Park City author takes on big development and corruption in ‘Heatwave’
Satirical murder-mystery out now
Zacharia “Zack” Matheson is at it again.
The Park City-based author has penned another murder/mystery that takes place in Park City and Summit County.
Unlike his 2015 novel “Porndance” set during the Sundance Film Festival in the winter, “Heatwave,” which was released two weeks ago, takes place in the dead of summer.
“[It] takes place during the summer — specifically July — and the extreme heat is part of the reason why people in town are acting a little crazy,” Matheson said during a Park Record interview. “The climax occurs the day before and the day of Pioneer Day.”
“Heatwave” is a stand-alone story, it is also a sequel to “Porndance,” due to the recurring characters.
“Daniel Quinn who is the main character in ‘Porndance’ is now a minor character,” Matheson said. “He’s a chef and owner of one of Park City’s hottest restaurants that is being shaken down by an online review site that is basically scamming restaurants by removing good reviews.”
Another character, Lincoln Coulter, who was a cop character in “Porndance” is the main character in “Heatwave.”
“This is his book, and he is now a detective,” Matheson said. “He’s a good cop, but a little bit of a bumbler when it comes to detective work. So, his fellow officers are a little chaffed with the idea of that he made the rank of detective. Consequently, Linc feels a lot of pressure on himself to produce.”
“Heatwave” starts off with a discovery of an environmental activist’s nmurder at a yoga studio.
“She has been very vocal about a big issue that we talk about a lot in Park City: affordable housing,” Matheson said. “In this case, although it would never happen, or at least I hope it wouldn’t happen, a big development company wants to purchase a large portion of the Swaner Preserve to build affordable housing.”
Through mounting events, the decision has been put on the ballot, and will be voted on by Summit County residents.
“While no one in their right mind would vote in favor of the development company, the election gets rigged,” Matheson said. “And the woman is murdered for her involvement from preventing the sale of the Preserve. So, it’s Linc’s job is to find out who killed her and why.”
During his investigation, Coulter runs into some colorful characters, including a pair of missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who moonlight as hit men.
“The hit men’s names are Hyrum and Byron Smoot, and they’re second cousins from Idaho,” Matheson said. “Their big thing is, after they kill someone, they perform the baptism for the dead ritual on them.”
While Byron is all business, Hyrum, the one who baptizes their victims after killing them, also has a major man-crush on Mitt Romney.
“Part of the reason he does what he does for the church is he somehow believes he is helping Mitt get revenge for losing the presidential race,” Matheson said. “It’s a very twisted, but I think funny twist on the contract killer motif.”
As the investigation unfolds, Coulter discovers a large conspiracy involving a crooked council member and a couple of high-ranking Mormon bishops.
“He finds there is a lot more than just affordable housing,” Matheson said. “There is something bigger and more sinister.”
Matheson began working on “Heatwave” before he finished “Porndance.”
“The idea came to me after I heard a rumor that someone wanted to really develop the Swaner Preserve,” he said. “I thought that it was crazy that someone wanted to even bring that up.”
Still, Matheson began to think of the “what ifs” and ran with them.
“I knew that this was going to be Lincoln Coulter’s story from the get go,” he said. “I knew it was going to be a mystery, although I didn’t know what the mystery was going to be.”
Matheson took a different approach on “Heatwave” than he did on “Porndance.”
“This time I wanted to focus on the mystery and bring in some laughs,” he said. “With the other book, I just went for the laughs and brought in the mystery as a secondary narrative.”
“Heatwave” is similar to “Porndance” in that Matheson wanted to create a story that was pertinent, timely and real for the readers.
“Although some things are fictionalized, I include as many actual locations and make Park City a character in the book as well,” he said.
Matheson said “Heatwave” is his best book so far.
“It’s got a typical, for me anyways, dark sense of humor,” he said with a laugh.
Zachariah Matheson’s “Heatwave” is available at Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com and Kindle.
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Park City High School sophomore Emily Bronstein founded the Seraphine Project that helps at-risk teens in Zimbabwe and Zambia.