“Sunrise Highway:” Fresh Approach in Serial Killer Thriller

in Thrillers by

A serial killer of women!  How do you write a thriller about such a person that’s fresh and original?

First of all, as is the case in Peter Blauner’s Sunrise Highway (Macmillan), you cut back and forth in time, between…

October 2012. As Hurricane Sandy hits New York City, a man in Rockaway, Brooklyn, hearing pounding on his front door, goes to the peephole.  He sees a young woman, handcuff on her wrist with a chain attached.  Begging to be let in, she’s crying, “Someone is after me.  And if they find me they’re gonna kill me.”

August 2017. NYPD Detective Lourdes Robles, Brooklyn born and bred, examines the body of a murdered woman, wrapped in plastic, washed up on Far Rockaway, Brooklyn, just across the channel from Long Island’s Nassau County.

April 1977. Suffolk County (Long Island) prosecutor Kenny Markis uses the testimony of 17-year-old Joey Tolliver to put away a black man for a murder of a 15-year-old girl, a murder he probably didn’t commit.

September 1982. Joey Tolliver, now a Suffolk County cop, in his cruiser at midnight, stops a young woman motorist, Stephanie Lapidus, rapes her, strangles her and plants evidence to frame another black man.

August 1984. As Kenny Markis is elected Suffolk County D.A. and Joey Tolliver celebrates with him, Joey is approached by Suffolk County cop Amy Nelson.  Nelson, who was at the Lapidus crime scene, tells Joey that somebody, probably a cop, planted evidence there.  And the governor may be starting an investigation into the whole Suffolk County police department.

August 2017. Lourdes Robles goes to the headquarters of the Suffolk County police department.  Robles is on a joint task force investigating the murders – stretching back at least 15 years – of six young women, their bodies wrapped in plastic and found near the same road, the road that goes through Brooklyn as NY 27 and South Conduit Boulevard and then through Long Island as Sunrise Highway.  Robles goes to talk to Suffolk County chief of police, Joey Tolliver.

All this and much more is in the first 88 pages, the first fourth of Sunrise Highway, a new thriller that is a fresh and original take on that familiar story, a serial killer of women.  It’s truly thrilling.

Yes, one thing Blauner does is cut back and forth in time across 40 years, presenting jagged pieces of the puzzle so the reader has to do what Lourdes Robles is trying do: fit them together.

Another thing Blauner does:  He makes Long Island along Sunrise Highway almost a character in the novel.  He makes it vivid and almost as puzzling to Brooklyn’s Lourdes Robles when she drives out here August 2017.  It’s “God-given White People Country.  Still bristling with “Make America Great Again” signs nine months after the election…Flag Country.  Nimby land…blue skies and boats in driveways.  Backyards that deserved their own zip code a half-mile from broke-ass wood-frame ghettoes with pit bulls snarling at the meter readers.”

Lourdes asks her Brooklyn cop partner, “What’s dangerous duty out here? Traffic control? Getting kitties down from the trees?”

But as Lourdes Robles closes in on the serial killer, it becomes very dangerous to her.  Will she end up like Suffolk County cop Amy Nelson, strangled on Halloween October 1989?  Will she end up like Leslie Jesperson?  Working for the New York State Department of Investigation, looking into the deaths of Stephanie Lapidus, Amy Nelson and another woman, she confronted Joey Tolliver, but where does this take her?

Another thing Blauner does:  He puts the reader into the cold, manipulative mind of the killer, so the reader understands the killer and, queasily, almost stands in the killer’s shoes.

For the reader is in the hands of an expert: an Edgar-winning, New York Times bestselling author of seven other novels who has also written for such TV shows as “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Blue Bloods.”  With cinematic skill, Blauner plunges the reader into the real world of police and politics along Sunrise Highway…and places at its center a skilled killer who rules it.  How can anyone take down a man who has “a major police department, a raft of local politicians, and God knows how many regular citizens terrorized and under his control so he could get away with almost anything”?

For some people, this highway is a dead end.

Sunrise Highway is now available to purchase.

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ABOUT PETER BLAUNER:

Image courtesy of amazon

Peter Blauner is the author of multiple novels, including most recently Sunrise Highway, but also Slow Motion Riot, winner of an Edgar Allan Poe award for best first novel from Mystery Writers of America, and The Intruder, a New York Times bestseller. He began his career as a journalist for New York magazine in the 1980s – covering crime, politics, and other kinds of bad behavior – and segued into writing fiction in the 1990s.

Jim Parry, a Harvard graduate, has had a long career in advertising, including starting two agencies with national accounts (Conoco, Pfizer, Best Western Hotels). His thriller, The Discovery, was published by Crowell, a division of what is now HarperCollins. He has co-written screenplays sold to Columbia and Universal and most recently has blogged for Huffington Post. He is back to writing thrillers and is collaborating with Ron Barrett (co-creator and illustrator of "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs") on illustrated books for adults and children.

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