After her romantic idyll with the debonair Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Pearse culminates in a marriage proposal, Pru Parke sets about arranging their nuptials while diving into a short-term gig at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. At hand is the authentication of a journal purportedly penned by eighteenth-century botanist and explorer Archibald Menzies. Compared to the chaos of wedding planning, studying the journal is an agreeable task . . . that is, until a search for a missing cat leads to the discovery of a dead body: One of Pru’s colleagues has been conked on the head with a rock and dumped from a bridge into the Water of Leith.
Pru can’t help wondering if the murder has something to do with the Menzies diary. Is the killer covering up a forgery? Among the police’s many suspects are a fallen aristocrat turned furniture maker, Pru’s overly solicitous assistant, even Pru herself. Now, in the midst of sheer torture by the likes of flamboyant wedding dress designers and eccentric church organists, Pru must also uncover the work of a sly murderer—unless this bride wants to walk down the aisle in handcuffs.
Way back in November of last year, I had signed up to review the 2nd of the "Potting Shed Mysteries": The Red Book of Primrose House. The author offered to send a copy of the 1st book in the series, The Garden Plot.
When the books arrived, I promptly rolled up my sleeves, picked up my trowel, and dug into The Garden Plot. And I knew, just knew, that I held a "blue-ribbon" book in my hands. Those roots grew deeper in The Red Book of Primrose House.
And, I'm happy to say, that the garden has burst into full flower with Between a Rock and a Hard Place (the 3rd "Potting Shed Mystery"). (I promise to stop the gardening metaphors...for the most part.)
I have thoroughly enjoyed 'watching' the progression of Pru and Christopher's romance through the three books. It's great to see a couple in literature that absolutely have each other's backs. They both have their own lives, and very often their careers have them miles away from each other - more so than one could just zip on over one evening after work for a cup of tea and a cuddle. But when the situation warrants it, they are there for each other. *insert happy sigh*
And it warmed this ole' Kentucky gal's heart to see a colonist from Texas receive such professional recognition in the UK. Of course, Pru knows her stuff, but sometimes it doesn't work out so well for women in a business, profession or trade.
Not that Pru was not without her detractors in between that rock and the hard place. It was unfortunate that one of them wound up dead. But then, Pru had something to keep her busy after working hours and until Christopher arrived from London for the wedding. ;)
I can totally sympathize with the problems Pru had with the wedding preparations. You'll just have to read all about Pru's problems. For myself, my intended and I were looking for a new officiant the day before our wedding 18 years ago. The rest of it went smoother, thank goodness. I don't think I could have handled it with Pru's aplomb.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place, the "Potting Shed Mysteries" as a whole....and, ok, anything written by Marty Wingate are on my list of favorites. And I'm leaving space on that shelf for her next novels.
Marty Wingate is the author of two previous "Potting Shed" mysteries, The Garden Plot and The Red Book of Primrose House. Her new Birds of a Feather Mystery series debuted with The Rhyme of the Magpie. Wingate is a regular contributor to Country Gardens and other magazines. She also leads gardening tours throughout England, Scotland, Ireland, France, and North America. More Potting Shed and Birds of a Feather mysteries are planned.
- Have you ever been to Scotland? (I ask because that's on my bucket list.)
Yes! We’ve toured around a bit, but also spent about three weeks straight in Edinburgh during one visit. It may be my favorite city in the world – loads to see and do (fine coffee shops and pubs), but it’s quite walkable. The Botanics into the city center takes about 15 minutes.
- We know you like plants and birds. Any other interests and hobbies that might make it into a series?
I love to cook and bake (and so it is great fun to make my main character Pru so bad at it) – perhaps an English tea shop mystery series? Or a tour guide mystery series – lots of potential for victims and suspects there.
- Do you have a favorite garden through which to lead tours?
I love to know as much about a garden as possible so that I can answer anyone’s question about plants, history, and design. But I also love letting the head gardener take us around and tell us stories. Probably my favorite is Hidcote Manor Garden in the Cotswolds. We’ve had the property manager take us through before, and he sure knows the gossip. Also at the top of the list is The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh – known as the Botanics. It’s where Pru works in Between a Rock and a Hard Place, and if I lived locally, I’d walk there every day.
- Will we see more of Pru in the future?
We’ve just agreed to another three books in the Potting Shed series! And so readers can look forward to book #4 from Alibi – Pru at the most famous garden event in the world, the Chelsea Flower Show.
(Blogger's note: HUZZAH!)
- What's your favorite new book so far this year?
I’m enjoying the Grantchester mysteries by James Runcie, and so am happy to see the fourth book out. And I await with eager anticipation the third book in Hilary Mantel’s trilogy about Thomas Cromwell.
- What's in your home garden?
We recently moved and so I am gardenless at the moment (and spending loads of time in other people’s gardens). But I know that I would plant these lovelies again: Belle Etoile mock orange (the fragrance!), the Tasmanian mountain pepper, and Graham Thomas rose. To start with.
- How often to you lead travel tours?
We take groups once a year to England, Scotland or Ireland (France, too). Our tours are small – usually less than 20 people – so that we can sit down with the gardener over a cup of tea and chat. And our small buses can fit down those narrow country lanes quite well.
- Tell us a little more about 'A Dry Rain'.
I’m delighted to be a part of A Dry Rain podcast, along with Steve Scher, Greg Rabourn, and Willi Galloway. We chat about gardens, plants, nature, and the environment. It’s a free subscription on iTunes, and all the podcasts are also available on the website: adryrain.net.
- Have you ever written non-fiction gardening books about places other than the US Northwest?
Landscaping for Privacy (Timber Press) is suited to all parts of the U.S. and the UK, too, because I cover design ideas for screening and buffering – plus offer loads of plant possibilities. The idea for the book came about because I am asked so often what to plant to hide the neighbor’s second story deck. Bamboo is not always the answer.
- What's the next year look like for adding more Marty Wingate books to our shelves?
I’m thrilled to continue with stories about American Pru Parke living in England – there’s so much more to discover! Along with the Potting Shed mysteries, I’ve started a new series called Birds of a Feather. It, too, takes place in England, and concerns Julia Lanchester, whose father is a famous ornithologist with his own television show. Lots of birds, and a mystery to boot. The first is just out: The Rhyme of the Magpie.
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(Disclosure: I received an ecopy of this book from the author and publishers via Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.)