Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

A complicated history. A deadly future. - 1 Last Betrayal by Valerie J Brooks

"Steeped in suspense, chilling encounters, and shocking twists, Brooks drops us into the dark underbelly of organized crime, and we love her for it."
- Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times bestselling author of The Weight of Silence and The Over


Published: September 2022

A complicated history. A deadly future. Can one woman survive another deep dive into the rotten underbelly of crime?

Angeline Porter craves a return to normalcy. But when the former criminal defense attorney receives an alarming text, she races in desperation to Florida only to find a ransacked apartment, a poisoned dog, and a missing half-sister. Determined to rescue her sibling, she follows a trail of shockingly incriminating clues and plunges into a life-or-death fight with the Boston mob.

Taking advantage of old ties with a charming FBI agent and trying to outsmart a violent syndicate boss with powerful federal connections, Angeline and dubious allies begin tracking down the kidnappers… until she uncovers a supposed protector’s crafty deception. And while a nefarious rogue agent, a long-lost relative, and a possibly corrupt cop close in, the gutsy woman makes the risky decision to go it alone.

Is her headlong race to save her sister about to zip her into a body bag?

1 Last Betrayal is the suspense-laden third book in the Angeline Porter Trilogy of femmes-noir thrillers. If you like bold heroines, riveting twists, and balancing on the knife’s edge, then you’ll love Valerie J. Brooks’ gritty descent into the underworld.

"A twisty plot, great locations, and a gutsy protagonist you’ll root for all the way. A fabulous finale to a sophisticated series that can also be enjoyed as a stand-alone title." - Kaira Rouda, USA Today and Amazon Charts bestselling author

"A seductive, intricately twisted suspense-thriller that’s nearly impossible to put down... get ready for a wild ride with plenty of suspense, action, and shocking surprises" - Kevin O'Brien, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Night She Disappeared

How Paris Became a Noir Setting

In December 2015, I stepped out of the Metro and into the working-class 15th arrondissement of Paris. The clear blue sky cast an eerie chill over a subdued group of passengers. Above the entrances and exits of the Metro hung advertisements of a Halsman Photography Exhibit featuring Marilyn Monroe sitting on the floor in a black slip, reading a book. One slender strap escaped her shoulder. Everything about the photo emitted a vulnerability that seemed to represent a city under duress. Only a month earlier in November, Paris had been struck by a terrorist attack on six locations around the city, killing 130 people and injuring hundreds more.

As I walked down the street, rolling my suitcase behind me, I had no idea at the time that the main character for my noir trilogy, Angeline Porter, would be born from this walk.

When I travel, I keep receipts and any fliers I find, plus I write down interesting details I see and hear in a journal. On this one short walk to our apartment, I saw a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk outside the Franprix wearing a baggy, dirty Santa outfit and holding out a chewed Styrofoam cup. From a nearby open store selling tourist trinkets, the song “Hotel California” played on a tinny boombox.

These details can’t come from a Google search.

So, when I sat down to write my first femmes-noir thriller, I became Angeline Porter. I could walk in her shoes, could see, feel, and hear the gloom that hung over the City of Light. The juxtaposition of having to walk around a homeless man and listen to a song that should never be heard in Paris seemed to scream “noir,” and a trilogy was born.

Even today, I remember smelling the oysters that every restaurant displayed for sale outside their door. Oysters? I didn’t know that was such a big deal for Christmas in Paris. Angeline ate what I ate, shopped where I shopped, and searched for the man she wanted to poison to avenge her sister’s death. She passed many soldiers on the streets as twenty thousand had been called to protect the city. She met the man she wanted to poison in a seafood bistro that was recommended to me. Because of that sign for the Halsman exhibit, I gave Angeline’s dead sister Sophie the same vulnerability as Marilyn Monroe and knew that Sophie had been exploited, too, for her beauty. That way, every time Angeline took the Metro and saw one of those posters of MM, she would be triggered and enraged.

All three books in the trilogy are filled with details I found when visiting the settings. The second one, Tainted Times 2, takes place in New Hampshire, where I grew up. Going back there was perfect for divulging Angeline’s history and the secrets that haunt her.

In the third novel, 1 Last Betrayal, I set the book in Florida because the pandemic forced me to stay in an area where my brother and sister live. I thought it would inhibit me. Instead, it fascinated me. For example, Hollywood, Florida, has a restaurant and bar called Runas. Its ornate bar is said to have possibly been from the original Yankee Stadium and was a gift from the rumored silent partner Al Capone. Runas became a meeting place between Angeline and an FBI agent. Its history is so colorful that I’ll soon write a newsletter about it.

For those interested in the difference between a thriller and noir, it primarily comes down to how it ends. In thrillers, usually the main character brings the bad guy to justice. In noir, the main character will have closure of some kind, even if it’s just a lesson learned, but they are often foiled by a cruel world and those evil enough to take what they want because, as we all know, terrorists and mobsters will always make our streets mean and our lives hell. But as far as the main character getting what they start out wanting? No, not usually unless the main character is the bad guy. For a great example of that, watch Maddy in the film noir Body Heat. That takes place in Florida, too, with a steamy setting and a wind that blows hot.

Now you know why I love setting and why my characters are born from a place. Whether it’s Paris, Kauai, New Hampshire, or Florida, fascinating details bring each location to life. And for you, my readers, I hope those details, especially the sensory ones, put you firmly in the shoes of my characters.

About the author:
Multi-award-winning author Valerie J. Brooks is the author of the Angeline Porter trilogy, femmes-noir thrillers starring a badass disbarred attorney.

NYTimes bestselling author Kevin O’Brien called her second novel TAINTED TIMES 2 “… a real nail-biter from first page to the last.” Heather Gudenkauf, NYT bestselling author of THE WEIGHT OF SILENCE and THE OVERNIGHT GUEST calls Brooks the Queen of the Femmes-noir Thriller and says her upcoming 3rd novel 1 LAST BETRAYAL is “explosive” and “Brooks drops us into the dark underbelly of organized crime, and we love her for it.”

Brooks is a member of Sisters in Crime. Her awards include an Elizabeth George Foundation grant and five writing residencies. She teaches workshops and classes on writing noir and creating plot twists. Brooks found her love of thrillers as a teen after turning in a hitman to the FBI.

She lives in Oregon with her husband, Dan Connors and their Havanese pooch Stevie Nicks.

Author's Giveaway


Wall-to-wall books said...

Great guest post!
I love this - "I became Angeline Porter. I could walk in her shoes, could see, feel, and hear the gloom that hung over the City of Light."

Sounds like a great series!

Valerie J. Brooks said...

I hope that readers when traveling will also think of the books they've read that have been set there. It's so much fun to let your imagination go wild.

And thank you, readers! Also, for you romantics in the group, there is an attraction and relationship between Angeline and the FBI agent. Hey, it happens!