It was with a mixture of excitement and sadness that I picked up the final book in Dani Pettrey’s Chesapeake Valor Series. The books have all been great, some of her finest writing in my opinion, but the stories are coming to an end. That never makes me happy. I was desolate when Dee Henderson ran out of O’Malleys and again when Becky Wade penned the final Porter Family story. There weren’t enough Gresham Chronicles either (Lawanna Blackwell) and I truly wish Lori Wick would get our her keyboard again. I am a loyal reader. Once you have captured my imagination with your plots and my heart with your characters, I will stay with you to the bitter end.
So can you imagine my delight at finding a new author with a brand new series? Let me draw your attention to Lynn H Blackburn’s Dive Team Investigations, beginning with “Beneath the Surface.”
The basic premise centers on the officers from various different branches of a North Carolina police force that also serve as dive investigators when a case calls for underwater work.
I had the privilege of sitting at dinner with Lynn a couple of years ago at a conference and can confirm she is as lovely as her books are great. (Lynn is one of the nicest people; particularly kind and generous with her time, talent and encouraging words). After reading this book I had to ask her where the idea for an underwater team came from?
“It was the summer of 2014. I had just sold my first book and I was thrilled, but also terrified about joining the world of publication.
I was attending the Writers Police Academy in North Carolina and one particular course offering jumped off the page. It was about how law enforcement dive teams search for evidence. I just knew I had to be in that class.
I can still feel the thick air around the indoor pool and smell the headache-inducing chlorine levels. I can see the officers from the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office as they prepared to show us how they would search for and retrieve evidence from underwater. I see the ropes, the tanks, the buoys . . . and the body bag.
Their team members were all volunteers from different parts of the sheriff’s office, all certified SCUBA divers who had been trained in underwater criminal investigative techniques. They trained on the weekends to keep their skills sharp and could be called out at anytime to recover evidence in anything from a lake to a river to a farm pond.
By the time I walked out my brain was swirling and it wasn’t from the chlorine! The idea marinated for a time while I wrote a couple of other books, and when it was finally time to bring these stories to life the first scene practically wrote itself. That has never happened to me before or since.”
Of course that information begged the question – is she a diver herself, and if not, how did she research it?
“When I came up with the idea for the series, I fully intended to be a certified SCUBA diver before I ever published the first book. But the series sold a lot faster than I was expecting it to! It was a great problem to have, but it meant that I had a book to finish and no time for diving myself. Fortunately, my husband is a diver and the homicide investigator who so graciously spent hours talking about this story with me (and then answered tons of questions via email) had also been on our local law enforcement dive team at one time, so he was able to answer the homicide and diving questions. I also did a ton of research on-line which led me to a book for underwater criminal investigators. I bought it and read it cover to cover, and then emailed the author and he has also been an amazing source for helping me get my facts straight.
One of my favorite things about writing is having my characters do things that I would never do in real life (I would make a lousy cop) but I still wanted to learn how to dive. So in March I take the first half of my dive certification class, followed by my first open water dive. I am both excited and terrified. If you want to follow along, you can check out my instagram and blog posts to see how it’s going.”
I’m not going to give you any spoilers, but as I binge read this book sitting by the fire during a 38 hour power outage, I found myself pausing to message Lynn to make sure Gabe (trust me – you’ll love Gabe) would get his own story. Phew. Next up comes Adam’s story and given his background (again, no spoilers), it’s likely to be a doozy.
I did also wonder which part of this book was the toughest to write. The more intense action scenes, the romantic thread, the technical aspect of the diving or the spiritual content.
Lynn was unequivocal about that. The softie that she is…
“To be clear, I LOVE romance. The romantic parts are the most fun to write for sure. And the spiritual parts come about naturally as the characters wrestle with the challenges they are facing. The hardest part for me was definitely the action scenes–trying to be sure everything is happening in the right sequence, keeping the tension high, and making it believable.”
So if you have read and loved authors like Lynette Eason, DiAnn Mills, Irene Hannon, Dani Pettrey, Colleen Coble and Dee. Henderson (to name a few), then trust me on this – you need to go get Beneath the Surface and dive (see what I did there) into a whole new underwater world with a great author.
You can read an excerpt (if you must) or buy a copy (highly recommended) here…