Monday, 22 November 2021

Daniella BernettA slip of the tongue is a dangerous thing. Not only does it expose indiscretions, it also can lead to murder. The latter especially applies to me. Like other authors, particularly women, I’m a very good listener. My smile encourages and emboldens my interlocutor to chunter on with innocent abandon. Although I’m not inherently patient (far from it, I must confess), when it comes to telling a story I can bide my time until that tempting little idea insinuates itself into the conversation. Then, I pounce with covetous glee. The poor layman would be shocked and scramble to understand this phenomenon, at last settling on the term “inspiration.” But it is even more simplistic. My Muse and I shamelessly justify this as necessary for the sake of art and, more importantly, my dear readers.

Thus was the case when I set out to write Viper’s Nest of Lies, the seventh book in my mystery series featuring journalist Emmeline Kirby and jewel thief/insurance investigator Gregory Longdon. The book is set in London and Malta. The plot came to me several years ago, when I was on a cruise around the British Isles. At the welcome dinner, everyone took a turn introducing himself or herself. Over the meal, it came up that I am a mystery novelist. Several of my fellow travelers were mystery fans and asked me about my books. One couple became quite enthusiastic and started offering me ideas for future stories. One suggestion stood out: What if someone arrives home after a vacation and finds a bloody knife in his or her luggage?

A Viper's Nest of Lies by Daniella Bernett

My brain tingled with excitement. This is precisely the predicament I plunged Emmeline into when the book opens. Weary after a trip to Scotland, she and Gregory land at Heathrow Airport desiring nothing more than to go home. However, a security officer is conducting a random search and asks her to open her bag. She’s stunned when he discovers a stiletto knife with a crust of dried blood. Alas, this triggers an avalanche of trouble that only Pandora could have viewed with merriment. This tangled web of revenge also entraps her friends, Detective Superintendent Oliver Burnell of Scotland Yard and Philip Acheson of the Foreign Office.

Setting always plays an important role in my books, so I decided that Gregory and Emmeline’s quest for the truth would lead them to Malta. This Mediterranean island nation was a British colony from July 1813 until it was granted independence in September 1964. Built by the Knights Templar, Malta’s history goes back centuries. The Romans and Ottomans, among others, found their way there at one point. During World War II, King George VI awarded the George Cross to Malta for “acts of greatest heroism” fighting the Nazis.

The picturesque Lower Barrakka Gardens, lovely baroque buildings, palaces and fortifications of Valletta, the capital, were a feast for my senses. But sometimes, it’s a curse to have an author’s curiosity.

I also learned that Malta is the playground of the super-rich and an international money-laundering haven. Criminals with money can buy a Maltese passport, known as a “Golden Visa,” which allows them to move freely and make investments in EU countries. In my research, I came across articles about Daphne Caruana Galizia, an anti-corruption journalist who was murdered in 2017. Yes, indeed. Corruption, murder and cover-up. They go hand in glove. So, you understand why Malta sent the adrenaline sluicing through my veins.

The taking of a human life is an absolute taboo. Emmeline and Gregory will never forgive me for what happened on beautiful Malta. I can’t blame them. But all I’m guilty of is listening. Is that a crime?

Daniella Bernett is a member of Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers, and is currently working another Emmeline and Gregory adventure. Viper’s Nest of Lies (Black Opal Books) September 2021, $15.99


Viper's Nest of Lies
Daniella Bernett
Thursday, 18 November 2021

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the annual author luncheon sponsored by the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County.

The guest of honor was Michael Connelly, interviewed by his long-time friend, author Scott Eyman.

Connelly, of course, is the author of the series about detective Harry Bosch.

Eyman has written several best-selling biographies on movie stars, the latest of which is Grant: A Brilliant Disguise. Eyman’s newly released book is 20th Century Fox: Darryl F. Zanuck and the Creation of the Modern Film Studio.

The banter between the two authors was entertaining and illuminating as Connelly discussed his work. One question: Did Connelly base Bosch on himself or someone else? Connelly said Bosch is a combination of many traits.

“I just wrote about a guy who I thought I’d like to ride with,” Connelly said.

And I think readers would agree—we all like to ride with Bosch.

Asked which authors he reads, Connelly mentioned that he often rereads Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister, especially Chapter 11, which is “a driving tour around L.A.,” he added.

In Connelly’s latest novel The Dark Hours, Harry Bosch again teams up with Det. Renée Ballard.

I love both those characters but I have to say my favorite character in The Dark Hours is Pinto, a Chihuahua mix “with golden eyes and a sincere look.”

The Dark Hours touches on how the pandemic has affected the police department.

