by Lorie Lewis Ham
This week we have a review of Matt Witten’s new thriller The Necklace, along with an interesting interview with Matt. 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 and an indie bookstore.
The Necklace by Matt Witten
Review by Lorie Lewis Ham
The Necklace is the latest thriller by award winning TV writer, novelist, playwright, and screenwriter Matt Witten. It follows the journey of Susan Lentigo as she travels across country to witness the execution of the man who murdered her 7-year-old daughter 20 years ago.
Susan’s life fell apart after her daughter Amy was murdered. A year after the murder her husband Danny left her. Since then, she has been struggling to make ends meet as a waitress. Susan is driven by an intense need to witness the upcoming execution, hoping that it will finally give her closure. However, she lives in Upstate New York and the execution will take place in North Dakota. The town holds a fundraiser to cover her expenses, but her journey is plagued by one disaster after another and she fears she won’t get there in time. As she struggles on her journey, she stumbles upon what she believes to be evidence that the wrong man is about to be executed, but the FBI won’t listen.
The Necklace is filled with realistic and complex characters, a page turning mystery that keeps you on the edge of your seat, and provides insight into poverty and the death penalty. Susan is a compelling and relatable heroine. She exhibits incredible determination to learn the truth, despite all of the obstacles that come her way. Not only does she hope to save an innocent man, but also to prevent the killer from taking someone else’s child.
I admit that as a mother, there were times when this book was a little hard to read, but at the same time it was so compelling I had to follow Susan to her journey’s end and was as shocked as she was when the truth was uncovered. Matt is an incredibly skilled storyteller and this is a book you won’t want to miss!
Interview with Matt Witten:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Matt: I’ve been writing ever since first grade, when I wrote a series of impassioned poems about how the Baltimore Orioles baseball team would demolish the hated New York Yankees.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense and if not, what else have you written?
Matt: With novels, I’ve always written mystery/suspense. For TV I’ve mainly written mystery/suspense, but I also wrote for House and Supernatural. With my stage plays I’ve mainly written mystery/suspense, but I’ve written straight up dramas too. Bottom line, my favorite genres to read, and to write, are mysteries and suspense novels.
KRL: Where did the idea for your latest book, The Necklace, come from and why did you want to tell this story?
Matt: Nine years ago, I read an article in the Glens Falls Post-Star about a woman from a small town in upstate New York who was holding a fundraising event at a local bar. She needed money to travel to the upcoming execution of the man who had murdered her young daughter twenty-two years before. Everything about this story stuck with me: not only the tragic death, but also the woman’s dire circumstances and her quest to find justice and closure two decades later.
For years I wanted to write a novel about this, but I didn’t know what the story would be. Then one day I was having coffee with a writer friend, John Henry Davis, and he suggested: “What if she starts to think that the guy who’s being executed maybe didn’t do it?” That’s how The Necklace was born.
KRL: What do you like best about your main character?
Matt: I love Susan’s heroism, her courage, the way she finds an inner strength inside herself that she didn’t know she had.
KRL: What was the hardest part about writing this book?
Matt: The hardest part about writing this book was also the most fascinating: getting into the head of someone who begins to think that the biggest things she’s believed for the past twenty years have all been false. Susan is tempted to go into denial about what she’s learning, but she’s also determined to finally get to the truth.
KRL: What kind of research did you have to do?
Matt: Re Susan: a lot of long walks thinking about her, a lot of talking about her with my wife and other people. Susan is a composite of several women I’ve known in the Adirondacks.
Re the world Susan lives in: We’ve spent summers in Lake Luzerne, New York, the town Susan lives in, for thirty years. So, we know the town well. The Necklace is not only the story of an incredibly courageous woman, it’s also the story about life in the foothills of the Adirondacks. The area has struggled in this new century, with factories and mills shutting down and tourism not quite filling the economic gap. And yet people continue to cobble livings together, raise their families, and work for a better future.
One of my favorite things about The Necklace is that it’s set in a world that’s unusual for thrillers: an economically disadvantaged small town, with a woman in her 50s who works as a diner waitress and barely gets by.
KRL: How long did it take you to write The Necklace?
Matt: I’d guess about a year. My writing was interrupted here and there as I wrote other things.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to experience from your work?
Matt: I hope that readers will fall in love with Susan as I did and be inspired by her courage.
KRL: I know you have done a lot of writing for TV, are you working on anything at the moment?
Matt: Yes, I’m developing a futuristic drama with the Madison Wells studio and the showrunner Charlie Craig. Also, I wrote a screenplay version of The Necklace and it’s been optioned by Appian Way and Cartel Pictures, with Leonardo DiCaprio attached as producer.
KRL: How exciting! Are you working on another mystery novel right now?
Matt: Yes, I’m writing a novel about a young woman who starts a true-crime podcast about a cold-case murder.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Matt: Throughout my life, two writers have inspired me the most: Dr. Seuss and Elmore Leonard. Dr. Seuss wrote with such freedom and wealth of imagination, and I believe has had a tremendous, underappreciated impact on so many writers who came after him. Elmore Leonard wrote with such economy of language, and such wonderful realistic dialogue, that I still marvel when I reread his work today.
KRL: What do you read?
Matt: In the past five or ten years, when I’ve been gobbling down psychological thrillers like candy, there are so many writers who have inspired me. Here’s a partial list: Gillian Flynn; Harlan Coben; Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen; Laura Lippman; Jessica Knoll; A.J. Finn; Paula Hawkins; Shari Lapena; Karin Slaughter; Mary Kubica; Lisa Lutz; Ruth Ware; Linwood Barclay; Fiona Barton; Lisa Jewell; JP Delany; Alice Hunter; and Hollie Overton.
My favorite books in the past couple years were, Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha, Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld, and Who is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Matt: Favorite movies of all time: Harvey and Petrified Forest. Favorite TV show of all time: Get Smart. Favorite recent TV show: Queen’s Gambit.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Matt: The Necklace would make a great Christmas or Hanukah present!
KRL: Yes it would! What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Matt: My hatred for mayonnaise. I think mayonnaise is a tool of the devil. It’s so insidious! You find it in sandwiches and salad dressing when you least expect it! You’ll be eating something perfectly delicious and, aargh! There it is!
KRL: Where can people find you online?
To enter to win a copy of The Necklace, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “necklace,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 16, 2021. 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.
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 this book from indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy, and KRL gets a portion of the sale:
You can use this link to purchase this book from Amazon. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the 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.