Sunday, May 22, 2022

An Interview with Annette Dashofy by E. B. Davis

As Monongahela County’s new coroner Zoe Chambers-Adams gears up for a third day searching for a missing woman, she receives the news she’s been dreading: a body has been found. What she discovers at the scene leaves no doubt—the missing woman was violently murdered. Worse, the manner of death mirrors the Monongahela Strangler case that terrorized the county when Zoe was in high school. Those murders stopped, but the case was never satisfactorily solved. And with people arriving in town for Zoe’s twentieth high school reunion, the memories of those scary days return with a vengeance.

But Zoe’s new husband, Vance Township Police Chief Pete Adams, sees the murder differently. His investigation reveals two feuding families and a forbidden relationship between their children. The homicide appears to be a crime of passion until Pete’s relentless digging unearths a link between his prime suspect and Zoe’s serial killer. Suddenly, with the predator threatening to strike someone near and dear to both Zoe and Pete, they must race to uncover the truth and catch a madman before another innocent victim is brutally murdered.


Fatal Reunion is the eleventh book in Annette Dashofy’s Zoe Chambers mystery series. It’s been almost two years since the last release, Book 10, Til Death, due to a change in publishers. For those of you who are fans of this series, Annette published an interim collection of new Zoe stories in Crime In The Country. Unfortunately, Fatal Reunion is not listed as the eleventh book in the series on Amazon, which could be confusing to readers.


In a recent blog for WWK, Annette revealed that with the new publisher, the Zoe Chambers series tone could be darker. When I read, I didn’t notice the change in tone. For those of you who are old Zoe fans, no need to fear. There is still the underlying humor even in the face of death and broken relationships.                                                                                        E. B. Davis


One theme that surfaces time and again throughout the book is that people blame the victims. Why do people judge children harshly when it’s the parent who is at fault? The child is a victim of the parent, too!


I’m not a psychologist or a parent, so I may not be the person to answer, despite having written the story. In this case, the parent in question truly wants a better life for his son but has a really horrible way of showing it. He believes he’s right and is the only one who knows what’s best. Basically, it’s his way or the highway. In the father’s mind, if the child wants a different path or rebels, then the child is misguided or being manipulated.


What’s a Quarter horse gelding?


A Quarter Horse is a breed named because it can run a quarter mile faster than a Thoroughbred. A gelding is a castrated male horse. They’re more docile than a stallion (an uncastrated male) and less “moody” than a mare. Having said that, Zoe’s gelding, Windstar, is named after a horse I once raised from a foal. Except Zoe’s Windstar is the horse I wished mine had been. My Windstar bucked me off more times than I can count and broke a few of my bones.


Why doesn’t Zoe want to go to her twentieth high school reunion?


Zoe was a “wild child” back then and isn’t proud of it. She really doesn’t want to face that part of her past regardless of how much she has changed. She figures she has stayed in touch with the people she liked back then and has no desire to hang out with the others. That last part is what kept me away from most of my own reunions too! (I was NOT a wild child though. Quite the opposite.)


I was surprised that a teacher came to Zoe’s reunion. I don’t think teachers were invited to mine. Is this a common practice in other places in Pennsylvania?


Ha! Probably not! This is where I drag out the disclaimer about writing fiction. In my fictional Phillipsburg High School, the reunion planning committee decided to invite a few of the more popular teachers to the reunion. In reality, I’ve only attended one of my reunions and there were no teachers there. I wish there had been! There are several I’d really like to see again.


Although men are often described as aging better than women, it seems from 18-38, even with pregnancies, the women are far more recognizable than the men. Any thoughts on that?


This is simply my own observation of classmates I ran into within that age range. I never had any problem recognizing the women. The men were another story. I’ve had several guys from my class come up to me—guys I SHOULD know—and I had no clue. I decided to give Zoe the same problem, which puts her in direct conflict with her pal Rose, who insists she recognizes one man in particular…a man neither of them wants to ever see again.


Abby, one of Pete’s officers, seems like a careful and in-depth researcher/investigator. And yet, Pete admonishes her use of a Taser on one suspect and encourages her to use it on another. What does Pete perceive that Abby doesn’t?


That scene is the result of what I learned from a real police detective who has been around for a number of years. I pretty much put his words directly into Pete’s mouth with regards to younger cops relying on new technology. Pete has been around a while as well, has worked as a Field Training Officer in the past, and is a mentor to Abby in addition to being her boss. She’s a good cop, but she hasn’t seen as much or experienced as much as he has, especially since Pete spent the first half of his career in the city of Pittsburgh. Abby has always been a small-town peace officer.


As far as his suggestion she use the taser on the other guy, that was more in jest. He wanted the man in question to think twice before messing with Abby.


The new victim of rape and strangulation death reminds everyone of a serial killer who killed and raped three women during Zoe’s senior year. Rose, who has returned with her family for the reunion thinks the police targeted the wrong suspect twenty years ago. She thinks it was the class perv, who she claims to have seen at the reunion picnic. Someone else backs up her claim. But Zoe is skeptical, which ticks off Rose. Zoe disproves Roses claim, but then realizes she is wrong. Is Zoe’s lack of belief crucial in their relationship? Can Rose see that Zoe is a professional, and she is not?


I don’t believe Rose is thinking about Zoe’s profession in this case. Rose is being driven by her heart and her fears. Plus she believes what she has seen with her own eyes and doesn’t appreciate Zoe doubting her. To be honest, Rose and Zoe’s friendship has been on increasingly rocky ground since the first book in the series when Rose’s husband was killed. Although the loss had nothing to do with Zoe, it deeply changed Rose. Even now that she’s happily remarried, Rose is easily shaken and is constantly afraid of losing those she loves.


