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Pauline's Fantasy Reviews

Reviews of fantasy books, plus some mystery, sci-fi and literary works, and my random thoughts on book-related matters.

Currently reading

Dragon Queen (The Memory of Flames, #5)
Stephen Deas
The Splintered Eye (The War of Memory Cycle #2)
H. Anthe Davis, Erica Dakin

Death In The Winter Garden

Death In The Winter Garden - Karen Lowe This is the second murder mystery by this author featuring the gardening heroine (and amateur sleuth) Fern and her detective love interest Drummond. Both books have the same gentle charm, and this one is even more enjoyable to read than the first. It follows the well-established Agatha Christie formula where the first murder arrives in short order, a large array of suspects walks on and off stage, and our amateur detective leaps from clue to clue like a gazelle, leaving the local plod looking heavy-footed. Nothing wrong with that, of course.

The unique approach here is that the central character is a garden designer, so we also get a great deal of botanical information along the way. Whether you find this interesting is a matter of taste (I enjoyed it, although it is reminiscent of 'Rosemary and Thyme'). The background here is well drawn, and all the characters and their quirks are nicely believable. The on/off romance between Fern and Drummond is also quite credible. As a murder mystery, there were no great surprises in any of the revelations, but that's not really a problem. It's much better to spot the murderer right from the start than to be faced with a totally unexpected resolution.

Some criticisms: the botanical details, while interesting, tended to arrive in mini info-dumps. Also, the ending seemed a bit rushed, with various dangling loose ends being tied up with neat little bows (some of them I had completely forgotten about!). And for someone struggling to get a business off the ground, Fern certainly eats well (the cookery subtext is almost as large in this book as the horticulture). All that roast lamb and steak and cinnamon puddings - mmm, yummy. Although - a quick bowl of lentil soup? In my experience home made soup tends to take hours of chopping and simmering. Maybe she prepared a pot earlier.

But these are minor niggles. This is a quick, enjoyable read, something to while away a few hours on a dark, wet winter's day, curled up in front of the fire with hot soup (lentil, maybe?). I hope the author writes lots more books like this.