Sunday, November 11, 2018

Shakespeare and Murder in a Hampshire Garden

A Potting Shed Mystery # 7
Marty Wingate
Random House Alibi
November 6, 2018

It's MIdsummer in Hampshire, and the villagers are agog over the outdoor staging of A Midsummer Night's Dream in the garden of a local country house. The garden is never open to the public, as the owners are absentee and the resident gardener is reclusive. American transplant Pru Parke is excited by the prospect of finally seeing the garden and the villagers by the casting of a telly star of years gone by. The gardener is upset, however, by the actors trampling around his treasured garden and abruptly quits. When Pru is offered the opportunity to be the "stage designer' by advising on and providing plants for the performance she jumps at the chance. Pru is even a little stage-struck herself.

The company, Shakespeare au Natural, is led by Max Sterling, a legendary director who has been out of the business for some years due to the terminal illness of his beloved wife. He hopes the production will re-start his flagging career. Max is a person of great charm and charisma, and he is supported by a group of old friends who are also hoping Max can succeed. Most of them have worked together for years and have a tangled web of personal relationships both as friends and former lovers. There are some new additions of younger actors, but most seem to be dedicated to making a performance to remember. The one exception is the actor playing Lysander, who is both a womanizer and lacks a work ethic.  When death strikes the company, inveterate sleuth Pru, abetted by her police inspector husband, Christopher Pearse, is in a prime position to untangle the web of relationships.

It's hard to believe that this is the seventh in the Potting Shed Mysteries, a series that I have thoroughly enjoyed. Pru and Christopher are likable characters who gather friends and allies wherever they go. The mixture of gardening lore, mystery, and a little romance, this time with theatrical settings, make another great read.

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Alibi for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 5 Stars

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