Stolen Honey

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Overview

Donna Woodleaf-LeBlanc and Emily Willmarth, both eighteen and in their first year of college, have looked down their noses at college football games and frat parties. So Gwen Woodleaf is surprised when her daughter announces that a frat party will keep them up late that evening. "The school is banning men-only fraternities next term," Donna explains, "so it's the last chance to get the experience of it."

The "experience," however, turns out to be a great deal more than the young...

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Stolen Honey

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Overview

Donna Woodleaf-LeBlanc and Emily Willmarth, both eighteen and in their first year of college, have looked down their noses at college football games and frat parties. So Gwen Woodleaf is surprised when her daughter announces that a frat party will keep them up late that evening. "The school is banning men-only fraternities next term," Donna explains, "so it's the last chance to get the experience of it."

The "experience," however, turns out to be a great deal more than the young women bargained for: the youth who drives Donna home on his motorcycle is found dead on the Woodleaf-LeBlancs' grounds the next morning. It is unclear how the young man, who had more than his share of alcohol the night before, died, and the police are asking questions.

To some of the local people, the family is suspect to start with. Russell, Donna's father, is part Abenaki and an actor who gets himself up in full Native American regalia and plays an eighteenth-century brave in frequent Revolutionary War reenactments. His wife, Gwen, has inherited Woodleaf Apiaries from her beekeeper father-- at least two hundred hives scattered about the New England countryside, requiring skill and attention if the honey crop is to bring in any money. Gwen is also the subject of gossip because she grows marijuana and belladonna for medicinal purposes.

Shep Noble's death begins to seem more and more like murder than accident, and his death and the LeBlancs' "differentness" incite anonymous threats and harassment from local troublemakers who make Donna's life miserable.

Desperate, she turns to a neighbor, and Emily's mother, Ruth Willmarth, as so many others of the community have done in the past. Ruth, abandoned by her husband, is struggling to raise their children and keep her farm going with little help and even less income. But that doesn't stop her from doing what she can to comfort Donna. She urges her persistent suitor, Colm Hanna, a funeral director and part-time police officer, to go more deeply into the mystery of Shep's death than his police colleagues are doing.

Meanwhile, Donna is researching a paper for her sociology class, weaving it around the story of her Vermont family, with its Native American and French Canadian roots. But tragedy dogs her when her sociology professor is strangled. As Ruth and Colm try to unravel the tangle of the two deaths, it becomes clear that both deaths, as well as the family history Donna is digging into, are coming together in a clashing climax that will leave none of the players unchanged.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Wright doesn't put a foot wrong in this well-wrought mystery."--Boston Globe on Poison Apples

"Wright is completely at home in the Vermont world of farming and has a keen understanding of the historic cultural forces that are sometimes at odds with new settlers."--Vermont Sunday Magazine on Poison Apples

"Wright's second mystery...combines a finely wrought mystery with some superb local color...Wright melds setting and character with the skill of Stephen Dobyns in his Saratoga mysteries."--Booklist on Harvest of Bones

