Tamron Hall Hopes Her New Thriller Surprises You: 'It Wouldn't Be Fun If You Figured It Out' (Exclusive)

'Watch Where They Hide' draws elements from Hall's long career as a TV journalist — but with a decidedly fictional twist

<p>ABC; William Morrow</p> Tamron Hall

ABC; William Morrow

Tamron Hall's new thriller, 'Watch Where They Hide'

Tamron Hall wants her new thriller, Watch Where They Hide, to surprise you. In fact, she’ll be disappointed if readers guess the ending before they get there.

Not only that, but members of the “TamFam,” or followers of Hall’s decades-long career as an Emmy Award-winning journalist, may notice some parallels to her own life — and Hall tells PEOPLE that’s no accident.

“It was inspired by something that I really encountered, and a feeling that I just couldn't shake,” she explains. “There have been many moments when I wish I could have done more, and not in the sense of a reporter, but in just somehow finding justice.”

In this, the second installment of her Jordan Manning series, readers catch up with the titular character, a TV journalist with vigilante tendencies who investigates the disappearance of a stay-at-home mom, Marla.

The woman, who recently left her abusive husband and moved in with her sister, Shelly, vanished after she dropped off her child at school — and Shelly hasn’t gotten much help from the police. She fears the case may go cold without Jordan’s help.

<p>William Morrow</p> 'Watch Where They Hide' by Tamron Hall

William Morrow

'Watch Where They Hide' by Tamron Hall

The storyline hits particularly close to home for Hall, whose own sister’s murder remains unsolved. Hall’s sister, Renate, died in 2004, she told PEOPLE in 2016 and in many ways, she’s still processing the loss.

“I did not realize this until the completion of the book, but Shelly is an alter ego for me,” Hall says. “She is the sister looking for justice for her sister. As I am processing why Jordan, why this novel and the impact of covering true crime all of those years, I now fully understand why Shelly, and using her as this vehicle for every person who has experienced the pain of loss through violent crime.”

That experience, as well as wanting to give readers a sense of the emotional intensity of covering true crime, is part of what draws Hall to writing thrillers, instead of taking on a more true-to-life project.

“I could find my voice in the thriller world and fiction, and it is cathartic in that you are able to get those feelings out,” the author explains. “And perhaps that's because I'm not ready to fully talk about the things that I've seen personally over the last 30 years, and through Jordan, you get a truthful and honest glimpse, but in a protective way for my spirit.”

Related: MSNBC and 'Today' Anchor Tamron Hall Opens Up About Her Sister's Unsolved Murder: 'No One Deserves What Happened to Her'

The author says anyone can jump right into the second book without reading As the Wicked Watch, or read them out of order. This new book is faster-paced, more heart-pounding and more intense than the first — but with the same familiar, take-no-prisoners character at the center of the story.

Hall also wanted readers to feel the empathy that has to go alongside quality crime reporting, especially since her character is a city-dwelling Black woman investigating a suburban white mom’s disappearance.

“When you walk into the newsroom you don't get to say, ‘I only want to cover the story of someone who looks like me from the same background,’ ” Hall says. “You have to find that empathy and care for them, no matter who they are.”

After her decades in journalism and covering the crime beat, Hall knows how to get readers interested in a story. She also knows what keeps them reading, or watching: “We are fascinated and fearful of what humans are capable of.”

“I think it's the fear of it happening to us,” she adds, of our cultural obsession with true crime. “It’s the fear of it happening to someone we love. I think we all fancy ourselves intuitive: Would we have figured it out?”

And that’s just what she doesn’t want her readers to do. “I want that shock of who's behind the crime to really resonate and make you want to read the next book,” Hall says, with a laugh. “You gotta have that moment of whodunnit. Because it wouldn't be fun for me if you could figure it out.”

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Watch Where They Hide is on sale now, wherever books are sold. 

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