Pru’s friends and neighbors are abuzz with the news of an acting troupe putting on an outdoor performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And while many are eager to catch a glimpse of famed actor Ambrose Grant, Pru can’t wait to finally see the spectacular gardens of the private estate where the play will be performed. When the estate’s gardener abruptly quits—frustrated with actors trampling his beloved plants—Pru is called upon for her gardening expertise. She throws herself into creating magical woodland forest scenes, and is quickly drawn into the excitement of putting on a play, as she watches the drama on and off the stage. But the play’s suddenly no longer the thing, when one of the actors turns up murdered.
Pru’s husband, Detective Inspector Christopher Pearse, relies on Pru’s knowledge of all the players in this particular intrigue, and Pru finds herself using rehearsals to investigate. But playing the role of private eye could prove perilous for Pru, as she closes in on a murderer who won’t let anyone—least of all the gardener—keep him from stopping the show . . . dead.
Marty Wingate’s captivating mysteries can be enjoyed together or separately, in any order:
The Potting Shed series: THE GARDEN PLOT | THE RED BOOK OF PRIMROSE HOUSE | BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE | THE SKELETON GARDEN | THE BLUEBONNET BETRAYAL | BEST-LAID PLANTS | MIDSUMMER MAYHEM
The Birds of a Feather series: THE RHYME OF THE MAGPIE | EMPTY NEST | EVERY TRICK IN THE ROOK | FAREWELL, MY CUCKOO
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
“I can’t do it,” Pru whispered as she hid in the dark behind the door to the sitting room. Sounds of conversation and laughter drifted out. A drop of sweat trickled down her forehead, and she whisked it away. “I just can’t.”
“No one’s forcing you,” Christopher replied, his hand resting on the small of her back.
“It’s only that I thought I could,” she explained. “I thought it might be fun. But no, I’ll only make a mess of the whole thing and end up looking a fool.”
“You were perfect last night,” he said.
“Yes, but that was in bed and you were my only audience.”
Christopher peered through the narrow opening into the library and then looked back at her with a ghost of a smile. “Then, perhaps you should imagine they aren’t wearing any clothes, either.”
Pru laughed and then slapped a hand over her mouth. Her nerves, stretched taut, loosened ever so slightly.
“Party pieces aren’t a requirement,” Christopher reminded her, “only after-dinner entertainment.”
No, but they formed an integral part of a convivial evening in England. And she had so wanted to participate.
“Everyone else did so well,” Pru complained. And they had—their guests had come up with poetry, funny stories, piano pieces, songs. Christopher had told his own version of an old English folktale about how badgers can protect against dark magic. “But the thought of getting up in front of that crowd—”
“There’s only nine of us out there.”
“Yes, and it’s that ninth one that’s the problem. How can I stand there and recite his own words to him?”
“They aren’t his words; they’re Will Shakespeare’s.”
“You know what I mean—the director.” She sighed. “I’m a gardener; my party piece should be planting a tree. Why did I think performing lines from A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be a good idea?”
“Then don’t do it,” Christopher said and kissed her temple. “I’ll go in and offer brandy. They’ll never notice.”
He moved to go, but Pru caught his arm.
“No, how silly I am.” She cleared her throat, took out her clip, combed it through her brown hair, and reclipped.
Pru stood in front of the unlit fireplace and felt a slight June breeze drift in from the open French doors—a delightful summer evening in Hampshire, but it did nothing to cool her off. She fidgeted. Christopher locked his intense brown eyes on her to offer encouragement. Evelyn and her husband, Albert; Pru’s brother, Simon, and his wife, Polly; and Reverend Bernadette all smiled up at her. The others—actor Ambrose Grant, stage manager Penelope Farthing, and director Max Stirling watched and waited. They had been delightful dinner companions—she must remember that.
Swallowing hard and praying she wouldn’t have to shout “Line!” Pru inhaled deeply and began.
“Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire—
I do wander everywhere
Swifter than the moon’s sphere,
And I serve the Fairy Queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green.
The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
In their gold coats spots you see—
Those be rubies, fairy favours;
In those freckles live their savours.
I must go seek some dewdrops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear.
Farewell, thou lob of spirits; I’ll be gone.
Our Queen and all her elves come here anon.”
“Brava!” were the shouts and cheers, and Pru couldn’t sit down quickly enough. Where is Christopher with that brandy? A large glass appeared in front of her, and she seized it, giving him a grateful smile.
“Well done, Prunella,” Max Stirling said. “Gardener and actor.”
“Oh now,” Pru said, mortified at the attention. “I believe I’d better stick to supplying you with plants for your production.”
“You are more than supplier.” Max toasted her with his glass. “You are an artist, a visionary in flora, however ephemeral your creation may be. Of course, we in the theater are accustomed to the temporary, the fleeting—isn’t that true, Ambrose?”
