Slugfest (Dirty Business Series #4)

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Overview

Anthony and Agatha Award-nominated Rosemary Harris is back with her fourth Dirty Business mystery, Slugfest, set at a legendary Northeast flower show where more than the plants are dying.

When Paula Holliday agrees to act as exhibit manager for a reclusive artist she’s expecting a laidback weekend picking up gardening tips. She doesn’t expect to be knee-deep in horticultural sabotage, beheaded gnomes, homicide, and something called The Javits Curse. Then an overeager ...

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Overview

Anthony and Agatha Award-nominated Rosemary Harris is back with her fourth Dirty Business mystery, Slugfest, set at a legendary Northeast flower show where more than the plants are dying.

When Paula Holliday agrees to act as exhibit manager for a reclusive artist she’s expecting a laidback weekend picking up gardening tips. She doesn’t expect to be knee-deep in horticultural sabotage, beheaded gnomes, homicide, and something called The Javits Curse. Then an overeager attendee is found floating in the river and Paula realizes she accidentally holds a clue to his murder—that’s when the garden gloves come off and this flower show turns into a real Slugfest!

      This time out Paula is joined by a colorful cast that includes Rolanda “Fort” Knox, a no-nonsense security guard; Guy Anzalone, Brooklyn's Tumbled Stone King; Jamal Harrington, a high school kid with a black belt and a green thumb; JC Kaufman, a feisty lady who hates leaving home without her weapon of choice; and a slick marketing guy hawking the hottest new product at the show, a foolproof pest repellant that people are dying to get their hands on. 

            With limited means and her ragtag crew, Paula must solve her toughest mystery yet and root out a killer before she finds herself pushing up daisies.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Harris's lively third Dirty Business mystery (after 2010's Dead Head) takes gardening professional Paula Holliday from Springfield, Conn., to Manhattan for the Big Apple Flower Show. Held at the old Wagner Center, a more intimate venue than the Javits Center, the show gets off to a bumpy start when an overnight worker dies after falling down an escalator and breaking his neck. When Garland Bleimeister, a show attendee who left his bag with Paula at her booth, turns up dead in the Hudson River, it's clearly a case of foul play. Paula helps security guard Rolanda Knox investigate possible suspects, including high school botanist Jamal Harrington, fashionista convention director Kristi Reynolds, and various exhibitors who may have been staging destructive "Javits Curse" pranks. The New York City locale makes for a refreshing, if temporary, change of scene from rural Connecticut in a series sure to appeal to fans of Susan Wittig Albert. (May)
Kirkus Reviews

The owner of a Connecticut nursery finds mayhem in the marigolds when she attends New York's premier flower show.

Paula Holliday (Dead Head, 2010, etc.) left the Big Apple when life as a TV producer got too hectic. Now she's back selling her friend Primo Dunstan's eccentric trash sculptures at the Big Apple Flower Show. Of course purists like Allegra Douglas think vendors have no place in the horticultural showcase, but its ambitious director Kristi Reynolds who wants her event to rival Philadelphia's legendary flower show. So Paula ends up with a badge that satisfies even a martinet like security guard Rolanda Knox, and in she goes, taking with her the backpack of struggling student Garland Bleimeister, whose credentials don't meet Knox's strict standards. Paula doesn't foresee the endless catastrophes that infest the Big Apple show like aphids. First someone knocks off Connie Anzalone's prized veronicas. Then somebody knocks off custodian Otis Randolph. Now Paula begins to feel queasy about what's in the bag, neatly stowed underneath a table full of Primo's artwork. When Garland himself is killed, the police fixate on Jamal Harrington, one of the inner-city kids' middle-school teachers Lauryn Peete has encouraged to enter the show. But Paula thinks that whoever dropped a bag of cosmetics in the ladies' room after telling off her male companion is somehow involved. Should she share her suspicions with police detective John Stancik? Or, cute as Stancik is, should she pursue her hunch on her own?

Daisies won't tell, but Harris does in her hilarious look at gardeners gone wild.

