Summer is all about fun reads. I have a stack to read when it is too hot to do much else, have travel (planes, trains or automobiles) or just want to relax. Cozy mysteries often fit the bill as they have an uncomplicated mystery, a little romance and are generally fast reads (short or simple). This was a delightful read, taking place in my favourite August place (think Edinburgh Festival)!
Title: Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Marty Wingate
Publisher: Random House/Alibi. 276 pp
Genre: cozy, mystery, english mystery, British mystery, Scotland. 3.5 stars
Marty Wingate is the author of The Potting Shed mysteries: The Garden Plot, The Red Book of Primrose House, and Between a Rock and a Hard Place. Her new mystery series, Birds of a Feather: The Rhyme of the Magpie was published June 2015. Marty writes about gardening in the PNW and travel (she also gives European garden tours). She can be heard on A Dry Rain (adryrain.net), a free podcast available on iTunes. Wingate 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. Her enthusiasm for flowers and gardening has created a lovely, entertaining series. Be careful downloading titles, as there are a dozen books with this title; kindle price is quite reasonable.
Story line: The Potting Shed Mysteries take place in Britain (England and now Scotland), where master gardener Pru Parke has transplanted herself. In the first book, Pru (short for Prunella) of course finds a body in her odd job but is introduced to DCI Christopher Pearse. There is a developing romantic relationship throughout the three books with both characters in their 50s. In the second book on Primrose house, they have a long distance relationship as she has found her dream job at an 18th century Manor house in Sussex. In this delightful installment Between a Rock and a Hard Place, once again the couple part, but this time to be married in three months, just after she finishes her next job. Pru is off to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh to determine if a newly discovered document is indeed a lost journal of an 18th century plant collector (Archibald Menzies). There are of course bodies, politics, sinister characters but hysterical wedding plans. And memorable secondary characters (especially Tamsin Duncan, Mrs Murchie, and Murdo) which make for a charming read. Pru is an interesting protagonist, becoming more confident and at home in her newly adopted country. These books are the definition of cosy: fast easy reads, delightful secondary characters, solvable mystery and fun. There is a nice blend of history, gardening and romance. I was glad it wasn’t a long wait until the third book. If you haven’t read them, read in order as one summer beach read.
Of course I must leave you with a few details on Archibald Menzies (please remember there are few if any “z” sounds in scottish and this surname sounds more like “Ming ess” (Which also explains why many tourists can’t find the stationers shop when the locals, plus accent, direct them.)) Menzies is often overlooked as a plant collector as there have been so many other great scottish botanists (especially David Douglas, further reading). Menzies (from Perthshire) trained as a surgeon at the University of Edinburgh, but was descended from a long line of botanists and gardeners (all four brothers, father, grandfather). He was also an explorer, part of many ship expeditions (China, Hawaii, PNW, West Indies) as surgeon, naturalist and or botanist. His later voyage with Cpt Vancouver on the HMS Discovery are recorded in fantastic, detailed journals documenting an explorers life. These are held by the British Museum. (Some interesting excerpts online). He introduced to Europe a real dinosaur tree: the monkey puzzle tree (Auracaria sp). To say nothing of rhododendrons. RBGE has fantastic collections of these plants. I visit annually.
If you like Rosemary and Thyme, Murder She Wrote or Agatha Christie
Wingate is recommended for readers of Laura Childs, Ellery Adams, Laura McKinlay or Mary Daheim.
For historical plant collectors:
Carolyn Fry The Plant Hunters (2013)
Toby Musgrave, Chris Gardner, Will Musgrave The Plant Hunters (1998)
Tyler Whittle The Plant Hunters (1997)
Read as an ARC from Netgalley. Thank you!