Two Lists

In Two Lists, Malcom “Mal” Winters and his close friend, V. N. “Vinn” Atchison, confront a series of bizarre murders. Staged crime scenes laugh at them, daring them to connect the dots. And solve the crimes before someone else is murdered. Oddly, the murders seem to follow two lists created in the psychology field about those who would be most, and least, likely to commit murder. With each murder, props meticulously set the stage that indicate two different careers. And all the suspects congregate at Puzzlers Anonymous. What is it with that, anyway?

Mal and Vinn move as fast as they can with the help of Rebecca and Leo, Mal’s tenants. But not fast enough. Among the victims – their young friend, Maggie, the journalism student.

Mal and Vinn’s mounting frustration is sharply depicted in this latest from Thomas J. Thorson. When Mal and Vinn must take justice into their own hands, how will they react? Will they kill again, like in their previous lives? Even for justice? As Mal says, “it’s a slippery slope…Over time, your become immune to the emotional effect of holding a knife to someone’s throat or putting a gun to her head, and it becomes easier each time to follow through. At some point you actually begin to relish the rush…”

Also, see my reviews of Thorson’s previous Mal Winters books: Bad Fortune, The Cosmic Killings, The Connubial Corpse, and Heirs Apparent.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Get a copy of Two Lists by Thomas Thorson.

(I receive a small commission if you purchase the book using the above link.)

Two Lists
by Thomas J. Thorson
© 2023
Thorshammer Books

Thomas J. Thorson

Thomas J. ThorsonFrom time to time, I will post interviews with authors whose books I’ve reviewed on this blog. So, first up is Thomas J. Thorson, author of the Malcom Winters mystery series.

I never reviewed Thomas J. Thorson’s first book, Serendipity. But thus far, I’ve reviewed the books in Thorson’s Malcom Winters mystery series: Heirs Apparent, The Connubial Corpse, The Cosmic Killings, and Bad Fortune. In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting a review of his newest addition to this series, Two Lists.

Did you always want to be a writer?
I’ve always been an avid reader even as a young child. I remember trying to write a war novel when I was in junior high–I got about half a page done, it was terrible, and I gave up. My true desire developed when I was an English major in college and spent a lot of time reading great and not-so-great books.

What got you interested in the main subject of your books?
My mom turned me on to Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe when I was young, and I’d read those stories in the dark with a book light when I should have been sleeping. Since then, I’ve always loved mysteries, so it was my go-to choice when I started to write.

Do you have any manuscripts written prior to your first published book that you feel will never be published?
Full manuscripts, no. But I was never without a notebook and pen nearby and would jot down plot ideas or snippets of a scene or character I thought would be fun. Some of them are really good ideas but they never fit into any of my novels, so they’ll probably languish unwritten.

Have you done any writing other than fiction?
I set out to write a mystery but a conversation with my daughter got me distracted and heading down a different path, so my first book called “Serendipity” is non-fiction and focuses on accidental discoveries and chance events that changed the course of history.

How do you handle publishing your books? And what about marketing?
My first novel was put out through a vanity publisher. I was naïve and thought they’d market my book. After that, I’ve self-published and love the total control over the content. I’ve been fortunate to surround myself with a wonderful editor and a talented and knowledgeable friend who does my design and all of the technical stuff required to get the novels printed. I market mostly through social media but frankly am terrible at it.

Do you like the direction in which your writing career is headed? Why or why not?
I’ve never relied on my books as my primary source of income which has allowed me to proceed at my own pace and under my own terms. I set out to write one book but now have my sixth one due out this month, so I’m happy with that. My fifth novel is the last in a series, so I may jump to a different genre just for the challenge. If I never publish again, I’ll be satisfied with and proud of what I’ve done.

Is there any area in which you feel you need help to succeed?
Marketing, no doubt. People who read my books really like them and I get great reviews, but I need to reach a larger audience.

What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
I’ve come to love my characters and the universe I created for them, so wrapping it all up had some pretty significant emotional moments.

If you write a series, have the characters in your series become easier to write about?
This sounds pretentious, but my characters early on took on a life of their own and I would hear their voices telling me what to say and what behavior they would manifest in a particular situation. But yes, it became easier as their personalities and character traits became more established. They could still surprise me though.

What previous jobs have you had? Do you still work at something other than writing?
I’m a real estate attorney working full-time. Writing has always been more of a hobby than a career, although one that takes up most of my time away from work.

To purchase any of the books in the Malcom Winters series:
Heirs Apparent
The Connubial Corpse
The Cosmic Killings
Bad Fortune

I will receive a small commission if a purchase is made through these links.

Bad Fortune

Bad FortuneBad Fortune by Thomas J. Thorson is so hot, it sizzles in your hand. This fourth book in the Malcom Winters Mystery series grabs you within the first few pages.