From the Publisher
“Harris’ writing is sharp and funny. Slugfest is an absolute treat.”—RT Book Review (4 ½ stars)

“Lively . . . The New York City locale makes for a refreshing, if temporary, change of scene from rural Connecticut in a series sure to appeal to fans of Susan Wittig Albert.”—Publishers Weekly

“Hilarious.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Slugfest is a knockout! Witty and hilarious, wry and wise, this smart and sophisticated mystery combines quirky characters, clever dialogue and a page-turner of a plot. I loved it!”—Hank Phillippi Ryan, Agatha-, Anthony-, and Macavity-award winning author of Prime Time

“Delightful . . . Harris works in what is called the ‘cozy’ genre of crime books . . .  but her novels are so sophisticated and are put together so beautifully that she shouldn’t be lumped with all of those books that read like spin-offs of Murder, She Wrote. . . . The protagonist’s observations of the life going on around her are as entertaining as the amateur crime solving she gets sucked into. . . . The plot is laid out smoothly and compellingly but the real fun in Slugfest derives from the eccentric (and sinister) characters Paula meets . . . [Slugfest] deserves a spot near the top of any mystery reader’s warm weather book pile.”—Joe Myers, CTNews.com

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312569969
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 4/12/2011
  • Series: Dirty Business Series , #4
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 8.26 (w) x 5.82 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Rosemary Harris was born in Brooklyn and has been a bookstore manager, a video producer, and a television executive. She is a past-president of Sisters in Crime, New England, and current vice-president of Mystery Writers of America, New York. She and her husband split their time between New York City and Fairfield County, Connecticut, where she is a master gardener. The previous three Dirty Business mysteries, Pushing Up Daisies, The Big Dirt Nap, and Dead Head, were also published by Minotaur Books.

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Read an Excerpt

One

 

When I was eight, I was convinced I could disappear. It’s not as crazy as it sounds. It wasn’t as if I saw dead people or thought I could beam myself to another planet. I did it all the time. Grown-ups and teachers would smile and glide past me to torture another poor kid who hadn’t cultivated this valuable skill.

It had been years since I’d thought about this long-neglected talent, but I prayed it was like riding a bicycle as I crouched in a shed, hoping the person who’d already killed two people would not see me or the women I was hiding.

“You in there, little girl…?”

Four days earlier …

Rolanda Knox was formidable. I could attest to that. I pictured her laying out her uniform with all the pomp and ceremony of a warrior going into battle. Freshly pressed dark blue material. Shoes, belt buckle, and badge so shiny she could start fires with them if she needed to. This would be a grueling assignment and she’d need all her patience, experience, and powers of observation to ensure things went smoothly. Not that they ever did. No matter how prepared you were, something or someone always came along to gum up the works.

My name’s Paula Holliday. Rolanda Knox, who in my mind had earned the nickname “Fort,” had stared me down with a surprising ferocity two days before. Her actual words were “talk to the hand,” an expression I’ve never really understood but which commands a certain respect when the hand in question is almost as big as your own head.

I wasn’t listed in the official show directory, only in the addendum, and from her post at the entrance to Hall E, Rolanda had interrogated me as if I’d been trying to gate-crash the Pentagon. She’d even subjected the printed insert in my badge holder to the low-tech spit-and-rub test to make sure it wasn’t counterfeit. All weekend long I’d bear the traces of her smeared thumbprint. Knox was a security guard; and in this day and age, no one was getting into her convention center without proper documentation no matter how long it took and who was tapping her toes and glaring from the back of the line.

The young man Rolanda was talking to must not have had his papers in order, but he was persistent. He’d be no match for her if it came to a physical confrontation—but that was unlikely. He didn’t look stupid, just young and cocky in a T-shirt and baggy pants—too certain the quick smile and boyish charm, which had probably earned him a 90 percent return rate elsewhere, would work on this woman, too. He was mistaken.

The wall of polyester dared him to pass. It wasn’t just the wide expanse of fabric covering a well-muscled figure. And it wasn’t the badge. Who was impressed by authority anymore? It was a steely look in the woman’s eyes that conveyed her dead serious attitude. Stopping this boy would be no big deal. She’d be like a water buffalo swatting at a cattle egret: barely breaking a sweat. Then, something the kid said caused a slight chink in the woman’s armor, but she held her ground.

