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Her Final Prayer: Book 2 in my new mystery series

I have a new mystery series. Did you know?

 

Yup. In addition to Sarah Armstrong, I'd now like to introduce you to Clara Jefferies. The first book in this new series, THE FALLEN GIRLS, came out in June. And today the second book debuts, HER FINAL PRAYER.

 

A Dallas detective, Clara has an unusual past: she was born and raised, lived her first twenty-four years in the small town of Alber, Utah, a polygamous enclave in a mountain valley high in the Rockies. She fled Alber in fear for her life and spent ten years in Texas. In book one, THE FALLEN GIRLS, Clara is pulled back to Alber to try to find a missing sister. What Clara finds is a town in the midst of change as the feds have made arrests, including of the religion's prophet. Outsiders are moving in and barriers are falling. But rather than a welcomed homecoming, Clara has become a stranger, even to her own family.

 

So in book one, THE FALLEN GIRLS, Clara is pulled into a string of horrific crimes as she searches for her sister.

 

In book two, as I said out today – you may be able to tell that I'm pretty excited – Clara is called to the Johansson bison farm, outside of Alber, and what she finds there are some of the most gruesome murders she's ever encountered in her years in law enforcement.

 

From that heart-pounding start, Clara is propelled into an investigation where nothing is as it seems, and where she's forced to confront her own troubled past.

 

To set up the series, I'd like to tell you a bit about the inspiration for Alber, my fictional town.

 

It all began in 1988. At the time, I was a magazine writer, a contributing editor at Ladies' Home Journal. I'd written for them for about four years at that point, and a case caught my editor's attention. It was unfolding in Hildale, Utah, one of the fundamentalist Mormon towns in what's known as the Short Creek area. The court case involved a polygamous family. The husband, Vaughn Fischer, and his first wife, Sharane. The Fischers wanted to adopt the six children of Vaughn's third wife, Brenda Thornton, who'd died the previous summer. Brenda and Vaughn had only been married for two months at the time she died, and none of the children were his biological offspring. The adoption was being contested by Brenda's two sisters, Patricia and Janet. My editor at LHJ sent me to Utah to interview Vaughn Fischer and his family.

 

So that summer, I drove my rental car into the town of Hildale, Utah, just across the border from Colorado City, Arizona, two towns controlled by a fundamentalist Mormon group. From the beginning, it was eye-opening. I was there in the summer, and it was so hot. But the girls and women were all clad in prairie dresses, and the boys and men in long pants. Everyone had their arms covered, and the women even wore socks with their sandals.

 

The houses were huge! Some housed three, four, five or six wives and their children. The Jeff's mansion, the one near the center of town where Rulon Jeffs, the sect's prophet at the time, lived, had small cottages throughout the yard. Someone told me that he had dozens of wives and an unknown but large number of children. The town is dusty but the setting is beautiful, bordered by impressive red mountains. A complicating factor during my visit was that they didn't have street signs.

 

You see, the sect was very secretive – perhaps because polygamy was illegal – and they didn't actually want strangers like me driving through town. They also didn't have a restaurant or a hotel. The biggest problem was that no one would give me directions. I'd see women with children in fenced yards, but by the time I got to the gate, everyone had disappeared. Poof! They were gone.

 

In the end, I did find the Fischer house, and I ended up spending a week in the area. I interviewed folks like the Fischers who swore that they were happily polygamous and that it was the best way to live and bring up children; and I talked to those who'd been drawn into the sect only to later decide it wasn't all they'd expected  

 

One of my most vivid memories is of sitting in the Fischer's living room surrounded by what seemed like scores of children. I had on a short-sleeved dress. While we were talking, a group of the younger children surrounded me, and they began to run their hands over my arms. I couldn't understand why until one of their mothers said, "It's that they've never seen a woman's arms uncovered before."

 

As I got more into the interviews in Hildale, I discovered that there are things to consider when you live in a polygamous community. One is that boys and girls are born in fairly equal numbers. That presents a problem when one man can have dozens of wives. The main concern: there weren't enough women to go around. This was solved, unfortunately, by weeding out the boys who weren't wanted in the community, the ones who the sect's leaders would rather disappear. They were called the lost boys.

