WHEN SHADOWS FALL has a new cover!

Welcome to the bright and shiny new digital edition of WHEN SHADOWS FALL! My publishers are repackaging the series in fabulous new covers, and I’m so excited to share them with you. For your enjoyment, here’s a peek inside the origins of the novel!


I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but my eleventh novel will be born into the world soon. WHEN SHADOWS FALL is the third Saman­tha Owens novel, a sem­i­nal book in the series, as it decides the course of action for the next several books.

Every series has a path, planned or unplanned. When I started writ­ing my Tay­lor Jack­son series, I had no idea it was going to be a series. I hadn’t thought about extended story, struc­ture, char­ac­ter devel­op­ment. I cre­ated a finite char­ac­ter in a finite world, and it was dif­fi­cult to see where to take the books.

With Sam, it was the oppo­site. I knew I wanted a char­ac­ter who could grow and change remark­ably. I knew I wanted to allow her the free­dom to move around the coun­try, the world, with rel­a­tive ease. As my then-edi­tor and I were plan­ning the first book in the series, I men­tioned I wanted Sam to be the Indi­ana Jones of foren­sic pathol­ogy. The idea stuck.

What hap­pens in this book wasn’t sup­posed to hap­pen until book 4 in the series. It’s funny, the same thing hap­pened to me in the Tay­lor series. The third book, JUDAS KISS, was sup­posed to be the fourth. I made men­tion of my idea for it, hop­ing to entice my edi­tor to buy the book when I was fin­ished with the third I had planned. Instead, she jumped on the idea and told me in no uncer­tain terms this was the ONE.

So when I found myself in the same posi­tion this time, I knew what I needed to do. Aban­don the story and move the next book into its place. I couldn’t let Sam lan­guish in her sor­row any longer. It was time for her to move on. To start anew. Insert res­ur­rec­tion clauses here.

Of course, Sam wasn’t aware of the change her life was about to take. She wasn’t par­tic­u­larly ready to move on, not really. And I had to tell her, Too bad, sis­ter. I’ll let you have some onscreen sex to make up for it.

I think its one of the most part of the fun being a writer, this game you play with your char­ac­ters. I once asked a very famous writer about how char­ac­ters some­times do their own thing, and he looked at me like I was a recent escapee from an insane asy­lum and declared his char­ac­ters would never do such a thing because they only did what he told them to do.

I find that so sad. I like that my char­ac­ters and I have this sort of push and pull rela­tion­ship. They give me some of what I want, I give them some of what they want. In the end, we’re all happy and mov­ing on to the next adven­ture. At least, that’s the plan. After wrestling alli­ga­tors with them for 500 pages, they damn well bet­ter be ready to move on. Cause if they’re not, they often end up dead. Or maimed. Or mar­ried off, or on the run.

Poor char­ac­ters. Poor, poor char­ac­ters. Bet­ter behave, or I’ll make your life hell.

But Sam behaved, and she was rewarded with many excit­ing things, all of which set up the rest of the series. I’m not one-hundred per­cent sure where we go from here, but I love that book three has become this sem­i­nal turn­ing point for the Sam. And as such, for Xan­der and Fletcher too. The whole cast is being thrust into a new world because I got impa­tient. I hope they con­tinue to behave!

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So WHEN SHADOWS FALL is out in the world, and there have been a few write-ups and reviews, interviews and guest blogs. In the interest of housekeeping, I've gathered them all together.

Interviews and Blogs

One of the most extensive looks at WHEN SHADOWS FALL, really digging down into the story, comes from Bookreporter.com

I am so honored to have been asked to do an interview for She Reads, one of the book world's leading curators for new books, book clubs, book blogging... they're awesome! 

Riffle Backstory - Riffle is a cool new site dedicated to readers, helping you find and share your favorite books, and this is a fun interview - with many of my favorite books and writers listed.

I did a brief podcast with my awesome audiobook publishers, Tantor Audio. The audiobook of WHEN SHADOWS FALL comes out March 31.

I'm always so excited to do anything with my good friend Allison Brennan, who's new book NOTORIOUS is coming next month. Here's a guest blog on her Murder She Writes 

I participated in the ITW Thriller Roundtable – How do News Events Shape Your Plots discussion

On Writerspace, Samantha Owens took the Proust Questionnaire, and I also discussed the book's path into being.

