Mary Burton Q&A and GIVEAWAY


Welcome, Mary!
Before we talk about BEFORE SHE DIES, your latest Alexandria set novel, please tell me—is it true the first two books in the series, Senseless and Merciless, were the best selling of all of your books so far?

Yes. And, as you can imagine, I’m delighted. I always hope each book will help me reach new readers and it’s great to see it continue to happen.

Your last few books were all set in your home town of Richmond,
weren’t they?

Yes. I really enjoyed creating a bit of havoc close to home—and being able to actually go check out the settings for some key scenes without having to pack a bag. Why did you move on to Alexandria? I had a great job offer in Northern Virginia, and I’d always liked visiting my grandparents when they’d lived in Alexandria. I really enjoyed our four years in the city—it’s incredibly diverse. I’d always wanted to set a story there and when the time came for a new setting Alexandria fit the bill.

You brought some characters with you when you “changed venues,” didn’t you?

Richmond detective Malcolm Kier was a favorite among readers, so I had him move on with me for the series. He transferred to the Alexandria Police Department’s Homicide Unit where he teamed up with Deacon Garrison. Are they in BEFORE SHE DIES?
Tangentially, yes. They’re both part of Charlotte Wellington and Daniel Rokov’s story. Deacon and Eva Rayburn from Senseless are still together, but only Deacon makes an appearance in this book, as does Malcolm. Angie Carlson is there, as well. You may recall that Charlotte was Angie’s boss—both are high powered attorneys. Angie actually appears via a series of phone calls, and her scenes are a big part in moving the story forward.

Do all these relationships get confusing?

Apparently only to me. Readers don’t seem to have any problem remembering who’s who, where they first met them and who their favorites are.

Why did you decide to tell Charlotte’s story this time around?

I had to! You know, she was first a character in Silver Bells, the holiday anthology I worked on with Fern Michaels, JoAnn Ross and Judy Duarte—which was the first time my name and work appeared on the New York Times bestseller list. My novella was
Christmas Past and Charlotte was a walk-on character that I didn’t expect to see again. Readers loved her and I couldn’t forget her—or ignore her. She stayed in my mind, so when I moved the books to Alexandria it made sense to include Charlotte. By the time I finished writing Senseless and Merciless, it was clear—Charlotte had to have her own story and she had to have a strong hero. Enter Detective Daniel Rokov, a man quite willing to go toe-to-toe with Charlotte at her most irascible.

Your serial killer is determined to save souls—to make victims confess and beg for forgiveness. I
know you’re writing fiction, but does your research into the motives of criminals—especially multiple
killers—show a quest for redemption as something that recurs in actual cases?

When I build my villains I try to give them as much care and attention as the hero and heroine. I’m not so sure if there is a softer side to real life killers but in novels it works for me to give the bad guys a bit of nobility, even if it is only in their own minds.

Reviews for all three novels have been absolutely glowing. One says Senseless will appeal to fans of Stieg Larson (Publishers Weekly). BEFORE SHE DIES is called a “page turner” by RT Book Reviews and in its starred review Publishers Weekly says it “will have readers sleeping with the lights on.” Certainly, your work has been praised in the past, but attention seems to have ratcheted up, both in volume and accolades. Do you agree? How important are reviews to you?

It’s always wonderful to get nice reviews. It’s very gratifying to know that the work you’ve put so much effort into is recognized. I do seem to be getting more recognition these days and that’s great. It really does feel good to hear from readers who tell you they couldn’t put your book down. But once I’ve read any kind of review or praise I put them aside so that I can get back to the work in
front of me. Most days my total focus is the current book I’m writing. It always seems I’m completely distracted by character motivations, timelines, plot devices, you name it.

I know you research extensively as regards law enforcement procedure to make sure your stories are realistic and believable. How does that influence your writing?

Focusing on the reality of police work helps to keep me grounded. I challenge myself to solve the problems I create in a way I believe a real policeman might. And, considering the resources available to most police departments, I have to do my best to solve the crimes with good detective work and not so much on fancy DNA tests or high tech forensic equipment.


You frequently deal with issues of family, belonging and your characters’ own sense of identity. Is it simply because that makes for great fiction or do you see this as something many people face? If so, do you believe people confront these sorts of issues in today’s society more so than in the past?

We all have family. And most of us have shared joys and frustrations with family. It’s universal. It made sense that my heroes, heroines and even villains would have the same struggles as you or I. For me, family makes characters more believable. I’m not sure people confront issues better today than yesterday. Some of us do a better job than others. But emotions can be difficult and sloppy. And I think it’s fun and satisfying to read about characters who tackle problems head on or who say what’s on their mind.

What’s next?

I’m tackling a new book now called The Seventh Victim. It’s set in Austin, Texas and will be
published in February 2013.

Thanks, Mary!


