Cover Reveal and Interview: These Toxic Things by Rachel Howzell Hall

Are you ready to be one of the first to get an exclusive look at Rachel Howzell Halls next thriller? These Toxic Things follows a scrapbook creator who ends up entangled with a serial killer after uncovering secrets about a client’s past. We Are Bookish has an exclusive reveal of the cover, but first, read our mini-interview with the author.

Tell us about your book cover! What was the cover design process like for you?

Isn’t it awesome? It was an incredibly collaborative process between the designer, my agent, my editor, and me. In some ways, this was a difficult cover to design because my stories are rarely simple and straightforward. These Toxic Things involves a digital scrapbooker, a serial killer, a curiosities shoppe, and family secrets. We didn’t want to be too literal nor did we want to be too abstract. 

The designer presented several foundational ideas and we threw in additional design elements that could possibly speak to all the book’s ideas. We all knew we wanted creepy and twisty, stark and symbolic—and I think the designer nailed it!


What inspired you to write These Toxic Things?

I turned 50 back in April, and I have a 16-year-old daughter. Over the course of quarantine, she’s really had the opportunity to see that while I’m her mother, I’m a woman with my own fears, with zits, with quirks that she may not have noticed in the regular busyness of our pre-COVID lives. I’m also old enough to see my own mother as a woman. And my generation, we’re finding out about family secrets, family feuds, family silences, and, if you’re not at the center of those things, just how fascinating and sometimes tragic that family baggage can be. 

With family memories, a happy memory for one person may not be for someone else. A lot of times, mementos represent those memories. You see this at funerals, especially, when people are fighting over pearl earrings or model trains.

I wanted to take all of these ideas about family, secrets, memories, and identity and smoosh them together, just to say this: Every family has its secrets. Discovering them is murder. Heh.


In three words, what can readers expect from These Toxic Things?

Memories. Mirage. Murder.


Do you judge books by their covers? What’s your favorite cover of all-time?

I do judge books by their covers. I really like eye-catching covers, which doesn’t necessarily mean flashy and loud. I want to be intrigued. I want Easter eggs. I want to cock my head and wonder. 

I absolutely loved the cover of Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton created by Chip Kidd. That cover was stark and minimal. When it first came out, I knew that it was about dinosaurs but not that scientists had brought them back to life. 


What books do you recommend we pick up while we wait for These Toxic Things to hit shelves on August 3, 2021?

Oh, that’s hard because there are so many great books out! Please pick up Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden, The Ninja’s Blade by Tori Eldridge, and Broken Places by Tracy Clark.

Now, let’s get our first peek at These Toxic Things!

Cover designer: Anna Laytham

Here’s the official summary for These Toxic Things:

Such beautiful things. Such terrifying memories.

Mickie Lambert creates “digital scrapbooks” for clients, ensuring that precious souvenirs aren’t forgotten or lost. When her latest client, Nadia Denham, a curio shop owner, dies from an apparent suicide, Mickie honors the old woman’s last wish and begins curating her peculiar objects d’art. A music box, a hair clip, a key chain—twelve mementos in all that must have meant so much to Nadia, who collected them on her flea market scavenges across the country.

But these tokens mean a lot to someone else, too. Mickie has been receiving threatening messages to leave Nadia’s past alone.

It’s becoming a mystery Mickie is driven to solve. Who once owned these odd treasures? How did Nadia really come to possess them? Discovering the truth means crossing paths with a long-dormant serial killer and navigating the secrets of a sinister past. One, Mickie fears, that might be inescapably entwined with her own.


Rachel Howzell Hall is the New York Times bestselling author of And Now She’s Gone; They All Fall Down; and, with James Patterson, The Good Sister, which was included in Patterson’s collection The Family Lawyer. An Anthony, International Thriller Writers, and Lefty Award nominee, Rachel is also the author of Land of Shadows, Skies of Ash, Trail of Echoes, and City of Saviors in the Detective Elouise Norton series. A past member of the board of directors for Mystery Writers of America, Rachel has been a featured writer on NPR’s acclaimed Crime in the City series and the National Endowment for the Arts weekly podcast; she has also served as a mentor in Pitch Wars and the Association of Writers Programs. Rachel lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter. For more information, visit

Kelly Gallucci

Kelly Gallucci is the Executive Editor of We Are Bookish, where she oversees the editorial content, offers book recommendations, and interviews authors and NetGalley members. When she's not working, Kelly can be found color coordinating her bookshelves, eating Chipotle, and watching way too many baking shows.

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