Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Red Book of Primrose House: A Potting Shed Mystery

Author:  Marty Wingate
Genre:  Mystery

Five Stars
Pru Parke has her dream job:  head gardener at an eighteenth-century manor house in Sussex. The landscape for Primrose House was laid out in 1806 by renowned designer Humphry Repton in one of his meticulously illustrated Red Books, and the new owners want Pru to restore the estate to its former glory—quickly, as they’re planning to showcase it in less than a year at a summer party.

But life gets in the way of the best laid plans: When not being happily distracted by the romantic attentions of the handsome Inspector Christopher Pearse, Pru is digging into the mystery of her own British roots. Still, she manages to make considerable progress on the vast grounds—until vandals wreak havoc on each of her projects. Then, to her horror, one of her workers is found murdered among the yews. The police have a suspect, but Pru is certain they’re wrong. Once again, Pru finds herself entangled in a thicket of evil intentions—and her, without a hatchet.
Pru Parke is a transplanted Texan.  She has moved to Great Britain to seek out her heritage - the English half of her upbringing, her mother's relatives.  Since this is the second book in the series, she has moved along:  She has decided to remain there, having fallen in love with CID Inspector Christopher Pearse.
In this book, she has been hired by a couple who are restoring the grounds of their newly purchased home, and Pru has the great fortune to be able to do so because she has the Red Book of Humphry Repton, a famous gardener/illustrator/etc. in England. 
Shortly after beginning the job, she realizes there is dissent among her workers: Robbie, the mentally challenged son of the cook, brothers Liam and Fergal, and Ned, an elderly gentleman who knows much about the area and seems a little resentful of Pru.  She attributes this to the fact that she is a newcomer, but things become muddled not soon after.
When a local reporter begins to write a blog about the progress on the gardens, accidents follow. Every time Hugo, the reporter, writes an article, something befalls the garden; for example,  he writes about the primroses and the next day the flats are discovered all overturned.  For awhile it appears that it is merely acts of vandalism - until the day Pru discovers a body in the garden.
Adding to this is the fact that Pru is still searching for her relatives - and may have found some - and that she and Christopher only have weekends together since he must work in London during the week.  While their relationship is still fairly new, and they are fighting for time together, he can't help but worry about her, knowing still that she must progress with the work, since her employers have told her they expect the garden to be ready for "Open Day."
This is a very good book.  In the beginning, I wasn't sure, since the first pages started out slow.  However, I've learned over time never to make snap judgments, and I wasn't disappointed this time out.  Pru is likable, and she doesn't take unnecessary chances, as do a lot of amateur sleuths.  She uses caution, and doesn't go off 'into dark places' by herself.  She does question people in order to find the murderer, but her heart is in the right place.  When she knows someone is accused that isn't guilty, she is careful in her questioning, never combative or downright stupid.
When we finally learn who the murderer is - and we have plenty of clues along the way - it doesn't matter that we may have guessed it long before she did.  What does matter is the fact that it was an enjoyable ride in the journey.  Highly recommended.

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