Thrilling Cybercrime Unleashes Chaos in Rita Mars’ Latest Adventure

Award-winning author Valerie Webster, known for her captivating storytelling, has just unleashed the highly anticipated second book in the Rita Mars Thriller series – Objects of Desire.

In this heart-pounding crime fiction, Rita Mars faces a relentless assault on her career, plunging readers into the sinister world of cybercrime. Set against the mysterious backdrop of Chesapeake Bay’s marshy swamps, the story races through a high-speed chase, weaving as many plot twists and turns as the wetlands themselves.

Valerie Webster, drawing from her 30+ year career in cyber and real-life security, introduces readers to Rita Mars, an ex-investigative reporter fighting crime around Washington D.C.’s beltway and beyond. The protagonist, based on Webster’s real-life experiences, confronts police accusations and dives headfirst into uncovering a financial fraud threatening a beloved charity. Political motives lurk in the shadows, keeping readers guessing until the very end.

“In Objects of Desire, Rita Mars is running on the edge,” says Webster. “Cops are trying to pin her down, but she’s determined to expose the truth behind the accusations and unravel a web of deceit that could shatter the foundation of a popular charity.”

Webster’s debut novel, Driven: A Rita Mars Thriller, received critical acclaim, earning the 2022 Silver Award in LGBTQ fiction from the Colorado Independent Publishers Association. With more than 7,000 copies sold since its release in May 2021, Webster has firmly established herself as a force to be reckoned with in the thriller genre.

Rita Mars, a tough, left-brained pragmatist with a vulnerable side, navigates through her complexities, making her a relatable and compelling character. As a lesbian facing ex-lover issues and grappling with family dynamics, Rita Mars brings a unique and authentic perspective to the genre.

Objects of Desire is now available for Kindle on Goodreads and Amazon, with paperback copies also offered for purchase. Readers can expect a rollercoaster of emotions, as the twisting plot lines keep them on the edge of their seats.

Valerie Webster, a prominent cybersecurity speaker in the Colorado region, is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. Alongside her thrilling novels, she maintains a Rita Mars Thriller blog, providing insights into her writing process and the world of crime fiction. For more information about the author and her work, visit




Colorado and Maryland’s Eastern Shore author and speaker Valerie Webster has released Objects of Desire, the second book in her Rita Mars Thriller series. The high-speed chase of this crime-fiction read takes place in the dark underworld of the Chesapeake Bay’s marshy swamps, with as many plot twists and turns as the wetlands weave. Webster’s debut novel Driven: A Rita Mars Thriller received critical accolades from readers and is the recipient of the 2022 Silver Award in LGBTQ fiction from the Colorado Independent Publishers Association (CIPA). Webster has sold more than 7,000 copies of Driven since first publishing in May 2021.


About Author and Speaker Valerie Webster:

Valerie Webster, a native of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, currently resides in Longmont, Colorado. A distinguished member of Sisters in Crime and past president of the Boulder Writers’ Association, she holds her Education degree from Salisbury State College—now Salisbury University, and a Master’s degree in Modern American Literature from the University of Tennessee. With a cybersecurity career spanning more than 30 years, Webster has taken her expertise worldwide. Inspired by her real-life experiences and LGBTQ+ identity, she crafts the Rita Mars Thriller series, captivating readers with each thrilling installment. Webster continues to engage audiences on cybersecurity topics, particularly for seniors and is actively working on the third book in the series.


Sneak Peek: Objects of Desire

A new Rita Mars Thriller is coming this fall! Here’s a sneak peek:

“I ain’t here to clean the house.”  The person on the porch blocked the usually sunny opened doorway.

“I’m sorry?”  The woman inside the house stood waiting for an answer.  She was a tiny person, slim, noticeably agitated by the unexpected break in her routine. 

“I brought you something.” 

 “I have a meeting this morning.  I’m afraid I have to get ready. Maybe later.” The woman inside started to close the door, but a booted foot wedged in the frame to stop progress.

 A broad hand with thick stubby fingers rested against the door.  “Just take a minute.”

The woman inside hesitated, irritated, undecided.

“Promise.  A minute.”  The boot in the door sill stayed in place.

“Uh, ok. “The woman ran a hand through her hair.  “But I really need to finish dressing for my meeting.”

“No problem.”   The beefy palm touched the door but did not push.  The woman inside opened her house.

The figure outside stepped in, overshadowing the home owner by almost a foot.  “Nice house.  I always wondered what it was like in here.”

“You have something for me?”   asked the woman.

“I do.”  The visitor took time surveying the foyer and living room as the two stood by the still open door.

 “Can we hurry this up, I need to leave.”  A trickle of sweat beaded at her temple.  She glanced toward the kitchen where her cell phone lay on the counter.

