Texas blooms at Chelsea in this cozy

Bluebonnet betrayalRecommended: The Bluebonnet Betrayal (Book 5 of the Potting Shed Mystery series) by Marty Wingate; scheduled for release 2 August 2016 by Alibi, a Random House imprint; list price $2.99 (USD), Kindle edition.

Marty Wingate takes her Potting Shed Mystery series to Britain’s most famous flower show with The Bluebonnet Betrayal, scheduled for release Tuesday, 2 August 2016.

The cozy mystery series features professional gardener Pru Parke, a Texan who transplants herself to England in the debut, The Garden Plot (available in ebook for $2.99/USD), and who presents the reader with a bouquet of garden lore when she’s not unearthing clues . . . and occasionally when she is. Pru is both a proud native of the Lone Star State and an avid Anglophile, and the series offers a good sense of both backgrounds.

These are true cozies, written without vulgar language or vulgar depictions of violence. Readers may also like the fact that Pru is neither a young woman nor an old one. In this fifth book, she has married DCI Charlie Pearse, whom she meets in the first book, and Wingate writes of their romance with a deftness as well as discretion. I love their flirting, but I’m never embarrassed by too much intimacy.

The association of the amateur with the professional is a standard of the cozy genre, but here Wingate succumbs to the all-too-common temptation to allow the amateur (Pru) to make rather ridiculous demands for inside information from a police officer who only knows her by reputation. We don’t, or shouldn’t, expect too much realism from cozies, but it’s disappointing to see an otherwise sensible sleuth act so silly – and irritating to be asked to believe that a Scotland Yard detective would yield to such appeals. Especially with so much evidence to indicate that Wingate is fully capable of writing around this dilemma.

The plot involves a romantic quadrangle that is a bit of a stretch, too, and I suspect many readers will identify the murderer much sooner than Pru does. I also got a bit irritated with the repeated identification of bluebonnets as a Hill Country wildflower since I know them firsthand from my hometown of Houston, and have seen them bloom in profusion throughout the southeastern part of the state. I’d have expected Wingate, who herself is a well-known garden speaker and writer, to know better.

Yet, despite these detractions, this is an enjoyable and entertaining read. Wingate transports readers to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and the grounds of the Royal Hospital on which it is held each May, quite fun for all of us who would like to go but may never have a chance. I had read the debut but not the middle books of the series, and I thought this one worked as a stand-alone. The series is attractively priced, too, from $2.99 (USD) for the first and last and $3.99 (USD) for Books 2, 3 and 4.

The Bluebonnet Betrayal isn’t likely to rate a best-in-show, but it’s certainly worth the price of admission.

NOTE: Sis received a complimentary advanced reading copy from Alibi via NetGalley. She happily asserts that neither has attempted to influence her.

Description: Pru’s life in England is coming full circle. A Texas transplant, she’s married to the love of her life, thriving in the plum gardening position she shares with her long-lost brother, and prepping a Chelsea Flower Show exhibit featuring the beloved bluebonnets of the Texas hill country. Technically, Twyla Woodford, the president of a gardening club in the Lone Star State, is in charge of the London event, but Pru seems to be the one getting her hands dirty. When they finally do meet, Pru senses a kindred spirit—until Twyla turns up dead.

Although Twyla’s body was half buried under a wall in their display, Pru remains determined to mount a spectacular show. Twyla would have insisted. So Pru recruits her husband, former Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Pearse, to go undercover and do a bit of unofficial digging into Twyla’s final hours. If Pru has anything to say about it, this killer is going to learn the hard way not to mess with Texas.

About the author: Marty Wingate is the author of the Potting Shed mysteries from Random House/Alibi. She also writes the Birds of a Feather mystery series, which debuted in 2015 with The Rhyme of the Magpie.

Marty speaks at national events, and writes about gardens and travel. She can be heard on A Dry Rain (adryrain.net), a free podcast available on iTunes. Marty is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, as well as the Royal Horticultural Society and the Garden Writers Association. She leads small-group garden tours to European destinations including England, Scotland, Ireland, France, and on North American journeys. Marty doesn’t believe that the thin veneer of tourism – successive one-night stops in a series of hotels – can ever replace getting to know the people, history and culture of a region, and so, when arranging her tours, she always includes time for a cup of tea, a pint of beer, or a glass of wine.