I did a piece about never giving up for The Strand Magazine's Mystery Center (Link to come)

And from CAFTAR - Campaign for the American Reader


Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week (February 24, 2014)

Starred Review in Publishers Weekly

Exceptional character development distinguishes Thriller Award–winner Ellison’s third Samantha Owens novel (after 2012’s Edge of Black), the best yet in the series. When Sam, now head of Georgetown University Medical School’s forensic pathology department in Washington, D.C., receives a letter from a stranger named Timothy Savage asking her to solve his murder, she gets drawn back into her former career in law enforcement. Sam performs an autopsy on Savage, who recently died in Lynchburg, Va., and the examination shows he did not commit suicide, as the police ruled, but was indeed murdered. Meanwhile, Sam and her boyfriend, former Army Ranger Xander Whitfield, become embroiled in a search for a missing child whose disappearance may be related to Savage’s death. The suspense builds as Sam and Xander, aided by D.C. homicide detective Darren Fletcher, chase down a host of surprising leads. The author’s ability to neatly tie together the mysterious clues helps make this a standout in the romantic thriller subgenre. Agent: Scott Miller, Trident Media Group. (Mar.)

Starred Review in Booklist

What at first appears to be a suicide propels Dr. Samantha Owens into a case that will test her resolve and sanity in Ellison’s third novel to feature the forensic pathologist. It starts with Owens receiving a letter from the victim—posted before his death—asking her to solve his murder. She is also listed, it turns out, as one of the beneficiaries in the man’s will. Having no idea who he is or why he sought out her services, she reluctantly conducts an autopsy and discovers that the death was, in fact, murder. How did he know he was going to be killed? His secret will shock Owens and her colleagues to the core, forcing them to ask hard questions about themselves, their careers, and how something as infallible as DNA can produce the wrong results. The mystery only intensifies as the narrative unfolds, and it’s a guarantee that readers will not figure out all of the details before the end. Ellison has crafted a terrific thriller, and fans of forensic mysteries, such as those by Patricia Cornwell, should immediately add this series to their A-lists. Knowledge of the prior books is not necessary to enjoy this one. —Jeff Ayers 

Romantic Times Top Pick

Ellison excels at imaginative and terrifying plots, and this thriller is a fine example that sucks readers in at the beginning and spits them out at the end, emotionally drained. The latest Samantha Owens installment is a complex story with interwoven mysteries and a frightening conspiracy. Villains range from just greedy to truly evil.

After several years of tragedy and danger, forensic pathologist Samantha Owens has accepted a teaching position at Georgetown University in an effort to lead a calmer life. Her plan is shattered when she receives a letter from a dead man, Timothy Savage, asking her to solve his murder. Savage’s attorney is then murdered, and the killer is working his way down the list of Savage’s beneficiaries. Sam becomes involved with the FBI’s investigation of a missing girl and finds out Savage was an FBI agent who went undercover in a cult to rescue a young girl. (MIRA, Mar., 416 pp., $24.95) —Joyce Morgan

Library Journal

Dr. Samantha Owens is transitioning into her new job teaching and chairing the forensic pathology department at Georgetown University Medical School when she receives a cryptic letter from a stranger asking her to solve his murder. Hesitant to get involved in fieldwork after recently opting out of law enforcement, Sam ignores the request. When the dead man's will stipulates that Sam perform the autopsy, her curiosity is piqued. The autopsy indicates murder, catapulting Sam and those closest to her into an intense FBI case. In her five harrowing days on the case, Sam uncovers dangerous links among a missing FBI agent, cold-case child abductions, and a suspicious religious cult led by a charismatic female. VERDICT Ellison's third Samantha Owens installment (after A Deeper Darkness and Edge of Black) is a gripping page-turner. Skillfully seasoned with suspense, intrigue, adventure, and a dash of romance, it's essential for suspense junkies. Fans of Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta books may notice similarities but will find that Ellison puts her own unique spin on forensic investigation. —Mary Todd Chesnut, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights

Suspense Magazine 

Ellison, yet again, offers up a story that goes from 0-to-60 in seconds.

Dr. Samantha Owens is working to set up her classroom for her new job as head of the Georgetown University Medical School’s Forensic Pathology Department in Washington, D.C. She is extremely happy about her new career and has no regrets about giving up a life in law enforcement.

While she’s going about her work, looking forward to the new path her life is taking, she receives an extremely odd letter. The letter is from a corpse who states that he’s dead and wants, more than anything, for Dr. Owens to solve his murder. In addition, the supposed victim is even more helpful by compiling a list of suspects for the doctor to look at, and setting aside some money in order to cover any expenses she has during the investigation. Downside? The corpse also states that Dr. Owens life will definitely be on the line if his killers find out she’s received this post-mortem letter.

