Scarecrow or murder victim: a puzzle for the harvest season
The Scarecrow in the Vineyard ($16.95 paper / $9.95 Kindle / $8.15 Nook / $7.96 Sony Reader / $ 7.69 Kobi) opens in harvest season. In the vineyards above Crooked Lake, it is a time for tourists to enjoy beautiful autumn colors and wine tastings at the lake’s famous wineries. But a scarecrow keeping birds away from the grapes proves to be the body of a man nobody seems to know. The sheriff has to discover who he is before she can track down his killer. The search for answers takes her to a church in New England, a gambling casino, and a local winery with financial problems.
Once more, the sheriff is aided in her quest for the killer by the professor, even though he must spend part of his time down in the city, teaching rather than sleuthing. What Kevin and Carol discover as they try to unravel the mystery is that the “scarecrow” was once a Catholic priest, and that he had been running away from people who did not share his love and respect for his fellow human beings. We come to know an irate father who believes his son is being led astray by the priest, a shady character who gets his hooks into the priest at the casino, and an unscrupulous co-worker at the winery.
In addition to the beautiful fall colors of Crooked Lake’s grape harvest season, the reader will become acquainted with the priest’s trouble-ridden church community, enter into the addictive but dangerous world of gambling, and learn many things about the fascinating if complex process of making wine. Autumn has always been a peak tourist season for the wineries, bringing people in from all around.
In this novel, most of these tourists are wine tasters and leaf peepers; unfortunately, others are driven by baser motives.
More than any of the other Crooked Lake Mysteries, The Scarecrow in the Vineyard invites the reader to share in Kevin’s academic life. It takes him to faculty meetings and lets us listen in as he picks the brains of colleagues for information that may help him in his role as Carol’s partner in the pursuit of justice. Moreover, this is perhaps the most unusual of the Crooked Lake Mysteries because it raises important and difficult social, cultural, and religious issues on the way to a solution of the murder of the priest.