Vanish with the Rose

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Fearing for the safety of her missing brother, lawyer Diana Reed will do anything to get to the truth. Taking a job as a landscape architect at the last place Brad was seen?the sprawling estate where he worked as a caretaker?she prowls the strange old house determined to unlock its secrets. But each mystery Diana uncovers is more unsettling than the last, as odd visions, scents, and sounds pervade an atmosphere of dread and barely suppressed violence. And in her zealous search for answers, she may have ...

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Fearing for the safety of her missing brother, lawyer Diana Reed will do anything to get to the truth. Taking a job as a landscape architect at the last place Brad was seen—the sprawling estate where he worked as a caretaker—she prowls the strange old house determined to unlock its secrets. But each mystery Diana uncovers is more unsettling than the last, as odd visions, scents, and sounds pervade an atmosphere of dread and barely suppressed violence. And in her zealous search for answers, she may have inadvertently opened a door to something frightening and deadly that can never be closed again.

Posing as an expert rose gardener, Diana Reed arrives at the Nicholson estate determined to find her missing brother, who had worked there as a caretaker. Distracted by eerie visions and the scent of roses wafting through empty rooms, Diana must confront family secrets that hide the deadly truth.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The prolific Michaels Into the Darkness sets off her latest high-voltage mystery the instant Diana Reed, a shrewd and determined lawyer, appears at the Nicholson estate in Maryland as their new landscape architect. Diana is actually searching for her younger brother Brad, who disappeared eight months earlier while working as caretaker for the estate's previous owner, Miss Musser. With considerable guile and a superficial knowledge of roses, Diana charms the Nicholsons into leaving her in charge of their manor for several weeks. Flying into action and dropping her disguise, she enlists the aid of Mary Jo, the feisty cleaning woman/student who once had an affair with Brad. Other allies are found in Walt Slade, the industrious, provocative gardener, and Andy Davis, Mrs. Nicholson's inept yet endearing son. The four disparate friends pry discreetly and focus their suspicions on Miss Musser's smarmy lawyer and Mary Jo's violent ex-husband. Woven through events are disquieting elements: crystal-clear music, lingering perfume and ambiguous forms suggesting an unworldy figure; indeed, Diana is saved from serious harm by a hand quite literally from another world. Michaels once again offers a witty, intricate and ultimately surprising story, with strong characterizations that keep the sparks flying. Literary Guild alternate; Doubleday Book Club main selection. Aug.
Library Journal
In a desperate attempt to locate her missing brother, Diana Reed goes to work as a landscape architect at the last place he was seen. Unqualified for the job, she lives with fear of discovery--which, of course, eventually transpires, prompting her boss and coworkers to try to assist her in her search. Sinister events make murder seem the most likely explanation for her brother's disappearance, and, in true Michaels fashion, things get quite spooky. There's a creaky old house, a ghost or perhaps more than one, a 100-year-old murder, and a drunken would-be killer. Not quite as good as Ammie, Come Home Berkley, 1989 or Be Buried in the Rain Berkley, 1987, but close. Lots of gardening detail makes things even more interesting. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/92; for an interview with Elizabeth Peters, a.k.a. Barbara Michaels, see ``The Three Faces of Mertz/Peters/Michaels,'' p. 128.--Ed.-- Bettie Spivey Cormier, Charlotte-Mecklenburg P.L., Charlotte, N.C.
Kirkus Reviews
Bestselling Michaels (Into the Darkness, 1990, etc., etc.) piles on the whipped cream but forgets the cake in this latest foray into romantic suspense—a contemporary cozy in which credibility is cheerfully sacrificed on the altar of whimsy and lace. There's something fishy about Diana Reed, the old-rose expert hired by a pair of former professors who've bought an 18th-century mansion in the Virginia countryside: Reed seems to know nothing about plants. Not that the trusting and house-obsessed Nicholsons notice; in fact, after a couple of days tramping the grounds with her newest employee, Emily Nicholson takes her husband off on a cross-country rose-hunting trip, conveniently freeing Reed from her watchful presence for the remainder of the book. For Diana, this situation is perfect: in real life a successful young attorney, she's come to the mansion to search for her missing brother (last seen working as a handyman for the estate's previous owner)—prompted by strange psychic visions that feature danger, murder, and what seems to be a passionate Romeo-and-Juliet-style romance. Left alone in the house with Andy, Emily's dilettante son; Walt, a rugged-but-compassionate contractor; and Mary Jo, overworked housekeeper and ex-battered wife, Reed must sort out whether her increasingly frequent visions are a centuries-old psychic legacy or her brother's attempt to communicate from beyond the grave. Meanwhile, all present must weather such gothic conventions as a secret chamber behind the fireplace, a violent ex-husband lurking about the grounds, the psychological intrusions of Reed's neurasthenic mother and cold-as-nails lawyer father, and of course a heavy dose of ghostlywhispers, nudges, and music-box-playing—before the murderer of Diana's brother is found, the four young people can fall into one another's arms, and the elderly Nicholsons can return to gasp, amazed, at such astonishing goings-on. Silly dialogue and a sketchy plot make this a very undemanding treat—suited for summer-garden reading with a cup of tea at hand.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425138984
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/1/1993
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 414
  • Product dimensions: 4.30 (w) x 6.80 (h) x 1.15 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Peters (writing as Barbara Michaels) was born and brought up in Illinois and earned her Ph.D. in Egyptology from the University of Chicago's famed Oriental Institute. Peters was named Grandmaster at the inaugural Anthony Awards in 1986, Grandmaster by the Mystery Writers of America at the Edgar® Awards in 1998, and given The Lifetime Achievement Award at Malice Domestic in 2003. She lives in an historic farmhouse in western Maryland.

