Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Mulch Ado About Murder (A Local Foods Mystery #5)

Author:  Edith Maxwell
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496700292
Kensington Publishing
304 Pages
May 30, 2017

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It's been a hot, dry spring in Westbury, Massachusetts.  As organic farmer Cam Flaherty waits for much-needed rain, storm clouds of mystery begin to gather.  Once again, it's time to put away her sun hat and put on her sleuthing cap...

May has been anything but merry for Cam so far.  Her parents have arrived unexpectedly and her crops are in danger of withering away.  But all of that's nothing compared to the grim fate that lies in store for one of her neighbors.  Nicole Kingsbury is the proud owner of the town's new hydroponic greenhouse.  She claims the process will be 100% organic, but she uses chemicals to feed her crops.  To Cam's surprise, her mother embarrasses her by organizing a series of loud public protests against Nicole's operation.

When Nicole is found dead in a vat of hydroponic slurry - clutching another set of rosary beads - Detective Pete Pappas has a new murder to solve.  Showers may be scarce this spring, but there's no shortage of suspects, including the dead woman's embittered ex-husband, the Other Man whose affair ruined their marriage, and Cam's own mother.  Lucky for Cam, her father turns out to have a knack for sleuthing - not to mention dealing with chickens.  Will he and Cam be able to clear Mrs. Flaherty's name before the killer strikes again?

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It's springtime in Massachusetts, and organic farmer Cam Flaherty is receiving an unexpected and rare visit from her parents whom she's never had a "traditional" relationship with.  But life goes on, and Cam has duties; so she leaves her father to help out at the farm while she makes a delivery to Nicole Kingsbury, with whom she has contracted to provide her with seedlings for her hydroponic farming.

When she arrives at Nicole's, she doesn't expect to see a line of protesters condemning her operation, and she certainly doesn't expect to see her mother in the group.  Trying her best to ignore them, she enters the greenhouse and calls out to Nicole.  But it's apparently deserted so she decides to leave the flats and also text her a message stating she's done so.  But when she hits 'send' she hears the distinct ping of a cell phone, and goes to investigate.  Unfortunately, what she comes across is Nicole's body, slumped over a vat of the slurry she used to feed the plants.  Shaken, Cam calls the police.

After being questioned and released, she returns home to tell her father that her mother is also being questioned and will return later.  But since her mother Deb admits she went in to speak with Nicole, it unfortunately puts her in the area of being a suspect, and Cam isn't pleased.  She also isn't pleased that her boyfriend, Detective Pete Pappas, removes himself from the case and to make matters worse, until they figure out what happened to Nicole, he can't spend any time with her.

But as the case progresses, it turns out that it wasn't an accident but possible homicide, and Cam is convinced her mother is hiding something both from her and the police.  While she's positive her mother didn't kill Nicole, it's obvious she's not telling everything.

What makes it harder is that Cam's parents are not ones for demonstrations of affection; neither parent has ever given her the indication that they even cared much about her but even so, she loves her mother and believes in her innocence, and will do whatever it takes to keep her out of prison, even if it puts her own life in danger...

I found this book not only to be a very good mystery, but it also gives us a lot of insight into Cam's parents and her (at times) tenuous relationship with them.  When it begins it appears that her parents arriving during prime planting season is more of a hindrance and inconvenience, but as the days go on, the relationship between them changes and grows.  Regrettably, it's taken a murder to effect that change.

Cam, although strong and independent, seems unsure where her parents are concerned; it's as if she's walking on eggshells around her mother, while her bond strengthens with her father who, surprisingly, while at first seems to be a disaster at the farm eventually becomes quite a help to her.  It takes a bit more however, for her relationship with her mother to truly connect and become closer.  This, in my opinion, is the true crux of the book; not only trying to help solve a murder (even if the police don't want her help) while forging a new relationship with, and understanding her mother.  It is a delight to watch the changes between them.

As to the murder itself (and we know it must be), I found it to be quite a treat indeed to have several red herrings thrown in, only to find that my initial thoughts came full circle.  But unfortunately I can't tell you what those thoughts were, or it gives away the ending.  Ah, well...suffice it to say that around nearly every corner we have Cam trying her best to keep the farm up and running, her parents entertained properly, and search for clues whenever she gets the chance.  This is one busy woman.

When the murderer is revealed and the reason for it discovered, we understand all too well the machinations, while thinking how easy it is for some people to do evil.  This is the fifth book in the series, and is an easy read and well written.  It can be read as a stand alone, but if you haven't read any others in the series I suggest you do so, because they're all quite as fun as this one.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Mulch-about-Murder-Local-Mystery/dp/1496700295/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1989040958

More on Edith Maxwell's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/m/edith-maxwell/

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