Read Circle of Influence (A Zoe Chambers Mystery) Online

Authors: Annette Dashofy

Tags: #Mystery, #mystery books, #british mysteries, #detective stories, #amateur sleuth, #cozy mystery, #murder mystery books, #english mysteries, #traditional mystery, #women sleuths, #female sleuths, #mystery series, #womens fiction

Circle of Influence (A Zoe Chambers Mystery)

BOOK: Circle of Influence (A Zoe Chambers Mystery)
3.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Praise for the Zoe Chambers Mystery Series


“Dashofy takes small town politics and long simmering feuds, adds colorful characters, and brings it to a boil in a welcome new series.”

– Hallie Ephron,  Author of
There Was an Old Woman

“The texture of small town Pennsylvania comes alive in Annette Dashofy’s debut mystery. Discerning mystery readers will appreciate Dashofy’s expert details and gripping storytelling. Zoe Chambers is an authentic character who will entertain us for a long time.”

– Nancy Martin,  Author of the Blackbird Sister Mysteries

“New York has McBain, Boston has Parker, now Vance Township, PA (“pop. 5000. Please Drive Carefully.”) has Annette Dashofy, and her rural world is just as vivid and compelling as their city noir.”

– John Lawton,  Author of the Inspector Troy Series

“I’ve been awestruck by Annette Dashofy’s storytelling for years. Look out world, you’re going to love Zoe Chambers and Pete Adams, and
Circle of Influence
is just the beginning.”

– Donnell Ann Bell,  Bestselling Author of
The Past Came Hunting
Deadly Recall

“Dashofy does everything exactly right in this well-crafted not-quite-cozy: compelling plot, original setting and wonderfully rich characters. Her revenge-fueled tale of small town manipulation and murder will keep you turning the pages. This series is a winner!”

– Hank Phillippi Ryan,  Agatha, Anthony and Mary Higgins Clark Award-Winning Author

“An excellent debut, totally fun to read. Annette Dashofy has created a charmer of a protagonist in Zoe Cambers. She’s smart, she’s sexy, she’s vulnerably romantic, and she’s one hell of a paramedic on the job. It’s great to look forward to books two and three.”

– Kathleen George, Professor of Theatre and Writing at the University of Pittsburgh and Edgar-Nominated Author of the Richard Christie Series

“This is a terrific first mystery, with just the right blend of action, emotion and edge. I couldn’t put it down. The characters are well drawn and believable…It’s all great news for readers. I can’t wait to meet Zoe and Pete again in Vance Township, Monongahela County, PA.”

– Mary Jane Maffini, Author of
The Dead Don’t Get Out Much

“The author has struck gold by delivering a wonderful story… Betrayal, teenage angst, dysfunctional relationship and deep dark secrets will keep you turning the pages in this very enjoyable debut novel!”

– Dru Ann Love, 
Dru’s Book Musings

Books in the Zoe Chambers Mystery Series

by Annette Dashofy



September 2014


A Zoe Chambers Mystery

Part of the Henery Press Mystery Collection

First Edition

Kindle edition | March 2014

Henery Press

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, including Internet usage, without written permission from Henery Press, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

Copyright © 2013 by Annette Dashofy

Cover art by Fayette Terlouw

This is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

ISBN-13: 978-1-940976-02-0

Printed in the United States of America

To Ray,

for always being the wind beneath my wings.


It has truly taken a village to bring this story to fruition. I know I’m going to leave out some very important participants in the process, and for that I’m truly sorry.

The words “thank you” seem woefully inadequate to express my heartfelt appreciation to Donnell Ann Bell for being my longest-running critique partner, the president of my fan club, the one person who could talk me down from the bridge when the writer’s life was wearing me down, and for taking on the role of my agent (even though you still aren’t getting 15%!). Love you, girlfriend.

The same goes for Hank Phillippi Ryan. I don’t know where she finds the time to write her own incredible novels on top of her day job of investigative reporter, yet she never fails to eagerly offer to help me anytime, anywhere. Hugs, Hank!

Thank you thank you thank you to Nancy Martin who has kicked my butt on any number of occasions, who has taught me more about writing a compelling story than any book or course could, and who played matchmaker one summer a couple of years ago, putting together a group of local writers from which developed my beloved critique circle.

Since I’m on the subject, thanks so much to my three friends and wonderfully brutal critiquers Judith Schneider, Jeff Boarts, and Tamara Girardi. They’ve suffered and celebrated along with me. And trust me when I say no one ever wants to incur the Wrath of Jeff.

To my online Fatal Four critique group, as well. Donnell, Mike Befeler, and L.C. Hayden. Thanks, guys!

I also lay claim to the best team of “beta readers” imaginable. Thanks to Kristine Coblitz, Paula Matter, Meredith Mileti, Jessi Pizzurro, Stephanie Szramowski, and Joyce Tremel for taking the time to pick apart the entire manuscript.

A big shout-out to my keen-eyed friend Mary Sutton for being my proofreader extraordinaire. 

Many thanks to the experts at Crime Scene Writers for answering those pesky research questions. And while I’m on the topic of research, thanks to the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Citizen’s Academy and to Robin Mungo and the Pennsylvania State Police Citizen’s Academy. Any errors in procedure within these pages are strictly my fault, not theirs.

I would not have survived the years of trial and error and rejection without the support and guidance of the Pennwriters and Sisters in Crime. Most of the names I’ve just listed are folks I met through one or both of these fabulous organizations.

Last but far from least, thank you to my Henery Press Hen House family, especially my incredible editor Kendel Flaum. You have made the process of converting a manuscript to a novel a true pleasure. Henery Press rocks!


