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A GALA EVENT

An Orchard Mystery

By Sheila Connolly

Berkley Prime Crime

October 6, 2015

paperback, $7.99

Growing apples and making a living doing it isn’t easy (I say this based on my extensive experience with my orchard of seven trees, only one of which is taller than I am at the moment). Meg Corey didn’t choose to do it, but she found herself with no job and an apple orchard in her back yard, so the orchard became her job. How many people would be willing to take on a challenge like that, with no experience?

Then she started finding bodies.

Writing about someone who runs an orchard imposes a pattern on a series, because apples have their own annual cycle. Starting in late winter, they need pruning and fertilizing, then spraying (responsibly!) to keep down insects and diseases, then thinning (to relieve stress on the tree limbs later and to produce larger individual apples), and finally harvesting, which can run from August through November. Since Meg has only one employee (except during the harvest season), you can guess that she’s pretty busy. When is she supposed to find time to solve crimes—and fall in love?

But she does. Seth Chapin started out as a next-door neighbor who fixed her plumbing and then took offense when Meg found herself involved in a crime that touched on Seth’s own family—not a good start for a relationship. But Granford, Massachusetts is a small town, and you can’t stay mad at anyone for long. Eight books later, Meg and Seth are getting married.

Of course, that’s not simple either. For one thing, they more or less have to invite everyone in town, because everyone knows everyone else and they don’t want anyone’s feelings to be hurt. Meg and Seth chose December for the date, hoping that the harvest would be over and Seth’s renovation business would be quiet (who remodels during the holidays?). They hadn’t counted on an ex-con and an old crime intruding in the middle of their wedding planning. But when Meg and Seth believe that a wrong has been done, they want to do something about it.

Apples are such a central part of everyone’s life, particularly at this time of year. Apples in New England (home of Johnny Appleseed) are even more special. You need to taste apples you’ve picked straight off the tree, and sample more than one variety, to really enjoy them. It has been a joy to use this as a setting for Meg and Seth, who are finding themselves—and have found each other.

And by the way—the honeymoon will be just as complicated as the wedding!