Amesbury author Edith Maxwell’s Local Foods Mystery series (Kensington Publishing) lets her relive her days as an organic farmer in Massachusetts, although murder in the greenhouse is new. A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die came out to critical acclaim in 2013. ‘Til Dirt Do Us Part (May 2014) chronicles the murder of a CSA member after geek-turned-organic-farmer Cam Flaherty’s Farm-to-Table dinner.
A fourth-generation Californian, Maxwell has published award-winning short stories of murderous revenge. She also authored Speaking of Murder (under the pseudonym Tace Baker), which features Quaker linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau (Barking Rain Press, 2012); Bluffing is Murder releases in November, 2014. Edith holds a long-unused doctorate in linguistics, is a long-time member of Amesbury Friends Meeting, and and is currently writing a historical mystery set in 1888 Amesbury featuring Quaker midwife Rose Carroll as well as John Greenleaf Whittier.
A mother, world traveler, and former technical writer, Edith lives in an antique house with her beau and three cats. She blogs every weekday with the rest of the Wicked Cozy Authors (wickedcozyauthors.com). You can also find her at www.edithmaxwell.com, at @edithmaxwell, and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/EdithMaxwellAuthor
I write the Local Foods Mysteries series, and the books follow organic farmer Cam Flaherty through the seasons. The latest book in the series, ‘Til Dirt Do Us Part, starts at a fall Farm to Table dinner. I was an organic farmer myself twenty years ago, and I have both good and not-so-good memories of farming in the fall in New England.
The good parts were the sunny days. The weather tends to be dry, the insects are on their way out, and the leaves are pretty. There’s a lot to harvest in the early fall: squashes, late beans, cole crops like broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Spent plants need to be pulled and composted. Bare earth gets a cover crop like winter rye or alfalfa seeded into it. Late lettuce and winter greens are planted out. On a particularly fine day I would split apart a hundred garlic bulbs, spread compost over long rows, and plant the cloves one by one, always with a cat sitting near by supervising.
Later in the fall, though, there’s still a lot of work to do. The days shorten to almost nothing and the air is chilly. The soil gradually chills, too, but it’s hard to work in gloves. And when it rains? Well, you’re still a farmer and there’s still work to do.
My fictional farmer Cam has to deal with all of this, plus her new rescue chickens and some romantic complications. Oh, and plus murder.
I loved farming when I was home with my little boys (now fine men in their twenties). I was outside alone, getting lots of physical exercise, growing healthy food for the family and for sale, communing with the birds. And the mosquitoes and ground bees, too – ouch. Eventually it just didn’t bring in enough money, though, and once both boys were in school I reverted to a job in hi-tech and a family-sized garden.
In ‘Til Dirt Do Us Part, a local chef is cooking Cam’s produce in her barn and a bunch of guests are getting ready to eat under a big rented tent on the farm. Days are getting short and the mood at the dinner is unseasonably chilly. Local entrepreneur Irene Burr made a lot of enemies with her plan to buy Westbury’s Old Town Hall and replace it with a textile museum – enough enemies to fill out a list of suspects when the wealthy widow turns up dead on a neighboring farm.
Even an amateur detective like Cam can figure out that one of the resident locavores went loco – at least temporarily – and settled a score with Irene. But which one? With the fall harvest upon her, Cam must sift through a bushelful of possible killers that includes Irene’s estranged stepson, her disgruntled auto mechanic, and a fellow farm subscriber who seems suspiciously happy to have the dead woman out of the way. The closer she gets to weeding out the culprit, the more Cam feels like someone is out to cut her harvest short. But to keep her own body out of the compost pile, she has to wrap this case up quickly.
Readers, have you farmed or gardened in the fall? Or is shopping at the farmers’ market more your speed?
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