My NaNoWrimo project for this year is called Mapped Out Murders. NaNoWriMo, by the way, is a project to write at least 50,000 words on a new novel project during the month of November. You need to write a little under 1700 words a day to reach that goal. I won’t tell you how far behind I am, because it’s very far. I used to get very stressed out about being behind, but right now I’m just happy to be writing pretty much every day, and to have this story to work on.
Mapped Out Murders is the story of Sarah Groben, a homicide detective. She has a very strange quirk that keeps getting her in trouble at the precinct. She won’t be alone with her male colleagues. That means no male partner. Yet Sarah has had the highest case closure rate of any detective in the department for years. When Sarah’s partner Rachel comes down with the flu, the captain orders her to go alone to the scene of a murder. The victim has been stabbed multiple times. When Sarah looks up to find the witness who called in the crime, she is shocked to see an old pastor friend and her husband, Don, who happens to be the department chaplain.
Don becomes her temporary partner as they investigate a series of killings linked by Google maps taking them from location to location. All but one of the victims are middle eastern men. I got the idea for this story from two recent events: One is the scorn endured by Vice President Mike Pence over his refusal to be alone with a woman not his wife, and the #MeToo Movement. I wondered what would happen if a woman took the same stand against being in potentially compromising situations with men. The other inspiration was a recent Voice of the Martyrs conference, where an Iranian man told the story of multiple Christian leaders in Iran, including his father, being murdered and left with a paper in each pocket with an address where another body could be found.
Detective Sarah Grobin and her police chaplain husband Don struggle to solve a string of murders featuring the brutal early morning stabbing deaths of middle aged men, all in the same day. Map printouts found on the bodies lead Sarah to each murder site but the third body doesn’t fit the perfect profile.
From mugging to hate crime against middleastern immigrants to a sudden dead end, the motive just won’t stay neatly pinned down. Worse still, Sarah and Don fear withholding evidence when they discover what appears to be the one sure connection between the first two victims. Revealing it might endanger a fragile work by hidden believers ministering to those who may have left Islam and embraced Christianity.
Nasir Natal struggles to understand the murder of his father while grappling with a growing mountain of contradictions between the abusive, unfaithful man he knew and what he learns from those who knew a completely different man. Secrets kept by the victims and family members like himself muddy the already turbulent waters as the body count starts rising again. Nasir is forced to cooperate with his tempestuous sister Pira as well as the strange detective and her husband.
Sarah is at her wits’ end until a timid stranger constrained by culture breaks free to admit she may have the key to unmasking the Mapped Out Murders killer.
“What’s your read on this guy?” Homicide detective Sarah Groben asked as she and her husband Don waited in the hallway. “I’m sorry. Maybe I shouldn’t ask you to help with this. You’re still trying to process his father’s death. At least someone is mourning for him.”
“No, it’s okay. And you’re right,” Don replied.” It’s hard to miss the fact that Nasir’s not grief-stricken. He was genuinely surprised, though, when he saw his father’s face. And he certainly doesn’t seem to be relieved, or happy, or anything that would suggest guilt.”
“I agree. That was a look of shock. Curiosity, too, maybe. But for a second, he looked angry. Why would he be angry at his father?”
“There had to be something seriously wrong in the family for Imar to leave them, and to leave Iran. That was another shock to his son, finding out Imar had come here. He never talked much about his past. We try to take the view that whatever happened to a person who comes to us, it’s under the blood, but it’s so strange that Imar wouldn’t tell us he had family members living.”
“That emergency contact card was fresh and new-looking,” Sarah pointed out. “If he’d found out where his son was, why did he never contact him?”
“Can I see the card?” Don asked. Sarah handed the white pasteboard to him. He turned it over and gasped.
“What is it?”
“It was dark, so I didn’t notice it when you showed me before, but this is one of the cards Imar had made up for his ministry. “It’s all embossing, with no actual ink. You can hardly tell what it’s for, but if you hold it up to the light, you can see he had it specially printed.”
“Fears cast out,” Sarah read. “Tongues loosed. What does that mean?”
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