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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Review - The Scarlet Pepper

Winners of the Mid-Summer Blog Hop Giveaway are CaseyCG, Erma2167, Jenn, hhkaufman78, Amanda Ray, Tamar W, and Darlene (I had three more books added at the last minute for seven total winners.)  You should receive an email asking for your mailing addresses.

We are headed into a heated campaign season.  I thought we could lessen the intensity with a mystery involving the White House Gardener!  Let's see just how controversial a kitchen garden on the White House property can be.

Author:  Dorothy St. James

Copyright:  April 2012 (Berkley) 320 pgs

Series:  2nd in  White House Gardener Mysteries

Sensuality:  n/a

Mystery Sub-genre:  Cozy mystery

Main Character:  Cassandra "Casey" Calhoun, Assistant White House Gardener

Setting:  modern day, White House in Washington D.C.

Obtained Through:  Publisher for an honest review

Casey has been targeted by a D.C. reporter on her kitchen garden for the First Lady with accusations that the garden is a staged hoax with mature plants having been substituted rather than actually growing them.  One report even claims that the soil is contaminated.  Casey is assisting the wife of the Press Secretary, who volunteers in the garden, by writing a dinner mystery for one of her fund-raisers.  But when the troublesome reporter is found dead in the exact manner that Casey had devised for the dinner mystery, she is on the hot seat.  To make matters worse, somebody is sabotaging the garden as the big "First Harvest" media event is approaching.  Casey must figure out who is behind these attacks or face loosing her job.  Then a Scottish organic gardening show celebrity manages to elbow his way into the White House Garden as a consultant.  Casey is feeling the heat besides just the heat wave plaguing the city.

Casey is an average cozy sleuth, she has a little baggage (abandoned by her father, and raised by aunts and her grandmother.)  Other than that causing trust issues, there didn't seem to be much to her.  When I thought back to write this review, there wasn't much that stood out about her. The way the story is written Casey comes across as the Chief gardener, but she is only the assistant.  Her self-autonomy and bossiness seem inappropriate considering her position. The potential love interest is one of the Secret Service agents, Jack.  He insists that she not get involved on any level whatsoever.  He seems like a nice guy who wants to be in serious relationship and is patient with Casey.  The elderly garden volunteers are priceless and the arrogant Scottish organic expert is one of those slightly "over-the-top" characters.

The White House is always fun to read about and provides a good backdrop for this mystery.  The D.C. media is presented as vultures picking the meat off anybody to get a story.  The kitchen garden aspect allows for interesting organic gardening tidbits that could be useful to the home gardener.

My pet peeve #1 is the sleuth being pressured about sleuthing - I hate that.  This book has that pet peeve throughout which irritated me from the start. The main plot was the reporter getting murdered with several subplots: from an ambitious reporter's personal investigation, the sabotaging of the garden, some White House staff members not liking Casey, Casey's problems trusting Jack and pulling away, to some scandal the dead reporter was about to break that somehow involved the Press Secretary.  **Spoiler follows** I had a difficult time with Casey accusing other staff members only to find out she was wrong.  Actually she is wrong through the entire book (I think I know why her co-workers don't like her) and yet she insists she is right and won't even consider other options up to the very end. **End Spoiler** 

For my part, I pegged who the killer was when the murder was introduced, I just didn't have the motive until that was slowly revealed.  There was a suspenseful scene in the course of Casey investigating.  The confrontation with the killer had some good intense moments. The wrap-up completes the last of the subplots and provides a feel-good ending.

Overall it is a lite cozy mystery, good for those times when you don't want a heavy intense book but a simple distraction.

No doubt the current White House Garden provided some inspiration for the basis of this story.  Here is a video on the actual White House garden that has several interesting items.  Please enjoy (this is not intended to be political - just a tie-in to the book.)


This year I am trying container gardening.  It is challenging but fun.  No tomatoes so far :-(   Here is a video I wanted to share with you if you are interested in gardening in urban or small spaces.  This is a blogger become author (Life on the Balcony Blog.)


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Mystica said...

I had heard of the Life on the Balcony gardening so am so glad that I also found your link.

A.F. Heart said...

I am so glad to have found it myself. I am now getting the blog posts via email. I think it is fascinating and since so many people live in apartments or townhomes it seems like such a great idea.

Anonymous said...

It is too bad that you were able to guess the killer, but it still sounds like a gun read. I love the theme for this series. Too fun! Thank you for your review.

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