THE GARDEN PLOT by J.S. Borthwick


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Teacher/sleuth Sarah Deane (Dolly Is Dead, 1995, etc.) and her rugged Aunt Julia, a horsebreeder--State of Mainers, both--have joined a group tour of European gardens, led by horticultural expert Ellen Trevino and Whirlaway Tours director Barbara Baxter. Things go wrong from day one, when Ellen misses the plane's departure from Boston and turns up, wrapped in plastic and stabbed to death, on a Maine highway exit road, her car nowhere in sight. The group has arrived in England, meanwhile, and, after absorbing the shock of Ellen's death, goes about its sightseeing business. Sarah is kept up to date on the murder investigation by telephone reports from her doctor-husband Alex, a confidant of Deputy Sheriff Mike Laaka's, and before long she has plenty to report from her end: her ransacked room; the sudden depression of the elderly Hopper sisters; strange behavior involving underutilized cameras; the arrival of substitute garden-guru Henry Ruggles, who's shortly rescued from a drowning ""accident""; and a visit from Barbara's brother Gregory, a dealer in exotic arts and crafts. All the bits and pieces, and a lot more, coalesce--sort of--as the group arrives in Bellagio, Italy, and a final absurd incident brings a merciful end to the tour and to this totally unconvincing scenario. There are one or two characters who might catch the reader's interest here--mainly Amy, a teenaged would-be writer of mysteries--and some places half-heartedly evoked, but Sarah and Julia's busy-bodying becomes repellent halfway through, and the plotting is from never-never land. The author has done much better on her home territory.

Pub Date: April 11th, 1997
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: St. Martin's