No Farm, No Foul

No Farm, No Foul

by Peg Cochran

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780425282021
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/06/2016
Series: Farmer's Daughter Mystery Series , #1
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 310,057
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Peg Cochran is the national bestselling author of the Cranberry Cove Mysteries and the Gourmet De-Lite Mysteries.

Read an Excerpt


Shelby McDonald stood in the midst of row upon tidy row of lettuces, a woven willow garden basket over her arm. Dew, shimmering like diamonds on the delicate leaves of the plants, was evaporating rapidly in the rays of the sun. The rich, dark earth was cool against Shelby's bare knees as she knelt between the two rows and began picking. She plucked some merlot lettuce from the ground, shook off the excess dirt, and placed it in her basket. It would go into the salad she was making for the St. Andrews Church potluck later that day.

She moved to the next row and chose some heads of butter lettuce. Its smooth, buttery taste would be the perfect complement to the full-bodied flavor of the merlot. Plus, the pale green of the butter lettuce and deep burgundy of the merlot would look beautiful together in the bowl.

Shelby had taken over Love Blossom Farm ten years ago, when her parents retired to spend their time traveling the country in their secondhand RV. She'd headed to Chicago after college, but city life hadn't suited her, and she'd been glad to return to Lovett, Michigan, and the place she loved more than anywhere else on earth.

Shelby grew lettuces and herbs that she sold to the Lovett General Store and also cultivated a kitchen garden, which provided her and her children with vegetables all year long-fresh in the spring and summer and canned or pickled the rest of the year. The speck of red in the distance was an old barn, where Patches, an aging calico cat, who was still nimble despite her advancing years, kept mice and other small critters at bay. Next to it was a chicken coop. Shelby kept a flock of cantankerous Rhode Island Reds that squawked for their feed every morning but presented her with a stream of large brown eggs. Jack Sparrow, a bantam rooster inherited from an elderly farmer her parents knew, strutted among them, keeping order.

Her basket full of lettuce, Shelby headed back to the farmhouse. It was old, with worn gray shingles and plumbing that was in a constant state of disrepair, but Shelby loved it. She pushed open the back door and went through the mudroom and into the kitchen.

She put the basket on the counter and filled the kitchen sink with cold water. Although she grew everything organically, it was still necessary to make sure the lettuce was free of any dirt or sand. She separated the leaves and put them in the water to soak.

Her computer was on a small table tucked into a corner of the kitchen. Shelby slipped into the chair she'd picked up at a going-out-of-business sale and powered on her laptop. She put her fingers on the keys and began to write.

Dear Reader,

Today is the church potluck fund-raiser. Poor St. Andrews is desperately in need of a new roof. Last Sunday it rained more inside the church than out. The St. Andrews Youth Group, under the direction of the Reverend Daniel Mather, who is beginning to look slightly harried, is erecting a large tent here on the grounds of Love Blossom Farm, and his wife, Prudence, is helping the Women's Auxiliary as they prepare to set up long folding tables for the food.

As I write this, my house is filled with the fragrance of a cottage cheese pie baking in the oven and a huge pot of dill and wax bean soup simmering on the stove. I made the cottage cheese earlier this morning, and used the whey in the soup instead of some of the stock. There are dozens of uses for whey, a by-product of making cheese, and it's packed with protein and vitamins and minerals.

The house is so peaceful. The children are quietly occupied in the living room. Amelia is practicing her piano and Billy is working on his latest model airplane. It is amazing how well they get along even though Amelia is about to turn thirteen and her younger brother is only eight . . .

"Mom!" Amelia screamed suddenly in the tone of utter disdain that only a preteen girl can achieve.

Shelby took her fingers from the keyboard and rushed out of the kitchen to see what was wrong. Because Amelia's tone made it very clear that something was wrong-of course, it could be anything from a wild bear breaking into the house and attacking them to the fact that she was down to one bar on her cell phone.

Shelby stopped dead in the hallway. "Not again!" She cried.

Dear Reader, Shelby composed in her head, I lied. The children are not playing happily together in the living room. No, indeed. Billy has gotten his head stuck in the banister railing again, and Amelia is amusing herself by taking pictures of him and texting them to her friends.

If she was going to write a blog, Shelby decided, she might as well be honest with her readers about the crazy, tumultuous, sometimes frustrating, and often wonderful life she was leading on Love Blossom Farm-give them the good with the bad, because that was life.

"Billy, didn't I tell you not to do that?"

"Aw, Mom, I didn't mean for my head to go all the way through, honest."

