Retro Reading: Farm Fresh Murder by Paige Shelton
Secrets, Lies and Murder Await at the Farmer's Market
In the first installment of the Farmer's Market Mysteries I thought, "oh no, I've read this same book a few times," with only the names and locations changed. Our heroine, Becca Robins, lives in the country and has a farm which she inherited when her aunt and uncle were killed in an automobile accident.
I was wrong.
Yes the basics are the same, but author Paige Shelton added a few new details and made Farm Fresh Murder one you can't put down (no matter how hard you try).
Shelton delivers a fast moving story with a few twists and turns along the way, but for a change Becca isn't one of the characters in past novels where she seems to be debating whether or not she wants to get rid of the farm. She loves what she's doing and as in past storylines of the same nature, she's not a fish out of water.
Becca also has a twin sister, Allison, (which I don't recall too many past characters having a sibling) and both are complete opposites. Allison is more conservative and manages the farmer's market, whereas Becca has more spunk and pretty much doesn't have a care in the world. In fact, her world revolves around the farm and when her friend from the market is accused of murder she starts her own investigation.
On the day she arrives late to the market she learns of the murder of Matt Simonsen, a new vendor who's brought his business into the market. Simonsen has been working out of another market for years and has decided to expand the family business. After Becca's friend, Abner, disappears from the scene, she begins to get phone calls from him but won't give her any information as to where he is. He keeps telling her that he knows who the killer is but won't take the information to the police.
In another flip to this novel, Officer Sam Brion, doesn't come across as arrogant as many of the detectives in the past. Even though he warns her not to get involved he does appreciate her help. This is one of the few times when there hasn't been tension between the law and an amateur sleuth.
While Shelton doesn't conform to that usual tension, she also sets up the possibility of a romance between Sam and Becca, but in another twist, she brings in Ian, a 20 something artist, who's also fairly new to the market. Becca herself isn't looking for romance as she's twice divorced (both husbands she points out were named Scott) and she does find herself strangely attracted to Ian. Again, Shelton doesn't follow the rules as she flips the roles around (older woman younger man) but there's that attraction to Sam so a love triangle could be brewing.
At this point in time Becca's life seems to be mirroring that of Abner's since he too was involved in a love triangle decades ago.
The community which Shelton has created is really one which is small, somewhat close knit (but distant) and where people really don't know everyone else's business. She doesn't keep telling the reader what's going on, but the characters convey their thoughts and emotions. It's really the characters who keep the story alive and through their dialogue you get a sense of the privacy they have and of the struggle the "older" characters have gone through with keeping their secrets.
Even though Becca and Abner have been friends for awhile, he treats her as a daughter but in that "distant" part of the book, he's never told her where he lives. She only finds out through Ian since he delivered some sculpture to his house. Becca didn't even know there was a road leading to Abner's house off of the main highway. That's how secretive he is and there are more secrets which she discovers on this road.
At the end of the novel there are some recipes for preserves and how to make them along with a couple of others.
So, if you love a little food along with your mystery then be sure to stop at both Bailey's and Smithfield's markets (or you can go to your local farmer's market).