Poisoned Pen Press, April 2004, 24.95, 298 pp.
Unless one is a very rich, a dairy farmer can barely eke out a subsistence wage but twenty-nine year old Stella Crown loves it and can't think of one thing she would rather be doing. Tall, dark, and sexy Nick Hathaway arrives at Stella's farm on her birthday and she gives herself a present by having him paint the heifer barn. She is concerned that many of her family's children are down with the flu and she and the whole community become convinced that it is something more when one of the children dies from it.
Stella is having her own problems as well beginning with a cow that was deliberately electrocuted. Someone also sabotaged her manure lagoon and caused her electricity to go down. A calf is hung and dies, someone lets her cows run loose, her dog disappears, the barn burns down and someone pretending to be her called to cancel her insurance. Meanwhile, the flu like symptoms is traced to a poisonous toxin but the medical authorities don't know the source of the poison or how it spread. Stella seeks the answers not knowing that they could kill her.
Readers will have a better understanding of dairy farmers and the hardships they endure in today's economy after reading TILL THE COWS COME HOME. The protagonist is tough enough to keep her farm going despite the problems she endures but is kind and generous enough to give a helping hand and a hug to those who need it. Judy Clemons' debut novel proves she has plenty of talent and has found her niche in the mystery genre.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner