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Dean Hovey is a Minnesota-based author with three mystery series. He lives with his wife south of Duluth.

Dean’s award-winning* Pine County series follows sheriff’s deputies Floyd Swenson and Pam Ryan through this police procedural series.

Dean’s Whistling Pines books are humorous cozy mysteries centered on the residents of the Whistling Pines senior residence. The protagonist is Peter Rogers, the Whistling Pines recreation director.

In Dean’s latest series  his protagonist, a retired Minnesota policeman, is drafted into service as a National Park Service Investigator after a murder at a National Monument.

* “Family Trees: A Pine County Mystery” won the 2018 NEMBA award for best fiction.

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Doug Fletcher Mystery Series

The Doug Fletcher series follows Doug and his wife Jill, investigators for the U.S. Park Service as they’re assigned to investigate mysterious deaths in national parks and monuments across the United States.

 


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When a local rancher’s body is discovered in Tuzigoot National Monument, Doug and Jill Fletcher are dispatched to investigate the suspicious death. Horseshoe prints where the body was found point the investigation toward the dozens of local ranches and trail ride companies.The clues lead the Fletchers into Cottonwood, a nearby tourist town with a blossoming wine tasting industry. It quickly becomes apparent that the victim was a bed-hopping cowboy, who has left behind a string of scorned women and angry husbands.  

While riding along the Verde River in search of clues, Doug and Jill are befriended by Gunner, a young cowboy who’d been injured in a rodeo accident. Socially inept and somewhat slow, Gunner sees things that others overlook. His daily rides around Tuzigoot made him a reluctant witness to much of what happened following the murder.Despite slowly developing confidence in his horsemanship, Doug is forced to ride “Lightning” when their prime suspect flees on horseback. He and Lightning follow, as Jill gallops off in pursuit of their murder suspect. The chase turns into a scene from a Wild West movie when the fleeing cowboy fires his six-shooter at his pursuers.

 

 
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When Roger Bartlett doesn’t return from his deer stand at sunset, his friends go looking for him. Failing to find him overnight, a broader search starts the next morning, led by the Pine County Sheriff’s Department.  Sgt. C.J. Jensen discovers footprints leading to a remote summer cabin. Inside, she finds Bartlett, dead from a gunshot wound.

The investigation quickly focuses on Barlett’s tire recapping business in the tiny town of Askov. The workers, all parolees from the nearby Federal Prison, are wary of the interviewing deputies, and are less than forthcoming. Roger’s widow seems upset, but she is the biggest beneficiary of Bartlett’s death, so a prime suspect. His partner was in Las Vegas at the time of the shooting, but his past criminal record is suspicious. As Sgt. C.J. Jensen and Investigator Pam Conrad dig, they develop a long list of suspects, all with alibis for the time of the shooting. Consulting with recently retired Sgt. Floyd Swenson, Pam and C.J. sift through layers of lies and misdirection until they uncover the motive and confront the killer.

 

 

Doug and Jill Fletcher’s Florida Gulf Coast vacation is interrupted when they’re dispatched to investigate the disappearance of a survey team in Big Cypress National Preserve. The suspect list grows with each interview, bringing into question the motives of apparently peaceful oil drilling protestors and a surveyor’s ex-husband. Fletchers find the local residents unhappy with the government, law enforcement, or anything threatening their generations-old habits and traditions.

After days of hitting dead ends at every turn, Doug decides to take a step back. A conversation with a local resident makes them reconsider a motive they’d previously discounted. Ignoring a “No Trespassing” sign, the Fletchers pulls into a rural driveway and find themselves staring into a shotgun muzzle.

 

It’s evident from their first meeting that Doug and Jill Fletcher’s investigative assistance was not requested and isn’t appreciated. The Everglades National Park Superintendent is quite happy to leave the apparent alligator attack as just that, an unfortunate but natural part of life in the Everglades. The Fletchers point out the inconsistencies in the alligator attack theory: no one has reported the woman missing, her car wasn’t left in the visitor center parking lot, and her body was found without keys, cell phone, or identification.

Thrust into the unfamiliar South Beach culture, the Fletchers work with a reluctant park service associate and the Miami/Dade forensics team to identify the victim. Once identified, they unravel a complicated attempt at misdirection to track down her killer.

 

 

A 911 call cut off mid-scream and a melted cellphone in a circle of burned grass hint at an alien abduction in Effigy Mounds National Monument. Doug Fletcher’s cop intuition makes him reluctant to accept the investigative assignment. Jill Fletcher’s curiosity and desire to escape the oppressive Texas summer weather overcome his hesitancy.

Watching a pair of eerie lights rise over the park has them questioning their eyes. The assistance of an Air Force UFO expert, Doug’s ex-wife (an archaeology professor), and ghostly apparitions walking the river bluffs in the moonlight contribute more questions than answers. The eerie sights and clues create a confusing mix of Native traditions, aliens, and UFOs. Joined by a Navajo Nation Police colleague, they pull apart the threads of diversion and get to the root of the problem.

