Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Circle of Influence, by Annette Dashofy

I read a really good book recently, y'all — Circle of Influence, by Annette Dashofy. Let me tell you a little about it.

Synopsis, from the author's website:

Zoe Chambers, paramedic and deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania’s tight-knit Vance Township, has been privy to a number of local secrets over the years, some of them her own. But secrets become explosive when a dead body is found in the Township Board President’s abandoned car. 

As a January blizzard rages, Zoe and Police Chief Pete Adams launch a desperate search for the killer, even if it means uncovering secrets that could not only destroy Zoe and Pete, but also those closest to them.

Circle of Influence, Book 1 in the Zoe Chambers Mystery Series, is published by Henery Press, which usually publishes cozy mysteries.  As a self-styled crime fiction writer, however, author Annette Dashofy has written a debut novel that is a not-quite-cozy, great page-turner of a read.  

Prior to reading Circle of Influence, I had read books in another series about a deputy coroner — another series which is definitely cozy and has many humorous, laugh-out-loud scenes.  I was reminded of this other series in this quote from Circle of Influence, about Zoe Chambers, the Vance Township deputy coroner:
She had taken on the duties of deputy coroner three years ago.  What she'd imagined would be an intriguing job involving sleuthing and mystery-solving instead mostly involved calling the official time of death for elderly or drunk corpses discovered days after the fact.  Monogahela County Coroner Franklin Marshall always made it a point to show up in person for all the interesting cases.   

Some of the secrets mentioned in the above synopsis are what push Circle of Influence over the edge of cozy — but I can't explain further without divulging spoilers. Those same secrets to be uncovered are also what made the book so enthralling, and so hard for me to put Circle of Influence down.  I kept reading, later than I should have, because I just had to find out what happened next.  I suspect it will have the same effect on you.      

Circle of Influence is Dashofy's debut novel, a fact which surprised me because her writing is so polished. This could be due in part to the adage, writing what you know.  Zoe Chambers and Annette Dashofy have similar backgrounds and employment experience. Chambers is a paramedic; Dashofy worked for five years as an EMT for an ambulance service.  Both live in southwestern Pennsylvania.  Chambers owns a horse, and manages the stable for her landlords; Dashofy has been around horses her whole life.  These similarities ensure that Circle of Influence has a richness of detail, which added greatly to my enjoyment of this book. 

I really enjoyed Circle of Influence, and recommend it to mystery fans.  I am looking forward to reading Book 2, Lost Legacy, which will be released on September 16, 2014.  Dashofy is currently writing Book 3 in the series.  

Note:  The publisher provided a complimentary copy of this book to me, in exchange for an honest review.