Between a Rock and a Hard Place, by Marty Wingate (2015)

Between a Rock and a Hard PlaceLooking for a quirky new cozy mystery series? How about a Texan garden historian transplanted to the U.K., where she falls for a Detective Inspector and solves murder mysteries as easily as she can reel off the Latin names of your favourite English perennial? Pru Parke is the 50-something protagonist again appearing in what is the third entry in the Potting Shed Mystery series. It can be read as a standalone, but there are enough distracting references to past events that you might want to seek out Book 1 first. This title opens not with death but with love, as Pru accepts a surprise marriage proposal from her beloved, Christopher Pearse. Soon afterward, the two lovers head in opposite directions – Christopher returns to his policing post with the Met in London, and Pru settles on a short-term gig doing historical research on real-life botanist Archibald Menzies, best known for introducing the monkey puzzle tree to Europe. Pru is paired with Iain Blackwell, a disagreeable man who clearly considers her inadequate to the task. It takes a full third of the book for death to befall a character, and Pru is quickly tagged as a suspect. This is a lightweight mystery. Clues abound for alert readers to sift through, and I identified both murderer and motive well before the reveal. There are a couple of surprising twists which added to my enjoyment. For my tastes, I would have preferred more gardening and less wedding planning – the shared wedding cake woes between Sergeant Duncan and her prime suspect is jarringly out of place even in a cozy. But for those who like their murder mysteries essentially bloodless, delivered neatly wrapped with a bit of romance, this will do the trick nicely. My thanks to NetGalley for the advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.
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