“Absolutely nothing,” she said. “Now, get that chicken chest out of my sight.” But this time she dismissed him the way you’d shoo away a pesky child.

He looked vaguely familiar—pale, with straw-colored hair and a mischievous Tom Sawyer expression on his face that could get you to paint the fence for him and thank him for it. The faded T-shirt read Happy Valley, and tied around his waist was a denim jacket covered with dozens of souvenir patches. He could have been any of the young workers hustling around the Wagner Center on Manhattan’s West Side on this early spring morning, but he wasn’t.

The boy scoped out the crowd, looking for an entrance with a less imposing gatekeeper or a sucker. He found me, just as my eyes lingered on him a second too long, struggling to remember where I’d seen him.

“Yo, Adrian.”

That was it. The art museum. The morning before I’d been jogging near the museum and couldn’t resist the urge to run up the steps and wave my hands over my head Rocky Balboa–style. To my utter humiliation the spectacle of a thirtysomething-year-old woman pretending to be Sylvester Stallone had been witnessed by someone who peered out of the shadows and applauded. He was huddled in the doorway, surrounded by bags. Something told me he wasn’t waiting for the Matisse exhibit to open.

I assumed he was a runaway. His belongings had been clustered around his ankles and his backpack had been punched down, probably used as a pillow. Like the jacket he’d been wearing, one of the bags bore patches from colorful destinations not generally frequented by runaways and homeless kids.

“She’s tough,” he said, walking over to me and motioning toward Rolanda.

“She lightened up toward the end. I thought you had her. What did you say?”

“I asked if last night had meant nothing to her.” He shrugged. “It was worth a try. Humor sometimes works wonders with authority figures.” He said it like a kid who had experience getting around people with equal parts of charm and flattery applied liberally with a shovel.

It would hardly have affected national security to let him slip into the convention center; but, in fairness, Fort Knox was just doing her job. Who wanted to be the one to let in the psycho-killer because he seemed harmless and had playfully suggested they’d had a tryst the night before? The show would open to the public in two days. I advised him to wait until then and buy a ticket.

“Can’t. I need to see one of the exhibitors before the show starts,” he said. “It’s super important.”

What constituted “super important” for someone halfway between skateboard age and first-real-job age was anyone’s guess. How urgent could it be? Knox shot us a look that warned don’t try any funny business, and I aborted the sales pitch before it came.

“I don’t have any extra badges. I’m a one-woman show. Just manning a booth for a friend. And I don’t know anyone else at the show well enough to ask.”

“I know a couple,” he said, looking around, “but they don’t know I’m here.” He eyeballed the rest of the exhibitors in line, preoccupied, furiously fingering BlackBerrys or sucking on coffees to help them wake up. He quickly calculated the odds and stuck with me.

“If you can’t get me in, will you deliver a note for me?” He took my silent intake of breath as assent. “Perfect.” He dropped his things on the floor and rummaged through his backpack until he found a scratch pad, pilfered from a budget hotel chain a half step up from the museum’s doorway. He pointed to my thick show directory. “Can I borrow that to write on?” He scribbled his note, then folded it over four times. “It’s private. You can’t tell anyone.”

 

Copyright © 2011 by Rosemary Harris

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 17 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 3, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Rosemary Harris writes another enjoyable jocular mystery.

    Professional gardener Paula Holliday travels from Springfield, Connecticut to Manhattan to attend the Big Apple Flower Show at the Wagner Center. For Paula the return to New York is a bittersweet reminder of when she burned out as a TV producer, but flowers should make for a fun event. Allegra Douglas strongly opposes vendors like Paula selling trashy sculptures by Primo Dunstan at the horticultural gala while director Kristi Reynolds believes they are a necessary evil if her show is going to hit the big time.

    However, Reynolds' smooth show starts off ugly when someone murders Connie Anzalone's prized veronicas. That is followed by Otis Randolph a worker falling down an elevator shaft to his death. Soon afterward student attendee Garland Bleimeister is found dead in the nearby Hudson. Paula, who met the victim when she took his bag to her table, teams up with security guard Rolanda Knox and investigates who had the motive to kill Bleimeister as many participates had the opportunity. They narrow the suspects down to Reynolds, school botanist Jamal Harrington, and the Javits Curse pranksters while NYPD leans toward local student Jamal Harrington.