"I don't think you're going to be able to get it out this time," Amelia said without taking her eyes from her phone. Her curly blond hair and blue eyes made her look like an angel, which Shelby knew was a highly misleading resemblance.

"We've done it before, we can do it again. The ears are always the biggest problem."

Unfortunately, Billy's ears provided no hindrance to getting his head through the bars, but they sure did when it came to pulling it out. It was a matter of tilting his head at exactly the right angle. After all, if he got it in, surely they could get it out again?

Shelby studied her son. Exasperation combined with a tidal wave of affection washed over her. She loved every inch of him-from his dirty feet that looked too big for his body to the freckles scattered across his nose, the tiny chip in his front tooth from the time he fell off his bicycle, and the cowlick in his blond hair that was as stubborn as he was.

Shelby put her hands on either side of his face and turned his head slightly.

"Ouch," Billy yelled.

"He's faking," Amelia said with her eyes still glued to the phone in her hand.

Shelby grabbed the wooden railings on either side of Billy's head and put as much pressure on them as she could. If they moved even a millimeter, it would help.

"Come on, pull," she said. "Harder."

"Owww," Billy yelled again, but his head finally came free and he staggered backward. He rubbed the back of his head briskly, making his hair stand on end.

"Where are you going?" Shelby grabbed him by the strap of his overalls as he turned and tried to head back to the living room. "Not so fast."

"But cartoons are on."

"It's time to get ready for the potluck." Shelby gave him a gentle push toward the stairs.

"I am ready," Billy protested.

"You're not wearing those dirty old things." Shelby pointed to his stained and torn overalls. "Go wash your face and hands and put on a clean shirt and pair of pants."

Billy grumbled, but he did as he was told. Shelby let out a sigh. That would end soon enough, when he reached Amelia's age. Her daughter refused to listen to anything she said, and they argued more often than not. Shelby knew it was a stage. She just wished it would hurry past.

If the children's father were still alive, perhaps things would be different, Shelby thought. William "Wild Bill" McDonald had lived up to his name-dying in a motorcycle accident on a rain-slicked road one night several years ago. At the time, Shelby thought she would die from the pain of her loss, but over time the pain had lessened until it became a dull ache. Much to her surprise, entire days went by now when she didn't think about it.

Shelby went back to the kitchen, hit save on her computer, and powered it off. She would finish her blog later. She'd started writing The Farmer's Daughter during the long, lonely winter nights mostly to amuse herself and chronicle her little family's life on the farm, but the blog had taken off and she now had a respectable following. She loved sharing recipes and cooking and gardening tips along with the challenges and joys of being a single parent and running Love Blossom Farm. If she didn't post for a day or two, readers would actually e-mail her to ask if everything was okay.

Everyone at St. Andrews had prayed for good weather for the potluck, and it looked as if they'd been successful. Only the faintest wisps of clouds floated in the blue sky, and the breeze was soft and gentle. Shelby paused on her front steps. Even though sheÕd grown up on Love Blossom Farm, she never tired of the view of the rolling green hills of southwestern Michigan.

She took a deep breath, savoring the scent of newly mown grass and fresh hay mixed with the faintest hint of manure. That last wasn't a scent most people cared for, but to Shelby it smelled like home. And if the wind was coming from the east and Jake Taylor's dairy farm, there would be more than a mere hint of manure in the air. It was possible to have too much of a good thing, Shelby thought.

Next to the farmhouse, with its welcoming front porch cluttered with wicker rocking chairs and pots of flowers, was a large pasture that Shelby leased to Jake. He kept a herd of black-and-white dairy cows and, in exchange for a reduced rent, provided Shelby with enough milk to make the cheeses she sold to the Lovett General Store.

When Prudence Mather had approached Shelby about holding the potluck at Love Blossom Farm, she had readily agreed to the plan. When Shelby's husband died four years ago, members of the church had wrapped their arms around her and her family, bringing them dinner every night for weeks, stopping by to keep her company in those early days, running errands when she was still too dazed to drive. She was glad she could now return the favor in some small way.

The farmhouse was set far back from the road with a sweeping and fairly level front lawn bordered by a white fence. It was the perfect venue for the dozens of people expected to attend.

"Whoa," someone yelled suddenly.

Shelby looked in the direction of the shout. The tent was tilting precariously to the right. The women scurried out of the way, chattering like Shelby's chickens when she came out with their feed in the morning.

