Tag Archives: James Lilliefors

Maryland’s Eastern Shore remains fertile ground for exciting series

The Tempest, by James Lilliefors. Witness Impulse. 416 pages. Trade paperback $11.99.

This new addition to the Bowers and Hunter mystery series, properly promoted, is going to gain James Lilliefors a huge chunk more of the readers his work deserves.

Walter Kepler, in the big leagues of fine art dealers, has a plan. It involves a lot of money (millions) changing hands and a stolen Rembrandt changing hands as well. But the final stage of the transfer is a secret – a secret that will seem like a miracle when it is revealed. To accomplish his ends, he needs the help of contractor and land developer Nicholas Champlain; an assassin named Belasco; and Jacob Weber, Kepler’s lawyer and confidante. TheTempest.Jpeg

Nick Champlain and his attractive, much younger wife Susan had rented a place in Tidewater County for the summer, leading a very private life. Mostly, Susan was around by herself, not quite fitting in, but attending the Methodist church where Luke Bowers was pastor. To Luke’s wife Charlotte, Susan seemed troubled. In confidence, Susan tells Luke that her marriage has become difficult. Nick is keeping tabs on her, and making threatening statements.

They’d had a dreadful argument over a photograph Susan had taken. She also reveals that he seems to be involved in a sensitive, clandestine project, something he can’t talk about – but the implication is that the photograph could put the project at risk. Luke wishes to be helpful, but before long Susan is found dead.

Luke’s good friend, State Police Homicide Detective Amy Hunter, is only marginally involved in the investigation until enough facts turn up to label it a homicide. Then it’s her case.



Or is it? Before long, the FBI is involved, but the FBI is concerned with building a case against Walter Kepler, who has been a suspect in international art theft crimes for many years. The FBI agent who pushes his way into Amy’s investigation heads a special art theft division. He seems to have an obsessive grudge against Kepler. The county sheriff also is a thorn in Amy’s side.

Still, she holds her own, aided by a supportive boss and some inside information from her ex-boyfriend, who happens to be an FBI agent. However, her major support comes through her two competent subordinates and – of course – Parson Luke. Luke is her necessary sounding board and moral yardstick.

As Kepler pursues his miracle and Amy pursues Susan Champlain’s killer, readers get a well-drawn overview of the Middle Atlantic region. Places, people, and events in and around Philadelphia become important to the investigation. Author Lilliefors handles the multiple settings and the transit from one to another with masterful skill. . . .


To read the entire review, as it appears in the August 19, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the August 20 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte editions, click here:  Florida Weekly – The Tempest

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Bible lyrics reveal assassin’s motives in astonishing thriller

The Psalmist, by James Lilliefors. Witness Impulse . 384 pages. E-book $2.99. Trade paperback $11.99 (due out in late August).

HarperCollins has launched a special imprint for new e-books in the mystery/thriller category, and they have lured some exciting talent – and set extremely low prices – to establish this imprint. Judging by Naples author James Lilliefors’ opener for “A Luke Bowers and Amy Hunter Mystery” series, these books are as strong as anything being featured in old-fashioned print.  Psalmist e-book

The novel’s setting, fictitious Tidewater County on Maryland’s eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay, is artfully painted by Mr. Lilliefors in appropriate shades of gray. A late winter snowfall gowns a bleak, partly frozen landscape. The area, the middle section of the Delmarva Peninsula (Delaware to the north, Virginia to the south), has an economy based on agriculture, the seafood industry, recreational boating, and tourism. The author’s Tidewater County, like the region in general, is dotted with small towns, many of which are drenched in history. Because of its relative isolation, it’s a great place to focus a story.

And what a story James Lilliefors has to tell.

Late one morning, Luke Bowers, pastor of the Methodist church, travels to his church office only to find a murder victim – an attractive young woman – positioned in a pew with her hands in a gesture of prayer. She had been severely beaten. Her eyes are open. Preliminary examination suggests that the woman was killed elsewhere, then transported to and posed in the church later.



Who is she? Why was she left to be discovered in the church? What are those strange numerical carvings on her hand?

The lead investigator on the case is Amy Hunter, a young detective with the Maryland State Police. She is assigned to work with and direct local law enforcement on homicide cases. The Tidewater County Sheriff, his last name – Calvert – radiating local history, is dismayed that it’s not his investigation to run. He tries to undermine Amy’s authority and credibility every step of the way. The state’s attorney is smoother, but not particularly supportive of how she’s running the case.

