’m currently writing. But there’s a deeper, character driven story I’ve picked up and put down a number of times that’s definitely a “goal” I want to complete.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Cathy: How much time do you have? So many favorite authors… Whew, narrowing it down to just one (or two 😉 Bouchercon (a huge reader conference for mystery and suspense people) was a constant fangirl moment for me. Every time I turned around, there was another favorite author! Two that especially stand out are Sophie Littlefield and Jonathon King. I’d just finished A Bad Day for Sorry and loved that Sophie’s heroine was middle-aged and divorced–such a departure from the usual. Sophie was incredibly sweet. Her more recent books are women’s fiction, but she’s still on my auto-buy list. I loved Jon King’s sense of place in The Blue Edge of Midnight–talk about setting becoming a character in the story.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Cathy: My research concentrates less on the characters and internal conflict and more in the twists of the external plot. I don’t want to give away a huge plot twist in Cypher, so I’ll just say I actually read the FBI white papers that my detective found and I did Internet research into the task force Detective Morris tapped into. Yeah, it’s fiction. But I love my network of law enforcement professionals and financial resources when I’m writing. I can’t stand to have obvious details completely wrong. One of those “happy moments” as an author came when a law enforcement member contacted me and thanked me for “getting it right” for one of my earlier stories. By now, the basics of law enforcement are ingrained and are easily woven into the story. I’m constantly checking in to make sure my forensics and technology are consistent with current techniques, software updates, data bases…
KRL: What do you read?
Cathy: I’m a voracious reader. Mysteries, thrillers and suspense are my “go-to” stories, but I also enjoy literary, fantasy… I’ve been on a women’s fiction binge lately. So many of those stories delve deeply into relationships.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Cathy: I’m not much of a television watcher, I’d much rather read. Earlier this month, however, while I was at a writing retreat with a group of authors, Outlander launched. We were all glued to the set watching the first two episodes!
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Cathy: Read, read, read! Take stories you especially loved and reread them for the structure, the way the author developed character, whatever drew you so strongly to that story. Then keep writing, learning and growing.
KRL: How do you feel about the growing popularity of e-books?
Cathy: Digital publishing has both positive and negative elements. As I mentioned earlier, I love the creative and marketing control that comes with independent publishing, but after working with terrific editors, I understand how important a good editor is for a story. The editor I hired for Cypher caught continuity breaks and kept me from dropping plot threads. The copy editor marked all the changes to the Chicago manual of style that I missed. The downside to the ease of entry digital publishing offers is unfortunately some authors rush to publication when the book isn’t ready.
One of the best things about digital publishing is an independent author can release a book that a traditional publisher might feel isn’t right for their line and therefore the story might not have been available for the rest of us to read.
KRL: Do you read e-books yourself?
Cathy: I do! I travel a good bit and love tucking an assortment of books into my purse via an e-reader. My husband also appreciates my reading in bed via the Paperwhite rather than the bedside lamp. I’ve found wonderful new authors and terrific books. I’m always excited when I read something/someone new and have to search for the rest of their books. Digital also makes backlists available that my local bookstore or library may not carry. So many books, never enough time.
KRL: How do you compete in an overcrowded market?
Cathy: All I can do is write the best story I can. I’ve heard from established authors that building a writing career is a marathon. As you write more books and have more to offer readers, you gain a following that offers some visibility in that overcrowded market.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Cathy: We’re in the process of moving to the mountains. A number of my stories about adventures in that transition vanished when my website imploded, but people have gotten a kick out of the saga of moving the hundred year old barn (check out Facebook and my website).
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
Cathy: I love staying in contact with friends and readers. Pick your favorite way to connect:
Thanks for letting me visit with you and the Kings River readers.
To enter to win an ebook copy of Cypher, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Cypher,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 13, 2014. U.S. residents only.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.