 

What I was told during my time in Hildale was that the boys the sect planned to keep were groomed to stay, and the others, beginning in their early teen years, were manipulated to leave. The deed was accomplished by pushing and pursuing the unwanted boys, making the town uncomfortable for them.

 

The other thing was that the girls weren't allowed to choose who they married, but rather assigned to husbands by their prophet's decrees (based on revelations from God).

 

So, that's the inspiration for the setting of my Clara Jefferies mystery series. I drew on those experiences to create the town of Alber and its rather unusual residents. I hope you enjoy the books as much as I'm enjoying writing them. I'm currently hard at work on book three, and I am loving every minute of it.

 

Oh, and if you read the books and love them, any of my books actually, I'd be delighted if you'd write a review where you purchased your book. It means a lot to have reader recommendations.

 

Thank you, and happy reading!

 

Kathryn

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THE FALLEN GIRLS

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Books take months to write and more months to hit the stores; so when one comes out, it's thrilling.

 

I'm especially excited about my current effort: THE FALLEN GIRLS. It's out today, and it's a particularly satisfying debut since it's the first in a new mystery series starring Police Chief Clara Jefferies. 

 

The story in a nutshell: A Dallas detective, Clara gets a call late one Saturday while she's at the office. It's from an old friend, Max Anderson, who she once felt very close to, and he's asking her to return to their hometown, Alber, Utah. At first, Clara refuses. That town, set high in a mountain valley, holds painful memories for Clara, and she recoils at the thought of returning there - for any reason.

 

Then Max explains; he's a cop now, too, chief deputy in the county sheriff's office, and the case he's working involves someone close to Clara, a member of her own family. A young girl is missing: Clara's twelve-year-old half-sister, Delilah.

 

"Delilah has disappeared," Max says. "At least we think she has. And your family isn't cooperating."

 

A frantic rush back to Alber, where Clara's past waits to confront her, and she's thrust into a murky investigation. Clara's mother tells her that Delilah is fine, and she orders Clara to leave. Why doesn't Clara believe her? No one produces Delilah, and Clara's sister Lily pushes their mother to open up and tell the truth: Delilah is in grave danger.

 

This book was so much fun to write!

 

I love Clara and Max, Clara's complicated family made up of three mothers and dozens of siblings. The town isn't happy that Clara, who fled the town to save her own life, has returned. They want her gone. And Clara's father has died, keeping her from confronting him about the horror her life was because he failed to stand up for her.

 

Filled with pulse-pounding action, The Fallen Girls will keep you up at night, waiting to turn the next page. I so hope you enjoy it, and that you look forward to book two in the series scheduled to debut this coming fall: 2020.

 

I hope you and yours are all safe and healthy. Thank you for reading the books. It means the world to me. And welcome Clara Jefferies. I'm delighted to introduce you to the world! 

 

 

Links to buy The Fallen Girls

 

Amazon: https://geni.us/B085H87WFBCover

Apple: https://buff.ly/332rWJG

Kobo: https://buff.ly/3cK2Ofa

Google: https://buff.ly/2IvzJpV

BN.com: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-fallen-girls-kathryn-casey/1136662857?ean=9781838886028

 

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IN PLAIN SIGHT: The Kaufman County Prosecutor Murders

 
 
 
 
 
 

Today's the day. More than three years in the making, IN PLAIN SIGHT hits brick-and-mortar and Internet booksellers. This is such a fascinating case, I'm struggling with where to begin.

 

Let's start where I did, when I first heard about the case. In January 2013, I was home working on my last book, POSSESSED, when my husband shouted at me to come to the living room. Something big had happened, and news reports were breaking into regular programming to announce that a block from the courthouse in the center of the small town of Kaufman, Texas, someone had gunned down  an assistant district attorney named Mark Hasse. It happened as the workday began, in broad daylight. "Who would do that?" my husband wondered out loud. "I mean, who'd shoot an assistant DA, especially in such a public place?"

