The Azalea Assault—first of a series set in Roanoke, Virginia and written by Alyse Carlson under the banner of the Garden Society Mysteries. Book two in the series “The Begonia Bribe” is set to be published in mid 2013.
Published in June of 2012 by Berkley Prime Crime, a division of Penguin Group
Roanoke, Virginia, is home to some of the country’s most exquisite gardens, and it’s Camellia Harris’ job to promote them. But when an out of towner turns up dead, she discovers there’s no good way to spin murder…
Camellia Harris has achieved a coup in the PR world. The premier national magazine for garden lovers has agreed to feature one of Roanoke’s most spectacular gardens in its pages—and world-famous photographer Jean-Jacques Georges is going to shoot the spread. But at the welcoming party, Jean-Jacques insults several guests, complains that flowers are boring, and gooses almost every woman in the room. When a body is found the next morning, sprawled across the azaleas, it’s almost no surprise that the victim is Jean-Jacques.
With Cam’s brother-in-law blamed for the crime—and her reporter boyfriend, Rob, wanting the scoop—Cam decides to use her skills to solve the murder. Luckily a PR pro like Cam knows how to be nosy…
What I liked: I liked the people. Cam Harris is believable as the PR manager of the Roanoke Garden Society. She is struggling to keep her job, and when a famous photographer agrees to do the shoot, she manages to convince a high-profile national gardening magazine which features photographs of the finest gardens in the country to do a spread featuring the gardens of a well-known local estate and the home of Neil and Evangeline Patrick, members of the Garden Society.
Cam’s best friend Annie is an artistic, off-the-rails crazy-woman who makes cupcakes for a living (and does quite well), and her boyfriend Rob is a sports reporter who’s looking for the big story to break him out of sports and make his career.
The famous photographer, Jean-Jacques Georges is a first-class jerk. So is Ian Ellis, the Photo Editor, who takes an instant dislike to Annie. In return, she hates him on sight and there is evidence of a history of bad blood between them. When Jean-Jacques is found murdered, Cam manages to get Annie accepted as the photographer on the shoot, leading to some tense moments between her and Ian. A multitude of suspects emerge, and Cam finds out how little she knows about those closest to her. No one is what they seem, and everyone has a motive. Her beloved brother-in-law is arrested, and Cam, loyal to a fault, goes in search of the murderer.
What I noticed: There are a few moments where I found myself confused as to exactly who was talking, but despite that minor glitch there are some shining moments in the dialogue, and plenty of diversionary clues to keep you interested. I found it a fine way to while away my rainy day.
All in all I give this book four healthy stars, and recommend it if you are looking for a good cozy mystery to cuddle up with.