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by Ann Ripley

Pub Date: Jan. 12th, 1999
ISBN: 0-553-10693-7
Publisher: Bantam

Once more over the garden wall with mulch-maven/would-be sleuth Louise Eldredge (Death of a Political Plant, 1998, etc.), who lives in Washington with Foreign Service husband Bill and teenaged daughter Janie. The family’s off on a weekend to the Litchfield Falls Inn in Connecticut, along with Janie’s boyfriend Chris and his mother Nora—combining a pleasure trip with the photographing of a local garden tour for Louise’s TV program. Louise is impressed by the beauty of the historic inn, and by its owner Barbara Seymour. Barbara’s niece Stephanie is visiting with husband Neil, and it’s Neil who saves Barbara from serious injury when she tumbles down a staircase. Louise’s fellow guests are a mixed bag: newlyweds Mark and Sandy Post (old money on her side); botanist Dr. Jeffrey Freeling; Tim and Grace Cooley, Frank and Fiona Storm—who together run successful schools for problem kids. Nursery experts Rod and Dorothy Casparra are also guests, angrily claiming their new hybrid red iris has been stolen by Fenimore Smith, owner of nearby White Flower Farm. The weekend’s relative calm is shattered when Dr. Freeling, part of a group climbing Bear Mountain, is killed in a fall, and soon after the body of Grace Cooley is found at the foot of the Inn’s picturesque falls. With encouragement from local Sergeant Drucker, Louise wastes no time in putting together observation and speculation to arrive at a dangerous scenario. Dedicated gardeners will be awed by the series of focused, professional lectures scattered throughout. The storyline itself tends to ramble fuzzily through its cast in search of a convincing finale but doesn’t quite make it.