Please welcome Mary Feliz, who write the Maggie McDonald Mysteries. Book Four is the newest release, Disorderly Conduct:

Dynamite-worthy dirt

In Disorderly Conduct, the fourth book in my Maggie McDonald Mystery series featuring a Silicon Valley professional organizer, one of the characters becomes a murder suspect after wounding himself with a gardening implement while digging in the region’s rock-hard adobe soil.

While injuries and accusations of murder aren’t the typical outcomes of gardening pursuits in San Francisco’s Bay Area, adobe causes infamous headaches for anyone who would till the soil.

In the early 1800’s when the area was settled, adobe made the perfect low-cost building material. Adobe (which means mudbrick and has existed as a term for thousands of years in a variety of languages) is easily formed from a combination of mud and straw. Once dried, the material is durable. Heat retention properties of the bricks, coupled with Silicon Valley’s warm days and cool nights, means they’ve offered passive heating and air conditioning systems for hundreds of years.

But that same durability makes the soil a nightmare to garden. It’s crippled many a home roto-tiller, makes a pick-ax a necessity, and tempts landscapers to consider the efficacy of dynamite.

Soil amendments are the topic of many a spring newspaper article, with various experts recommending a combination of sand, manure, compost, peat, wood chips, shredded bark, and other materials. Yet the truth, as locals boasting a green thumb will tell you, is that you’ll need to add those soil amendments annually and blisters are inevitable for anyone trying to make a comfortable bed for flowers, vegetables, and any other plantings.

But those amendments offer better and more even distribution of the Bay Area’s most precious resource, water. They also protect plants from mid-summer heat, which increasingly reaches triple digits. In recent years, for sheer ease-of-use, raised beds filled with commercially available potting soil have exploded in popularity.

senior farmer checking the apricot in his orchard


Apricots were once the premium product of the fertile agricultural area now known as Silicon Valley.

It’s hard to imagine that Silicon Valley was once known as the Valley of Hearts Delight, and was the world’s largest fruit production and packing region. Nearly forty canneries once operated within its borders, along with flower and seed production facilities. How those early settlers farmed the region’s adobe soil boggles my mind. Perhaps the easy availability of building resources helped them save up energy from housing construction and dedicate it to cultivation.

While I struggled to work the adobe soil for decades, telling myself that well water and abundant sunshine made up for the hard work of getting the ground seedling-ready, my ultimate solution was to move. Now, I garden in the sandy soil of the Monterey Bay area. Though it offers its own challenges and demands for soil amendments, it can be easily worked with a plastic shovel. The characters in my series are jealous, particularly the uber-organized efficiency expert, Maggie McDonald.

Maggie McDonald’s golden retriever Belle is an avid gardener.

Curious dog watching when working with a pitchfork in the garden.

Professional organizer Maggie McDonald balances a fastidious career with friends, family, and a spunky Golden Retriever. But add a fiery murder mystery to the mix, and Maggie wonders if she’s found a mess even she can’t tidy up . . .

With a devastating wildfire spreading to Silicon Valley, Maggie preps her family for evacuation. The heat rises when firefighters discover a dead body belonging to the husband of Maggie’s best friend Tess Olmos. Tess becomes the prime suspect in what’s shaping up to become a double murder case. Determined to set the record straight, Maggie sorts in an investigation more dangerous than the flames approaching her home. When her own loved ones are threatened, can she catch the meticulous killer before everything falls apart?

Mary Feliz writes the Maggie McDonald Mysteries featuring a Silicon Valley professional organizer and her sidekick golden retriever. She’s worked for Fortune 500 firms, and mom and pop enterprises, competed in whale boat races, and done synchronized swimming. She attends organizing conferences in her character’s stead, but Maggie’s skills leave her in the dust. Address to Die For, the first book in the series, was named a Best Book of 2017 by Kirkus Reviews. All of her books have spent time on the Amazon best seller list.

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