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A relaxing trail ride turns tragic when Paramedic and Deputy Coroner Zoe Chambers discovers the body of a popular county commissioner in her Pennsylvania woods.
Inconsistencies surround the horrible accident, but before she can investigate further, she’s pried away by a plea for help from her best friend whose son has been deemed a person of interest in a homicide over a thousand miles away. When he vanishes without a trace, his mother begs Zoe to help clear him and bring him safely home. The task takes Zoe out of her comfort zone in a frantic trip to the desolate canyons and bluffs of New Mexico where she joins forces with the missing boy’s sister and a mysterious young Navajo.
Back at home, Vance Township’s Chief of Police Pete Adams must deal not only with the commissioner’s homicide, but with an influx of meth and a subsequent rash of drug overdoses in his rural community. Bodies keep turning up while suspects keep disappearing. However little else matters when he learns that half a continent away, a brutal killer has Zoe in his sights.
Guest Post: A Fish Out of Water
Last fall, I participated in a library tour as part of a local authors panel. As the only panelist writing a series, one question repeatedly directed to me was, “What would you do differently in book #1 if you could go back?”
While first creating a series character, we authors try to give them a history, some secrets, and a few loveable quirks. These get rewritten many many times over the years it takes to find a publisher. But once the book is in print, you’re locked in. No more changing a name. No more tweaking those loveable quirks, which can—over time—become annoying habits.
Kind of like with spouses.
Wait. Did I say that? Moving on…
First of all, I would not have named the county coroner Franklin Marshall. It’s a great name, except that both names could be first or last. Paramedic and Deputy Coroner Zoe Chambers, who’s closer to him personally, thinks of him as Franklin. Chief Pete Adams thinks of him as Marshall. I fear some folks start to wonder if they’re two different guys.
Secondly, I’m not so sure if Zoe’s quirk of being a deputy coroner who can’t stand the smells in autopsy, as well as her whole inner turmoil about that career choice, was a good idea. I’ve gradually transitioned her away from the problem, although I can’t completely ignore her issues. Readers may think her growing competence has to do with her character development (and who am I to argue?), but between you and me, I simply became annoyed by what was becoming less of a quirk and more of a weakness.
The biggest change I would have made is I would have started the series earlier in Pete and Zoe’s relationship. By the time we meet them in Circle of Influence, Pete has been the police chief of rural Vance Township for a number of years, having previously been a city cop in Pittsburgh. I wish I’d shown him as more of a fish out of water playing against Zoe, the lifelong resident and farm girl.
You see, I’m really enamored of the whole fish-out-water scenario. In No Way Home, Zoe finally has a case with the coroner’s office she can dig her investigative teeth into, but her best friend Rose begs her to travel out west, where Rose’s son and his girlfriend are missing. The trip means leaving her case—and Pete—behind and plunging into the unfamiliar badlands of New Mexico where she has no sense of direction and no idea of whom she can trust.
As a lifelong Pennsylvania farmgal myself, I drew on my personal experiences from my first trip out west a few years ago. Like Zoe, I said “wow” about a hundred times, annoying the heck out of my traveling companions. Like Zoe, I had a horrible time with distance and direction. And like Zoe, I fell in love with the wide-open spaces.
Now I’m wondering if Zoe might not someday return to the Land of Enchantment. She could still be that fish out of water. After all, I’ve been out there four times now and still manage to get lost.
About The Author
Annette Dashofy is the USA Today best-selling author of the Zoe Chambers mystery series about a paramedic and deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania’s tight-knit Vance Township. CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE, published by Henery Press, was afinalist for the Agatha Award for Best First Novel and for the David Award for Best Mystery of 2014. LOST LEGACY, was released in September 2014 followed in April 2015 by BRIDGES BURNED, which has been nominated for the Agatha for Best Contemporary Novel. BRIDGES was followed by WITH A VENGEANCE. NO WAY HOME is the most recent book in the series.
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