A dull neighborhood dinner party heats up when a killer newly released from a mental hospital drops in to say hello.
Garden maven Louise Eldridge was instrumental in convicting Peter Hoffman of a brutal murder, but he got off with an insanity plea and is out after only four years. After the party, he confronts Louise in a way that makes her look seriously out of control. When his body is found under the azalea bushes in her yard, the police suspect her despite all the help she’s given the Fairfax Sheriff’s Department in the past (Death at the Spring Plant Sale, 2003, etc.). Louise’s downward spiral continues when the body of another neighbor is found buried in her onion patch, sending her back and forth between despairing paralysis and frenetic sleuthing. Her husband Bill and their daughters Martha and Jane come up with plenty of other neighborhood denizens who’d be happy to see both men dead: Hoffman’s wife, several men involved in business deals with Hoffman and even his lawyer. Late-night prowls lead to more clues and danger for Louise, whose showdown with the murderer ends when an obliging tree saves her from death.
The engaging Eldridge family seem a bit over the top this time, but the gardening tips are always welcome, especially the charming essay on volunteer plants, altogether the best thing here.