 

 

A honeymoon couple disappear while canoeing the St. Croix River. With visiting VIPs due in days andquick searches revealing no sign of the missing couple, U.S. Park Service Investigators Doug and Jill Fletcher are dispatched to the scene. The Fletchers quickly determine the honeymooner’s disappearance is not an accident and the search becomes more complicated than the simple rescue everyone hoped for. Jill and Doug are caught on the river as thunderstorms loom on the horizon. With lightning crackling around them, their canoeing skills are pushed to the limit.

 

 

 

 

Doug and Jill Fletcher are dispatched to the Black Hills when a missing camper’s mutilated body is discovered in a remote part of Wind Cave National Park. Jill searches remote portions of Wind Cave for the victim’s missing companion while Doug tries to determine their identities.

The park investigation revelations pull them into a local crime and put their lives at risk. A prairie blizzard brings everything in Western South Dakota to a stop as the pieces of the mysteries start to fall into place.

The stay at Jill’s family ranch takes an unexpected turn when Doug’s mother is invited for Christmas.

 

 

Hurricane Harvey lashed North Padre Island National Seashore exposing tons of silver coins lost since three Spanish Galleons sank in 1554. News about the coins, located in a Park Service archaeological protection area, goes viral on internet treasure hunting sites. Swarms of treasure hunters, arriving by car, truck, and boat, leave the Park Service law enforcement team of Doug Fletcher and Rachel Randall struggling to enforce the treasure hunting ban on the nearly fifty miles of National Seashore. During a morning beach patrol, the rangers discover a body buried in a shallow grave. A Spanish coin hidden in her wetsuit hints at a link to treasure hunters. Doug and Rachel both struggle to balance their home lives with the murder investigation. 

 

 

 

Park Service Investigator Doug Fletcher moves to Padre Island National Seashore to investigate hazardous waste dumping during the Hurricane Harvey clean up. While orienting himself to Texas and the waste dumping investigation, Doug and his rookie partner recover a body from the surf. After they identify John Doe, they coordinate kidnapping and murder investigations with the Corpus Christi Police. Doug’s search for the waste dumpers takes an unexpected twist, putting him at odds with the local police, his boss, and the FBI. He struggles to define his fledgling romance with Jill Rickowski who’s torn between her Arizona Park Service career or an uncertain future with Doug.

 

 

Park Service backpacking trip turns deadly when hikers are caught in a steep canyon during a flash flood. Three hikers are swept away, but a rescue team recovers four bodies. Park Service Investigator Doug Fletcher teams up with rangers Jill Rickowski and Liz Carpenter, and Navajo Nation Policeman Jamie Ballard. They hike river bottoms and arroyos searching for the origin of the fourth body, leaning on each other to overcome their fears, cultural differences, and emotional baggage. In the process they forge bonds that will last past the end of the investigation.

 

Doug Fletcher, a retired Minnesota detective, relocates to Arizona and a quiet life as a part-time National Park Service ranger. His plans change abruptly when a suspicious fall at a national monument plunges him into the world of stolen antiquities, ruthless drug smugglers, and shady antiques dealers. Working with Jamie Ballard of the Navajo Nation Police, Doug finds their investigation complicated by the demands of his visiting family, a new boss, an overly friendly neighbor, the FBI, and his new environment.

 

 

 

 


 

  

Whistling Pines Series

The Whistling Pines books are humorous cozies set in a northern Minnesota senior citizen’s residence. Peter Rogers is the protagonist and is the Whistling Pines recreation director who is dragged into each investigation by his friend, the local police chief. The plots are murder mysteries intertwined with the zany antics of the senior citizens who are a mixture of sane, smart elders and confused rumormongers. The series has a recurring cast of characters, each with his/her quirks.

 


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After Deborah Evenson’s death, her paintings are gathered for a retrospective showing at a Duluth art museum. During the opening night gala, the museum discovers that two of the paintings, previously displayed separately, were created as a diptych/mural. Close inspection of the complicated pieces reveals hidden images hinting at the rocky relationship between Evenson and her rich benefactor.

Peter Rogers, the Whistling Pines Recreation Director, is dragged into a controversy when a local art studio hosts a drawing class for a group of his residents. Moving from drawings of fruit, the class shifts to nudes, a decision that brings a group of protesters to the studio. The slightly inebriated art instructor confronts the religious protesters, spritzing them with booze.

To avoid the unfolding protest, Peter takes the art class to the Duluth art museum where they discover another hidden image in Evenson’s mural. Does this image explain the disappearance of an art professor who’d been posing for Evenson, or is it just a feature in the abstract painting?

 


 

A celebrity chef brings his world-famous cooking show to Two Harbors for a special broadcast. The news quickly spreads that the show is looking for ethnic recipes, the winning submissions to be prepared during the live broadcast.

The residents of Whistling Pines Senior Residence decide to join the recipe competition, creating a massive number of entries, with heated discussion about the “proper” preparation of ethnic favorites.

A local baker is murdered before submitting her award-winning recipes to the cooking show. Police Chief Stone enlists the help of his friend Peter, the Whistling Pines Recreation Director, to assist with the investigation.