Daniel Mather, the newly appointed rector of St. Andrews, was gesturing wildly. He was decidedly sweaty now, and Shelby was pretty sure that he was muttering a couple of choice words under his breath, despite being a minister. She knew she would.

"Grab that rope." He gestured frantically to one of the members of the youth group, a skinny kid with glasses. "No, the other one. No, that one over there."

The young boy hesitated like a baseball player trying to decide whether to steal second base as he attempted to make sense of the reverend's contradictory instructions.

The tent listed farther and a high-pitched scream went up from one of the women.

"Daniel, please be careful. You could get hurt." Prudence Mather scurried over to where her husband was trying to deal with the uncooperative tent.

Daniel gave Prudence the same sort of look that Shelby's husband used to give her whenever she told him to be careful. She'd seen other men do it, too. It was their I am a man and therefore invincible, so please don't emasculate me by telling me to be careful look.

Prudence was wearing powder blue capris, with a flowered top and matching blue sandals. She would have been homely if not for her eyes, which were large and deep sapphire blue.

"Need some help?" Jake stepped over the fence separating the front lawn of Love Blossom Farm from the pastures beyond and strolled over to the group. He looked more like a cowboy than a dairy farmer-dressed in worn jeans, a faded blue work shirt, and cowboy boots.

"Thank you," Prudence gushed, squeezing Jake's arm before scooting out of the way.

Jake studied the tent, then grabbed one of the ropes and pulled. Slowly the tent righted itself and a sigh of relief went up from the crowd.

"Got a hammer?" Jake held the rope with one hand and untied the knot anchoring it to the stake with the other.

Daniel rushed over to Jake and handed him a large hammer with a red handle. He stood back and ran his finger around his collar. He wasn't wearing his clerical collar but was dressed informally in a short-sleeved shirt and khakis.

"Thanks. I want to hammer this stake in a little further. If you'll hold this rope . . ."

Daniel grabbed the rope with two hands while Jake pounded the stake a couple of inches farther into the ground. Daniel handed him the rope. Jake quickly tied it to the stake and gave it an extra tug for good measure.

"We can't thank you enough," Daniel said.

"My pleasure." Jake stood up and brushed some bits of grass from the knees of his jeans.

He ambled over to where Shelby was standing.

"You need any help with anything?" He shaded his eyes with one hand and smiled at Shelby. She noticed that the expression created attractive crinkles around his blue eyes.

She gestured toward the crowd on her front lawn. "Thanks, but I haven't been given any jobs to do besides bringing the dishes I'm contributing."

"I'm afraid I wouldn't be of any help to you there." Jake laughed. "My cooking skills consist of microwaving, opening take-out containers, and peeling the plastic off frozen pizzas."

The thought of someday inviting Jake to dinner flashed through Shelby's mind. She knew he found her attractive, by the way he looked at her and how he was always offering to do little things to help her out. She certainly found him more than attractive. Someday. She wasn't quite ready yet.

Prudence came over to where Shelby was standing. "What have you made for the potluck, dear? I read your blog all the time, and those recipes!" Prudence clasped her hands together and rolled her eyes heavenward. "They all sound so delicious."

