After my recent spate of reading end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it books, I decided I needed something light and easy. I mean, I was probably 10 pages away from building a shelter and stocking it with firewood, canned goods, and bottled water. What better way to cleanse your mind of apocalyptic visions than by reading a good cozy mystery!?!
Sharon's Garden of Books, I chose one and sat down for some nice relaxing reading. Farm Fresh Murder, by Paige Shelton, is the first in a new series of cozies. The main character, Becca Robbins, grows strawberries and pumpkins on her small farm, and turns them into the best preserves and jams around. She sells them at Bailey's Farmer's Market, which is managed by her fraternal twin, Allison. One morning, when Becca arrives with her wares, she discovers that someone has bludgeoned one of the vendors to death, and the police think it is her dear friend Abner, who has disappeared. Hoping to clear Abner's name, Becca starts investigating on her own., leading to much foolishness and mayhem!
I must admit that I tried to read a few of the cozies from the give-away box, and with the exception of this one and Town in a Blueberry Jam, I haven't liked too many of them. However, I think that I have come up with a list of Cozy Mystery Rules According to Heather:
1. The main character must be smart, independent, and strong. None of these simpering ladies-who-lunch that don't so much solve the mystery as stumble upon the murderer in a compromising situation and manage to fend them off until being saved by someone else.
2. The plot must take the main stage, not the recipes/scrapbooking tips/knitting patterns.
3. What descriptions of cooking/baking/scrapbooking/knitting there are must move the plot forward.
4. The setting should be evocative of someplace homey and comforting, with a strong sense of community, without being boring.
5. Any romance has to either move the plot along or be realistic-I don't read romance novels, but I do enjoy romantic things, so plots need to stay on this side of the romantic vs. romance novel line.
Farm Fresh Murder meets almost all of these requirements. Becca's character is a twice-divorced, independent woman farming her land her way. Fiercely loyal to her friend, Abner, she actually formulates a plan to clear his name, and follows through on it bravely but not foolhardily. Still, she does sort of end up in the killer's clutches by mistake. She can be impulsive, but she is always thinking, even as she is doing something she knows could lead to trouble. Even though the author describes the process of making preserves and jams, and talks about Becca working in her pumpkin fields, it is always with a purpose-clearing her head, making product so she can have a cover to go to the market and question people, that sort of thing. So it is interesting without becoming the purpose of the book. The setting of a South Carolina farm/farmer's market is charming without being cloying. Reading about Becca's life made me want to quit my job, buy a farm in the south, and sell my produce/jam/whatever out of a booth where people come and know me by name. And Becca's love interests are woven into the plot beautifully. There is the police officer investigating the murder, who she goes to for information and help. And then there is the fellow vendor, an artist who is drawn into the mystery when Becca wonders if he could be a suspect! All in all, Farm Fresh Murder looks to be the start of a fun new series for cozy lovers!
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