Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Rotten to the Core by Sheila Connolly

Sheila Connolly's Orchard Mysteries are some
of the most satisfying cozy mysteries I've read. With her first one, One Bad Apple, I said it was, "An example of everything that is right with the cozy mystery." Connolly continues to educate, charm and intrigue the reader, all at the same time, with her new book, Rotten to the Core.

After a rough start, Meg Corey is starting to settle in to her farm property in Granford, Massachusetts. And, the start of spring is the perfect time to get to know her apple orchard better. She's taking a class in orchard management, the better to tend the fifteen acres of trees, an orchard over two hundred years old. She's hired a student to work as orchard manager, and she's working with a professor at the university. It wasn't in Meg's plans to find a body in the springhouse in the middle of the orchard.

Meg didn't even know the dead man, identified as a student, Jason Miller. The young man was the front man for GreenGrow, a group of organic farming zealots. But, since he died of pesticide poisoning in her orchard, Meg's a natural suspect for the state police detective who doesn't like her anyways. It's a good thing she's made some friends in Granford, people who believe in her innocence.

There's quite a contrast between Meg and Jason. Meg even says, "Almost nobody seems to have liked Jason much, and everyone I've talked to seems relieved that he's out of the way." However, in the short time she's lived there, Meg made friends with Seth Chapin, a local selectman and plumber who is renting part of her barn, his sister, Rachel, the professor, and even the local police chief. Even so, Meg and Jason have her property in common. Why would anyone want to drag Meg into Jason's murder? It's a shame the death of a man she never even knew causes Meg to suspect her friends.

I always find cozy mysteries more satisfying when the main character is reasonable, and calls the cops, rather than taking matters into their own hands. Meg Corey might be ignorant of the reasons behind the murder, but she's not stupid. She understands it was murder, and she does call the police when she's in danger.

Cozy mysteries seem to have a specialization, whether it's a bookstore mystery, a pizzeria mystery, or, in this case, a mystery set on land with an orchard. Connolly allows the reader to learn about renovating the old farm house, and tending the orchard, right along with Meg, but she never forgets this is supposed to be an enjoyable mystery, not a lesson in country living.

And, one final plug for Mary Ann Lasher's gorgeous cover illustration. If you see this book on a shelf, it will reach out and grab you. Lasher's cover will catch your attention, and Sheila Connolly's Rotten to the Core will keep it. Granted, it's easy to pinpoint the killer, but for most of us who read cozies, the puzzle is only part of the reason we read them. This is a mystery for those of us who enjoy getting to know the characters, watching their lives change, and relationships develop. Rotten to the Core is warm and entertaining from the first paragraph to the last. Fans will look forward to the next Orchard Mystery.

Sheila Connolly's website is www.sheilaconnolly.com

Rotten to the Core by Sheila Connolly. Berkley Prime Crime, ©2009. ISBN 9780425228760 (paperback), 304p.

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Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

This is another book I'm going to find at the store. Thanks, Lesa.

The cover is certainly appealing and it sounds like the story is, too. I like the hook of the renovation but am glad to hear she didn't bog the readers down in it.

How did Ms. Connolly justify getting the amateur sleuth involved in the crime, since she had sensibly called the police? Just curious.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Elizabeth.

Meg was involved in the crime, whether she wanted to be or not, because the professor and his students were working in her orchard; her orchard manager knew the victim and had been part of his group, and Meg was taking a class in orchard management. It wasn't the investigation that she became a part of; she was caught up in the middle of the pesticide vs. organic issue just by owning the orchard. It's how she came to be involved with all of the suspects. And, I can't tell you anymore without spoiling the plot, but it's actually very reasonable.

bermudaonion said...

I love the cover and the title and the book just sounds delightful!

Lesa said...

Both books in this series are very good.

Patricia said...

This came at just the right time. I'll be finishing my current read later this evening. I read the first one and loved it. Thanks for letting me know about this new one. I agree the characters are interesting and reasonable and the covers are great.

Lesa said...

Perfect, Patricia! If you liked the first one, you're going to like this one just as much. Enjoy!

Kris said...

This book sounds wonderful! I must add it to my list and pick up the first in the series soon. Love the cover on this one too!

Lesa said...

They both have terrific covers, Kris. I hope you enjoy the books.

Heidi V said...

Thank you for bringing my attention to this book, the cover does grab you!

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Heidi! Terrific cover, isn't it?