The Cider Shop Rules
A Cider Shop Mystery #3
By Julie Anne Lindsey
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Autumn in Blossom Valley means pumpkin patches are ripe and Winona Mae Montgomery and her Granny Smythe’s cider shop is flourishing. But with this season comes…
A FATAL HARVEST
The Fall Festival is in full swing. Civil War reenactors from three counties are partaking in Blossom Valley’s tribute to John Brown. Blue Ridge Mountain foliage is in full bloom. And best of all is Jacob Potter’s pumpkin farm where his hay rides, piglet races, pumpkin picking and corn maze are time-honored draws for locals and tourists alike. That’s why it’s such a shock when Mr. Potter is found dead, hidden under a tarp in the back of Winnie’s pickup truck. This certainly betrays Potter’s reputation as one of the town’s most popular citizens. Fortunately, when it comes to solving a murder, no one has a patch on Winnie. Now, all eyes are on her to do it. Unfortunately, that includes those of the killer who’ll do anything to keep an orchard full of secrets buried. (From Goodreads)
If I lived in Blossom Valley, West Virginia, one of my favorite year-round places to hang out at would be Winnie’s Cider Shop at her Granny Smythe’s apple orchard. I would visit Winnie and Granny as often as possible, as well as Granny’s fainting goat and Winnie’s cats. Winnie uses apples grown at the orchard as the base for her various flavors of cider, and Granny keeps the Cider Shop well-stocked with her home-baked pastries, breads, and sandwich fixings.
It is early November and many activities are underway. The reenactment honoring local hero John Brown is an annual event, as is the orchard’s Fall Harvest Festival and, at the nearby Potter’s Pumpkin Patch, Fall Family Fun Days. Winnie and best friend Dot are at Potter’s to get more items to dress the property with. Mr. Potter loaded it in her classic pickup truck. When Winnie and Dot returned to the truck, Mr. Potter’s equipment was still next to it but they didn’t see him. A short time later, at the ice cream shop, several people noticed a leak from Winnie’s tailgate. She pulled back the tarp to find Mr. Potter, dead from a fatal head wound.
The sheriff, Colton, arrives with deputies and a crime scene team. Her truck now has to be taken in and processed even though Potter wasn’t killed in it. At times in recent months, since Colton became sheriff, it seemed he was interested in Winnie, but her active involvement in more than one of his cases has been frustrating to him. She is interested in him but won’t admit it to anyone.
Birdie, the best friend of Mr. Potts’ widow Hellen, asked Winnie to find whoever killed Mr. Potts. Winnie really wants to stay out of this case. Colton would have a fit if he caught her helping them, but being raised well by Granny, she wants to help, especially a new widow.
Winnie, Dot, and Granny take us on an adventure that is at times funny or heartwarming, at times tense and intriguing. A new friend, Blake, who Dot dubbed “Tall, Dark, and Yummy”, is Colton’s younger brother and sheriff of another county. Blake seems interested in Winnie, much to Colton’s displeasure. Blake proves himself time and again to be a good friend, especially when a fugitive from Colton’s past shows up in town, obsessed with Winnie. As things start to happen, they don’t know if it is Potts’s killer or the murderous fugitive who is responsible.
The characters are an eclectic mix of small-town folks, many of whom are farmers. Winnie was raised by Granny and her late Grampy; she and Granny are closer than many daughters and mothers. Winnie is active in the orchard and cider shop, college, and the community. Dot, her best friend, is active as a national park ranger who actively rescues animals in need. She is not shy when it comes to finding long- or short-term homes for her rescues. Colton is a hard-working sheriff, doing all he can to protect the people in his county. At times he acts as if interested in Winnie, at other times, detached.
While there is at least one murderer loose in Blossom Valley, there are still laugh out loud scenes. The author brings to life various locations, both interior or exterior, and I wish we could have “seen” some of the reenactments. Conversations were realistic, and suspense increased with each plot twist. I was surprised to see that the bad guy was someone I had only very briefly considered. All loose ends are tied up. I am looking forward to the next in series, as the series has the qualities of humor and close family and friends without losing its edge of intrigue. I highly recommend it!