DEADLY TO THE CORE by Joyce Tremel
SERIES: Cider House Mysteries #1
GENRE: Cozy Mystery (Clean)
PUBLISHER: Crooked Lane Books
RELEASE DATE: January 16, 2024
Perfect for fans of Amanda Flower and Julie Anne Lindsey, when Kate Mulligan inherits her great uncle’s fruit orchard, she quickly realizes that apples aren’t the only thing that can have rotten cores.
After losing her husband in a terrible car crash, thirty-five-year-old Kate is left to pick up the pieces of her life alone. Although she has physically recovered, she worries her spirit never will. But when she learns that she has inherited a fruit orchard in a small town just outside Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, from her great uncle Stan, she takes this as an opportunity ripe for the picking. Kate knew immediately what to do with it: open a cider house. Her hopeful plans fall far from the tree when she finds the body of the orchard manager, Carl Randolph, leaving her to figure out who is at the core of this murder.
She had been in correspondence with Carl, who had agreed with her brilliant idea of opening a cider house. But not everyone is so quick to buy what she was selling—Uncle Stan’s lawyer, Robert Larabee, paints a less rosy financial outlook of the orchard’s past, present, and future.
Kate discovers that Carl had large, unexplained deposits to his bank account and it becomes clear that either he was blackmailing someone, or someone was paying him to keep quiet. Meanwhile, Kate and her neighbors receive offers to buy their property from a mysterious buyer. And there’s more than meets the eye with the neighboring orchard owner, Daniel Martinez, although Kate can’t quite put her finger on if it’s sweet or sour.
Will she be able to pick out the bad apple among the bunch before it’s too late?
I have long been a fan of Joyce Tremel’s Brewing Trouble cozy mysteries so when I learned she was writing a new series about a cider house, I could not get to a copy fast enough. Deadly to the Core was everything I hoped it would be – and then some.
What a perfect way to kick off a new series! Tremel organically introduces us to the town of Orchardville and its affable characters (or suspects, depending on how you look at them lol), setting the stage for future books and quickly establishing Kate’s supportive inner circle. I especially appreciated the fact that, even though we are meeting a lot of people all at once, it never feels like an info dump. Instead, the author immerses us in the ongoing stories of the people of Orchardville as though we are seated at the next table in Margie’s Morsels watching it all play out.
Kate’s own story will have readers solidly in her corner, both as she sets up her new cidery and as she helps investigate Carl’s murder. I also enjoyed her friendship with childhood friend Marguerite and her new friendship with helpful neighbor Daniel (who has a few interesting secrets of his own). I loved the hint of romance potential for the future but also appreciated the author taking it slowly after Kate’s still-fresh loss. The mystery is really well-plotted and kept me glued to the page as the layers are revealed one by one. I was impressed with the quality of the red herrings mixed with the legitimate clues – and how difficult it was for even this seasoned mystery reader to tell the difference.
Bottom Line: Deadly to the Core reminded me at once of everything I love about Joyce Tremel’s writing voice and the engaging characters she creates. Kate is a compelling heroine in more ways than one and her personality is winsome and relatable. I enjoyed getting to know all the fantastic characters of Orchardville – even the victim. The story flows seamlessly from start to finish, and all the different layers to the mystery feel fresh and crisp. (Yes, now I’m hungry for apples after reading this book haha!) I cannot wait to see where this series goes from here, and I had a delightful time with this first visit!
(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)
My Rating: 4.5 stars / loved it!
Joyce Tremel was a police secretary for ten years and more than once envisioned the demise of certain co-workers, but settled on writing as a way to keep herself out of jail. In addition to the Cider House Mysteries, she wrote the Brewing Trouble Mysteries. As Joyce St. Anthony, she writes the Homefront News historical mysteries. She lives in the beautiful Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania with her husband and two cats named Hops and Lager. Connect with Joyce at her website.
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