Please Welcome Jenny Hilborne

Charles Dean owns a prestigious advertising company in Oxfordshire. A recent scandal has threatened to ruin him, and Dean is determined to deal with it on his own. Someone else has other ideas, and their own reasons for bringing him down. Author, Jenny Hilborne, gives us a peek into her new psychological thriller, STONE COLD.

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With its thatched cottages, historic houses, white gravel driveways, charming pubs, and beautiful countryside, the English Cotswolds are idyllic, a gloriously peaceful place in the heart of the England.

 

cottage

 

A murder in such a tranquil place is unexpected, and all the more shocking. Three murders stun the entire the Oxfordshire community, especially when the deceased are all senior level corporate executives.

As the murder team working the case remind us, murder in England is uncommon, it’s still a rare crime. When two of the murders occur on the same date, it’s extraordinary, and enough to set off a nagging gut reaction that Dean knows more than he is saying.

What connects the dead? What secret is ruthless boss, Charles Dean, desperate to keep concealed?

Charles Dean rejects the detective’s doubts. After all, successful people are enviable targets and someone is always out to bring them down. True? As I wrote this part, I decided that it’s a plausible argument, which raised another question: What makes someone enormously successful in the corporate world? Why is this kind of success often accompanied by arrogance, dirty deals, and ruthless management styles?

In some of the more competitive industries, senior level executives often abuse their power and buried crimes appear to be disturbingly common. You only have to read the papers or watch the news to see it for yourself.

Who wouldn’t enjoy witnessing the destruction of a corrupt person in power? I know I would, and I wanted to explore this angle and use it. I wanted to get behind the smooth exterior of a cultured senior level exec, expose the unscrupulous side that might exist, and examine the psychological distress it might cause the victims. The story has nagged me at me for several years.

stonecold

 

While psychological thriller STONE COLD is a work of fiction, elements of the story are grounded in truth and parts of the plot are loosely based on real life tragedy. I set the story in my home country and chose a setting where crimes of this nature would be least expected in order to highlight the contrast between the powerful and the vulnerable, both physically and mentally. As I wrote, I discovered the true power might lie with those who have less to lose – a prospect I found more chilling as my plot developed.

STONE COLD was written as a standalone, but after I added the last words and read over the story, I wondered if there might be a sequel. When one corrupt businessman is brought down, there’ll another along to replace him.

I hope you enjoy STONE COLD and I look forward to your feedback.

Jenny Hilborne is the author of four suspense novels including Madness and Murder, No Alibi, and Hide and Seek.

You can find Jenny at: http://www.jfhilborne.com or at http://jfhilborne.wordpress.com


Are You A Good Witch Or A Bad Witch?

Remember that line from the Wizard of Oz?

A few weeks ago I visited the Salem Witch Museum with my daughters and some of their friends as part of a school project. Yes, we went in July even though school is out. My youngest daughter takes advanced placement classes and the requirements for summer work are outrageous!

The museum hosts a reenactment of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 in which twenty people lost their lives. Most of those found guilty of witchcraft were imprisoned, but Giles Corey  was brutally crushed to death for refusing to enter a plea.

Sitting and watching the reenactment I was struck by how much our society has changed. In 1692 punishments were brutal and in Mr. Corey’s case unjust. Try to imagine how desperate Mr. Corey must have felt, knowing he was innocent while they piled heavier and heavier stones on him until he was crushed to death.

The proof against Mr. Corey and the others was the testimony of three girls who later admitted they made the whole thing up because they were bored. I like to think that we have come a long way in our criminal justice system, but I wonder what would happen if three different girls from a small town accused someone of crime. I have an inkling that we have a protective instinct toward young girls and that their accusations would be given serious weight even in this age of forensics.

When the reenactment was over we moved to the second half of the museum where the staff discussed the reality of witches. I had to laugh at myself when they played that clip from the Wizard of Oz. We see witches in the media dressed in black and flying on brooms. Even Harry Potter, the most modern wizard that comes to mind, flies on his own fancy, brand name broom.

The final thing that struck me during the tour was the word “pagan” and the meaning that has been assigned to it through the ages. Visit this page at Merriam Webster and look at the comments. There is a debate raging about MW’s definition of the word as an “irreligious or hedonistic person.”

I’m not going to suggest you convert to paganism, but the museum staff gave an interesting talk about how the church and the media have colored our view of witches. Institutions like The Salem Witch Museum  help us understand the mistakes of the past and how our culture has influenced our understanding of history.

What I am wondering today is… now that we have taken the power of information out of the hands of the few and spread it around to all of us, what mistakes will we make with this new power? And how will our ability to communicate over social media and blogs give rise to the Salem Witch Trials of 2012?

What things will our descendants look upon and remember how naive we were way back in 2012?


How Many Times Have You Missed Your Chance To Be A Hero?

This week I’m celebrating the release of my short story Thugbook and last Friday the most ironic thing happened.

Before I get too far, let me tell you that Thugbook is a story about a social network that captures photographs of crimes in progress. Citizens upload pictures and the website locates them on a map, precisely where they were taken.

The cops, good citizens, and a few people willing to do anything for justice use the photos to know who the bad guys are. Some people take that information a bit too far.

It a fun, and a little bit serious, take on how we can use technology to turn our urban neighborhoods back into communities where pressure from neighbors keeps kids in line.

So Friday I was in a bar standing beside the pool table with my brother when a guy and his daughter, who was about twelve, came over. The glass covering the mechanism that holds the balls has been gone a long time. The girl reached in proudly and released the balls without paying.

Her father said to me, “They get smart fast, don’t they?”

Where was my camera?

This little girl could have been the first criminal for my Thugbook Pinboard. (Yes, I created a board on Pinterest where you can pin photos of thugs. Just like the book. )

 

Or should I have photographed the father?