Although Amy has two able subordinates, Pastor Luke Bowers ends up being her main sounding board and unofficial partner in this investigation. He comes up with the idea that the numbers refer to one of the biblical Psalms. Luke’s attractive, smart, and devoted wife likes to kid him about his relationship with Amy. Is she jealous?

The search for patterns turns up three similar homicides in nearby states, each with similar Psalm numbers left to be discovered near the corpse. These murders occur within days of one another.

The investigation, which ends up involving an FBI agent whom Amy briefly dated, is a search for other common denominators. Indeed, it seems definite that these murders are the work of a serial killer. What relates these victims? How can the answer lead to discovering the motive and identity of the murderer? . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the July 30, 2014 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the July 31 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – The Psalmist.

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Super-flu clears the decks for a new world order

Viral, by James Lilliefors. Soho Press. 353 pages. $25.00.

This elegantly complex thriller is devastating in its premise and astonishing in its meticulous plotting. James Lilliefors asks us to imagine something almost inconceivable: altruistic biological genocide. A multi-billion dollar scheme is afoot to “depopulate” failed African nations, obtain land rights, and construct technological meccas – models of economic and social stability. It’s a scheme at once horrifying and brilliant, designed to anticipate and squelch any challenge to its success. Of course, it is cloaked in secrecy. And maybe it’s not so altruistic after all. 

The means involve the controlled release of a fast-acting virus in selected population centers, and the overnight burial of the millions of deceased. There would be little to witness. The planners have thought through how to manage the damage control for the severe flu-like epidemic that comes and goes in hours.

Brilliant planners, with almost unlimited resources and unparalleled surveillance systems, scheme to limit the information that reaches the public about what they’re up to. Journalist Jon Mallory, fed information by his brother Charles, is making waves with what he manages to get into print.

Charles, who heads a private intelligence firm with a handful of skilled specialists, is determined to thwart this scheme. He presses to find out who is involved, how they communicate, where they are located, and what technologies and cadres of workers they have set in motion. Most importantly, he determine the time, location, and method of the virus’s release – and to stop it from happening. Second best: control the antidote.

Charles is following up on some suspicions hinted at by his late father, whose plan of action included bringing Jon’s investigative and writing skills to bear. The Mallory men are a strange bunch: their relationships are strained yet respectful. One of the novels fascinations is seeing the process by which Charles and Jon collude at a distance that is both tactically necessary and true to the nature of their distinctive, contrasting personalities.

James Lilliefors enhances our curiosity about each by alternating which brother is a chapter’s central consciousness . While we are waiting for them to undermine the grand scheme, we are also waiting for them to move closer together. Suspense builds as each man’s isolated story line is interrupted at a crucial juncture, held in abeyance until the other brother’s story line is developed further, and then continued. There is always some piece of knowledge just out of reach that once obtained only raises a new question. . . .

To read this review in its entirely as it appears in the April 25, 2012 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the Naples edition for April 26, click here: Florida Weekly – Viral 1 and here: Florida Weekly – Viral 2. It also appears in the May 10, 2012 Palm Beach Gardens/Jupiter edition.

To see reviews of earlier Lilliefors writings, click here Florida Weekly – Ball Cap Nation and here https://philjason.wordpress.com/2006/08/02/book-beat-4-james-lilliefors/

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Ball Cap Secrets Revealed

Ball Cap Nation, by James Lilliefors. Clerisy Press. 218 pages. $15.95

Naples knows Jim Lilliefors for his excellent magazine and newspaper work, and also for his fine writing in Philharmonic Center for the Arts publications. His books include a novel, Bananaville, and two earlier forays into popular culture: Highway 50 and America’s Boardwalks.  Ball Cap

Ball Cap Nation addresses the material and cultural history of the baseball cap in a breezy, sometimes self-deprecating tone. Lilliefors seems to insist that his “Journey through the World of America’s National Hat” is not to be taken very seriously. However, this strategy allows him to sneak in plenty of solid information about this omnipresent head-topper.


