Perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, and Tana French, R. K. Jackson’s lyrical, twisty psychological thriller debut follows an aspiring journalist as she uncovers dark truths in a seaswept Southern town—aided by a mysterious outcast and pursued by a ruthless killer.
When Martha Covington moves to Amberleen, Georgia, after her release from a psychiatric ward, she thinks her breakdown is behind her. A small town with a rich history, Amberleen feels like a fresh start. Taking a summer internship with the local historical society, Martha is tasked with gathering the stories of the Geechee residents of nearby Shell Heap Island, the descendants of slaves who have lived by their own traditions for the last three hundred years.
As Martha delves into her work, the voices she thought she left behind start whispering again, and she begins to doubt her recovery. When a grisly murder occurs, Martha finds herself at the center of a perfect storm—and she’s the perfect suspect. Without a soul to vouch for her innocence or her sanity, Martha disappears into the wilderness, battling the pull of madness and struggling to piece together a supernatural puzzle of age-old resentments, broken promises, and cold-blooded murder. She finds an unexpected ally in a handsome young man fighting his own battles. With his help, Martha journeys through a terrifying labyrinth—to find the truth and clear her name, if she can survive to tell the tale.
What inspired your latest work?
Numerous visits, both as a child and as an adult, to Georgia’s hauntingly beautiful, marsh-fringed Golden Isles. Discovering the unique and threatened culture of the Geechees, direct descendants of slaves who have lived for centuries in near-isolation. The book also drew upon my early career experiences as a small-town newspaper journalist.
Tell us about this story.
It’s the story of Martha Covington, an aspiring journalist who recently suffered a psychotic break. She has taken an internship with the Historical Society of Amberleen, Georgia, and is given the task of collecting the oral history of the residents of Shell Heap Island, descendants of slaves who have lived by their own traditions for the last three hundred years.
As Martha delves into her work, the voices she thought she left behind start whispering again, and she begins to doubt her recovery. When a grisly murder occurs, Martha finds herself at the center of a perfect storm—and she’s the perfect suspect.
What living person do you most admire?
It’s a tie—my mother and my father.
What is your most prized possession?
A collection of photo albums that my wife put together that documents our travels, hikes, and explorations during the first decade of our marriage.
Who is your favorite fictional character of all time?
Calvin of “Calvin and Hobbes.”
Who’s the favorite character that you created?
Martha, the protagonist of THE GIRL IN THE MAZE. Lenny, her imaginary companion with the Liverpool accent, is a close second.
What’s your idea of perfect happiness?
Being completely lost in the flow of a creative project is one of my favorite kinds of rush.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would become more outgoing, more comfortable with self-promotion.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
R.K. Jackson is an award-winning science writer and editor at NASA, and previously worked as a senior editor at CNN, where he helped launch the network’s Internet presence. He has attended the Advanced Novel Writing Workshop at UCLA as well as the Squaw Valley Community of Writers Workshop.
Jackson’s debut novel, THE GIRL IN THE MAZE (available 9/8 from Random House Alibi), has been praised as “A twisty Southern gothic thriller with echoes of Tana French” (L.A. Times bestselling author Dianne Emley), “A terrific mystery” (The Book Lover’s Friend), and “A fast-paced psychological thriller that keeps you engaged from beginning to end” (Reading Femme).
Two of his plays have been staged professionally, and his short story, “All the Devils,” was featured in the Alfred Hitchcock-themed issue of Penumbra Magazine. He is currently consulting with Disney’s Imagineers on the forthcoming “Spaceship of the Imagination” attraction at EPCOT.
A Georgia native with roots in the state’s coastal low country, he now lives with his family in California’s Los Padres National Forest and is at work on a second Martha Covington thriller, THE KISS OF THE SUN.