Could a fiercely contended garden competition provide a motive for murder?
With a surname like hers, it’s no wonder that Tish Tarragon is a wonderful chef. She also has a talent for solving puzzling crimes (Cookin’ the Books, 2019). Since she moved to Hobson Glen, Virginia, at the behest of her college pals, TV weatherman Jules Davis and Mary Jo Okensholt, devoted wife and mother of two, her literary-themed cafe has become very successful. Now she’s landed the job of catering an extravagant luncheon for the Coleton Creek garden club’s annual awards ceremony. The winner the past five years has been Sloane Shackleford, a womanizer with the morals of a tomcat who’s hated by almost everyone in the 60-plus community. People even suspect he leaves his dog, Biscuit, free to roam and damage the neighbors’ gardens. Together with Jules, who’ll help by tending bar, Tish visits the venue, joins club president Jim Ainsley for a tour of the wonderfully imaginative gardens, and meets the contestants who’ve slaved over them. When the tour arrives at Shackleford’s stunning garden, they discover him bludgeoned with a garden spade. The victim’s extensive list of enemies presents a challenge to Sheriff Clemson Reade, and Tish claims that she’s not on the case. Because her crime-solving reputation has preceded her, however, many of the residents share their tales of woe with Shackleford. Tish is overwhelmed between prep work for the party and soothing Mary Jo and her family when her husband, in an apparent midlife crisis, suddenly admits to an affair with a much younger woman. But she takes in Biscuit and finds that people won’t stop confiding in her. Despite the fierce competition, she can’t believe that the nice people she’s met would kill over a garden prize. So she slowly builds a case for murder with a better motive that she still finds shocking.
Obscure secrets, eccentric characters, and a soupçon of romance embellish an appealing mystery.