Flowerbed of State (White House Gardner Mystery - Book 1) by Dorothy St. James
Publication Date: May 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: Paperback, 320pp
(Received for review from Berkley/Obsidian)
Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound
Dorothy St. James on the WEB: website, facebook, twitter
Excerpt from Flowerbed of State (courtesy of As We Were Saying...)
Synopsis (Book Blurb):
When it comes to gardening, Cassandra "Casey" Calhoun isn't afraid to get her hands dirty. But when it comes to murder, she's not the kind of gal to let any killer get away clean...
Casey's passion for organic gardening and eye for detail have carried her into the most important patch of land in America - President's Park, on which sits the most important house in America: the White House.
But while she's readying the final touches on an innovative cultivation program for the First Lady to inspect, she's attacked from behind by an unknown assailant who then disappears. When she comes to she notices some damaged foliage that leads her and the Secret Service to a dead woman in a trash can.
With the biggest opportunity of her life ready to bloom, and all the President's men plowing up her perfect plans. Casey has to dig in and root out a killer before she ends up planted herself...
Flowerbed of State is the first in a new series by Dorothy St. James called The White House Gardener Mystery series. With a unique setting and complex and interesting cast of characters this book is sure to hit the spot with cozy and mainstream mystery fans. Using an organic gardening theme, Dorothy St. James gives readers an inside look at what goes on in President's Park, garden of the White House.
Casey Calhoun caught the attention of the First Lady in Charleston, South Carolina, where her organic gardening ideas piqued the president's wife's interest and got her thinking of how the garden in President's Park would benefit from some of Casey's ideas. It's a job that many would kill for and apparently someone has. Just when Casey is about to present her ideas to the powers that be, she is attacked and ends up face down in the garden. A trail of debris and a Secret Service Agent named Jake Turner lead Casey to a trash can that isn't full of garbage. It's filled with a dead body, that of Pauline Bonde who works for the Treasury Department and audits the books of some very powerful political players. It's up to Casey to figure out who the culprit is before she ends up six feet under.
Dorothy St James is a new voice to the cozy mystery sub-genre, but not to writing. Dorothy St. James is the pen name of author, Dorothy McFalls who has written several regency romances and other novels. McFalls draws on her own experience as an urban planner and wildlife biologist to create characters like Casey Calhoun an organic gardener from South Carolina who ends up in one of the most famous gardens in the country, President's Park, garden of the White House.
I can honestly say that I have not been very informed when it comes to the White House grounds and the White House itself. I had no idea until this year that the White House even had a garden. Until I heard something on the news about Michele Obama and her gardening habits. I felt like this was very current and interesting theme. Organic gardening has become very popular in the last few years and so many more people are interested in raising their own produce and eating more healthy. I thought the gardening tips in the back of the book were cool and I found myself wanting to try them. I also enjoyed the page out of Casey's notebook that discussed what she planted and when.
In a lot of ways I felt like I was being educated as well as entertained with this book. I learned a lot about organic gardening and produce and about the inner workings of the Secret Service when it comes to the president and his family and the security measures taken for their safety in the White House. I found all of these details very interesting and the author did a great job of incorporating the mystery aspect of the book into that framework. Flowerbed of State is the first in a new series and it opens up a lot of possibilities for what's to come next. St. James does a great job of setting up the series and introducing the players. Casey, Jake and many others that will most like play a part in further installments.
Overall the book was believable and the case and clues seemed authentic. The author doesn't rush the story but allows the reader to infer a lot of information before giving them the answer to their questions. There are lots of twists and turns and some really intriguing suspects. The author keeps the reader on the hook throughout the book. One of my favorite parts of a good cozy mystery is trying to figure out whodunit before the end of the book and seeing if I'm correct. I feel like I've accomplished something if I can follow the author's thought process to the right conclusion, but I also love being surprised in the end as well. Then I can sit and ponder over what I've read and pick up on the nuances I missed the first time. Can you tell I really enjoy cozies? LOL!
I recommend this one to cozy mystery fans and hope that mainstream mystery readers will give it a try. It may not have all the guts and glory that a typical thriller would have, but it's a totally different animal. It's a great sub-genre for those who like a lighter approach to mysteries, with more amateur crime solving and less emotional turmoil.
Flowerbed of State is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!
Dorothy St. James lives a charmed life at the beach just outside Charleston, South Carolina, with her husband, two slightly needy dogs, and a contemplative cat. She earned her bachelor of science in aquaculture, fisheries, and wildlife biology from Clemson University's School of Agriculture, graduating at the top of her class. She went on to receive a master of public administration from the University of Charleston with an emphasis on environmental urban planning.
Berkley Prime Crime is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of Dorothy St. James' book, Flowerbed of State.
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