Phelan, Twist

views updated



Female. Education: Stanford University, B.A., J.D. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, traveling, and participating in sports, including bicycling, canoeing, rock-climbing, rodeo team roping, skate-skiing, and triathlons.


Author, lawyer, and commodities trader.


Winner in Mystery Category, Colorado Gold Writing Contest, for Family Claims; winner of awards for short stories.



Heir Apparent, Sands Publishing (San Diego, CA), 2002.

Family Claims, Poisoned Pen Press (Scottsdale, AZ), 2004.

Spurred Ambition, Poisoned Pen Press (Scottsdale, AZ), 2006.

Contributor of short stories to mystery fiction magazines; contributor to anthology Wall Street Noir, Akashic Press, 2007.


Twist Phelan began publishing mystery novels after retiring in her early thirties from a successful career as a plaintiffs' trial lawyer. She has set several books in the fictional resort town of Pinnacle Peak, Arizona, with each featuring a different sport; Phelan herself is an endurance athlete, having participated in triathlons, rock-climbing, canoeing, and other sports. "For my first book, I wanted to combine my passion for sports with my background in law," Phelan explained on her Web site.

That first novel, the legal thriller Heir Apparent, focuses on Joe McGuinness, a lawyer and rodeo roper just beginning his career with a leading Pinnacle Peak law practice when one of the firm's most important clients is murdered, along with her son. The client's personal assistant, whom Joe is dating, is a suspect. "The strongest point of the novel is its authentic atmosphere, mixing rodeo riding with a murder mystery," observed Luke Croll in a review for Murder Express.

In her second novel, Family Claims, Phelan introduces lawyer-athlete Hannah Dain. She works with her father and sister in the family law firm, but her relationship with them is troubled. Bicycling in the desert helps her escape, but she plans a more permanent escape to a job in Boston. The Dain firm's involvement in a mishandled business deal, however, forces her to stay, and she tries to save the practice's reputation even as her life is threatened. Like her first novel, Phelan's second won praise for its setting; some critics had positive words for other aspects of the novel as well. "Phelan creates appealing characters and paints a vivid portrait of the Arizona desert," commented Jenny McLarin in Booklist. In a similar vein, contributor Harriet Klausner remarked: "Readers will like Family Claims because the characters ring true." A Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded that "Hannah makes a sympathetic and appealing heroine likely to have an interesting future."

As narrated in Spurred Ambition, that future includes doing legal work for an Indian tribe and becoming attracted to one of the tribal leaders, Tony Soto, whom Hannah first encounters while rock climbing. Tony is soon kidnapped, and Hannah begins to search for him and investigate a financial fraud that may involve him, while at the same time dealing with surprising news about her family. Some reviewers again complimented both Phelan's setting and her protagonists. McLarin, writing once more in Booklist, noted that the novel and the series "offer a nice mix of desert atmosphere and appealing characters." A Publishers Weekly critic found the story overly complicated, "with enough plot for two or three novels." Spinetingler Magazine critic Andrea Maloney, however, considered Spurred Ambition to be "complex" yet compelling; she predicted that readers would be "unable to put down the book."



Booklist, February 15, 2004, Jenny McLarin, review of Family Claims, p. 1043; January 1, 2006, McLarin, review of Spurred Ambition, p. 69.

California Bookwatch, May, 2006, "Poisoned Pen Press," review of Spurred Ambition.

Publishers Weekly, February 9, 2004, review of Family Claims, p. 61; November 21, 2005, review of Spurred Ambition, p. 21.

ONLINE, (October 9, 2006), Harriet Klausner, review of Family Claims.

Authors after Dark, (October 9, 2006), brief biography of Twist Phelan.

BookLoons, (October 9, 2006), Mary Ann Smyth, review of Spurred Ambition.

Crime Writers Canada Web site, (October 9, 2006), brief biography of Twist Phelan.

Internet Book List, (October 9, 2006), brief biography of Twist Phelan.

Murder Express, (October 9, 2006), Luke Croll, review of Heir Apparent.

Spinetingler Magazine, (March 10, 2006), Andrea Maloney, review of Spurred Ambition.

Twist Phelan Home Page, (October 9, 2006).*