Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Judy Clemens has a new Stella Crown book out in hardcover in August: until then, you can enjoy her first two in paperback.

Here's what I wrote about Till the Cows Come Home:
You might learn more than you want to know about some of the nastier aspects of running a small dairy farm in rural Pennsylvania in this pungent, promising first mystery: In the opening pages, there's a messy calf-birthing scene as well as an overflowing manure pit. But Judy Clemens gives us in return an absolutely original lead character: Stella Crown, who runs her old family farm with the help of a veteran hired hand and an eager young neighbor, fighting off the developers who want to turn the remaining local dairies into housing estates. Crown takes great pleasure from her 1988 Harley-Davidson Low Rider, which she rebuilt from a wreck, and from sexual encounters with a hunky, itinerant barn painter she can't really afford to hire.
On Crown's 29th birthday, which she'd prefer to forget but which a giant clan of family friends insists on marking, it becomes obvious that something worse than ordinary hard times or bad luck is going on. A mysterious, flulike disease has struck the area, especially its children, and someone is devoting a lot of time to subtly attacking Crown's farm and its inhabitants.
Clemens' plotting is solid and unexpected, and all her characters--the desperate farmers, their frustrated families, even the local biker fraternity--come quickly to life. Especially Crown, who confesses that she keeps her hair short "to show off the cow skull tattooed at the base of my neck" but who so far has resisted suggestions to have "Got milk?" engraved somewhere on her body.