 

"Wherever you are, we'll find you!" I heard Mark Hasse's boss, the Kaufman County DA, threaten the killer the following afternoon. Clearly angry, Mike McLelland had the demeanor of a man who wasn't making idle threats.  With every ounce of his being, he intended to corral the gunman and take him down.

 

For weeks after, I was mesmerized by the case. Every morning, Good Morning America had an update. In the evenings, the national news reports mused about the possible killers. Most of the media attention focused on the Aryan Brotherhood or the Mexican Cartel. Then the news reports faded, and we were left wondering: What happened?

 

Incredibly, two months later, on the day before Easter, it happened again. Suddenly a breaking news bulletin flashed across TV screens and Internet sites: KAUFMAN COUNTY DA AND WIFE FOUND MURDERED.

 

Mike McLelland, the big man in the black cowboy hat who'd threatened his friend's killer, had been slain in his suburban home, along with his wife, Cynthia. 

 

From that point on, the case became the top law enforcement priority across the nation. President Obama monitored the investigation's progress in the White House. Someone had murdered an innocent woman and two prosecutors, declaring war on law enforcement throughout the nation. Again, the rumors swirled, speculation mounted, TV pundits railed about the dangers of the Aryan Cartel. But no arrests were made. Who could be behind it? And why?

 

Then, finally, answers. A month after the McLellands died TV news helicopters hovered over a one-story brick home on the outskirts of Kaufman, while inside a crime scene unit conducted a search. When it ended, Eric Williams, a former justice of the peace, was brought down to the county jail for booking. Days later, his wife, Kim, joined him. 

 

Such unlikely suspects. They weren't at all what the experts predicted. It seemed those who were supposed to know had been wrong about everything except for one aspect of the killings: the motive. There the experts hit the proverbial nail on the head when they said the killings reeked of revenge. 

 

Sometimes a case pops up that piques my curiosity. I wonder why things happen, and why the people involved made the decisions they did. What led to the murders? Why would a former lawyer and justice of the peace, along with his wife, plot three such terrible crimes. I had to find out. I wanted to understand. 

 

The result is IN PLAIN SIGHT. And with this book, I got very lucky. The two people at the center of the killings had turned down all requests for interviews, until I asked. Then over a period of a year and a half, I spent nine hours in prisons interviewing Eric and Kim Williams. These are their only interviews to date. 

 

In the end, that made such a difference. IN PLAIN SIGHT is a behind the scenes look at three of the most notorious murders of the century. 

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Why I wrote DELIVER US

I often have readers email to ask how certain books came about. It's an understandable question. I mean, just peruse your daily newspaper. I write about crime cases, real ones, usually murders. Sadly, newspapers across the U.S., actually, I suspect, around the world, are filled with possible subjects. Some, like the Jodi Arias or Casey Anthony cases, make news for months, even years. Others come and go, generating little more than a paragraph or two in the city section. No matter how much attention each attracts, they all have stories behind them, people involved, events that led to the killings, investigations that may or may not have led to killers.

So why write a book on the I-45/Texas Killing Fields? Why now?

For those of you who aren't familiar with the cases, the truth is that they've haunted me since soon after I landed in Houston, back in the eighties. Over the years, I've seen the articles in the Houston Chronicle, teenage girls abducted and missing on or near I-45. In the nineties, the Chronicle and the Galveston County Daily News both started running charts, showing the girls' photos.

From that point on, I knew one day I would have to write about the cases. I couldn't forget the girls. They lived in the back of my mind. As I wrote book after book, I always knew eventually I'd have to do my best to find out who the girls were, how they'd disappeared, and why their murders remained unsolved. I confess that it became something of a compulsion.

"But why now?" you ask. Some of these cases are more than forty years old. Why do they deserve attention at this point in time?

Why not now?

Ironically, I began my research at a time when some of the cases first started to come together. One actually led to a trial. While I worked on DELIVER US, I discovered that although they'd never entered a courtroom charged with any of the girls' murderers, there were suspects. So I did what I always do in my books; I gave the folks believed to have committed the murders the opportunity to talk. I went inside Texas prisons and sat down with men who described themselves as vicious serial killers. And I listened as they told me how and why they murdered their victims.

It was terrifying.

