When I was little I didn't think much about the place I grew up. Most of us don't. We have school, we have our friends, we have activities, and that's about it; we don't focus on what makes it a great place to raise a family…or set a book.
Fairfax County, Virginia flies below the radar a lot. Established in 1742, history is practically pushing up out of the ground, like the towering trees that ring our national, state, and county parks. It's the second richest county in the United States. What? You thought those mega-wealthy enclaves where the rich and famous summer or winter or party would be number two? Nope. (Number one richest county in the US is our immediate neighbor to the west, Loudon County, and they're beating us by only about five grand in annual income.) We've got excellent schools (the 10th largest school system in the nation), the previously mentioned parks, plus the county has strict green space zoning rules to make sure you see trees (and not just in those parks). We have nice homes, a truly stellar library system, and more Starbucks and Whole Foods locations than you can shake the proverbial stick at.
It's a HUGE place. Over 400 square miles. That's 100 square miles more than NYC, and 100 square miles less than LA. With just over a million residents it's also only 1/8 as populated as either city. There are urban, suburban, and rural areas all melding into one another, and a pretty diverse population. How diverse? Over 182 different languages are spoken in the homes of the elementary school attendees. 182! Did you even know there were 182 languages spoken worldwide? (Be ready to be stunned, because according to Ethnologue.com there are currently 7,099 languages spoken in the world currently - the vast majority of which are spoken by fewer than 1,000 people and are often referred to as dialects...but still, you were shocked at 182, right?)
Okay, so, I've sung the praises of Fairfax County as a nice place to raise a family, but what about the place makes it good setting for a book?
As high as the annual income averages, for the most part there are still regular people who live here. Solidly middle class families like the one my main character, Willa, was raised in--her father is retired military and a retired cop, her stepmother is a nurse. They live in a nice neighborhood--but not too nice--and they drive nice cars - but not too nice.
The carpets roll up at dark here, too. People get up early to work, so it doesn't get very wild at night. Not even on the weekends. Just 20 miles away, DC is, of course, built for intrigue, but its suburbs are a slow burn. What's happening in that office building? Did you get a peek through those trees? Why has that car been parked in far end of the grocery store so long that mud has caked around its tires?
Do you know what goes on in your neighbor's home? Would you really want to? You may think you do, but I'll bet you'd be surprised. I know Willa was.
A favor for a friend turns into a murder investigation, drawing apprentice PI Willa Pennington into a labyrinth of lies and deception in the shadows of Washington, D.C.
Willa Pennington thought that becoming a PI would be better than being a cop. She thought she'd never have to make another death notification or don a bulletproof vest again. She thought she could move past the pain of losing her best friend. She thought she'd be safe.
But she couldn't have been more wrong.
Now, agreeing to do a simple favor has brought her to a dead body, a missing person, and a battle of wits with an old friend who has dangerous secrets. If Willa can keep her focus, she could solve the murder, find the missing girl, and figure out if the person she's trusted with her life is the one trying to end it.
Praise for What Doesn't Kill You:
"One of the best debut efforts I've ever seen. Tight plotting, edge-of-your-seat suspense and a protagonist in PI Willa Pennington you'll want to read about again and again. I couldn't put this book down."—Maggie Barbieri, author of Once Upon a Lie
Aimee Hix is a former defense contractor turned mystery writer. She's a member of Sisters in Crime. What Doesn't Kill You is her debut novel. You can visit her at www.AimeeHix.com.