A Killer Maize
Paige Shelton


ISBN-10:
0425251748
ISBN-13: 978-0425251744
Publisher: Penguin Group
Line: Berkley
Release Date: Dec 4, 2012
Pages: 304
Retail Price: 4.99




Genre:
Mystery
Rating:

Becca Robbins is selling her farm-made jams and preserves at a county fair where business is not the only thing that’s dead…

The last person Becca expects to run into at the Swayton County Fall Festival is her ex-husband, Scott Triplett, who’s operating a shooting gallery. Honesty was not always Scott’s policy, and their unexpected reunion is further complicated when the festival becomes a crime scene. On Becca’s second day there, Ferris wheel operator Virgil Morrison is found hanging from his rickety ride, dead from a gunshot.

As Becca starts to notice Scott suspiciously sneaking around the fairgrounds, she begins to worry her ex may be involved in the murder. Then there’s the shadow she sees in the creepy corn maze and rumors of a gypsy curse—not to mention Virgil’s mysterious spider tattoo. Now Becca must search through a labyrinth of lies, secrets, and superstition to find a kernel of truth…before the killer starts stalking her.


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Review

For fans of:  Juliet Blackwell

When jam-maker Becca Robbins and some of her fellow vendors from Bailey’s Farmers’ Market agree to set up shop for two weeks at the Swayton County Fall Fair and Festival, they figure the change in venue may garner them some new customers. Unfortunately, though, the event is so poorly attended that everyone involved seems to be losing money on the deal.

Just as the Bailey’s crew starts contemplating an early departure, however, tragedy strikes: Ferris-wheel operator Virgil Morrison is found dead – shot in the head and hanging by his belt from the top of his ride. Everyone assumes the death will bring a premature end to the festival, but the police decline to shut things down and the media coverage regarding Virgil’s death results in a dramatic increase in attendance.  Becca and her friends agree to stick around for a little while longer, but while business is good, everyone’s a bit on edge. Who killed Virgil, and why? Is the murderer still among them? And will he or she strike again before the fair is through? Becca’s determined to get to the bottom of things, but if she’s not careful, she might wind up six feet under…

A Killer Maize is the fourth of Paige Shelton’s Farmers’ Market Mysteries, and I think it’s her best to date. The mystery is complex and captivating. The fair angle lends the whole story a nice, creepy Something Wicked This Way Comes vibe. The pace is quick. The plot is tight and fun. And Shelton’s writing is a joy to read; her prose has an easy rhythm to it, her narrative style is both witty and engaging, and her dialogue is snappy and rings true.

Shelton has a way with descriptions; in her capable hands, places and objects come to life on the page. By the same token, she achieves some stellar character development with a minimum of words. To a one, her cast members are rich, complex characters that are wonderfully well drawn. Becca is an exceedingly likable heroine – she's smart, she's funny, and she’s just the right amount of self-deprecating – and the fact that her love life is a total mess just makes her all the more relatable. Her thoughts, emotions, actions, reactions, and interactions all feel real, genuine, and 100% earned. And what’s more, she loves animals – what more could you ask for in a protagonist?

The book’s supporting cast is marvelous, as well. While Becca’s current beau, Ian, may not be her soul mate, he makes for a fantastic friend and proves the perfect sidekick for this particular investigation. And her developing (and increasingly complex) relationship with police officer Sam makes for such compelling reading, I’m already itching to read the next book in the series.  But it’s Becca’s ex-husband Scott who steals the show this time around. All traditional mystery heroines seem to have an ex kicking around, and sooner or later, you can guarantee that ex will resurface and cause lots of drama and emotional conflict. Not so here. Scott’s character arc in A Killer Maize is nothing short of fabulous.  Shelton not only uses his presence to forward the plot, fill in Becca’s backstory, and help Becca shed some light on her current romantic entanglements, but she also uses Scott to illustrate the ways in which people grow and relationships change:

“So, Sam, about Becca’s personal life,” Scott began.

“Yes,” Sam said.

“If it’s currently complicated…”

“I think it is.”

“Well, I think she just needs to listen to her gut. I think she needs to follow her heart. She needs to do all that stuff they tell you to do in poetry.”

“I couldn’t agree more.”

“But she’s probably a little wary. She’s made some rough decisions in her past regarding who she wanted to be with.”

“Well…” Sam said.

“No need to be polite. She did, or she thinks she did. She made one bad decision. Scott, the first, was a bad move, but I wasn’t.”

“I see.”

“Well, maybe I was at the time, but I turned out pretty awesome, don’t you think?”
“I do.”

“See, Becca, you’re not all that wrong when it comes to choosing a guy. You were just a little premature with me. In fact, let’s call it insightful. Maybe you’ve grown into yourself.”

Pretty profound stuff, right? (Especially coming from a traditional mystery ex!)

If the advent of winter is getting you down and you need something to help brighten the bleak, snowy days and warm up the long, cold nights, do yourself a favor and check out Paige Shelton’s A Killer Maize

Reviewed by Kat