Edith/Maddie here, writing from a springy early May north of Boston, where the lilac bloomed for Mother’s Day on schedule – and I had both my sons and their sweethearts here with me!
I’m excited to welcome back my dear friend, Annette Dashofy. We got to see each other in, gasp, person at the Malice Domestic convention a couple of weeks ago, which was delightful.
Also exciting is her next Zoe Chambers mystery – out today! Happy book birthday, Annette.
Here’s the blurb for Fatal Reunion.
As Monongahela County’s new coroner Zoe Chambers-Adams gears up for a third day searching for a missing woman, she receives the news she’s been dreading: a body has been found. What she discovers at the scene leaves no doubt—the missing woman was violently murdered. Worse, the manner of death mirrors the Monongahela Strangler case that terrorized the county when Zoe was in high school. Those murders stopped, but the case was never satisfactorily solved. And with people arriving in town for Zoe’s twentieth high school reunion, the memories of those scary days return with a vengeance.
But Zoe’s new husband, Vance Township Police Chief Pete Adams, sees the murder differently. His investigation reveals two feuding families and a forbidden relationship between their children. The homicide appears to be a crime of passion, until Pete’s relentless digging unearths a link between his prime suspect and Zoe’s serial-killer. Suddenly, with the predator threatening to strike someone near and dear to both Zoe and Pete, they must race to uncover the truth and catch a madman before another innocent victim is brutally murdered.
I managed to survive forty years without attending one of my high school reunions. I simply had no desire to return to that world. I wasn’t exactly popular back then. I was the nerd. The geeky kid. The bookworm. Yes, I had that last title thrown at me numerous times by classmates who meant it as an insult. I took it as a badge of honor. I was skinny and had a mouthful of silver braces. Those who didn’t call me a bookworm called me Tin Grin. I was less fond of that moniker.
Five years ago, I caved and agreed to attend my 40th reunion. Yes, I’m giving away my age.
For the most part, I hung out with one of my best friends from back then, a woman who I have kept in touch with over the years. I had a hard time recognizing many others.
Here’s a hint for the reunion committee’s suggestion box: Use large font and class photos on the name badges. At our age, we can’t see that tiny print. And getting up close to squint at a tag pinned to someone’s chest is…well…awkward.
I took two things away from that evening. First, I’m not going to another class reunion. And second, what a great setting for a murder mystery!
In Fatal Reunion, Zoe Chambers-Adams has an upcoming 20th reunion and is determined she’s not attending. Her reasons are polar opposite from mine. I was the unpopular nerd. Zoe was maybe too popular and cringes at memories of who she was and what all she’d done. Rose, Zoe’s wild-child friend from back in the day, returns to town for the reunion and pressures Zoe to go, if not to the reunion, then at least to the pre-party picnic.
“There’s the pre-reunion picnic tomorrow evening. You could at least go to that.” Rose leaned forward, eagerly gaining momentum. “Everyone will be more casual and relaxed at the picnic. They might be more open to letting information slip.”
Zoe gazed out the window to the rolling pastures stretching behind the house. Whether an informal picnic or a dressy affair, spending time with the people she’d gone to high school with lacked appeal. They knew her from back then. The person she’d been. The one she wasn’t proud of and would prefer to forget. Wild child Zoe Chambers, looking for love in all the wrong places. Saying yes when she should’ve said no. But she hadn’t been alone.
She faced Rose, all too aware of Allison’s presence to be too blatant with her question. “Why are you so hellbent on going? The same people who remember who I was will remember who you were too.”
Rose hiked an eyebrow. “Let ’em. They can remember who I was while they see who I’ve become.”
There was some of Rose’s thinking in my decision to show up at that 40th reunion. The “high point” of the evening, though, came when a woman looked me up and down and said, “Annette! You look so nice! I didn’t recognize you!”
In Fatal Reunion, being a mystery novel, there’s a murder. And, of course, there’s a potential tie-in with the reunion. A present-day homicide shares much in common with a series of brutal murders from twenty years ago, when Zoe and Rose were seniors. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not.
Wickeds and readers: have you attended any of your high school reunions? Do you love them or hate them? (My forty-fifth is coming up, but “conveniently” I have a prior commitment. Really.)
Annette Dashofy is the USA Today best-selling author of twelve novels including the Zoe Chambers mystery series about a paramedic turned county coroner in rural Pennsylvania’s tight-knit Vance Township. The eleventh book in the series, Fatal Reunion, comes out this May from Level Best Books. Annette and her husband live on ten acres of what was her grandfather’s dairy farm in Washington County, PA, with their very spoiled cat, Kensi.