|NJ Pine Barrens Cranberry Bog|
(photo by Andrew Leahey)
Award-winning, debut author Nichole Christoff is a writer, broadcaster, and military spouse who has worked on-air and behind the scenes producing and promoting content for radio, television news, and the public relations industry across the United States and Canada. Learn more about Nichole and her books at her website.
A Private Eye in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens
When Jamie Sinclair, my private-eye-turned-security-specialist and protagonist of The Kill List, had to return to the army base where she grew up to take on the case that could break her heart, I knew exactly where that army base needed to be. It needed to be in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens. Really, driving across New Jersey in the daylight, it’s hard to imagine the Garden State’s pine forests could ever be seen as a threatening place. But go hiking at dusk through my favorite Pinelands’ playground, Double Trouble State Park, and you might whistle a different tune. The name says it all, doesn’t it? Double. Trouble.
In actuality, Double Trouble is like the rest of the Pine Barrens. It’s a lovely place of pine forests, swift streams, and cedar bogs. The wider Pine Barrens area covers about seven counties all in all. Sweet, small towns dot the woodlands. And the Atlantic City Expressway runs right through it. But it hasn’t always been that way.
Once upon a time, this part of the world was remote and for European settlers,
supernaturally scary. A variety of accounts point the year 1735 or ’36 when a
farmer’s wife named Mrs. Leeds living in the Pine Barrens learned she was
expecting a thirteenth child. Of course, life was tough in early America and
with twelve other mouths to feed, Mrs. Leeds is said to have cursed her unborn
infant. And the Devil himself complied with her request. Mrs. Leeds’ baby came
into the world as a wicked, winged thing, part horse and entirely awful. It
escaped up the chimney and fled deep into the pine forest before anyone could
stop it. But don’t think Mrs. Leeds’ offspring has been forgotten over the
centuries. Known as the Jersey Devil, travelers have sworn they’ve seen it in
the woods and so have lifelong residents of the Pine Barrens’ towns.
Mrs. Leeds and her family gave their name to a number of those towns. However, the town in The Kill List isn’t one of them. My fictional Leeds plays host to an army post called Fort Leeds—which may or may not bear a resemblance to actual army installations found around the Northeastern United States. But the sandy, shady, swampy, spooky atmosphere of the Pine Barrens that surround it? I couldn’t make that up!
The Kill List: A Jamie Sinclair Novel
In this taut debut thriller, Nichole Christoff introduces a savvy private investigator with nerves of steel—and a broken heart.
As a top private eye turned security specialist, Jamie Sinclair has worked hard to put her broken marriage behind her. But when her lying, cheating ex-husband, army colonel Tim Thorp, calls with the news that his three-year-old daughter has been kidnapped, he begs Jamie to come find her. For the sake of the child, Jamie knows she can’t refuse. Now, despite the past, she’ll do everything in her power to bring little Brooke Thorp home alive.
Soon, Jamie is back at Fort Leeds—the army post in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens where she grew up, the only child of a two-star general—chasing down leads and forging an uneasy alliance with the stern military police commander and the exacting FBI agent working Brooke’s case. But because Jamie’s father is now a US senator, her recent run-in with a disturbed stalker is all over the news, and when she starts receiving gruesome threats echoing the stalker’s last words, she can’t shake the feeling that her investigation may be about more than a missing girl—and that someone very powerful is hiding something very significant . . . and very sinister.