A Corpse for Yew
Joyce and Jim Lavene
Berkley, May 2009, $7.99
The drought in North Carolina is so severe that Lake Whitley dried up leading to historical preservationists looking at the beds including a graveyard. While the profits at Peggy Lee’s The Potting Shed has dried up too, she joins her mom and the other members of the historical society on the dry mud search. Genevieve Curtis steps on a body of a fellow member who had bright red lips. The victim is Lois Mullin, who arrived early without informing anyone.
The autopsy reveals Lois had yew in her system, which means she was poisoned. The Police Chief turns out to be the dead woman’s nephew and he dropped her off at the site before going to work. Everyone wants to believe a horrific accident occurred, but many questions remain unanswered. Peggy thinks the woman was murdered and the female members of the Historical Society persuade her to investigate as she has solved homicides before (see PERFECT POISON). She agrees, but finds an over abundance of suspects to include the nephew, the artifact thief, and members of the society.
Putting aside why Peggy the amateur sleuth would investigate, Joyce and Jim Lavene prove once again they are an excellent writing team as they provide a quality regional whodunit. There are numerous suspects even beyond those described above so picking out the killer is difficult and as puzzling. The question that needs to be answered first is why murder a seemingly harmless elderly woman. A CORPSE FOR YEW contains lighter moments like the heroine hiding her lover from her parents even though she is fiftyish widow, but it is her investigation that makes for a fun Garden mystery.