Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Death Has Green Fingers: Review

Death Has Green Fingers by Lionel Black (Dudley Barker) has a little of everything--murder, mayhem, blackmail, gardening secrets, double lives, adultery, and scandal.  It's an academic mystery with gardening overtones....no, wait, it's a gardening mystery with academic undertones.  It's got a feisty young reporter who repeatedly ignores the official warnings and gets herself caught up in the intrigue of village life...and nearly gets herself killed in the process.

Kate Theobald, the young reporter in question, travels to the village of Ashworth with her husband Henry, a barrister, to visit one of Henry's college friends.  They no sooner arrive than Jonathan Sims and his wife whisk their guests off to a drinks party hosted by local academic and rose breeder, Nick Bell.  Nick not only has an eye for a lovely rose, he also has an eye for the ladies--something that has gotten him into a bit of trouble.  But not near the trouble that comes for him before the party can even begin. The guests arrive only to find their host sprawled in the greenhouse with a knife sticking out of his throat.

Kate is quick off the mark in the reporting stakes with Henry to help her track down clues.  They soon discover that Bell had been working on a prize rose indeed--a fabled blue rose, producing a blue rose that will breed true is the holy grail for all rose breeders and it looks like Bell may have succeeded. But the plants are gone.  And the question is was he killed for what could potentially be a huge money-maker or did one of his many affairs finally catch up with him in the most deadly way?

The deeper Kate & Henry dig the more dirt they uncover on the philandering flower fancier.  And someone thinks Kate is getting a little too close to pay dirt.  Two attempts are made on her life and a third is looming before the pieces get put together. 

Lots of twists and turns and plenty of red herrings in a plot with likeable characters.  Black does a great job of getting the reader right into the action and moves things along with good dialogue and clue-hunting by our main characters.  A nice example of 1970s mysteries.  Three and a half stars.

Challenges: Outdo Yourself, Mount TBR Challenge, Color Coded Challenge, Off the Shelf, 52 Books in 52 Weeks, Embarrassment of Riches, Mystery/Crime Challenge, 150 Plus Challenge, Monthly Mix-up Mania


J F Norris said...

So there's a Lional White AND a Lionel Black in the crime fiction world. I was sure I've read something by Lionel Black, but when checking his bibliography nothing rang a bell. But you know how that goes: sometimes they all start to blur in a fog of plots and titles. This one sounds rather good.

Bev Hankins said...

John...things do start to blur a bit. I was sure that I had read this one before--but I have no record of it. And the characters (beyond the detectives) didn't strike me as familiar. So I'm guessing not. I did read another "blue rose" mystery at one point so maybe that's where the mix-up comes in.