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A Peach of a Murder by Livia J. Washburn
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A Peach of a Murder (2006)

by Livia J. Washburn

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Summer is upon Weatherford, Texas, and retired history teacher Phyllis Newsom has a lot on her plate. She is busily trying to prepare a recipe for her entry in the cooking contest at the Parker County Peach Festival. In addition, she is worried about the declining health of her boarder and fellow retired teacher, Mattie Harris and is welcoming a new boarder, retired basketball coach Sam Fletcher into her house.

While picking peaches with Mattie, the owner of the peach orchard, Newt Bishop, is killed when the car he is working on falls on him. Newt didn't have the car on blocks and his death could have been an accident, but Phyllis has the nagging sensation that someone threw the jack lever, murdering Newt. Phyllis soon learns there was no love lost between Newt and his son, Darryl. Alfred Landers, a local realtor, had once lost a lawsuit to Newt Bishop over a piece of land that was prime real estate property. Newt's official cause of death is listed as undetermined.

Phyllis is busy finalizing her recipe for a spicy peach cobbler for the cooking contest. She has a friendly rivalry with another of her boarders, Carolyn Wilbarger. Both want the blue ribbon in the peach cooking contest. On the day of the contest, one of the judges, Donnie Boatwright, drops dead right after sampling Phyllis' cobbler, and this time, the death is ruled a homicide. Donnie Boatwright was well-known in the community, but he had made his share of enemies, including Carolyn Wilbarger and her daughter, Sandra Webster. Phyllis is sure her friend Carolyn is not a murderer and works with Sam Fletcher to investigate Donnie Boatwright's death. She learns that Boatwright was the sole heir to his mother's will, which left him a small fortune and cut out his brother and sister.

Phyllis has a feeling the two deaths are connected, but she doesn't see how. Then, a young teacher is deliberately struck by a car in the school parking lot and nearly killed, and slowly Phyllis begins to piece together how the incidents in her small town are connected to one another.

I actually read the second book in this series, "Murder By the Slice" first, so I was somewhat familiar with the main characters, i.e. Phyllis and her roommates. While this book is well-written, the conclusion seems far-fetched. I did figure it out, but I found the second book to have a much nicer solution. I liked the small town setting and the setting at the Peach Festival as I grew up in a small town in Texas and definitely have been to my share of festivals. I only give this book three stars because of the conclusion to the mystery, which I find messy and unsatisfactory. However, the writing is top-notch. ( )
  cln1812 | Feb 5, 2017 |
The annual peach festival in Weatherford, Texas is disrupted by two unexpected deaths that turn out to be murders. Phyllis Newsom is not only put out because the Peach Cook-off judging is disrupted but because one of her good friends and boarders is the chief suspect. Despite warnings from just about everyone, Phyllis is determined to find the real murderer.

This story about retired school teachers who share a house has been compared to The Golden Girls and I see a bit of that. Mostly I see some very southern ladies and gentlemen with old fashioned values and that is not a bad thing. There were a few times I wanted to shake Phyllis for being so forgiving, but I have known ladies like her so I just let it ride. The mystery is pretty good and the town and characters are fun. It does move a bit slow at the beginning. The age of the characters may make it more interesting to mature readers. I will probably read the next in the series. ( )
  TheLibraryhag | Sep 2, 2014 |
It was a slow start but once I got a third of the way thru, it got better. I will read the next book to see if it picks up. ( )
  thebusymother | Mar 23, 2014 |
It appears that I've just read a very good book, which in my book, happens once in a blue moon. What a dramatic yet emotional finale. I'm bowled over. I can't imagine the subsequent books in the series to live up to the benchmark set by this one. In a good but eerie way, the story reminded me of my favorite medium, which is anime. I can pay no higher compliment than that. It would be wonderful if this story is adapted onscreen and my hunch or insight or whatever is validated. The last time that person in the tale mentions Fred and the Pennsylvanians, it tugged on my heartstrings. The book is not littered, but more strewn with insightful tidbits about human nature, some of them erroneous, which was deliberate, methinks. I still don't know if the ending qualifies as a happy one, but there's closure, definitely. What an unforgettable book, one of the best I'll read this year. ( )
  Jiraiya | Feb 16, 2014 |
Phyllis Newsom is going to entering the Peach Baking contest so she heads to the peach orchard for fresh fruit. She not only gets peaches she discovers the owner dead.

Upset by the discovery, she tries to settle into her baking developing a new recipe for Peach cobbler but when the head judge dies after tasting her entry, Phyllis is more than upset, especially when it looks like one of her best friends and boarders, Carolyn, may be the chief suspect. Not liking that idea, Phyllis sets out to discover the real murderer before it's too late for their friendship.

The characters were fun and the slight hint of a possible future romance added some spice. Some yummy-sounding recipes were included. ( )
  cyderry | Aug 16, 2012 |
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This novel is dedicated to all the teachers who have touched my life, starting with my mother, Naomi Washburn, my teacher in life and both my daughters' first-grade teacher. To Iris Hamilton for teaching a fourteen-year-old how to cook better. To Marsha Hardin, Rita Heatley, Thomas and Sharon Hicks, Chelsa Holder, Jan Johnson, Marsha Lindenmeier, LouAnn McLaughlin, Jaime McNeil, Mary Nelson, Larry Prather, Kathy Raine, Joan Schmitter, David Slininger, Lisa Tadlock, Linda Tindall, Sherman and Sue Wall, Fred and Talana Weir and Andy Zapata, just to name a few, for going above and beyond the job of teaching. To my agent, Kimberly Lionetti, for guiding me to this story. And, last, to my husband, James Reasoner, my one and only.
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The smell of peaches filled the air, sweet but with a particular bite all of its own.
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Retired schoolteacher Phyllis Newsom, who is on a personal mission to win the blue ribbon for the best peach pie at the Peach Festival, finds herself accused of murder when her spicy entry kills a judge. Original.

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