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Retro Reading: Bitter Harvest by Sheila Connolly

Updated on May 13, 2022
No murder here, but this mystery is quite intriguing.
No murder here, but this mystery is quite intriguing.

Mystery Within a Mystery Proves to be a Good Concept

In the fifth installment of Sheila Connolly's Orchard Mysteries a crime isn't committed but the premise for the novel is an interesting one at that.

Over the last four installments, Meg Corey has come across a variety of bodies on her property (all within a year) and in Bitter Harvest Meg comes across a sampler she finds in her closet while she and Seth Chapin are keeping themselves busy cleaning during a snowstorm. She's not sure who or how long the piece of cloth has been there but all indications have it resting there for over 200 years.

Of course I have no idea what a sampler is but for those of us who are uneducated in history, a sampler is sort of like a snapshot of a familie's history. At least that's how I interpreted it while reading the story.

The sampler itself was made by Violet Cox in 1798 and includes the names of her half siblings, step father and mother, which include their birth and death dates. All of the siblings die at an early age, with her step father dying two days before her mother. A crude drawing of the sampler is drawn before the first page.

Meg becomes engrossed with the sampler due to it's intricate stitching and enlists the aid of local historian, Gail Selden, who helps with obtaining some of the family history as Meg digs deeper into Violet's family history.

While Meg is busy trying to figure out the mystery of Violet, she's also trying to figure out why someone is harassing her. The acts aren't violent but she's not sure if the bad luck she's having is a coincidence or if someone is trying to scare her out of town. She's also at a crossroad about her relationship with Seth and if she should continue in the apple orchard business.

The best part of not having a dead body to contend with in this installment is there's no arm length of suspects, but, once you begin reading it's a very hard book to put down.

Connolly has included a few recipes. With fall right around the corner you may want to pick up the previous novels since there's a lot of apple recipes for those upcoming winter nights.


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