Wednesday, May 06, 2009

A Corpse For Yew - Joyce and Jim Lavene

A Corpse For Yew
A Peggy Lee Garden Mystery
Joyce and Jim Lavene
Berkley Prime Crime


No matter old you are, you’re still a kid around your parents. Peggy Lee, a forensic botanist and owner of the Potting Shed, found this out the hard way when her parents moved to Charlotte. Age has done nothing to mellow her super-critical mother, Lilla Cranshaw Hughes. When Lilla joined the Shamrock Historical Society, Peggy hoped it would take some of the pressure off her. But Lilla never misses an opportunity to try to fix up her daughter with any remotely eligible man. The whole situation is high irony. Peggy and vet Steve are keeping their relationship a secret from Lilla, since she (Lilla) is quite firm about Peggy mourning her husband, a police officer, for five years before marrying again. The secrecy is starting to put a serious strain on the relationship.

As the story begins, Peggy finds herself trudging around on a muddy lakebed, exposed due to record drought conditions. The historical society is there to collect artifacts and human bones from the site. Before the site was a lake, it was a village, and vestiges of some buildings can still be seen. More surprising to Peggy is the fact that, when the place was flooded, many graves were moved to a new site, but those whose relatives were dead or gone or otherwise unable to pay for the move, were left there. Now that the lakebed is exposed, the society plans to rectify that.

What they find is a much more recent interment. The body of Lois Mullis lies under a layer of mud, her lips an oddly bright shade of red. Lois was the police chief’s aunt, and very socially active. She was expected at the site that morning, but never showed. It’s up to Peggy to assist the police in discovering just how and why Lois died when and where she did.

Readers need no previous knowledge of the series (POISONED PETALS, PERFECT POISON) to enjoy this installment. The authors do a fine job of sketching in the pertinent background information as the story progresses. The authors provide a wealth of information about plants of all kinds, including those that might be associated with the story. I found the setting – the uncovered village – to be especially interesting. Reading about Peggy and following her while she solves the mystery is always fun, and always makes me long to be outside, planting something. Sadly, my thumbs are not green, so I’ll just have to live vicariously through this charming series.

Rating: 7 ½
May 2009
ISBN# 978-0-425-22810-4 (paperback)


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