Debut thriller about orchids to kill for.
It’s been a while since Mara Dunn’s twin sister, Bedie, disappeared on a hiking holiday in southwestern France—close to 20 years, actually. But Mara has never really been able to put it behind her, never able to come to terms with the bleakness of how and why. Now, suddenly, years after the police have given up the search and consigned the matter to the cold-case bin, Mara has a hot lead. During an antiques hunt, in a basket of junk, she miraculously comes upon Bedie’s camera. Moreover, there’s film in it, with pictures of wild orchids—Bedie was crazy about them—in settings identifiable as the gorgeously romantic Dordogne region. The cops, busy elsewhere, refuse to be convinced that the camera is Bedie’s, despite the initials B.D. inscribed inside the case. One of them does, however, steer Mara to Julian Wood, a slightly misanthropic Englishman considerably more adept with orchids than he is with people. But, despite himself, he likes Mara, who persuades him to join her on what he can’t help but regard as a fool’s errand. Trace Bedie’s last steps from photographs two decades old? There is, to be sure, an additional inducement: the chance to sight the rare—and, accordingly, precious—Lady Slipper orchid, thus making a score to be relished, envied and lionized over. While Julian’s initial skepticism is merited, surprising and often frightening things begin to happen as the journey progresses. Is it possible someone’s growing nervous about them, someone with a guilty secret to hide? Be that as it may, one thing seems certain—the world of serious orchid collectors has a dark side to it, with violence a volatile component.
Begins better than it ends, but the cast—quirky, colorful and appealing—is worth the price. A promising first effort.