Nothing beats horseback riding through the woods on one of those rare gorgeous days in November, blue sky instead of the usual dreary gray that we get here in southwestern Pennsylvania from October until May. I might be exaggerating. But only a little. Those of us with horses treasure these anomalies. Especially those of us who don’t actually get to ride all that often.
My name is Zoe Chambers, and my mind is wandering a lot on this particular trail ride. My best friend’s teenaged daughter is riding with me and she’s merrily rambling on about school and being back home after spending the summer out west.
Meanwhile, I’m thinking about how things rarely turn out the way you imagine. Jobs. Romances. Even hobbies. I’m a paramedic, and I love it. But I’m also a deputy coroner. You know those crime TV shows with the women running around in sexy clothes and high heels investigating murder scenes? I guess I watched too many of those. Let me tell you, here in Monongahela County, it’s nothing like that. My boss in the Coroner’s Office and our Forensic Pathologist are both cruel and sadistic. Not really. But they take great pleasure in forcing me to assist in autopsies. And by “assist” I mean tackle the most disgusting parts of the procedure.
Not what I had in mind.
Even this, my third “occupation,” which is managing a horse farm, hasn’t been all it’s cracked up to be. Oh sure, I get to board my horse “for free.” But there’s a darned lot of work involved. I’m not complaining. Honest. I love horses and love just being around them. It may sound strange, but horse manure is perfume to true horse lovers.
However. . .
I never get to ride! I have no time.
Not what I had in mind.
Today was supposed to be different. A beautiful Sunday in November. A few of the boarders at the farm and I organized a group trail ride, and the weather cooperated. It was going to be a perfect day.
Except one of our boarders had gone out on his own earlier in the morning, which was fine. Then just when the rest of us were mounted up and ready to hit the trail, his horse came galloping back to the barn. Without him.
Not that big a deal actually. If you’ve never been bucked off, you haven’t ridden much. It happens. His horse was skittish and gun shy. We’d been hearing gunshots in the distance all morning. Not unusual this time of year. Deer season is only a couple weeks away. Hunters all over the county are out sighting in their rifles, fine tuning their aim on paper targets. But this horse tended to think he was the target and never stuck around to find out otherwise. The problem was how far from the barn had he been when he’d bucked off his rider? Did the poor guy have to walk 200 yards back? Or two miles?
I liked the guy, so I broke our group into pairs, and we split up, taking different trails. I’m the paramedic, so if he was hurt, whoever found him was directed to call me on my cell.
Not exactly what I had planned.
My teen riding buddy spotted him first. Not walking—or even limping—along the trail. The young girl’s face paled. “Is that. . .?”
I squinted through the leafless woods. Yeah. It was.
No, this was definitely not what I had in mind.
To be continued in No Way Home. . .
You can read more about Zoe and what happens next in No Way Home, the fifth book in the “Zoe Chambers” mystery series.
A relaxing trail ride turns tragic when Paramedic and Deputy Coroner Zoe Chambers discovers the body of a popular county commissioner in her Pennsylvania woods. Inconsistencies surround the horrible “accident,” but before she can investigate further, she’s pried away by a plea for help from her best friend whose son has been deemed a person of interest in a homicide over a thousand miles away. When he vanishes without a trace, his mother begs Zoe to help clear him and bring him safely home. The task takes Zoe out of her comfort zone in a frantic trip to the desolate canyons and bluffs of New Mexico where she joins forces with the missing boy’s sister and a mysterious young Navajo.
Back at home, Vance Township’s Chief of Police Pete Adams must deal not only with the commissioner’s homicide, but with an influx of meth and a subsequent rash of drug overdoses in his rural community. Bodies keep turning up while suspects keep disappearing. However little else matters when he learns that half a continent away, a brutal killer has Zoe in his sights.
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About the author
Annette Dashofy is the USA Today best-selling author of the Zoe Chambers mystery series about a paramedic and deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania’s tight-knit Vance Township. Circle Of Influence was a finalist for the Agatha Award for Best First Novel of 2014 and Bridges Burned was nominated for the 2015 Agatha for Best Contemporary Novel. No Way Home, the fifth in the series, hit bookstores March 14. Connect with Annette at annettedashofy.com.
All comments are welcomed.
No Way Home is available at retail and online booksellers or you can ask your local library to get it for you.