Spring blossoms perfume the air, and the garden centers are crowded. Luckily, if you’re a mystery lover with a passion for gardening, the shelves are full of fiction to satisfy both interests! Sleuthing gardeners, or gardening sleuths, can find a kindred spirit in Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe, a food-loving armchair detective who is also an ardent cultivator of orchids; if you’re new to the series, begin with the seminal first entry, Fer-de-Lance.
Or learn some herbalist arts from award-winning Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael, a 12th century English monk with a keen eye for poisonous human and plant secrets (A Morbid Taste for Bones is a good starting point).
The English are noted for their gardens and their mysteries, so retired botany professors with detective skills seem to abound. That includes Anthony Eglin’s English Garden mysteries featuring retired botany professor Lawrence Kingston (The Alcatraz Rose is an International Book Awards winner); award-winning author E.X. (Elizabeth) Ferrars’ Andrew Basnett, another retired botany prof; and John Sherwood’s Horticultural series with Celia Grant, a London botanist.
Back in the U.S.A., gardening mysteries bloom in the cozy category, including Washington, D.C., gardener and housewife Louise Eldridge, who digs up crime in the Ann Ripley series that debuted with Mulch. Meanwhile, Susan Wittig Albert offers China Bayles, an herbalist and former attorney in Pecan Springs, Texas; the series debut, Thyme of Death, was a finalist for Agatha and Anthony awards.
A unique choice is Naomi Hirahara’s sleuth Mas Arai, a Hiroshima survivor and Los Angeles gardener. Snakeskin Shamisen won an Edgar Award and was an Anthony Award finalist.
For more gardening-themed mysteries, see http://www.stopyourekillingme.com/JobCats/HerbsGardens.html