Crops and Robbers
Paige Shelton

ISBN-13: 978-0425244999
Publisher: Penguin Group
Line: Berkley
Release Date: Dec 6, 2011
Pages: 304
Retail Price: 7.99

Genre: Mystery

Bailey's Farmer's Market is all abuzz with the impending visit of the Central South Carolina Restaurant Association. Becca is quite excited, especially since her parents are visiting. But when the president of the Association vetoes Becca's strawberry preserves, she finds herself reeling from the snub. After pulling herself together, Becca heads home, only to find the president's body in her kitchen and her mother with bloody hands. Now, Becca has to use her sleuthing skills to get her mom out of this terrible jam...before she winds up preserving in prison.

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It’s a big day for the farmer’s market at which jam-maker Becca Robins sells her wares:  the board of the Central South Carolina Restaurant Association is in attendance, and if all goes well, it could mean exclusive contracts (and therefore big business) for Becca and her fellow vendors.  The board members seem quite pleased with what the market has to offer – until, that is, they reach Becca’s stall, and Association president Joan Ashworth gives her strawberry preserves a big thumbs down.

Becca’s hurt and embarrassed by the rejection, but she vows to put the matter out of her mind and move on with her day.  Some things are easier said than done, though, for when she arrives home that afternoon, she finds Joan dead in her kitchen, a knife stuck in her chest – and her mother covered in blood.  Her mother swears she’s innocent of the crime, and claims to have been knocked unconscious by the killer before she ever encountered Joan’s body, but her prints are on the knife, so the police take her into custody.

Why was Joan at Becca’s house?  And why did the killer choose that particular location to take her out?  Can Becca catch the real killer and save her mother from doing hard time for a crime she didn’t commit?

Crops and Robbers is the third of author Paige Shelton’s Farmers’ Market Mysteries, and I gotta say – I loved it.  I loved it despite being dead sick (and therefore incredibly grumpy) when I sat down to read it.  I loved it despite never having read the first two books in the series.  I loved it so much I read it in a single day – something I almost NEVER do during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.  This book just made me happy – like literary comfort food.

It’s got a strong and engaging narrative voice.  The atmosphere is warm and sunny and cozy and Southern.  The setup is clever, the mystery is intriguing, the pacing is quick, and the plot is propulsive.  But I think what really sold me on this book is its characters.

Becca’s a fantastic heroine; sweet, strong, and independent, she loves her dog, loves her family, and has no qualms about dating a man ten years her junior.  Ian, Becca’s twenty-something, game-for-anything boyfriend, makes for a great sidekick.  Officer Sam Brion is the kind of policeman you hope to have on your side when your mother’s been arrested for murder, and is a very refreshing change from the asshole-cop-who’s-out-to-get-you stereotype.  And the love triangle that’s starting to develop between the three of them is more than enough reason to stand in line for the next book in the series.

Looking for a good book to help you start the New Year off right?  Give Crops and Robbers by Paige Shelton a try; I assure you, it won’t disappoint.

Reviewed by Kat