Unique, two person point-of-view structure: The protagonist, Vaughn Ellis, and antagonist, Uppercrust, tell the story first-person in a fast-paced back-and-forth structure. Their clash is inevitable. But who is behind Uppercrust? Along with Ellis, the reader collects clues along the way to try to solve the mystery.
-- Few commercial mysteries/thrillers utilize a dual first-person storytelling technique. The reader gains intimate knowledge of both the protagonist and antagonist’s motivations and actions.
Every reader longs for a piece of paradise: Little Torch Key is paradise turned on its head. When a person thinks of the Florida Keys, usually images of white sandy beaches, tiki huts and colorful sunsets come to mind. Who doesn’t yearn for this tropical paradise, a break from our everyday lives? But do we ever think of the grifter undercurrent operating in the shadows, running drugs and money, pulling cons on tourists? Little Torch Key brings us into this other side to paradise.
Inside a grifter world: The Skull and Bones Whiskey bar acts as the principle location of the novel. The dive bar operates in a criminal gray area. Grifters convene here moving drugs, money and information. The bartender, Dalt, trades this information to the highest bidder--sometimes this is the police, often not. The Skull and Bones is a place a reader fears, but longs to drink a beer in.
Relatable family issues: Is blood thicker than water? Often main characters in mysteries and thrillers are single males, operating alone, but Little Torch Key is a family-themed novel that does not sacrifice the traditional fast pace and toughness of the mystery/thriller genres. Vaughn Ellis realizes he made a terrible mistake the moment he fled his family, and he must work to get them back…and keep them alive.
The use of new technology and the personas behind it: Little Torch Key utilizes the anonymous messenger app, Kik (known to be used by pedophiles and stalkers), Twitter, onion routers, encryption, IP tracking, police cybercrime units. Uppercrust begins stalking Vaughn Ellis via the Kik messenger app because Uppercrust knows this communication is difficult to track as it uses anonymous usernames and blurred IP addresses. It is only until Uppercrust gets close to Vaughan that Uppercrust hacks another character’s Twitter account and posts public threats to Vaughan.
-- Crime thrillers often utilize characters posing as another person (e.g. the killer posing as innocent). Little Torch Key takes this to another level as characters form personas online, much like many of us do on Facebook, Twitter, etc. The killer, though, takes this persona to a deadly level.
Tragedy and mental illness: A terrible incident [event redacted] has occurred on Vaughn Ellis’s New York City beat. Americans have witnessed too many of these horrific events and felt the aftermath of these senseless acts. Vaughn Ellis experiences this tragedy in the flesh. He feels responsible…and it breaks him. He tries to run from it, taking a bus as far south as it will go, but the torment continues to haunt him.
The dual authors: Sean and Casey met in 2003 working as interns for the Miami Dolphins. Years later, they wrote Little Torch Key living 2,000 miles apart.