I first learned of Sheila Connolly on the Mystery Lover’s Kitchen Blog (one of my favorites!) when Fundraising the Dead, a new Museum mystery series by Connolly, was released. I bought and read it, loved it, and decided to check out her other books. I began the Orchard Mystery series this summer when I was reading like crazy but avoiding writing at all costs (because I felt guilty for spending so much time writing for fun when I should have been writing my dissertation–more on that later!).
I bought A Killer Crop for my eReader the week it was released. Like others in this series, this one picked up exactly where the last one left off. In it, main character Meg’s mother lands on her doorstep in Granford completely unexpected and somewhat unwanted since it is at the height of Meg’s first apple-picking season. It turns out, though, Elizabeth didn’t come to town to visit Meg; she came at the request of an old (male) friend who is murdered just hours after meeting with her. Meg must prove her mother didn’t do it as she juggles her personal life with apple picking. And during this time, we get to know Elizabeth who has simply been mentioned in the previous books as Meg’s absentee co-owner of the home she is renovating. Because of her apparent apathy, she was not a character I expected to meet and to ultimately end up liking. But, that is the way it turned out. Like other characters in this series, Elizabeth’s dynamic nature and complexity of personality makes her very likable.
This book is a winner for me. I enjoyed it for the reasons above and for its continuing exploration of historical events, specifically in this case ones related to Emily Dickinson. For that reason, I think this book is even better than the previous in the series because there are simply layers and layers of interest.
For reference: Book 1 in this series is One Bad Apple (August 2008). The product description reads: When Boston investment banker Meg Corey moves to Granford, Massachusetts, things don’t go exactly smoothly. She has left behind a Boston job that was swallowed up in a bank merger, and ex boyfriend Chandler Hale, in exchange for a crumbling colonial house and an orchard. She figures she’ll spend a little time fixing up the house to sell while she looks for a new job and licks her wounds. Things take a turn for the worse when Chandler shows up in town to manage a proposed commercial development project, but Meg can handle that. But then Chandler is found dead by next-door neighbor, plumber Seth Chapin, in her septic tank, and Meg is the sheriff’s favorite suspect. With Seth’s help she identifies the killer, but by then she has discovered that she doesn’t want to leave Granford and her orchard.
The second is Rotten to the Core (July 2009), and its description is: Spring has come to Meg Corey’s apple orchard—and it’s quickly becoming a killer season. Just as she’s getting the hang of managing the two-hundred-year-old orchard she’s inherited, the dead body of a local organic farming activist is found in her springhouse. And the only thing that’s sprung is a murder accusation—against her… The young man’s body was found with traces of pesticide poisoning. Strange for someone opposed to all things chemical. And why did someone plant his body on Meg’s land—when Meg hadn’t even met him? Now Meg needs to pick her actions wisely and get rid of the seed of suspicion that’s been planted before the orchard—and her future—is spoiled for good.
Book 3 is Red Delicious Death (March 2010), and its description is: Granford newcomer Meg Corey has more than enough to do, between restoring the colonial house she’s inherited and trying to manage her orchard. Then a trio of young chefs fresh out of cooking school arrive in town to open a restaurant using local foods, and Meg volunteers to help them out. But then one of the chefs is found dead in a farmer’s pig wallow. When Meg begins looking into the death, her investigation digs up some old town secrets–and Meg soon realizes that they have a locally grown killer on their hands.
This books were quick and fun to read. I will keep up with the series. Happy Reading!