Wednesday, February 26, 2020

An Interview with Agatha Nominee Annette Dashofy by E. B. Davis

“You’re right about one thing.”
The attorney protested, but Perkins ignored him.
“Horace Pavelka is the man you want. A lifetime of being bullied will
eventually push a man over the edge.”
Annette Dashofy, Under The Radar, Kindle Loc. 4189
Paramedic and deputy coroner Zoe Chambers responds to a shooting and discovers her longtime friend, Horace Pavelka, has gunned down a man who’d bullied him mercilessly for decades. Ruled self-defense, no charges are filed. When another of his tormentors turns up dead in Horace’s kitchen, Police Chief Pete Adams questions the man’s innocence in both cases…especially after Horace and his girlfriend go into hiding.

While fighting to clear her friend, Zoe is handed the opportunity to finally learn what really happened to her long-lost sibling. What starts out as a quick road trip on a quest for answers leads her to an unfamiliar city in the middle of a November blizzard, where she finds way more trouble than she bargained for.

Pete’s own search for his missing fiancĂ©e and a missing murderer ultimately traps him in a web of deception. Face-to-face with one of the most cunning and deadly killers of his law enforcement career, Pete realizes too late that this confrontation may well be his last.

Annette Dashofy has garnered five Agatha nominations. This year’s Malice Domestic conference will determine if she wins for Fair Game, the novel that precedes Under The Radar. I have no doubt she’ll be nominated again next year because it was a fast read with twists and turns that kept me glued to the page going between Pete, main character Zoe Chamber’s fiancĂ© and police chief, and Zoe’s POV that has become Annette’s format.

There are these peripheral characters that lurk. They are not what they appear to be, but then none of the main characters know them well. But the lurkers become central in the triple-murder case Pete must solve. Under The Radar is aptly named.

I know Annette has reported here about her Citizen’s Police Academy she attended in her home area of southwestern PA. That’s the part of the story I had the most questions about—police procedure and technology—one of many strengths in her storytelling.                                                       E. B. Davis
 Cold seeped through the pages to the reader. I wanted something warm to drink—tea or cocoa—while reading. Why did you choose November rain and snow for your backdrop?

I’d love to tell you I had some great plan to tie the weather into the theme, but the truth is I generally advance Zoe and Pete’s story three or four months from book to book. Fair Game was  set in August, hence Under The Radar happens in November. But I confess, I love writing about that time of year. The weather can change from minute to minute. We could have days in the 70s or 12 inches of snow. Since I have Pete venturing to the nearby Laurel Highlands and Zoe taking a road trip to Erie, I could legitimately have various weather types from location to location all on the same day!

Horace Pavelka is both a victim and a killer. Horace has been a life-long victim of bullying by the same peers. He admits to killing in self-defense in the first murder brought on by the same bullies. Will a lifetime of bullying push a victim to lash back or do victims tend to retreat into more passivity?

Everyone handles the stress of suffering cruelty in different ways, but we see cases of victims lashing out on the news every day, especially with many of the school shootings. Whether the victim eventually snaps, or they internalize it, either way, they’re deeply scarred.

Zoe knew Horace in high school. She knows he was bullied then. She is loyal to him and convinced he hasn’t become a murderer. Why does she have such faith in him?

Zoe feels she owes Horace, who came to her rescue decades earlier and paid a steep price for his heroics. She has seen a side of him that few others have. And while Zoe has been known to have poor judgment where friends are concerned, she tends to defend those she cares about until faced with absolute evidence of their misdeeds.

Do you know the psychology of why people align themselves with bullies even if they don’t act in violence but verbally taunt a victim?

I’m no psychologist and no expert by any means, but in this instance, pack mentality definitely plays a part. An individual might not get involved in bullying on their own but will join in when a group is involved, especially if the others in the group are perceived friends.

The older lady neighbor who witnessed the first murder is questioned. Pete knew she was a victim of domestic violence over the years before her husband died. Why do people ignore older women?

Such a good question. As someone who now falls in the “older woman” category, I can say with some experience that we become invisible. This can come in handy if you want to lurk and observe without being noticed! It can also be a big mistake for those doing the ignoring!

And yet, readers wish we could ignore Zoe’s mother, Kimberly Chambers Jackson, a steamroller. We can almost hear the ominous music when she steps out of a black mobster SUV. But Kimberly shows a side of herself she’s never shown Zoe. Why? Or why hasn’t she revealed her softer side to Zoe before? Why now?

“Steamroller” is a good term for Kimberly! She’s self-absorbed and convinced that she’s right. Always. In Zoe’s and the reader’s perspective, Kimberly is not a good mother, but she certainly doesn’t see herself that way. She just sees the world through her own filter. And, honestly, don’t we all? Kimberly was a much different person before Zoe’s father died. Losing him affected Kimberly as much as—maybe more than—Zoe. I’ve always wanted to show a deeper, more complex side of Kimberly and finally had the opportunity in Under the Radar

What is blood ox meter? Does it have anything to do with oxen?

Ha! No, it has nothing to do with oxen or any kind of bovine. It’s medical shorthand for blood oxygen meter. It’s that clip they put on your finger in the hospital or doctor’s office and reads how well your blood is oxygenated.