“Ok, so let’s get you ready to go.”  The figure’s paw snagged the woman’s arm and clutched it so that the woman’s sleeve crushed with the pressure.

 “Hey, let go.”  The woman pulled against the grip but she was no match. “Stop.”  She dug her nails into the grasping arm.

“Let’s go upstairs.”  The woman was half dragged, half lifted toward her stairwell.

 “What is the matter with you?  I’m going to call the police.”  The woman threw all her weight away from her trapped arm trying to loosen it.  “Stop,” she cried.  She began to flail with every ounce of strength.

 The intruder shook her head.  “Now you know you don’t want to do that.  We need to get you packed up and ready.”

 The woman now grabbed the banister as the intruder strong-armed her up the steps.  She could not hold against the brute strength of her attacker who easily drew her upward.

“Gotta suitcase?”  The attacker maintained the commanding grip.

The attacker held fast while she went through the woman’s chest of drawers, her closet and bathroom, throwing clothes and toiletries into a small roll-aboard that had been in the bedroom closet.  All the while, the impinged victim wrestled, clawed and dug her teeth into the arm that tightened around hers.

The woman screamed again, but the free meaty hand covered her mouth.  The attacker drew out a roll of duct tape and secured the woman to a vanity chair.  She then took a pillow case and made a gag.

“Get you all set up here,” said the attacker.  “You’ll need stuff. Now I know this is a little bit of a surprise for you.  But don’t worry, I will take care of you.”

The woman in the vanity chair bowed her head as tears streamed down her face. 

“Ok, so we’ve got everything, I think.”  The attacker shut and snapped the suitcase closed.  “I wanna take that pillow case off your mouth but you need not to scream.  You gonna be good?”

The woman nodded and her intruder unknotted the pillowcase.

“Uh, I think I should leave a note,” said the woman.

“I don’t think so.” The intruder had removed the gag, but made no move to release the woman from the vanity chair.

The woman’s eyes roved quickly back and forth as she scoured her brain for an escape plan. “People will wonder where I am and we don’t want them to know, do we?”

 “That’s my girl,” said the attacker.  “Good idea.”

Slate of Macavity nominees for 2023

Slate of Macavity nominees for 2023

Macavity’s a Mystery Cat: he’s called the Hidden Paw— For he’s the master criminal who can defy the Law. He’s the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad’s despair: For when they reach the scene of crime—Macavity’s not there!

T.S. Eliot

The Macavity Awards, established in 1987, are a literary award for mystery writers. Winners are nominated and voted upon annually by members of the Mystery Readers International, the award is named for the “mystery cat” of T. S. Eliot‘s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. The award is given in four categories—best novel, best first novel, best nonfiction, and best short story.   Congrats to all this year’s nominees!!  Winners will be announced at the San Diego Bouchercon which runs from August 30 to September 3.

Like to vote for your favorite but don’t know if you’re  eligible?  Send an email to

Here are the 2023 MACAVITY NOMINEES:

Best Myster Novel

  • Back to the Garden by Laurie R. King (Bantam)
  • Two Nights in Lisbon by Chris Pavone (MCD)
  • A World of Curiosities by Louise Penny (Minotaur)
  • A Heart Full of Headstones by Ian Rankin (Little, Brown)
  • Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn (Berkley)
  • Secret Identity by Alex Segura (Flatiron Books)

Best First Mystery

  • Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz (Atria/EmilyBestler) 
  • Shutter by Ramona Emerson (Soho Crime)Devil’s Chew Toy by Rob Osler (Crooked Lane Books)
  • The Verifiers by Jane Pek (Vintage Books)
  • The Maid by Nita Prose (Ballantine)

Best Mystery Short Story

  • “The Landscaper’s Wife” by Brendan DuBois (Mystery Tribune, Aug/Sep 2022)
  • “Beauty and the Beyotch” by Barb Goffman (Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, Jan 2022)
  • “First You Dream, Then You Die” by Donna Moore (in Black is the Night, Titan Books)
  • “Schrödinger, Cat” by Anna Scotti (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Mar/Apr 2022) 
  • “Stockholm” by Catherine Steadman (Amazon Original Stories)
  • “The Angel of Rome” by Jess Walter (in The Angel of Rome and Other Stories, Harper)
  • “My Two-Legs” by Melissa Yi (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Sep/Oct 2022)

Best Mystery Critical/Biographical

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Falling Into Success

Falling Into Success

You just boarded a plane to New York. There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard. What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped. For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die. The family will only survive if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane. 

T.J. Newman, the author of the suspense internationally acclaimed “Falling”, graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University with a degree in Musical Theater in 2006. She moved to Queens and hopped from job to job, facing rejection at many of her acting auditions, and eventually moved back to Arizona.   

