Wednesday, 30 March 2016


Today is my stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for The Skeleton Garden by Marty Wingate.

The Skeleton Garden:
A Potting Shed Mystery

4th in Series
Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Alibi (March 15, 2016)
233 pages


USA Today bestselling author Marty Wingate’s Potting Shed series continues as expert gardener Pru Parke digs up a Nazi warplane—and a fresh murder.
Texas transplant Pru Parke has put down roots in England, but she never dreamed she’d live in a grand place such as Greenoak. When her former employers offer Pru and her new husband, former Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Pearse, the use of their nineteenth-century estate while they’re away for a year, she jumps at the chance. Sweetening the deal is the prospect of further bonding with her long-lost brother, Simon, who happens to be Greenoak’s head gardener. But the majestic manor has at least one skeleton in its closet—or, rather, its garden.
Working on renovations to the extensive grounds, siblings Pru and Simon squabble about everything from boxwood to bay hedges. But when the removal of a half-dead tree turns up the wreckage of a World War II–era German fighter plane and a pile of bones, the arguments stop. That is, until a rival from Simon’s past pays a surprise visit and creates even more upheaval. It’s suddenly clear someone is unhappy their secrets have been unearthed. Still, Pru’s not about to sit back and let Simon take the fall for the dirty deed without a fight.

Another garden and another murder mystery for Pru to solve!  This is the fourth in the series and I've enjoyed every one of them.

As usual with these books, we start with a murder being committed, when and by whom we don't yet know but clues and suspects are slowly unravelled along the journey.

Pru is getting to know her gardener brother, who Pru only found out about recently, and I enjoyed them sparring and being at loggerheads as they worked together on the garden at Pru's former neighbours estate.

I find that all Marty Wingate's characters are interesting, whether they're major characters or just on the periphery.  Nobody is every boring or dull!

This time a WWII plane is dug up, complete with skeleton, but all is not as it seems.  The story was at a good pace, there were some twists and turns, red herrings, several suspects and plenty to enjoy in this story for cozy mystery fans.


About 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 includingCountry Gardens and theAmerican 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.

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Monday, 28 March 2016


Cozy Mystery
Date Published: April 11, 2016

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A cozy mystery with a heap of laughs, a generous portion of romance, and just a smidgeon of suspense.

Callie’s life is rather awesome. She owns a successful bakery and teaches German literature at the local university. There’s just one tiny problem. She has no self-confidence when it comes to her body. And then there’s the little matter of her being accused of murdering her pole dancing instructor. There’s no way Callie’s going to risk losing her teaching position and thus she embarks, with her best baker bud Anna, on a journey to discover the real killer. Between stripper auditions and a detective who insists Callie is the woman of his dreams, it’s a roller coast adventure. Cupcakes not included.


I take a deep breath and walk into the club. It’s dark and smoky. No surprise there. The floors are covered in shag carpeting, the walls are painted a red so deep it looks black, and the chairs are red velour. Is strip club a euphemism for whore house? To the right is a shiny, black bar. Straight ahead is a stage in an M-shape with three stripper poles. Of course there are stripper poles. Dolly worked here after all.

“You next?” A man shouts, and I nearly jump out of my shoes. I look to my left to see two men in shiny suits sitting at a table in the middle of the room. “Come on, doll, are you the next dancer?”


The man rolls his eyes and talks to the man next to him. “Not the brightest one of the bunch is she?” He turns back to me. “Come on, sweetheart.” He looks me up and down, and I feel the sudden need to shower with bleach. “You’ve got the body for it. Show us what you can do.”

I’ve got the body for it? Have we landed on planet opposite? I’m still trying to figure out how to respond when Anna grabs my hand. “Where are the dressing rooms? She needs to change.”

The man points to a door on the right side of the stage behind the bar. “Hurry up. We ain’t got all day!”

Anna pulls me to the door. I stumble behind her unsure if I should follow her or get the heck out of Dodge. She pushes through the door and looks around before spotting a room filled with racks of clothing. She lets my hand go and starts pawing through the outfits.

“Anna, stop!” I say when my brain finally catches up. “I can’t go up there and dance. Let’s just get out of here and come back another time.”

I don’t even get a chance to stand up from the chair before Anna’s on me. Her tiny body boxes me in the chair. “I don’t want to hear it! You heard the man. You’ve got the perfect body for this because you’re… let’s say it together… sexy!” She turns back to the rack of clothes. “Besides, while you’re up there doing your thing, I can snoop around.” She pulls out an outfit and hands it to me.

I don’t have a choice but to take the hanger as she shoves it in my hand. There’s not enough fabric here. She’s got to be kidding me. “I can’t wear this,” I protest.

Anna’s having none of it. “You will wear it, and you will go up on that stage and totally rock! In the meantime, I’ll be doing some investigating so we can save your job. You know the one that you spent the last 10 years studying and preparing for?”

