Minotaur Books, 2011
I have been a big fan of Anthony Eglin’s books since reading the first English Garden Mystery, The Blue Rose. He caught me immediately with his protagonist, Lawrence Kingston, who was a learned and avid gardener as well as a bit of a sleuth in the traditional English model. I considered Lawrence Kingston a bit of a garden-digging Hercule Poirot. Sure, he doesn’t get things right all the time and he is often a bit naive about the personal danger he places himself in, but he loves the hunt like a faithful hound who never strays from the scent. Of course, in these books the scent is more likely to be from a beautiful rose or fragrant lily than that of a fox.
In Garden of Secrets Past, Eglin steps up the mystery several notches with the inclusion of even more shady characters, a secret code and a bit of a love interest for, no longer young, Kingston. He also expands our knowledge of Kingston’s relationship with his his friend, Andrew, who looks staged to become a sidekick in the vein of Poirot’s Captain Hastings or Miss Marples various friends and relations that accompany her on her mysteries.
While the gardening information is a bit light in this episode of the English Garden Mystery series, the mystery is top-notch. Sure, the story revolves around a major garden, but we don’t get lessons in Water Lily propagation or the reasons why a blue rose is basically impossible. It mattered little in the end, though, as the mystery pulled me through the book quite quickly. Despite reading it on a vacation in Sicily, between family visits, long meals and excursions, I finished the book in about 4 days. I caught myself, several times, reading long after I should have retired for the night while I looked for that final twist or clue that would make everything clear. To me, this is the best judge of the quality of any book. You should never really want to put it down.
It is good to see the character of Kingston developing a bit of a “history” as the book continue. Where before people took little notice of the gardening academic, now his reputation proceeds him with both police and those he is interviewing and questioning. I like seeing the growth in the character and his reputation, just as I would in a real person.
As I have said in past reviews of Eglin’s books, the combination of gardening with mystery suits me perfectly. I love both and to find a place where they are seamlessly merged is a bit of reading nirvana. I look forward to the next episode in Lawrence Kingston’s career.