Brother’s Keeper Author’s Commentary
One Of My Best Thrillers Of All Time.
‘Brother’s Keeper’ is my first psychological thriller, and it was simultaneously fun and difficult to write. It tells the story of Scott Sharp, a widowed traveler whose train makes a stop at the tiny town of Burdensville. Here, Scott tries to assist a waitress being harassed by a drunk and gets himself arrested, which results in pulling the stranger into the dark secrets the town holds, and the secrets won’t let him go. I consider this to be one of my best thrillers of all time. ‘Brother’s Keeper’ is my first suspense thriller release, and it is the first book I have written that I would classify as psychological thrillers, or psychological horror. My second novel in my list of psychological thrillers was ‘Box Office Butcher’ and my third novel would be ‘Passing Through’. If you like the horrors be sure to try all three of these serial killers.
Writing this novel was fun for a variety of reasons.
It was off the beaten path compared to most books I write. The monster in this book is not a vampire, witch, or zombie; instead, the monster is an unknown psychopath who is murdering women at night who pass through the town. Developing the character of the serial killer wreaking havoc was a good time; I wanted him to be dull, but intelligent; he needed to be needy, but in control in ways no one understood. He needed to have deep-seated issues that were in such a terrible knot that even those who might care about him didn’t know how to sort them out.
Here’s the deal.
Scott walks into Burdensville without the slightest idea what has been happening to this town. He is, utterly and completely, an innocent victim. When he first gets to the café and tries to protect the waitress from the town drunk, he is put under arrest by the sheriff, which is really the first sign that something is off in that town; even the other patrons in the restaurant keep their mouths closed when he implores them to tell the sheriff that he did nothing wrong. The whole place is off, and he can’t seem to put his finger on what is happening around him. All Scott knows is that he’s trapped in a jail cell waiting to see a judge that won’t come for more than a week, but it is there that Scott himself will begin to unravel the goings-on in Burdensville for himself.
It gets better.
Of course, we cannot have the murder mystery element without romantic suspense, even if it is slight. In the case of Brother’s Keeper, I created a slow but sure relationship between Scott and the waitress he tried to save when he was arrested. In the beginning, she was aloof with him, but soon she is forced to take meals to the jail to feed Scott, and it is during this time the two get to know each other. Inevitably, they fall in love, but not before the killer puts her own sanity to the test.
But here’s the kicker.
Sheriff Robert Darby is keeping the most secrets in this town, as readers will discover. I chose the sheriff for this role because none of what happens in the crime thriller would be possible without the authority that his badge permits him to have. The beauty of fiction is exactly what I did in the case of Sheriff Darby and his unutterable secrets.
I tried to put a bit of everything in this new fiction book: Old lady hen twins who are the gossipers of the town; Dickie, the café owner, who has great fatherly affection for Denise, and who has seen some of the craziness Burdensville truly has to offer. The town drunk, who is also mentally challenged and basically faces life alone except for the help of the sheriff; he is essential to the psychothriller novel, in all of its insanity and desperation. Another reason why I consider this to be one of my best thrillers of all time.
Want to know the best part?
To put things in a nutshell for my readers, there is a past history of foul play that the sheriff is actively covering up; he is doing this for more reasons than I can explain here, but his secrets are vile, shameful, and have instilled a sense of obligation in Sheriff Darby that he can never silence. It is, quite literally, a huge burden for him, but he carries these things, and acts upon them, out of the best interest of the townsfolk as a whole, not to mention himself. Readers may feel like Sheriff Darby is something of a bad guy, but I cannot express enough that the things he does which seem so wrong are committed out of a pure heart, a heart that is trying to make things right in a situation where they will never, ever be right again. He is not the guy to hate here, though throughout the pages of this psychological murder mystery it clearly seems that way. The reality is, Sheriff Darby is as much of a victim as all of those who have been murdered in a blood bath on the outskirts of the town.
You might be wondering about the town.
I wanted people to really be in Burdensville while they read this. I also wanted readers to get a very specific feel for the town; Mayberry without a shower. I did my best to convey the gloom of the constant shadows that seem to hang over the place, even when the sun was shining. I also wanted to make it clear that Sheriff Darby wasn’t the only one feeling obligation; the entire town does. That’s more or less what happens in small-town life and, evil or not, Burdensville is no different.