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Read an Excerpt

Vanish with the Rose

Chapter One

The Plant of Roses, though it be a shrub full of prickles, yet it had been more fit and convenient to have placed it with the most glorious floures of the world than to insert the same among base and thorny shrubs.
—Gerard's Herball (1597)

the approaching storm cast a tarnished metallic luster over the landscape. The restless, low-hanging clouds glowed greenish-gray, like verdigris on brass; in the fields along the road, the fresh spring growth looked sickly and rotten. Her hands were clenched tightly on the reins and her feet were braced against the floor, but still she was flung bruisingly from side to side as the wheels spun along the rutted road, rushing to reach shelter before the storm broke. It had been raining for three days. Boiling with foam, a stream of rusty water outstripped the racing wheels, rushing down to join the creek at the bottom of the hill. The road curved sharply there; she could see the bridge ahead, narrow and humped, rising out of a swirling pool that had overflowed the swollen streambed to flood the road. And beside it, half submerged . . . The horse was struggling to rise: its flailing hooves, unable to find purchase in the mud, sent up fountains of water over the still form that lay dangerously close to the iron-shod feet.

The approaching storm cast a tarnished metallic luster over the landscape. The restless, low-hanging clouds had a sickly glow, like verdigris on brass. Her hands were clenched on the wheel, but still she was flung from side to side as the car bounced along the rutted road. It had been raining for three days. Along the roada stream of water, boiling with foam, rushed down to meet . . .

Diana's foot slammed down on the brake. The wheels skidded sickeningly. Most of the gravel had been washed away; the muddy surface andrain-slicked weeds were as slippery as ice. Cursing, she brought the car to a stop before it slid off into the ditch. What had possessed her to do such a stupid thing? There was no obstruction on the road, not even a confused rabbit.

She negotiated the curve ahead even more slowly than she had intended. At the bottom of the slope a bridge rose out of a pool of water that had overflowed the stream and spread a brown stain across the road. Beside it, half submerged . . .

The driver had taken the turn too fast. The car had slid into the ditch and toppled onto its side. The door on the driver's side was under water. The other was closed. There was no sign of life.

Diana brought her own car to a smooth stop several yards short of the water's edge. As she flung the door open and scrambled out, lightning split the clouds and a cannonburst of thunder made her flinch back. For a moment she clung to the edge of the open door, feeling dizzy and disoriented. Why had she hit the brake several seconds before she saw the overturned car? It was as if she had been warned she would have to stop.

Déjà vu, second sight, clairvoyance—maybe X-ray vision, like that of Superman. Never mind, she told herself. She had no time to waste on theories. The driver might be unconscious, drowning.

Her running feet splashed through the water. It was deeper than she had thought, lapping at her shins as she stood on tiptoe and stretched to reach the door handle. It wasn't until her fingers closed over it that she recognized its unfamiliar shape and acknowledged other unusual details she had been too preoccupied to consider—the curve of the front fender, the elongated fin at the back. Tail fins, for God's sake! The car must be—vintage, was that the word? Bad news for her and the driver. The old carswere heavier, more sturdily built; she'd never be able to open and lift the door, straight up, from her present strained position. Her fingers slipped on the wet metal. How the hell did the damned thing work? Pull out, press in, turn up or down . . . What if it was locked?

As if in answer to prayer, the door opened, with a suddenness and force that sent her staggering back. She struggled to keep her balance, but her water-soaked shoes found no purchase in the mud. She sat down with a thud that sent a fountain of cold muddy water high into the air. Most of it fell back onto her. Gasping with shock, she stared openmouthed at the apparition rising out of the overturned vehicle. It was a dog. A large dog. A large green dog.

Paws dangling, face set in an expression of benign idiocy, it emerged in a series of jerks and jumps. She was beyond surprise; when she heard the voice she took it for granted that the dog was addressing her, though its manners left a great deal to be desired.

"Move it, you stupid bitch! Get your fat lazy bum out of there!"

The dog was white, not green. The strange light had given its snowy coat that appearance. It scrambled up onto the side of the car, sat down, and stared curiously at her. From the aperture of the open door came the head and shoulders of a man.

If he had been hurt, or even wet, she wouldn't have lost her temper. His hair was disheveled and his glasses hung slightly askew, but his rumpled shirt appeared to be perfectly dry. He didn't see her at first. Squinting past the dog at the half-submerged front end of the car, he looked as if he were about to burst into tears. "God damn it," he said feelingly. "Couldn't you have held together for another half mile?"

Lightning flashed, thunder crashed; the dog let out a howl and tried to force its way back into the car. A breathless, profane struggle ensued; when it ended the dog was wrapped around its presumed owner, clutching him with all four paws, its head buried against his chest; and Diana had recovered her breath, if not her temper.

Vanish with the Rose. Copyright © by Barbara Michaels. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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