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‘Food’ mystery serves up engaging heroine

Special to The Recorder

“A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die” by Edith Maxwell (Kensington Publishing, 272 pages, $24)

Our cold, snowy winter has made me want to curl up with a good book — and think about spring. I found I could do both simultaneously with the mystery novel “A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die.”

The first in a series of “local food” mysteries, the book takes place on a rural Massachusetts farm in June. Fledgling agriculturalist Cam Flaherty is getting ready for the first pick up of the year at her Community Supported Agriculture farm when she discovers a jug of chemical pesticide on her property.

Cam wants to certify her Produce Plus Plus Farm as organic. She quickly fires the farmhand who purchased the pesticide. The next time she sees him, he is a corpse in her barn, with her pitchfork sticking out of his chest.

The police quickly fasten their suspicions on Lucinda DaSilva, a Brazilian woman who leads a club of locavores in the fictional town of Westbury and helps Cam on the farm.

Convinced that Lucinda is incapable of murder, Cam decides it is up to her to find the real killer — who may (or may not) be the mysterious person who has been sabotaging several of her crops.

“A Tine to Live” is not a perfect mystery. I identified the murderer a little too early in the book for my taste. Nevertheless, Cam makes an engaging heroine.

A former computer programmer who was laid off from her tech job, she has taken over her great-uncle’s land and calls herself a “geek farmer.” She is a private person who thinks that farming will be a suitably solitary pastime … until her customers and the murder begin to intrude in her life.

The book’s most appealing aspect is its agricultural setting, which will find fans among locavores and patrons of CSA farms in our area.

Author Edith Maxwell is the former co-owner of an organic farm in Essex County. She knows the challenges that face a farmer, from coaxing machinery into working order to finding a shady spot at the local farmer’s market.

She guides Cam through some delicious cookery using local foods, including an asparagus quiche, a spring salad topped with violets, a chicken stew infused with fresh herbs and a strawberry-rhubarb pie.

Recipes are not included in “A Tine to Live,” but perhaps Maxwell will provide a few in her second book. “’Til Dirt Do Us Part” is due out later this year. Meanwhile, just reading about June foods and June sunshine is a joy at this time of year.

Tinky Weisblat is the author of The Pudding Hollow Cookbook (www.merrylion.com) and Pulling Taffy (www.pullingtaffy.com). She is always looking for new books from Franklin County-related authors to review for this paper. If you have a book suggestion, email her at Tinky@merrylion.com.

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