Twist Phelan writes crime-themed short stories and the critically acclaimed Pinnacle Peak mystery series, published by Poisoned Pen Press.
Phelan received her bachelor and law degrees from Stanford University. Success as a trial lawyer allowed her to retire in her early thirties. In addition to writing crime fiction, Phelan is a world traveler and endurance sports enthusiast. She has competed in Ironman triathlons, skate-skied in Scandinavia, team-roped in the American West, paddled surf ski and outrigger canoe in Australia, rock-climbed in South America, and bicycled from the Pacific to the Atlantic Coast in less than four weeks.
The Pinnacle Peak Mystery Series
A different sport figures in each of Phelan’s legal-themed mysteries, which are set in the fictional town of Pinnacle Peak, Arizona, and feature the attorney/adventure athlete Hannah Dain.
Heir Apparent was first published in 2002, with a revised second edition released in 2007.
Joe McGuinness, lawyer and team roper, has landed a job with one of Pinnacle Peak’s top firms. But then his boss is killed, putting Joe’s legal career in jeopardy. Two more bodies turn up, and Joe must untangle a web of secrets to exonerate a friend and find out who is using murder to claim the rights of heir apparent.
Family Claims (2004) introduces lawyer-athlete Hannah Dain. The book won Best Mystery, Colorado Gold Writing Contest, and was a finalist for the Calavera Award.
Hannah is on the verge of leaving her family’s law firm when a real estate deal she’s put together suddenly goes bad. Career on the line, Hannah investigates—despite a disapproving father and antagonistic older sister. Although she exonerates the firm, a car bomb and two murders thwart the police's identification of the culprit behind the scheme. Working on a new deal, assisted by Cooper (the firm's computer consultant and her former lover), Hannah uncovers a greater threat too close to home. Only by exposing family secrets can she save her reputation, her law firm, and her life.
Spurred Ambition (2006), in which Hannah takes up rock climbing, was named a “Notable Pick” by Book Sense.
As Hannah heads for the cliffs of Pinnacle Peak to climb, she winds up in the middle of a violent anti-Indian protest. She escapes, but makes an enemy. A recent family revelation sends her on a hunt for a missing person, an attraction to a co-worker jeopardizes Hannah’s romantic relationship, and she becomes enmeshed in a kidnapping tied to a securities fraud. Murder ups the ante, compelling Hannah to unravel the scheme and the mystery of her past.
False Fortune (2007), a Rocky Award finalist, finds Hannah kayaking, and in deep water.
The chance rescue of a drowning woman leads to Hannah’s appointment as lead trial counsel in her sister Shelby’s case, a new friend pulls her into a treasure hunt, and a recently discovered family member unexpectedly shows up at Hannah’s door and threatens her relationship with Shelby. Only by taking a gutsy chance can Hannah expose the conspiracy and unite both halves of her family.
Phelan has published short stories and contributed essays to anthologies, journals, and magazines, including:
- “A Trader's Lot” in Wall Street Noir (Akashic Books, 2007) involves the fortunes befalling a commodity futures trader. "A standout" - Publishers Weekly (starred review). Finalist, Derringer Award (Short Mystery Fiction Society).
- “Crime Wave” (CrimeSpree Magazine, 2007) takes an ironic look at the idea of crime being in the eye of the beholder.
- “Floored” (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, 2008), set in the New York Mercantile Exchange, follows a female broker's introduction to the realities of the male-dominated trading floor, where morality and economics collide.
- “Strange Bedfellows” in Politics Noir (Verso, 2008) is an ironic and darkly funny tale in which characters’ actions circle back so each gets what he or she deserves. "A wise and funny story" -(Dick Adler, Chicago Tribune).
- "The Peahen" (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, 2008) is an homage to Pete Dexter. Written in Dexter's understated, linear style—much happens that isn't on the page—the story looks at the tension that arises from the influx of things foreign on formerly all-American endeavors.
- "A Stab in the Heart" (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, 2009) involves a Holocaust survivor's fatal plunge down a New York tenement stairway, which evokes a detective's memories of his brutal African past, and forces him to choose between vengeance and justice. Winner, Best Short Story of the Year (International Thriller Writers Association). Finalist, Derringer Award (Short Mystery Fiction Society).
- "Time Will Tell" (Mystery Writers of America Presents The Prosecution Rests, 2009) explores a certain kind of relationship; where is the line between romance and predator/prey? Publishers Weekly (starred review). Selection in By Hook or By Crook, and 27 More of the Best Crime and Mystery Stories of the Year. Finalist, Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Short Story of the Year (Crime Writers of Canada).
- "Talk to Me" (American Crime Writer's League Presents America Past, America Present, 2009) involves an antiques dealer who hears a voice from the past—or is he dreaming?
- “Happine$$” (Mystery Writers of America Presents The Rich and the Dead, 2011) involves a Ponzi-schemer who goes to prison and the Feds confiscate his ill-gotten wealth.
- “The Fourteenth Juror” (Mystery Writers of America Presents Vengeance, 2012) follows two detectives who encounter a vengeful judge, quarrelsome jurors, and efficient executioners.
- "I'm Learning" (American Crime Writer's League Presents Murder Here, Murder There, 2012) tells the story of how things can go bad down Mexico way when you’re on the lam with a bag of stolen diamonds, a pair of bloody scissors, and a boyfriend you can’t trust.
Phelan's essay on one of her literary influences, Margaret Maron, appears in the collection Mystery Muses: 100 Classics That Inspire Today's Mystery Writers.
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