Camellia Harris, my sleuth in The Garden Society Mysteries set in Roanoke, Virginia, has a sidekick, as is the tradition in Cozy Mysteries, but Cam has a little sumpin sumpin that I haven't seen much of, so I thought I'd talk a bit about the TEAM. Each of Cam's friends has a role that has propelled the sleuthing forward... or hindered it... depending on the book and the preconceptions of that particular character in that particular situation.
The overall dynamic though, is FUN. So I wanted to give you all a mini-intro to the “Fearless Foursome”
Cam: Cam Harris is a practical, hard-working girl. She fell in love with gardening as a child because her mother was an avid gardener, and professionally, she has gone into public relations, so she feels extremely lucky to be working managing public relations for the Roanoke Garden Society (of which her deceased mother was a founding member). Cam's primary character flaw is also her greatest professional asset—she tends to spin things into the best light, so the lines of truth are just a little bit fuzzy—but she is a loyal friend and family member, and she is smart and willing to do what is necessary when those she loves inevitably find themselves in trouble.
Annie: Some serious, practical people really NEED someone in their life who is sort of goofy, willing to push the boundaries, and who just urges them to laugh more and take life a little less seriously. For Cam, this is Annie. Cam and Annie have been best friends since middle school and Annie is the Yin to Cam's Yang. They are outwardly opposite, but fit together perfectly as friends. Cam likes to plan. Annie improvises. Cam is tidy, Annie is a tornado. Cam generally follows the rules and Annie has burned the rulebook. She doesn't endorse such nonsense.
Rob: is Cam's long-time boyfriend. He is a sports reporter, but of late he has managed to get the scoop on a couple murder stories. Cam and Rob met at a Young Media Professionals meeting (in fact more details to this story appear in this book), and Rob and Cam have a fair bit in common. They are both driven and ambitious, both have the 'snoop bug' (or they wouldn't have gone into their fields) and they both enjoy figuring out a puzzle. The place they come into conflict is that Cam has a vested interest in the story flattering her client, where Rob's interest is always in the truth. As a sports reporter, Rob is also an athlete, though only for fun these days, but his speed and agility have not gone amiss in this series.
Jake: Joaquin Moreno, or Jake, was originally just a teammate of Rob's on their city league baseball team, but as a police officer, during the first murder Cam encountered, he ended up a helpful friend or foil, depending on the moment, and in the end he was Annie's boyfriend, so he's been integrated into the group. Of the group, Jake most often plays Cam's foil, as he doesn't like the amateurs sleuthing, but he has good resources when he can be convinced, and Annie knows how to convince him to help now and then. Besides that, Cam acknowledges that Jake is good for Annie—he cares about her and is good to her, providing some much-needed grounding.
The Joys and Challenges of Sleuthing by Committee
I think with this many players involved, it has opened up doors for VARIETY in sources and clues. Both Rob and Jake have legitimate sources because of their careers, and Annie, the sneak, can sometimes get her hands on information she really shouldn't have, which leaves Cam to ask questions, but gives her some other tools in her box, too. It also means more can be communicated through dialog, which I enjoy [especially the Cam/Annie dialog—that stuff is a hoot to write].
On the other hand it also provides some challenges in 'directing' [wait, did he know that yet?] and figuring out ways to make sure everyone is informed without repeating the story three times.
Overall though, I hope this set of characters is one that most readers can say, “I'd really like to hang out with these guys for a while.” I know I would, though honestly, Annie channels my online persona and two people together with that inability to behave are surely asking for trouble.
Keeping Mum (Garden Society Mystery - Book 3) by Alyse Carlson
Publication Date: 03/04/2014
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Berkley Prime Crime
Genre: Cozy Mystery
(Received for an honest review from Berkley Prime Crime)
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Indiebound
Alyse Carlson (aka. Hart Johnson) on the WEB: website, twitter, facebook, goodreads
Books in the series:
The Azalea Assault (2012), The Begonia Bribe (2013), Keeping Mum (2014)
Coverart: Click the Image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.
Excerpt from, Keeping Mum, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature.
Roanoke, Virginia, is home to some of the country’s most exquisite gardens, and it’s Camellia Harris’s job to promote them. But when a political fundraiser turns deadly, everyone’s a candidate for murder...
Cam and her best friend, Annie, are planning a gala for a local Senate candidate—a murder mystery themed silent auction where the guests bid on who will be the night’s “victim.” Coordinating a beautiful display of fall flowers and planning the perfect fake crime is hard enough, but with a guest list that is a “who’s who” of the Roanoke elite, Cam has her hands full navigating the egos and grudges of her high society guests.
When local financial tycoon Derrick Windermere is found dead next to a shattered pot of chrysanthemums, the night’s fun and games quickly turn serious. Half the guests had good reason to want Windermere dead, but only one is suspiciously missing in action—Annie’s father. Now Cam will not only have to figure out which partygoer is a killer, but find her friend’s father before all their reputations end up dragged through the mud...
Keeping Mum is the third book in Alyse Carlson's Garden Society Mystery series. Set in the beautiful city of Roanoke, Virginia, which is known for it's gardens, this is a mystery that will keep readers in the hunt for the killer. Carlson's attention to detail is one of the things that readers love about the Garden Society books. She is able to make the beauty of those gardens come to life. Death by flower pot may sound a bit mild mannered, but in this cozy it's anything but. With a political angle, a great cast of characters and plenty of twists and turns this is one readers won't want to miss.
What I liked:
Many of you know that I live in Kentucky, and we have gardens of all sorts from vegetable to herb to flowers, but it's nothing like the coastal area of Virginia. Roanoke is a beautiful city and the gardens are phenomenal. I think Alyse Carlson really did her homework with this series and does a great job of bringing Roanoke's gardens to life. It is an unusual career for the cozy protagonist and I think there is a real uniqueness about this series.
Cam Harris is always a delightful heroine. She has a great cast of secondary characters behind her and she always knows how to get the information she needs to solve the crime. I think she has a lot of spunk, but it is balanced with a lot of heart. I love her relationship with Annie and how this book brought them even closer because of the connection to Annie's father, as the prime suspect of the murder. I always think that books with strong female friendships are great to read, when coupled with a mystery, they are even better.
I loved the political angle that takes place in Keeping Mum. You have an event that is in support of a political candidate, a former political office holders as the main suspect and the who's who of Roanoke all in attendance. That makes for some serious suspects with all kinds of interesting motives. Carlson goes out of her way to make all of the right connections between these characters to keep the killer just under the surface until the end. I didn't feel like I was being given the run around as a reader with this one. It was straight forward and concise but there so many believable reasons why someone would want to kill this guy, that I just couldn't figure it out. It was a lot of fun!
What I didn't like:
I liked just about everything about this one, including the flower pot of death. It may not be a totally original idea but it definitely felt fitting for this series. One thing that did take a little bit away from this one, was that we did not get to see very many of the townspeople other than the main character and her posse. I like all of the interesting people we have met so far in this series and hope to see more of them in the next book.
This was a great addition to the series. Carlson continues to engage readers with beautiful descriptions and interesting information about Roanoke. She balances Cam's personal life with her career and the mystery itself well. It's just a well rounded good cozy series. I can't wait to see what happens next.
Keeping Mum is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!
About the Author:
Alyse Carlson is the author of the Garden Society Mysteries, including The Azalea Assault and The Begonia Bribe. Keeping Mum is the third in the series.
The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of Keeping Mum by Alyse Carlson.
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