Golden MaliciousI must have been crazy when I decided to take over the apple orchard on an old family property in Granford, Massachusetts. Not that I had a lot of other choices, since I’d lost my banking job to downsizing and my apartment lease in Boston. My plan was to clean up the old house, sell it, and move on.

That was almost two years ago. I’m still here, and I’m still learning what it takes to produce and harvest apples from an orchard. I know a lot more than I did when I started, but I still have a long way to go.

Luckily I’ve got a good crew to help, starting with my official orchard manager Briona Stewart, who may be ten years younger than I am but a lot smarter, at least about apples. I wouldn’t have survived the first year without her.

And I’ve made friends, including next-door neighbor Seth Chapin, who is rapidly becoming more than a friend. But we’re both so busy that we haven’t decided where we’re going with it. Come winter, we keep promising each other—when my harvest is done and his renovation projects slow down—we’ll sit down and make some plans. I hope.

And then I keep ending up in the middle of murder investigations. Not my idea! The local police chief is more or less a friend now, but his department doesn’t investigate murders—the state police do, and they aren’t very happy with me. Still, I like to think that what I find and take to them helps them to do their job.

To get back to the orchard—since I arrived in Granford we’ve survived one near-miss by a tornado and a major blizzard that took out the power for days; now we’re in the midst of a serious drought. If you don’t give apple trees water, they don’t make apples, or at least, not apples that I can sell—that seems to be a law of nature. So Bree and I are hand-watering all eighteen acres of my orchard. No, not with watering cans, but with a big tank that we fill with water from the spring that emerges in the middle of the orchard (thank heaven that’s there!) and then haul around the orchard behind a truck, distributing the water to the trees. Every day. Let me tell you, it’s hard work. I have muscles that I never knew I had, if you know what I mean.

But I regret to inform you that there’s been another suspicious death in Granford, and I’m the one who found the body. Again. The dead man was a local logger, and his body was left near a local sawmill that’s been operated by the same family for generations. Seth uses their lumber a lot for his jobs, but the company is struggling to compete with bigger, more automated competitors. Did the death have anything to do with the sawmill? It’s not clear—yet.

And if that wasn’t enough, there’s an infestation of some nasty beetles that eat just about any tree they find, and apparently the only way to get rid of them is to cut down and grind up all the trees they’ve settled in. That’s not making anyone in town very happy, because a lot of those trees are in Granford’s parks—and near that sawmill. Is there a connection to the dead man? It kind of looks like it.

But I’m too busy and too exhausted from watering to pay much attention. In fact, I was too busy to notice that Seth kind of went missing for a while—and it took me most of a day to notice. Not good, especially since I was the only one with a chance of finding him.

You can read more about Meg in Golden Malicious, the seventh book in the “Orchard” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime. The first book in the series is One Bad Apple.

Thanks to Penguin, I have one (1) copy of “GOLDEN MALICIOUS” to give away. Leave a comment to be included in the giveaway. Contest ends October 18; US entries only per publisher’s request.

From Dru: Congratulations to Sheila as “Golden Malicious” is #14 on the NY Times Mass Market Bestsellers’ List (10/20/13).

Meet the Author
Sheila Connolly is the Agatha and Anthony Award–nominated and New York Times bestselling author of the Orchard Mystery series, the Museum Mystery series, and the County Cork Mystery series set in Ireland. Her first ebook, Once She Knew, a romantic suspense published by Beyond the Page Publishing, was one of Barnes & Noble’s Top 100 Books for 2012. Her short stories include the Agatha-nominated “Size Matters” and “Kept in the Dark” for Level Best Books as well as e-stories from Berkley Prime Crime and Beyond the Page.

Visit Sheila at her website or on Facebook

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

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