We get to learn more about Rebecca and also about Leo’s real family. Family members usually stick together, right? Not so in this case. Far from it, in fact.

Strange things start happening to Rebecca, such as someone hacking her credit card. And someone attacks Leo. What does this have to do with Sara, an ex-friend of Rebecca? Who would want to attack Malcom and Vinn’s friends? What can Malcom and Vinn do to help?

Thorson fills out the depiction of Leo and Ted/Rebecca to some degree. Maybe someday we’ll learn a bit more about Malcom Winters and V. N. (Vinn) Achison. Why did Malcom assume the name of another person? This was discussed briefly in Heirs Apparent, the first book in this series. (See my review of Heirs Apparent). Let’s hope for more personal background on Malcom and Vinn in future outings .

In my view, letting us into Mal and Vinn’s previous lives, even a tad, would add oomph and intensity to these two characters and their blossoming love affair. As it is, sometimes they seem a little superficial. Both Malcom and Vinn have secret past lives. Will the reader ever learn the how, where and why of their earlier lives? Let’s hope that we get at least a tiny peek behind the curtain in future additions to this enjoyable series.

I received a copy of Bad Fortune in exchange for an honest review.

Bad Fortune
by Thomas J. Thorson
© 2022
Thorshammer Books

Cosmic Killings

Cosmic KillingsThomas J. Thorson’s The Cosmic Killings delivers. Thorson rewards the reader with relatable characters, snappy prose and a succinct plot. Also, ironic humor appears frequently enough to keep readers chuckling.

Humor sneaks in when a volunteer at the zoo calls the police “incompetent boobs.” Late in the story, the English Department Head at the university where Mal teaches, disparages Mal’s teaching methods. I erupted into outright laughter when Mal says the following to confuse and dismiss him:

“Stuart, no need to be alarmed. I’m sure you’re keenly aware that when it comes to the problematization paradigm of students’ dialectic approach to disputatious engagements, where iatrogenic paths are often the result of idiopathic homogeneity, professorial divagation toward the inapposite, here in the form of a demiurge, can lead to originative solutions. Don’t you agree?”

Even Mal agrees to himself that this is “pure babble.”

Relevant information about Amish culture and Raelism slow the plot a bit. However, things speed up as Vinn Achison and Malcom Winters’ investigation heats up.

Vinn and Malcom (Mal) help bring down a killer who murders two young people. But they feel that the case isn’t finished. The police officer who oversees the official, but closed, investigation, agrees. So, with the officer’s blessing, Vin and Mal continue their probing and research. And feel like they’re traveling “a path of uncertainty in a crusade without end.”

Great Characterization

Vin and Mal’s deepening relationship rings true. They enjoy everything from cooking for each other to trying to outsmart each other in their investigations. Leo and Ted/Rebecca, Mal’s tenants, make appearances. As usual, they help in the current murder investigation.

Thorson’s new book delves a bit too much into lesser-known religions (Amish, a traditionalist Christian group, and Raelism, a UFO religion founded in the 1970s). But it still charmed and satisfied me.

See my reviews of Thorson’s previous books, Heirs Apparent and Connubial Corpse, here and here.

I received a free copy of this book, but gave an honest opinion.

The Cosmic Killings
Thomas J. Thorson
© 2021

Heirs Apparent – A journey of love and death

Heirs Apparent

Malcom Winters, alias for the initially unnamed narrator of Heirs Apparent, by Thomas J. Thorson, escorts the reader on a journey. Wandering through Greyhound terminals, always on his way to the next place, Winters introduces us to a variety of characters, human and architectural. Freddie Four-Fingers, the African American forger, from Winters’ old life. Felicity “Fyre” Stockton, Winters’ new lover, as tight-lipped about her past and present as Winters is about himself.

The list of bizarre characters grows longer once Winters settles down in a three-flat he buys in Chicago. Leo, a tenant, and ersatz chef, supposedly made an assassination attempt on Castro. Ted, or Rebecca, a cross-dressing businessman, Winters’ other tenant. V. N. “Vinn” captures the prize for normalcy in Winters’ expanding network. She’s a science professor at the local university where Winters takes a creative writing professorship for which he’s not credentialed. But even Vinn keeps secrets about her past.

Are Fyre’s secrets the reason for an assailant to fire at her and Winters when they exit a restaurant? Why does Fyre evade Winters, who follows her to the Old Post Office? Who kills Fyre and wounds Winters while there? Help tracking Fyre’s killer comes from Winters’ network of odd-fellow friends.

Leo, Ted/Rebecca and eventually Fyre are fleshed out in Heirs Apparent. Even the Old Post Office comes alive under Thorson’s light and able touch. Each character is deftly drawn and given their own, credible, story. Vinn and Winters remain something of an enigma—hopefully to be further developed in the next installment in the Malcom Winters mystery series.

Heirs Apparent
by Thomas J. Thorson
Austin Macauley Publishers
© 2020