A university mired in scandal and an enigmatic librarian entangle in Edgar and Agatha nominee’s dark new thriller


A powerful Boston family is desperate to keep old secrets buried …

BOSTON – At the center of Edwin Hill’s intricate mystery series is Hester Thursby, a research librarian who’s complicated, bookish and realistically flawed. In the acclaimed series’s newest installment, “Watch Her,” (Dec. 29, 2020, Kensington Books), Hester teams up with reader-favorite Detective Angela White to investigate missing alumni of a decadent for-profit university, plunging into a world of academic scandal, old money, infidelity, buried secrets … and murder.

While attending a gala at Prescott University’s lavish new campus, Hester and White, are called to the home of the college’s owners, Tucker and Jennifer Matson. Jennifer claims someone broke into Pinebank, their secluded mansion on the banks of Jamaica Pond. The more Hester and Angela investigate, the less they believe Jennifer’s story, leaving Hester to wonder why she would lie.

When Hester is asked by the college’s general manager to locate some missing alumni, she employs her research skills on the family and their for-profit university. Between financial transgressions, a long-ago tragedy and rumors of infidelity, it’s clear the Matsons aren’t immune to scandal or mishap. But when one of the missing students turns up dead, the mystery takes on new urgency. Hester is edging closer to the truth, but as a decades-old secret collides with new lies, a killer grows more determined to keep the past buried with the dead …

Praise for Edwin Hill and the Hester Thursby series:

“Complex characterization and a masterly mystery make this a superior read.”
— Kirkus review of “Watch Her”

“Quirky characters complement the suspenseful plot. Readers will agree that a failing school makes a grade-A mystery.”
— Publisher’s Weekly review of “Watch Her”

“Intense…Poignantly looks at the fragility of emotional health and the pitfalls of trying to make a fresh start … Hill’s affinity for creating realistic characters with complicated personalities and suspenseful plots shines.”
Associated Press review of “The Missing Ones”

“Addressing the impact of illegal drug dealing and use, this whodunit has broken family dynamics and a wonderfully complex and intricate mystery, plenty to engage readers looking for a new amateur detective to follow.”
Library Journal STARRED REVIEW of “The Missing Ones”

“Hill demonstrates the same humor, malice, and zinging dialogue that made his debut novel one to savor, and he commands our attention as a rising star in the mystery genre. Don’t miss out on The Missing Ones.”
New York Journal of Books review of “The Missing Ones”

“The Missing Ones is a resounding triumph that reaffirms Edwin Hill’s emergence as a fierce new voice in crime fiction. While the mysteries of the missing and murdered are skillfully rendered and satisfyingly (if sometimes heartbreakingly) resolved, it’s the characters themselves and their myriad dreams and disillusionments that demand our attention. This book, then, is a salient reminder that we are all broken in some way and that we are all trying to put ourselves — and each other — back together again.”
– Criminal Element review of “The Missing Ones”

“[A] well-crafted, extremely promising debut and series launch…An increasingly tense plot and striking characters – in particular, compassionate, conflicted, loving Hester – make this a standout.”
– Publishers Weekly STARRED REVIEW of “Little Comfort”

“Thursby is a tough, cerebral, relatably flawed sleuth who lulls herself to sleep with horror films and takes on serial killers and unexpected motherhood without skipping a beat. A dark but compassionate psychological-thriller debut with great appeal for fans of Ruth Ware and Cornelia Read.”
– Booklist STARRED REVIEW of “Little Comfort”

“Watch Her” (A Hester Thursby Mystery #3)

Edwin Hill | Dec. 29, 2020 | Kensington Books | Mystery
Hardcover | 978-1-4967-2676-6 | $26.00 ($28.95 CAN)

EDWIN HILL is the author of the critically acclaimed Hester Thursby mystery series, the first of which, “Little Comfort,” was an Agatha Award finalist, a selection of the Mysterious Press First Mystery Club, and a Publishers Marketplace Buzz Books selection. The second installment, “The Missing Ones,” was also an Agatha Award finalist and a Sue Grafton Memorial Award nominee. Formerly the vice president and editorial director for Bedford/St. Martin’s (Macmillan), he now teaches at Emerson College and has written for the L.A. Review of Books, The Life Sentence, Publishers Weekly, and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. He lives in Roslindale, Massachusetts with his partner Michael and their Labrador, Edith Ann. Visit Edwin online at www.Edwin-Hill.com.

