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by Julie Anne Lindsey
Kensington, October 2019
320 pages
ISBN: 1496723473

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Winnie Montgomery and her Granny Smythe are trying to save the Smythe Orchard by extending their selling season with the creation of flavored ciders, jams, jellies and pastries. Winnie dreams of establishing a cider shop in the Mail Pouch barn, a registered landmark on their orchard property and will soon earn a BA in business. She wants to present her business proposal to the local banker, Mr. Sherman.

The very day Mr. Sherman agrees to visit, Winnie schedules tours of the orchard and sets up a fruit stand that shows off a wide selection of products for visitors to purchase. Mr. Sherman spots a group of distressed trees as they inspect the property and Winnie stumbles upon the body of Nadine Cooper, hanging over the table under the apple press. Not a good start.

Sheriff Colton Wise questions Winnie and Granny noting that while Nadine is a neighbor, Granny and Nadine were reputed to be unfriendly toward one another. With Granny under suspicion, Winnie is determined to find out who really murdered Nadine.

Working nights as a waitress at the Sip N Sup, Winnie begins asking members of the card club about Nadine and hears she might have been seeing a married man in Winchester. Late that evening, Winnie is restless and while taking a walk sees the light is still on in the apple press building, goes to turn it off and is knocked down by a masked intruder charging out the door. She hears an ATV roaring away as she picks herself up.

Earlier that afternoon, Dot, Winnie's best friend and a forest ranger, persuades her friend to foster two six-week old kittens whose mother and two siblings didn't make it. Naming them Kenny and Dolly, Winnie is immediately smitten and finds that she and Granny are having to feed the two every few hours – offering a heartwarming distraction.

Sleuthing activities prove effective as someone tries to scare Winnie off. First a large truck tries to run Winnie off the road the next evening on her way home from work. Then Winnie persuades Mr. Sherman to revisit the orchard to look at the Mail Pouch barn's potential only to find the barn totally trashed. Threatening notes are left.

Julie Anne Lindsey combines distracting twists with well-drawn characters in this multi-layered debut that augers well for this new cozy series. She establishes a strong community with amiable personalities, comfortable relationships and interesting backgrounds. Amusing observations of the kittens' progress provide charming asides as Winnie continually seeks clues. The author's steady pace keeps the reader engaged. A most enjoyable introduction to the Smythe Orchard and the Cider Shop.

§ Ruth Castleberry has worked as an investigator for Pinkerton’s, a city desk assistant on the Charlotte News, free-lance writer, marketing/business strategy consultant, competitive intelligence practitioner and digital marketing consultant.

Reviewed by Ruth Castleberry, October 2019

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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