In this mystery, a gardener unravels the story of what happened to his missing friend with some help from an unusual source.
Herman Funk—“Funky” to those who know him well—is an unassuming man with a passion for hosta plants. His life as a professional gardener is mostly one of quiet activity as he tends to his clients’ foliage and tries to warn people about the dangers of climate change. Then he starts hearing disembodied voices as he works in the garden. The messages seem to be a riddle he’s meant to solve, but who, or what, is sending them? And could they be somehow connected to the mysterious disappearance of Funky’s former client, Elisabeth Burgess, a decade prior? Meanwhile, a Mexican immigrant named Demetrio Perez gets ensnared in the mystery when he starts working for a sketchy character who’s also a hosta fanatic. Henry (Writing Workplace Cultures, 2000) subtitles his debut work of fiction “a magical realist gardening mystery,” and it’s an appropriate description for this quirky, creative novel. In it, hostas are revealed to be sentient beings with a complex, nuanced system of communication. The author writes numerous chapters from these plants’ perspectives, and they have personalities as varied as the humans who tend them. Along the way, Henry also weaves in plenty of details about the care and planting of hostas. (The author serves on the board of the American Hosta Society, and the book was first serialized in that society’s online journal.) His efforts will surely delight fellow hosta enthusiasts, and those who know little about the popular perennials will come away with a greater knowledge of them. There are plenty of hosta jokes along the way; when a character asks Funky what he thinks of Spilt Milk, a hosta variety, Funky replies, “No sense crying over it.” Unfortunately, the novel spends so much time delving into the details of rearing hostas that it takes a while for the core mystery to get going. However, patient readers will be rewarded with a unique whodunit that touches on important environmental issues.
A one-of-a-kind mystery that will appeal most to a niche audience of hosta aficionados.