|2014 Philadelphia Flower Show|
The theme of Macy's 2014 Flower Show, March 30th through April 14th, will be The Secret Garden, after the classic beloved novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. My daughter still has my battered illustrated copy of the book, and rereads it during long winters. But many gardens hold secrets––wonderful or otherwise, as British actor and host of the spectacular Planet Earth series Sir David Attenborough discovered a few years ago in his London garden . . .
For some reason, the body buried in the garden seems to be a more common theme in Britain than the United States. At least it is more widely publicized, in fact as well as fiction. Is it that there are more available wild places here, where a body, once discovered, doesn't point back as readily to the culprit? Or that the meticulous care the British famously take with their gardens calls for greater quantities of compost? I have no idea. But murders and gardens go together like beer and pretzels, wherever the bodies are buried.
Sixty years later, her great-niece and heir, Helen, is turning 30 when Diana dies. Helen, a busy attorney, hardly has time to go through her staid old aunt's papers, but the first line of an old diary grabs her attention. "Today at half past two in the afternoon I was acquitted of the murder of my husband." Helen is both fascinated and appalled, and doesn't feel comfortable accepting the house and inheritance until she discovers her aunt's innocence––or guilt. This beautifully crafted and rather slow moving story is told from several perspectives over the two time periods. Diaries, witness statements, and news stories from the period help Helen and her cousin put the pieces together. This stand-alone book is one of the more literary mysteries I have read in awhile, and gives a remarkable feel for the period.
Susan Wittig Albert has written a long series of mysteries featuring Texas lawyer-turned-herbalist China Bayles. In Thyme of Death, the first, China is skeptical that her ailing friend Jo had committed suicide. As China and her friend Ruby investigate, several other people turn up dead. Most of the titles in this cozy series have the name of an herb––deadly or not––in the title. The 23rd in the series, Death Comes Quickly, is due out on April 1. I have read only spottily in this series, sometimes out of order, but don't feel that the continuity suffered.
Before I read any more about gardens, however, it's time to order my tickets for the Philadelphia Flower Show, now in progress. I don't really expect any juicy murders at the event, but a day full of gorgeous garden displays in a humid hothouse will be very welcome. And this time I promise not to bring home and murder any of the beautiful exhibits!