Dean Hovey has published his eighth Pine County mystery. Titled, “Deadly Mixture,” this one has familiar characters in law enforcement attempting to unravel a mystery involving teenage drug use and a missing girl.
Hovey said the plot of his story had a number of inspirations, including suggestions from readers and discussions with rural law enforcement officers sharing their frustrations with drugs, dysfunctional families and bullying.
“Several law enforcement consultants were unusually candid when discussing aspects of this plot,” Hovey said. “Their raw emotion found its way into several scenes, making them unsettling for me but lending reality and intensity. Their stories made me appreciate how difficult rural law enforcement is, and the extreme situations they face, often without backup. There are scenes I can’t read without tears in my eyes.”
The the heaviness of the subject matter made writing “Deadly Mixture” an emotionally draining experience for Hovey.
“Having started it several times, I found myself so caught up in the plot that I literally walked away from the manuscript at least twice, lacking the emotional energy to complete it,” he explained. “Two consultants read drafts and encouraged me to continue writing.”
But he found many aspects of researching his story invigorating.
“‘Deadly Mixture’ had me searching for clinical information on the internet, driving the back roads of eastern Pine County, and dusting off my chemistry and toxicology knowledge,” he said. “I’ve seldom admitted it, but sometimes it’s fun to let my inner nerd loose. I hope the readers enjoy the technical details I’ve salted into the plot.”
Many readers have found much to relate to over the course of the series in the slowly developing autumn romance between Sergeant Floyd Swenson and Mary Jungers. In this book, that plot line takes a serious turn when Mary faces a medical scare.
“Floyd and Mary’s medical situation was the hardest part to write,” Hovey said. “After 20 years together, Floyd has become an old friend. Watching him be emotionally torn by this plot was painful.”
Hovey said that some pieces of that story were inspired by people in his own life.
“I recently lost a cousin to ALS,” he said. “In the last months of his life, we met at his house for coffee every Tuesday morning to review drafts, discuss his corrections, and brainstorm upcoming books. Under the guise of reviewing his notes on the manuscripts, I gave him a job and provided a focal point for him other than his declining health.”
He said their regularly scheduled meeting drove him to write quickly so that he would have new material for his cousin to work on.
“‘Deadly Mixture’ was one of the last manuscripts he ‘proofed’ for me before his death in March,” Hovey said. “Some of our pain, his and mine, found its way into the Floyd/Mary plot.”
Hovey said that though the pandemic year was hard on everyone, sitting down to his keyboard to visit his semi-fictional Pine County made the going easier.
“I found solace in my characters and stories,” he said. “Each morning I made a cup of coffee, turned on the computer, and sat in my favorite chair. My mind drifted to the story locales and the characters spoke to me. I envisioned some version of the hunting shack on the book cover, then listened to Floyd, Pam, and C.J., recording their thoughts as they spoke to me.
“From an author’s standpoint, the COVID seclusion freed me from the outside world, allowing me to focus on writing in a way that’s often hard to achieve. Other authors escape to their writing spot, be it a man-cave or a she-shed, when they need their quiet space. I’ve been blessed with that quiet isolation this past year.”
In addition to “Deadly Mixture,” Hovey has four other mysteries being released this year. And there is a ninth Pine County mystery in the works with the working title, “Blood Trail.”
“Deadly Mixture” can be found on Amazon.com, where readers can order a paper copy or in any e-Book formats. Hovey has an upcoming library event scheduled for North Branch on Aug. 17 at 6:30 p.m., and he hopes to add more.