How often have you seen that? A kid taking something that doesn’t belong to them or breaking something and the parent just going along. When did this become okay?

I remember another story a woman told me. She said her son was feeling down. They were in a restaurant so she told the waitress that it was his birthday so they’d bring him free cake. The kid was shocked. Me too.

These may seem like small things, but the lesson is a big one. We are teaching kids, some of them at least, that it is okay to take things we want even if they belong to someone else.

I had to wonder if some parents really have blinders on. And then I read about a teenager in New Bedford who was shot and killed by police. I feel sad for his mother, but listening to her I was absolutely stunned.

She cried and exalted her boy as a good kid who loved everyone. I characterized a family in Thugbook exactly the same way. I felt it was over the top until I saw this woman on television. She could have stepped right off the page.

The newspaper reported that her son was removed from school for throwing desks and assaulting teachers. That he was on the edge and didn’t belong in school with the general population. They put him into the public middle school because they didn’t have anywhere to put him and he ultimately found trouble and was shot and killed by a police officer.

There are two big questions here. First, how could the mother be so blind to her son’s problems? Second, how could the community not step in and help this kid learn how to deal with others?

It’s tragic that this boy died at 15 years old. He’ll never get a job and feel good about what he created with his own hands. He’ll never have the joy of seeing children and grandchildren grow.

Today I’m thinking this kid needed a nosy old lady next door. You know those women who are always in your business and aren’t afraid to tell you what’s on their mind? They expect you to behave a certain way and if you don’t they let you know.

Maybe we need more of those ladies and some large men very much like them.

Many people look down on enforcing the law for minor things, but it could be those minor things are what lead some of us to real trouble. Stepping in and stopping these kids early just might save them.

What do you think?

How many times have you missed your chance to turn a child around?


Are You Safe At Home?

Imagine Michael O’Connor hiding in a closet while you sit in your living room watching television. You go up to bed and he starts rifling through your things, taking what he wants. You hear a noise downstairs. It’s dark. You’re alone. The noise is too sharp to be anything but someone in your house. A footstep. A thud. You don’t have a dog or a husband. What do you do?

You call the cops. Five minutes pass. You hold your breath.

He’s coming up the stairs. You’re on the second floor. Too high to jump.

If this guy wants to hurt you, he’s going to. You imagine being stabbed. Raped. Killed. He’s almost to your door and you have no defense except to hide.

The sad reality is that cops don’t prevent crime. They react to it. Little solace when you’ve been victimized.

Have you been robbed? I have.

Chevy Cavalier Z24

In 1995 I bought a brand new Chevy Cavalier Z24. It wasn’t the coolest car on the planet, but I worked my butt off to buy it. The first night I parked it at my apartment, someone jammed a screwdriver into the lock, got in, and ripped the plastic off the steering column. Luckily the thief couldn’t get past the alarm.

A few years earlier I had a Datsun 210 parked in front of city hall in New Bedford. That car was stolen on a Saturday afternoon. My college textbooks, my golf clubs, clothes. Stuff I was really attached to. I was a kid working my way through college 80 hours a week in the summer and fulltime during the school year. I couldn’t afford to replace all that stuff. But some punk took my stuff and sold it for a tenth of its value.

Years later I lived in a really nice neighborhood, the kind of place you move to get away from city life. Three years ago people started breaking into houses and cars at night. I had had enough of punks walking in and taking what they wanted from me. I had plenty of guns, but nothing suitable for regular carry. I bought a .380 that I could wear every day. And I did.

An old boss of mine said, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

Three times I did what George Zimmerman would have done. I saw cars parked in the neighborhood that didn’t belong and I walked up to them, gun in my belt, and asked what they were doing. All three times they drove away and I didn’t see them again.

I didn’t flash my gun. I didn’t shoot anybody. But these guys knew not to come back.

There has been a lot of media hype and attention to the fact that George Zimmerman was an older “white looking” guy and Treyvon Martin was a “black” kid. The media loves to inflame racial tensions when a story like this hits the news, but what about the facts?

George Zimmerman

George Zimmerman

Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin

What I haven’t been seeing in the media is that the residents of the Retreat at Twin Lakes, the complex where Zimmerman was community watch coordinator, made 402 calls to the police in one year. Are you kidding me? 402 calls. That’s a crime epidemic. No wonder Zimmerman was out there with a gun.

You may be thinking Zimmerman was a nut, calling the cops every five minutes. Nope. According to Wikipedia, Zimmerman called the cops 16 times. So, 386 times other people called.

My question to you is… If you lived in this complex wouldn’t you be out there with a gun next to Zimmerman?

We can’t know the outcome of this case before it is tried, but before you convict George Zimmerman in your own mind, consider the following:

  • The Retreat at Twin Lakes had 402 calls to the police in one year.
  • Zimmerman called the cops, one of the rare times he did, because he thought something was wrong.
  • Trayvon Martin may have been young, but he was 7” taller than Zimmerman.
  • There is a photo of blood coming out of the back of Zimmerman’s head, taken by a bystander.
  • Eyewitnesses report Martin attacking Zimmerman, though the information is sketchy.

When I consider these facts it appears to me that Zimmerman was part of the solution. He was out there trying to stop a crime wave around his home. Martin felt threatened by Zimmerman because he was being followed. Based on what I read, Martin had a right to be where he was, but instead of telling Zimmerman so, he attacked. Who attacked whom may not be known, but it appears that Martin was winning the fight and threatened to cause serious injury to Zimmerman by smashing his head against the ground. That’s when Zimmerman shot Martin dead.

Martin’s death is a tragedy. We may never know what really happened, but before you convict George Zimmerman, consider that we all have a responsibility to our community. Right or wrong, George Zimmerman was trying to protect his.

What do you think happened that night?