Title: The Sorority Murder
Author: Allison Brennan
Publication Date: December 28, 2021
Genre: Mystery, Psychological Thriller
From the publisher—
New York Times bestselling author Allison Brennan’s suspenseful new mass market original about a college senior’s podcast that delves into an unsolved campus murder of a sorority girl three years earlier, as individual callers explode every fact previously thought to be true.
Lucas Vega is obsessed with the death of Candace Swain, who left a sorority party one night and never came back. Her body was found two weeks later, and the case has grown cold. Three years later while interning at the Medical Examiner’s, Lucas discovers new information, but the police are not interested.
Lucas knows he has several credible pieces of the puzzle, he just isn’t sure how they fit together. So he creates a podcast to revisit Candace’s last hours. He asks listeners to crowdsource what they remember and invites guest lecturer, former US Marshal Regan Merritt, to come on and share her expertise.
New tips come in that convince Lucas and Regan they are onto something. Then shockingly one of the podcast callers turns up dead. Another hints at Candace’s secret life…a much darker picture than Lucas imagined—and one that implicates other sorority sisters. Regan uses her own resources to bolster their theory and learns that Lucas is hiding his own dark secret. The pressure is to solve the murder, but first Lucas must come clean about his real motives in pursuing this podcast – before the killer silences him forever.
When a college sorority girl disappeared and was later found murdered, the local police quickly focused on one suspect. After that man also disappeared, law enforcement essentially shelved the investigation but a college senior, Lucas Vega, has now become nearly obsessed with the cold case, determined to find the truth. He has hopes that a podcast program will draw out new evidence that the police can’t continue to ignore.
Former US Marshal Regan Merritt returned home to Flagstaff after the devastating loss of her son, seeking comfort with her father, but coping with her issues and finding true peace are not coming easily. When she’s encouraged to work with Lucas, her initial reluctance soon turns into a quest almost as strong as his and there’s no doubting the value she brings with her background.
Allison Brennan is an author I admire and her books nearly always offer the tight plotting, vivid characters and tense pacing a really good thriller promises. In this instance, while I certainly enjoyed the story, it isn’t one of my top choices among her books because there is too much repetition of information due to, I think, the podcast style. That led to very slow pacing in the first half or so and, with almost any other author, might have caused me to DNF the book. Ms. Brennan’s proven quality of work kept me reading.
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2022.
A Q & A with Allison Brennan
Q: Please give a one sentence pitch for The Sorority Murder.
A: Amateur college podcaster sets out to solve a three-year-old campus murder.
Q: Obvious question, but were you part of sorority?
A: Nope! In fact, I’m a college drop-out …
Q: Why do you think thrillers are so popular?
A: Thrillers are, at their core, stories about justice. A good thriller is also a story about human nature – the good and the bad. People are complex, and no one is wholly good or wholly bad, and thrillers often explore those nuances – but with a focus on how the story is told. Pacing is super important for a thriller. I’ve written both thrillers and mysteries – The Sorority Murder is structured more like a mystery, with a crime that needs to be solved, a slow burn as clues and evidence and hints of menace draw in the reader as the case develops and there is more at stake.
But in the end, thrillers and mysteries must satisfy the reader by giving them answers to the story questions in a fun, interesting, suspenseful way.
Q: Where do you get your ideas? Of course, from your imagination, but do you read, see or hear something that clicks?
A: Ideas come from everywhere … but for me, it’s mostly a combination of different ideas that blend to create a story. When the different ideas – coming from my imagination, the news, a story I read, a comment someone makes, a photograph that draws me in – hit me in just the right way, I get my own story idea. It’s never just one thing.
For The Sorority Murder, for example, I had wanted to write a story about a US Marshal, because it’s not often done. But I already have a series with FBI agents, so I thought – what about a former US Marshal? Why did she leave service? Who is she? So that was in the back of my mind, thinking about Regan Merritt (her name popped into my head, so I was really thinking about her character a lot.) Then, one of my daughter’s was talking about a podcast she was listening to. It had nothing to do with crime, but she sent me a link to an article about podcasts, and in it was a link to a true crime podcast. I love true crime – I always have. So I listened to a couple of episodes, all about unsolved crimes, and I started thinking, what if I had a podcast about an unsolved crime? Would that be interesting? I shelved it for awhile because I couldn’t think about how to make a podcast into a written thriller that would also be interesting and suspenseful. Then one of my daughters was looking at colleges. NAU was one of them – and I love Flagstaff, it’s an interesting town with a lot of history. Then something clicked and I thought, what if a student had a podcast? How would that work … and what case would he investigate? I knew it would have to be a cold case otherwise the police would still be investigating. And, because he’s an amateur and a student, Regan popped into mind – what if she went home to Flagstaff to lick her wounds about a tragedy, and she helped my student with his podcast? And the story was born. I had no idea who the killer was, who the suspects were, the motivation, anything. All I knew was that my podcaster Lucas had a secret and I couldn’t wait to find out what it was.
Q:Are you a plotter or panster?
A: I prefer the term “organic writer.” I do not plot. I hate plotting, writing outlines, anything that might tell me how the story resolves itself. I want to discover the end with my characters.
Q: Do you have any tips for would-be writers?
A: Read a lot, write a lot. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and then learn from them. Be bold. Write because you love it.
Q: What do you like to do when you are not writing?
A: When my kids were younger, I loved spending time with them – going to their games, concerts, taking them to the movies, watching television. Now that my kids are almost grown – and three are out of the house! – I really miss that. I read a lot (of course!) … not as much as I would like. I probably read a book a week (not including for research) when in the past (before I was published) I used to read at least 3 books a week. I’ve recently dived into audio books, which I listen to while walking every morning. I also love baseball (go Giants!) and hiking in the mountains (nothing too steep, but if the trail is flat I can go for miles!) and I’m always on the hunt for good Mexican food.
Q: What books are you reading now?
A: I just finished Nora Robert’s THE OBSESSION on audiobook. It’s one of her older romantic suspense titles and I loved it. She is the master of the craft. Next up is JD Robb’s FORGOTTEN IN DEATH, which I’ve had on my shelf for a few months but between deadlines and Christmas, I haven’t had time to pick it up. I love the series, and will most likely sit down and read it in one or two sittings.
Q: Can you read other author’s books when you are writing yourself?
A: Yes – I write every day, so if I didn’t read other authors, I would never read! I try to read every day, but I’m a binge reader – I like to read a good book in 2-3 sittings, tops. I’ll admit, before I was published, I finished every book I started. Now? I have far too many books I want to read, so if it doesn’t grab me in a couple of chapters, I’m willing to put it down and start something new.
Q: What is your favorite season and why?
A: Fall. I love the change of colors and cool, breezy days. I also love rain, though we don’t get enough of it in Arizona!
About the Author
ALLISON BRENNAN is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over thirty novels. She has been nominated for Best Paperback Original Thriller by International Thriller Writers and the Daphne du Maurier Award. A former consultant in the California State Legislature, Allison lives in Arizona with her husband, five kids and assorted pets. The Sorority Murder is the first of a new mass market series,
**A copy of this book was provided by the publisher
via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**