When a young doctor makes a reluctant trip home and confronts her past, she is sucked into a dangerous mystery
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LOS ANGELES, California – When surgical resident Emily Hartford returns to the small town where she grew up after more than a decade away, she is confronted with issues from her past, and a mystery from the present.
Her father, the local coroner, has had a heart attack, and is unavailable to autopsy the body of a girl found in suspicious circumstances at a horse stable. When he asks her to take over in his stead, she is resistant, especially as that would mean working closely with the sheriff, who just happens to be her ex-boyfriend.
Emily worries about her father’s declining health and tries to tend to her tenuous relationship with her fiance from afar. And as she and Nick delve more deeply into what happened to Julie Dobson, Emily realizes they will be in danger if they keep poking around where they aren’t wanted.
Fans of crime drama and strong female characters will love this twist on a detective novel that will leave your heart racing and keep you turning pages until the end.
Jennifer Dornbush is a writer, speaker, and forensic specialist creating a diverse range of stories that shed light on the dark places of the human experience. As a daughter of a medical examiner, she investigated her first fatality when she was 8. She has several crime dramas in development, and a feature film inspired by her novel, God Bless the Broken Road, is slated for release Sept. 21, 2018. She is also the author of Forensic Speak: How To Write Realistic Crime Dramas, hailed as a north star to creating authentic crime dramas. Jennifer teaches seminars and speaks on writing crime fiction for screen, forensic fundamentals, and death investigation. She hosts webinars on crime writing through Writer’s Digest; and has collaborated with The Writers Store and Script Magazine to produce a video on crime writing for writers. She also hosts a YouTube channel on forensics and the writing life. She teaches screenwriting and mentors aspiring writers through the Act One Program, Regent University, and Universita Catholica Milano. She is a member of the Writers’ Guild of American and the Mystery Writers of America.
About the Book
Summoned from her promising surgical career first to her estranged father’s bedside, and then his post as medical examiner when his small town needs urgent help with a suspicious death, Emily Hartford discovers home is where the bodies are in this pitch perfect mystery debut. Recently engaged and deeply ensconced in her third year of surgical residency in Chicago, Emily Hartford gets a shock when she’s called home to Freeport, MI, the small town she fled a decade ago after the death of her mother. Her estranged father, the local medical examiner, has had a massive heart attack and Emily is needed urgently to help with his recovery. Not sure what to expect, Emily races home, blowing the only stoplight at the center of town and getting pulled over by her former high school love, now Sheriff, Nick Larson. At the hospital, she finds her father in near total denial of the seriousness of his condition. He insists that the best thing Emily can do to help him is to take on the autopsy of a Senator’s teen daughter whose sudden, unexplained death has just rocked the sleepy town. Reluctantly agreeing to help her father and Nick, Emily gets down to work, only to discover that the girl was murdered. The autopsy reminds her of her many hours in the morgue with her father when she was a young teen—a time which inspired her love of medicine. Before she knows it, she’s pulled deeper into the case and closer to her father and to Nick—much to the dismay of her big city fiancé. When a threat is made to Emily herself, she must race to catch the killer before he strikes again in The Coroner, expertly written and sharply plotted, perfect for fans of Patricia Cornwell and Julia Spencer Fleming.
An Interview with Jennifer Graeser Dornbush
Obviously being the daughter of a medical examiner had a big influence on you. Did you ever want to follow in your father’s footsteps?
As a teenager, I was rather grossed out and embarrassed about what my father’s job at M.E. These were the days before CSI and Forensic Files made death investigation exciting and cool. When my friends found out my dad did this, they took great interest, so that lessened the embarrassment on my part. And while I do love the sciences, I always knew my calling was to be on the storytelling side of crime solving.
You’re also the author of an inspirational novel and feature film about an Army widow, and a nonfiction book about the science of forensic investigation and crime dramas. How did writing a mystery differ?
Storytelling is storytelling no matter the genre. All genres follow the same story rules and arcs. I find it takes the same amount of time, effort, thought, energy, and research to develop a story whether its for book or screen. Creating a screenplay requires the same amount of story work as it does for a novel. The only difference is that I can write a screenplay in a fraction of the time it takes me to write a novel because most of the backstory and ground work never shows up as words on the page. Nonfiction is a whole different ball game. It requires a lot less emotional energy. And in that sense, it feels less exhaustive. I love the challenge and results of all of them.
Did you plan out the mystery before you started or did you see where you writing took you?
I’m a plotter. That comes from my screenwriting training. When I start a new mystery I pretend I’m the investigator and I create a case file for my “case.” From there I create a rough skeleton outline of the mystery plot. After that I flesh out the character’s arcs and emotional journeys, and B, C, and D stories surrounding the case. Then, I create a treatment. Workshop it. Then, a first draft. More workshopping. I’m a collaborative writer. It’s more fun, makes the project stronger, and gets the project done faster.
What is something that you frequently see the media portraying incorrectly in regards to forensics?
I have my top ten and they all have pet names. One of my favorites is what I call, “Sex Appeal.” You see this a lot on television. The good-looking, well- dressed investigators show up in heels, skirts, or suit to a crime scene investigation. Their hair and make-up are perfectly done. They are fresh and well-rested. A lot of times they aren’t wearing any proper protective gear. It’s not a criticism. I understand it why they do this. Shows want to portray a certain sex appeal from their actors. But it’s not a reflection of how real life investigators show up to crime scenes.
Why did you decided to set most of the book in a small town?
The Coroner harkens to my experiences growing up in a small town and seeing how death investigation works in a rural area. I like to expose the reality that resources in rural areas are often limited and different than they are in big cities. I’m not saying they are not professional. They are. But the elements of staffing, equipment, education, experience, and budget all factor in and vary vastly from county to county. Secondly, I think it’s interesting to explore how small communities react when one of their own is taken from them. No one remains anonymous in small towns. Everyone plays a role. Everyone is affected. Everyone has an opinion and a stake.
The cliffhanger leads me to think we’ll be seeing more of these characters – can you tell us anything about their futures?
We’ll be continuing the journey of Dr. Emily Hartford as Coroner. Her love life becomes more complicated as she struggles with calling off her engagement, tests the dating waters, and explores any remaining sparks with Nick. And she will be have to solve a brutal cold case murder… much darker than the first book… with Nick as a key suspect.
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