Picked to Die Author: Sheila Connolly Series: Orchard Mystery 8 Publisher: Berkley, October 7, 2014 Format: Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages List Price: $7.99 (print) ISBN: 9780425257111 (print) Review Copy: Provided by the Publisher
The new Orchard Mystery--from the New York Times bestselling author of Golden Malicious and Scandal in Skibbereen
A TREE IS KNOWN BY ITS FRUIT
It’s harvest time in Granford, Massachusetts, and orchard owner Meg Corey and her fiancé, Seth, are both racing to beat the New England winter. Meg is bringing in her apple crop with a team of workers, while Seth is working to restore an old building in the center of town. But when his project is set back due to the unexpected discovery of a skeleton under the building—and even worse, a young man related to one of Meg’s former apple pickers is found dead behind the local feed store—the couple’s carefully laid plans are quickly spoiled…
Meg can’t help but wonder: are they just unlucky, or is there something rotten in Granford? If so, she knows she’s got to seek out the bad apple before it ruins the whole bunch…
Picked to Die by Sheila Connolly is the eighth installment of the Orchard Mystery series. The series is set in the small town of Granford, Massachusetts and follows big city transplant Meg Corey, who has left her high-stress finance career behind her and has become a small farmer, restarting her ancestor’s apple orchard. In this novel, Meg has become involved in yet another murder case when a relative of one of her regular Jamaican apple pickers is found murdered and she is asked by the prime suspect’s family to look into what really happened.
Throughout the series Meg has struggled with not only her new farming lifestyle, but also her burgeoning romantic involvement with local catch, Seth Chapin, and this installment is no different. Regarding her business endeavors, Meg is a strong and capable character who has no problem admitting that she is still relatively clueless regarding the running of a profitable apple orchard. She is willing to work hard and get dirty to make her business a success but also relies heavily on her young orchard manager Bree. Bree does her job well, but is often abrasive and moody, and while she may be young, a recent college graduate, she still has an annoying tendency to act like a cranky teenager. Seth is a seemingly flawless hunk of a man who has spent most of the series waiting for Meg to make up her mind about their relationship. In my opinion it took Meg far too long to come to the realization that Seth is the one for her, but I like the way the relationship is progressing now. This book begins soon after Meg and Seth have become engaged and shows them dealing with their disparate expectations of their future together. An old nemesis also returns in the character of Rick Sainsbury, a Granford native who is running for congress and has a bit of a history with both Meg and Seth. He is by no means an evil character, but is definitely a foil for the highly ethical Meg and squeaky clean Seth. Sainsbury’s teenage nephew, Jeffrey, is the prime suspect in the murder of the young Jamaican found behind the local feed store. Meg has taken a liking to the teenager and was determined to help him even before his family asked her to investigate. There are many strong recurring characters such as Seth’s mother and the local sheriff, that provide glimpses into small town life and politics and a couple of new arrivals in the form of Jeffrey’s divorced parents, that deal with the realities of a nasty divorce and the effects it can have on the children involved.
The plot unfolds as would be expected in a cozy mystery; there are a few minor surprises and a few things that are easier to figure out. Connolly’s writing style is smooth and seamless and she has added a nice subplot to this book in the form of a centuries old skeleton that is found underneath the town’s historical society. Looking into the mystery surrounding the skeleton also serves to highlight the undercurrents of the present day race relations between the seasonal Jamaican workforce and Granford’s local white population that adds depth to the overall story.
I have always enjoyed reading this author’s work and found this installment of the Orchard Mysteries to be the best so far. The characters seem to be more comfortable in their own skins and the mysteries become more and more interesting at the series progresses.