Ever-so-slight tales, six reworked from Country Living Gardener magazine’s Web site, featuring pudgy middle-aged sleuth China Bayles, Texas herb-store proprietor, and her chums.
Four of the ten stories here focus on mysterious disappearances: of a Siamese cat (“The Khat Who Became a Hero”), of a rare herb-book (“The Rosemary Caper”), of an original will (“The Pennyroyal Plot”), and of a children’s book store proprietor (“Bloom Where You’re Planted”). Another four feature genteel murders: a lemon-thyme gardener is dispatched in “An Unthymely Death,” an antique rosebush desecrater in “Death of a Rose Rustler,” the recipient of a tussie mussie nosegay in “A Violet Death,” and a brownie muncher in “A Deadly Chocolate Valentine.” A real-estate developer is foiled in “Ivy’s Wild, Wonderful Weeds,” and county-fair competitors reach a truce in “Mustard Madness.” The collection is semi-enlivened by 98(!) sidebars on everything from Dorothy L. Sayers’s ad campaign for mustard to how to make rose beads, brew herb tea, raise catnip, and bake Applesauce Mint Bread.
Minimal sleuthing, poorly tended plots, but the green-thumb crowd will probably be charmed by the gardening tidbits in those lushly planted sidebars.