cover image War and Peas

War and Peas

Jill Churchill. Avon Books, $20 (216pp) ISBN 978-0-380-97323-1

The intuition, wisdom and penchant for prying of Churchill's series heroine Jane Jeffry (The Silence of the Hams) make her an invaluable ally to police detective and significant other Mel VanDyne in this swift and agreeably perplexing tale. Regina Palmer, director of the Snellen Museum (dedicated to the study of rural history and founded by pea king Auguste Snellen) near Chicago, has been shot with an antique derringer during the Civil War reenactment that is a highlight of the small town's annual pea festival. Jane, who was one of the reenactors and who has her hands full as a single mother of three teenagers, utilizes her volunteer hours at the Snellen Museum to relentlessly pry beneath the surface of small-town respectability in hopes of finding Regina's killer. Was the murderer a rejected suitor? Was the insufferably arrogant Snellen family enraged that the museum took most of their inheritance? Was the killer (who strikes again in a particularly grisly fashion) seeking an heirloom pea? A slew of suspects--smarmy, lecherous, devious and greedy, but never dull--are queried by Jane and her equally nosy friend Shelley, with relevant information passed on to Mel. This is the eighth appearance for Jane and her first in hardcover. Churchill's cozy setting, beguiling plot and three-dimensional characters will keep readers fully engaged--and amused. 30,000 first printing; author tour. (Nov.)