Burcell has written back-to-back novels, The Dark Hour
and The Black List, coming out this holiday
season. The reason for this was that life events delayed her
writing for a few years. If you have never read any of her
previous books, publishing two books so close together is
actually good news because the reader does not have to wait
for a new novel. To get a better understanding of the characters,
The Dark Hour should be read first.
Burcell, an FBI-trained forensic artist, used her experiences
as a police officer, detective, and hostage negotiator, to
write thrillers about Sydney Fitzpatrick, an FBI forensic
artist. In The Dark Hour, Fitzpatrick travels to Amsterdam
to sketch a witness to a high profile killing; while in the
US there is an ongoing investigation of a Senator’s
assassination. These two seemingly unrelated murders become
the center-point of a conspiracy to spread a plague around
the world. Burcell also teases with a sub-plot that has the
reader wondering if Sydney’s future lover’s wife
is alive or dead.
The Black List has Fitzpatrick’s sometimes
FBI partner baby-sitting his soon to be ex-wife after she
became involved with someone whose life is threatened. The
plot takes off from there with a lot of twists and turns that
come together by the end of the book. The main plot is centered
on the refugee program and delves into the corruption angle
as well as the effect on national security since there appears
to be no accountability.
Through the characters, Burcell is able to point out how unsavory
individuals are allowed to enter the US through the payment
of bribes to various officials. This enables certain individuals
to move to the front of the refugee resettlement line, including
possible terrorists. She commented, “It bothers me a
lot that the US government gives a lot of money to these organizations.
These programs were suspended because of the security flaws.
Imagine a terrorist attempting to come through this way.”
Burcell also stated, along with the national security implications,
she wanted to show the despair “where multi-generations
of people have lived in the camp all of their lives. They
come to know these camps as their homes where they must endure
such abuses as human trafficking and prostitution.”
Besides a riveting and intense plot these books have characters
that are likeable and insightful. Other characters include
Fitzpatrick’s FBI partner, Tony Carillo; Zachary Griffin,
a CIA type operative and possibly her future lover; his sidekick,
James Tex Dalton, and scientists Dr. Lisette Perrault and
Marc di Luca. Burcell uses her earlier expertise of writing
romance novels to enhance the characters who are brought to
life very vividly. She noted, “I did it so the reader
would root for these people. I wanted to paint more of a positive
picture that adds depth to the character and creates some
Could Sydney be her alter ego? She responded, “If I
were born in an alternate universe, where I wasn't married,
and didn't have kids, and could run around and save the world,
then yes--she's my alter ego. I always thought being in the
FBI would be cool, much cooler than being a cop. But there's
something to be said for settling down in one area and not
having to move every four years like one must in the FBI.
I wanted to be a secret agent when I was a kid. Do you remember
the Man from U.N.C.L.E. series? There was a short-lived Girl
from U.N.C.L.E. Sydney gets to do the cool stuff I couldn't
do because I like being a mom and living in one location,
but she does it with my moral compass, for the most part.
I definitely use my experiences when it comes to the forensic
art, and of course if there's any sort of investigating. But
the saving the world part is totally made up.”
She stated that she has been dreaming about writing ever since
the age of ten. Her biggest influence was her grandfather,
Al Santoro, known as “The Senor,” a Los Angeles
sports writer. After dinner he would read stories to them
from authors like Hemingway.
The Dark Hour and The Black List have fascinating
plots that relate to national security, are very well paced,
and realistic. The characters are likeable and relatable.
The twists and turns in the books will keep the reader guessing
until the very end. Anyone that wants action-packed stories
that are fast paced should definitely read these books.