“Indeed. It’s why we are in constant search of our next role.”
The Ambrose Grant fan club—Polly, Evelyn, and Bernadette—tittered appreciatively. He did have that way about him—the power to charm the knickers off women of a certain age. Figuratively speaking, of course.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Thanks to Netgalley for allowing me to read and review this lovely cozy mystery. I did not know when I chose this novel that it was #7 in the author's Potting Shed Mysteries. That did not present a handicap as this book stands very well on its own. Author Marty Wingate gives just the right amount of back story to make the reader comfortable with the current story. Heroine Pru is called into help a company that is doing "A Midsummer's Night Dream" outside in the large garden of an English estate. The director wants a variety of plants, small trees, etc. to make the setting as stunning as the beloved Shakespeare play warrants. Pru's field of expertise is gardens, so despite a lot of demands, she is thrilled to meet actors, both well known and new. One of the actors is found dead and almost everyone in the cast and crew are suspects, as he was disliked by most. Pru's husband is Chief inspector and they both work to solve the murder in various ways. Marty Wingate has created a beautiful couple from people who are mature and still very much in love. There are many secondary characters. At first, like Pru, I had trouble keeping them straight, but was able to learn them by their character's name. If you already love gardening, you will recognize the many varieties Pru uses. If, like me, you have a "brown thumb', you will finish this novel much more knowledgeable. This is the perfect book for cozy mysteries lovers. The author takes you on a journey, dropping clues along the way, that has a satisfying ending.
It's MIdsummer in Hampshire, and the villagers are agog over the outdoor staging of A Midsummer Night's Dream in the garden of a local country house. The garden is never open to the public, as the owners are absentee and the resident gardener is reclusive. American transplant Pru Parke is excited by the prospect of finally seeing the garden and the villagers by the casting of a telly star of years gone by. The gardener is upset, however, by the actors trampling around his treasured garden and abruptly quits. When Pru is offered the opportunity to be the "stage designer' by advising on and providing plants for the performance she jumps at the chance. Pru is even a little stage-struck herself. The company, Shakespeare au Natural, is led by Max Sterling, a legendary director who has been out of the business for some years due to the terminal illness of his beloved wife. He hopes the production will re-start his flagging career. Max is a person of great charm and charisma, and he is supported by a group of old friends who are also hoping Max can succeed. Most of them have worked together for years and have a tangled web of personal relationships both as friends and former lovers. There are some new additions of younger actors, but most seem to be dedicated to making a performance to remember. The one exception is the actor playing Lysander, who is both a womanizer and lacks a work ethic. When death strikes the company, inveterate sleuth Pru, abetted by her police inspector husband, Christopher Pearse, is in a prime position to untangle the web of relationships. It's hard to believe that this is the seventh in the Potting Shed Mysteries, a series that I have thoroughly enjoyed. Pru and Christopher are likable characters who gather friends and allies wherever they go. The mixture of gardening lore, mystery, and a little romance, this time with theatrical settings, make another great read. Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Alibi for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.
There are those people who want to be actors or actresses but only in their hearts. They are the ones that insist on sitting in the back rows of the theater. Then there are those who would love a little part in the play but don’t want to be seen. Being in charge of and designing the plants for scene setting is just the thing for Pru since she is a master gardener. This is a story about gardens and Shakespeare and acting. Although it could sound stuffy it most certainly isn’t. I found it read quickly and was entertaining. I loved the gardening talk and the plant names and so forth and I sure could picture the beautiful gardens and overall landscaping they were to perform the play in. I am not a Shakespeare person but there was not enough of him to get me yawning. I also loved the talk of all the food the cook sent to the green room every day. Good grief I was running to the frig constantly. This is a fun mystery with some twists and turns. The plot was a little different which was enjoyable. There were a lot of characters, and yet I had no trouble knowing who was whom, so to speak. There is nothing wrong with the amount of characters an author places in his or her story. The problem for me comes when they are not identified well enough for me to learn the personality of or see a picture of each one of them. I just hate having to turn back the pages thinking “well who was this guy” and so forth. It sure didn’t happen to me here. I had no trouble reading Midsummer Mayhem. It is Book 7 of a series titled “A Potting Shed Mystery”. All have good reviews. ***This book was provided to me free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are definitely my own.
Three things enticed me to read Midsummer Mayhem: gardening, theater and mystery. I’ve had experience with gardening and did some community theater for a few years. And I love a good mystery. Pru, a gardener and is married to a small English town police officer, was asked to design and create the set for an outdoor production of Midsummer-night’s Dream. She gets to deal with the quirkiness of the actors, stage crew, and the director. Before the production could get through many rehearsals one of the actors is murdered by an unusual means, so Pru tries to figure “out who done it” while she tends to her job of creating the theater set. The reader is kept guessing who the villian is for most of the book, which is fun, Although I had some trouble remembering the names of all the actors for a bit I found the book to be an enjoyably fun read.