Zoe Chambers eased the Monongahela County EMS ambulance to a stop next to a heap of dirty snow. The overhead dusk-to-dawn light revealed a fire hydrant poking through the mound, which explained why that spot remained vacant on a street otherwise packed with cars, trucks and SUVs. No one would ticket an emergency vehicle, though. At least, no one had in the dozen years she’d been a paramedic. She hoped tonight wouldn’t be a first.

“This meeting is gonna be a disaster,” Zoe said. But she and Earl were going only as observers, not medics. She hoped. “Look at the parking lot. Everyone in town is here. Who doesn’t love a good riot, right?”

“It’s our civic duty to stay informed. That’s what I say.” Earl fingered the radio mic and reported their location and in-service status to the Emergency Operations Center. “Especially when you never know what the local tyrant is going to pull next.”

Zoe zipped her coat. “The Steelers didn’t make the playoffs, and the Penguins don’t have a game tonight. What else is there to do around here?” Personally, she’d rather return to the station and crash on the lumpy sofa. With the weathermen forecasting eight to ten inches of snow overnight, down time might be at a premium for a while.

“The way Jerry McBirney has the township residents pissed off, I still think this would be the big draw of the night.”

That bastard Jerry McBirney. Another good reason to avoid the meeting. Earl was going to owe her. Big time.

A blast of frigid air smacked Zoe in the face as she opened the driver’s door and stepped down, her work boots splashing in the slush. Winter in southwestern Pennsylvania bounced back and forth between snow and slushy slop. Icy white pellets swirled in the wind, reinforcing her trepidation that the winter storm advisory might not be an exaggeration.

Pulling the fur-trimmed hood of her parka over her head, Zoe jogged toward the meeting hall. Earl caught up to her and reached out to open the door. A cacophony of discontent blasted them as they stepped inside. He nudged her with an elbow and leaned closer so she could hear him above the clamor. “I’ll catch you later.”

She nodded, and he disappeared into the throng.

At an ordinary meeting, attendance might top out at a dozen residents. This evening, the room was filled to capacity. At the front of the hall, the rural township’s three supervisors sat behind a long table, facing a few hundred angry locals.

The chairman, Jerry McBirney, pounded his gavel. “I demand order,” he bellowed, glowering at his constituents.

Even the sound of his voice sent the muscles in Zoe’s neck into spasms. From the back of the room, a slender woman waved both arms. Zoe lifted a hand in response and made her way through the crowd toward her best friend, Rose Bassi.

A man in a quilted flannel shirt stood. “You’re claiming perks that no supervisor has ever gotten in the past.”

The chairman tipped his head at a well-dressed woman seated to one side of the table. “Our township solicitor says otherwise.”

“A solicitor you hired against the residents’ wishes,” another man said.

“This is getting us nowhere.” McBirney cracked the gavel again. “Next order of business.”

Zoe side stepped through a crowded row, avoiding knees and feet.

Rose moved her coat and purse from an empty chair beside her. “I didn’t expect to see you here. Aren’t you on duty?” she whispered.

Zoe settled into the cleared seat. “Earl loves political drama and just had to check out the action.”

“Are you placing bets on who throws the first punch at Jerry?”

Zoe bit back a laugh. “Maybe. Where’s your husband? If there are punches to be thrown at McBirney, I’d think he’d want to be in on it.”

Rose checked her watch. “Ted must have gotten hung up at the fire station. He’ll be here.”

An older man with deep crevices carved in his leather-brown skin was on his feet. “Nothing’s been done yet about that sign on the new four-lane. Folks keep exiting there, thinking it’s the road to town, but they just end up stuck in the mud back in the game lands. I have to haul at least one car a week outta there with my tractor. And diesel ain’t cheap no more.”

McBirney waved a hand, dismissing him. “Joe, I’ve told you before, that’s up to the state. You need to talk to PennDOT, not me. Next order of business.” The chairman narrowed his eyes at the crowd. “Since I’m serving this township full time, I feel it’s only fair that the township covers my health insurance costs.”

A man Zoe recognized as the owner of the feed store leaped to his feet. “Are you kidding me? Vance Township supervisors don’t qualify for township funded insurance coverage until they’ve been in office for two years. What you’re proposing is clearly against the law.”

McBirney again slammed his gavel against the table’s surface. “Everything we do is legal and above board.” He puffed up his barreled chest. “You people are just too stupid to understand the law.”

“Oh, good way to make friends, Jerry,” Zoe muttered under her breath.

McBirney continued as if everyone were in total agreement with him. “I move that we waive the two-year service requirement for the chairman to receive health coverage from the township insurance providers.”

“I second the motion,” said Matt Doaks, the supervisor seated next to McBirney, although the crowd all but drowned him out.

“I have a second. All in favor?” McBirney said.

“Aye,” said McBirney and Doaks.


“Nay,” said Howard Rankin, the third supervisor.

“Motion carries,” McBirney shouted over the protests of the residents.

“Terrific.” Rose huffed. “Anymore, it’s not
he’s going to pull something at each meeting. It’s more a matter of
he’s going to pull.”

“I know. That’s why we’re all here,” Zoe whispered back. “How does he keep getting away with this?”

Rankin stood up and winged an empty water bottle toward a trash can. He missed, and the plastic bottle skittered across the floor. He kicked his chair back and stomped into the VFW’s kitchen.

McBirney glared after him. “We’ll take a five minute recess while everyone regains their composure.”

Zoe shrugged her shoulders, popping a knot of tension. “Who voted for McBirney, anyway?”

“Look around.” Rose motioned to the crowd. “All these fine citizens fell for his line of bull about bringing change to the township. Well, we got change for sure. We now have a supervisor who’s lining his pockets at our expense and acts as if the entire township was put here to do his bidding.”

BOOK: Circle of Influence (A Zoe Chambers Mystery)
3.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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