Shirley Kennett has worn a number of hats, including those of corporate analyst, programmer, independent computer consultant, and pet store employee (the one who cleans the cages), but her writer's hat is by far the most comfortable--and most satisfying--of them all. She has been a fan of suspense and thrillers as long as she can remember, which may have had something to do with growing up in a converted turn-of-the-century funeral home.
Kennett has been involved with computers most of her life. In her consulting career, she focused on improving the quality of patient care through computerized clinical applications.
She discovered motherhood not in the usual fashion, but by bringing home an adopted child from Peru, astounding herself by falling in love with her son at first sight, changing her first diaper, and floating down the Amazon, all on the same trip. Eight years later, an Ethiopian boy joined the family. The two boys, close in age, created "twins" from greatly different cultures. Truly hers is a global family.
Kennett is a graduate of the Washington University School of Engineering in St. Louis, Missouri. She is a St. Louis native, a member of the Mystery Writers of America, the American Crime Writers League, Romance Writers of America, the Horror Writers Association, and International Thriller Writers, where she was a national board member. Her hobbies are reading (not surprising), gardening, and photography. Kennett is a frequent speaker at conferences and has taught writing classes online and in person. She has been a judge for the Edgar Awards several times.She resides in Missouri with her husband Dennis, sons Tom and Tim, and two cats, Marble and Snickers..
In this suspenseful thriller, a celebrated pianist has been found dead, decapitated by a sharp instrument, possibly a meat cleaver. His head is missing. The skin on his back has been carved into the bas-relief of a mongrel dog. It is a savage, seemingly senseless slaying. But it is only the first.
Penelope Jennifer Gray, known as PJ, is a newly divorced psychologist making a fresh start with her twelve-year-old son in St. Louis. A pioneer in the competitive field of computer simulation studies, she has been hired to set up a new division within the St. Louis Police Department. Through cutting-edge techniques of virtual reality, the Computerized Homicide Investigations Project, or CHIP, recreates real-life crimes by placing the user in the mind of the perpetrator.
PJ is teamed up with Leo Schultz, a veteran cop fast approaching burnout, to investigate the case that has St. Louis is a death-grip: the city is being terrorized by what could be the most unstoppable serial killer in history.
He's a face in the crowd. A figure in the shadows. The guy standing behind you at the street corner, waiting for the light to change. With each fresh killing, Pauley Mac adds another victim to his "guest" list. They are the voices in his head. The coveted talents he hopes to one day possess. The furies he can no longer control.
For PJ Gray, it will take all of her instincts as a psychologist and as a woman to beat Pauley Mac at his own game. To survive, she must enter the mind of a killer.
"Kennett is a writer of rare skill, and Gray Matter is a deftly plotted novel bristling with suspense. Its characters are real and contemporary, and its premise is gripping and unique. Not since RED DRAGON has a more menacing serial killer roamed metropolitan St. Louis. A rip-roaring good read. Let's see more of PJ Gray!"
- John Lutz, author of Single White Female and Serial
"Fans of Patricia Cornwell's work will be hooked on his heart-stopping and harrowing thriller. The finely drawn characters in Gray Matter are both complex and terrifyingly convincing."
- Romantic Times
“Kennett’s devious creativity and bloodcurdling, realistic descriptive passages result in a terrifying and explosive thriller.”
“Shirley Kennett is a polished and poised addition to the ranks of contemporary mystery writers. You’re going to enjoy her books.”
- Mystery Scene
“A sleek and cunning read, with enough plot turns to keep the pages flying by.”
- Ed Gorman, author of Bad Moon Rising and Blindside
“May leave some readers sleepless.”
- Kirkus Reviews
“Kennett’s storytelling talents win out. Solid entertainment.”
- Publishers Weekly