For her latest romantic suspense crime thriller, Janice Cantore draws upon her real-life experiences to show readers that police officers are human, too.
A retired Long Beach police officer, Janice Cantore infuses her suspense novels with an authenticity that keeps readers glued to the pages. Her new series, The Line of Duty, kicks off with Crisis Shot (Tyndale House). Winning over the residents of Rogue’s Hollow might be more difficult for Tess O’Rourke than adjusting to her new role as police chief in the small, backwater town. Especially when her closest friend, the pastor’s wife, goes missing and the woman’s cousin is found shot. Tess finds an ally in sheriff’s deputy Steve Logan, but as they track down Rogue’s Hollow’s first murderer, she worries that she’s breaking one of her rules and getting too close to him.
What inspired you to begin your new series, The Line of Duty?
My initial desire was to place a crime novel in a small-town setting. Since I now live in a small town, a lot of factors intrigued me about the setting. Everyone seems to know everyone else here, much more than in Long Beach. There really is a sense of community. Here, arrests are still printed in the local newspaper and everyone seems to know the troublemakers and the misfits. Also, people here seem more likely to help their neighbors. There is more of a permanent atmosphere in town, not a transient one.
As far as Tess O’Rourke is concerned, she popped up out of all the negative news that police officers seem to be getting nowadays. I very much wanted to tell the other side of the story in regards to controversial shootings, kind of behind the sensational headlines. The media too often twists the facts.
How do you expect book one, Crisis Shot, to resonate with your audience? What are you most excited for your readers to experience through reading this novel?
First, I hope they realize that police officers are human beings, and it is not fair, after a shooting or controversial arrest, to ascribe motives to them before all the facts are in. “Innocent until proven guilty” applies to cops as well as criminals. And then I hope readers experience and appreciate the struggle for Tess to get back to work at the job she loves, trying to prove herself all over again to a group of cops who might think she’s not up to the job.
How did your personal experience as a police officer influence the story in Crisis Shot?
When I worked in uniform, I learned quickly how fast things happen, and how distorted they get when interpreted by people who have no idea what it’s like to work in uniform in hostile areas, or walk up to a car on a dark night, or rush to a shots call where no one can really say what’s going on.
What role does faith play in the story?
Tess will tell you that she lost her faith. Her father was killed in the line of duty, and Tess feels betrayed by God. Oliver is a pastor and in a similar situation as Tess, but he leans into his faith, not away from it.
Bottom line, God is still God no matter the valleys we travel through, and while faith is essential, it is not a shield against pain and heartbreak in this world.
In the opening scene of Crisis Shot, Officer Tess O’Rourke is forced to shoot an unarmed teenager to protect a fellow officer. Many Americans have seen similar shooting incidents in their own communities or reported in the media. How do you hope your novel might inform your readers as they respond to these situations?
The media often embellishes a police shooting to fit a narrative. For some reason the narrative has been that the officer is wrong, racist, trigger-happy—take your pick.
And media sources perpetuate falsehoods to validate their narrative—for example, for two weeks we saw people on cable networks, sports teams, and talk shows do the “Hands up, don’t shoot” gesture after the Ferguson shooting of Michael Brown, when that, in fact, wasn’t what happened before the shooting.
For some reason the media kept pushing the idea that Brown was standing with his hands up and saying “Don’t shoot” when the officer fired, but eyewitnesses under oath said that never happened. All this did was inflame people, and the officer, who was exonerated for the shooting, lost his job.
With Tess and her shooting, I want people to see that it is never as cut-and-dried as the media will try to spin it. Officers have split seconds to make life-or-death decisions. Hesitation gets cops killed. If nothing else, I hope Crisis Shot will help people realize that cops deserve to be considered innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around.
How can we support law enforcement working in our communities?
A friendly wave as they go through the neighborhood, maybe a letter to the editor saying that you think they do a good job if that is the case. Let’s face it, no one likes getting a ticket, but that is one of the cops’ jobs, and if you did break a traffic law—sorry.
What is the best advice or encouragement you have received either personally or professionally?
I am encouraged every Sunday in church by my pastor. For the past few months he has been teaching through the book of Hebrews. The emphasis is faith, the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not yet seen. Holding tight to faith in God is the best advice/encouragement I’ve ever gotten.
What can your readers expect from The Line of Duty books two and three?
Well, of course, Tess will get into trouble and scrapes and work her way out with smarts and toughness—and the help of her supporting cast.