Saturday, May 26, 2012

Book Review - The Azalea Assault


The Azalea Assault: A Garden Society Mystery

By: Alyse Carlson
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: June 2012
ISBN: 978-0425251300
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: May 26, 2012

Camellia “Cam” Harris struck it big when she somehow finagled the magazine, Garden Delights, into featuring the Roanoke’s La Fontaine gardens. The event seemed to be tailor-made for her considering her three loves were “gardening, her hometown, and PR.” Neil Patrick, the owner of La Fontaine and founder of the Roanoke Garden Society, as well as Samantha Hollister, current president of the RGS, were more than delighted to welcome Jean-Jacques George to town. The ooh la las and the how-do-ya-dos were short-lived when the so-called “world-renowned,” insufferable boor of a photographer actually showed up.

Genteel was not exactly Monsieur George’s middle name, nor was the command of his supposed native tongue exactly his strong suit. Derrière was as good as it got and he promptly began to pinch them, including that of Petunia’s, Cam’s sister who hardly had one. Jean-Jock, as Petunia soon dubbed him, was nuzzling up to Evangeline Patrick, but soon began an argument with Ian Ellsworth, the photographic editor. Jean-Jacques’s seemingly nondiscriminatory policy of aggravating everyone in sight didn’t exactly endear him to the RGS. The next day, Samantha, who “envisioned herself as a local celebrity,” was going to host a reception catered by Petunia and her tattooed husband, Nick, a man she despised.

Annie and Rob, Cam’s best friend and long-term boyfriend agreed with her that Jean-Jacques was little more than a “French fraud.” Little did they know that he’d be leaving almost as soon as he arrived. Monsieur Jock was found deader than disco lying underneath Evangeline’s window in the azaleas. Rob, a reporter anxious for a scoop, claimed the medical examiner said there was “a set of pruning sheers through the abdomen.” Joaquin “Jake” Moreno had a lot of people to interrogate, including Nick, suspect número uno. Things began to really blossom on the estate when Joseph Sadler-Neff began to scream, “I think the brownies have been poisoned!” Would the gardens of La Fontaine be host to more than one corpse?

This is a fantastic first in a series that has just the right touch of sweet, southern style elegance...with a dash of murder added to the recipe. The cast of characters was marvelously diverse and included everyone from southern blue-bloods, the wannabe princesses, to the ex-con with a prison wire tattoo around his neck. I found the plucky protagonist, Cam Harris, to be a smart, down-to-earth gal who will be a force to be reckoned with in this up and coming series. The plot had more twists and turns than Chubby Checker had in his prime, something that fans of new Garden Society mystery fans will appreciate. If you’re a garden geek, this is one series you’re going to love!

Quill says: If you like your mysteries a tad on the serious side, hard to solve, with a sleuth to be reckoned with, this Garden Society mystery might just be what you are looking for!