Guest Chick: Annette Dashofy

Today we welcome Annette Dashofy, author of the fab Zoe Chambers Mysteries series, the latest of which, UNDER THE RADAR, was released on Feb. 25th. And the previous book in the series, FAIR GAME, has just been nominated for an Agatha award for Best Contemporary Mystery. Take it away, Annette, and congrats on the nomination!

Thanks so much for having me back!

My Agatha nominee buddy, Ellen Byron, asked me about my “bucolic” setting and how it inspired me to write about murder. It’s simple really. Start with a farm, add one kid with a very active imagination, sprinkle in a few family folklore tales, and you have the recipe for the Zoe Chambers Mystery Series.

I literally have lived my entire life on the family farm. My parents built a house on a couple of acres of my grandfather’s 150-acre dairy. Then my husband and I built our house on ten more of those acres.


Yep. That’s me. You can see the old farmhouse—the one I used as the Kroll’s home in the first three books—in the background. See those outbuildings to the left of the photo? That’s where my house now stands.

my snowy cabin

My childhood was spent playing in the barns, riding on the back of tractors, feeding chickens, and “helping” Grandpap work on machinery. Sounds lovely and peaceful, doesn’t it? Except Mom and Grandma were frantically admonishing me not to climb on the hay, not to climb on the baler or hay elevator (which looked like a really BIG sliding board to me), to stay away from the PTO (power take-off) connection on the tractor, and to feed the chickens on time.

What’s so important about that last part? Let me tell you, if you step into the hen house to gather eggs later than those feathered beasts are used to, they will fly down from their roosts in a flurry of feathers and beaks and talons. It’s the stuff horror movies are made of.


In other words, what looked bucolic to others, was a constant source of potential danger in my eyes. Or at least, in Mom’s and Grandma’s.

Other farm dangers: Hay baled before it has properly dried will ferment and burst into flames, burning down the barn. Oily rags from working on farm machinery, left in a pile, will do the same thing. Farmers have had appendages ripped from their bodies by having their clothing snagged on the exposed PTO connector. I know of one farmer who climbed off his tractor to pick up a bale of hay, the tractor somehow started moving, and the farmer fell and was run over by the loaded hay wagon. Amazingly, he lived to tell the tale.


Armed with a multitude of known dangers, when I decided to write a murder mystery set in farm country, it was easy to add some malicious intent and come up with murder.

Then there’s the family folklore. My mom used to tell the story of her two bachelor uncles who died under mysterious circumstances. She would whisper about her suspicions of murder/suicide and her theory about a neighbor being responsible. I heard this tale repeated over and over as I grew up. Once I was an adult, I decided to investigate. It took me about fifteen minutes to learn it never happened. The two old bachelor uncles died ten years apart. There was no double murder, no murder/suicide. But, hey! I write fiction! I could take Mom’s story and put it in a book! And I did. Lost Legacy (the second in the series) involves a similar dark tale from Zoe’s family’s past.

Alas, Under the Radar involves much more traditional methods of homicide. Firearms. Horace Pavelka, a school friend of Zoe’s, who has been the victim of bullying as long as she’s known him, finally defends himself and immediately surrenders to police. The homicide is deemed self-defense. Horace is released from custody amid threats of retribution from the dead bully’s buddies. When one of them turns up dead in Horace’s kitchen, shot in the back, and Horace disappears, the police, including Zoe’s fiancé Police Chief Pete Adams, question his innocence in both deaths. Meanwhile, while Zoe is determined to find her friend before the cops do and prove him not guilty, she’s drawn away on the road trip from hell. With her overbearing mother. In a blizzard. To track down information on her long-lost half-brother.

Is this move away from farm-related homicides permanent? Oh, heck no. I’m a country gal through and through. There are plenty of dangers lurking in those barns and fields to provide material for years to come. I haven’t even started to tackle murder by barbed wire yet!


