4 star rating
Keeping Mum
A Garden Society Mystery Book #3
By Alyse Carlson
ISBN# 9780425252062

Brought to you by OSB reviewer Jeanie


keeping-mum-alyse-carlson-garden-society-mysteryRoanoke, Virginia, is home to some of the country’s most exquisite gardens, and it’s Camellia Harris’s job to promote them. But when a political fundraiser turns deadly, everyone’s a candidate for murder…

Cam and her best friend, Annie, are planning a gala for a local Senate candidate—a murder mystery themed silent auction where the guests bid on who will be the night’s “victim.” Coordinating a beautiful display of fall flowers and planning the perfect fake crime is hard enough, but with a guest list that is a “who’s who” of the Roanoke elite, Cam has her hands full navigating the egos and grudges of her high society guests.

When local financial tycoon Derrick Windermere is found dead next to a shattered pot of chrysanthemums, the night’s fun and games quickly turn serious. Half the guests had good reason to want Windermere dead, but only one is suspiciously missing in action—Annie’s father. Now Cam will not only have to figure out which partygoer is a killer, but find her friend’s father before all their reputations end up dragged through the mud…(from and back cover of book)


She knew there was a good reason that the chrysanthemums shouldn’t be included!

If I were ever accused of murder, Camellia “Cam” Harris and her BFF Annie Schulz would be the gals I would want to find the real culprit!  They have the connections (boyfriends Rob, journalist and Jake, police detective, respectively).  They have the cunning (savvy, sharp minds).  They also have the cupcakes (Annie runs a cupcake & other delightful treats shop, Sweet Surprise)!

The Roanoke Garden Society (RGS) is going to furnish horticultural treasures of heirloom flowers in 1920’s traditional Roanoke, Virginia’s style to a special gala at the local country club.  Cam, Public Relations spinner for RGS, is planning the event in which Jared Koontz may announce his candidacy for the Virginia State Senate.  The only upside of planning the gala is that Annie will also be part of the planning.  Annie’s father, Senator Alden Schulz is a co-sponsor of the gala and asked her to help prepare it to be successful for his preferred candidate.  The theme became a mystery murder in which the “victim” would be the guest who had the most money “bid” on him (or her).  The guests, many assigned to various “roles”, would then have to solve “whodunit”.  The gorgeous flowers are in place throughout the grounds, a 7-course dinner inspired by The Great Gatsby and prepared by Cam’s very-pregnant sister Petunia and her husband is a hit, and the guests get into their “roles”…. Suddenly, there is not one murder victim, but two.  One “victim” is Councilwoman Vivian Macy, whose date for the gala is Cam’s father.  The real, dead victim, plunked on the head with a potted mum, is Derrick Windermere.  Derrick, whose fortune has been partially made by those who invested huge sums of money in real estate ventures that lost money, has more than a few enemies present.  And as the guests are interviewed and begin to leave, they learn that Annie’s father, Senator Schulz is missing.  Without a clue.  And his trophy wife, who was supposed to be out of the country, is briefly back in town then disappearing as mysteriously as the Senator.

The razor-sharp minds of Rob, Cam, and Annie meet over the course of many hours to find the Senator, then solve the murders.  Jake, trying to respect the confidentiality of his position, as well as protect Annie, is sometimes at odds with Cam, and wants all three to stay out of the investigation even as their research nets valuable information.  Before they know it, another murder happens.  Their suspect list grows faster than weeds in a garden as they continue to research in hopes of proving that the one favored by police – Vivan – is innocent.  The non-stop action of break-ins to the RGS office and a threat made against Cam, possible involvement of cooked books and the  mob, to Annie being held hostage in a cabin in the woods … and the race against time to save her ….

Cam and Annie are as intuitive as Nancy Drew and as funny as Lucy and Ethel!  Cam might be the more assertive of the two, but Annie is the one who can dig up the dirt on almost anyone with her trusty computer skills and bring new leads to light.  I envy her cooking and baking skills, and identify with her geeky side – which takes precedence over little things like organizing her home.  I also admire Cam’s gift of ‘spin’ as their leads take them into sticky places. Rob and Cam are a great match, as adorable as can be, as are Annie and Jake.

I highly recommend this cozy to anyone who loves fast-paced action and untangling the cords of a complicated cast of characters!  This is a satisfying read, rich with well-developed protagonists and well-heeled suspects.  Looking forward to their next great adventure!