From Police Reports to Procedurals
In the first installment in our three part series, From Work to Writing, author Brian Thiem explains why he finds being a novelist so rewarding after years working as homicide detective.
It was 1989 and my second year working homicide. In Oakland, that means I’d seen several dozen murder scenes before this one. I arrived at the city park just as the sun was rising, the mist still hanging low over the dew-covered grass. A uniformed officer in the parking lot pointed me toward a stand of trees at the back of the park where more patrol officers were clustered. Halfway there, I saw my homicide victim, hanging from a tree with a rope around her neck. One of her legs was suspended from the tree with another length of rope in what looked like a bizarre dance pose. As I got closer, I saw the woman was naked except for a piece of charred cloth stuck to her leg, which I later learned had been soaked in gasoline and lit on fire. Despite my best efforts, I never solved that case. It was one of many that haunted me during my career.
Thrill Kill opens with Oakland homicide sergeant Matt Sinclair arriving at the same park and encountering the same scene—a naked woman hanging from a tree and lit on fire. One of the joys of writing fiction is the author gets to control the narrative, especially the ending, something I couldn’t always accomplish when I worked homicide. Maybe that’s why I’ve always loved crime stories where the good guys prevail over the bad guys and set the world—or at least a tiny bit of the world—right in the end.
The real murder from 1989 was solved years after I retired, thanks to advances in DNA evidence and a hard-working investigator in the cold case squad. The murder of Dawn, the murder victim in Thrill Kill, is solved within the 311 pages of the book.
BRIAN THIEM, author of the acclaimed series debut Red Line, spent 25 years with the Oakland Police Department, working Homicide as a detective sergeant and later as the commander of the Homicide Section. He also spent 28 years of combined active and reserve duty in the Army, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel. His final assignment was a tour in Iraq as the Deputy Commander of the Criminal Investigation Group (CID) for the Middle East. He lives in South Carolina. Thrill Kill is his second novel. Visit him at brianthiem.com
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