Celia Grant, the diminutive, white-haired heroine of Sherwood's horticultural mysteries ( Flowers of Evil ), is facing financial ruin because a new commercial garden center is taking business away from Archerscroft, her nursery, in this lively and enjoyable addition to the series. Hoping to earn a hefty fee, she agrees to work for Victor Stratton, a man fanatically devoted to Shakespeare and anything Elizabethan. But the disreputable Strattons--who while away their time with blackmail, conspiracy and theft--are involved in the sordid death of a rapist. When Celia decides to abandon her effort, the abrasive and obsessive Inspector Porter persuades her to carry on, ``committing herself to constructing a fake Elizabethan garden in the worst of taste for a half-made client she dislikes'' in order to confound an international drug cartel. She finally manages to cough up a little sympathy for the despised Victor, whose family would like him to ``preside over an under-funded charity for the benefit of decrepit donkeys.'' Wrongheaded and unscrupulous as they may be, the police provide some help as Celia solves the mystery. Footnotes, horticultural history and humor embellish the tale, which is, however, brought to a somewhat hasty conclusion. (Apr.)
What begins as the apparently accidental killing of an attempted rapist escalates into a so-called gang war between rival drug dealers located in rural England. Hoping to save her plant business from bankruptcy, horticulturalist/sleuth Celia Grant ( A Bouquet of Thorns; Menacing Groves ) becomes involved when she designs an elaborate Elizabethan garden for the wealthy but manic-depressive manor owner whose ``heroic'' uncle beaned the rapist. Publicity from the uncle's stunt, vandalism, and kidnaping put Celia's commission on hold, but she sticks close enough to aid police and then strike out on her own. The plot abounds with tricky characters and twisted events, but the whole remains a little shaky . For series fans.