I want to scream and shout and fight her, but I don’t really see what other option we have. I suppose we can sneak out the back door, but then we’d have to come back at some point as this is our only lead. Mr. Creepy #1 and Mr. Creepy #2 might not recognize me – a chubby girl with boring brown hair. But a tiny pixie with bright pink hair? I shake my head and put on the darn outfit.

About the Author

I grew up reading everything I could get my hands on from my mom's Harlequin romances to Nancy Drew to Little Women. When I wasn't flipping pages in a library book, I was penning horrendous poems, writing songs no one should ever sing, or drafting stories which have thankfully been destroyed. College and a stint in the U.S. Army came along, robbing me of free time to write and read, although I did manage every once in a while to sneak a book into my rucksack between rolled up socks, MRIs, t-shirts, and cold weather gear. A few years into my legal career, I was exhausted, fed up, and just plain done. I quit my job and sat down to write a manuscript, which I promptly hid in the attic after returning to the law. Another job change, this time from lawyer to B&B owner and I was again fed up and ready to scream I quit, which is incredibly difficult when you own the business. Thus, I shut the B&B during the week and in the off-season and started writing. Several books later I find myself in Istanbul writing full-time.

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Saturday, 26 March 2016


(A Potting Shed Mystery, Book 3)

Published:  August 2015

After her romantic idyll with the debonair Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Pearse culminates in a marriage proposal, Pru Parke sets about arranging their nuptials while diving into a short-term gig at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. At hand is the authentication of a journal purportedly penned by eighteenth-century botanist and explorer Archibald Menzies. Compared to the chaos of wedding planning, studying the journal is an agreeable task . . . that is, until a search for a missing cat leads to the discovery of a dead body: One of Pru’s colleagues has been conked on the head with a rock and dumped from a bridge into the Water of Leith.
Pru can’t help wondering if the murder has something to do with the Menzies diary. Is the killer covering up a forgery? Among the police’s many suspects are a fallen aristocrat turned furniture maker, Pru’s overly solicitous assistant, even Pru herself. Now, in the midst of sheer torture by the likes of flamboyant wedding dress designers and eccentric church organists, Pru must also uncover the work of a sly murderer—unless this bride wants to walk down the aisle in handcuffs.

Texan Pru Parke is quickly becoming one of my favourite amateur sleuths.  

The third book in the series sees Pru starting a new position, not gardening this time, but a three month research project attempting to discover the authenticity of a journal by a renowned botanist. The Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh are, unfortunately, a long way from her new fiance DCI Christopher Pearse who is in London.

But she is kept busy planning her wedding, reading copious amounts of documents and trying not to argue too much with the Gardens own historian who calls Pru a 'fraud'.  Not very welcoming!

However, murders and Pru seem to go hand in hand and when a body is pulled from the local river, Pru can't help getting involved in trying to find the killer, even when she becomes one of the suspects.

Another intriguing case for Pru which I enjoyed very much.

This could be read as a standalone to get a feel of the series.....and/or check out my thoughts on the first two mysteries: The Garden Plot and The Red Book of Primrose House

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Thursday, 24 March 2016

Book Review: PIPPO'S WAR BY MARION KENYON JONES (Historical Fiction/Romance)


Published:  May 2015
Publisher:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Coming of age is hard for teenager Pippo, the son of a Fascist Italian diplomat. But when his father is arrested, he is forced to question the old family allegiance to the Fascist cause. 
His mother, originally aligned with Italy against her native Britain, decides to hide escaped allied soldiers from the occupying Nazis, and in so doing finds that love and war often go hand in hand.

Also rescued by Pippo’s mother is the enigmatic young Hannah, an Italian Jew whose parents were murdered. As the war continues Hannah and Pippo become ever closer. But
their happiness is short lived: the retreating German army arrive in the area and they are forced apart.

As paths divide and fates collide, can one young man fly in the face of all opposition to be with the one he loves?

Informed by the stories of many Italian survivors of WW2, Pippo’s War tells a heart-breaking story of love in wartime, and how it has reverberated through generations.

In the Autumn of 1943 sixteen year old Pippo's father is arrested by the Militia, while he hides in a cupboard listening to the sounds of the receding footsteps and the car taking his father away, not knowing if he will ever see him again.

Pippo's War gives us an insight into the lives of ordinary people living in Italy during the last years of the Second World War, of how it was for the villagers living under the Germans, how they struggled from day to day, and particularly for young Pippo, how they grew up, fell in love and faced the enemy.

This is a very emotional story, simply told.  Pippo's mother, Rose, rescues a young Jewish girl, Hannah, after her parents are killed and passes her off as her daughter with forged documents.  Pippo and Hannah grow close, but not everyone is happy for them.....she puts all their lives in danger by being there.

As the months pass, Pippo wants revenge for his father, he joins the Partisans, his mother helps more allies, and the Germans are watching.

