Shares The Darkness, my fifteenth novel and the seventh in the Sticks Hetrick crime series, was released today by Torrid Books, division of Whiskey Creek Press/Start Publishing.
The series is set in Swatara Creek, a fictional community near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and the characters frequently visit sites in the capitol. Hetrick is a retired police chief who now works as a county detective. The protagonist in this latest book is one of Hetrick's protegees, Officer Flora Vastine, though Sticks is involved in the events.
Sticks is the focus of the series, but others like Flora and her boyfriend, Cpl. Harry Minnich as well as a few town characters get their stage time. Fans seem to like that I offer this approach and reveal the lives and concerns of ordinary officers and their families in addition to the procedural and forensic detail. The bits of humor (dark, of course, in keeping with the theme)and romance hasn't turned any off to my knowledge.
I conceived the premise for the series in a short story while living in Lebanon PA, hence the location of Swatara Creek near Harrisburg. There is a Swatara creek and even a township with that name, but the town in the books is entirely my invention.
Though a series, the novels can be read as standalones. Titles, in order, are: Something In Common, Cruel Cuts, Corruption's Child, Being Someone Else, Practice To Deceive, A Burning Desire and Shares The Darkness. Here's a blurb for Shares The Darkness:
Jan Kepler and Swatara Creek Police Officer Flora Vastine were neighbors and schoolmates, but never close.
When Jan, a school teacher, avid birder and niece of a fellow officer, goes missing and is found dead in a nearby tract of woods Flora finds herself thrust into the middle of an examination of the other woman's life, which opens personal wounds.
And a short excerpt: Harry’s attitude was more optimistic when he called her cell later that night.
“Peg’s group only got through part of the game-lands and you guys didn’t cover everything either,” he told her. “There are some thick woods out there. Fresh growth on the trees and brush. Deep leaf cover on the ground. You said yourself, her knapsack was half-buried and you didn’t see it till you kicked it free.”
“I was so sure we’d find her after that.”
“I’ve heard hunters telling all my life how difficult it is sometimes to find a wounded deer—even in the season when most trees are bare. Even in a small area like the Preserve, nature can conceal more than you might think.”
“I hope you’re right, honey.”
“If she’s out there, we’ll find her. The Staties have promised two search dogs for tomorrow morning. Aaron said one of the Boy Scout troops is going to pitch in, too.”
Flora lay back on her bed. Despite the shower and rest, muscles in her legs ached from the strain of tramping over the rough landscape. “Before I found the pack I was almost ready to agree with Fred and think she’d gone somewhere else.”
“Well, now you know she must be out there. Fortunately, the weather isn’t frigid like it was last month. She’s young and healthy. If she isn’t too bad hurt and we find her...”
“Oh, God. What if we’re too late, Harry? We...”
“Think positive, babe. Think positive.”
But Harry’s optimism couldn’t obliterate Flora’s fears. Despite her tiredness, it was a long time before sleep came as Flora kept visualizing scenarios of Jan lying in the muck in the darkness, wild animals circling round her, no one responding to her desperate cries for help as the dampness of the night sucked away her strength and will to live.
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