cover image TILL THE COWS COME HOME

TILL THE COWS COME HOME

Judy Clemens, Author . Poisoned Pen $24.95 (265p) ISBN 978-1-59058-082-0

Set in Pennsylvania dairy farm country, newcomer Clemens's absorbing mystery thriller explores the impact of runaway development and loss of agricultural land on farmers such as her engaging heroine, motorcycle-riding, 29-year-old Stella Crown. The story opens with the aftermath of a calving as graphic as any similar scene in James Herriott's All Creatures Great and Small : "I tried to wipe the blood off my face, but my gloves were too messy... I looked down at my boots and they were hidden beneath birth muck and manure." This sets the tone for a series of menacing incidents—a leaking hole in a manure pit, a dead cow, a missing dog, a flooded barn—that spell trouble for Stella and others in her rural community. Worst of all is a mysterious illness afflicting children. The author excels at drawing true-to-life characters, including Howie, Stella's family farmhand of 20 years; Zach, her 14-year-old helper; Carla, the veterinarian who sews up the cow that delivers the calf; and her fellow bikers. An attractive barn painter and an old beau provide some romantic conflict, while a suave developer makes a splendid villain. (Apr. 26)