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About the Author

Moving from the linear world of practicing law into the creative realm of storytelling has been a revealing transition.

Lawyer turned author, Cynthia is inspired by life's trials and the growing desire to discover what's next.

C.L. (Cynthia) Tolbert fell in love with the cryptic clues and twisted plots of Agatha Christie’s stories and novels when she was a child. Her Thornton Mystery Series reflects this passion, as well as the vast richness of the places and people she’s encountered throughout her life. Retiring after practicing law for more than thirty years, C.L. began writing full time. Her experiences as an attorney, especially during the years she taught at Loyola Law School where she also directed a homeless clinic, have inspired her stories. 

Licensed in Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi, her roots are in the deep south, but her stories are universal, with characters that range from a young deaf man accused of murdering his girlfriend in rural Georgia, to a young homeless woman charged with killing the leader of a suspicious cult in New Orleans.

In 2010 C.L. won the Georgia State Bar Association’s fiction writing contest, and, in 2020, following her retirement, developed the winning short story into the first novel of the Thornton Mystery Series, Out From Silence, featuring the Emma Thornton. In 2021 C.L. published a follow up novel, The Redemption, a mystery set in New Orleans, which Kirkus Reviews called an “engaging and unpredictable whodunit.” In 2022, the third book in the series, Sanctuary, was published. Kirkus Reviews featured Sanctuary in the April, 2023 edition of Kirkus Reviews Magazine, calling it, “A well-plotted nail biter with believable and sympathetic characters.” C.L.’s love of New Orleans and murder mysteries continues in The Legacy, the fourth book in the Thornton Mystery series.

C.L. is a recent transplant to Austin, Texas, where she lives with her husband and schnauzer, Yoda. She has two children and three grandchildren.

About the Author
Featured Books

Featured Books

"A budding storyteller with curated characters waiting to be revealed in narratives yet to be told, Cynthia’s early recognition is setting the stage for what’s next. Future accolades expected."

Winner, Georgia Bar Journal Fiction Writing Contest | 2010

Fiction Writing Contest Scholarship, Il Chiostro Writing Workshop | Italy 2010





“Tolbert delivers another beautifully crafted and compelling Emma Thornton Mystery. I couldn’t put it down. The Legacy delivers the evocative writing, gripping plot, and memorable characters that make her Emma Thornton Mysteries such a great read. Driven by a compelling protagonist determined to find legal justice for the marginalized even if it means putting her own life in danger, The Legacy will stay with you long after you reach the last page.”
Ellen Byron/ Maria DiRico, Agatha and Lefty, Award Winner, USA Today Bestseller

“Fearless, relentless, compassionate, and driven by an unyielding sense of justice, law professor Emma Thornton battles mounting evidence in a race to save a mentally ill young man from a presumption of guilt in the gruesome murders of his parents.”
Roger Johns, a Georgia Author of the Year and author of the Wallace Hartman Mysteries

 “Fearless Law Professor Emma Thompson returns to defend a young man with schizophrenia accused of murdering his mother. Faced with a second murder, an unscrupulous prosecutor, a family with mental health issues, a pusher of pain meds, and a Gitanes-smoking stalker, Emma finds her marriage in jeopardy and her life on the line. Author C. L. Tolbert proves the Big Easy has never been easy, especially for a fighter like Emma whom I would follow anywhere.”
Valerie J. Brooks, award-winning author of the Angeline Porter Trilogy

 “Unwavering in her conviction, law professor Emma Thornton must navigate a labyrinth of lies and deception to arrive at the truth and vindicate a disturbed young man wrongly accused of murder. Not only a suspenseful story, The Legacy represents the triumph of the human spirit to persevere in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.”
Lawrence Kelter, International bestselling author of the Stephanie Chalice Mystery Series


Emma Thornton is back in Sanctuary, C. L. Tolbert's third novel in the Thornton Mystery Series. This time, she's agreed to represent a former client accused of killing the leader of a suspicious cult in New Orleans.


James Crosby, the charismatic leader of the Japaprajnas, is found dead one late afternoon, his body draped over an iron fence in the courtyard of the nineteenth-century house where he and several cult members work and live. Although they initially presumed the fall was an accident, police investigators quickly discover that James received a lethal dose of a drug before he was pushed from his office balcony.


