Jude Brannock is a brash and single-minded female protagonist for today’s readers who believe that nature and animals deserve our respect and must be protected. In The Experiment, author Robin Lamont brings these forward-looking themes to her newest suspense novel.
Jude is an investigator for an animal protection organization. When the young man she has trained for an undercover job suddenly vanishes after a tantalizing text that he’s “on to something,” Jude rushes to the quiet, farming community of Half Moon, only to discover that her trainee might have perpetrated an elaborate con job on her. Determined to get to the truth, she unearths a biopharmaceutical company’s deadly secret, and in doing so, comes up against dark secrets of her own.
Published by: Grayling Press
Publication Date: May 15th 2019
Number of Pages: 288
ISBN: 0985848588 (ISBN13: 9780985848583)
Series: The Kinship Series
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
Before becoming a novelist, Robin was a popular Broadway actress and singer, turned private investigator, and then New York prosecutor. She draws on these diverse careers for her work, infusing suspenseful plots with character-driven drama.
Robin’s prior work has garnered awards and recognition, including Suspense Magazine’s Best of the Indies and a Gold Medal in the Independent Publishers Book Awards for her novel If Thy Right Hand. Her book The Chain, which introduced Jude Brannock to readers, was a Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Finalist. Her screen adaptation of the book, Six Seconds, is currently under option.
Q&A with Robin Lamont
What inspired you to write this book?
I’m a big animal lover, and this is the 3rd book of a series in which the central character, Jude Brannock, is an investigator for an animal protection group. I thought that there are so many cops, PI’s, lawyers, etc. who seek justice for human victims of crime, there should be a protagonist looking out for the animals. In The Experiment, I sought to deepen her character and explore how her job often drives her to the fringes of society and the effect that has on her.
What was the biggest challenge in writing this book?
It’s been challenging to create a main character in the suspense genre who works in a field that not many people know about. A lot of readers don’t know that investigators for animal protection groups are out there every day trying to hold abusers accountable. It can be a dangerous and difficult job. So, I’m trying to bring Jude to life, with all her passion and her own personal issues that get in the way, and still create a character that will resonate for readers.
Give us a glimpse of the research that went into this book.
Naturally, I did quite a bit of research into the science part of the book. But I called up my own experience as an undercover investigator in New York City. What it’s like to wrap yourself in a different persona while at the same time trying to elicit information on the “bad guys” you’re investigating. It’s a bit like juggling – in a really uncomfortable way. Before I became a private investigator, I was an actor. There’s always some nervousness that you’ll go up on your lines and muck things up, but it’s nothing like the hum of constant fear that your criminal targets will find out who you really are. The consequences are quite different.
How did you come up with the title?
The Experiment has dual meaning here. The book does touch on the testing done on animals before a product can go to clinical trials. But the story also deals with genetically engineered plants for food, which hasn’t been around long enough for us to know the long-term health effects. We’re playing with nature, believing we can control it in every circumstance, and that’s one big experiment – we don’t really know how that’s all going to play out.
Your routine in writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
I’m definitely a morning person, and I come up with my more workable ideas when I’m moving – driving a car or walking the dog in the park. I have a few friends who don’t understand why I don’t jump at the chance to walk the dogs together. But it’s usually because I like the time to think.
I used to keep a journal, but now I work primarily on the computer, where I have easy access to the internet to look things up as needed. Of course, that means that I have masses of disparate files and pages on research, characters, scene ideas, dialogue, etc. I could probably use some better organization.
Tell us why we should read your book?
First, The Experiment is a fast-moving story with some non-traditional characters each of whom has a deeply personal story that drives them. I also bring readers into a world that they may not be familiar with but will find interesting and fraught with emotional tension.
As an avid suspense reader myself, I appreciate a story with twists and turns. But if it’s lacking in human feelings, then it can leave me feeling a bit flat. The Experiment is, first and foremost, a human drama wrapped in a suspense theme.
Are you working on your next novel? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?
