Murder in the Secret Garden: A Book Retreat Mystery
Author: Ellery Adams
ISBN: 9780425265611
Published: August 2016
Available at all major book retailers.

Wedding bells, herbs… and murder?

Storyton Hall is playing host to both a wedding and a retreat for a group of medieval herbalists. Meanwhile, the town of Storyton is welcoming a new business- Storyton Outfitters.

To mark the new store’s grand opening, an inaugural duck race is held at the local river. Most of the town and Storyton Hall’s guests have turned out to root for their favorite rubber duck. Our heroine Jane Steward and her family are no exceptions. When uncle Aloysius manages to lose his hat in the river’s current, Jane heads downstream to track it down. Yet upon finding the hat, she notices it wasn’t the only thing floating in the river- the dead body of a medieval herbalist had been dumped there, too.

If finding a dead guest wasn’t enough, Jane must also contend with the sudden reappearance of Edwin Alcott. The renowned book thief is after Jane’s heart- and perhaps her secret treasure trove of books.

In a few days the medieval herbalists will leave, and a possible murderer will have fled for good. Now it’s up to Jane and her capable staff to track down the murderer before time runs out.

The good

Adams has a gift for keeping the reader guessing. So many times you’ll think you have the killer pegged, only to be wrong. There are numerous bad guys to point the finger at, some of which you won’t see coming. The settings in the book vary (including the titular secret garden), so you get to learn more about Storyton and its residents. The story is engaging and learning who the killer is actually took some investigating. The subplot romance between Edwin and Jane is touching and makes you care about whether those two can actually make it work.

There are no real grammar or spelling mistakes to speak of. The pacing is swift so you won’t get bored or bogged down in exposition.

The bad

Jane is as naive as ever, frustratingly so. Her desire to fix up the hotel contradicts her sworn duty to protect the secret stash of books the hotel hides from the world. Jane finally gets the family to let her bring a book out of hiding for the medieval herbalists to view, and quickly finds it stolen. Who didn’t see that coming? Especially when the hotel had told guests how rare and special the book is. And as touching as the budding romance between Jane and Edwin is, I still don’t understand why Edwin loves Jane. His reasons are outlined in the book, but how can someone fall for another so fast when they spend so little time together?

Final Thoughts

Adams has crafted a wonderful world of diverse characters and settings you’ll come to love. What I see as “bad points” in the book, you may disagree with, so don’t let that stop you from picking the book up. Murder in the Secret Garden is worth your time and money to read.

Click the links to read the review for Murder in the Mystery Suite and Murder in the Paperback Parlor as well.