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Sheriff Piper Blackwell’s three-day vacation with old Army buddies takes a deadly turn. At the same time, a blatant hate crime along a county road vexes the rest of her department. Their forces divided, Piper and her deputies have two cases to solve before tensions boil and threaten the rural fabric of Spencer County, Indiana. Only eight months on the job, the young sheriff is taxed to her limits, and she questions her ability to helm the office.

Award-winning author Jean Rabe spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing the fourth installment of the Piper Blackwell mystery series, THE DEAD OF JERUSALEM RIDGE:

Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?

I love researching settings. And I was thrilled to learn about a little place in Kentucky rich with bluegrass and history. When this COVID crisis has passed, I want to visit that spot and soak up the music.

No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?

Oooh, I hate spoilers. How about…I mixed celebrations with sadness to deepen my characters, and prejudice with hope to embellish the crime they have to investigate.

Jean Rabe

What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?

Gene Wolfe…because he was my very good friend and an exceptional writer.
Michael Connelly…I loved Harry Bosch so much I stopped writing fantasy and switched to the mystery genre.

Books that influenced me:
Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin. I read that back in 1984, I think. Decided I didn’t want to just be a news reporter…I wanted to write fiction.

Why do you describe what the characters have for dinner?

I’ve read a few books where the author writes something like: they went out and got some food.

Really? What did they get? It tells me a little about their personality if I know what they like to eat, where they like to go, and how much they’re willing to spend. Are they a coffee, tea, soda, or beer soul?

So I sometimes describe a meal to flesh out my characters and make them a little more interesting. I remember reading James Bond novels where Bond was particular about what he ordered and drank…made him more interesting.

Because one of my characters is a Vietnamese chef, I get to expand his role.

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

I hope they enjoy my characters of all ages, from a twenty-three-year-old sheriff to her sixty-six-year-old chief deputy. I hope they see them breathe, and more than that … I hope I give them a few hours of escapist mystery.

What attracts you to this book’s genre?

I love mysteries, cozies, and police procedurals, so I combined those elements. I like making rural, safe, places as frightening as big, dark cities.


Jean Rabe is the author of forty novels and more than one hundred short stories. She won the Illinois Author Project 2019 Award for her novel The Bone Shroud. When she isn’t writing or editing, she delights in tossing tennis balls for her cadre of dogs. She lives in a tiny town surrounded by railroad tracks.

To learn more about the author and her work, please visit her website.