An Apple a Day Will Keep The Investigation Away

Author: Sheila Connolly

Meg has inherited an orchard and is still trying to make a go of this new farming life. The problem? Her erstwhile mother is secretly in town, and now her mother’s “friend,” an esteemed English professor on the verge of a revelation about Emily Dickinson, has been murdered. With apple harvest season in full swing, Meg must take care of her stranded mother, all the while wondering if mommy dearest is capable of murder.

I started A Killer Crop four books into the Orchard Mystery series; I came across this book randomly, in a cozy mystery lot, and picked it up even more randomly. The premise sounded charming, and the cover was suitably autumnal and cozy, making me think of farmer’s markets and fresh apple butter. The plot, however, is as slow as the germination of a sickly seed, and the payoff is hardly worth the daily slogging through descriptions of trite conversations and the tedium of picking apples. I won’t be back.

While we get hints that Meg has had a hard go of it in this new farming life, and apparently been involved with the police and investigations before, we don’t get much characterization of Meg or anyone else. All the characters are just sort of there, and literarily all they do is come downstairs to eat dinner, take showers, go to bed early, and talk about how they really need to spend time hand picking apples (but somehow then get distracted and go to a restaurant in town instead.) Take and repeat for 200 odd pages. It’s stultifying, and let me tell you, the bliss of the simple farmer’s apple picking life soon becomes about as exciting as watching grass grow or a particularly sluggish snail climb a tree.

Meanwhile, we have the idea of murder. It’s a slow boil. The police question Meg’s mom once or twice (I forget), and it’s basically the same old cozy mystery fair: we don’t know who else but the stranger in town could have done this, so let’s cuff her and bring her in.


Meg doesn’t investigate, she just wonders. She neither has a good nor bad relationship with her mother, and this is again where the characterization completely fails. How can such a banal relationship exist? How can these two people have spent decades together and yet have no real knowledge or emotion towards each other one way or the other? And how are we, the beleaguered readers, supposed to care?

Finally, an unlikely jaunt into genealogy leads to a surprise answer. The last few chapters are a bit better than the rest of the book, but not by a whole lot. The grand finale is both a reach and a mess in one.

I was so relieved to finish this book, and I can say for certain that I will not be coming back to the Orchard Mystery series. I don’t care if the orchard and house survives, if Meg and her boyfriend get together, and if those darn apples are picked or not. I’m just glad to be out of this lethargic, uninspired mess!

– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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