by Kathleen Costa
& Julia Henry
This week we have a review of Wreathing Havoc By Julia Henry, along with an interesting guest post by Julia about the gardening in this book. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.
Wreathing Havoc: A Garden Squad Mystery by Julia Henry
Review by Kathleen Costa
Goosebush to Goosebumps!
Sixty-something widow Lilly Jayne not only has a “squad” of friends and family to keep her busy, she has the greenest, green thumbs when it comes to her meticulous garden. She is participating in the annual Garden Sculpture and Lights event and creating a wreath based on random book titles for the library fundraiser; hers is based on the Christie classic, Murder on the Orient Express. All good fun…mostly. She is also relied on by law enforcement when suspicious deaths pop up…and they always do!
Wreathing Havoc Earns 5/5 Curtain Calls…Clever and Engaging Fun!
Today is a sad day for many of Goosebush, Massachusetts. Leon Tompkin had come to theater late in life. His wife, Betsy, had a strict idea about any public displays, but after she passed ten years ago, he was confronted with an opportunity to hit the stage; he fell into it well, showing talent, and loving every minute. His son Fred had suggested, after his mother’s death, Leon move out west to live with him, but Goosebush was home and the theater community was family. Today it’s his memorial, and unlike most solemn occasions, attendees are treated to words of praise, Leon’s favorite show tunes, and a reading of a Shakespeare passage by Hollywood film star and Goosebush favorite son Jeremy Nolan.
Leon did not publicize the fact that he actually owned the Stanley theater since he inherited it from his father-in-law, but lately due to concerns about his failing health, he was trying to make sure his plans for the future of the theater would be realized. His death, determined a heart attack, came too soon and paperwork, wills, and contracts along with meetings and announcements he planned to officially discuss his ideas were all in question. Then, there’s the coffee in his system and the lack of evidence as to who, where, and how he got it. It becomes more complicated, entangling Lilly, when another death occurs, a struggle for control ensues, and diaries bring into question other deaths over the decades. Is there a connection? Are more people in danger? Will the holidays ever be the same?
Curtain Up! Light the Lights! Julia Henry has “got nothing to hit but the heights” bringing the holiday season to the fourth book in her Garden Squad Mystery series. Family gatherings, festive events, and readings of “A Christmas Carol” are create quite a buzz, but the “palace intrigue” among the theater folk just might overshadow the mini pies and garden displays. Leon’s death has an intriguing air of suspicion making everyone’s movements, connections, and motives important, and when another death occurs to complicate the drama, I was totally engaged! There are a lot of characters that could be overwhelming for a first-time reader of Henry’s series, like me, but there was a core group on which one can focus making it easier. There was a delightful mix of generations to interest all ages of cozy fans, but I personally enjoyed Lilly Jayne as an intelligent, strong, witty woman of a mature age. Henry’s writing style is well-rounded with vivid descriptions for the various settings, the holiday projects, the food, and the people along with dialogue to illustrate the tone, emotions, and varied personalities, and the well-developed plot, steady stream of clues, motives, and suspects, and not until the final chapters, a conclusion that made me “gasp,” defines this book as a real page-turner experience. Delightful. Intriguing. Well-worth my time.
Bonus! Although I am curious about adding cold vodka to pie dough, Julia Henry adds a dozen Gardening Tips as a special bonus: care of gardening tools to safe guarding plants in the cold weather, growing garlic to ways to create fuller plants, watering tricks and recycling coffee grounds, and suggestions to control pests of all sizes. Green thumbs unite!
Garden Squad Mysteries
Pruning the Dead (2019)
Tilling the Truth (2019)
Digging Up the Dirt (2020)
Wreathing Havoc (2021)
Be a Big Julia Henry Fan!
One woman. Three names. Many books. Julianne Holmes and J. A. Henrrikus are names for one woman…Julia Henry. But no matter under which name she writes, her work is entertaining offering something for a variety of tastes: the three-book Clock Shop Mysteries (2015-2017) by Julianne Holmes, two-book Theater Cop mysteries (2017-2019 rereleased in 2020) by J. A. Henrrikus, and this four-book Garden Squad Mysteries (2019-2021) by Julia Henry.
Holiday Gardening Adventures
By Julia Henry
Writing a series that centers on gardening set in New England during Thanksgiving—I didn’t make my life easy with the fourth book in my Garden Squad series, Wreathing Havoc. The central character in the series, Lilly Jayne, is a master gardener. Her next door neighbor, Roddy Lyden, is learning. The rest of the Garden Squad—Delia, Tamara, Warwick, and Ernie—let Lilly do the gardening, but are on hand to help her solve crimes in Goosebush.
I could have skipped late fall and winter, but decided I wanted to have the Garden Squad celebrate the holidays. After all, it’s been six months since the events of Pruning the Dead, and they all have a lot to celebrate. Lilly has a wonderful greenhouse, but I wanted to involve everyone else in projects. I came up with two ideas to help bring plants and flowers into the mystery solving.
The first helped me name the novel. Lilly is on the board of the local library, and is helping with their annual fundraiser. People pick a title of a book, and create a wreath with the theme. Lilly’s wreath is based on Murder on the Orient Express. Trust me, she made sure she got that title—she suggested it. The wreaths are auctioned off at a December event to support the library. I love the idea of a book-themed wreath, don’t you?
The second idea was inspired by a British Netflix series I watched where gardeners created sculptures out of gardening material. It was like the Great British Bake-off, but with plants. I decided that Lilly would hate the idea, but she’d show up for her friends. The challenge is that the sculptures need to be installed within five hours, and they need to incorporate lights. The site is Alden Park, which is finally being restored. The event finally takes place at the end of the book, and was a lot of fun to write and imagine.
Fear not, Lilly does spend time in her Victorian style greenhouse. And she helps Roddy prepare his gardens for the spring—including using her seaweed-based fall fertilizer and planting garlic. There’s also some theater thrown into the mix. But the most important work that the Garden Squad does, with Lilly in the lead, is to clean up the messes that other people create.
To enter to win a copy of Wreathing Havoc, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “havoc,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 4, 2021. U.S. residents only for print copy, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like. BE AWARE THAT SHIPPING TIMES ARE TAKING LONGER THAN USUAL.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Be sure to check out our new mystery podcast too with mystery short stories, and first chapters read by local actors. A new episode goes up next week.
You can use this link to purchase this book from Amazon. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the link:
Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.