Author adds third mystery installment

TJ O'Connor

WINCHESTER – In the latest addition to his mystery series, titled “Dying to Tell,” Winchester author TJ O’Connor continues chronicling the discoveries of his intangible investigator protagonist.

He said the original book, “Dying to Know,” started out as a “fluke” that he had written with his daughter’s tastes in mind. The stories follow Oliver Tucker’s ventures as a particularly unique detective with the ability to sleuth throughout history – after coming to terms with his own death in the first novel. O’Connor saw enough success through publisher Midnight Ink to sign a three-book contract, of which this newest book is the last installment.

Despite the series’s connection to the supernatural, O’Connor rejects the classification of a “ghost story;” while Tuck has to face certain complications as a deceased detective, O’Connor said that the reader can sometimes forget he’s not a regular living guy. One such complication Tuck faces in the new book is seeing his wife move on with her life.

“He goes through the personal turmoil of, what does this mean for him long term,” O’Connor said. “She plays a very big role in this because her involvement with history is what kind of connects the dots to the cases.”

Like the other two “Gumshoe Ghost” mystery series, he said “Dying to Tell” doesn’t have the extreme themes of a hardboiled detective story, but it also adds a little spice on top of the typical cozy mystery.

“There’s not a lot of ‘boo’ and mystique to it, the only paranormal thing that goes on through this is his ability to maneuver in history,” he said.

Those historical elements that tie into the plot have involved newly discovered Civil War remains – an echo of O’Connor’s own experiences while working as a federal agent in Ohio – and the involvement of spies and gangsters from the 1930s. This new book draws elements of intrigue from World War II spies in Egypt, based on real occurrences.

The plotline of “Dying to Tell” holds special significance for O’Connor, as he said his long-time mentor who recently passed away was an OSS operative – just as the protagonist’s grandfather is in the book.

“This one played a big part to me because he knew about the operations,” he said.

Although “Dying to Tell” is his last commitment with Midnight Ink, O’Connor said there’s still a good chance the series will continue since he’s planned out three more mystery novels with new and different historical plots.

“Even though it was kind of a fluke to begin with, I love the characters, and…I find that the audience has just loved the concept,” he said. “I would suspect that probably in the next couple of years, I will probably do a sequel or two.”

He’s currently working on a thriller book that will possibly begin spinning a new tale of its own. But until the book is finished and goes to market, he said he doesn’t know what the publishing options might be.

“I wrote the book a couple years ago…and because it was such a favorite of my mentor, I decided that would be the one I would go back to,” he said.

Although O’Connor said the pacing and depth of mysteries and thrillers are what set them apart, the creative process is similar. To him, the biggest challenge in writing either is switching mindsets after a day at his job as an international security consultant.

Since publishing the first mystery book, he said the market for those novels has narrowed. Having been in contact with several micro presses, he said he’s keeping future publishing options open.

O’Connor will be signing copies of “Dying to Tell” at 2 p.m. Jan. 23 at Winchester Book Gallery and said he has other events planned in multiple states later in the year. The book will be available at area bookstores and online starting today. Learn more at http://tjoconnor.com/.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com