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Farmer’s Market Mystery (Book 1)

By Paige Shelton

Berkley, 2010 ($7.99)
ISBN-10: 0-425-23387-1
ISBN-13: 978-0-425-23387-0

Reviewed by Katherine Petersen

Becca Robins grows strawberries and pumpkins on a farm in South Carolina and makes jams and preserves to sell at the local farmers’ market. Running late one morning, Becca receives a call from her twin sister, Allison, who manages Bailey’s Farmers’ market, telling her to hurry. The dead body of a new vendor to the market has turned up amongst the stalls of fruits, vegetables, baked goods and art. Not only that, but the police’s top suspect is a friend of Becca’s, and thinking she knows the locals better than the police, she jumps in to solve the mystery herself.

But her friend, the secretive and reclusive Abner Justen, who grows beautiful wildflowers in an elaborate greenhouse, makes it hard for her to help him since he’s holding on to secrets that could clear him. Becca suspects there’s much more to the story, and she starts asking questions of friends and strangers alike to sniff out the details. Some people have violent reactions to Becca’s snooping. But she’s determined and hopefully she can put the puzzle together before someone takes her out of the picture permanently.

Twice divorced and in her mid-30s, Becca doesn’t take no for an answer easily, and while she makes lots of sleuth mistakes, doing things the reader knows she shouldn’t -- as most amateurs do -- she’s got spunk and is hard not to like. Shelton has created a motley crew of a supporting cast as well including two potential romantic interests: artist Ian Cartwright and cop Sam Brion who add some spice to the story. I hope to see many of these players in future novels and get to know them better. With realistic dialogue and enough action, Shelton moves the story along quickly, not letting it bog down as some first-time authors tend to do. A farmers market is a unique setting for a mystery where lots of mayhem can happen, and cooks will appreciate the recipes for jam and lemon meringue pie at the end of the book.

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