Spoilers: Grim Pickings by Jennifer Rowe (1991)

This post contains spoilers (including the name of the murderer) for the mystery so please don’t read it unless you have read the book/ you are not bothered about having it spoiled.

The question that perplexed me after finishing the book, the first in the Verity Birdwood (Birdy) series is how could a book that I had found so entertaining and gripping leave me with such a bad taste in the mouth. A nasty man dies and an even nastier character killed him. Where is the mystery? Betsy is a witch (spelled with a b rather than w) but where was all this nastiness in earlier years? We are told that all the characters make their apple-picking pilgrimage every year. How could they if the mistress of ceremonies was such a horrible person? Why did they go year after year? Is it Sonsy’s (Gawd! That woman with her heart-shaped face and pink-tongue!) presence this year that makes Betsy such a vicious woman? But last year we are told it was Damien who was one of the apple-pickers and he was on Betsy’s hate-list as much as Sonsy and the atmosphere must have been as bad as this year so why did the Darcys and Delaney and Bedford and Mission go again? And on top of that Delaney imposes invites her friend Birdy (who is a stranger to the Tenders) to the party. If it was me I’d run in the opposite direction if I even saw Betsy approaching and here is Kate bringing her friend to be the guest of such a sadist creature. It is difficult to believe that Betsy turned this manipulative and malicious in just a year!

And if Betsy is a rotten apple the other Tenders are not painted in a positive light too. Wilf is non-descript wallowing in thoughts of death; Rodney is sulky and engaged in a power struggle to be the favourite child with his siblings; Anna begins well but turns into a spiteful creature in the middle; Chris is under his mama’s thumb and doesn’t appreciate his wife. One wonders how such a family is even friends with Kate and Jeremy and Nick and Jill who are presented as being a cut above the Tenders. The differences between Jill and Nick gave me a ray of hope. Good there were tensions between this couple which would make a diversion from the way the writer went on blackening the Tenders but that didn’t really lead anywhere. And finally to be told that Betsy was so evil that she could even plan to burn a child alive. What a disappointment after all the entertainment of caustic thoughts (of Kate) and palpable tension between the various characters.

Despite the disappointment of this book though I still want to read other books by Rowe since I quite enjoyed her Murder by the Book which I read a couple of years ago.


First Line: ‘I suppose the whole bunch’ll be up there again this year,’ Jeremy groaned.

Publication Details: NY: Bantam, 1991

First Published: 1991

Pages: 407

Series: Verity Birdwood (Birdy) #1

Source: Open Library

Other Opinions: Crossexamining Crime; Mysteries in Paradise

Other books read of the same author: Murder by the Book


7 thoughts on “Spoilers: Grim Pickings by Jennifer Rowe (1991)

  1. That’s the thing, Neeru. Characters who are that unpleasant do leave a bad taste in your mouth, even if the book is enjoyable. It’s one of the reasons why I prefer it if there is at lest one character that I can at least care about or find interesting. And I don’t blame you for wanting to run in the opposite direction if you saw Betsy coming; I would, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Margot, it wasn’t merely an unpleasant character. I felt that the author poured a lot on Betsy’s head. If she was so toxic, why did the others keep coming and enjoying her entertaining them year after year? I had problems with swallowing that. The book failed on the level of believability.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I picked this one up to read several months ago, got through two or three chapters, put it down, and never picked it up again. I wanted like it, and I’ve always been sure I missed something. On the other hand, perhaps not?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was totally into the novel and that’s why I felt so cheated in the end. I’d not advise beginning with this one though people on the whole seem to have quite liked it.


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