Fresh Blood

Name: K J Howe

Title of Book: The Freedom Broker

' excellent debut from an exciting new talent. '

Thea Paris is one of only twenty-five elite professionals in the world with the ability to bring hostages home safely. International negotiation, undercover operations and extractions are a part of life. Their only objective: release.

For Thea, her family's wealth meant kidnap was a constant threat and their worst fears were realised when her brother was kidnapped. Although he was returned, she made it her life's mission to stop others suffering the trauma they did. Now Thea's past is about to come back with a vengeance as her billionaire father is taken.

With her professionalism challenged to its limits, all Thea knows is that she has to get her father back alive, at any cost.

Getting to read debut novels before others is a huge perk of being a Crimesquad reviewer and after reading ĎThe Freedom Brokerí, itís fair to say that I think K.J. Howe is a name readers will become very familiar with.

Thea Paris is a fine lead which Howe has fleshed out with sublime skill while still leaving us readers with a little mystery to pique our interest further. The support characters are all finely created as well, but this is very much Theaís show and she dominates the novel throughout.

The story wends and weaves its way across continents and for the most part kept me guessing although I must confess to sussing out one or two twists a page or so before they were revealed. (This is no bad thing, itís just my on-going battle with authors.) All the expected set-pieces were in place and there was enough intrigue and subtext to certain situations to satisfy even the most demanding reader.

In short, ĎThe Freedom Brokerí is an excellent debut from an exciting new talent. Such was the fast pace of my reading, it left me with a blister on my page turning finger! Brilliant stuff!

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating

Fresh Blood Questionnaire

1) In ĎThe Freedom Brokerí, there is a whole industry based on hostage negotiations and rescue. Iíd imagine the real life versions of Thea would be very secretive about their work, how tough was it to research this aspect?
Excellent question. Indeed, response consultants are quite secretive about their work, and many people do not even know these individuals exist. I approached these brave negotiators with the deepest respect, and I think they could tell that I was genuinely interested in their important work and keen to get the facts right. I slowly built relationships over time, and I asked a few of them to read my novel, to make sure I didnít misstep. Any errors are mine. The consultants operate in a dark world, and they are bright, articulate people who make life and death decisions on a daily basis. Perhaps it was cathartic for them to share their experiences with an outsider, as their work is fraught with intense stress. I greatly admire them and the work they doóas so many hostages are still being held in various countries. Iíd like to see governments place more focus on bringing these people home to their families.

I also interviewed former hostages, K&R insurance experts as well as Special Forces soldiers who deliver ransoms and execute rescues. I have many more adventures planned for Thea, and I wanted to become very familiar with her world. I hope to share more information in future books.
2) The experiences of Nikosí imprisonment made for compelling reading despite their harrowing nature. Did you interview kidnap victims as part of your research process?
As a former medical writer, Iím an avid researcher. Iíve had the great pleasure of getting to know Peter Moore, who was the longest held hostage in Iraq, his captivity lasting almost 1000 days, and Peterís insights were incredibly helpful. Iíve also had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Anthony Feinstein, a psychiatrist who specializes in the impact of captivity on a hostageís mindset. Iíve researched child soldiers in Africa, as I used to live in Kenya and the plight of these innocent children is heart-wrenching. I also met a young man who survived a harrowing experience as a child soldier in Uganda.
3) The action takes place around the world, did you have to travel to the various locations to do your research?
Travel and adventure are my two favourite passions. My father worked in telecommunications, and we lived in many different places, including Africa, Saudi Arabia, Europe, the Caribbean. I love to visit the settings for my novels to experience all the senses thereófrom the smells to the tastes and sounds of a countryóso I can try and bring them to the reader on the page. From the breath-taking beauty of Santorini to history-steeped Athens to the dynamic Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, I have travelled to all of these locales in the book, thoroughly enjoying their natural beauty. I also find setting stimulates ideasÖas readers will see in the final scenes of my book.
4) Thea has a common, yet potentially fatal illness. What compelled you to give her this weakness?
Diabetes affects 371 million people worldwide. I wanted to demonstrate that even though Thea has a serious medical condition, she is able to manage her illness and still live an active, dynamic lifestyle, following her drive to bring hostages home. My grandfather had diabetes, and I can remember being so curious about these needles he was always sticking into himself. That indelible memory made me choose diabetes. I also wrote about the condition when I was a medical writer. Also, insulin is critical for Thea, and there is inherent conflict in every story making sure that she has it.
5) Youíre the Executive Director of ThrillerFest which is one of the biggest crime fiction festivals in the world. Can you tell us more about this role?
Itís a real honour to be involved with ThrillerFest, which is the annual conference for the International Thriller Writers association. Over 1000 suspense authors travel to NYC from all over the world every July for our event. We have writing classes, workshops, panels of crime experts, agent pitching events, cocktail parties, an awards banquet and much more. Please take a moment and visit to get a feel for some of our offerings. Itís a friendly, fun, professional conference, and youíll find many top authors walking the halls looking for a good chat about thrillers. If anyone has questions, please feel free to write me at Would love to see you there.
6) Did the aforementioned role help or hinder you when writing your debut novel?
Iíll be eternally grateful for the help Iíve received from many authors, and I hope to pay it forward in every way I can. I wouldnít be in this fortunate position of having my debut novel coming out without the support of many talented writers. To say that the greats are generous is understating their kindness. Iíve had the benefit of the wisdom of several bestsellers, including Steve Berry, Peter James, Lee Child, and David Morrell to name a few. The one thing I adore about the crime writing community is the positivity and unconditional support. Itís evident at Harrogate, ThrillerFest, and many other crime conferences. We all want to help each other spread our wings, tell our stories. Itís like finding special family members who really get you.
7) Which authors do you feel have most influenced your own writing?
I would say that David Morrell was a huge influence. The day I read THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE ROSE was a turning point for me. I knew then that I wanted to write suspense, and I started on a journey, slowly learning the art and craft of storytelling. I plan on working hard to keep improving with every book. David taught me to dig in emotionally, really explore character.

When it comes to craft, Steve Berry took the lead, bleeding red ink unmercifully all over my pagesóand Iíll be forever grateful to him. ďWrite tight,Ē he told me, and I do my best to follow his advice.

I studied with Lee Child at a retreat, and he described writing as music, explained how important it was to get the right rhythm. Try reading your work out loud. When you stumble, the music needs adjusting.

Iím also thankful for the fantastic advice from Peter James, such a generous and enthusiastic man. Reading Peterís books taught me about the value of voiceóand finding your ownóas he nails it every time.
8) Will there be another Thea Paris novel, and if so can you tell us anything about it?
Thanks for asking. SKYJACK, the second book in the series, will be coming out in February 2018. Thea is shepherding two former African child soldiers to their new adoptive home in London when the plane they are on is hijackedóand the adventure kicks off from there. Secret stay-behind armies from WWII, the CIA, the Vatican, and the Mob all factor into the kidnap negotiatorís next thriller. Thea has her work cut out for her as she attempts to save the passengers and these two boys she adores. And the fallout from her family issues are still unravelling.
9) Which are your favourite three crime novels?
Very difficult to narrow it down, as I have so many favourites, depending on my mood. That said, I really love these three novels:


THE ONE MAN by Andrew Gross


Thanks so much for having me on and for giving me the honor of being the Fresh Blood novel. Itís greatly appreciated.