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Summer Garden Murder (Gardening Mysteries) Hardcover – July 26, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
At the start of Ripley's intrigue-filled gardening mystery, the eighth entry in this popular series after Death at the Spring Plant Sale (2003), Louise Eldridge, who hosts a TV gardening show, is shocked to see at a suburban party Peter Hoffman, a murderer she helped send to a state mental prison five years earlier. Accompanied by his wife and his high-powered lawyer, Hoffman intimates that he will see Louise later. Unnerved and sure Hoffman is out for revenge, Louise and her husband and two daughters retreat to a beach house for a week's respite. Upon their return, they learn Hoffman has disappeared. And just whose body is buried in the azalea bed? Louise soon finds herself at the mercy of an antagonistic detective who suspects her of murder. A midnight prowler, nefarious business deals, another murder and other disturbing events lead to a knockdown climax. Wedding plans, horticultural tidbits and the give-and-take of a cultivated family life nicely balance the mayhem.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Summertime, and the livin' isn't easy in Sylvan Valley, where corpses lie hidden beneath the prized azaleas and precisely planted vegetables in Louise Eldridge's garden. Upon his release from the state mental hospital where he served a four-year murder sentence, Peter Hoffman makes a brazen homecoming appearance at a neighborhood cocktail party, conspicuously confronting Louise, the woman responsible for his incarceration. When Peter is reported missing just days later, an anonymous tip leads police, shovels in hand, to the Eldridge garden, and when Peter's body is discovered, Louise becomes their prime suspect. That doesn't stop the amateur sleuth/PBS gardening guru from investigating the crime herself, and her inquiries put her visibly at odds with victim number two, smarmy lawyer Mike Cunningham. When Cunningham's body is dug up along with Louise's onions, her future seems dark. Peppering her latest caper with a slew of unsavory suspects, Ripley continues to exhibit polish and flair in this sunny addition to the cozy mystery landscape. Carol Haggas
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
I wanted to like this book. It's set in my hometown, and it's about gardening - how could that go wrong? It went wrong fairly quickly, actually, by repeated use of the "Stupid Woman" trope found in mediocre mysteries. Our Heroine is too stupid - several times! - to dial 911 when she ought to. One example: AFTER the first incident in which evidence is planted in her home, she finds the house has been broken into AGAIN, and decides not to call the cops until the next day. This is absolutely unbelievable.
Also incredibly (and I mean that literally) stupid is her decision to wear an initialed scarf before prowling around the neighborhood on a Peeping Tom mission, trespassing everywhere. Of course she loses the scarf at the most inopportune moment; the reader knew that was coming as soon as the monogram was mentioned while she was getting dressed.
And so on. Before I criticize the writing in addition to the plot, I will say that I liked the author's choice of villain and motive (and she had me completely deceived about the motive, too, possibly because this book builds on another earlier in the series which I haven't read). I'm also grateful for the lesson in the Afterword which taught me that swallowtail larvae have the vernacular name "parsley worms" which I didn't know and find charming. (They're cute, look 'em up.)
Unlike the ease of Susan Wittig Albert's "China Bayles" gardening series, the author here seems to still - in her ninth book - have an awkward time working gardening into her narrative. Quoting from a climactic chase scene (which is taking place in the dark at a dead run): "She grazed a big clump of oakleaf hydrangeas, batted down several of the smaller, less tough native grasses and a kerria shrub, and nearly entangled herself in a Sir Harry Lauder's Walking Stick....Ahead of her was the Crataegus crusgalli, a tree that she knew." Let me pull out some Latin of my own: res ipsa loquitur. This example speaks for itself.
By the way, as I write this, Amazon has a one-star one-sentence review which claims the author is a "lefty, elitist snob." I didn't notice anything like that in the book and think the criticism is baseless and unfair. The author's characters are from a very different social strata from my own, with very different values, and I never really got comfortable with that. However, there was no political bias in any direction except, perhaps, for routine complaints about the justice system being too gentle and letting people out too early - which is certainly not a "lefty" view.
Before that can happen, his wife Phyllis overhears a conversation where he sells his arms factory before he leaves the country. His wife is left with the house and a stipend. Soon after that meeting Peter disappears and an anonymous tip leads the police to Louise's garden where they find his body. When another corpse is found on her property, it looks like Louise might go to jail unless she finds the killer.
Readers who love good, complex and refreshing amateur sleuth tales without any blood or gore will want to read SUMMER GARDEN MURDER. The protagonists is a plucky and independent sort not content to let others find the murderer but is determined to ferret out the person herself because it is her life that is on the line. Ann Ripley has written another exciting garden mystery that is so absorbing readers will read it in one sitting.
Ann Ripley has written another great garden mystery full of intrigue and prime suspects. A pleasant addition to all her books is the gardening essays that are interspersed throughout. The reader is free to read these or not, but they are informative and pleasant to read. Buyers should try to read these books in chronological order, because the natural progression of Louise's friends and family dynamics, as well as the growth of Louise's career, will add knowledge and pleasure.