    The latest Dirty Business amateur sleuth (see Pushing Up Daisies and Dead Head) is an amusing tale as the heroine's return to New York is loaded with pranks, murder and a cute hunk. The whodunit is clever, but takes a backseat to the gardeners' invasion of Manhattan; who would have thought The Big Dirt Nap crowd could be so out of control as any moment grateful readers will expect Lou Costello to arrive holding Mrs. Crumbcake's perforated bucket (see the TV show's "Jail"). Rosemary Harris writes an enjoyable jocular mystery.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 24, 2013

    Once in a while, I read a mystery book that just does not captur

    Once in a while, I read a mystery book that just does not capture my attention and imagination the way I hoped it would. I never see it as the author's fault--I just see it as one of those things. Unfortunately, this is such a book. No doubt it is well-written and has a good mystery story to it, but I found myself and outsider and uninvolved. I just could not connect with the story nor the characters.

    The first problem is possibly the setting. I have virtually no interest in flower shows, so maybe I shouldn't have picked it up in the first place. Clearly, one would not think that a heinous crime would be connected with such a docile setting, but indeed it is in the book. Sometimes I can look past the setting, but I just was not able to in this book for some reason.

    I will say that I suppose I got a glimpse into what a flower show is, and I don't think any of the characters in the book had ever experienced so much action at a simple flower show. That made this book somewhat intriguing, and I might find that a reread would make me enjoy it more. I don't think I fully understood and appreciated some of the terminology and events in the book, so this is something I am indeed open to.

    I am grateful that the profanity was mild and that there were no sex scenes. There certainly are unexpected issues and the typical "who done it" interest. The author writes fairly well, but I was unable to engross myself in the story. My recommendation would be that if you have an interest in flowers and mystery books, this may be the book for you. And since this is in a series, maybe I missed out by not reading the other books in the series. I wish I could give it a higher rating because it is truly not a bad book, and it is clear that many people enjoy it. I just didn't happen to be one of them.

    I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated, and all opinions are 100 percent mine.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2012

    R

    I like her books but $7.99 is too much to pay for a E-book.

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  • Posted July 7, 2012

    “Slugfest”, the fourth in the Dirty Business Mysteri

    “Slugfest”, the fourth in the Dirty Business Mysteries, opens with Paula Holliday back in her old stomping grounds of New York City. She is there to help a friend and reclusive artist from Springfield, CT by selling his artwork at a legendary Northeast flower show. Little does she know that the next four days will involve murder, mayhem, The Javits Curse, and a cast of diverse and zany characters.

    I have been a fan of Rosemary Harris’ since her first in the series, “Pushing Up Daisies”. I prefer the books that take place in her new hometown, but this was a refreshing look at Paula in action in NYC.

    Rosemary Harris has a great style of writing and always presents fresh mysteries. I did feel that a few of the most suspenseful parts were a little rushed, but overall it’s a really good story. I found myself laughing out loud several times. I hope to see Paula's new friends J.C. and Rolanda “Fort” Knox again, perhaps visiting Paula in Connecticut?

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  • Posted June 29, 2012

    There are good reasons why Rosemary Harris's Dirty Business myst

    There are good reasons why Rosemary Harris's Dirty Business mysteries keep getting nominated for prizes, Anthony and Agatha included: They are a pleasure to read, thanks to the affable narrator, sleuth, and professional gardener, Paula Holliday; plus each story has been among the best mystery/puzzles I've ever read in the cozy genre. Harris constantly surprises and twists your sensibilities, no more so than the fourth and latest in the series, SLUGFEST. Paula is off to her former haunt, New York City, and the Big Apple Flower Show, where she'll be hawking garden art for a friend back home. I don't want to say much more -- pieces of the puzzle are both scattered and placed throughout the early going, and to comment on the fun might give something away -- but you have to hear what Paul thinks of one character's outfit. "I let the wardrobe conversation dry up when I remembered who I was talking to. Tonight's package was wrapped in fluffy white Mongolian lamb that mercifully covered another scene of embroidered marine life. Clearly the dress code at the St. George had loosened up." Solid entertainment.

