Monday, May 12, 2008

Perfect Poison - Joyce and Jim Lavene

Perfect Poison
A Peggy Lee Garden Mystery
Joyce and Jim Lavene
Berkley Prime Crime


Dr. Peggy Lee (no, not that one) is a widow, a forensic botanist, and the owner of her own garden shop called The Potting Shed. As the story opens, Peggy, along with many others, are attending a funeral when emergency personnel arrive, looking for the sheriff. There’s a diver in a nearby lake, checking the structure of the dam, and he’s stopped replying to hails. Dr. Ruth Sargent, an expert in underwater forensics, and another friend of Peggy’s, is also in attendance, and offers to go into the lake – she has her equipment with her, from a dive earlier in the day – and check on the man. She asks Peggy to go with her, mostly for moral support, but also in case the scene requires a forensic botanist. This will be Peggy’s first case in an official capacity.

Ruth emerges from the water with the sad news that the diver is dead. According to his wife, he was a careful diver, but Peggy knows that accidents can happen at any time. According to the new mayor of the town, this was not the first diver to die while inspecting the dam. As a forensic botanist, Peggy finds duckweed and muskgrass on the body; both common to any lake in the area.

A few days later, Peggy is summoned to a private home, the scene of a pool drowning. The dead woman has duckweed in her hair. That shouldn’t be, since duckweed cannot live in chlorinated water. While the two crime scenes seem completely unrelated, the duckweed connection stays with Peggy. She becomes further involved in the case when news gets out that Ruth and the deceased diver had an affair. Ruth becomes the prime suspect, but Peggy can’t believe that her friend would kill.

This is the latest in a series (POISONED PETALS) but can easily be read as a standalone. The authors skillfully weave in the pertinent facts and background about Peggy and other recurring characters without interrupting the story. Peggy’s relationship with Steve continues to evolve, and she faces competition from a new, larger, garden center. Each chapter begins with a bit about various plants, and there are plenty of gardening tips throughout. The heart of the story is the mystery, and it’s just as involving as in past installments. Peggy is a wonderful amateur sleuth: charming, mature, no-nonsense, and exactly the kind of person you’d like to have as a friend.

Rating: 7
May 2008
ISBN# 978-0-425-22127-3 (paperback)


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