Crime in The Country features six short stories that are representative of the series progression and characters in the Zoe Chambers mystery series. The mystery is how Annette Dashofy chose these stories that take the reader from the very beginning of the series until the present. The collection not only features Zoe and Pete, but also the Baronick siblings and Zoe’s best friend Rose. I’d only read one of these stories before. While we wait patiently for the next book in the series, these stories bring to mind a lot of questions I have for Annette! E. B. Davis
Did you write any of these shorts specifically for this volume? How did you decide which to include?
No, none of the stories were specifically written for this collection. As for which ones to include, it was simple. All of them!
Are you a winter person? A Christmas person? I ask because four of the six stories are set during Christmas.
Ha. I’m neither. Those four Christmas stories were all written as gifts to my newsletter subscribers. I confess, I stole the idea from Craig Johnson, who sends out a holiday newsletter including a short story every year. Hey, it works for him. I figured it would work for me. Since my “gift” is sent out at Christmastime, it only made sense to have them be Christmas-themed.
In “A Christmas Rescue,” Pete is new to the area. He has a wife. I never remember his wife living in the area, but then it has been a few years since I read the first book. How long did she stick around?
Pete and Marcy were already divorced in the first book, but she was still in the area, living with her new husband. The main reason Pete took the job in Vance Township eight years prior was to please his wife. Well, that didn’t go as he’d planned. The whole sordid tale is told in Circle of Influence.
I just think no one wants to believe a child is capable of such things. Especially the parents.
When I lived in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington D. C. a couple walking on a Sunday morning were attacked and killed by a gang who were initiating members. The newbies had to kill to become members. I’m aware of this happening in urban areas. Does it happen in rural areas, too?
Any evil that happens in the city can (and does) happen in the country. In fact, there are facets of that story that are based on a real event that happened many, many years ago.
“Sweet Deadly Lies” features the Baronick siblings. What is it about those characters that made you want to show them solving a case together, or not, as the case may be?
This was the first time I wrote about Abby, and I created the story for an anthology before having been offered a contract for the first Zoe and Pete mystery. I had so much fun getting to know Wayne Baronick’s kid sister. And as someone with an older brother, I found her very easy to relate to! It took me a while to decide to bring Abby into the books, but I love the way she fits into the cast.
Are there still Revlon/Mary Kay ladies? Or is everything done online now?
The door-to-door makeup sales force has definitely changed. I was an Avon Lady for a few years and drew from the experience to write the story. There are sales reps and some operate online only, but you can still find local “Avon Ladies” for more personal service. I continue to purchase from them on occasion. I order online but select the same local woman, who I used to work with, to receive credit for the sale.
Would Abby Baronick continue to have worked the case when she was told to stand down if it hadn’t been her brother’s order?
Probably not. While she’s young, she’s also a good cop. Wayne, however, pushes her buttons (and she pushes his as well)! Either way, she has definitely grown and matured since she’s moved to Vance Township and has been working with Pete.
I had to laugh when reading “Las Posadas—A New Mexico Christmas” because years ago when my daughter was small we became separated in a large box store. When we finally found each other, she was so mad I got lost. Just as in this story, “missing” depends on the point-of-view. Why is this old gentleman so important to everyone?
That area is very tight-knit, and elders are revered. Mr. Alvarez is a kindly old gent, well known by all. Kind of a surrogate grandfather. Plus it never looks good when an abandoned car and phone are found in the middle of nowhere with a winter storm approaching.
Do you have a personal connection to New Mexico?
I do. One of my best friends, Leta, lives in Aztec. Her son is a deputy sheriff with the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office. Prior to the pandemic, I went out there frequently. Leta is largely responsible for this story. During one of my visits, she told me about Las Posadas, and I took notes. She also was key to the creation of No Way Home, the book that introduced this cast of characters. And she created Billy and Miguel.
I tried to look up the word Rez and found a lot of bizarre definitions. What are the Rez?
The Rez is what the locals call the Indian reservation. I don’t think it matters where you are out west or what tribe, the reservation is “the Rez.” In the case of this story, it’s the Navajo reservation.
What are biscochitos?
Biscochitos are a traditional New Mexican butter cookie, flavored with sugar, cinnamon and anise. Very yummy!
We all shop online anymore, which makes deliveries a problem. What did you think of Amazon’s delivery service allowing delivery people inside of customers’ homes?
Ha. I’m sorry. I’m not allowing anyone inside my house when I’m not home. I’m not crazy about letting someone in when I am at home! Like so many others these days, I have a home security system but still. No thank you. Leave it on the porch and the Ring doorbell will keep an eye on it until I can bring the package inside.
In “A Christmas Delivery” an older woman will not open the door to Pete even if he is the Police Chief. She only opens the door after Zoe accompanies him. How long does it take in a small town not to be a stranger?
Well, Pete’s now been in town for ten years, so…ten years? Mrs. McVehil has never had to deal with the police before. She has dealt with the ambulance crew. So much so that she treats Zoe and her fellow paramedics like her own kids or grandkids, plying them with cookies.
In “Secret Santa” Pete’s father, Harry, who suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease, has moments of clarity and then retreats into a fog. But when he is lucid, he seems to be especially sharp and puts together facts. What did Harry do for a living?
Good question! It’s one I don’t recall ever addressing. I think Harry would have liked being in law enforcement (he’s extremely proud of his son), but like so many Pittsburghers of his age, he worked in a steel mill.
Regardless of his mental state, Harry’s fine character always seems to shine through. Is this often the case with these patients?
I’ve seen it go both ways. Harry is a mishmash of my dad and my uncle (Dad’s brother), both of whom had Alzheimer’s. Sadly, my dad grew more belligerent as the disease progressed. My uncle, on the other hand, always remained cheerful and was a sweetheart.
Will you be continuing the Zoe Chambers mystery series? Have you found a new publisher?
Yes and YES! I’m very excited that Level Best Books has picked up the series. The next Zoe mystery is scheduled for release in May 2022!