Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Midsummer Mayhem (A Potting Shed Mystery #7)

Author:  Marty Wingate
Genre:  Mystery

Digital Book
ASIN #:  B079R4N9T4
Random House - Alibi
$4.99 Amazon
November 6, 2018

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Pru's friends and neighbors are abuzz with the news of an acting troupe putting on an outdoor performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream.  And while many are eager to catch a glimpse of famed actor Ambrose Grant, Pru can't wait to finally see the spectacular gardens of the private estate where the play will be performed.  When the estate's gardener abruptly quits - frustrated with actors trampling his beloved plants - Pru is called upon for her gardening expertise.  She throws herself into creating magical woodland forest scenes, and is quickly drawn into the excitement of putting on a play, as she watches the drama on and off the stage.  But the play's suddenly no longer the thing, when one of the actors turns up murdered.

Pru's husband, Detective Inspector Christopher Pearse, relies on Pru's knowledge of all the players in this particular intrigue, and Pru finds herself using rehearsals to investigate.  But playing the role of private eye could prove perilous for Pru, as she closes in on a murderer who won't let anyone - least of all the gardener -  keep him from stopping the show...dead

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Pru Parke is a master gardener at Greenoaks Estate, where she lives with her husband DI Christopher Pearse.  She works with her older brother Simon, and one morning he tells her that a neighboring estate needs a temporary gardener to help with a Shakespeare troupe that is doing an outdoor production at the place.  Since the owners live abroad and the garden is never opened to the public, Pru jumps at the chance.  She also engages part-time help from Simon and her helper Hal to keep the estate in top order.

When she meets the members she is immediately taken with the director, Max Stirling, and a couple of the players - Ambrose Grant, for one, who is quite well-known in the industry as also being on television shows; and discovers that her cook Evelyn Peachey is enamored of him; but it doesn't stop there as she finds her sister-in-law Polly and the Reverend Bernadette fans as well.

She also notes drama in the cast that has nothing to do with the play - one of the players, a young actor named Gabriel Gibb who is playing the young lover Lysander has taken it a step further by bedding as many of the single female cast and crew members that he can.  He goes so far as to make a play for Pru, only apologizing once he discovers that she's a married woman.  But then she also discovers that Ambrose and the costumer designer Miriam have a past neither is willing to talk about but Pru sees they want to; and she tries to decipher a way to help them get back together.

It is only when an actor is murdered that Pru discovers more than one cast member has a past they aren't willing to talk about or admit to, and while she offers to help Christopher find out who had the most to gain by the death, she doesn't realize that digging too deep into the murder could find her digging her own grave...

This is the seventh book in the Potting Shed Mysteries and once again Ms. Wingate has given us a mystery well worth reading.  Pru and Christopher are delightful characters; it is endearing indeed to see that he trusts his wife's judgment and allows her to help - somewhat - in his investigation, even though he'd like her to stay out of it. 

We also see that their cook Evelyn Peachey, who's also teaching Pru how to cook, is becoming more of a friend instead of an employee.  Evelyn has completely warmed to Pru and it's kind of fun to watch her behavior this time out; first when she discovers that Pru has invited him to dinner, and then after meeting him how Evelyn has expanded her cooking to the troupe of actors, sending food every day with Pru. 

I like how Pru was asking questions of everyone while being careful not to be invasive of them so as not to make enemies; and I felt that there were plenty of red herrings strewn within - nearly everyone had a reason to dislike the person - although she had to decide whether it was reason enough to want them dead or not.

When we got closer to the end it was almost as if both Pru and Christopher had the epiphany at the same time about who the killer might be, although neither one could actually imagine just how inventive this person was.  The clues were there throughout but it is up to the reader to sift through them to find the truth, just as Pru needed to do.

Ms. Wingate is a talented writer who has a way with a story that keeps you interested from the very beginning through the end.  She weaves everything so nicely together and creates characters that are animated and believable.  Her descriptions of the gardens are just lovely, and makes you want to visit Great Britain just to take tours and be able to see them for yourself.

When the ending comes and all is said and done, it is almost disappointing that there is no more of the tale; but since I always have such enjoyment reading these books I always look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B079R4N9T4?pf_rd_

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2549680999

More on Marty Wingate's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/w/marty-wingate/

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