Annette Dashofy’s Circle of Influence is a tale of murder in Vance, a rural Pennsylvania town. Mere hours after a township board meeting in which Jerry McBirney, the board president, behaves like a tin-pot dictator, a body is found in his car. When Zoe Chambers, an EMT, checks the body expecting to find Jerry, she discovers it isn’t the highly disliked township president; it’s Ted Bassi, one of the more popular men in town. Anguished and bewildered, Zoe vows to find out what happened. The book sounds very much like a traditional mystery, doesn’t it? But it’s not. What’s different about Circle of Influence is the fact that the town is so small that everyone knows everyone else, and in most cases—even Zoe’s—has been either married to or spent time in bed with a large number of them. Talk about your small-town secrets. Zoe was once sexually assaulted by the detested Jerry, but for some reason, told no one. During the investigation, Pete Adams, the police chief learns more dirt he’d rather not have known about his faithless ex-wife, and even his own mother gets arrested for theft. And there’s much, much more. Circle of Influence is an easy, intriguing read, partially because the townsfolk's lives are so scandalously intertwined, but also because author Dashofy has taken pains to create a palette of unforgettable characters. The only flaw I found in the novel is that the vile Jerry McBirney is so all-around, blatantly evil, that he almost defies belief.