April Henry: "My Real-Life Inspiration for The Body in the Woods" – Blog Tour Guest Post + Contest

Posted June 17, 2014 by Sara | Novel Novice 10 Comments

Today, I am truly honored to be sharing a very cool guest post about a great new YA mystery series — and the first book is in stores TODAY! I’m talking about The Body in the Woods by April Henry, the first in a series about teen search & rescue volunteers. Today’s post is part of the official blog tour for The Body in the Woods.

Today, April stops by to tell us more about the real-life teen volunteers who inspired her story. Plus, keep reading for your chance to win a copy of The Body in the Woods+ a rescue whistle!

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For a long time, I have been looking for a realistic hook for a teen mystery series. The problems is that, for some reason, adults don’t tend to allow teens to do much that’s interesting and crime-related.

body in the woodsAbout two years ago, I was sitting with some old friends at a Kathleen Edwards concert. They told us their daughter was volunteering with Multnomah County’s Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue (MCSO SAR).

I thought I knew what SAR did: help find people who are lost in the woods. But it turns out that our local SAR has two things that set it apart.

The first is that while other SAR groups exist across the country, most are not made up of teens. Many don’t allow teens at all. Those few that do take teens are usually either associated with Boy Scouts and/or just allow them to have an observational role. By contrast, MCSO SAR is the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office primary search and rescue resource. While there are adult advisers and a Multnomah County Sheriff’s deputy present at any operation, the team leaders are all teens, as are most of the members.

The second is that about 30% of what these teens do is crime scene evidence searches.

And when I heard a little bit about this, I knew right then, sitting in that concert, that I was going to write a series based on our SAR. Less than six months later, I had made a two-book deal in what is now known as the Point Last Seen series. The first book, The Body in the Woods, comes out today.

How crime scene evidence searches work

Evidence seearch training 2MCSO SAR members perform crime scene evidence searches at major or outdoor crime scenes for agencies all over the state of Oregon, and have been credited with finding key evidence in dozens of cases.

To conduct an evidence search, they form a line on their hands and knees, wearing painter’s padded kneelers and leather gloves, and they crawl forward shoulder to shoulder. They never touch what they find, so they don’t enter the chain of evidence. They are taught to look directly in front of them, as well as above them and behind them, to make sure they don’t miss, say, a knife someone sunk into a tree trunk. The rule is, if they can’t see through it, they have to go through it, because they know that a bad guy might discard evidence in a place he thinks no one would ever look, such as a blackberry bush.

Law enforcement might call on MSCO SAR:

  • If the police suspect the weapon or other evidence was discarded outside.
  • If the cops know a bullet went through someone outdoors and they need it for evidence.
  • If a body is found outside and law enforcement needs more information to ascertain the cause of death.
  • To find the rest of a body after a hiker finds a human bone (remains are often scattered by animals or weather).
  • To recover the bodies of people who have died in the outdoors, from natural causes, accidents, suicides and sometimes even murder.

And these are teens 14 to 18 years old!

More about MSCO SAR

MCSO SAR was originally a Boy Scout troop. In 1961 it was asked to help with a search and rescue on Mount Hood by Multnomah County after all their law enforcement staff were exhausted. Later the group was asked to partner with Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office as a volunteer search and rescue resource. It began offering membership to girls in the 1970s and its relationship with the Boy Scouts faded.

To participate, teens must be 14 years of age or older, maintain a 2.0 GPA, pass a criminal background check, have up-to-date vaccinations, be able to hike for long periods of time, be on call 24/7, and have the permission of their parents/guardians as well as their schools.

While the state requires only 30 hours of training for certification, all members of MCSO SAR receive about 300 hours of training in first aid, emergency survival skills, radio communications, land navigation, GPS orientation, crime scene evidence searches, search techniques, human tracking, helicopter safety, wilderness medicine, rope rescues, urban search and rescue, snow and avalanche safety, and how to respond to terrorist attacks as well as natural disasters.

Teen TrackerThey meet every Wednesday evening as well as do weekend outings once a month. I have gone on trainings with them, most recently a unit on “man tracking,” which is what they call it when you follow someone’s tracks. It’s a real art, and the only clue that someone might have been there can be as small as a broken twig or a few grains of sand on top of a leaf.  (When I told folks at my kung fu school that I was learning to man track, one of the other women looked at me with pity and said, “Oh honey, I can set you up with somebody!”)

Of course, the teens in my books need to take a few more risks and make a few more mistakes than the real MSCO SAR would like their teens to, so I made up a group and in fact a whole county: Portland County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue.

The books are being looked at for a TV series. (And if we know anything about TV shows for teenagers, we know that none of the actors will be actual teens.)

I so believe in this group, that for every sale made in person or online at Powells.com the first week The Body in the Woods is on sale (through June 24th), I am donating $1.69 to MCSO SAR.

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Want to know more? Here are some helpful links:

And we’re also giving away one finished copy of The Body in the Woods+ a rescue whistle to one lucky winner. Contest is open to the U.S. & Canada only and ends Wednesday, June 25th at midnight (PT).

Just fill out the Rafflecopter form here for your chance to win!

Here’s more about The Body in the Woods:

In this new series told from multiple perspectives, teen members of a search and rescue team discover a dead body in the woods.

Alexis, Nick, and Ruby have very different backgrounds: Alexis has spent her life covering for her mom’s mental illness, Nick’s bravado hides his fear of not being good enough, and Ruby just wants to pursue her eccentric interests in a world that doesn’t understand her. When the three teens join Portland County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, they are teamed up to search for a autistic man lost in the woods. What they find instead is a dead body. In a friendship that will be forged in danger, fear, and courage, the three team up to find the girl’s killer—before he can strike one of their own.

This first book in April Henry’s Point Last Seen YA mystery series is full of riveting suspense, putting readers in the middle of harrowing rescues and crime scene investigations.

Sara | Novel Novice

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10 responses to “April Henry: "My Real-Life Inspiration for The Body in the Woods" – Blog Tour Guest Post + Contest

  1. Christina R. in the rafflecopter

    I think it is awesome that teens help out in crime scenes. It’s wonderful to volunteer and teens are smart and observant so they’ll totally help and it can turn into a passion of theirs.

    Thank you 🙂

  2. carlrscott

    The Body in the Woods sounds like a great story. Thanks for the chance to win a copy. The only thing that would concern me about real teens in this situation is that they might not take it seriously enough. Of course, that’s just based on my own flightiness as a teen. Some days I was very serious, other times I just wanted to goof around. Probably most teens these days would do a fine job.

  3. I think it would be a great learning experience for teenagers so they see what happens when people commit crimes. It will help them stay on the right side of the track and make the right decisions.

  4. tore923

    I think it would be a great learning experience for teenagers. It would show them what happens when you commit a crime and help them make the right decisions.

  5. Tamara

    I think volunteering on an actual crime scene would be a really great experience for a teen. It would be a cool way to learn what really goes on and see everything first hand.

  6. I think this would be great career technical experience for those teens mature enough to handle the emotional impact the work may have.

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