"An an entirely appealing mystery debut, Marty Wingate introduces readers to a curious Texas ex-pat whose English gardening expertise on occasion leads her to unearth murderous goings-on.
Pru Parke always dreamed of living in England. And after the Dallas native follows an impulse and moves to London, she can’t imagine ever leaving—though she has yet to find a plum position as a head gardener. Now, as the sublet on her flat nears its end, the threat of forced departure looms. Determined to stay in her beloved adopted country, Pru takes small, private gardening jobs throughout the city.
On one such gig in Chelsea, she makes an extraordinary find. Digging in the soil of a potting shed, Pru uncovers an ancient Roman mosaic. But enthusiasm over her discovery is soon dampened when, two days later, she finds in the same spot a man’s bludgeoned corpse. As the London police swarm her worksite, ever inquisitive Pru can’t quite manage to distance herself from the investigation—much to the dismay of stern Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Pearse. It seems that, much as he tries, even handsome DCI Pearse can’t keep Pru safe from a brutal killer who thinks she’s already dug up too much."
Publisher: Alibi (May 6, 2014)
Sold by: Random House LLC
Sold by: Random House LLC
The Garden Plot is a great little book to curl up and enjoy with a cup of tea--or, if your weather is as humid as it has been here, enjoy with a big glass of fruit iced tea out on your porch or lanai. The lead character, Pru, is smart, charming, and easy to relate to--a loyal friend and someone you could easily hang out with. I rooted for her to succeed and find the perfect head gardener position she was looking for, and I felt for her each time she received a rejection letter. At times her decisions towards the investigation were a bit questionable, but that is pretty par for the course in these mysteries where the main character isn't a professional crime solver. DCI Christopher Pearse was a good match for her--his mostly by-the-book style, a good foil. Hopefully they will continue to solve mysteries together in upcoming books. The setting of the book in London and the surrounding area was fun and the gardening detail interesting and not over-done, even for a mostly brown-thumb person like me. This is a light and breezy read, no big surprises in terms of the whodunit, but a good way to travel across the pond via a book and immerse yourself in Pru's world for a while. I look forward to the next book in the series.
Author Notes: Marty Wingate is a regular contributor to Country Gardens as well as other magazines. She also leads gardening tours throughout England, Scotland, Ireland, France, and North America. The Garden Plot is her first novel. More Potting Shed mysteries are planned.
Although a garden-based mystery, there was plenty of foodie inspiration in The Garden Plot. Lots of tea and various pastries, pub food, sandwiches, homey dinners, sticky toffee pudding, curry and plenty of pasta as Pru's favorite neighborhood restaurant is Gasparetti's, an Italian eatery. Since living on a budget while looking for her dream job, Pru mostly fills up on owner/chef Riccardo's minestrone soup and bread, with an occasional small plate of pasta. I knew I wanted to go with some sort of pasta dish and something green to celebrate the garden. I found my dish in an article about Nigel Slater's 10 most popular recipes in the U.K.'s The Guardian online. Orecchiette with Goat Cheese, Artichokes, & Olives may not be in the book or on Gasparetti's menu but, it is from a beloved British chef, full of green ingredients in varying shades and, being a room-temperature dish, it is the perfect pasta to enjoy on the patio or garden on a warm spring evening.
Nigel says, "Of all the quick pasta suppers I have up my sleeve, this is probably the one I turn to most often. The original version contained thin shavings of Parmesan but I now find a goat's or sheep's cheese perks the whole thing up."
Orecchiette with Goat Cheese and Artichokes
Adapted from Nigel Slater via TheGuardian.com (April 2005/May 2011)
(Serves 2) (Deb says serves 3, 4 with a salad)
8.75 oz (250g) preserved artichokes
lemon 1 large, finely grated zest and juice
small bunch fresh parsley
5.35 oz (150g) orecchiette pasta
5.35 oz (150g) goat cheese
about 20 green olives (I halved mine)
Put a large pan of water on to boil for the pasta.
Cut the artichokes in thick slices and drop them into a bowl with the olives. Add the grated lemon zest and juice. Stir in four tablespoons of olive oil and a seasoning of salt and pepper. (Note: watch the amount of salt with the cheese, olives and marinated artichokes--you won't need as much.) Chop or tear the parsley leaves and add to the artichokes and olives.
Salt the boiling water, add the pasta, then cook till tender (about 9 minutes). Drain the pasta and toss with the artichoke mixture.
Divide between two bowls and serve with thin slices of cheese.
Notes/Results: This pasta makes me happy--al dente orecchiette pasta combined with the briny olives and little artichoke hearts in a slightly lemony dressing--then those luscious bites of creamy goat cheese--which gets sort of soft and melty from the warm pasta and nestles nicely in the little 'ears' of the orecchiette. Pretty heavenly in my book. This is one of those few-ingredient-recipes that rely on good quality--so use your best olive oil, cheese, artichokes and olives. I found a jar of baby grilled artichokes--about $1.50 more than the equivalent amount of regular jarred artichokes but well worth it for their compact size and better flavor. As with most Nigel recipes this makes hearty servings, at least three good size or four smaller servings with a green salad. This goes together in the time it takes the pasta to cook so it makes for an easy weeknight dinner, but worthy enough to entertain with. I will definitely make it again.
This pasta dish is being linked up at I Heart Cooking Clubs for this week's "A Little Cheese, Please!" theme. You can see the cheesy dishes that everyone made by checking out the picture links on the post.
Note: A review copy of "The Garden Plot" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.
You can see the stops for the rest of the Book Tour and what other readers thought about the book here.
Kahakai Kitchen is joining in on the Rafflecopter giveaway for The Garden Plot's TLC Book Tour. The publisher is giving away a $30 e-giftcard to the e-book retailer of the winner's choice, and a First Prize Mystery Prize Pack of three mystery mass market paperbacks and a gardening title from Random House! Enter to win below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Happy Aloha Friday!