The Trail of the Wild Rose
Minotaur, Apr 2009, $24.95
Recently returned from a horticultural visit to China, Peter Mayhew is driving his motorcycle when he is run off the road. The other driver does not stop and Peter is rushed to an Oxford hospital in critical condition, The victim rambles incoherently about the Asian journey so a colleague ask retired botanist Lawrence Kingston to talk with Peter and see if he can make sense of what the man is saying.
Kingston learns the expedition was seeking wild roses, but soon afterward someone murders Mayhew in his hospital room. Thames Valley Detective Inspector Sheffield leads the police investigation into the homicide while Kingston interviews the other people who accompanied the victim to China. However, the cops and Kingston are stunned when Mayhew’s half-sister Sally comes to to the morgue to identify her brother only to insist that the cadaver is not him; she also says Peter allegedly died in a fall in China. As the retiree digs through the mud, he begins to uncover fraud, double crosses and murder as more members of the quest die.
The fourth English Garden mystery (see THE WATER LILY CROSS, THE BLUE ROSE and LOST GARDENS) is an engaging amateur sleuth that showcases the world of historical botanist hunters seeking obscure exotic plants around the globe; mindful of Darwin’s trip on the Beagle. The story line is fast-paced once Sally makes her assertion and never slows down although the ending seems to easy and intermittently Kingston’s life intrudes on the plot. Still this is a fun modern day meeting of Darwin and Agatha Christie in And Then there Were None.