A Word From The Author
I was born and raised a Jersey Girl. I received my bachelor’s degree in nursing from Graceland University and have served on the front lines in community hospitals and as a civilian nurse at the US Army’s lead infectious Disease Institute (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland.
My first novel, CRESCENT VEIL, is a novel about germ warfare which Heartland Reviews praised as ‘nonstop action based on the real deal by authors who should know what they are presenting’.
My second novel, IN HIS STEAD, is an award winning look at the effects of wartime service on families. With a number of relatives having served or currently serving in the military, IN HIS STEAD is a tribute to the impossible jobs, bravery, and sacrifices made by our service members and their families every day in the name of peace and freedom. Sales of IN HIS STEAD support HeartsApart.org, a charity for military families.
What Readers Are Saying
A serial killer cozies up to another murderer who’s been making headlines in this psychological thriller. Former combat medic Max Mason now works as a nurse at the Carlson Brain Injury & Rehabilitation Center in New Hampshire. He’s also a serial killer, or so he confides to comatose patient Lincoln Douglas Raider. Lincoln’s injury was a simple fall while cleaning the gutters at his house. But his identity is a lot more complicated, as many people now believe he’s the media-dubbed “Huntsman” who has killed several women. Aside from the first victim, each woman has vanished, with her heart and an apple later turning up at her front door. Max becomes obsessed with talking to Lincoln about the psychopathic inclinations they presumably share. He likewise befriends Lincoln’s wife, Jolene, who asks Max for help with her recovering husband when he finally awakens. This gives Max the chance to learn all he can about Lincoln and his twisted mentality at the couple’s farm. But notwithstanding his recurrent nightmares of hurting someone, Lincoln doesn’t apparently remember certain events before his coma. Moreover, his love for Jolene and their newborn daughter looks genuine—hardly the behavior of a killer lacking empathy. As the evidence against Lincoln is circumstantial (he has a vague tie to each victim), Max can’t help but entertain the idea that this man isn’t a murderer. Getting closer to Lincoln could get him answers, but it’s sure to be precarious, as this supposed serial killer’s mind may be unraveling.
Sanders shrouds this mystery in ambiguity, a haziness that clears up as the story progresses. Max, for example, who says little about what he’s done as a serial killer, has a specific agenda in getting next to Lincoln. In addition, “The Captive,” an unnamed woman who’s the Huntsman’s seventh and latest victim, provides an intermittent narrative perspective. It’s not easy to sympathize with the cast members, including Max, until their personalities take shape much later in the novel. But the few supporting characters shine—the Martins, Lincoln’s neighbors who believe in the man’s innocence, and Det. Darby Albright, Max’s sister, whose first murder case as a rookie cop was one of the Huntsman’s unfortunate victims. Despite allusions to serial murders and even Max’s efforts to jog Lincoln’s memory of the brutal deaths, Sanders’ novel is only moderately graphic and instead is heavy on suspense. Uncertainty over what Lincoln may or may not have done makes him all the more frightening; readers are either getting a close-up of a psychopath or no clues to who or where the real killer is. The author churns out unforgettable, sometimes scary moments, such as Max literally getting stuck in a muddy cornfield: “I attempt to stand, and my feet sink deeper. Cold spring water pools and trickles down my legs, filling my shoes and adding to my weight. I’m up to my waist in mud and freezing.” The inevitable twists in the latter half, even if largely predictable, deliver a memorable and convincing final act, with an especially strong last scene.
This shrewd exploration of a killer’s mindset will unnerve and enthrall readers.
“In Sanders’ disquieting plunge into the murderous mind, young women have been disappearing in an idyllic New Hampshire town, and nobody knows when the serial killer called the Huntsman and his Rohypnol-laced apples will strike again. ICU nurse Max Mason thought he’d seen the worst of humanity in Afghanistan, but he wasn’t prepared for the Huntsman to kidnap his pregnant wife, Annie, or for the prime suspect, Lincoln Douglas Raider, to fall into his lap as a coma patient. Annie’s location remains a mystery, but Max, striking up a relationship, tells Linc that he has a secret of his own: he, too, is a killer, and they could be amazing partners, except for Linc’s wife, Jolene, newborn daughter, Rosy, and Max’s detective sister, Darby.
As with the Huntsman in Snow White, themes of jealousy and love drive the plot: the Huntsman, stalking unsuspecting women; Max, willing to do whatever it takes to find his missing wife; Jolene, frantic for her ideal family life; Darby, hunting the Huntsman; and Linc, living on a farm that Sanders makes richly creepy, seeming to confess to crimes of his own. Sanders teases out the mysteries with an emphasis on suspense rather than serial-killer gore. Max’s narration is compelling, and the compassion he feels for his accidental friends proves affecting, but readers will likely have a sense of what shoe’s going to drop quite a while before it finally does. The final act, though, is gripping, and the novel is powered by fleet, sharp-edged scenes, memorable dialogue, and pared-down prose tinged with dark poetry.
The complexity of Max and Linc’s relationship elevates the mystery into something like a duel or even a suspenseful courtship, as Sanders challenges and rewards readers’ expectations—and empathy. The element of found family is unsettling, as is the detachment with which Linc prepares a rabbit stew—“Skinned, Fluffy has disappeared. It’s just meat”—and discusses coyotes’ zeal for blood. Such scenes pulse with nervy power.
Read more about the book
ICU nurse Max Mason fears his pregnant wife is the latest victim of a serial killer who has terrorized their small New Hampshire town. The investigation is at a standstill as the prime suspect, Lincoln Raider, is in a coma. In a desperate and unethical act, Max sits at Lincoln’s bedside night after night employing brainwashing techniques and subliminal suggestion to convince the suspect they are kindred-spirits, hoping it will lead to a confession or at least a clue. When Lincoln awakens he draws Max into a whirlpool of terror, deception, and violence, ultimately pulling Lincoln’s wife and daughter into the vortex as well.