Samantha doesn’t have a clue as to who Timothy Savage, the signer of the letter, is. What makes it even more confusing is when she’s approached by his lawyer and informed that Savage was not murdered at all; he is dead by his own hand.

After a great deal of hesitation, she agrees to perform an autopsy on Savage and finds that natural causes or suicide are not the case at all. Add to this, another plot where her significant other, Army Ranger Xander Whitfield, is pulled into a case involving a search for a missing child whose disappearance may be connected to the death of Mr. Savage, and the story blows up. When Homicide Detective Darren Fletcher arrives, anything and everything boils to the top.

Full of carefully mastered clues that tie both cases together, this is a true thrillfest that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the very end. —Mary Lignor, Professional Librarian & Co-Owner of The Write Companion

Fresh Fiction 

Dr. Samantha (Sam) Owens is an expert forensic pathologist the FBI would love to have working for them. After turning down their job offer, Sam wants nothing more than a normal life teaching at Georgetown University. She's deeply in love and building a life with Xander Whitfield, a former Army Ranger, and content with her decisions. That contentment crumples when she receives a strange letter from a man named Timothy Savage begging her to solve his murder, even though his recent death has been ruled a suicide.

Things become even more bizarre when Savage's will names Sam as executor, as well as a benefactor, compelling her to autopsy his body to learn the truth. Her findings verify his death was murder, not suicide, but there's also foreign DNA on him that belongs to a girl who was found dead years ago. That's impossible, or is it?

Each step taken in the investigation turns up even more questions. Who is [Timothy] Savage, and how did he know he was going to be killed? How did he get a dead girl's DNA on his body? Is the DNA wrong? The mystery unfolds and intensifies with many shocking twists and turns leading to a totally incredible conclusion.

J.T. Ellison's WHEN SHADOWS FALL is a cleverly devised forensic thriller with multifaceted characters and a compelling storyline. Even though it's part of a series, WHEN SHADOWS FALL is an excellent stand-alone novel giving all the background information that's needed for its total enjoyment. Ellison is a master-craftsman at developing superb forensic thrillers!  —Tanzey Cutter


And last, but not least, here's a short Excerpt from WHEN SHADOWS FALL

Thanks for your support!

On Decisions

What do you do when faced with a life-changing decision? Do you jump off the cliff and go for it, heedless of the consequence? Do you agonize, write lists of pros and cons, worry yourself into sleepless nights until the decision is made? Or do you use entropy, edging toward the decision through the path of least resistance, not deciding, but not walking away, either?

I’ve always been a bit of a cliff jumper myself. I make up my mind on things quickly, and move forward decisively.  Sometimes too decisively.

So when my main character, Dr. Samantha Owens, was faced with a life-changing decision at the beginning of WHEN SHADOWS FALL, I thought she’d be like me – make the decision and move on. But she didn’t. She fought against what she knew would be best for her, and it took her a whole novel to decide.

It’s a tricky thing, changing a character’s world. Whether they get married, have a child, get divorced, meet a lover, start a new job, deal with a loved one’s death – these catalysts drive our narratives, giving our character’s depth, and making them relatable.

I’ve been throwing changes at Dr. Samantha Owens for several books now. She’s had to face the death of her husband and children in the Nashville floods, the death of her ex-lover, the surprising love of a new man, a move from Nashville to Washington D.C. and a new job running the brand-new forensic pathology program at Georgetown University. And in WHEN SHADOWS FALL, she’s faced with even more decisions – whether to accept a consulting position with the FBI, whether to accept a ring from her lover, whether to investigate the murder of a man who clearly committed suicide.

What is it the French say? Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Stasis is the death of novels. Change, not for the sake of change, but for the sake of challenge, is the only way to keep a series alive, to keep the characters interesting, to keep their story moving forward. It’s a careful balance, and it’s where the novel’s conflict comes from. Too much change, and you lose the things that make readers love the character. Too little change, and things get boring.

Sam’s facing the biggest decision of her life in WHEN SHADOWS FALL. The question is posed in the first chapter, and she doesn’t decide fully until the last. Her decision changes the course of the series, sending it in a new direction. It gives the series real legs, sustainability, reason and meaning. Sam can move forward now, unfettered by her past.

At least, we hope she can.

So what about you? How do you make decisions? Leap and bounds, or slow and steady?

This blog first appeared on Murder She Writes February 24, 2014