Ballard used to pitch a tent and sleep on the beach, accompanied by her dog Lola. But the beaches were closed during the pandemic, forcing Ballard into an apartment.

In The Dark Hours, Ballard is still mourning the loss of Lola, who succumbed to bone cancer. Lola was Ballard’s protector and her companion.

But Ballard misses having a dog so she goes to the website of Wags and Walks, a real rescue group in L.A., where she finds Pinto. (The description of Pinto reminds me of our little Dot, a terrier-Chihuahua mix.)
It isn’t giving away any plot secrets to say that Ballard adopts Pinto and it’s a winning situation.

Pinto proves to be a good companion to Ballard, who makes sure Pinto is safe. If she knows she will be working late, she checks Pinto into an all-night dog care center.

Connelly shows how important dogs are to people and how they can help our mental health.

In one scene, Ballard has just come face to face with evil. To shake off what she has just witnessed first-hand, Ballard calls up the kennel’s camera to see what Pinto is doing. Seeing Pinto, she was “better braced for her dark thoughts.” It’s a lovely scene and very telling about Ballard’s personality.

I love that Connelly uses a real rescue group and hope the publicity helps the dogs at Wags and Walks be adopted.

I also support adopting rescue dogs, as they make great companions. That’s our Dot, who also is a rescue, in the second photo.

Wags and Walks sounds like a great organization, as are most local rescue groups. Our other dog, Max, came to us from Good Karma Pet Rescue in South Florida.

The Dark Hours ranks as one of Connelly’s best in a series of excellent novels.

Happy reading.

Michael Connelly, Harry Bosch, and Pinto
Oline H. Cogdill
Tuesday, 19 October 2021

The newest entry in my Pittsburgh set series of thrillers is called Panic Attack. It’s the sixth book featuring Daniel Rinaldi, a psychologist and trauma expert who consults with the Pittsburgh Police.

In this latest, the city is terrorized by a series of rooftop sniper attacks, aimed at seemingly random victims. Dubbed the Steel City Sniper by the media, his haunting presence throws the citizens into a kind of collective panic.

At the same time, Dr. Rinaldi is treating a young patient who narrowly avoided the sniper’s bullet, and is now paralyzed by his own panic symptoms.

So what is a panic attack, and what are its symptoms? During the recent pandemic, many people have reported symptoms of both depression and anxiety. But while prolonged anxiety can itself be frightening and even debilitating, it’s not as severe as a panic attack.

A panic attack can begin at any time and without warning, its main symptoms being a fear of loss of control and sense of impending doom. Given the breathlessness and hypertension that often accompany panic attacks, most people experiencing these effects believe they’re having a heart attack. Particularly because one of its other symptoms is chest pain.

Additional symptoms can range from shaking and chills to abdominal cramps and headaches. In some cases, the affected person may even develop suicidal thoughts.

The causes of panic attacks span an equally varied range, from simple stress and depression to phobias and drug use. Many studies also suggest that genetic factors are involved.

Moreover, it’s likely that there are certain triggers—unique to each person—that might be to blame. Personal issues (divorce, a job loss, financial crises) can often trigger a panic attack, as well as troubling external events (harrowing stories in the news, a brush with a violent assailant, etc.).

How are panic attacks treated? There are an array of options (of which Daniel Rinaldi avails himself when treating his patient), most of which are applied concurrently. To prevent future panic attacks, antidepressant medications such as Sertraline or Fluoxetine are usually prescribed. To reduce panic symptoms in progress, the medications typically used are Clonazepam or Lorazepam.

At the same time, a course of psychotherapy is recommended to help identify the patient’s triggers. Even techniques such as gradually recreating the panic symptoms in a safe, supportive environment can be employed.

Self-care is also a crucial aspect of alleviating or heading off symptoms. Practicing yoga or simply doing deep breathing exercises can be invaluable. Many people also benefit from eliminating alcohol and caffeine from their diets. As well as getting enough sleep.

In Daniel Rinaldi’s latest adventure, the panic attacks to which his traumatized patient falls victim mirror the heightened feelings of personal vulnerability and impending doom experienced by the citizens of Pittsburgh. As the Steel City Sniper’s list of victims grows, and with the police and FBI as yet unable to discover his identity, both Rinaldi and the authorities fear the growth of a widespread, ungovernable panic.

Until, at last, the alleged shooter is caught and the series of murders seemingly comes to an end.

After which, the real mystery begins...!

Dennis Palumbo is a licensed psychotherapist and author. Panic Attack, Dennis Palumbo, Poisoned Pen Press, September 2021, $15.99

My Books: Panic Attack
Dennis Palumbo