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  • Posted June 17, 2012

    This is the 4th book in the Paula Holliday gardening series. I h

    This is the 4th book in the Paula Holliday gardening series. I have read the previous books and enjoy this refreshing mystery series.

    This entry takes the reader behind the scenes at a top flower show. We are introduced to quirky exhibitors, fun and multi-dimensional exhibit hall staff and quite possibly a new love interest for Paula. The story unwinds at a pleasing pace, the murder does not happen at the beginning of the book which allows the reader to enjoy Paula and the show scene. As more characters are introduced along the way, the story goes off on several tangents making it impossible for me to determine the murderer. That in my opinion is an excellent mystery. It was fun seeing Paula back in New York and out of her comfort zone of her small town business. Rosemary Harris effortlessly entwines murder with the world of gardening.

    Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author with the hope that I would post an honest review.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2011

    Check out this series; well worth the time; most enjoyable.

    Loved all four of these books. Reminds me of Sue Grafton. I am looking forward to the next one.

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  • Posted August 19, 2011

    If you like mystery, you must read it!

    SLUGFEST by Rosemary Harris is another mystery in which Paula Holliday, the TV exec turned gardener and owner of Dirty Business, finds herself embroiled in despite her will. Plants, flowers and people die at the Jarvis flower show while Paula, unknowingly, is thought to hold the key to riches.
    The characters are so real that you feel you must know some of them, whether they are the street kid with a green thumb, the security guard studying to become one of New York's finest, the greedy snake oil sales man, the pseudo bimbo with a shady husband or the highbrow old lady of the horticultural society.
    From the Jarvis center to a plush hotel bar midtown, via a west site dive, the action shifts from the mundane drama to the most lethal circumstances, where everybody is a suspect, without revealing the plot until the end.
    Paula is the unwilling Miss Marple with a New Yorker sense of humor and a touch of cynicism that works herself in the scariest situations, dragging in the most unlikely friends.
    Like the other three books by Rosemary Harris, SLUGFEST is a real mystery novel focusing on an intelligent plot and people, without gadgets, expensive cars and unnecessary gore. It made me laugh, kept me interested and I felt sorry there were not another 300 pages or another book to go to at the end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2011

    Love Rosemary Harris Books

    I love Rosemary Harris - her books are GREAT! I would love to see another one in the Dirty Business Series!

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  • Posted April 12, 2011

    A GREAT SUMMER READ FULL OF COZY MYSTERY!! SLUGFEST BY ROSEMARY HARRIS!!

    SLUGFEST by Rosemary Harris is an interesting cozy mystery set in present day.It is the fourth in the "A Dirty Business Mystery" but can be read as a stand alone.Book One,"Pushing Up Daises",Book Two,"The Big Dirt Nap",Book Three,"Dead Head".This is an "Murder She Wrote" sort of story.With characters that charming,witty at times, and will capture your heart. This one is set in a Northeast flower show where not only plants are dying but humans also. It is a murder/mystery with a ragtag list of characters. The list includes a lady named "Fort" Knox,a no-nonsense security guard, Brooklyn's Tumbled Stone King,a high school kid with a green thrumb and a black belt,a lady who hates to leave home without her choice of weapon and is feisty as heck,a marketing guy who is not only slick but has the hottest new thing at the flower show,which could easily repell not only bugs but humans to death.With this team of misfits how will Paula Holliday ever find a killer before he can harm her or anyone else.This is a great summer read full of characters who will prove their worth and some their worthlessness.Paula as always is a great amateur sleuth who gets her man/woman in the end.If you liked the "Murder She Wrote" TV series years ago,you will definitly enjoy this delightful series of a dirty business.This book is a must read for summer,it is light hearted and full of surprises.This book was received for the purpose of review from the author but details can be found at Minotaur Books,an imprint of St. Martin's Publishing and My Book Addiction and More.

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    Posted March 29, 2011

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