Patricia Raybon is a Colorado author and essayist who writes daring and exciting novels at the intersection of faith and race. Her devotional writing appears in Our Daily Bread, where she’s a regular contributor. She also authors the Annalee Spain Mysteries, a “history mystery” series featuring a young Black theologian who solves crime during Colorado’s dangerous 1920s Klan years. She has won both the Christy Award and the Christianity Today Book of the Year Award for her fiction. A former newspaper journalist and journalism faculty member at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Patricia and her husband, Dan, a retired educator, have two grown daughters.

In this interview, Patricia shares some insights into Truth Be Told, the third book in her Annalee Spain Mystery Series.

FF: What can readers who have come to know and love your series expect in the third installment?
In true Annalee fashion, she dives with passion into unraveling this next case—the murder of a pretty, young stranger found dead in a rich man’s garden. Making appearances as sidekicks are Annalee’s ensemble of intrepid church pals along with her orphaned buddy Eddie and her heartthrob pastor boyfriend, the Rev. Jack Blake. With a murder in a garden, Annalee also looks to a real-life surprise visitor to Denver—the renowned agricultural scientist, George Washington Carver—who shows up to help her understand a curious prairie plant that may sit at the center of the murder case. The official promo describes Truth Be Told as “a taut, heart-gripping narrative driven by secrets, romance, and lies.” It’s an apt description, and I’m excited for Annalee fans and newcomers alike to enjoy it.

FF: What themes do you explore in Truth Be Told?
With a garden murder, this third installment explores the seeds we plant in life, whether truth or lies, and what kind of harvests they yield. When our heart’s ground is plowed with fear, revenge, bigotry, suspicion, and pride, what’s the impact on our lives—not to mention the impact on our families, nation, and the world? In a compromised world, indeed, what does Annalee discover? That pursuing truth is always worth the risk, especially when pursuing the truth about yourself. That may seem like a heavy challenge for a humble detective like Annalee Spain, but she confronts the test head-on—taking on truths, lies, and tensions still throbbing today.

FF: What kind of research did you do to inform this story?
For the big picture, I was inspired by the Black migration narratives compiled by journalist Isabel Wilkerson in her riveting book, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. I also pored through the sadly commonplace records of sexual exploitation of vulnerable young women by powerful men—and the pushback on such behavior, known today as the “Me Too Movement”—as revealed in books such as She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement by journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. For small, day-to-day details, I spent hours scouring newspapers of the day, archived at such wonderful sites as and Beyond the articles, the ads in early newspapers provide a remarkable picture of what people were buying, reading, writing, wearing, eating, watching, and visiting—and at what price. So, a new Ford touring car in 1924 went for $245 (or, splurging, a Studebaker Light-Six for $1,045). Or spring women’s hats for $5 at Saller Dry Goods in a small Colorado town. These details bring the era to life, along with the people who lived then.

FF: How does faith play a role in this story?
Faith gets scrutinized deeply as Annalee questions whether God really cares about victims of hate and prejudice in her town. Thus, she’s not just solving crime, but tackling her own spiritual questions. At one point, after an innocent Black woman dies in a senseless altercation, Annalee tries praying the twenty-third psalm, but stops, feeling angry that God didn’t intervene. “Yes, I’m fussing,” she prays. “Because I’m so angry at what happened. And there’s not a thing I can do about it…but ‘Thou art with me?’” Later, she questions Jack, her pastor boyfriend:

“Does God even know [what happened]?” Annalee whispered. “Does God care?” Jack surprised her with his answer.

“He’d better.” Such spiritual searching moves each Annalee story beyond a simple murder mystery to a deeper inquiry of God’s actions within it.

FF: You describe yourself as a “recovering pantser.” How has outlining shaped your writing process?
Outlining makes my writing time more efficient. With an outline, I can identify problems in the plot and correct them before the actual writing begins. In that way, outlining is pre-writing—or like “pantsing”—but in a shortened form. I’m following my nose to discover the best actions and twists, but I can step back during the pre-writing to twist everything tighter. If it doesn’t work, I can ditch it before wasting tons of writing time. I know the Stephen Kings of the world wouldn’t be caught dead, literally, outlining a story. They’re pantsers all the way, and I admire their daring skill. For me, however, outlining uses my time better and, to my surprise, can render a better story.

FF: As your story developed, did any characters surprise you, or did the story unfold in surprising ways?
Three characters shocked me. A high-wire trapeze artist who works high in the air, defying gravity and maybe common sense, tests both her self-worth as a young Black woman in a dangerous time and Annalee Spain’s courage to pursue a dangerous case. Second, George Washington Carver—a real-life personality—stepped into the fictional plot to help Annalee understand the relationship between plants and people, all informed by his deep prayer life. I’d never used a real person before in an Annalee story, but I love the rich, affirming presence he brought to the mystery. Third, the presence of Annalee’s unknown mother weaves its way throughout the narrative, ending with Annalee unearthing, literally, the truth of who her mother is. Did her mother surprise me? Totally. Will she surprise readers? I believe that, yes, she will.

