The author of the essay collection Real Farm (1989) presents her first mystery, and a smooth-running model of a maiden voyage it is, too. Molly West--homemaker/meal-delivery exec, wife to college sociologist Ken (``Dr. K.''), and, after 15 years, still a newcomer to southern Ohio's rural culture--hears of a murder while listening to the morning news and interrogates her next-door neighbor, Sheriff Matins. It seems that the local dealer in chicken feed has been shot to death, and the woman's business partner and ex-husband is a prime suspect, particularly after he admits to embezzlement. But neither Molly nor Matins is happy with this picture, and in the spirit of nosey neighborliness Molly uses her role as purveyor of hot meals to isolated homesteads to crack the case. County fairs, illegal cockfights, and country-visiting propel the plot; meanwhile, sharing detecting honors with Molly and the Sheriff is the feisty matriarch Louella, a retired county commissioner with a taste for gambling. In this large-spirited book filled with likable characters, even the murderer, once targeted, wins our empathy. An amusing, nonhokey debut enhanced by sociological ruminations--thanks to Dr. K.--that would seem a mite slowpoke were they not on such riveting subjects as sex and cockfights. As is, this series-to-be promises valuable emotional access to our vanishing folkways.