DELIVER US took me three solid years to research and write. I investigated eighteen murder cases. Attended two trials. Interviewed three inmates behind prison walls.

The result, I admit, is a troubling book. It's an unflinching look inside a tragedy, the continuing murders of teenage girls just outside America's fourth largest city. This isn't happening in isolation, but along one of the nation's busiest highways.

I looked at this phenomenon from all sides: survivors, victims' families, investigators, and the alleged killers. And in the end, this book changed me in ways I couldn't have predicted.

I hope you'll read the prologue to DELIVER US, now available by clicking the link under excerpts in the left-hand column of this Website. And if you like the sample, that you'll read the book.

Why? These are important cases, exposing evil at its core. And the girls deserve to be remembered.  Read More 
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My day with the TV crew

Monday was a big day for me. I left my office! Writers spend a lot of time locked up in our home offices, shutting out the rest of the world. But this past Monday, I departed my Houston home mid-morning for a drive to Katy, Texas, the location of the house where David Temple murdered his wife Belinda. The Temple case is the subject of my true crime book SHATTERED. The reason for my drive to Katy? A producer for the ID TV series DEADLY SINS wanted to interview me about the case for an upcoming episode.

What's it like doing television interviews about crime cases? That's what a Facebook friend asked when I mentioned my experience on social media. Well, it's usually pretty interesting. The process actually starts long before the day of the filming, when the producer, in this case a woman named Tania, conducts a pre-interview on the phone, asking  Read More 
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A favor, if you don't mind

I don't usually do this, and I apologize if it offends anyone, but I have a favor to ask. I just read an article about the importance of on-line reader reviews. I'm not surprised that people take them seriously when deciding what to buy. I've always believed that word of mouth is the most important factor in selling a book. And that's really what on-line reviews are, advice from readers to readers. Now it appears that on-line reviews have a lot more importance than I'd ever imagined.

As many of you know, I have a new book out, Deadly Little Secrets. It's doing very well, but I'd so like to get it higher on the bestseller lists. It took me forever to write. (I know. I'm a bit slow.) And I really believe in this book. It has such an incredible message to tell. It's an important story, one of tragedy and redemption.

I would sincerely appreciate it if those of you out there who've enjoyed the book would take the time to write a review on an on-line retailer: Amazon, BN.com, iApple, Goodreads, any of those available on the Web. It would help in getting the word out. Anonymously or with your own name works. No preference. Thank you either way! Read More 
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Fifty Shades’ Christian Grey: A Hero or an Abuser?

A few weeks back I wrote a post that ran on Forbes about the wildly popular book Fifty Shades of Grey, the first in the mega-hit 50 Shades series. My premise was that I find the book troubling because the main character, Christian Grey, reminds me of many of the abusers I’ve reported on over my decades as a crime writer. I’m concerned that women and men  Read More 
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The high point of Easter Dinner: Dessert

Hi, All!

We just finished Easter dinner, and it was so good, and I simply have to share another recipe with you. The high point was dessert. We made Bananas Foster ala Brennan's, the New Orleans/Houston restaurant that's synonymous with this amazing dessert. Oh, my gosh, so good. So whenever you're up for  Read More 
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My Favorite Recipes: Crawfish Etouffee

Today I made one of my favorite recipes, and it turned out so well, I thought it would be fun to share the recipe. I can't take credit for it. This recipe for crayfish etouffee came from a friend in Louisiana.

Ingredients:

1/4 pound butter Read More 
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One Little Girl: Caylee Anthony and why we care

Lately, I've had a hard time concentrating on work. I keep wondering what the heck is going on in Florida.

Of course, you all know what I'm talking about. I'd bet the majority of folks in the U.S. have at least heard of the tragic death of two-year-old Caylee Anthony. We first learned in July 2008 that this precious child was missing, when her grandmother, Cindy, called police, saying Caylee hadn't been seen in a month. For the past three years, we've been mesmerized by the search for the child, the discovery of her body, and the bizarre behavior of Casey, little Caylee's mom. Now our attention has turned to the courtroom drama as Casey is tried for her daughter's murder. A guilty verdict could bring the death penalty.

Apparently I'm not the only one  Read More 
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