Review of Pruning the Dead by Julia Henry

Post-retirement aches and pains can’t prevent sixty-five-year-old Lilly Jayne from keeping the most manicured garden in Goosebush, Massachusetts. But as a murder mystery blooms in the sleepy New England town, can a green thumb weed out a killer?
With hundreds flocking to her inaugural garden party, meticulous Lilly Jayne hasn’t left a single petal out of place. But the picture-perfect gathering turns unruly upon the arrival of Merilee Frank, Lily’s ex-husband’s catty third wife. Merilee lives for trouble, so no one is surprised after she drinks too much, shoves a guest into the koi pond, and gets escorted off the property. The real surprise comes days later—when Merilee is found dead in a pile of mulch . . .
Lilly wishes she could stick to pruning roses and forget about Merilee’s murder—until her best friend and ex become suspects in an overgrown homicide case. Now, aided by the Garden Squad, an unlikely group of amateur crime solvers with a knack for planting, Lilly knows she has limited time to identify the true culprit and restore order to Goosebush. Because if the murderer’s plot isn’t nipped in the bud, another victim could be pushing up daisies!

Available on Amazon.

Release Date: January 29, 2019

I read the blurb for this book and thought: nice setting, interesting main character and I could do with learning some more about gardening! I’m glad to say the mix of gardening, culprits, motives and sleuthing shenanigans worked well and made for a very enjoyable read. 

Lilly is an absolute doll. She is 65 years young, just into her ‘later’ middle age she says, and ready to enjoy the rest of her life in Goosebush, as she’s just starting to take an interest in town activities once again. She’d become a bit of a recluse after the death of her husband. Her determination to make life better for all in her Goosebush town, and how she comes back into her own with the assistance of her Garden Squad friends, is a really well-developed aspect of the story and makes Lilly even more likable. I can’t wait to read more stories in this series to see how Lilly continues to grow.

The secondary characters are funny, classy, come from varied backgrounds and promise that life with the Garden Squad will be full of entertainment and good food!

The mystery itself is well-plotted. There are clues and cues and red herrings all around. The suspects are several and quickly whittled down. The motives and opportunities are gradually revealed and the pacing of the action is just right. I picked the right culprit earlyish but didn’t figure out the full why until the big reveal. 

I’m not much of a gardener and admire those who can. I enjoyed the short forays into gardening advice littered throughout the story. If you aren’t interested in gardening, don’t worry, the tips are not excessive and do not detract from the overall enjoyment of the story. 

The little town of Goosebush is diverse and intent upon preserving its history. The short historical anecdotes and research bits add charm to the tale and made me enjoy it even more. 

I definitely hope to continue the series and give this story 4.5/5 rosy espresso shots. 

Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an ARC of this book courtesy NetGalley and publisher Kensington. All opinions expressed are my own.

25 thoughts on “Review of Pruning the Dead by Julia Henry

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  1. Great review Nina. I had passed on this one, I think it was the cover that didn’t appeal to me. After reading your review, I have changed my mind and am going to give this one a go. Nicely done.

    Liked by 1 person

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