In an interview, Edwin Hill can discuss:

  • Writing a successful award-winning female-led mystery series as a male author
  • The process of developing characters across multiple books in a series
  • Crafting a novel that accurately captures the realms of higher education and academia
  • His connection to the Boston/New England area and setting his books in those locations
  • Writing on social status and gender dynamics and crafting characters that defy stereotypes

An interview with EDWIN HILL

1. This is the third installment of the Hester Thursby series. How has Hester evolved from the beginning of Book 1 to now?

I like to think that she’s grown (and grown up) a bit! When we first meet Hester Thursby in “Little Comfort,” she’s recently been saddled with her 3-year-old niece, Kate, and has decidedly mixed feelings about raising someone else’s child. That ambivalence strains her relationship with her long-time boyfriend, Morgan Maguire. The traumatic events of “Little Comfort” leave Hester emotionally scarred. She carries those scars into the second novel in the series, “The Missing Ones,” and those scars almost break her relationship with Morgan.

“Watch Her” picks up a year-and-half later. As a couple, Hester and Morgan have healed stronger than they were before, and they’ve both committed to raising Kate as full-time caretakers. They’ve also continued to expand their found family. Many of the recurring characters in the series, including fan-favorites Angela White and Jamie Williams (and Waffles, of course) make appearances in this book.

2. Are there any challenges you’ve come across as a male author writing a female-led series? How have you overcome those challenges?

I always say that writing is a series of problem-solving exercises, and this would be one of those exercises! Anytime you write a character who’s removed from your own experiences, you have to make sure you’re asking the right questions and talking to people who have had those experiences to test your assumptions. The job of the fiction writer is to inhabit characters and represent them as fully realized and three-dimensional. You wouldn’t want to read a novel about me (too boring!), so all my characters have to be developed through my imagination. Hester experiences all sorts of things that I’ll never experience — she’s a woman; she’s 12 years younger than I am; she has a child; she works as a librarian; she’s estranged from her mother; she’s very short — and my goal is to make those experiences seem authentic to the reader. I talk to lots of people and have a group of reviewers look at drafts of novels before they go to my editor to flag anything that seems off. Ultimately, though, it’s up to me and whether I can provide that connection for the reader.

While Hester and Morgan are the central characters in the novels, all of the Hester Thursby novels are told from multiple points of view, so this challenge doesn’t stop with Hester!

3. The book focuses on gender dynamics between the 1990s and 2010s. Can you talk a bit about writing characters that explore and defy stereotypes?

Each of my books explores different aspects of gender and sexuality. Hester struggles against submitting to gender norms. I also bring queer-identified characters into the novels. Angela White is one of the recurring characters in the series. She is a detective in the Boston Police Department and lives with her wife, Cary, and Cary’s son in Dorchester. Angela had a small role in “Little Comfort” and a somewhat larger role in “The Missing Ones,” but I wanted to bring her into the forefront of “Watch Her” and to fully explore her work and home life. For me, she’s a standout in this book.

4. Can you speak a bit to your connection with the Boston area and why you’ve set the series there?

I grew up in Massachusetts, and after a few years in California, have lived here for the past two decades. One of things I like about Boston and New England is that the landscape offers a lot of variety in a relatively compact area, which is perfect for writing. Hester and Morgan live in Somerville, where, not coincidentally, I lived when I first started the series. Each of the books is set in Somerville and in other picturesque locations — Beacon Hill and the Lakes District of New Hampshire for “Little Comfort”; an island off the coast of Maine for “The Missing Ones”; and Jamaica Plain for “Watch Her.” I’ve also enjoyed playing with the weather — something that also varies in New England. “Little Comfort” is set in the dead of winter. “The Missing Ones” is set in the autumn, and “Watch Her” is set in spring.

5. The book centers around the fictional for-profit Prescott University. Did you do any sort of research to help accurately depict the world of higher education?

My research for this book was three-fold. I worked in higher ed publishing for many years and saw some of the ins and outs of academia in that job. For-profit schools differ from traditional schools in that they report to a board of directors that expects a return on their investment. I didn’t want Prescott University or Maxine Pawlikowski, the character who serves as the general manager of the school in the book, to be over-the-top corrupt, so I tried to base the college on good educational principles, even if some of the characters wind up making poor decisions. I also read up on for-profit colleges that have failed or been shut down in the past two decades like Corinthian Colleges. I wanted to understand what could make a seemingly thriving business go belly up and what impact that had on the students enrolled at those schools. What really helped me most, though, was graduating during a recession in the early ’90s. I had a series of terrible, terrible temp jobs that provided plenty of fodder for any poorly run business. When I wanted to show something going badly at Prescott University, I consulted my vast database of personal experiences!