Death is one click away when a string of murders rocks a small Colorado town in the first mesmerizing novel in M. E. Browning’s A Jo Wyatt Mystery series.
Genre: Mystery (Police Procedural) Published by: Crooked Lane Books Publication Date: October 6th 2020 Number of Pages: 296 ISBN: 1643855352 (ISBN13: 9781643855356) Series: A Jo Wyatt Mystery, #1 Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Penguin Random House | Goodreads
We are so excited to join the blog tour for Shadow Ridge, today we have a guest post from the author and on December 13th one of our members, Tanya will be sharing her review on this new thrilling mystery.
Meet the Author:
M.E. BROWNING served twenty-two years in law enforcement and retired as a captain before turning to a life of crime fiction. Writing as Micki Browning, she penned the Agatha-nominated and award-winning Mer Cavallo mysteries, and her short stories and nonfiction have appeared in anthologies, mystery and diving magazines, and textbooks. As M.E. Browning, she recently began a new series of Jo Wyatt mysteries with Shadow Ridge (October 2020).
Micki is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and Sisters in Crime—where she served as a former president of the Guppy Chapter. A professional divemaster, she resides in Florida with her partner in crime and a vast array of scuba equipment she uses for “research.”
Fact in Fiction—The Importance of Balance
I became a professional writer the day I raised my hand and swore to uphold the public trust. I’ll admit it, I was lured in by the excitement of the job, but I didn’t read in the fine print. Nearly everything an officer does, also has to be documented. After years of memorializing the misdeeds of miscreants, I thought writing fiction would be easy, after all, how hard could it be to make stuff up?
A Story in Three Acts
One of the first bits of advice nascent authors encounter is to write what you know. On the surface, it’s good advice. One has only to look to Hank Phillippi Ryan (reporter), Tess Gerritsen (doctor), Alafair Burke (attorney), and Bruce Robert Coffin (law enforcement), to find authors who draw upon their backgrounds to write compelling crime fiction.
During my twenty-two years in law enforcement, I’d accumulated a great deal of professional experience and training—starting with an 852-hour police academy. To that you can add in the positions I held as a field training officer, hostage negotiator, academy tactical communications instructor, crisis intervention officer, background investigator, and community relations officer. As a captain, I became a division commander and assumed responsibility for the support operations of the entire department including: Investigations, Internal Affairs, Recruitment and Hiring, Training, Property & Evidence and more. That’s a lot of experience to be able to draw upon—and darned if I didn’t set out to use every bit of it.
Most mystery writers would kill (hypothetically, of course) to have my background, so they find it odd that my debut novel involved an amateur sleuth. But the fact is, I have two manuscripts squirreled away in a drawer. They’re both police procedurals—with emphasis on the procedures, which is great for textbooks, but not so wonderful for a fast-paced mystery.
It turns out, I needed some distance from the profession in order to view it dispassionately. So, after writing those first two unpublished manuscripts, I pivoted. As an avid scuba diver, it seemed natural to write about someone who loved the ocean, and I created Mer Cavallo, a marine scientist who finds herself reluctantly investigating a crime. Following an amateur sleuth through a narrative helped me learn what was critical to the story. Mer wasn’t expected to know how to solve a crime, but as a scientist, she was intelligent, analytical, and methodical—great traits for any investigator. I also created a secondary character, a deputy, running the official
investigation. I saw him through Mer’s eyes. Listened to her as she asked him the questions someone with no law enforcement experience would want to know.
I learned valuable lessons while writing the Mer Cavallo Mysteries. Realistic crime fiction doesn’t require a data dump of training and experience. Compelling stories simply need the right details: insights that serve the moment, a smell that permeates a scene, a thread of truth that weaves through the over-arching story.
By the time I’d published the second Mer Cavallo Mystery, I’d read an article that inspired Shadow Ridge. I’d planned on writing a third novel starring Mer, but Detective Jo Wyatt knocked on the door of my imagination and refused to leave. She reminded me that I’d always wanted to write a police procedural.
In a novel, this would mark my darkest moment. The point where I either abandoned my dream or confronted the challenge. I chose the latter. My experience and training is a gift that allows me to pick and choose between details, but the greatest lessons I learned came from the people I met in the course of my duties. Those lessons involved sorrows and joys, fear and resolve, life and death. The heart of every story is found in the characters who populate it.
By policy, an officer involved in a pursuit has to relay a litany of information to dispatch during the chase. It’s a dry recitation of location, vehicle description, violation, speed, direction, road conditions, and more. Readers, on the other hand, want to learn that that pursuits with half-full coffee cups rarely end neatly. They want to experience the hyper alertness that occurs the instant the patrol car’s tires break traction in a curve. Listen to the soundtrack of the engine roar, siren wail, and their own heartbeat. Because here’s the thing, no matter how much experience one has, facts should never get in the way of a good story.
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