The next day the police discover a syringe and a substantial amount of the drug which killed James in Stacey Robert's bedroom. The nineteen-year-old cult member is brought in for questioning, which leads to her arrest. Emma, who had represented Stacey when she was a sixteen-year-old runaway, agrees to take the case. Convinced that she is innocent, Emma begins an investigation into the cult and its members. Emma's questions uncover dangerous secrets, illicit activities, and the exploitation of innocent victims. Emma's suspicions lead her to the killer's trail and the case's final resolution.



““Brace yourself. Deadly personalities, hidden agendas, and long-buried secrets threaten law professor Emma Thornton, after she agrees to defend a terrified young woman accused of murdering the charismatic leader of an oppressive cult. The dark heart of New Orleans has never felt so dangerous.”
Roger Johns, award-winning author of the Wallace Hartman Mysteries
“The lies stack up as fast as bodies in this latest thriller from C.L. Tolbert. Law professor Emma Thornton returns as the tenacious and fearless defender of New Orleans’ downtrodden. An enthralling mystery, Sanctuary explores the seedy underbelly of the Big Easy.” 
Bruce Robert Coffin, award-winning author of the Detective Byron Mysteries

 “A shady religion, shadowy deals, and twisted family relationships come together in the atmospheric world of New Orleans to create a captivating mystery. Emma Thornton is an attorney with a heart of gold.”
Liz Milliron, Author of The Laurel Highlands Mysteries and The Homefront Mysteries

 “Sanctuary explores the seedy side of the French Quarter complete with cults and drugs as Attorney Emma Thornton races to clear the name of a young runaway. Author C.L. Tolbert takes the reader along on a heart-pounding journey into the dark underbelly of New Orleans.”
Annette Dashofy, USA Today Bestselling Author of the Zoe Chambers Mysteries



Emma Thornton is back in The Redemption, C.L. Tolbert’s second novel in the Thornton Mystery Series.  When two men are murdered one muggy September night in a New Orleans housing project, an eye witness identifies only one suspect - Louis Bishop- a homeless sixteen-year old.  When they take on the case, Emma and her students discover a tangle of corruption, intrigue, and more.


"Sometimes, authors of mysteries and thrillers let relationships suffer as they focus on plot. Not here. The care taken to draw a clear picture of the homeless teen and his relationship with the lead protagonist really pays off. Even without the strong plot line, I would have kept reading just to see where the two characters landed. An interesting, clever book."

 Louise Gray, NetGalley Reviewer


“Mystery, murder, and mayhem in The Big Easy; C.L. Tolbert’s The Redemption is a page-turner guaranteed to keep you guessing until the very end.” Bruce Robert Coffin, award-winning author of the Detective Byron Mysteries


 “With The Redemption, Cynthia Tolbert delivers another beautifully written and compelling read in her Thornton Mystery series, as law professor Emma Thornton’s fight to save a teen wrongly accused of murder endangers her own life in this gripping tale of corruption and crime in the 1990s Big Easy.”  Ellen Byron, Agatha Award winning author of the Cajun Mysteries

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C.L. Tolbert's Debut Book in the Thornton Mystery Series. Set in the fictional town of Jonesburg, GA, Emma Thornton, law student and clerk for a local attorney is asked to help defend Adam, a young deaf man accused of killing his girlfriend. The investigation sets her on a dangerous path which nearly costs her her life and forces Adam out of his world of silence.  



“Out From Silence is a solid debut loaded with menace, memorable characters, and dangerous secrets––a brooding mystery rooted deep in the Southern tradition. C L Tolbert is a talented newcomer to the crime fiction tribe.”
Roger Johns, award-winning author of the Wallace Hartman Mysteries
"Cynthia Tolbert follows in the footsteps of legendary southern author Margaret Maron with her haunting debut, OUT FROM SILENCE, a beautifully drawn mystery that explores the duality of evil and kindness in a small Georgia town." 
Ellen Byron, Agatha Winner, Best Contemporary Novel, Cajun Country Mysteries, USA Today Bestselling Series, Humorous Lefty Awards, The Catering Hall   Mysteries 

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