Authors: Sheila Connolly
Praise for the Orchard Mysteries
“Meg is a smart, savvy woman who’s working hard to fit into her new community—just the kind of protagonist I look for in today’s traditional mystery. I look forward to more trips to Granford, Massachusetts!”
“An enjoyable and well-written book with some excellent apple recipes at the end.”
“A wonderful slice of life in a small town…The mystery is intelligent and has an interesting twist…
Rotten to the Core
is a fun, quick read with an enjoyable heroine, an interesting hook, and some yummy recipes at the end.”
The Mystery Reader
“Full of rich description, historical context, and mystery.”
The Romance Readers Connection
“There is a delightful charm to this small-town regional cozy.”
The Mystery Gazette
“A true cozy mystery [with] a strong and feisty heroine, a perplexing murder, a personal dilemma, and a picturesque New England setting…Meg Corey is a very likable protagonist, and her future in Granford hopefully guarantees some further titles in this delightful new series.”
“An example of everything that is right with the cozy mystery…A likable heroine, an attractive small-town setting, a slimy victim, and fascinating side elements…There’s depth to the characters in this book that isn’t always found in crime fiction…Sheila Connolly has written a winner for cozy mystery fans.”
Lesa’s Book Critiques
“A warm, very satisfying read.”
RT Book Reviews
“The premise and plot are solid, and Meg seems a perfect fit for her role.”
“Meg Corey is a fresh and appealing sleuth with a bushelful of entertaining problems…One crisp, delicious read.”
—Claudia Bishop, bestselling author of
the Inn at Hemlock Falls Mysteries
“A delightful look at small-town New England, with an intriguing puzzle thrown in.”
—JoAnna Carl, author of the Chocoholic Mysteries
“Thoroughly enjoyable…I can’t wait for the next book and a chance to spend more time with Meg and the good people of Granford.”
—Sammi Carter, author of the Candy Shop Mysteries
Berkley Prime Crime titles by Sheila Connolly
ONE BAD APPLE
ROTTEN TO THE CORE
RED DELICIOUS DEATH
A KILLER CROP
FUNDRAISING THE DEAD
LET’S PLAY DEAD
FIRE ENGINE DEAD
BERKLEY PRIME CRIME, NEW YORK
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: The recipes contained in this book are to be followed exactly as written. The publisher is not responsible for your specific health or allergy needs that may require medical supervision. The publisher is not responsible for any adverse reactions to the recipes contained in this book.
A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author
Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / August 2012
Copyright © 2012 by Sheila Connolly.
Cover illustration by Mary Ann Lasher.
Cover design by Annette Fiore Defex.
Interior text design by Laura K. Corless.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
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If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”
Anyone who has ever worked on a political campaign knows the heady feeling of excitement and enthusiasm it generates. I’ve been part of a few, and I know how deeply committed volunteers can become. I still rank my first campaign experience as one of the most exciting and intense periods of my life—even though my candidate lost.
But it’s that intensity that raises the question: how far would someone go to get elected? That’s what inspired this book. None of the characters portrayed is based on any real person, and I did not know that there would be an open congressional seat in the Massachusetts First District, where Granford is located, when I wrote it.
Both of my grandfathers were dairy farmers at some point in their lives, and my mother’s father always favored Guernseys for their rich milk, so I had to include a few in my Granford herd. Barb Goffman won the right to name the starring cow Cyndi, with the highest bid at the 2011 Malice Domestic Auction.
The other major factor in the story is the remediation of a polluted piece of land owned by the town of Granford. Massachusetts has long been scrupulous about enforcing regulations regarding environmental hazards, for both homes and industrial sites. While as the owner of an older
home with layers of lead paint and antiquated plumbing and wiring I may grumble, I applaud the principle. I created the contaminated Granford site based on one event with which I had a personal connection: the remediation of a nineteenth-century paint factory site on the Wellesley College campus. I participated in archeological excavations of the site when I was an undergraduate there—before anyone even thought about the toxins left behind by that factory—so I followed the reports of the site treatment with interest. To its credit, the college made all reports public, at every stage of the remediation, showing clearly that it was a long and complicated process.
As always, thanks go to my tireless agent, Jessica Faust at BookEnds, and to my amazing editor, Shannon Jamieson Vazquez at Berkley Prime Crime, who manages to keep my plots coherent. I salute Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America for guiding writers through the turbulent publishing industry as it changes weekly. I also thank my blog buddies who generously share information, sympathy, and encouragement, and I wave a fin at the SinC Guppies, the best support group any mystery writer could have.
Meg Corey walked to the edge of the orchard, stopping where the land sloped downward to her house below, and turned to study her trees. It was March and just over a year since she had first arrived in Granford to take up residence in a house she’d seen only once before in her life, and she almost laughed now to remember just how naïve she had been at the time. Of course, she had also been kind of stunned by the turns her life had suddenly taken back then: no job, no boyfriend, no place to call home. So Meg had blindly followed her mother’s suggestion to park herself in Granford, a tiny town in western Massachusetts, while she figured out her next move. Her mother, Elizabeth Corey, might even have used the words “find yourself.” Meg hadn’t had the energy either to argue with her mother or to come up with a better idea, so she had moved into the drafty old house, which lacked insulation and adequate heating, in the midst of a cold New England winter. She’d been miserable.
What a difference a year had made! Meg hadn’t even
known there was an apple orchard on the property when she arrived, and now it was her livelihood. She could look at it and tell what tasks needed to be done now that it was early spring, before buds and leaves and apples began to form. She’d harvested a decent crop in the fall, despite a rather scary summer hailstorm, and had sold the apples for a profit. They’d had a string of good weather this month and had taken advantage of it to do housekeeping chores in the orchard—picking up the pruned twigs, turning over the soil as soon as it thawed. As Meg watched, Briona Stewart, her young orchard manager and housemate, appeared in the orchard lugging a bundle of prunings from the trees. There was always something to be done: broken limbs had to be propped up or heartlessly sawn off, fertilizer had to be applied before growth began, and there was the cycle of spraying—nontoxic!—to be factored in. Bree added her trimmings to a growing pile; there were people around the area who liked to use apple wood to scent their fires, and if they were willing to pay a couple of bucks for a bundle of discards, who was Meg to argue with them? Last year’s weeds had been cleared away, and everything looked neat and trim. Meg felt an unexpected surge of excitement. What kind of crop could she hope for this year? She still didn’t know her trees well enough to tell; she was still learning to distinguish among the modern stock and the scattered heirloom varieties that were increasing in popularity, at least in this rarified gourmet patch of western Massachusetts. But she had learned so much in only a year!