No Farm, No Foul
A Farmer’s Daughter Mystery, Book #1
By Peg Cochran
Author’s website: www.pegcochran.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
On her blog, The Farmer’s Daughter, Shelby McDonald is growing her audience as she posts recipes, gardening tips, and her experiences raising two kids and running Love Blossom Farm in the small western Michigan town of Lovett.
Working the farm is demanding but peaceful—until that peace is shattered when the minister’s wife is murdered on Shelby’s property during a fund-raiser for a local church. But the manure really hits the fan when Shelby’s good friend veterinarian Kelly Thacker emerges as the prime suspect. Shelby decides to dig in and find the murderer by herself. As more suspects crop up, she’ll have to move fast—before someone else buys the farm.
Shelby McDonald has a lot on her plate. She is a widowed mother of two children, a blogger, a farmer, and she also makes goods that are sold at the local farmer’s market and general store. Busy, busy, busy. She even allows her church to hold its fundraising potluck at the farm. Everything goes well until Shelby finds Prudence, the new reverend’s wife, dead on her mudroom floor. Shelby feels connected to the crime since it happened in her house, but also because her best friend Kelly is a suspect for a bit. Through her own curiosity, information from her detective brother-in-law Frank, and good old-fashioned small town gossip, Shelby finds that Prudence was not the model minister’s wife, and there are quite a few locals that have reason to want Prudence dead. The more she investigates, the more dangerous things become. Can she unearth the truth without leaving her children orphans?
I liked No Farm, No Foul. It is a promising start to the new Farmer’s Daughter mystery series. The bucolic setting is perfect for the down to earth protagonist Shelby. I admire Shelby’s work ethic and ingenuity. I must confess, though, that I became increasingly annoyed with her almost thirteen year old daughter Amelia and how Shelby failed to deal with her attitude and rebelliousness. I know raising balls of hormones is taxing, but I want to read more about the actual mystery at hand than how difficult it is to deal with an almost teenager. I found every scene with Amelia distracting to my enjoyment of the story. That said, there is also lots of emphasis on the daily minutiae that goes into running a farm. Personally, I feel this added to the story (but some readers may find it boring or tedious).
The supporting characters lean toward caricatures, but they are well enough developed to be interesting and add to the story. I particularly like Matt, Kelly, and Bert. I find it interesting that we do not see more of Rev. Mather, considering it is his wife that is the victim. I am afraid that a love square, yes – not just the standard triangle, is brewing. Honestly, can any character be so great that she has three potential suitors?
The mystery itself is somewhat predictable, and I am afraid that I figured out whodunit rather early in the story. However, I did not fully realize their motives until almost when Shelby made the discovery. I do not understand why Shelby chose not to tell Frank information pertinent to the case when she had the opportunity. Also, I do not follow how the police knew when and where to arrive at the big climax. Perhaps I am being too picky, but I had high expectations for Cochran. On a lighter note, I will definitely never look at my crockpot the same way again.
Overall, I really did enjoy my time in Lovett, Minnesota, and the cameo of a character from Cranberry Cove (where Cochran’s Cranberry Cove series is set). I also like the prominent role the animals play in the story’s resolution. I also like the blog posts that are featured at the beginning of each chapter. I will definitely read the next book in the series when it comes out. I recommend No Farm, No Foul to any reader who enjoys cozy mysteries. No Farm, No Foul has a bit of everything – food, animals, small town, country life, and a likable protagonist.