Review

All Natural Murder: A Blossom Valley Mystery

by Staci McLaughlin

Dana Lewis works as a marketing specialist at the O’Connell Organic Farm and Spa, where she also helps with room cleaning and the occasional escaped animal chase. When her sister’s ex-boyfriend is murdered, Dana must add solving crimes to her duties in this second fun adventure in Staci McLaughlin’s Blossom Valley series. The organic farm and spa details add a new twist to an interesting set of characters and small town quirks.

Dana’s sister, Ashlee, is prone to drama, but the police are definitely interested in what she was doing the night Bobby Joe Jones was killed. Ashlee had broken up with him in a loud argument at the fair before his death, and several people witnessed it. Ashlee’s iPod containing sexy photos has disappeared as well, and she is sure she left it at Bobby Joe’s apartment. Her alibi for the night of the murder is that she went home, yet it seems as if no one but Dana and their mother believe her.

"Many times, amateur sleuth mysteries have detectives who can spend lots of time on cases and conversations, so Dana’s situation with her work and supervisors is refreshingly realistic and a great tension device to keep readers guessing."

The monster truck rally at the fairgrounds was going to be Bobby Joe’s big break, in his mind at least. A genuinely well-known monster truck driver, Crusher is staying at the farm, but Dana has trouble talking to him about the industry while he flirts with her. She wonders instead about Maria, a young waitress in town, who was supposedly having an affair with Bobby Joe. Maria’s husband, Todd, does not have an alibi, and his anger when Dana tries to talk to Maria seems pretty volatile. Visits to the gas station/souvenir shop where Bobby Joe worked show Dana that his former boss, Donald, and his young wife also seem to be hiding something. And Bobby Joe’s roommate is a rumored drug dealer.

In addition to those issues, each conversation with a potential suspect has to be squeezed in among her work at the farm and her increasingly unhappy supervisors, who want her mind back on her work. To make matters worse, Dana is having trouble connecting with her new boyfriend Jason, a reporter who seems to think that Ashlee is guilty. He is also unhappy with Crusher’s interest in Dana. As her efforts to find the truth and clear her sister’s name seem futile, suddenly pieces begin to drop into place.

Many times, amateur sleuth mysteries have detectives who can spend lots of time on cases and conversations, so Dana’s situation with her work and supervisors is refreshingly realistic and a great tension device to keep readers guessing. The humorous details about hiring a yoga instructor for the farm and the escaping animals add light notes without interfering with the plot. Plenty of mixed messages from suspects and red herrings add to the layers in this enjoyable read. While the story is easy and interesting to follow in itself, readers will be eager for the previous title, GOING ORGANIC CAN KILL YOU, as well as future books in the series.

Reviewed by Amy Alessio on March 8, 2013

All Natural Murder: A Blossom Valley Mystery
by Staci McLaughlin

  • Publication Date: February 5, 2013
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Kensington
  • ISBN-10: 0758275013
  • ISBN-13: 9780758275011