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New Novel's Plot: A Serial Killer, Zeus and the Inver Grove Heights Police Department

Local author J.K. Maze has set her latest novel at the Inver Grove Heights Police Department. Police Chief Larry Stanger helped her with her research.

Editor's note: Read an exclusive excerpt from "The Hierophant" on Patch.

Greek religious symbology, butterflies, a serial killer with an eye for bombshell blondes, McGroarty Park and the Inver Grove Heights police department all feature in the plot of local author J.K. Maze’s latest novel, a police procedural thriller with, she said, “some element of romance in it.”

An amateur writer for more than 20 years, since Maze retired in 2007 from her job as a dispatcher for DARTS, she has indulged in marathon writing sessions, enrolled in online classes from the Romance Writers of America’s Mystery and Suspense Division (crime scene investigation; how to write and think like a man) and found a publisher for three novels and a novella.

“Basically, I work full time at my writing,” she said. “I love to create the characters and the situations, and I’ve never ever had writer’s block—probably wouldn’t hurt me to have it a little, but I get an idea and I want to do it.”

In December, Maze self-published the e-book edition of “The Hierophant: A Novel of the Inver Grove Heights Police Department.” The novel was more than four years in the making.

“Back in 2008, I decided I wanted to pick up the Hierophant again: I had started it a number of times, set it in fictional places, but it just didn’t work out, so I thought, ‘Why not set it in Inver Grove Heights?’”

Maze nervously dialed the police department and was directed to lieutenant Larry Stanger (now the police chief).

Stanger agreed to show her around the station, Maze said, and has been her technical adviser ever since, answering odd phone calls and proofreading an early draft of “The Hierophant.”

“She was very good to work with,” Stanger said. “She really wanted to give a very honest and accurate depiction of police work and the procedures that we go through in investigations, very thorough and detailed.”

This past September, Maze signed up for the department’s two-month Citizen Police Academy.

“Each week they taught a different angle, for instance deadly force,” she said. “We went outside and role-played: They gave us guns with paint bullets and we acted out scenarios like a traffic stop and a burglary in progress and a domestic. That was quite interesting. I was able to shoot at a supposed bad guy, and I actually hit him, which surprised the heck out of me.”

Maze is a mother of three and grandmother of seven, but insisted that her age (a number consistent with her matriarchal accomplishments) not be published.

On the last day of the class, there was a taser demonstration.

“Several of the people allowed themselves to be tased,” she said. “I did not; if I fell down I wouldn’t be able to get up again by myself. I’m a senior citizen, and I do have a lot of arthritis so I’m not real active physically.”

Maze is working on formatting the paperback edition of “The Hierophant” for publication. She also has a number of other projects in the works including a paranormal thriller romance set in northern Minnesota and a young adult time travel adventure titled “Fast Track to the Past’ that takes place in the days after the Children’s Blizzard of 1888.

In November, during National Novel Writing Month, Maze wrote an 84,000 word first draft of a sequel to “The Hierophant.”

“I’m planning on living to 100 so I can keep on writing books,” she said.

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