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No Farm, No Foul 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't care for this mystery too much. There was absolutely no humor in it, I didn't like the blogging in it and wasn't big on the mother/child relationship. As a mother she had no backbone in order to deal with her children. Just didn't care for it..ended up just scanning pages to get thru it.
ethel55 More than 1 year ago
I liked that Shelby McDonald is a mom, with a lot of irons in the fire including running a blog, her household and her now organic farm. While I didn't the back cover copy really illustrated truly that her friend Kelly was under as much suspicion as she was after the death of the minister's wife on Shelby's farm, I kept up with the multitude of new characters and suspects as the story went along. I didn't quite see the way the story was going to play out until it did, but it kind of made sense, in a way. I will certainly look for the next one, to see which characters move on to be series regulars.
KimHeniadis More than 1 year ago
Living in the Midwest, I enjoy reading cozies that take place in the area, so finding a new series that takes place in Michigan, was definitely one I was going to be checking out. I saw a lot of potential with the series, but unfortunately the first book didn’t really wow me. Shelby’s friend, Bertha, and Shelby’s daughter were very well developed characters, but not so much the rest of them. And for me, when the main character isn’t one of the best developed, I have a problem getting into the series, since they are mainly the ones that it is supposed to be about. I did really enjoy Bertha, or Bert, though. She was constantly over at the farm house helping with preserving food, doing chores, and watching the kids. Without her, there is no way Shelby would have been able to run around trying to solve the mystery. And while Shelby was elsewhere, her 12 year old daughter, was basically running around unsupervised. Once Shelby realized this, and basically did nothing about it, that situation really turned me off. I imagine Cochran added this to the story, to show camaraderie with readers who are having difficulties with their own children. As for the mystery itself, it was pretty easy to solve, even though Cochran laid out numerous red herrings. While I really do appreciate a harder mystery to solve, I can look past it, as long as the characters engage me. This is not one that I am going to say you need to rush out to read. If you’re feeling adventurous, and want to try a new series, or really enjoy Cochran’s Cranberry Cove Mystery series, then you may want to give this one a try.
Dollycas More than 1 year ago
Dollycas’s Thoughts Shelby McDonald has a farm, ee-I-ee-I-o, and she also has a blog, The Farmer’s Daughter, where she posts about her life along with recipes and gardening advice and tips and also about this murder investigation she finds herself in the middle of. I liked it because in a way it is like she is talking directly to us readers, but she scares me a bit because she shares way more than we bloggers are cautioned about, like her children and her suspicions regarding a murderer still on the loose. Thankfully the only murders I post about on my blog are fictional. Shelby’s hosts a church potluck/fundraiser on her Love Blossom Farm but as things are wrapping up she finds Prudence, the minister’s wife dead. She quickly realizes there was a killer on her property and it could be someone she knows quite well. Many suspect seeds are planted in her mind by her own observations and things her friends have said. Will she by able to harvest the right one before someone else is pushing up carrots? This is an outstanding start for this series. Shelby comes across realistically dealing with her farm and the produce and products she sells. She is also dealing with 2 children, a adventurous boy and an about to be thirteen year old daughter whose favorite word is “fine”. I remember those days and with 2 daughters I survived that phase twice. She is super friendly to everyone and has a lot going on in her life. The Love Blossom Farm located just outside Lovett, Michigan sounds like a place I would not only love to visit but love to live. Years ago, it was a dream to live on a farm, not with cows or pigs etc. but growing fruits and veggies and having a few chickens with plenty of wide open spaces for children to play and dogs and cats to roam, much like Shelby’s. It just never worked out for me so these fictional visits will have to do for me. Peg Cochran also gives us a fruitful mystery where the suspects seem to be multiplying. Before she can eliminate one, something sends her mind toward a different person. There was one clue that stuck in my mind but I just couldn’t seem to make it fit until Shelby and I shared that “a-ha moment”. This story was a delightful read. The mystery kept me guessing and the characters were fantastically written. Shelby being a blogger like me was a bonus. She recommends food and recipes and I review and recommend books that usually include food and recipes.
Karen-M More than 1 year ago
I find I am always drawn to the small town/village based mystery. This is likely because I was introduced to cozy mysteries via St. Mary’s Mead’s own Miss Marple or perhaps because I grew up in a fairly small town myself which although it was in a densely populated area still had that small town feel. Lovett, Michigan is a small town and Shelby McDonald owns a farm on the outskirts and yes, she’s heard all the jokes about being a McDonald and owning a farm. She blogs about her life on the farm and speaks of what she’s making for dinner and promises to give her recipes to her readers. Her blog is interlaced throughout the story which adds a slightly different element to the book Recently widowed, Shelby finds life on the farm is a struggle but not quite as bad as raising her almost 13 year old daughter and 8 year old son on her own. A murder takes place at the Love Blossom Farm and Shelby, who is no detective, manages to get involved in the mystery. I like the cast of characters in this story. Shelby’s two friends, Bert (female) and Kelly, Jake, Shelby’s neighbor, Matt who owns the general store and Shelby’s brother-in-law and local Lovett police detective, Frank. The author gave the characters some depth and color which kept me interested. There were many other characters in the story which added to the mystery and kept Shelby jumping from one conclusion to the next until she finally hits on the right one. This was a very enjoyable, light read which is exactly the way a cozy should be written.
