Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries inspired me to write The Furnace. It may sound bizarre, but there’s something calmly comforting to me about a secluded and claustrophobic location, a small cast of characters complete with one investigator and one killer, a rising body count, extreme paranoia, and a setting that will surely kill if any one of the characters tries to leave. That being said, it wasn’t enough for me to just write a mystery of this type. Instead I wanted to transform it into “techno-thriller” status. That is to say, I wanted to incorporate a scientific plot line into the actual murder. It had to be something that the protagonist had to uncover and understand in order to solve the mystery. Michael Crichton is another inspiration for me, and so it could be said that The Furnace is “Agatha Christie meets Isaac Asimov with added Crichton for flavoring.” (In fact, that quote is from eBookanoid.com’s review. And yes, that was extremely gratifying for me to read—to know that someone got it.)
However, before I wrote the book, I had to decide on a location. I knew that, once I’d settled on the science behind the murder, the setting was key. It had to be hostile. Since the investigator was going to find himself behind the eight ball from the second he arrives at the station where the murder occurs, I wanted an environment that mirrored the mystery’s tension. There have been many settings used for books of this type—snow storms (The Mousetrap by Christie), small secluded islands (And Then There Were None by Christie) and a variety of remote places like cabins in the woods—but I wanted a unique and dangerous location appropriate for my techno-thriller.
A space station in close orbit around the sun, to be precise.
The techno-thriller nature of the book allowed me to use a location like this. It’s a futuristic thriller, after all, and this opened up a myriad of options for me.
But why the sun?
I wanted the investigator, Kyle Tanner, to be on his heels and reeling from the hostile situation. He had to be the target of people’s scorn from the second he arrives. His very presence needed to cause friction among the station’s personnel, and I knew this would ramp up the page-turner aspect of the novel. Also, the heat of the sun increases the tension of the investigation. In a big way, this mission is a descent into hell.
The Furnace is a murder mystery with a scientific plot element that the investigator must solve in order to survive. The environment created an intensely dangerous situation for the characters, and the paranoia as the story unfolds is palpable.
An Excerpt of The Furnace by Timothy S. Johnston:
“What are your procedures for a situation like this?” the Captain asked in a whisper.
“Truthfully? I’ve never been in one.”
“Never?” He was incredulous.
“Usually I chase a killer when they have a place to run. I’ve never backed one into a corner like this and not known who it is. Most often they make a mistake and I make a capture. In this situation, who knows what he’ll do? His behavior is escalating, there’s no doubt of that.”
“Why do you think he’s killing?”
I frowned. “I don’t think it’s random. There’s more going on here than three murders.”
A heartbeat, and then, “What do you mean?”
“I can’t tell you until I know everything. But there is definitely a reason for the killer’s method.”
He grew furious. “This is my station, Tanner. I demand to know —”
“I can’t tell you. It’s as simple as that.”
“Why? Because the Council sent you? Because you’re the best at this job?”
“Because frankly, Captain, you could be the killer.”
He looked down and saw my hand on my pistol. His jaw dropped. “You’re serious.”
Thanks for joining me today to discuss this type of murder mystery. I’d like to leave you with a question: Why do you think these types of mysteries appeal to us? Why are we attracted to the murder of innocents and the resulting investigation (a “procedural”) to uncover the killer?
Thanks for spending your time with me today.
The Furnace by Timothy S. Johnston Back Cover Copy
Dead Space, 2401 AD
Kyle Tanner is about to die. Alone, floating in a vacsuit only a few million kilometers from a massive, uncaring sun, he has barely enough time or juice to get out a distress signal before either his oxygen runs out or he succumbs to the radiation.
When the CCF sent investigator Kyle Tanner to SOLEX One, a solar energy harvester past Mercury, he thought it would be an open-and-shut murder case. A crew member was found dead, minus his head and hands. Not the worst Tanner has ever seen, but the deeper he delves, the more nightmarish it becomes. A shadowy figure, bleeding from his hands, assaults Tanner in his quarters. Then two more turn up dead, missing their heads and hands as well.
With no one to trust and everyone a suspect—even the intriguing chief engineer, Shaheen—Tanner must navigate a crew on the brink of madness to uncover a conspiracy that could threaten the whole of the human race. Even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice…
I’m hosting a giveaway of The Furnace by Timothy S. Johnston during my blog afternoon on December 24! From 3:15 to 5:15 PM, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org using “Carina Giveaway” as the subject heading. Specify the format you’d prefer (.mobi or .epub). I’ll email the winner.
Timothy S. Johnston’s Bio
Timothy S. Johnston is a lifelong fan of techno-thrillers and science-fiction thrillers in both print and film. His greatest desire is to contribute to the genre which has given him so much over the past four decades. He lives on planet Earth, but he dreams of the stars.