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August 2023

Behind the Scenes: The Route 9 Killer (A Mystery/Thriller) By Kelli A. Wilkins

- book spotlight

By Kelli A. Wilkins

This “Behind the Scenes” blog is part of a series examining my books. In each blog, I’ll talk about why I wrote the story, share my thoughts on the plot and/or characters, and reveal what I loved most (or least) about writing the book. Warning: Blogs may contain spoilers.


Kelli A Wilkins the Route 9 Killer book coverThe Route 9 Killer is my latest release, and it’s been a long time coming. Years ago I had an idea for a serial killer/thriller story that was sparked by something simple: I was driving somewhere and saw a woman’s shoe lying in the road.


Immediately, my writer brain started asking questions: Whose shoe was it? What happened to the woman? Where was the other shoe? Why was this shoe in the road? Strange? Yes. But writers think that way. Anything that catches our attention can spark a flurry of questions and develop into a story idea.


I started wondering about the shoe and then an idea hit me. It was a simple “What if…” premise: What if a woman was abducted and the only evidence left behind was her shoe in the road? I bounced this idea off of a few people, and they scoffed. “Who cares about a shoe? Why would anything think someone was abducted based on a shoe?” But, when I explained my story idea, they were intrigued.


I wrote an outline for the story and filed it in my “someday I’ll write this” folder and moved on to other projects. (At the time, I was writing romances and not focusing on horror/mysteries.) This past winter, “someday” arrived and I wrote the story.


As the title implies, the book is a mystery/thriller involving a serial killer. The hero, Detective Jim Rourke, thinks he’s discovered a serial killer operating in Central New Jersey. The only problem is, nobody believes him. The women are abducted from different towns in the same county, and their bodies are dumped in different towns in another county. This makes it hard for the police to connect the crimes or even see a pattern. To them, the killings are random.


Detective Rourke is also investigating the disappearance of a woman named Allison Kendrick. When the book opens, her boyfriend is at the police station, reporting her missing. Are the two cases related? Rourke thinks they might be.


The book then switches to the point-of-view of a young woman who wakes up in a strange place, handcuffed to a bed. When I wrote her character, I knew didn’t want to make her a helpless victim. Yes, she’s hurting, scared, and in a really, really bad situation, but she’s smart and a fighter—and determined to escape. She knows she’s responsible for her own fate. Nobody is coming to rescue her.


No thriller would be complete without a peek into the life (and mind) of the antagonist. Our not-so-nice killer has a few scenes of his own where we get inside his mind, see what makes him lose control, and gives a hint at why he does what he does.


Without giving away any plot details or spoilers, I can say that our three main characters come together in the end (very briefly), and the story packs a great twist ending. (If you’ve read the book, please don’t give away the ending!)


But then… there’s the Epilogue, where we get a little more info on Rourke’s case—and another shocker.


Although the story has a very serious/dark subject matter, I stayed away from overt sexual violence toward our heroine. I didn’t want to write anything too dark, too graphic, and nothing along the lines of “torture porn” or an unsettling episode of “Criminal Minds.” I concentrated on Rourke and his investigation. The other characters are there to pull the reader into the story through their points-of-view, and increase the drama and tension. I think it worked.


See if you can solve the mystery…

Kelli A Wilkins the Route 9 Killer book cover

Here’s the book summary and order links:

The Route 9 Killer

(A Mystery/Thriller)

Detective Jim Rourke suspects a serial killer is hunting women in Central New Jersey. The victims are held captive, brutalized, then murdered and dumped along deserted stretches of Route 9.

There’s no physical evidence, no witnesses, and the killer is smart enough to leave no clues.

Rourke is alone on a manhunt, and time is running out. Eight victims have already fallen prey to this madman.

Can Rourke catch the killer and rescue the next victim before it’s too late?

Order your copy here:


All other platforms:


If you’ve read the book and loved it, please post a positive review online (no spoilers, please!).

And looking ahead, I have an idea for another thriller.  I’ve decided that I’m bringing Detective Jim Rourke back to work on that case, as well. A friend of mine suggested I write a third book and make it into a trilogy. That’s a good idea. What do you think?

I welcome comments and questions from readers. Be sure to follow my blog for the latest updates and visit me on social media. You can read more “Behind the Scenes” blogs about my writings here:

Happy Reading,

Kelli A. Wilkins



Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 20+ romance novels, 7 non-fiction books, and 6 mystery/horror ebooks. Her romances span many genres and settings, and she likes to scare readers with her horror and mystery stories.

Her latest release, The Route 9 Killer, was published in May 2023. This mystery/thriller is set in the Central NJ.

Kelli’s paranormal/mystery romance, In Another World, was released in 2022. She released two horror shorts, More Than I Bargained For and Silent Sentinel in 2021.

Follow Kelli on her Facebook author page: and visit her website/blog for a full title list and social media links.