Gardening is a deceptively gentle pursuit: we ruthlessly weed out unwanted invaders, deadhead with gusto, and wield the glistening blades of our pruners without remorse. If cold-blooded murder doesn’t fit with your image of rose-covered arbors, think again. Who else can mourn the loss of a beloved plant while investigating ways to get rid of moles and other pests with bloodthirsty enthusiasm? Like turning over a rock, gardening has a dark side, too. If you doubt that, just check out Wicked Plants or The Poison Diaries.
Thorns and roses. Perfumes and poisons. Gardens and graves. The very serenity of a garden can conjure up sharply contrasting images. There is a literary tradition of horticulture and homicide, from Sergeant Cuff’s obsession with roses in Wilkie Collins’ 1868 mystery The Moonstone to Nero Wolfe’s passion for orchids to Hercule Poirot who decides to retire and grow vegetable marrows at one point in his career.
After battling slugs and beetles, rock-hard clay, or persistent weeds, many gardeners take vicarious pleasure reading about detectives who bring order to chaos and justice to evil-doers aided by a flair for the floriferous. Today our bookstores and libraries are filled with mystery books with a botanical bite.
There are so many garden-related mysteries in print, it will take more than one post to share them with you. Here are a few authors and their books to get you started along with reviews from BN.com:
1. Rosemary Harris
Meet Paula Holliday, a transplanted media exec who trades her stilettos for garden clogs when she makes the move from the big city to the suburbs to start a gardening business. Paula can handle deer, slugs, and the occasional human pest—but she’s not prepared for the mummified body she finds while restoring the gardens at Halcyon, a local landmark.
Casual snooping turns serious when a body is impaled on a garden tool and one of Paula’s friends is arrested for the crime. Aided by the still-hot aging rocker who owns the neighborhood greasy spoon, a wise-cracking former colleague, and a sexy Mexican laborer with a few secrets of his own, Paula digs for the truth and unearths more dirty business the town has kept buried for years.
2. Susan Wittig Albert
Nominated for both an Agatha and an Anthony Award, Susan Wittig Albert's novels featuring ex-lawyer and herb-shop proprietor China Bayles have won acclaim for their rich characterization and witty, suspenseful stories of crime and passion in small-town Texas.
In her first mystery, China's friend Jo dies of an apparent suicide. China searches behind the quaint façade of Pecan Springs and takes a suspicious look at everyone. Though she finds lots of friendly faces, China is sure that behind one of them hides the heart of a killer.
3: Joyce and Jim Lavene
It's another busy fall day for Peggy. A quick café lecture on African violets is followed by a minor bike accident involving a good-looking Saturn driver. Upon returning to her shop, Peggy discovers one of the wealthiest men in town—and one of the biggest philanderers—sprawled face- down across one of her seasonal displays, apparently beaten to death with a garden shovel.
When the cops pin the murder on a local homeless man, Peggy must rake through evidence and dig up secrets to root out the real killer.When the cops pin the murder on a local homeless man, Peggy must rake through evidence and dig up secrets to root out the real killer.
Are you a garden lover who enjoys mysteries? A mystery lover who dabbles in gardening? Do you think there is something inherently bloodthirsty about gardening that makes the two go together so often? If you have any favorite garden-related mysteries, I'd love to here them! Also, check out our new mystery blog: Ransom Notes.