I first heard of this book when the author attended an 'Ask The Author' event at Brightlingsea Literary Festival and I thought the premise sounded intriguing. When she read an excerpt from the first chapter, I was hooked and determined to read the book, so it's fair to say that I approached this review with a reasonable amount of both expectation and excitement.
I wasn't let down.
Within a couple of pages I was immersed in the story and I read the whole thing pretty much in one sitting. Steph has a mysterious past of her own and although we find out a little bit of her history, there is clearly much more to be revealed and this first book beautifully sets up her character/story arc for the books to come.
As for the plot of this book, it had me guessing right until the end. I'm quite often able to work out at least a part of the solution, but in this case I had no idea who the guilty parties were until they were revealed. Everything made perfect sense but there was enough kept back so it wasn't an obvious answer to the problem.
I like a female lead with some fight in her and Steph has that in abundance. (She also has a doggy sidekick which is NEVER a bad thing - I always remember an early reader of mine emailing me to anxiously inquire if the dog I'd included in my book was going to be ok. 'I can cope with anything else as long as the dog is ok at the end,' she told me. I felt the same about Mouse!)
The other thing that struck me about this book was the sheer amount of research that the author had done about plants. One of the questions asked at the Literary Festival event was whether or not she was a keen gardener, or whether she'd had to rely on research. If I hadn't heard the answer I'm not sure I would have known. One of the hardest things as a fiction writer is to ensure that the research you have done for the book doesn't sound forced - your reader isn't usually particularly interested in the nitty gritty details, they just want to know enough to understand the plot. Rosie has achieved this delicate balance here. As the narrator is a gardener, the reader expects her to know pretty much everything about plants, but the information is presented in such a natural way that you almost don't notice that you're being given it and that's a mark of really good writing.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and will definitely be keeping my eyes open for Book 2 when it comes out. I love cozy crime and these books might even make me enjoy gardening!