You’d be hard pressed to find a more versatile writer working in the thriller genre right now than Jeff Abbott.
Whether it’s Mark Greaney-like action thrillers or Harlan Coben-like suspense thrillers, Abbott can do it all, and he does it consistently at a very high level. For example, Abbott is known for his bestselling Sam Capra series, which reached new heights a few years ago when The First Order came out. Then, last year, he turned in Blame, a riveting domestic thriller that’s every bit as good as Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.
Now, Abbott is set to release The Three Beths which, frankly, might just be the best thing he’s delivered so far. Just ahead of the book’s release, he graciously agreed to go on the record for our Five Questions segment, and I asked him about everything from how he came up with this latest story idea to when readers might see Sam Capra again. Read the full Q&A below, then make sure to head out and pick up The Three Beths, in stores everywhere Tuesday, October 23.
TRBS: I don’t know how you do it, but you just keep getting better and better . . . The Three Beths is just fantastic! How did you come up with the story idea for this one, and how much research did you have to do before actually sitting down to write it?
Abbott: That’s very kind of you, thank you. The idea for The Three Beths came from thinking about: what is it like when someone goes missing and someone else in the family is assumed guilty, but guilt can’t be proven? How does a family live under this constant cloud of suspicion? In this case, there’s a missing woman named Beth, and her husband Craig is generally assumed guilty by his neighbors, to have gotten away with disposing of her, and this has completely unraveled him and his grown daughter, Mariah. I kept thinking what would be like, for Mariah, to be constantly defending an accused parent. I thought: well, if I were Mariah, I’d be trying to find an alternate explanation. And that was the seed of the idea, borne out of a daughter’s need to prove her father innocent. She discovers that two other women named Beth have gone missing and she starts to dig into those cases. But in looking for an alternate explanation she may be investigating an even more shocking crime. Regarding research, well, I do just enough to get started. I don’t always know what I need to know yet, if that makes sense. So I get enough done to get a solid understanding of the characters and their world and then I start writing, and I put notes and comments to myself to do further research where needed.
TRBS: Your ability to switch between action-packed novels and physiological suspense thrillers is amazing. How are the two genres, as a writer, different for you when plotting out a book? Do you approach them the same way, or is one more challenging?
Abbott: For both, I do write out an outline of several pages where I map out the book. I think in the psychological novels I probably have to spend more time on the characters and the reveals of information—it’s a slower burn. And the characters are not as mobile, they’re kind of trapped in their setting, their immediate world. I tend to think you want a psychological suspense novel to feel claustrophobic. In the action novels, you also have character depth to explore and you have reveals, but the reveal might also include a very physical scene, a confrontation, a showdown. And the characters are often constantly on the move in those novels—they’re not trapped so much by locale as they are by the situation. I don’t really think one is inherently more challenging—they are just challenging in different ways. They’re like two different dances, with their own choreography and music.
TRBS: Speaking of action-packed thrillers, it’s been two years since your last Sam Capra book, The First Order, came out. Any idea if and when readers might see him again?
Abbott: I would very much like to write another Sam Capra novel, and have had a lot of thoughts on it. I really put Sam through the wringer in that novel, and he needed a vacation. But I want to bring him back, and I’ll have to figure out a schedule to get it written.
TRBS: Who are some of your favorite authors, and what was the last great book you read?
Abbott: So many great authors today, so little time. I’m a big fan of Harlan Coben, Meg Gardiner, JT Ellison, Alison Gaylin, Ace Atkins, Laura Lippman, Michael Connelly, Laura Benedict . . . honestly, if I kept listing people we’d be here all night. I’m always recommending books on my Twitter feed so look for more recs there, at @jeffabbott. Today I just finished Lou Berney’s excellent November Road and he and I are doing a signing together in Houston on October 26. It’s a superb novel about a mobster tied to the Kennedy assassination who goes on the run and encounters an Oklahoma housewife who’s just left her husband. It’s wonderfully done, with great characters and sharp pacing, and I hope it’s a big success for Lou.
TRBS: Lastly, now that The Three Beths is set to hit bookstores, what’s next for you?
Abbott: This week my family and I are moving back into our house, which we lost to fire fifteen months ago. That and I’m working on a new standalone novel, also set in Lakehaven like Blame and The Three Beths, and also working on some other writing projects I want to explore.
From New York Times bestselling writer Jeff Abbott, a psychologically intense and emotionally gripping new suspense novel about a daughter’s desperate search for her missing mother-one that may lead her closer to home than she ever anticipated.
My mom would never leave me.
This has been Mariah Dunning’s motto. Her compass. Her belief. So when she glimpses her mother–who’s been missing for the past year–on the other side of a crowded food court, Mariah’s conviction becomes stronger than ever. Or is she losing her mind?
An unlikely coincidence?
When Beth Dunning disappeared without a trace, suspicion for her murder-despite the lack of a body or any physical evidence-immediately fell upon Mariah’s father. Until Mariah stumbles upon two other recent disappearances from Lakehaven. And all three women had the same name: Beth.
Or a sinister connection?
Mariah would give anything to find out what happened to her mother, and clear her father’s name. But the truth may be more devastating than she could have imagined . . .
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.