I enjoy this series--the characters and settings are delightful. Having the main character a transplanted American in the UK with a British husband works very nicely. This mystery is fun. An outdoor production of Shakespeare with all the personality quirks of theatre people.I had my suspicions about the culprit, but couldn't figure out the "why", It comes together nicely with some real drama.
law-enforcement, amateur-sleuth, actors, england, cosy-mystery An English country house, a troupe of actors preparing for an outdoor performance of a Shakespearean play, a garden specialist with a detective inspector husband, and a devilish premeditated murder. Plenty of suspects and red herrings with some unexpected twists as well as some interpersonal intrigues. The characters are interesting and engaging, the locale inspiring, and the horticulture daunting, and the story is great. The publisher's blurb gives hints and there is no need for spoilers, just enjoy! I requested and received a free ebook copy from Random House via NetGalley.
In Midsummer Mayhem, her 7th Potting Shed Mystery, Marty Wingate once again transports the reader to the bucolic English countryside, joining American transplant Pru Parke and her husband, DI Christopher Pearse, at Greenoak, their home. An acting company, Shakespeare au Naturel, has taken over a nearby estate with breathtaking gardens for their production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, but Lysander the lothario is found dead during rehearsals, and all is not well in the world of the bard. Pru is caught up in the investigation as she attempts to catch the killer and prevent harm to any other members of the production. An excellent cozy mystery, and although I always recommend starting at the beginning of a series, the reader can certainly start with this lovely little cozy mystery, which is quite an enjoyable read and does well as a standalone! A+++
Midsummer Mayhem is the seventh book in the A Potting Shed Mystery series. One of Pru’s dreams is coming true, the house next to where she is living has a rather extensive and beautiful garden, but the property is gated and rarely open. The property is going to be the site of an outdoor production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Pru has been asked to take on the set decoration. With the help of her new assistant, Hal, set off to get started on obtaining flowers and shrubs to use as stage decorations. As they are busy setting up, Pru has a chance to observe the actors and they prepare for rehearsals. She is quick to notice that the actor who is playing the lover Lysander seems to be playing that role off stage as well. Then an actor is found dead from an apparent bee sting and evidence shows that it was no accident. Pru’s husband, DI Christopher Pearce asks Pru to be his “ears” as the police begin their investigation. Pearce knows that Pru can get more information from a general conversation with the members of the troupe than he can. Pru finds that this may not always be the case as she talks with various actors that some seem to be not telling all they know about each others history. Then Pru and Christopher come to learn, at the same time, who the guilty party is and an exciting ending lead to an arrest. This is a well written and plotted story with a very interesting cast of characters. The series should appeal to those readers who are gardeners or enjoy reading about English countryside gardens. Not being a gardener I find this series very enjoyable and with a quick click on my Kindle, I can get additional information and description from the Kindle’s dictionary. I will be watching for the next book in this wonderful series.
Gardener Pru Parke and has been tapped to provide scenery for a local production of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. But when one of the lead actors is killed by an allergic reaction to bees, it’s anything but a dream and it appears he was targeted and murdered. But who knew of his allergy and who would want him dead? This is the first book in this seven book Potting Shed Mystery series that I have read and it was a great standalone. Even more, I am THRILLED to have a new (to me) series with more books that I can enjoy and catch up on. The writer’s style flows and the characters are well developed. I can’t wait to get more background on Pru and the gang!
Midsummer Night’s Dream Staged in a Garden with the Added Spice of Murder When a troop of players plans to stage Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Coeur-de-la-Mer Priory Hall garden that is normally closed to the public, Pru is excited. She has always wanted to examine the garden at close range. She becomes even more enthusiastic when the gardener at Coeur-de-la-Mer quits because he can’t stand the people trampling on his plants, and she is asked to take over his responsibilities. The job starts well. Pru is responsible for set design as well as maintaining the garden. Luckily she has a new helper Hal Noakes who is able to pick up the slack at Greenoak as well as at the Priory Hall. Pru enjoys the players with the exception of the young man playing Lysander. He’s lazy, difficult and thinks he’s God’s gift to women. When he becomes the victim of an allergic reaction that turns out to be murder, Pru and her detective husband, Christopher, have to find the killer before the play is ruined. As usual, Marty Wingate writes a fun mystery with a beautiful setting. The country house gardens are perfect for Midsummer Night’s Dream. I love the descriptions of the plants and how Pru chooses the plants for the stage sets. It helps to be familiar with Midsummer Night’s Dream. There are a great many characters and at first the dual names are challenging, but the author tries to help by often using just the character’s name. Although the cast list is long, the story sorts out the bit players and after the first couple of chapters it’s easy to remember who’s who. If you enjoy cozy mysteries in a great setting, this is a good one. I received this book from Net Galley for this review.