Add this novel to your Best Thrillers Of All Time list.
Brother’s Keeper Character Profile
Scott is a man going through a terrible hardship: the death of his beloved wife. He is young and virile, but the emotional trauma of this has him beside himself, and so he takes off to sort out the truth of his loss. Scott has dark hair and eyes, and is muscular, but slight in build. He is a good man in his heart, coming from a good family. He is the kind of person who believes in the good of man’s heart overall, at least until he gets to Burdensville. Scott is loyal and courageous, which is clear in his response to Denise being harassed. Scott is a man of ideals who is simply feeling his way through a dark spot in his life. Though finding love is far from his mind, he is attracted to Denise, which causes him to feel a bit guilty since his wife is gone. He is also intelligent and determined, and he isn’t afraid to stand up and take the wheel in whatever way he can to help.
This petite strawberry-blonde has cute blue eyes and a small build. She has never married; Denise has cared for her sister, Diane, since the death of their mother and father. With mountains of responsibilities, all she does is work and support her sister, who is preparing to attend college. Denise works at Dickie’s Place, the small town café that serves as the main hang out in Burdensville, which is also her lifelong home. Her boss, Dickie, keeps an eye out for her, being really the only father figure in her life. Denise knows something is off in her town, but like all the rest who live there, she keeps the few things she does know far from the ears of strangers, making her seem standoffish to passers-through. She has a big heart, and when she gets to know Scott by taking him food to the jail, she is powerless against the obvious feelings growing between them. She is smart as well, and she helps Scott put the pieces of Burdensville’s horrible puzzle together.
Sheriff Robert Darby
Sheriff Darby is the law in this town, and he is the only one with this responsibility. He is from Burdensville, just like all the rest, and he loves the people and place, though it is difficult to tell until further on in the book. Not only does he feel an obligation to look out for the townsfolk, he also feels an intense, heavy obligation to keep the secrets that only he and a select few know about. At the cost of saving face and keeping promises he has made, Darby goes to some terrible lengths to fulfill this obligation. He is a gruff, sandy-haired man with something of a potbelly, and he is constantly chewing on a toothpick. What this guy says goes, even if it’s the wrong thing to say.
Ronnie is not only mentally challenged, the result of an injury while in the womb, but he is a severe alcoholic with violent tendencies. His brother is a doctor, but the man has little to do with him directly; Sheriff Darby is the one who is always bailing him out. Ronnie is like a boy in his mind; life is too big for him, and he depends fully on Darby to get him by and take care of his every need. For the most part, the town thinks he is a harmless drunk. They have known him all his life, and while he can be a bit overwhelming and scary, Ronnie is still one of their own. He psychologically doesn’t understand his actions as being wrong or right; he just wants to fulfill his own needs when he wants them filled. Ronnie is the lunatic Scott encounters harassing Denise in Dickie’s café during his break from the train, which gives readers an idea of what he is really like. It is important for readers to grasp what this character’s life has really been like to understand him.
Dickie isn’t a main player in this book, but his role is a significant one. He owns Dickie’s Place, the only place to eat and hang out in town. Like most of the rest, Burdensville is his home, and he knows everyone who lives there. He is Denise’s boss, but more than that he has known her for years, and he has a strong fatherly affection for her, making sure she is safe. His wife is dying, but he really isn’t the kind of man to let it show; he manages to crack a couple of jokes, and usually has a smile. His employees are like his kids, and he is good to all of them. Dickie is a man of average height, with thinning gray hair; he is clean-shaven. Most of the time he wears short-sleeved button-downs and jeans; he is very down to earth and trustworthy, at least to those he knows. This is a good man who simply gets wrapped up into the dark drama of the small town life at the wrong time, but he is a benefit to Diane.
The younger sister of Denise is preparing to graduate, and she will be starting college to study to become a nurse; she is her sister’s pride and joy, and she is also all Denise really has left since their mom and dad died. The two are close, and Diane is a good girl who would never disrespect or worry her sister. Dickie keeps an eye on her too, though the two aren’t as close as he is with Denise. She is a common, down-home girl next door who is living a good life, all things considered. The only drawback is that she is oblivious to the history and goings on in Burdensville, and her ignorance will prove to come at a terrible price. She too is blonde and blue-eyed, but not as petite as her older sibling. Slender and tall, Diane promises to be a total knock-out someday.
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