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Unspeakable Things


I've been working with Thomas & Mercer, Amazon's crime fiction imprint, for only a few weeks, but the experience has been whirlwind fabulous. My two editors, Jessica and Charlotte, are insightful, hilarious, helpful, and quick. We're already on the second round of edits for The Devil in the Dirt Basement, which is where my latest news comes in. Turns out T & M's marketing department thought my title was too much of a mouthful.


After a private, brief but spectacular temper tantrum (I'm terrible at titles normally, but The Devil in the Dirt Basement came to me whole and perfect), I reached out to some mystery-writing friends for alternate title ideas. They generated a great list, which I sent to Jessica at T & M, and she and the marketing department selected my favorite: UNSPEAKABLE THINGS.

That's the name of my upcoming book! Thank you to Lori Rader-Day (her novels are great--wish she'd write faster) for the title, and to T & M for wanting this book to soar. And honestly, the title is growing on me. It hits all the right notes. It's sticky, scary, suspenseful, just like the book.

In celebration of the new and official title of my first suspense novel with Thomas & Mercer (release date 11.1.2019), I'm posting below an early version of the author's note that will appear in the book's front matter.


I was one of a few hundred kids to come of age in Paynesville, Minnesota, in the 1980s. I grew up thinking every small town had a curfew siren that warned the children indoors each night at 9:00 pm, that Chester the Molester was a common nickname for the bogey man, that Peeping Toms were not unusual. I had my own problems at home, some childish and others much more serious, and the rumors of a bad man hunting children became a backbeat of my preteen and teen years.

I graduated high school in 1988 and moved to Minneapolis.

When Jacob Wetterling was abducted on October 22, 1989, from St. Joseph, Minnesota, thirty miles up the road from Paynesville, I was preparing to drop out of my second year of college. Some of those rumors from my early years (don’t go out at night or Chester will get you) came into focus.

Pictures of Jacob were everywhere. People joined together to search for that sweet-faced 11-year-old who’d been abducted by a masked man with a gun. Days passed into weeks into years, and Jacob was never found. Not until a local blogger began writing about the potential connection between Jacob’s disappearance and the abduction and release of eight local boys in and around Paynesville in the 80s was Jacob’s abductor arrested, twenty-seven years later. He led authorities to Jacob’s remains.

The experience has haunted me. It’s haunted many of us in the Midwest, upending what we thought we know about rural communities and the safety of children. The true version of events has been told very well in other places, most notably in Season One of the “In the Dark” podcast. It was the emotional reverberations of those events that I wanted to give voice to. I needed to create coherence out of my memories of growing up under a constant, unnamed fear. When Cassie McDowell, the fictional heroine of this story, came to me and begged for her story to be told, I saw my chance.


While Unspeakable Things is inspired by real people and events, it is entirely fictional. However, it’s my hope that in the character of Gabriel, I was able to capture and honor the sweetness stolen from all nine of those boys.

Thank you for reading.


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