To see the entire review as it appears in the Naples Florida Weekly for July 16-22, 2009 click here:Florida Weekly – James Lilliefors. For pdf version, click here:Ball Cap Nation PDF

For more on James Lilliefors, see James Lilliefors profile and review.

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BOOK BEAT 4 – James Lilliefors

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times   August 2-8, 2006

by Philip K. Jason

Suppose you took Tin City and the nearby Dockside Boardwalk shops, stretched all the businesses out along one long walkway, added a roller coaster, and relocated the whole thing (multiplied many times in size and variety) parallel to the shore as a pedestrian thoroughfare. Then Naples would have the kind of celebrated beachfront boardwalk that James Lilliefors honors in his new book, America’s Boardwalks: From Coney Island to California, published by Rutgers University Press. Don’t want that kind of honky-tonk stuff in Naples? Too bad. And it hasn’t always been all honky-tonk.

Every reader in Naples has enjoyed James Lilliefors’ writing. Whenever you read something published by The Philharmonic Center for the Arts, including the fine profiles in the playbills and in the exhibit brochures, you are no doubt reading Lilliefors, the senior writer there. His work appears regularly in Gulfshore Life, and before that he wrote for that daily newspaper in town (winning an award for excellence in feature writing from the Florida Press Club). Ever since 1994, when he came from Maryland to Naples to work on a novel – Bananaville, published in 1996 – he has been very much part of the scene. More accurately, he has been describing the scene. He is also the co-writer of the FGCU alma mater!

Born in Los Angeles, Lilliefors was raised in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. His father was a professor of statistics at George Washington University. Jim became a fanatical runner and an aspiring writer in high school, but early signs suggested that writing might be the way to go. At sixteen, he sold a story to Runner’s World magazine, and at twenty, when that same publication offered him a job, he quit college and moved to California. He worked there from 1976-1978, then left to become a novelist. Eventually returning to college, Lilliefors earned his B.A. from the University of Iowa and attended graduate school at the University of Virginia, where he was a Hoyns Fellow in Fiction Writing.

After one year of that, Lilliefors took a newspaper job at in Ocean City, Maryland (at one end of U. S. 50 with the sign “Sacramento 3,073 miles”), intending to stay for just the summer. When the publisher, who was starting a new paper, asked if he wanted to be the editor, Jim ended up running the paper for nine years. During this time, Lilliefors also covered Ocean City and Maryland’s Eastern Shore for the Washington Post. He wrote for other publications as well, including US magazine and the Baltimore Sun, and he even became the boxing correspondent for a national magazine called The Cable Guide. Lilliefors started a couple of novels, got a contract for a road book that became Highway 50: Ain’t That America (published in 1993), and co-founded another newspaper at the beach, which is still going. And then to Naples to work on Bananaville (set in a beach town, of course) and, eventually, America’s Boardwalks. 

In this beautifully written and copiously illustrated volume, Lilliefors writes: “Each boardwalk resort has its own character, shaped by history, memory, demographics, real estate, and travel trends.” In twelve chapters, he probes the character of twelve distinctive boardwalk communities, detailing their founding and development, elaborating on the special flavor of each, and profiling the local characters intimately related to the values and texture of the place. For each place, as well, there is an assessment of the present situation and some guesses about the future. Each of these communities has had its ups and downs, and several have been reinvented from time to time to satisfy changing tastes and economic realities. 

Lilliefors tells the stories of what he calls representative boardwalk resorts, not necessarily the best. But many would be inescapable choices by any criteria: Atlantic City, Coney Island, Asbury Park, Wildwood, Cape May, Rehoboth Beach (Delaware), Ocean City (Maryland), Virginia Beach, Myrtle Beach, Daytona Beach – and then jumping across the continent to Venice Beach and Santa Cruz. He examines the paradoxical nature of these places, at once destinations for all-American families and pleasure kingdoms where tackiness, tawdriness, and corruption often reign. This is an intelligent, accessible, and thoroughly enjoyable journey through an important facet of American popular culture – a fascinating, sensual register of American values. Can you imagine the archeologists of the future interpreting American civilization as they excavate boardwalk resorts? Lilliefors can.


Hear James Lilliefors speak about America’s Boardwalks and get your copy signed at the Naples Barnes and Noble on Friday, August 18 [2006] at 7:00pm.


Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy. A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club. Send him your book news at pjason@aol.com.

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