by Sandra Murphy
This week we have a review of Farmed & Dangerous, the new local foods mystery by Edith Maxwell. Since organic farming plays a part in this series, Edith is also sharing with us a guest post on organic farming. At the end of this post are details on how to win a copy of the book, along with a link to purchase the book where a portion goes to help support KRL & an indie bookstore.
Farmed and Dangerous by Edith Maxwell
Review by Sandra Murphy
Cameron Flaherty is in the process of changing her great-uncle’s old farm into an organic farm. It’s a long and expensive process, so she’s always looking for ways to make money through the cold (bitter cold) season. This includes selling subscriptions to residents who are determined to think global and eat local. She’s not a locavore herself, but if that’s what they want…
Another plan is to sell produce to the assisted living home where her great-uncle Albert now lives. He says he’d welcome some new menu items, although most of the residents avoid the kale and other unrecognizable greens. When Cam delivers the produce, she sees Bev, a woman who thinks Cam stole her chickens and her customers. Truth was, Bev couldn’t take care of either of them anymore.
It’s a surprise to see Frank Jackson too—once he and Sheriff Ruth separated, not even Ruth knew where he was. He’s gone all militia, and has that in common with Bev. Ginger, Bev’s daughter is also there; she wants to chop the farm into tiny pieces and build condos, using cut-rate methods to do it. Then there’s the retired opera singer, Richard, who drops by. Bev might as well install a revolving door to her room.
When Bev ends up dead, rumor has it that Cam’s produce did her in. It’s surprising that no one else got sick. Then Mrs. Lacey dies. Since Cam is a suspect of sorts, her boyfriend, Pete, a state cop, has to either recuse himself from the case, or forgo seeing her until the crime is solved; all the more reason to speed things up and find the killer.
Suspects: that would be Ginger at the head of the list, Frank Jackson, Richard, Oscar (an employee), Cam unfortunately, and pretty much anybody who ever met Bev.
Information on organic farming, winter crops, eating locally and how farmers struggle with it, is woven throughout the story. Uncle Albert and his girlfriend, Marilyn, are a fun couple. Pete, well, he’s just hot and he has a dog. What more could you ask for?
I do have two complaints about the book. One of the characters is TopKnot, a hen who is frozen to death when Cam forgets to put the chickens in their coop—they all went in but TopKnot. This has nothing to do with the mystery. If it’s to show how cold it is, we already got that. If it’s to show the grim side of farm life, it’s out of place in this book.
My other complaint is that Cam puts herself in danger more than once. Snow is predicted, but she stays at the nursing home to play Scrabble and can’t get home again. Cam also gets stuck outside in the snowstorm in an ill-advised move.
This is the third book in the series, which has great promise. Cam needs to be more careful and not put herself in dangerous situations. She also needs to have a better attitude toward the animals that help her make needed money (she sells the chickens’ eggs). Laughing about TopKnot, and making jokes about killing off the rooster, didn’t set well with me as a reader. If those things change, I’ll look forward to reading more.
Why Farm Organically?
By Edith Maxwell
My fictional farmer in the Local Foods Mysteries owns and farms a certified organic farm much like the one I had, although she’s single, and I never found a dead body in my hoophouse, or anywhere else, for that matter.
About twenty-five years ago I operated and co-owned Five Star Organic Farm, the smallest certified organic farm in Essex County, Massachusetts. I was home with my small sons for a few years, so I grew all the produce for our family, and sold from both a self-service farm stand on the road and at two nearby Farmers’ Markets. This was before the “local foods” movement, but of course my crops were nothing but the most local of foods.
I really believed in growing organically. Still do, as a matter of fact. The practice really means keeping the soil, air, and water in balance and clean. If the soil is healthy, it includes all kinds of beneficial microorganisms that keep the plant healthy and disease resistant, and when we eat healthy plants, we get healthier. If you don’t spray to wipe out insects you don’t want you also don’t kill the good ones, like the wasp who lays its eggs on the tomato hornworm. The eggs hatch and become parasites, killing the hornworm. Good for our tomatoes, bad for the worm. There are so many other examples.
I also wanted to become a certified organic farm so my customers could trust the standards I grew to. Certification also helps legitimize the practice. When I was farming, the certifying agency was the Northeast Organic Farming Association. Now there are national standards and certification is under the umbrella of the FDA.
After some years of farming, I needed to leave it behind. I re-entered the world of hi-tech, writing technical documentation for a succession of software companies. Now I’m a full-time fiction writer with three multi-book contracts, and I couldn’t be happier.
The third book in the Local Foods Mysteries series, Farmed and Dangerous, just came out, and I’ve submitted Murder Most Fowl to my editor at Kensington. I’ve had a small organic family garden since I left farming, but now I love diving back into the farming world, and updating it, too, with locavores, texting, permaculture, and other innovations. And the only hard work I have to do is write the books!
I hope you’ll stop by www.edithmaxwell.com as well as the Wicked Cozy Authors, a group blog of me and five other New England cozy mystery authors. I’m on twitter as @edithmaxwell, on Facebook and elsewhere, and I also write as Tace Baker and Maddie Day.
Readers: Do you try to buy local and organic in season? Got a favorite farm stand or farmers’ market you frequent? I’d be happy to answer questions about the life of a New England farmer, too.
To enter to win a copy of Farmed and Dangerous, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Farmed,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 4, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
You can use this link to purchase a copy of the book & a portion goes to help support KRL & indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy: