Who knew maple sugar could provide a motive for murder?
Kelsey Cambridge is the resourceful director of Barton Farm, an Ohio living history museum supported by the Cherry Foundation. Hoping to improve the museum’s bottom line, she’s arranged a Maple Sugar Festival and engaged Dr. Conrad Beeson, who’s recently published Maple Sugar and the Civil War, to speak. Annoyed that the cold weather is preventing the sap from running, Beeson stomps off to another part of the farm to check the trees. That’s where Kelsey and her assistant, Benji, find him in extremis with a tree-tapping drill in his chest. First on the scene is EMT Chase Wyatt, whom Kelsey first met during a Civil War re-enactment on the farm (The Final Reveille, 2015). Chase would like their relationship to be romantic, but Kelsey, dumped by her husband for a younger woman, is cautious and concerned about her young son, Hayden. The homicide detective, Chase’s former fiancee, has no love for Kelsey, who resolves to investigate when one of her employees is accused of the crime. Gavin Elliott, an expert on maple sugar who’s the farm’s director of education, threatened Beeson when he stole the rights to tap in a local park from Gavin’s family. Beeson was a pompous jerk disliked by almost everyone, from his wife, who was divorcing him, to his colleagues at the college and the local maple sugar club. With such a diverse group of suspects and motives, Kelsey has her work cut out for her as she juggles the needs of Barton Farm, her family, and her hostile ex.
Kelsey’s second appearance reviews the past and present of maple sugar, adds some romantic complications, and tosses in perhaps too many suspects for a truly cohesive story.