I’m working on creating a TV/cable series about Jude Brannock and the organization she works for. It may incorporate ideas from some of The Kinship books but will ultimately focus on her animal protection group – and all the odd characters there.
Your novel will be a movie. You would you cast?
I could see Kate Mara as Jude – edgy, progressive, flawed. Perhaps Casey Affleck as Lucas – a character where 90% lurks under the surface.
Also wouldn’t mind seeing Meryl Streep and Idris Elba up there. Not sure what roles they’d play, but I’d find something, and they’d sure class up the film.
Favorite leisure activities/hobbies?
I’m an avid tennis player. I like to knit and usually have 2-3 unfinished sweaters lying around that I mean to get to. I hate to cook but do it anyway because whole foods are good for me and my family.
(I’m shaking my head here – too many to name). I go through phases. Right now, I’m into rice pudding, which I make slowly like a risotto with almond milk. Oh my God, the ultimate comfort food!
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Read an excerpt:
John Harbolt wasn’t easily shaken. With over forty years of medicine under his belt, there was hardly an injury, disease, or fatality he hadn’t seen, and he’d treated just about everyone in the small town of Half Moon at some time or other. But on that late summer day, young Tori Lacey showed him something that baffled him. Her symptoms were inexplicable and downright scary.
She was his first patient of the day, a young woman who had battled her weight for years. In between the earaches and the sore throats, Harbolt had gently counseled her about diet and exercise. He hoped she wasn’t here to ask him about diet pills again, because as far as he was concerned, they were off the table.
After removing her file from the plastic holder bolted to the outside of the examination room, he adjusted his wire rim glasses and straightened his lab coat. The younger doctors often wore khakis and a short-sleeved shirt at work, and maybe it put the kids more at ease. But Dr. Harbolt stuck with a freshly starched white coat, believing that it made his patients feel more confident in his abilities. And confidence in one’s doctor was important to the healing process.
“Tori Ann Lacey,” he announced jovially as he shambled into the room.
“Hi, Dr. Harbolt.” The morose girl before him sat on the table. She had taken off her running shoes but left her sweatshirt and shorts on.
“I haven’t seen you for a while,” he said, noting with some surprise that she had slimmed considerably, her round face now leaner and more mature. “How is college life treating you?”
“Ok, I guess.” Her voice and posture belied this.
“What brings you here today, my dear.”
“I don’t really know. But we thought you should look at these.” She pushed back the sleeve of her sweatshirt and held out her arm for inspection.
There were several bruises that vandalized the translucent skin of her inner arm. Dr. Harbolt held her wrist and peering over his glasses, looked closely at the red and purple marks.
He pressed lightly on one of them. “Does that hurt?”
She shook her head no.
“That’s the thing. Nothing happened. They just appeared.” She showed him another set of bruises on her other arm.
“Did you fall?”
“Knocked into something?”
“No,” she exclaimed, as though he didn’t believe her. “My mom thinks it’s my diet. That I should be eating meat.”
“And you’re not?”
“No. I needed to lose five more pounds for the track team, which I was having a hard time doing, so I switched over to a raw food diet. And it really helped because I made my goal.”
“And you were selected for the team?”
She nodded, anxiously chewing on a nail.
“Congratulations. You getting enough protein?” he asked, studying the bruising and letting her answer drift past him. This wasn’t because of her diet.
She rambled for a moment about nuts and spinach, then peeled off her socks and lifted her bare feet to the end of the examination table. “And then yesterday after a run, I found this,” she said. “I didn’t even show my mom ’cause she’d freak out.”
Dr. Harbolt caught his breath. It looked as though someone had taken a baseball bat to the soles of the girl’s feet. Fiery maroon blotches screamed out some kind of violence. Three of her toes had turned a dark purple.
“Good Lord!” he blurted out. “What happened to you?”
“Nothing! I’m telling you nothing happened,” wailed Tori. “They just … showed up.”
Excerpt from The Experiment by Robin Lamont. Copyright © 2019 by Robin Lamont. Reproduced with permission from Robin Lamont. All rights reserved.
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