Karen M. McManus has been dazzling readers with her thrillers since One of Us is Lying was published in 2017.

McManus fans got a double dose of mystery in 2020, with One of Us is Next and The Cousins bookending the year.

We talked to the New York Times bestselling author about her latest release, those all-important twists and the writers who inspire her.

Can you tell us about your latest novel The Cousins

The Cousins is about the Story family, a wealthy and influential family who live on an island off the coast of Massachusetts. Twenty-four years ago, the widowed matriarch cut off all four children with a single-sentence letter: You know what you did.

Now, out of the blue, three teenage cousins who’ve never met their grandmother are invited to spend the summer on the island. Once they arrive, they begin to unravel some very dark secrets about the family.

What is the first piece of fiction you ever remember writing?

When I was eight years old, I wrote a story about a witch named Grizelda who couldn’t cast spells.

What other writers are you friends with and how have they inspired you?

We’d be here all day if I tried to list everyone who inspires me, but a few standouts include Stephanie Garber, who creates such brilliant, immersive worlds; Kit Frick, who constantly keeps me guessing with her thrillers; and Samira Ahmed, who blends compelling social relevance with whip-smart plots.

Your novels are full of wonderfully realized characters. If you had to write a spin-off from any of your books, which minor character do you think deserves a story of their own?

Ezra Corcoran, Ellery’s twin brother in Two Can Keep a Secret. He was an absolute delight to write and my readers love him. I could pair him with his friend Mia from the same book, and their dialogue would practically write itself.

Twists are a key aspect of your books and The Cousins is no different. Are you sitting on a twist that you love, but is yet to find its way into any of your stories?

Yes, there’s an evil little twist – something family-oriented, that wouldn’t have been out of place in The Cousins – that I once thought might serve as the foundation for my sixth book. I ended up going in a different direction, though, and now I think it might be better suited to a short story. We’ll see!

Which song would be the perfect soundtrack to The Cousins‘ closing scene?

The Last Great American Dynasty by Taylor Swift. As soon as I heard that song, I thought it could have been written for The Cousins.

The Cousins is available to buy now from Waterstones here, Bookshop.org here and all other good bookshops and online retailers.