The Azalea Assault (A Garden Society Mystery)
by Alyse Carlson
Cover Artist: Catherine Deeter
Review by Harriet Klausner
Berkley Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425251300
Date: 05 June 2012 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
In Roanoke, Virginia, Camellia Harris believes her life is wonderful. She adores her boyfriend, sports reporter Rob, though with the baseball season beginning she is a sports widow. She shares a two floor house with her best friend Annie Schultz who lives upstairs while Cam resides on the bottom floor; they are connected by a dumbwaiter. She enjoys her job as events coordinator for entertaining the staff of Garden Delights.
The magazine plans to feature The Patrick House Gardens because internationally renowned photographer Jean-Jacques Georges will take the pictures. Cam believes that Jean-Jacques is perhaps the most loathsome person she ever met because he is sexist, arrogant, and demanding. Soon after he arrives at his welcoming bash, Jean-Jacques collapses and dies; someone poisoned him using the catered meal by Spoons restaurant owned by Cam's sister, Petunia. This is quite shocking even though the egomaniac alienated so many guests and staff from the first moment he showed up with complaints about the décor and pinching the women.
The magazine's photographer editor Ian wants to cancel the shoot, but Cam offers a different nepotistic alternative, her sister Petunia. A few days later Ian becomes the second victim of a homicide. Petunia's husband former con Nick, the prime chef at Spoons, and Annie are arrested for both murders. While Rob investigates as a detached journalist seeking the scoop, Cam knows in her heart both accused are innocent and begins sleuthing too. However, she quickly realizes there are a horde of people with viable reasons to kill both photographers.
Mindful of Anthony Eglin's garden mystery series, the first A Garden Society Mystery is enjoyable amateur sleuth. The storyline is told from Cam’s point of view, which enables readers to understand the growing frustration of the heroine as neither victim had a friend only a host of enemies.
Cam's love for her sister and her best friend is her rationalization for seeking out the culprit who has killed twice and apparently with no qualms about murdering a nosy events coordinator. She also enjoys competing against Rob a former baseball player.
The whodunit is fun to follow as Cam begins collecting clues, but the pieces of the puzzle never quite come together into a cohesive picture of who acted on their animosity towards the two photographers.
Part of the charm is the tour of Roanoke as seen by the ideal guide, an enthusiastic events planner who knows her city intimately. Although the storyline moves somewhat slowly, fans of garden variety engaging amateur sleuth cozies will want to read the alpha tale of what looks like it will be an entertaining series as Alyse Carlson plants an opening winner.