Edith here, so excited to have Annette Dashofy back as a guest on the blog. Her Zoe Chambers mysteries are some of my favorites, and this new book is a biggie. Books in the series have been nominated for an Agatha Award five times. Happy book birthday #10, Annette. Read down for the giveaway!
When one of Chief Pete Adams’ first murder convictions is overturned, he and County Detective Wayne Baronick are assigned to reinvestigate the case. As new theories about the murder surface, Pete begins to question not only the original suspect’s guilt, but his own investigative skills from the days when he first took over the Vance Township Police Department.
Meanwhile, Zoe Chambers, Monongahela County’s new chief deputy coroner, struggles with the turmoil of two mysterious deaths—including someone close to her heart—as she tries to master her new job and plan her upcoming wedding. But her investigation soon links to Pete’s case, making Zoe the target of a killer determined to keep the truth from getting out. Can Zoe see the danger in time, and get to the church for her wedding…alive?
Take it away, Annette!
When I wrote Circle of Influence, the first in my Zoe Chambers series, I was clueless about so many things. Would it ever get published? Would anyone like my characters? Would it be a stand-alone or would the second in the series also someday see the light of day? The question of whether or not Zoe and Pete would become more than friends never entered my mind. I was, after all, writing a mystery, not a romance.
(insert me smacking my head here)
Early on, I outlined the crimes in detail. I knew at the beginning of each book who the killer was and why he’d committed the murder. I mostly knew how the case would be solved. What I did not plot out was the budding relationship between Police Chief Pete Adams and Zoe. They started out with a ton of emotional baggage. Zoe didn’t want to ruin a beautiful friendship by becoming romantically involved. Pete had already gone through one divorce and was onboard with Zoe’s wishes.
My readers were not.
I figured this out one day shortly after Lost Legacy, the second in the series, came out. A male reader marched up to me at an event for another author and demanded to know when Pete and Zoe were getting together. The question didn’t stun me as much as the person doing the asking. Not a stereotypical romantic-at-heart, but a guy in camo. (Note to self: never make assumptions about your readership.)
When the third book, Bridges Burned, came out, I really started getting flak because the Pete and Zoe relationship had taken two steps forward and three steps back. That’s when I came to realize my readers were more concerned about my characters than about the mystery du jour. And since I’d just signed a contract for three more books, it’s also when I realized I couldn’t keep throwing obstacles in the path of true love.
I’ve continued to toss boulders in their path, but by the end of each book, Zoe and Pete have been in a good place, edging closer to each other, growing more secure in their relationship. And now, the tenth in the series, Til Death, has brought them within a week of their impending Valentine’s Day nuptials. Besides the normal stress of being days away from their wedding, Zoe has to deal with a new full-time job in the coroner’s office and a couple of mysterious deaths, one of which strikes too close to home. Pete is ordered to reopen an investigation into a homicide from his early days in Vance Township when the verdict is thrown out. Plus there’s the little matter of selling his home and moving into Zoe’s farmhouse. And Zoe’s mom is coming to town. And…
You get the idea. They’re thinking they should’ve eloped.
But I couldn’t do that to all the readers who’ve been demanding a wedding. Therefore, you’re all invited to the marriage ceremony! You’ll just have to get through the mystery at hand first.
Readers: which is more important to you when you’re reading a series? The murder mystery or the characters? Wickeds and fellow authors: do you plot out your characters’ love lives as much or more than the crimes in your novels? I’ll send one commenter a signed copy of the new book (US only)!
USA Today bestselling author Annette Dashofy has spent her entire life in rural Pennsylvania surrounded by cattle and horses. When she wasn’t roaming the family’s farm or playing in the barn, she could be found reading or writing. After high school, she spent five years as an EMT on the local ambulance service, dealing with everything from drunks passing out on the sidewalk to mangled bodies in car accidents. These days, she, her husband, and their spoiled cat, Kensi, live on property that was once part of her grandfather’s dairy. Her 5-time Agatha-nominated Zoe Chambers mystery series includes Circle of Influence (also nominated for the David Award for Best Mystery), Lost Legacy, Bridges Burned, With A Vengeance, No Way Home, Uneasy Prey, Cry Wolf, Fair Game, Under the Radar, as well as Til Death.