March 1 2018 11:00 AM

Talking detective fiction with the judge who signed Nassar’s ‘death warrant’

The halls of the Veteran Memorial Courthouse outside Judge Rosemarie Aquilina’s chambers were eerily quiet on a recent Friday afternoon. A far cry from two weeks earlier, when throngs of victims, supporters and the media gathered for the sentencing of Larry Nassar.

I couldn’t help thinking the abandoned hallway outside the judge’s chambers would be a perfect place to set the opening of a murder mystery. Murder serials were on my mind as I quickly finished the last 20 pages of Aquilina’s new thriller, “Triple Cross Killer,” the first in a series featuring a crew of detectives assigned to solve their state’s most heinous crimes.

“Triple Cross Killer” follows two teams of detectives, Jaq and David from Detroit and Abel and Rabbitt from Sarasota, Florida, as they tag team to find a serial killer who is leaving bodies in both cities.

The killer Nick Archer is revealed early in the book along with his motives and the clever way he identifies his victims.

Aquilina said her characters are a product of her more 30 years as an attorney and a judge.

“At my age and experience, I find my characters and plots in real things and the people I have seen in the courtroom,” she said.

She said she then fictionalizes the characters and situations.

“I don’t need to do a ride along with police. I see and hear them every day,” she said. Aquilina even adapted a role in her new book for a police dog named Recon, after presiding at a trial involving a K-9 Unit.

But in a twist, Aquilina said the idea for “Triple Cross Killer” came from one of her children. When talking about their letters to Santa Claus, Aquilina was asked “’What happens if the letters get in the wrong hands?’” “Ideas started rolling around in my head,” Aquilina said. And some of those ideas are pretty twisted, as Nick sets out to seek revenge on individuals who have abused children.

“It’s a good thing that the book came out before the Nassar sentencing.

I had the idea for the book years before,” she said. Aquilina became an international phenomenon with her own Internet meme when she allowed more than 150 victims of Nassar speak at his sentencing hearing.

In essence, Aquilina says her book “is about a person who does the wrong thing for the right reasons.”

“The book is also about the danger of vigilantism and it is meant to bother you,” she cautions.

Aquilina, whose first book, “Fear No Evil,” a much tamer one, which came out in 2003, is very adept at jumping between plot lines. The point of view alternates between the detectives, the killer himself and Rita, his unwitting lover, who is part of a forensic team investigating the serial killer.

Even though Aquilina identifies the killer early on, she is able to keep the tension ramped up through Rita. As the killings come closer to home, she wakes up very slowly to the fact that the man she is sleeping with is the serial killer.

She said the book’s methodical approach in solving the murders is similar to what she experiences on the bench.

“I don’t have all the pieces until the end of a trial. I wrote ‘Triple Cross Killer’ as I see crime on the bench,” she said.

The author said she believes the dialogue of her characters rings true because of her courtroom experience.

“I meet them in court. I hear detectives all the time-they are serious and funny,” Aquilina said.

When it comes to courtroom experience, Aquilina donned the black robe beginning in 2005 first as a district judge for four years then as a circuit judge beginning in 2009. She also served in the National Guard as a judge advocate general retiring after 20 years. She teaches at both Michigan State University Law School and Cooley Law School at Western Michigan University.

Aquilina writes almost every day during her lunch break and compares it to a runner’s high. One series would be enough for most writers, but she is also working on a cozy series featuring a disgruntled judge who quits and opens a salon where the staff turns into amateur detectives.

Book Signings: Schuler Books in Meridian Mall 7 p.m.

Thurs., March 8, Tickets are $20 and include a copy of the book and are available at

Barnes & Noble in Lansing Mall

11 a.m., Sat., March 24.