A Virginia native whose family’s Richmond roots run as deep as the nation’s, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Mary Burton also resided briefly in Alexandria, the setting for BEFORE SHE DIES. She graduated from Virginia’s Hollins University, began a career in marketing and, after a decade, left her job to begin writing. Burton’s first book was published in 2000. Eleven more romances and three novellas followed before she turned to serial killers for her suspense novels, BEFORE SHE DIES, Senseless, Merciless, Dying Scream, Dead Ringer and I’m Watching You, and the novella Christmas Past, featured in the New York Times best selling anthology Silver Bells.
Mary’s commitment to realism in her work has led to eye-opening interviews with local law enforcement, to forensic seminars and to the firing range. She is a graduate of the Henrico County Citizens Police Academy and the Richmond FBI Citizen’s Academy, participated in Sisters in Crime’s Forensic University program and attended the Writers Police Academy in Jamestown, North Carolina for seminars on autopsies, undercover work and motive. An avid baker and an accomplished cook, Mary also practices Astanga yoga, enjoys her miniature dachshunds Buddy and Bella, and pursues her Baking & Pastry Arts Certificate at the University of Richmond. Mary Burton lives with her family in Richmond and is at work on her next novel, The Seventh Victim.


Bestselling author Mary Burton is making life difficult again for Detective Daniel Rokov and his colleagues in Alexandria, Virginia’s Homicide Unit in BEFORE SHE DIES, her new novel of romance, murder, and suspense. Senseless and Merciless, the first of Burton’s “Alexandria” thrillers, were published in 2011. Embraced by reviewers and readers, they managed to exceed sales  of her popular Richmond set novels, I’m Watching You, Dead Ringer and Dying Scream. As in past books, Burton brings back some of readers’ favorite characters, such as Rokov, Detectives Malcolm Kier and Deacon Garrison, Angie Carlson and high-powered attorney Charlotte Wellington. Charlotte is a woman with secrets. She’s reinvented herself, fighting hard to escape her past as a youthful, orphaned carnival fortuneteller and the horror of her sister Mariah’s murder. Today, no one would guess that her new name, law degree and perfect exterior hide memories of Grady Tate, the hard, cold alcoholic carnie boss who had been her stepfather. They also disguise the hole in her heart left by Mariah and her daughter, who was adopted as an infant.

“Burton just keeps getting better!…gripping…the characters are flawed and wonderful.”
—RT Book Reviews (four star review) on Merciless
“This is a story to read with the lights on.”
—BookPage on Senseless
“Violent and terrifying, this chilling thriller is an engrossing story.”
—Library Journal on Merciless

When Grady shows up offering to trade his silence for help with a trumped-up shoplifting charge, she is stunned to find out that she’ll be defending eighteen-year-old Sooner, the niece who was eight days old when she last saw her. Furious at Grady for reneging on his promise to find Sooner a real home, she’s even angrier when she learns Sooner’s been working as “Madame Divine”—the fortune teller role her late mother and both Mariah and Charlotte played. Leaving court after having charges against Sooner dismissed, Charlotte runs into Rokov. The memory of their all-too-recent night together rekindles her fear that he thinks their casual affair can become something more. Rokov, however, has too much on his plate to worry about his love life. He’s just come from Alexandria’s touristy Old Town, where a young woman has been found dead, staked to the floor of an abandoned building, the word “witch” tattooed on her forehead, her body surrounded by a circle of salt. A second ritualistic killing confirms suspicions that a multiple murderer is at work, and hints at a pattern among the victims. Both are connected to the occult. Grady becomes a key suspect as news of similar deaths along the carnival’s route emerges. Meanwhile, emotions run high between Rokov and Charlotte as he tries to break through the hard exterior she’s created to protect herself. Suddenly, Sooner goes missing. Charlotte’s certain it’s because of Grady trying to increase business by touting Sooner’s psychic ability and saying she was on the trail of the killer. Unfortunately, it seems the killer’s motives go much deeper, with roots planted two decades ago and unfinished business that can only be concluded with Charlotte’s death.

*Watch for my review on Friday!*

Thanks to Joan Schulhafer Publishing and Media Consultation I have copy of the first two books in the series to give to one lucky winner! The winner will receive a copy of both Senseless and Merciless! This is open to US and Canada residents only. I will leave this open until Friday 2/10/12 at 11:59pm EST. 


  1. Both of these books sound great. I have not read any of Mary Burton’s books before but would love to. Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy of these books.

  2. Haven’t read these yet, but they sound right up my alley!! Would love to read them!! Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!!!!

  3. I saw this book on a blog and it looked so interesting and I am sure I would enjoy her books. I have never read anything by Ms.Burton. I did put her name and the book’s name down on my to read list. I would love to win this.

  4. This series sounds really interesting. I’ve never read any of Mary’s books so she would be a new to me author. Thanks for the giveaway!

    ringpop2010 at gmail dot com

  5. Wow, Before She Dies sounds really intense. Thanks for the giveaway. I have never read anything by this author and I would love the chance to try out her books!

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