Here’s the second installment in my local mystery writers series. I’ve learned recently is that there is such a thing as the “cozy mystery,” otherwise known as the “cozy.” Cozies often take place in small towns. They still deal with crimes—even murders—but depict them a way that soft-pedals the violence and the sex. A couple weeks ago I read the opening of one of Molly McRae’s mysteries, which qualify as “cozies.” This week I’m going to introduce you to another local cozy mystery writer, Susan Furlong. Susan lives in east central Illinois on a hobby farm, where she grows peaches, among other things. No surprise, then, that she’s writing a series of cozies with a main character named Georgia Peach, and that her latest novel is called Peaches and Scream.

I’m going to read you an excerpt from the beginning of the novel that takes place in a peach orchard after a party that’s taken place the night before. This section plants the requisite question at the center of just about any mystery: Someone’s dead. What happened and Whodunnit?

I kept on reminiscing as I snatched napkins off the branches and filled my bag. I was working my way through a row of late-harvest trees, mostly freestones, meaning they peeled away from the pit easily. My favorite was the O’Henry peach. As a kid, I used to climb the branches and eat them until my stomach hurt. I thought of how good a sweet, sun-warmed peach would taste about now, especially since I’d passed on the muffins earlier.
My stomach grumbled as I finished one row and cut through to the next. I reached up and plucked another napkin from a branch and surveyed the rest of the row. Down a ways, I spied someone sitting on the ground, propped against one of the trees. Obviously one of last night’s guests had had too much to drink and was sleeping it off. Well, of all things!
“Hey,” I called out, ducking under a couple more branches and heading toward the lazy drunkard. I had a thing or two to tell this guy. Only, halfway there, I stopped in my tracks. I recognized the man from the party. It was Ben Wakefield. But he wasn’t sleeping it off. His blue-tinged, open-eyed face was slumped to one side with my sister’s brightly colored scarf cinched around his neck.

Susan Furlong’s Peaches and Scream was published by Berkeley Prime Crime, an imprint of Penguin Random House. You can visit Susan at