Formats available: ebook
Series: Potting Shed #1
Length: 267 pages
Publisher: Random House Alibi
Date Released: May 6, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
Pru Parke always dreamed of living in England. And after the Dallas native follows an impulse and moves to London, she can’t imagine ever leaving—though she has yet to find a plum position as a head gardener. Now, as the sublet on her flat nears its end, the threat of forced departure looms. Determined to stay in her beloved adopted country, Pru takes small, private gardening jobs throughout the city.
On one such gig in Chelsea, she makes an extraordinary find. Digging in the soil of a potting shed, Pru uncovers an ancient Roman mosaic. But enthusiasm over her discovery is soon dampened when, two days later, she finds in the same spot a man’s bludgeoned corpse. As the London police swarm her worksite, ever inquisitive Pru can’t quite manage to distance herself from the investigation—much to the dismay of stern Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Pearse. It seems that, much as he tries, even handsome DCI Pearse can’t keep Pru safe from a brutal killer who thinks she’s already dug up too much.
The title is a play on words; the main character is a gardener who specializes in creating new and unique gardens, and there is a plot in one particular garden that leads to murder.
Pru Parke makes for a very different heroine, not because she’s 50, but because she has chosen that point in her life to pull up stakes, move to another country, and finds romance while she’s creating a fresh start.
For a middle-aged private female to get involved in a murder investigation has been done before, but that the woman finds romance along with the culprit is unusual, and fun.
Pru gave herself one year to try her hand at finding a full-time gardening position somewhere in England. She has savings to see her through, and a dual citizenship to make her eligible for employment in Britain. What she also has is a bunch of odd jobs that barely supplement her income and a year’s worth of rejection slips.
She’s just about given up hope when she discovers a body in the potting shed. Not her own potting shed, the shed belonging to her latest clients. And next to the body, there’s an exposed corner of a Roman mosaic. Too bad about the body.
As Pru winds down her gardening jobs, she can’t resist poking her nose into the mystery surrounding that corpse. Especially because she’s been adopted by the nice couple renting the potting shed (and the house that goes with it) and she can’t bear to see the way that poor Harry Wilson seems to be getting put in the frame for the murder.
And every time Pru looks just a bit further into the mystery, she finds herself tripping over the Detective Chief Inspector in charge of the case, Christopher Pearse. He wants her to get her nose out of his investigation, but that wish conflicts with his desire to get her into his life.
Meanwhile, time is running out on Pru’s sojourn in England, and possibly on her life.
Escape Rating B+: Pru Parke strikes me as a combination of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and China Bayles from Susan Wittig Albert’s series. The story has been described as being very “English”, and it does have that feel to it, very much as the Miss Marple stories do. Pru gets involved in everyone’s life, and develops lasting friendships with the people that she meets. At the same time, the murder that finds her has some very dark aspects, and there’s definitely a sense that she is under threat from fairly early on.
China Bayles in the Albert series is a professional gardener who owns her own herb shop in Texas, where Pru is from. China also falls in love with, and marries, a cop who investigates one of her early cases.
But the fascinating part of Pru’s investigation is all about that mosaic. There are lots of Roman ruins buried pretty much everywhere in Britain. A normal case often involves “follow the money” but here, it doesn’t start out to be money so much as the thrill of discovering something truly spectacular. Not that money doesn’t come into it–if the thing is real, the questions of who owns it and who is planning to sell it are paramount. And a huge part of the confusion about who really done what and why.
The romance isn’t “in your face”, instead it’s sweet and creeps up on the reader just as it does on the protagonists. These are two people who discover that they have something in common, enjoy each other’s company, sometimes drive each other crazy, and want a chance at something that’s real and better than what they’ve experienced in the past. They have patience and impatience in equal, and real, measure. It was great to see a couple who are older than 30 still capturing that marvelous flush of falling in love.
And solving crime together, especially because the solution wasn’t quite what I expected!
This tour includes a Rafflecopter giveaway for a Grand Prize of a $30 egiftcard to the ebook retailer of the winner’s choice, and a First Prize Mystery Prize Pack of three mystery mass market paperbacks and a gardening title from Random House!