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Stone Cold Heart (Tracer book 13)

Laura Griffin

Pocket Books Pub

March 26th, 2019

Stone Cold Heart by Laura Griffin brings suspense to the forefront, sprinkled with some romance. The Tracer series shows the different aspects of CSI investigators, where each book highlights the approach to solving a crime.

Sara Lockhart is a forensic anthropologist with the Delphi Crime Center in Texas. She is called in after human bones are found in a park by police detective Nolan Hess. He wonders if these are the bones of a local teenage climber who vanished a year ago. The mystery ratchets up when more remains are found.  After more bones are discovered, Sara and Nolan race against time to find the serial killer before he abducts, tortures and kills more young women.

During the investigation, Sara and Nolan become attracted to each other. Nolan is a workaholic who is well-known for his integrity and his compassion. As a detective, he has great insight and judgment. While Sara has turned into a loner, wanting nothing more than to solve cases. She is strong, independent, and a workaholic that tries to avoid relationships. Although intelligent, spunky, dedicated, and willing to forge her own career path, she is the direct opposite when it comes to getting close to someone.

Readers will be on the edge of their seats as the mystery unravels.  The search to find the serial killer is riveting and as an added bonus Griffin develops an intriguing connection between Sara and Nolan.

Elise Cooper:  Why a forensic anthropologist?

Laura Griffin:  I have been fascinated by this field for a number of years.  I have read a lot of books and interviewed those in the field. The inspiration is a research center in Central Texas that helped me to come up with the fictional Delphi Center Forensic Lab.  The heroine, Sara, is a bone expert that can identify the type of bone and then uses it to unravel the murder.  Her field is somewhat like an archeologist, but with a crime solving twist. She gets called in when bones are found, or the decomposition of the body is so advanced that identification cannot happen.

EC:  Is seems like a fascinating field?

LG:  It is.  They can identify the difference between human and animal bones.  They can also use the bones to see if the cause of death was violent or from natural causes. 

EC:  What is Sara’s mission?

LG:  She is committed and smart, much like her father.  He was in the Coast Guard and like him, she has a mission to bring closure to families whose loved ones are missing.  This story starts out with hikers discovering bones in a gorge. Sara is trying to provide answers for this family because they are unable to grieve and are stuck in this limbo.  I wrote this book quote, “(Sara) couldn’t imagine the nightmare of having a child disappear and going without answers for many months or years.  The discovery of bones was reason to hope.”

EC:  How would you describe Sara?

LG:  Headstrong, pretty, assertive professionally, a science expert, thorough, dedicated, and empathetic.

EC:  How would you describe the police detective Nolan?

LG:  Sometimes impatient, wanting answers yesterday.  Determined, athletic, confidant, and caring. He grew up in the town and is a hometown hero.  While he becomes personally involved in solving a crime, Sara is an objective observer.

EC:  What about the relationship?

LG:  I think the hero and heroine have a conflict of personality. Nolan wants answers immediately, while Sara needs to dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s.  This is an opposites attract story, where each goes about life differently. Since both were burned by past relationships, they have their guard up.  Ultimately, they let their guard down and learn to trust each other.

EC:  It seems that today, guys cannot make a move on girls without being accused of sexual harassment, although you had Nolan do it?

LG:  With that first kiss he does take her off guard.  But she is not unwilling.  She is really into it and is a willing participate.  When I am writing a scene, it is not who initiates, the male or female, but are the participants willing or not. 

EC:  You also show how cadaver dogs are used?

LG:  I am a dog person.  I love dogs and always look for opportunities to insert them into the story.  Their sense of smell is so strong.  In this story, the dog kind of showed up everyone else.  By using a dog there is less damage to the remains.  People have to be careful not to leave a mark on the bones.

EC:  You also highlight rock climbing in the story?

LG:  The town I use is inspired by a small town in Central Texas where there is some rock climbing.  I am not a rock climber but have been interested in it.  Recently, National Geographic highlighted a famous rock climber who in Yosemite climbed rocks without a rope.  Rock climbers have their own culture. 

EC:  You also talk about Ultimate Frisbee?

LG:  I know of people who are really into it.  I wanted the characters at the Delphi Center to have some kind of sport.  I have a cousin in California that travels around to play it.  It is very popular here in Austin Texas.

EC:  This is a story where people have to be on guard?

LG:  People watch something on the news and think it happens to someone else. I want to bring an awareness that violence can happen anywhere and everywhere, even in our own backyard.  We should not turn a blind eye, which is why I put in this quote: “People never want to believe there is evil and cruelty in their midst.”

EC:  Through your character Sara, you raised awareness of NamUS and the Crime Scene Index?

LG:  I want to raise awareness.  This is the inspiration behind the entire series where past violent behavior can predict future behavior.  I was shocked to find how many untested rape kits there is in the country.  They are sitting in evidence rooms untested. What is happening more now is that the testing of rape cases is done in a timely manner to find the perpetrator.  Once the DNA is in the system, then hopefully many old cases can be solved.  The other side is that some family member who goes on a genealogy website and uploads their DNA in a data base, can have it used to link a family member to a crime.  There are ethical problems where there are family members who are unaware that they are being used to solve Cold Cases. People have submitted their genetic information and are unaware how it was used.

EC:  Can you give a heads up about your next book?

LG:  It is titled, Her Deadly Secrets and comes out in July.  This is part of the Wolf Security series.  The story has the hero working at Wolf Security and the heroine is a private investigator working on a case that is putting her life in danger.  I love drawing on the cast of characters that are former Marines.

EC:  What about the Tracer series?

LG:  There will be another one because I have a number of possibilities for a story; although I do not yet know who the main focus will be.