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British Mysteries

The Blue Rose, Anthony Eglin, St. Martin's, $6.99.

This novel begins more promisingly than it ends, but it's entertaining enough that the somewhat predictable ending doesn't mar what is a great story set up. The two main characters in the book, Alex and Kate Sheppard, have just moved into their dream home, "The Parsonage", a glorious old house in the English countryside with a huge garden. Because Kate is a gardening nut and Alex is an architect, the house meets both their needs, and they are blissfully happy until one day when they are out clearing out the garden of old weeds and overgrowth, they discover a hidden corner containing the more or less holy grail of the flower world - a blue rose. They can't believe their eyes at first, and then they realize the horticultural and financial implications of their discovery are probably huge. Kate finds a horticultural/rose expert, Dr. Lawrence Kingston, to come down and look at the rose and give them some advice on how to proceed.

The author"bio" lists extensive gardening credentials for Eglin; and the book is filled with fascinating behind the scenes looks at commercial rose growing as well as plain and simple gardening detail. Even to this non gardener, I found these details fascinating, and like any novel where some version of a holy grail is discovered (The DaVinci Code and The Rembrandt Panel being two examples) the actual discovery and the way it's handled provide the thrill. The beginning of the book, which is kind of a traditional English mystery type set up, complete with the slightly pompous, tweedy Dr. Kingston as a foil for the Sheppards, ends up becoming more of a thriller than a British style whodunnit. In a way it's a refreshing breath of fresh air to let thriller trope into the staid British mystery format; in another way, it seemed like a betrayal, and I was almost flummoxed when the book began to include kidnapping and high stakes dealing over the fate of the beautiful flower that seems to have something sinister at its core.

I appreciated the pacing, the smooth writing, and the delicious set up, garden included; I liked the main characters and I certainly would read another novel by Anthony Eglin; he just needs to get his tone "right". It may be a quibble no-one else will have; and if you like gardening even a tiny bit I would recommend that you run, not walk, to find a copy of this book.

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