Publishers Weekly
Vermont's bucolic image takes a beating in this grim tale of vandalism, grave-robbing and murder, Wright's fourth (after 2000's Poison Apples) to feature amateur sleuth Ruth Willmarth. The trouble begins when beekeeper Gwen Woodleaf's mixed-race daughter, Donna, asks fratboy Shep Noble to drive her home after a party. After making a drunken amorous advance, Shep turns up dead in a patch of deadly nightshade, a forbidden plant cultivated by the Woodleafs. Suspicions point to either Donna's protective father, a pure-bred Indian who enjoys dressing the part, or a ruffian farmhand with his own designs on Donna. Neighbors who want to buy the Woodleafs' "sacred land" make their threats obvious. Meanwhile, professor Camille Wimmett is uncovering some nasty history concerning another mixed-race family, the Godineaux. When Camille is murdered, Ruth, whose daughter is a close friend of Donna's, carries on Camille's genealogical work while also looking for links to the double murder case. At times it's difficult to see how these two plots intertwine, for Ruth is at first fixated on the Godineaux and their many descendants. As she digs deeper, however, Ruth realizes that bigotry and hatred among families, races and even genders have led to terrible havoc in this less-than-idyllic corner of New England. The gentle jacket art suggests a cozy, but readers should be prepared for lots of unpleasantness leavened with some sobering feminist lessons. Agent, Alison Picard. (Apr. 15) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Ruth Willmarth (Poison Apples) faces hardships making a go of her Vermont farm but still finds time for sleuthing. In her latest adventure, she helps a beekeeping neighbor when a college student is discovered dead in her woods. A subsequent murder intensifies her search for clues. A solid series. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
It's always risky for a farm girl to venture into a frat party, but half-Abenaki Donna Woodleaf gets punished beyond all reason. Shep Noble, the fast-talking baseball captain who takes her home, tries to rape her; next morning he's found dead in a patch of the medicinal belladonna her beekeeper mother grows; and everybody at Branbury College seems to think it's her fault-especially the anonymous correspondent who torments her with notes like "SQUAWS DIE" and "HANG THE WITCH." The real action, however, is elsewhere, in sociology professor Camilla Wimmet's research into the Godineaux family, branded a century ago as degenerate by eugenicist William Perkey's meddlesome wife Eleanor and forced to undergo sterilization, though not soon enough to prevent three generations of variously damaged offspring from fanning out over the Vermont countryside. Camilla's attempts to find out what's become of Annette Godineaux's descendants are opposed by everybody from the family members she manages to track down to the intruder who wipes her computer clean and chokes her to death. But Ruth Willmarth, whose daughter Emily is Camilla's student and Donna's friend, and whose dairy-farm helper Joey is Annette Godineaux's great-grandson, never drops a stitch as she improbably follows the search into a thicket more densely planted than any cloud of belladonna. Ruth's fourth (Poison Apples, 2000, etc.) is as penetrating, economical, and generously plotted as her first three, though readers less clever than Ruth may need a road map through the undergrowth of suspects and subplots.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312262457
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 4/9/2002
  • Series: Mysteries Featuring Ruth Willmarth Series , #4
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.64 (w) x 8.62 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Nancy Means Wright lives, writes, and teaches in Vermont. This is her tenth book and her fourth mystery featuring Ruth Willmarth. Ruth is also the protagonist of a novella featured in Crimes of Passion, out in 2002 from Worldwide Mystery. Nancy can be reached at www.nancymeanswright.com.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    exciting amateur sleuth ¿ police procedural

    Though she dislikes frats, Donna Woodleaf accompanies her friend Emily Willmarth to a final fling as Branbury College is shutting down any fraternity that refuses to go coed. That night baseball star Shep Noble takes Donna home, but tries to rape her. However, the Donna¿s 'experience¿ turns even uglier by the next morning when Shep is found dead on the Woodleaf grounds. The police make inquiries into the death. <P>Though no charges have been filed, many neighbors convict the Woodleaf family because Donna¿s father is part Abenaki Native American and her mother Gwen grows marijuana and belladonna for medical purposes. As the official investigation begins to look closer at whether a homicide occurred, harassment of the Woodleafs commences. Donna asks Emily¿s mother Ruth to help her and her family. Though she has her own trouble with little income and raising three children by herself, Ruth coaxes her beau, part-time police officer Colm Hanna, to dig deeper into Shep's death even as she wonders if the murder of a professor is tied to the Noble homicide. <P>STOLEN HONEY is an exciting amateur sleuth ¿ police procedural that never slows down for a paragraph. The story line is fast-paced and filled with a delightful ensemble cast. In her fourth mystery novel, Ruth remains a dynamic heroine. Though there is so much going on the audience will need a scorecard to keep track of what happens with the players, Nancy Means Wright knows the right means of providing an exhilarating tale that will satiate her growing legion of fans. <P>Harriet Klausner

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