A well-thought-out, nicely written first mystery featuring microbiologist Claire Sharples, a former MIT researcher now trying to acclimate to a southern California agricultural field station, the local peach farmers, and Citrus Grove expert Sam Cooper, a quiet nerd who, somehow, unnerves her. Working together uneasily, Claire and Sam learn that the Rodriguezes' peaches are the only ones beset by brown rot after spraying with Benyl; that their son's motorcycle accident may have been murder; and that the Rodriguez property is smack in the middle of a Venture West development scheme, and someone may have been trying to force them out. Moreover, the older Rodriguez son's death in Vietnam keeps cropping up, and the version of it told by field-station man Jim LaSalle differs from everyone else's. There will be another murder, a fire, a buyout offer, and near-death for Claire before she and Sam restore some semblance of normalcy to Kaweah County. A convincing look at racism in southern California, agricultural hardships, and the difficulty that arises when opposites fall in love. A judicious balance of science and emotion, then, and a better-than-average debut.