FF: Which scene in Truth Be Told did you most enjoy writing?
I adore every scene between Annalee and Jack Blake, her love interest. My “history mystery” isn’t a romance per se, but as a duo, those two defy their times and their good sense, such as it is, to discover all they can mean to each other, intellectually and emotionally, in a culture and time that devalues them because of the color of their skin. They find each other tantalizing, amazing, and the imago dei—bearers of God’s image—in their challenging world. So they adore being together, defying danger to tackle crime and their spiritual quandaries. After one night of dangerous sleuthing, Jack tells Annalee their outing was crazy, dangerous, and fun, too. Then off they go to try it again. Those are fun scenes to write, and I pray readers enjoy their interactions.

FF: What can readers learn from your protagonist, Annalee Spain, in Truth Be Told?
Fear not.

FF: What books have you read lately that inspired you?
I loved Geraldine Brooks’s tour de force, Horse. Truly, I was stunned by the depth of her narrative power. I found that same creative prowess in Sophfronia Scott’s latest novel, Wild, Beautiful, and Free. I love stories with characters of color who are fully dimensional, not just add-ons. Both books filled that bill. So did a detective novel I recently gobbled up, A Disappearance in Fiji by Nilima Rao. It’s captivating. Finally, three history books recently brought me to my knees—King: A Life by Jonathan Eig, Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy B. Tyson, and American Nations by Colin Woodard. Presently I’m also enthralled by The Wright Brothers by David McCullough and How Big Things Get Done by Bent Flyvbjerg and Dan Gardner. On my TBR list is Paulette Jiles’s new novel, Chenneville, and a memoir, Up Home: One Girl’s Journey by Ruth J. Simmons. Finally, I’m re-reading my second Annalee Spain novel, Double the Lies. It won Christianity Today’s 2024 Book Award for Fiction, so I’m re-reading it to remind myself why, and so far I’m not disappointed. Yay for Annalee!

FF: Do you have any future writing projects planned?
I’m thrilled to be planning my next novel with Tyndale Fiction, a World War II historical stand-alone about a young female teacher at an upper-crust Black finishing school in North Carolina tobacco country. Nearby is a sprawling US Army base where she’s drawn into intrigue involving an Italian POW imprisoned there and a young Black Army officer stationed there. I love the story and characters, and I’m humbled and excited to attempt this project—my first stand-alone. I hope readers enjoy it, too. Writing prayers solicited!

Truth Be Told
Annalee Spain Mystery Series #3
Patricia Raybon
Tyndale House
Genres: Thriller/Suspense, Historical Mystery
Release Date: June 11, 2024

ISBN-10: ‎1496458486
ISBN-13: ‎978-1496458483

Book Summary:
Denver’s newest detective. A garden’s deadly secrets.

On a lovely June night in 1924, amateur detective Annalee Spain is mingling bravely at a high-class political fundraiser in the lush backyard garden of famed political fixer Cooper Coates, one of the wealthiest men in Denver’s Black neighborhood of Five Points. When Coates’s young daughter discovers a pretty stranger dead in her father’s garden shed, Annalee is thrust onto the baffling new case just as she’s reeling from another recent discovery—a handwritten letter, found buried in her own garden, that reveals the identity of her mother.

Not ready to face the truth about her hidden past, Annalee throws herself into solving the mystery of the young woman’s demise. With the help of her pastor boyfriend Jack Blake, her orphaned buddy Eddie, and her trustworthy church friends, Annalee follows the clues to three seemingly disconnected settings—a traveling carnival set up downtown, a Black civic club, and a prestigious white seminary on the outskirts of Denver. Intriguing advice also comes from a famous, real-life Denver visitor. But is Annalee on the right track or just running in circles, fleeing from conflicts racing in her heart?

In a taut, heart-gripping narrative driven by secrets, romance, and lies, Annalee must unravel a case with higher stakes than she imagined—one where answers about a lovely woman’s death point to truths and tensions still throbbing today.


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About The Author

Patricia Raybon is an award-winning author and essayist whose books include My First White Friend, a Christopher Award-winning memoir about racial forgiveness, and I Told the Mountain to Move, a prayer memoir that was a Christianity Today Book of the Year finalist. Patricia’s other books include The One Year God’s Great Blessings Devotional and Undivided: A Muslim Daughter, Her Christian Mother, Their Path to Peace, coauthored with her younger daughter, Alana Raybon. Patricia’s essays on faith, race, and grace have been published in the New York Times, Newsweek, USA Today, Guideposts, Christianity Today, and other national publications and blogs. She lives with her husband, Dan, in her beloved home state of Colorado.