I'm always excited when an author agrees to visit The Book Diva's Reads and today I'm beyond excited to welcome Marty Wingate, author of the Potting Shed Mystery and Birds of a Feather Mystery series, as well as a host of nonfiction books on landscaping and gardening. Ms. Wingate will be discussing not always following the rules as they relate to cozy mysteries.
There are quite a few rules for cozy mysteries, and I am quite happy to ignore them if I choose – especially the one about the series being set in one place only. In the Potting Shed books, Pru Parke, my protagonist, does not stay put. Instead, each book is set in a different place in Great Britain. Although – that being said – this latest installment, The Bluebonnet Betrayal, takes place in London where it all started for her in book number one (The Garden Plot). But since then, she's been in Sussex, Edinburgh, and Hampshire.
I choose to make Pru's "village" her friends and family, and I will always drag one or two of them along into the next book or bring someone back from an earlier story. In Potting Shed #6 (now underway!), Pru returns to a village she visited in The Garden Plot. Our lives weave in and out of others' lives, so why shouldn't our stories?
But here's the cozy mystery rule I do follow: the main character/protagonist/solver-of-mysteries is an amateur sleuth, not a police officer or a private investigator. We do not write police procedurals, thrillers, or hard crime. We write the story of an event into which our main character – be she a gardener, librarian, scientist, baker or resident of an old folks home – is thrown and must fight her way out of. And solve the mystery along
That's not to say there are not police involved – of course there are, and in a cozy, that's part of the fun. The relationship between the amateur sleuth and the police can play out in all manner of ways – combative, cooperative, exasperating (and not just for the police), comic, suspicious, coercive. (Gosh, I've just given myself a few more ideas there.) Because Pru hops around, she's had to deal with more than one police officer, so I thought it would be fun to look at how those encounters have gone. Let's begin with the new book, The Bluebonnet Betrayal, and work our way backward.
Detective Chief Inspector French is fairly new to his promotion, having worked his way up in the Metropolitan Police (as the London force is known). In fact, Christopher Pearse, former DCI with the Met and Pru's husband, knows French. French has a cool, calm exterior, and he knows the rules. The rules are that no civilian is going to take this investigation out of his hands – so just back away from the body, Ms. Parke.
In The Skeleton Garden, affable Martin Chatters is a sergeant out of the police station in Romsey. DCIs are officers in larger cities, but in smaller cities and towns the highest rank may be only a detective inspector. This is the case here – and the DI is overworked. He asks Christopher to take the case, but Christopher wants Martin to get some experience under his belt. Pru, sticking more than a toe in the water of this investigation, wishes Christopher would take over, and Christopher wishes (to no avail, of course), that she
would stay away and stay safe.
Taking another step back in time, Between a Rock and a Hard Place finds Pru in Edinburgh and Christopher too far away to help when she finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. This time, the DCI (Edinburgh is a big city) is only days away from retirement and cares more for his prize-winning parsnips than anything else. This is lucky for Pru because during this case she must deal with Tamsin Duncan, the chain-smoking young sergeant.
Before Edinburgh, there was the village of Bells Yew Green in Sussex (The Red Book of Primrose House) and a most disagreeable policeman, Inspector Tatt. Tatt has a chip on his shoulder as big as Big Ben – he resents Pru sticking her nose into the investigation and he's outraged that Christopher even breathes the same air as he does. Does this stop Pru from following up on her own leads? Not a chance.
In the beginning (The Garden Plot), there was Pru in London, discovering a Roman mosaic in someone's back garden and soon after discovering a body, too. It's a stressful time for her – she's about to give up on her dream of living in England, her few friends are looking a bit suspicious, and the detective chief inspector is a bit of a stickler for procedure. They knock heads, but she won't give up. And neither will DCI Christopher Pearse.
Meet the author:
Marty Wingate is a Seattle-based writer and speaker who shares her love of Britain in her two mystery series. The Potting Shed books feature Pru Parke, a middle-aged American gardener transplanted from Texas to England, and Birds of a Feather follows Julia Lanchester, bird lover, who runs a tourist office in a Suffolk village. Marty writes garden articles for magazines including Country Gardens and The American Gardener. She is a member of the Royal Horticultural Society, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Crime Writers Association. She leads garden tours to England, Scotland, and Ireland, spending free moments deep in research for her books. Or in pubs.
Connect with the author:
The Bluebonnet Betrayal by Marty Wingate
ISBN: 9781101968062 (eBook)
ASIN: B017QLSIU4 (Kindle version)
Publication Date: August 2, 2016
Bestselling author Marty Wingate "plants clever clues with a dash of romantic spice," raves Mary Daheim. Now Wingate's inimitable gardening heroine, Pru Parke, is importing a precious bloom from Texas—and she won't let a vicious murder stop her. Pru's life in England is coming full circle. A Texas transplant, she's married to the love of her life, thriving in the plum gardening position she shares with her long-lost brother, and prepping a Chelsea Flower Show exhibit featuring the beloved bluebonnets of the Texas hill country. Technically, Twyla Woodford, the president of a gardening club in the Lone Star State, is in charge of the London event, but Pru seems to be the one getting her hands dirty. When they finally do meet, Pru senses a kindred spirit—until Twyla turns up dead. Although Twyla's body was half buried under a wall in their display, Pru remains determined to mount a spectacular show. Twyla would have insisted. So Pru recruits her husband, former Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Pearse, to go undercover and do a bit of unofficial digging into Twyla's final hours. If Pru has anything to say about it, this killer is going to learn the hard way not to mess with Texas.
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