Monday, November 12, 2018

Review/Author Interview: Killed on Blueberry Hill by Sharon Farrow

Cozy Mystery



Release Date:
October 30, 2018

Synopsis from Goodreads:

It's peak tourist season in Oriole Point, Michigan--the blueberry buckle of the fruit belt. Nothing draws the crowds quite like their annual carnival. And nothing turns it sour faster than murder . . .

The Blueberry Blow Out festival has begun and it's time for Marlee Jacob, owner of The Berry Basket, to shine. Unfortunately it's also bringing out the worst in her fiance Ryan Zeller. Ryan's rivalry with Porter Gale, owner of Blueberry Hill Farm, spills over into a very public and very ugly fight. And after they compete in the pie-eating contest and a raucous tug of war, their orchard blood feud takes a deadly turn . . .

The death of the king of Blueberry Hill is a shock but not too surprising--he was a diabetic whose last pig out meal was deliciously fatal. But when authorities discover that someone tampered with Porter's insulin, a tragic accident is looking like murder--and Ryan is the key ingredient. Now Marlee's investigation to clear his name is taking her deep into the Gale family secrets, and she's being shadowed every step of the way by a killer whose sweet revenge is just beginning . . .
Includes Berry Recipes!

My Review

Marlee Jacob is getting ready for the annual Blueberry Blow Out. As the owner of The Berry Basket shop, she’s quite excited about this opportunity. What she isn’t excited about is her fiance, Ryan Zeller, entering her into competitions with his arch rival and putting her in the direct line of fire. The first event is a pie-eating contest, followed by a tug of war. She wished he would have asked her before signing her up for these contests.

When Ryan’s arch rival suddenly dies, it was assumed it was due to his poor health condition. As the investigation continues, the police discover that someone deliberately caused his death. Of course Ryan is the prime suspect and it’s up to Marlee to prove his innocence. Unfortunately, she’s not so sure he is innocent. As she looks into the murder, she uncovers some shocking family secrets and realizes there is a long line of people who had reason to kill the man.

This is the third book in the series and the first one I read. I didn’t feel as if I missed anything at all by starting with the third book. I immediately fell in love with the characters, especially Marlee. They are well-developed and the story is well written.

Killed on Blueberry Hill is a page-turner for me. I could not put my Kindle down. I just wanted to keep reading and was disappointed when it ended. There were several twists along the way to finding a killer. I was very surprised at how it all wrapped up.

I’ve already added the first two books to my TBR and I’m looking forward to seeing how this all began. Sharon Farrow is a new-to-me author that I’ll be keeping an eye open for - by the end of this book, I had an unusual craving for blueberries!

For reading challenges:
Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge 2018
Literary Escapes Reading Challenge 2018 (Michigan)

FTC Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Author Interview

I'm delighted to welcome author Sharon Farrow to Socrates' Book Reviews.  Sharon is the author of the Berry Basket Mystery series.  It's a delightful cozy mystery series.

1. To start things off, how did you come up with the idea for The Berry Basket Mystery series?

Before I moved to the Lake Michigan shore, we often vacationed here. When we did, I loved to visit The Blueberry Store in South Haven, Michigan, which sells blueberry items. I love berries and thought a store featuring every kind of berry product would be a great business to spotlight in a cozy mystery series. And it’s fun coming up with berry themed titles.

2. What type of research goes into your books?

The fictional beach resort village of Oriole Point, Michigan is based on the towns of Saugatuck and South Haven. I’m fortunate to live in the same beautiful area I write about. I also work part-time in a little shop catering to tourists. This has given me first-hand experience of what it takes to run a small resort business, like my heroine Marlee Jacob does. And if I need to research orchards, I drive to the orchards and berry farms which are minutes away. Another benefit of living in Michigan’s fruit belt.

3.Do you outline your books? Do you know where you want the book to go or are you as surprised as your readers?

When I was first published, I only scribbled a sentence or two describing what happens in each chapter. Since then, I’ve learned an outline or lengthy synopsis can serve as a literary lifeboat when the writing stalls. Having said that, sometimes I like to be surprised and I’ll write a book with just a one-page summary to go on. That is what I did with the book I’ve just finished. It’s a little riskier, but exciting, too.

4.What is your first published book and how did it feel when you “got the call”?

My first book was a historical romance (with loads of suspense, of course) called STOLEN HEARTS. It was published way back in 1998. I was euphoric when the editor called and said they wanted to publish my book. I belonged to a local writers’ group at the time and they made a practice of buying a crystal heart for new authors and inscribing it with the day they received THE CALL. The crystal heart they gave me is still on display in my bedroom.

5.Do you write any other genres?

I currently co-author the Eliza Doolittle & Henry Higgins historical mystery series under the pen name D.E. Ireland. I’ve also been published in romance and fantasy. One day I’d like to add science fiction to that list.

6.Who is the greatest influence in your writing career?

Ray Bradbury. His endlessly inventive stories and novels inspired me to write short stories when I was a teenager. There aren’t many authors who transcend their genre. Fewer still who are poets. Bradbury was.

7.Who are your favorite authors and/or books?

I stand in awe of Louise Penny and her Inspector Gamache series. I don’t believe there’s a better writer in the mystery field today. My longtime favorites are Agatha Christie for her ingenious plots and dry wit, and the great Norah Lofts who created such fascinating characters and unpredictable endings. I discovered contemporary cozy mysteries via the wonderful Amanda Pepper series by Gillian Roberts and the Tea Shop Mystery series by Laura Childs. It’s been years since the last Amanda Pepper book, but I’m happy Laura’s Tea Shop series is still going strong. And her covers and titles are to die for.

8.How long does it take for you to write a book?

Ideally, I like a time frame of ten months per book. However I’ve been writing two books a year for the past few years, so I can only schedule five months per book. An additional month is devoted to hammering out the plot in a detailed synopsis.

9.You have such nice covers for this series. Do you get any say in them?

Thank you. I love my covers! And KILLED ON BLUEVERRY HILL is my favorite so far. Both Minotaur and Kensington have asked me for cover ideas. I think that’s standard procedure at most publishing houses. For my books at Kensington. I’ve sent about four cover ideas per book, each described in a brief paragraph. After that, it’s up to the editor and the art department.

10.Can you tell us anything about any future book releases?

I just finished writing MULBERRY MISCHIEF, which will be out in 2019. The fifth Berry Basket mystery is set during the Christmas season and will probably include holly berries in the title. I plan to start writing it in December to get me into the proper holiday spirit. Christmas cookies and hot chocolate should help the process along.

Thank you for taking the time to visit Socrates’ Book Reviews.

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