KrisAnderson_TAR More than 1 year ago
No Farm, No Foul by Peg Cochran is the first book in the Farmer's Daughter Mystery series. Shelby McDonald is running her family farm (Love Blossom Farm) and taking care of her two children (Amelia and Billy). Shelby's husband has passed away (Wild Bill) and Shelby still misses him (and it does not help that his brother looks so much like Bill). Shelby is hosting a potluck on the farm for St. Andrew's Church to raise money for the desperately needed new roof. Prudence, the pastor's wife, was washing out her crockpot in the mudroom sink, and Shelby went to check on her. Shelby found Prudence dead on the floor of the mudroom with the cord to the crockpot wrapped around her neck. Shelby rushes outside and yells for someone to call 911. While waiting for the police, several people go into the mudroom (ruining the crime scene) to check it out (idiots). Who wanted Prudence dead? She was annoying, but worth killing? Shelby cannot help but look into this crime (it did happen in her mudroom). Maybe there is more to the pastor and his wife than any of them know (like why has the pastor had three different placements in three years). Can Shelby find the culprit before the killer decides she has been too nosy? No Farm, No Foul is a good concept, but needs a little work. Too much time is spent on Amelia, Shelby's daughter, and the many ways the tween has found to disobey and annoy her mother (and the mother is not taking the appropriate action). I wanted more time spent on the murder and less on Amelia's antics. It got on my nerves! I liked Shelby's blog posts (humorous and interesting). She mentions some delicious sounding recipes (which are at the end of the book). No Farm, No Foul is easy to read, entertaining and likeable characters, and a great setting (Love Blossom Farm in Lovett, Michigan). The mystery was extremely simple and easy to solve. I knew who committed the crime before the body was found (not good). One clue was all I needed to solve it (it was obvious). I give No Farm, No Foul 3.75 out of 5 stars. I think the author could have used fewer ten dollar words (that’s what my father always called them). An example is obstreperousness (it means noisily unruly or defiant). Did she really need to use this word? That is just one example. With a little tweaking, this could be a very enjoyable new cozy mystery series. I will read the next book in A Farmer’s Daughter Mystery series. I received a complimentary copy of No Farm, No Foul from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The comments and opinions expressed are strictly my own.
chefdt More than 1 year ago
No Farm, No Foul is the first book in the A Farmer’s Daughter Mystery series. And an interesting and enjoyable series it looks to be. Shelby McDonald, a widow, is busy raising her two children, writing a blog of her daily activities, making homemade cheeses and tending to her vegetable garden. Volunteers from the St. Andrews Church are at Shelby’s farm, putting on a fundraiser for much-needed repairs to the church’s roof. As the successful fundraiser is winding down, Prudence Mather, the minister’s wife asks Shelby if she can rinse out her slow-cooker and Shelby directs her to the mudroom. When Shelby is done in the house she starts to pass through the mudroom when comes across the lifeless body of Prudence. Shelby’s best friend, the local vet, Kelly Thacker feels that she might become a suspect. But as Shelby begins to look into the mysterious death, she soon finds other people who might have wanted Prudence dead. Once again, Cochran has provided the reader with a wonderful and believable cast of characters. Amelia and Billy, her 12 and 8-year old children provided considerable entertainment for this reader. They are at that age where will giving their mother gray hairs. Shelby wouldn’t have the time to investigate if it weren’t for her lovable neighbor Bertha, who helps watch the kids and helps out around the house. And for a possible romantic interest in the future, there are a Jake, her neighbor and dairy farmer and Matt Hudson, owner of the local general store Every chapter includes experts from Shelby’s daily blog posts. These are a lot of fun to read and often provide interesting about gardening and food preparation. Recipes are also included in the book. Will definitely be watching for the next book in this enjoyable series.
LisaKsBooksReviews More than 1 year ago
I am a big fan of every one of author Peg Cochran’s series. So, to say I was excited that she had a new one coming out would be an understatement. As wonderful as I knew it would be, NO FARM, NO FOUL has ensured the Farmer’s Daughter Mysteries a place on my favorite’s list! NO FARM, NO FOUL is a delightful story with a great cast of characters. Protagonist Shelby McDonald is a strong, independent, widowed mother of two young children. From Shelby’s blog, to the calm, sometimes humorous way she handles stressful situations, author Cochran has written this character in such a way, that I know she is someone I could become fast friends with. Engaging from the very first page, this book was a quick read that was over way to soon. I was totally invested in every part of this story, from everyday life on Love Blossom Farm, where Shelby and her children live, the excitement of murder and other mayhem, through the investigation and thrilling reveal, I adored every single word! I especially loved the author’s shout out to her Cranberry Cove Mysteries! If NO FARM, NO FOUL is any indication, the Farmer’s Daughter Mystery series is destined to be one of Peg Cochran’s best. When you do read NO FARM, NO FOUL, make sure to check out the back of the book for some yummy recipes!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is exactly the kind of mystery book I've been needing to read, it caters to my lifestyle rather than a city mystery. I can't wait for more!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a fun, cute read!