Ornamental blacksmith Meg Langslow confronts a dognapping, two chomped roses, a pair of missing garden shears, some cattle rustlers and several murder attempts, one of them successful.
They’re all part of a crime wave engulfing the Caerphilly Rose Show in Virginia. Meg’s latest comic nightmare begins with her father’s discovery that two of the blooms he’s bred for the Winkleson Trophy, given to the darkest rose, have been eaten by deer (perhaps lured to the site by a bottle of doe urine) and her mother’s discovery that the odor of the manure he’s spread on his roses has so befouled their house that the show will have to be moved to Philomena Winkleson’s neighboring farm. The hastily arranged new site is home to a black-and-white menagerie—banded cows, fainting goats, extremely territorial swans—that no longer includes Mimi, the purebred Maltese that’s been stolen away. Mrs. Winkleson, who seems even more demented than Meg’s blood relatives, plans to keep her gates locked against intruders, although she’s now expecting dozens of guests, and to ban from the show all roses that aren’t black and white. Sadly, the woman in whose back Meg finds the missing shears she forged isn’t Mrs. Winkleson but a volunteer mistaken for her. Shame on you, Agatha Christie fans, if you can’t spot the killer long before Meg does.
As usual in this hilarious series (Cockatiels at Seven, 2008, etc.), the obstacles to domestic and civil harmony are more inventive than the manufactured crises they provoke. But a good time is guaranteed for everyone except Meg.