For the first Insecure Writers Support Group (IWSG) post of 2015 (up last Wednesday), participants were asked to include a brief bio. Since I’d already written and auto-scheduled my post by the time I got the ‘bio memo,’ I let the post run as is. Today I present my <100 word bio, and along with it my favorite books of 2014.

Salem SignBIO
My name is VR Barkowski, and I write psychological thrillers and dark suspense. I’m a recovering sociologist and native Californian transplanted to Salem, Massachusetts by way of Seattle and Atlanta. My most recent short story appeared in the anthology, Best of New England Crime: Rogue Wave. My novel, A Twist of Hate, will be released by Cengage/Five Star this year, and I hope to self-publish its prequel, Blood Under Will, this spring. Want to know more? (Good God, why?) Check out out my website.

Since I can’t hand you one in person, here’s my business card, front and back. Yes, my business cards really are square. And yes, some of them have images of trees.

Business Card


This is slightly embarrassing as none of these books are my genre. If anyone has a suggestion for a great psychological thriller written in 2014 that is NOT part of a series, let me know.

19398490 All the Light We Cannot See (Historical Fiction)
Anthony Doerr
Set primarily in occupied France, All the Light We Cannot See tells the parallel stories of a blind French girl and an orphaned German boy whose lives overlap. A near-perfect read.



20170404Station Eleven (Adult Dystopian)
Emily St. John Mandel
Set 20 years after the Georgian Flu kills off 99% of the population, Station Eleven follows an acting/musical troop as it travels the Great Lakes region. This is not another post-apocolyptic thriller. In fact, it’s not a thriller at all. It’s The Walking Dead without zombies and with humanity intact. “Because survival is insufficient.”


18144124I Am Pilgrim (International Spy Thriller)
Terry Hayes
This story of the weaponization of the small pox virus by a lone terrorist fascinated me. It isn’t great literature, but the strong, compelling voice held me. It’s more than a worthwhile read. My only hesitation in recommending it is the undercurrent of “Islamaphobia,” which is the last thing we need right now.


I won’t name names, but two of my favorite authors released books in 2014 that were so weak, I couldn’t finish them. Very sad, indeed.


What was your favorite read of 2014?