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‘Echoes of Evil’
New Brighton author pens psychological thriller
Celebrated local author Eileen Bridgeman Biernat pens a new mystery, “Echoes of Evil,” a psychological thriller based in a true story.
Biernat is known for her successful first book, “Stalking Mary,” a true crime account of the 1980 kidnapping of Mary and Beth Stauffer in Roseville, which was made into an hour-long episode of ABC’s “Primetime: Mind Games” in June 2010.
Probing the mind of a killer
“Echoes of Evil” follows Susan McNealy, a psychologist who marries charismatic Steven Holmgren and soon becomes pregnant. From the outside, they seem like the image of domestic bliss, but when Susan discovers startling details about her husband’s family, she begins to fear that she will become the next victim in a vicious cycle of family violence.
The book is loosely based on the murder of California woman Laci Peterson and her unborn son, who were murdered by Laci’s husband, Scott, on Christmas Eve in 2002.
For the book, Biernat investigated the psychology of Scott Peterson and his family. Biernat, a retired psychologist with a master’s degree in counseling psychology, says that she was interested in what she calls “constellation work in families.”
“You think ‘What’s kind of cooking in the bloodstream here that makes these things happen?’ She says.
Looking into Scott Peterson’s family history, she discovered details that hinted at a dark story. His mother had a history of abandonment - she gave up two children for adoption before she gave birth to Scott - and his grandmother suffered a mental breakdown after the murder of her husband right before Christmas, the same time of year that Scott murdered Laci.
“There were signs in the family (that something bad could happen),” Biernat says.
The novel reimagines Laci’s case with curious “what ifs?” What if Laci had been a psychologist? What if she had dug into her husband’s past and discovered the terrible patterns in his family?
“Because (Biernat’s) got this psychology background, she can really get into the psychological implications of the characters,” says Amy Quale, Biernat’s editor at Wise Ink Creative Publishing.
The psychology angle makes Biernat’s book a unique read, Quale says.
“It’s a really unique angle for a mystery novel,” she says, adding that the book stands apart from other books in the mystery genre. “It’s just a great read: it’s fast-paced, it’s a thriller (and) it’s one of my favorite books that we’ve done (at Wise Ink).”
Building upon success
Biernat’s first book, “Stalking Mary,” is a true crime account of the 1980 kidnapping of Mary Stauffer and her 8-year-old daughter, Beth, who were kidnapped by Mary’s former algebra student Ming Sen Shiue. Shiue snatched them from a parking lot in Roseville and held them at his home for seven weeks before they managed to escape. He also murdered a six-year-old boy, Jason Wilkman, who witnessed the kidnapping. Biernat published the book in 2010, just before Shiue’s civil commitment trial.
Biernat has always been interested in abnormal psychology, she says, but it was her personal interest in the case that inspired her to write the book: at the time of the kidnapping, she, her husband and her two children lived only two miles away from where Mary and Beth were kidnapped. Her children even went to the same elementary school as the Stauffers’ children: Valentine Hills.
Biernat always knew she’d look into Shiue’s psychology one day. After she retired in 2008, she did. She pored over thousands of pages of documents, seeking to understand Shiue’s mental illness and diagnosis.
“I put a lot of psychology into my book, but readable psychology ... the interesting stuff,” she jokes.
Interesting psychology and compelling storytelling make Biernat’s books a thrill for readers, says retired Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Jim Daly, who proofreads Biernat’s books.
“She just did an excellent job (of) taking somewhat dry police reports and then painting a picture with them,” he says of “Stalking Mary.” And he would know - he was there. Daly brought Mary and Beth to the hospital after they escaped.
“(Biernat) just has that talent of putting things together,” Daly adds. “She’s just excellent at painting a picture of what’s happening. ... Readers are going to enjoy it.”
The story continues
“Echoes of Evil” is the first book in four-book series Biernat is planning. Each book will follow one of the psychologists introduced in “Echoes of Evil” and explore a different psychological phenomenon.
“My goal is to become an anticipated author, the writer about whom people say ‘Oh, when is the next one coming out?’” Biernat adds.
Magers & Quinn Booksellers in Minneapolis will host a book launch for “Echoes of Evil” on Wednesday, June 25 at 7 p.m. Biernat will also appear for a book signing at Barnes & Noble at HarMar Mall in Roseville on Saturday, July 19 at 2 p.m.
Print copies of “Echoes of Evil” are available online and in-store from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Magers & Quinn and online from Itasca Books. E-book copies of the book are available from Amazon.
For more information about Eileen Bridgeman Biernat and her works, visit stalkingmary.com.
Kaylin Creason can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 651-748-7825.