Vince Quinn, whose new tractor was stolen and taken for a joy ride, is described as a “surly son of a bitch.” Is there a reason for his manner?


He’s another case of losing a loved one (his son) having changed him. Even twenty years later, Vince still grieves, and his grief manifests in anger at everyone and everything. He’s mad at the world. He’s already lost the most important person in his life and doesn’t care who else gets hurt.


Refresh our memories of Lauren. She’s a journalist but also a horse owner.


Lauren first showed up in Uneasy Prey as a thorn in Pete’s side and a possible rival in Zoe’s eyes. Since then, her love of horses helped her bond with Zoe, and she’s possibly the only journalist Pete doesn’t mind having around. When Zoe’s cousin, Patsy, moved to Florida, she left her horse in Lauren’s hands. Now that the move appears permanent, Lauren’s been given the opportunity to buy the horse outright. And since she boards at Zoe’s farm, Lauren’s always around.


What happened to Zoe in high school that gives her such empathy for the murder/rape victims? Who was Jerry?


To learn about Zoe’s history with Jerry (McBirney), you need to read Circle of Influence. For me to answer in any detail would be a major spoiler for that book! Suffice it to say, Zoe was the victim of an attempted rape, thanks to Jerry.

Zoe sometimes makes incorrect assumptions. Is that due to lack of investigative training or her newness in her job?


A bit of both. Zoe went from being a part-time deputy coroner to full-time deputy coroner and was then thrust into the job of county coroner in relatively short order. She knows there are gaps in her training, but she’s really trying!


Abby’s research shows that sometimes a serial killer/rapist can go dormant for years, but usually not forever. Is that true?


Yes. I did a lot of reading on the subject (not a pleasant topic) and learned there are a few, very rare cases, when a sexual predator has stopped. Emphasis on very rare. But not unheard of.


Often, it’s the easy suspect, not the correct suspect that the police hound. What does Marcus see in Gabe that few others (except maybe Pete) see?


Marcus is another character who first showed up in Uneasy Prey, and he has always been the protector of the underdog and the bullied, although Gabe definitely doesn’t appear to fit that category at all. Marcus is desperate to give him the benefit of the doubt, whether Gabe deserves it or not. As for Pete, he’s always trying to straighten kids out and is known for his “come to Jesus” talks with troublemakers. 


Does Zoe really need Davis so much that she’s willing to put up with his arrogance and unprofessional behavior when she’s the boss?


Going back to Zoe’s gaps in training and experience, she believes she “needs” him. He’s managed to keep her convinced of it for a while now, but he’s really starting to wear on her last nerve. To him, Zoe is a steppingstone. He wants that position and believes he’s more qualified. In many ways, Zoe believes he’s more qualified too, but she also knows she has more empathy for the victims than Davis will ever have.


(Behind the scenes tidbit: The Davis/Zoe relationship is going to eventually explode big time.)


Like Zoe’s cousin Patsy, you seem to be retiring some secondary characters for new ones. Why? Are you taking the series in a new direction?


I don’t know if I’m “retiring” secondary characters. Just like real life, people come in and out of Zoe and Pete’s lives. Or maybe they just don’t have a major role in the current story. Unless a character has been killed off, there’s always a possibility they’ll show up again.


Why does Zoe question that she may not be the best person to serve as coroner?


If Franklin Marshall was still alive, Zoe would happily still be working under him as deputy coroner. His death threw her into the job of heading up that office. Also, she worked as a paramedic, saving lives, for a lot of years. She misses the outcome of having her patient survive a trauma. It’s a different mindset, one that she’s still trying to reconcile. Until she comes to terms with what she really wants, she’s always going to doubt herself.


What’s next for Zoe and Pete?


I’m working on book #12, tentatively titled Helpless. In it, a friend has been shot and left for dead. His wife’s been murdered. His daughter’s been kidnapped. He knows he’s probably not going to survive, and his dying wish is that his little girl be rescued from the monster he saw but can’t identify. And as if that isn’t enough to keep Zoe and Pete busy, a major hurricane is bearing down on Vance Township. Will they be able to capture the killer and rescue the missing child before both disappear forever?





  1. Congratulations on #11 Annette. I'm looking forward to it and #12.

  2. Thanks, Jim! For the record, #12 is kicking my butt. It may turn out to be the best thing I've written...or the worst!

  3. Congratulations! Looking forward to reading your latest.

  4. So glad Pete and Zoe are back.

    I have missed them! I'm at 84% on the Kindle and loving every minute of it. Kept me up until 2AM last night when the heavy eyelids (and the fear I might miss a clue) forced me to put it down. Well done, and five stars

  5. So glad to see Zoe back! Looking forward to reading this.

  6. Aw, thank you, Kait! And as for keeping you up until 2AM? Sorry, not sorry. ;-)

    Thanks, KM!

  7. Teachers attended my 25th year reunion, and I attended on of my students' and was invited to another but had another event to attend.
    I LOVED this book . . . and its many surprises. <3

  8. Ah. Thank you, Mary. That makes me feel better about that scene! And thanks for the kind words.

  9. Love Love Loved it and can't wait for the next one. The questions were mostly ones that I asked as I read and the answer you gave were the ones I saw in the development of the story. Love those guys! Thank you! I am so glad that the new company appreciated Zoe and Pete.

  10. I’m glad this series is being continued. I’ve often attended reunions of high school classes I taught and always enjoy hearing about what happened to those kids after they left school. Congrats on your new book and continuing series.