I was really surprised that Zoe had to establish a flatline of an obviously dead man by attaching an EKG monitor to him. Do they really have to do that?

Back when I was an EMT we didn’t have to, and I’m not entirely sure it’s something all departments do, but I learned about it in one of the Citizen’s Police Academies I attended. I can attest from experience that on occasion a patient who appears “obviously dead” is not. Humans can suffer some horrible injuries and still have a pulse. Using the EKG prevents a devastating mistake from being made.

In which book did we last meet Lauren? What were the circumstances in her moving to Detroit? How does she find out about Zoe’s real half-brother, and what’s in it for her to help Zoe find him?

We first met Lauren in Uneasy Prey, and it was a rocky introduction! Somewhere between that book and Cry Wolf, she received a job offer that took her away from Monongahela County. As for her part in the search for Zoe’s brother, Lauren, as any good reporter, refuses to give up her source. (Hint: this particular question gets answered in the next book!)

No one likes Dr. Charles Davis, who is running against Zoe’s boss Franklin Marshall, for the coroner’s seat, except for Wayne Baronick. Is Wayne a political realist or is he disloyal?

Wayne doesn’t like Dr. Davis. He merely tolerates him and acknowledges that creating an enemy of the man isn’t a wise career choice. After all, if Davis wins the election, Wayne will have to work closely with him for the foreseeable future.

Why do cats drape themselves over people’s necks like a fur collar? Why do dogs and horses roll in mud and worse?

My cat sleeps on my pillow, “spooning” my head. It’s a sign of affection, which I must remind myself when I’m roasting at 2 a.m. with my fur hat. As for dogs and horses rolling in the mud? I have no idea, but they sure do seem to think it’s grand fun!

Gene reminded Zoe of a sad basset hound. She wondered
If he’d always looked like that or if he’d developed
The expression as a result of driving dead bodies around.
Kindle Loc. 1369
Do peoples’ experiences show on their faces?

I believe so. Sorrow and stress can definitely age a person beyond their years.

Pete and Wayne come up with various scenarios of how the two subsequent murders went down. Do they genuinely believe their theories or do they play devil’s advocate for each other?

A bit of both.

What is a secondary crime scene and how is it defined or determined?

The primary crime scene is the location where the crime took place. Example: if a body is found in one location but deemed to have been murdered elsewhere, where the murder occurred is the primary crime scene. Where the body is found is the secondary. Or if a house is robbed, that’s the primary crime scene. The location where the thieves store the loot is a secondary one.

What is the mike Pete wears that transmits a signal to the station? Is it a Bluetooth device?

No, not Bluetooth. It’s just a standard police radio. In addition to the unit in the car, officers wear a remote speaker/microphone clipped to the uniform.

Will Zoe ever get a new truck?

Hahaha! After her truck got shot up in With A Vengeance, I had intended to have Zoe get a new car, but she refused. I admit to some sentimentality where that truck is concerned myself. It’s based on my own 1990 Chevy Silverado that I used to haul my horse trailer around. We’ve turned down offers to buy it even though it’s currently off the road, sitting in our barn, awaiting a lot of needed repairs. But my husband and I are both attached to the old beast. So every time Zoe’s truck is in the shop for something, it’s because my truck has or has had the same issue! Write what you know!

What’s next for Zoe and Pete?

I have turned in the 10th Zoe mystery titled Til Death. In it, an old homicide conviction—the first one Pete investigated when he moved to Vance Township—is overturned, and what starts out as simply rounding up the witnesses from nine years ago gets a lot more complicated when people close to the case—and close to Zoe and Pete—start dying under mysterious circumstances. Also, Zoe’s position with the Coroner’s Office becomes more involved than she ever bargained for.


  1. Can't wait to read this, especially knowing there's another one to follow.

  2. These novels sound wonderful. Will add them to be To Be Read list. And good luck with the Agatha nomination!!

  3. I agree that this wonderful book will garner award nominations. In fact when I read it, I said, "This is the one!" but I also said that about an earlier one. Fingers crossed! I think if there was an award for outstanding series,Zoe Chambers would knock it out of the part.

  4. Love your comments about your truck. We do get attached to objects, don't we?

  5. I love that photo -- so happy! . . . and then off to write a trail of mayhem. ;-)
    I can relate to the love of the old truck. Not having a barn or much space, I just watched my 2002 Prius leave, trailing along behind the tow truck. Bye, old friend. Thanks for 103,000 miles of storytelling adventures (and other stuff) :-( I watched the driver take pictures of the front and back, perhaps routine, but he was smiling . . . maybe the bumper stickers made a pleasing statement.
    I need to find more good stickers for Rosie, the 2010 replacement Prius, bought from a friend. She has a few, including a Rosie the Riveter one, but no storytelling or book ones yet. <3

  6. An excellent interview! Annette, your new Zoe mystery sounds terrific! I have trouble thinking of you as an older woman.

  7. Susan, I'm not even as attached to my old truck as my husband is. We've considered selling it but just can't quite bring ourselves to part with the old beast.

    Mary, that's an OLD photo! And Kensi isn't very happy in it. "Ma! Lemme go!" Wishing you luck and happy trails in your new/used Prius!

    Thanks, Warren.

    Marilyn, I confess. I'm 60 and my face is showing the years, so yeah. I can't pretend to be a youngster anymore.