UnderTheRadar cover front-smAbout UNDER THE RADAR: 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 fiancée 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.


sm_Dashofy2019_4098 - CopyAnnette Dashofy is the USA Today best-selling author of the Zoe Chambers mystery series about a paramedic and deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania’s tight-knit Vance Township. Annette has garnered five Agatha nominations including her current nomination for Best Contemporary Novel for FAIR GAME. She is the vice president of the Pittsburgh chapter of Sisters in Crime Chapter and is on the board of directors of Pennwriters. UNDER THE RADAR is the ninth in her series.


Readers: How about you? Do you imagine danger in the most innocent-looking settings? Or are you surprised to find that those peaceful surroundings harbor deadly hazards?

30 thoughts on “Guest Chick: Annette Dashofy

  1. Annette, I chuckled at your description of the mad chickens. And I remember the day I asked, “I need a murder implement that would be in a barn – what could I used?” The gleam in your eye was priceless. 🙂

    Liked by 6 people

  2. I, too, laughed at the mad chickens. I can see it, but it still made me laugh.

    Interesting to know that Lost Legacy came from a family story.

    Congrats on the new book!

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Wonderful post, Annette! The pictures are fantastic, and I love how all of these experiences inform your writing. (I also laughed at the angry chickens. We sometimes feed our neighbor’s hens and I’m afraid of them!) Congrats on the nom, this amazing series (you know I’m a fan!!), and the latest. Can’t WAIT to read!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Kathy! A few years ago I was on a neighbor’s farm and their rooster went into attack mode. I think he expected me to run away in terror, but having had years of chicken-wrangling experience, I just booted him. No, he wasn’t hurt. But he’d come at me, I’d boot him, he’d squawk and come at me again. Every third step I’d boot that darned rooster. But we both survived with no blood or bruises.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Ohmygosh … what gorgeous pictures, Annette! Is it still a working farm?

    I suspect I’d be a lot like your mom and grandma, worried about everything. I know for a fact I was just like you as a kid … climbing on everything, exploring it all, oblivious to dangers. I still cringe when I think of my folks letting us use a hatchet to chop logs while we stood one foot on either side of it! How we never chopped off a foot at the ankle I’ll never know.

    Congrats on all your success!

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Becky, alas, no it’s no longer a working farm. I own 10 acres of it, but the farmhouse and the outbuildings are all gone now…which is sad since I live right across from where the house used to be.

      And thank you!

      Liked by 4 people

  5. Right when I got to the part of your post about the chickens, one of ours started doing the “I’m laying an egg” squawk right outside my window — like a Greek chorus emphasizing what you’d said. Great post! (The chickens approve!)

    Liked by 6 people

  6. I incurred some barbed wire injuries on my uncle’s farm growing up, so I can totally imagine murder by barbed wire, lol! Great post, Annette, and congrats on your Agatha nom!

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I love how we all immediately loved the chickens–must be ’cause of the blog name, lol.

    My chicken story involves a rooster in a cockpit–that part of the plane appropriately named in this case. Robin and I had hired a plane to fly us between islands in the Carribbean, and the pilot told us it would be half the price if we allowed some cargo to go with along with us, which cargo turned out to be several fighting cocks. Well, during the flight, one of them started to poke its head out of the pillow case it had been tied up in, and Robin had to poke it back inside (a dangerous process, what with that sharp beak), lest it escape and fly around the tiny plane, which could have spelled utter disaster for us.

    Liked by 6 people

  8. I really enjoyed your description of growing up on a farm. I spent a lot of my childhood on my grandparents’ farm, and I remember gathering eggs with my granny all too well. At first it seemed all fun, until I looked at her bruised and scarred hands that were henhouse results. My granddad almost died after falling while climbing into a silo; the pigs charged him. Still, I wouldn’t trade my memories from then and there, and your post really brought them back. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I love everything about this post, Annette! And while I can also admit to smiling at the chicken story (geese are what I see in my nightmares), it’s the family lore that I find so fascinating. Every family has that whispered story. So glad you found a way to bring that mystery to light!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Micki. We didn’t have geese, thank goodness! But I’ve been stalked by them on walking trails and confess, I’m terrified of those hissing masses of feathers.


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