Head held perhaps a little lower because of so many slammed doors, Newman persevered and landed a job working in a bookstore. Then, the wanderlust that runs in her family caught up with her. She began her new career as a flight attendant for Virgin America Airlines. It was here, surprisingly, that she found her love of writing. 

Newman was struck by inspiration while on a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to New York. Using cocktail napkins, a move reminiscent of great songwriters and inventors, she began to jot down ideas for her book during layovers. 

Her job allowed her to people-watch constantly, which contributed to her keen eye for detail. Newman recalls that she never let anyone know she was writing a book, saying it was less scary to write and never have anyone read her work than to stand in front of a panel of dismissive judges and audition for a play. This only goes to prove the quiet bravery of embarking on an impassioned experiment turned full-blown career. When her draft was finally complete, Newman taught herself how to contact publishers with the help of a book called “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published”. She was turned down by countless people on account of her inexperience, but pushed onwards until someone said “yes!”. 

Today, the rights to T.J. Newman’s novel have been sold in 24 foreign territories as well as to Universal Pictures (motion picture coming soon). The book was named “Best Book of the Year” by many organizations and hit #2 on the NYT Bestseller list at its debut. Her success allowed her to leave her position as a flight attendant and pursue her passion for authorship full-time.

Let this story be a message to all of the aspiring writers out there: you are never too old, too busy, or too deep in a career to follow a dream.  

From reviewers: 

“T. J. Newman has written the perfect thriller! A must-read.”

Gillian Flynn

“Stunning and relentless. This is Jaws at 35,000 feet.”

Don Winslow

“Falling is the best kind of thriller…Nonstop, totally authentic suspense.”

James Patterson

“Amazing…Intense suspense, shocks, and scares…Chilling.”

Lee Childe

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Unmasking Intrigue: The Latest Trends in Crime Fiction

In recent years, the landscape of crime fiction has become delightfully unpredictable, reshaping the genre’s expectations and norms. The once rigid boundaries of classic whodunits, thrillers, and noir have transformed into a fluid arena, thriving on audacious experimentation. If you’ve been following crime fiction, you’re likely to have noticed some fascinating trends that are captivating readers across the globe.

Firstly, the genre is currently experiencing a significant shift towards inclusivity and diversity, a reflection of the broad societal demand for representation. While crime fiction has always been a lens into society’s nuances, it is now delivering narratives from a wider range of cultural, social, and geographical perspectives. The protagonists and settings have become more eclectic, the mysteries and crimes more layered. The inclusion of diverse authors also means authentic voices and distinct storytelling styles, enriching the genre’s oeuvre.

A prominent example of this trend is the burgeoning sub-genre of “Glocal” crime fiction – narratives that blend global themes with local cultures and situations. Such stories tend to explore socio-political dimensions of crime while deftly weaving in cultural nuances. The Scandinavian noir wave, with its unique blend of grim settings and sharp social commentary, has paved the way for other regional influences, such as Latin Noir, Asian Noir, and more.

Secondly, crime fiction has evolved from linear “whodunits” to complex psychological narratives that prioritize “whydunits.” The genre’s focus has transitioned from just solving a crime to exploring the motivations and mental intricacies behind it. This shift towards psychological crime fiction is fueled by readers’ curiosity about the darker recesses of the human mind. Consequently, crime fiction’s palette has grown richer, delving into the perpetrator’s psyche and blurring the lines between villain and victim.

Another fascinating trend is the rise of the “unreliable narrator,” a trope that enhances the enigma and suspense of the story. This technique, where the narrative is relayed through a character whose credibility is compromised, keeps readers on the edge, as they grapple with layers of deceit and ambiguity. It creates a pervasive sense of unease, a hall of mirrors, where distinguishing truth from illusion becomes a challenging exercise.

The fourth trend is the incorporation of technology in crime narratives, mirroring its pervasive impact on our lives. In a world dominated by the digital revolution, tech-savvy detectives and cybercrimes are increasingly featured in plots, replacing the traditional magnifying glass with the high-powered microscope of digital forensics.

Lastly, true crime narratives have found a new home within the realm of crime fiction. Inspired by real-life events, these narratives are blurring the line between fact and fiction, offering readers an exciting blend of authenticity and narrative invention.

In essence, contemporary crime fiction is continuously evolving, mirroring the changing facets of our society. Its current trends reflect an all-encompassing world, a deeper understanding of the human psyche, a sophisticated integration of technology, and a fluid mix of reality and fiction. As writers, it’s an exciting time to be part of this genre’s evolution, as crime fiction continues to stretch its boundaries and shatter its own cliches.