A trip to the Cotswolds turns into a brush with death for Pru Parke, the only gardener whose holiday wouldn’t be complete without a murder to solve. Pru is invited to redesign an arts and crafts garden, and she and her husband, former Detective Chief Inspector Christopher jump at the chance for a getaway. Unfortunately, the once thriving garden has fallen into heartbreaking neglect. When Pru stumbles upon the owner’s body in the garden – dead and pinned beneath one of his limestone statues – Pru’s work on the garden turns up one ominous clue after another, and she discovers that the scenery is more dangerous than she or Christopher could have anticipated.
Bestselling author Marty Wingate was kind enough to discuss her latest novel, BEST-LAID PLANTS, with The Big Thrill:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
The settings of both my series are important aspects of the stories – the beauty of the English countryside in contrast to the dark dealings of humans – and so I hope that readers enjoy the sense of place, as well as seeing growth in the main character as she moves along the series’ arc.
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
I push my protagonist (the amateur sleuth of cozy and traditional mysteries) a bit further when she’s dropped in the middle of a murder. The victim isn’t just a prop, he/she is a person, and the death affects Pru – as does the suspicion aroused by the people involved, who are often friends. This is personal!
Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?
I learned how to avoid being trampled by a bull in a field – always a handy thing to know when you walk the footpaths of England.
No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?
I’ve been to the fête in Upper Oddington. It was delightful – although smaller than the one held at Grenadine Hall. My favorite part – aside from the tea tent – was the dog competition, where ribbons were given for the Best Tail Wag and the Best Smile. Also, aspects of Glebe House and its history are based on a real arts and crafts garden – stolen, by me. I am a happy thief.
What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?
Ray Bradbury has been an enormous influence – I first started reading him when I was thirteen, and I heard him speak several times. His love of words, stories, people, and life were, and still are, infectious. Also, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, because what young girl didn’t want to be Jo March?
Best-selling author Marty Wingate shares her love of Britain in two mystery series, the Potting Shed books, featuring Pru Parke, a middle-aged American gardener transplanted from Texas to England, and Birds of a Feather, following Julia Lanchester, bird lover, who runs a tourist office in a Suffolk village. Marty also leads garden tours to Britain, spending free moments deep in research for her books. Or in pubs.
To learn more about Marty, please visit her website.