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Paramedic Zoe Chambers and the rest of rural Monongahela County’s EMS and fire personnel are used to wading into the middle of trouble to rescue the sick and the injured.
But when someone with an ax to grind seeks retribution by staging accident scenes and gunning down the first responders, Zoe finds herself forced to not only treat her own brethren of the front lines, but also, in her role as deputy coroner, seek out whoever is killing her friends. At the same time, Vance Township Police Chief Pete Adams races to track down a gun, a mysterious all-terrain vehicle, and the sniper before Zoe goes back on duty, placing herself—and Pete—firmly in the gunman’s crosshairs.
When I started writing the Zoe Chambers mystery series a few years back, one of the first things I decided on—besides the main characters of Zoe and Pete—was the location. I knew I wanted to set the series here in rural southwestern Pennsylvania, but I opted against using the real towns and municipalities.
My reasons for setting the stories locally were numerous. I know the area. No need to travel for research. No need to learn about quirky customs or manners. I grew up around them! And although we’re in the middle of farm country, crime exists. I liked the idea of writing about small town crime being as deadly as anything you’ll find in the city. I can write about corrupt politicians. I can also write about a body discovered in a bin of potatoes in a farmer’s root cellar.
My reasons for creating a fictionalized version of my corner of the world are less numerous. One: I wanted to be able to move things around and merge three different townships into one. If I had done this using the correct names for places, my readers who live around here would have nailed me to the wall. As is, they take great pleasure in announcing that they recognize that store or that road! Two: I’m not a police officer, but I write police procedure. While I try to stay accurate, if I do get something wrong, I can always say, “That’s how it’s done in Monongahela County!”
One thing that’s very real is the Kroll farmhouse, where Zoe lives in the first three books. It’s the house in which I grew up. My grandparents’ house. While the real structure was razed years ago, having Zoe live there has allowed me to keep my memories alive. Having said that, let me tell you I had not intended for Bridges Burned to end the way it did. Sometimes we authors write the stories. Sometimes they take over and write themselves. Such was the case, and I wasn’t at all happy about it. However, I’ve gone through the seven stages of grief and have moved on.
Zoe’s still working on it.
In With a Vengeance I bring back a number of locations that have shown up or been talked about in earlier books. The reclaimed strip minds known as the Cuts are real. I’ve always thought there was something vaguely sinister about them. A great place for a murder! Same with the State Game Lands. Easy access, and yet desolate. It’s one of my favorite places to drop a body.
Fictionally, of course.
Locations aren’t the only reason I chose to write about this area. The people are as varied as the topography. In With a Vengeance, the characters range from attorneys to mechanics to farmers to survivalists. Hunting is big business around here, so even knowing the murder weapon is a specific kind of deer rifle doesn’t narrow down the list of suspects.
Finally, I admit I’m obsessed with setting. I love reading books that take me someplace I’ve never been—or take me someplace I know quite well. I hope my readers have the same experience with my series, whether they’re experiencing Pennsylvania for the first time, or whether they think of Pete and Zoe as their neighbors.
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. WITH A VENGEANCE, the fourth in the series, will be available May 3.
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