With snowflakes swirling outside, the four winners prepare their recipes, the audience prompted to ooh and aah over each dish. The final recipe is one of the celebrity chef’s childhood favorites, but a mishap during the preparation abruptly ends the broadcast. Is the incident related to the baker’s murder?

 


 

Excitement runs high in the Whistling Pines Retirement community as the first annual Two Harbors Buccaneer Days celebration approaches. The city asks local fraternal clubs and city band to move their summer events to the weekend of the festival. To entertain the expected throng of tourists, the city announces a Norwegian lutefisktoss, band concerts, food vendors, and a Lake Superior sailing regatta. Peter Rogers, the Whistling Pines recreation director, announces activities to mirror the town’s plans including a pirate costume contest and a sea shanty singalong. A shadow is cast over the celebration when one of the regatta competitors is found dead on his boat. Peter is drawn into the murder investigation by the new police chief despite his wife’s advanced pregnancy and his struggle to quash rumors about a senior citizens naturist cruise, with half the residents anticipating a bird-watching outing and the rest expecting to sunbathe on a clothing-optional cruise.

 

Peter and Jenny Rogers return from their honeymoon to a pile of wedding presents including the deed to an old house. They open presents from the residents of Whistling Pines Senior Care Center ranging from thoughtful, to thrift shop purchases, and “what is that?”

Taking a break from the gift opening party, they tune in to a live news broadcast and watch the historical society president open a time capsule found during demolition of the band shell. The opening ceremony turns grim when a rusty pistol and a newspaper clipping about an old murder are revealed.

The Whistling Pines rumor mill runs amok as the retired residents offer up murder motives, stories about the victim’s checkered past, and a multitude of potential murderers. Despite his full-time job as Whistling Pines recreation director, Peter gets dragged into the time capsule murder investigation.

Jenny’s son, Jeremy, is convinced their new house is haunted when boxes jump from shelves, a radio turns itself on, Christmas stockings appear under the fireplace mantle, wedding gifts rise eerily out of boxes, and ghostly events interrupt their sleep. They start to ask themselves if the house is a gift or a curse…until the ghost is revealed.

 


 

Pine County Mysteries series

The Pine County series is set in a rural northeastern Minnesota. The protagonists are Pine County deputy sheriffs, the recurring characters include Sergeant Floyd Swenson and Deputy Pam Ryan. Family Trees, (Pine county book 6) was the winner of the NEMBA (Northeastern Minnesota Book Award) award for best fiction. Pine county is 1,400 sq. miles, with hundreds of lakes, swamps, rivers and streams. Previous books investigated the death of a teacher who’d been “dating”his female students, skeletal remains of a teen missing since the 1970’s, and a crime revealed when film in a garage sale camera is developed.

 


 

  

As alcohol lubricates the conversation at a 30th high school reunion, Judy Bloom lets slip that she had an intimate relationship with a teacher while she was a student. More revelations follow, along with the news that the teacher kept a video camera hidden in his closet. When two classmates get to the retired teachers house, they find it abandoned with evidence he’d been dragged away.

Pine County deputies Floyd Swenson and Pam Ryan work their way through the videos, finding the victims evasive and unwilling to speak. Pam Ryan’s growing cynicism spills into her personal life, driving her to a decision point with her new boyfriend who might not be ready for a lasting relationship with a cop.

 

 

Ted Palmquist’s mother finds him in a pool of blood on the bathroom floor and calls an ambulance. Violently ill after a night with his high school friends, Ted’s incoherent rants in the ER mention Tammi, who’s been missing for six months. As the Pine County deputies investigate his mysterious illness, they encounter a group of teen misfits whose dysfunctional families are oblivious to their truancy and illegal activities.

Deputy Charlene (C.J.) Jensen, takes over the investigation when Sergeant Floyd Swenson, unexpectedly steps aside to deal with personal issues. Still struggling with the recent death of her husband, C.J. is sucked into the world of runaways, bullying, and the unknown cause of Ted’s illness. Deputy Pam Ryan, back from maternity leave and restricted to the office, is unable to stay at her desk when the investigation heats up

 

When Roger Bartlett doesn’t return from his deer stand at sunset, his friends go looking for him. Failing to find him overnight, a broader search starts the next morning, led by the Pine County Sheriff’s Department.  Sgt. C.J. Jensen discovers footprints leading to a remote summer cabin. Inside, she finds Bartlett, dead from a gunshot wound.

The investigation quickly focuses on Barlett’s tire recapping business in the tiny town of Askov. The workers, all parolees from the nearby Federal Prison, are wary of the interviewing deputies, and are less than forthcoming. Roger’s widow seems upset, but she is the biggest beneficiary of Bartlett’s death, so a prime suspect. His partner was in Las Vegas at the time of the shooting, but his past criminal record is suspicious. As Sgt. C.J. Jensen and Investigator Pam Conrad dig, they develop a long list of suspects, all with alibis for the time of the shooting. Consulting with recently retired Sgt. Floyd Swenson, Pam and C.J. sift through layers of lies and misdirection until they uncover the motive and confront the killer.