Author of the Month

Name: Mark Gimenez

First Novel: The Colour of Law

Most Recent Book: The Perk

'Gimenez is highly recommended, impossible to put down and definitely not to be missed.'

Beck Hardin returns to his Texas hometown - and his estranged father - after the death of his wife leaves him with two children to raise. The town is still reeling from the murder of sixteen-year-old Heidi, whose father, Beck's old college friend, asks him to help find Heidi's killer before the statute of limitations runs out.

Meanwhile, Beck is pushed into becoming town Judge and he makes some powerful enemies amongst the rich white landowners when he refuses to condone their treatment of the Mexican workers of the town. As events escalate, the landowners carefully plot their revenge...

Gimenez returns to the complex legal thrillers where he seems to be at his best. The Perk has mystery, humour and history along with well-drawn characters that the reader will actually care about.

As is often the case in legal thrillers, there is a mix of those characters that take the moral high ground and those who seem just out for their own good. Unusually, there are also a few comic and slightly caricatured figures here as well - but they all fit well together in the plot. Together with great characters and a strong plot there is also lots of interesting historical information.

The ending may not be what is expected but it is all the better for it and proves to be a good finish to an excellent book. As ever, Gimenez is highly recommended, impossible to put down and definitely not to be missed.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating


1) As it slowly evolves and increases in popularity, crime fiction seems to be organically sub-dividing into a number of widely diverse categories. Which genre (or sub-genre, even…) of crime novel would you say you write in?
David Shelley, my editor at Sphere/Little Brown, says I write "thrillers with heart," which I think is an apt tagline. So while The Colour of Law is a legal thriller, The Abduction a suspense/thriller, and The Perk also a legal thriller, all have a family drama woven into the story. I want the reader to care about the characters and their personal journeys as well as enjoy the thrill of the plot.
2) What type of crime novels do you like to read? Do you usually prefer series or standalone?
I read a wide range of crime novels, but the ones I enjoy the most have characters I care about (which must be why I try to write that type). I enjoy series and standalones equally. Like most avid fiction readers, I just want a good story about interesting people living lives more exciting than mine.
3) Is the setting in a German/Texan town based on a real place?
Yes. Fredericksburg, Texas, is a real town located about 70 miles due west of Austin. I wanted to write a story about a small-town judge, so I needed a small town in which to set it. I initially picked Fredericksburg because it is a picturesque tourist town in the Hill Country of Texas and because of its fascinating history; that in 1842 a German prince named Frederick sent 7,000 Germans to settle the land he had bought in the Republic of Texas sight unseen seems almost unbelievable. But living there the last two summers, I discovered that there are many more layers to Fredericksburg than just the German heritage and tourist façade of Main Street. Those layers became an integral part of the story.
4) How does it feel being compared to Grisham. It’s a compliment, but is it also a burden – and do you try to be consciously different?
It's a great compliment indeed. If there is any burden, it's to make each book better than the one before; but that is every writer's burden. I don't make a conscious effort to be different, but every writer's work is different. If a dozen writers were given the same premise with the same characters, we would each write a very different story because each of us sees life from a different perspective. If I tried to write like someone else, I would abandon the only thing that might attract readers to my books, which is my particular angle on the world. That's really what a writer has to offer readers.
5) Will Beck return in another story...? So far you have only written standalone novels. Are you tempted to write a series?
Yes, we will see Beck again. I haven't started a series because I really enjoy writing about different characters in different settings around Texas. I want to introduce readers to parts of Texas they don't know exist, such as the Hill Country. (Not all of Texas is flat and dusty.) That said, I am going to write sequels to both The Colour of Law (to be set in Galveston) and The Perk (back in Fredericksburg, as long as I'm not run out of town). I cared so much about the characters in both books (spend a year with your characters and they become quite real) that I want to meet up with them again. I hope my readers will as well.
6) How can you constantly add new twists to the courtroom drama genre?
Research. I research my books extensively, which is a part of writing I really enjoy. For The Perk, I lived in Fredericksburg for six months. I researched the law, I sat in the Gillespie County Courthouse on sentencing days, and I talked to the judge, the prosecutor, the lawyers, the district clerk, the police, and the residents. I've learned that everyone has a story to tell, if the writer will only listen; and the stories I heard added twists I would never have dreamed up. (I even went to the goat auction twice.)
7) Do you ever stretch the points of law to suit the plot? Are all the cases based on fact?
Unfortunately, with American law, stretching is seldom required. The reality is that our legal system is based more on money, power, and politics than justice. For example, our Supreme Court recently ruled that it is legal for local governments to seize poor people's homes and give the property to corporations and billionaires who want to build shopping centers and football and baseball stadiums. That reality is quite depressing, but it makes for fascinating plotlines. I don't take my stories from the newspaper, but I do weave fact and fiction together (such as putting fictional characters in real places like Fredericksburg) because I think that makes the story more believable, and a believable story engages the reader more and resonates longer.
8) What is your favorite movie adaptation of a crime novel?
The Silence of the Lambs.
9) Would you describe yourself as a crime fiction fan in general and, if so, which authors do you most admire and why?
Absolutely, I love crime fiction. There are so many excellent crime fiction writers working today, but a few I really enjoy and admire are Elmore Leonard and Robert B. Parker (their sharp dialogue), James Lee Burke (his sense of place), Thomas Harris (his ability to create suspense), Scott Turow (the depth of his stories), Lee Child (a great series about a great character), and Jeff Abbott and Ben Rehder (excellent writers and fellow Texans).
10) What is your favourite crime read of all time?
The Silence of the Lambs. A perfectly written story with a truly creepy bad guy and a heroine we care deeply about.