Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Cozy Mystery Wednesday Featuring Sheila Connolly

Hi everyone! For today's A cozy Mystery Wednesday I'm featuring author  Sheila Connolly's Rotten To The Core. A very fitting title for this time of year I think given it's apple picking time! This series is very popular in the genre and has received quite a lot of positive reviews from readers. Let me know what you think after reading today's extended snippet reading.

Happy Reading!

Rotten To The Core
Orchard Series #2

Back of the Book:
Not everything is blooming this spring …
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.

 Meg turned on all the lights downstairs. It wasn't that she was afraid of the ghost of that poor man haunting her. After all, he'd been dead for a day or two without stopping by to bother her. And she refused to give in to an irrational fear of being alone. Still, she was new to living in the country, accustomed instead to city sounds--cars, horns, fire and police sirens. In Boston it was never really totally quiet. Here in Granford the silence was sometimes unnerving--although now, she realized, there was a new element: the peepers in the adjacent wetlands had awakened with the warmer weather and provided a shrill chorus. As for the "alone" part, she was used to that, although Briona's arrival would change that to some extent.
The sound of a vehicle entering her still-unpaved driveway interrupted her increasingly gloomy thoughts, and when she looked out the dining room window she was absurdly pleased to see Seth's sister Rachel climbing out of her van with a basket that looked heavy. Rachel seldom arrived without food, and Meg realized she was hungry. Rachel saw her watching and pointed toward the back door. Meg hurried to the kitchen to let her in.
Rachel entered the kitchen, dropped the basket on the floor, and flung her arms around Meg. "You poor baby. Seth told me about the body. Are you all right?"
"I think so. You didn't need to come all the way over here just to check on me."
Rachel finally released Meg. "Of course I did. I couldn't stand the idea of you moping around here all by yourself. And I'll bet you haven't eaten anything. Right?"
"Guilty. But I was going to do something about that shortly. You didn't have to--"
Rachel cut her off. "Shut up. That's what friends do around here. Besides, the kids were arguing over homework, so I let Noah take over. And this is stuff I had made and stuck in the freezer for an occasion just like this. Point me to your microwave."
"You stockpile food for murders?" Meg asked.
"You know what I mean." Rachel unwrapped a casserole dish and pushed it into the microwave, studied the controls for a few seconds, then punched some buttons. "There. Now we've got a few minutes. And you look like you could use a drink. You have wine?"
"In the fridge," Meg replied. "You don't need to . . ."
Too late. Rachel had already found glasses, extricated the bottle from the refrigerator, and set them all on the table. "I'll have one, and only one, since I'm driving. But you go right ahead. Sit!"
Meg sat. Rachel threw herself into a chair across from her. "Okay, what's the story?"
Meg poured herself a glass of wine and sipped. It did taste good. She felt her shoulders loosening. "I went up to take a look around the orchard this afternoon, and there was a dead guy stuffed in the springhouse."
"So he just wandered into your orchard and decided to drop dead?"
Meg shrugged. "I don't know anything different. I'm in and out all the time, with errands and stuff, and, no, I didn't notice any weirdness going on in my orchard. Is there any religion that makes sacrifices at the spring equinox?"
Rachel smiled. "I don't know of any, but nothing would surprise me in this area. You have no idea what some folks get into. You have a name for him?"
"His ID said Jason Miller."
"Jason Miller, Jason Miller . . . why does that sound familiar?" The microwave beeped, and Rachel bounced out of her chair, rotated the dish inside, then started it again. She leaned against the counter to face Meg. "Ah! Got it. He's the front man for GreenGrow."
"A group of organic farming zealots in Amherst. They seem to do a lot of protesting of one thing or another. Jason got the most face time. You haven't heard of them?"
"I don't think so, but I haven't been around here that long. I wonder why he was here in my orchard."
The microwave beeped again, and Rachel retrieved the casserole, set it on a pad on the table, then hunted down plates and silverware. Meg watched with amusement: Rachel had made herself right at home in Meg's kitchen, just as her brother Seth had. Finally Rachel sat down and dished up, setting a laden plate in front of Meg. "There, eat. But you can keep talking. The big questions are, did he die here? And did he do it himself, or did someone else?"
Meg forked up some food, chewed, and swallowed before answering. "Hey, this is great. Anyway, the ME didn't or couldn't say. The body was found with his face underwater."
Rachel looked stricken. "I'm sorry--is it too gross to talk about this while you're eating? You can tell me to shut up if you want. So how're Seth's plans coming along?"
Meg was grateful that Rachel had changed the subject. "You mean for the barn? I'd say just fine, except they seem to change all the time. But he appears to be enjoying the process. Tell me, how upset is he about losing the old space? He doesn't say much."
"Seth doesn't worry about the stuff he can't change, and that's history now. He's really a glass-half-full type, you know? He's happy that the town is going to get some new life. He's excited about making this shift into renovation. And he loves to have new projects to work on. He's got a lot of energy."
"So I've noticed. You keep pretty busy yourself, with the kids and the B and B."
"Maybe it just runs in the family. And you'd better get used to it, once the work in the orchard picks up. You came in at the slowest point, but just wait. You'll see."
"I suppose I will. And I should probably try to get as much done as possible with the house before I get really busy."
"What's your next project?"
"I'm still thinking it over. There's a lot of woodwork that needs to be stripped, but I'm waiting until I can open the windows to tackle that so I don't asphyxiate myself. And I don't want to wallpaper until I get the stripping done, because I don't know what the wood will look like and whether I'll have to paint it again. And I've been thinking about doing the floor in here."
Rachel looked down. "Not a bad idea. The stuff on it now has lived a hard life, and it was probably cheap to begin with. But they usually used glue that will outlive us all, so it won't be easy to get it off."
"Noted," Meg answered.
Rachel checked her watch. "Well, I suppose I should get back and face the music. There are some cookies and some muffins in the basket, too. I don't know any problem that some good carbohydrates and sugar can't improve."
"Rachel, you're a wonder, and I think I agree with you. Why don't you leave the dishes and I'll bring them back to you tomorrow? I've got a class in the morning anyway."
"Deal. If I'm not around, just leave the stuff by the back door."
Rachel grabbed her coat, and Meg held the door open for her. Watching her go, Meg marveled at her good luck: a neighbor like Seth, now a sort-of business partner, who came with a sister like Rachel.
Before she shut the door she stood listening for a moment. The peepers were still going strong, and Meg could discern a range of voices. Spring was almost here; her new life was going to get a lot busier very quickly.

Thanks for stopping in a bit and having some fun with me!


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