Author Guest Post
The Real-Life Serial Killer Behind the Thrilling New Mystery ANONYMOUS
I’ve been asked where I got the idea to write about a female private investigator, living at the beach, who becomes the obsession of a serial killer after tweeting about him.
Because it happened to me. Well, almost.
In addition to being an author, I am a private investigator. In my younger years I lived at Windansea Beach in La Jolla, California, where the main character in my mystery/thriller, Anonymous, lives. It is a hidden jewel of white sand beaches and crystal blue water, known mostly to surfers who hope to best the novices-need-not-apply surf break. After I returned to school and got a bachelor’s degree in Writing, I decided to write a mystery series based loosely on my life living there; the fact that it made me a real life Kinsey Millhone was not lost on me.
The plot of this particular novel came out of a real life experience. Several years ago I was watching a TV special about the as yet un-caught serial killer called the Golden State Killer (GSK), named after the Golden State of California. Before he was caught in 2018 and sentenced to life in prison, he was responsible for at least fifty rapes and thirteen murders over the course of fifteen years; he committed so many crimes that for many years it was thought to be three separate criminals committing the crimes. The crime spree started in the 1970’s in central California with burglaries, and then escalated to rapes and murders. As authorities in Visalia tried to catch this criminal, the crimes seemed to suddenly stop. Shortly thereafter crimes started occurring in the Sacramento area, and law enforcement there scrambled to catch the person causing panic among citizens who were terrified of a serial rapist and murderer in their community. And then those crimes stopped, and rapes and murders began occurring along the coast of California, moving southward. What law enforcement didn’t know in the 1970’s and 1980’s was that the crimes were all being committed by the same perpetrator.
Different law enforcement agencies were handling the crimes in the different locations, and they didn’t have the ability to share information that they have now. The killer knew enough about law enforcement practices to switch up his modus operandi slightly to keep the authorities from connecting his crimes. What was consistent across the incidents was the brutality and pure evil of the crimes. The killer would do things like make a wife tie up the husband and place china plates on the husband’s back. The GSK would then rape the wife and tell the husband he would kill her if he heard the plates move. Eventually the GSK just ended up killing the couples after torturing them for hours. But in the early years of his crime spree he left his victims alive, only to call them on the telephone, sometimes years later, and torment them with a description of what he had done to them. He called one woman over twenty years after he had raped her, to remind her what he had done to her and what he could do again. The man is an absolute monster.
It wasn’t until 2001 that technology began to assist law enforcement, and they connected the crimes in California from north to south and finally realized that the crimes were being committed by the same perpetrator. I saw the TV special in about 2016, and the show listed out some of the clues and invited viewers to call authorities if they had any ideas that might help.
I’ve never been able to figure out if I hate a mystery or love a mystery; either way, I’m obsessed with them. I have to figure them out. Immediately after the TV show, I pulled up Twitter and looked for the hashtags that would direct me to others who were discussing the mystery of this killer. I found people who had been trying to figure out his identity for years. I tweeted furiously, offering my ideas based on the clues provided in the TV show; I am good at figuring out mysteries, and maybe something I suggested would lead to his capture.
It was now bedtime, so I turned out the lights in my three bedroom house where I lived alone, and I went to bed.
And then the panic hit me. It was irrational, I admit. But I’m not embarrassed; I think any of you might have felt the same. There I was, alone in my house, and I’ve just tweeted about an evil serial killer who tracks down his victims years later to torment them. He would’ve been in his late 60’s or early 70’s by then, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t still do harm. What if he was following the social media on his case, just like I was? What if he saw my tweets and decided I was getting too close to figuring out who he was? What if he tracked me down and got my address? That last was unlikely, but when panic sets in sometimes you have no control over where it goes; plus, being a PI, I know how easy it is to find someone’s address.
I jumped out of bed and ran to my computer. I deleted every single tweet I’d sent; fortunately, no one had retweeted me, so my tweets were deleted forever. I had a lot of trouble going to sleep that night.
That was the spark for the plot of Anonymous. What if he had found me and left a note on my door telling me to stop investigating him? What would’ve happened? Would I have known why I was being stalked? Would I have figured out that my tweets had awakened the monster? And either way, would I have solved the mystery?
Those questions started me writing what became Anonymous, and the book became an edge of your seat thriller. Our heroine, Madison Kelly, races to find the person who left the threatening note on her door, the person responsible for two missing women, before he silences her forever. It is a wild ride, one I hope you will enjoy.
Anonymous: A Madison Kelly Mystery
1st in Series
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books (November 10, 2020)
Hardcover: 320 pages
Digital ASIN: B0852P3YCX
The note was threatening enough–but its link to two cold cases and a sinister unseen presence sends P.I. Madison Kelly on a frantic search for the truth.
Madison Kelly, a San Diego private investigator, arrives home to a note stabbed to her front door: Stop investigating me, or I will hunt you down and kill you. The only problem? Madison hasn’t been investigating anyone–she’s been taking time off to figure out what to do with her life. But how does she prove a negative? The only way to remove the threat is to do exactly what “Anonymous”, the note writer, is telling her not to do: investigate to see who left it. Could this have something to do with the true crime podcast she’s been tweeting about, and the missing girls?
The girls went missing, two years apart, after a night at the clubs in San Diego’s famed Gaslamp Quarter, and Madison had been probing the internet for clues. She discovers that someone has been one step ahead of her, monitoring her tweets to prevent her from getting too close. Soon Madison’s investigation brings up more questions than answers: are the disappearances connected? Are the girls dead or did they just walk away from their lives? And who is Anonymous, the person who will stop at nothing to keep Madison from learning the truth?
As she closes in, so does Anonymous. Set against a backdrop of surfer culture and coffee houses of San Diego, Anonymous follows Madison as she confronts the reality of the girls’ disappearance in a terrifying climax where the hunter becomes the hunted–and Madison is running for her life.
About Elizabeth Breck
ELIZABETH BRECK is a state of California licensed private investigator. A native Californian, she had read Harriet the Spy twenty times by the time she was nine, so it was no surprise when she grew up to become a PI. She has worked mainly in the field of insurance investigations, making her the real-life version of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone. In 2013, she decided to go back to school, earning a bachelor’s degree in writing, summa cum laude, from the University of California San Diego. Anonymous is her first novel. She lives with a black Labrador named Hubert who is her best friend.
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