Donna Woodleaf-LeBlanc and Emily Willmarth, both eighteen and in their first years of college, have looked down their noses at college football games and frat parties. So Gwen Woodleaf is surprised when her daughter announces that a frat party will keep them up late that evening. "The school is banning men-only fraternities next semester," Donna explains, "so it's the last chance to get the experience of it."
But the "experience" turns out to be a great deal more than the young women had bargained for. The college boy who drives Donna home on his motorcycle is found dead in her woods the next morning in a patch of deadly nightshade and the police are asking questions.
To some of the local people, the family is suspect to start with. Russell, Donna's father, is part Abenaki and an actor who gets himself up in full Native American regalia to play an 18th century brave in frequent Revolutionary War reenactments. His wife, Gwen, has inherited Woodleaf Apiaries from her beekeeper fatherat least 200 hives scattered about the Vermont countryside, requiring attention if the honey crop is to bring in any money. Gwen is also the subject of gossip because she grows marijuana and belladonna for medicinal purposes.
Shep Noble's death begins to seem more and more like murder than accident, and his death and the LeBlancs' "differentness" incite anonymous threats and harassment from local troublemakers who make Donna's life miserable. Her desperate mother turns to neighbor Ruth Willmarth, as others have in the past, and Ruth urges he would-be lover, Colm Hanna, a mortician and part-time police officer, to delve more deeply into the mystery of Shep's death than his police colleagues are doing.
Meanwhile, Donna is researching a paper for sociology class, weaving it around the unusual story of her Vermont family, with its Native American and French Canadian roots. But tragedy dogs her when her sociology professor, who has been writing a paper on the horrific 30's genetics project, is strangled. As Ruth and Colm try to unravel the tangle of the two deaths, it comes clear that both deaths, as well as the family history Donna is digging into, are coming together in a stunning climax that will unveil secrets from the past and leave none of the characters unchanged.
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STOLEN HONEY, St. Martin's Minotaur, April 2002, ISBN: 0-312-26245-0.
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