I enjoyed this story, it was just as the right pace, the storyline was engrossing, I knew little of that time and place in history so I found it interesting, though I would have liked to know more of the back stories of some of the characters.  For instance, Cora was Pippo's godmother, but I knew very little about her, who was she, why was she his godmother, how did she and Rose know each other, what was her life like before the war?  Knowing some of these facts would have made more sense to me by the end of the book.  I also would have liked to know more of what the characters were thinking and feeling.

But I don't want to dwell on the negatives as there are lots of positives about the book, I liked Pippo, he was a good person, the story held my attention throughout, their love affair was moving without being sickly sweet, and overall a book that I would certainly recommend.


About the Author

Marion Kenyon Jones trained as an artist in Paris, and for many years divided her time between a studio in Italy and New York City where she regularly exhibited her work. During this period, she
wrote short stories about her summers on a farm in the Tuscan hills and became interested in the history of the area. Pippo’s War is her debut novel and she is currently researching her second while leading a happily peripatetic life with her historian husband.

Marion can be found on twitter


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Friday, 11 March 2016

Book Review: CHURCH OF MARVELS BY LESLIE PARRY (Historical Fiction)


Published:  May 2015 by Two Roads


From the sideshows of Coney Island to the tenements and opium dens of the Lower East Side, to an asylum on Blackwell's Island, follow the adventures of two sisters, an enigmatic orphan, a mortician's bride, an assortment of freaks, and a newborn baby, as they come together in the Church of Marvels.....

First Line:

"I haven't been able to speak since I was seventeen years old."

What a compelling first sentence!  This is just the start of what turns out to be an amazing, shocking, fascinating, hugely entertaining story of some of the weirdest characters I've ever had the pleasure to meet.

The story is told through the eyes of three people: Sylvan, 19, a night soiler, who has the unenviable job of emptying the privies behind the tenement houses.  He has 'the skin of a gypsy, hair of a negro, build of a German, nose of a Jew' .... he didn't belong to anyone.  One evening he finds a baby girl discarded among the muck and decides to take her home and try to find the mother.

Then there is Alphie (my favourite character) who has just arrived in a lunatic asylum, she believes her mother in law has put her there without her husband (the undertaker's) knowledge.  She had been on the street since she was 14, is wordly wise and has no intention of staying in the asylum.

Lastly we meet Odile, who's mother used to have a touring sideshow with a wonderful assortment of oddities.  But when a fire breaks out with tragic circumstances her sister disappears to New York and Odile travels to find her from Coney Island, where nearly every person she comes into contact with has a strange affliction.

Bringing New York to life, the seedy lives, tenement blocks, theatres, gambling parlors and opium dens, the terrible brutality of the asylum, this is a tale rich in strangeness with a dark underbelly.

As the story unfolded their lives intertwined with twists and turns that I never saw coming.

The writing is incredibly descriptive and lyrical, with characters so unbelievable but so life like.  The story is unlike anything I've read before, and I absolutely loved it!  I would recommend the marvellous Church of Marvels if you enjoy historical fiction with dark elements and dark secrets.

Thanks to Bookbridgr for giving me the opportunity to read this novel.



About the Author

Leslie Parry is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her short stories have appeared inVQR, The Missouri Review, The Cincinnati Review, The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, and elsewhere. Church of Marvels is her first novel. She currently lives in Chicago.

She can be found at her website - on twitter


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Friday, 4 March 2016


THE RED BOOK OF PRIMROSE HOUSE (2nd in the Potting Shed mystery series)

Publised:  November 2014

Pru Parke has her dream job:  head gardener at an 18th century manor house in Sussex.  The landscape for Primrose House was laid out in 1806 by renowned designer Humphrey Repton in one of his meticulously illustrated Red Books, and the new owners want Pru to restore the estate to its former glory quickly - as they're planning to showcase it in less than a year at a summer party.
But life gets in the way of the best laid plans.
When not being happily distracted by the romantic attentions of the handsome Inspector Christopher Pearse, Pru is digging into the mystery of her own British roots.
Then one of her workers is found murdered among the yews.  The police have a suspect, but Pru is certain they're wrong.  Once again, Pru finds herself entangled in a thicket of evil intentions - and her, without a hatchet.

Texan Pru Parke's second outing is every bit as entertaining as her first: The Garden Plot which was the first book in this new Potting Shed cozy mystery series.

Pru has her hands full at her new job at Primrose House trying to clear the derelict garden and have it all designed and planted by the summer: only six months away.  But when vandals destroy some plants in the greenhouse, start a fire in the potting shed, and then her gardener, Ned, is found murdered, her plans for a beautiful garden start to look shaky.

She believes the wrong man has been arrested and is determined to try and clear his name while also trying to discover who the murderer is.  

With Pru trying to find her English roots, her relationship with the lovely DCI Christopher Pearse getting serious, vague online threats against her, this was an enjoyable cozy mystery. I enjoyed getting to know Pru more and loved her nosiness!

If you like British cozy mysteries centred around gardening this is the perfect read for you.

Thanks to NetGalley for supplying me with a review copy.

I'm looking forward to the next in the series:  Between a Rock and a Hard Place


About 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 theAmerican 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.


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