Books by Mary Willis Walker

ALL THE DEAD LIE DOWN by Mary Willis Walker
Released: May 1, 1998

Though she's put in her time on wild and wooly cases (Under the Beetle's Cellar, 1995, etc.), Lone Star Monthly writer Molly Cates has never run her biggest story to earth: the mystery of her father Vernon's death, labeled a suicide by everybody but Molly for nearly 30 years. Now a chance sighting of Franny Lawrence Quinlan, Vernon's ex-fiancÇe, and Olin Crocker, the crooked sheriff Molly is convinced killed the investigation, puts her back on the scent, even though everybody she talks to—from her godparents, Parnell and Rose Morrisey, to Frank Quinlan, the rival she was convinced had pulled the trigger to prevent Vernon's exposÇ of his family's oil company—tells her the evidence of suicide is clear, and she'll be sorry if she reopens the case. Meantime, a second, even more momentous story is knocking on her door, if only she'd listen: Sarah Jane Hurley, a.k.a. Cow Lady, a friend of a retarded bag lady Molly interviewed for a story on street people, has overheard a plot to end the debate on a proposed law to allow concealed handguns by blowing up the Senate chambers, together with all those mostly unarmed legislators, in the Austin State House. Searingly effective grace notes by the dozen—Molly's merciless badgering of her senile Aunt Harriet for evidence, her interview with a feisty former hooker, her fear that plotting revenge against Olin Crocker is turning her into one of the vigilantes she despises—bring Walker's conventional double plot to a vivid life. (Literary Guild selection; Mystery Guild selection; author tour) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1995

A sect of religious fanatics imprisons a dozen school-aged hostages in their Texas compoundand Walker gets a chance to show how a tough-minded writer might have turned Waco around. Fade in on Day 46 of the hostage crisis. The 11 kids and bus driver Walter Demming, hidden in an underground bus for over six weeks, are near the breaking point when her editor persuades Lone Star Monthly reporter Molly Cates that her interview two years ago with Samuel Mordecai, self-anointed messiah of the Hearth Nazarenes, gives her the edge on the story of a lifetime. (The editor's obviously forgotten what a bang-up job Molly did in her Edgar-winning The Red Scream last year.) As she runs around interviewing likely contacts with Mordecai, Molly becomes obsessed with locating his birth mother, who abandoned him as an infant; if only she can reunite mother and son, she thinks, she just might provoke a breakthrough in the fruitless hostage negotiations. Molly doesn't know that the FBI isn't getting anywhere with Mordecai because there's no chance of his releasing the children: He plans a millennial sacrifice of innocents on the 50th day of their captivity. Led by burned-out Demming, who tries to rally them by telling an animal fable based on his hitch in Vietnam, the kids listen passively to Mordecai's daily preaching, practice their defensive maneuvers for the day they're sure is coming, and pray that the Hearth Nazarenes will get an all- important inhaler for an asthmatic hostage. Meanwhile, Molly, thrown back together with her hostage negotiator ex-husband and his killer dog, finally tracks down Mordecai's motherbut she's frantically angry and defensive, exactly the last person the authorities want to meet with Mordecai. What now? Nail-biting suspense from the first page, masterfully extended to the last. Check your political sympathies at the door, stock up on your blood-pressure medication, and enjoy. (First printing of 200,000; author tour) Read full book review >
THE RED SCREAM by Mary Willis Walker
Released: Aug. 21, 1994

Now that homicidal drifter Louie Bronk's about to be executed for a murder he committed 11 years ago, Texas reporter Molly Cates, whose one claim to fame is her book on Louie, prepares her last article on the case. Oddly, her boss and powerful contractor Charlie McFarland, whose wife Tiny was the one victim habitual killer Louie will be executed for, pressure her to walk away from the story. But Molly won't walk away, especially after she starts to get a series of threatening notes aping Louie's prison poems; Charlie's second wife, Georgia, is killed (by a copycat?); and so is an important witness in Tiny's death shortly after Molly talks to him and senses he's hiding something. Then, four days before the execution, Louie recants his decade-old confession, claims he never killed Tiny, and demands that Molly help him prove it. When Molly, supported by her ex-husband, police lieutenant Grady Traynor, follows Louie's story about his telltale 1972 Ford Mustang to a Fort Worth junkyard, she walks into enough trouble to prove that somebody doesn't want the whole story to come out; but is that proof enough for the law-and-order governor? And if Louie didn't kill Tiny, then who did? One of the creepiest killers since Hannibal Lecter meets a plot and heroine worthy of Patricia Cornwell. Welcome to the big time, Mary Willis Walker (Zero at the Bone, 1991). Read full book review >
ZERO AT THE BONE by Mary Willis Walker
Released: Dec. 18, 1991

Cash-poor Texas dog-trainer Katherine Driscoll, threatened with foreclosure on her kennel but offered a $100,000 bailout by her long- estranged father, Lester Renfro, arrives at the Austin zoo where he works just hours after he's clawed to death by a tiger. A locker key that Renfro sent her sets her on the trail of a long-range scheme to defraud a zoo trust set up by her well-heeled grandmother; meantime, somebody calling himself the ``pointman'' is sending threatening letters to Kate and others and setting up bogus animal-killings of the recipients. As she settles into a despised new job among the zoo's reptiles, Kate wonders where Renfro, long cut off from his wife's wealthy family, expected to get the money he promised Kate; what secret he planned to cut her in on; and whom she can trust among the human inmates in the zoo. Colorless suspects but striking zoo background and a most appealing heroine. Too bad first-novelist Walker seems determined to make this Kate's last case. Read full book review >