Hired by the First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS) to convert the White House garden into a showpiece that is organic and sustainable, Cassandra ‘Casey’ Calhoun is both thrilled and anxious. It’s an honor, of course; it’s a challenge; and it’s her life’s passion. Life is good…
And then you wake up facedown in a bed of tulips growing in President’s Park, with a lump on the back of your head and only a fuzzy memory of your assailant’s shoes. At least, that’s how it works out for Casey. Dazed, damaged, and covered in mud just moments before she’s supposed to deliver her re-designed gardens presentation to the White House Grounds Committee, Casey is still sharp enough to fight for her life when a man with a gun grabs her. Kicking and yelling, she places a solid kick to his shin, thus making a lasting impression on the Secret Service agent who thought he was coming to her rescue.
As if her day needed one more glitch, it ends up being Casey who finds the dead body of Pauline Bonde, an accountant for the Treasury Department who was murdered mere feet from where Casey was attacked. Everyone realizes that Casey must have seen the killer, and that it must have been the same person who attacked her. If the killer was interrupted before he could finish off the wandering gardener, surely he’ll want to complete the job – especially after he learns that Casey’s memory is getting better.
Dorothy St. James knows just when and how much of her research to unveil, never burdening readers with more details than necessary to set the stage. She keeps Flowerbed of State marching along at a fast clip with a solid plot, a sassy narrator, a hint of romance, and a mystery to keep readers hooked. Her fictional FLOTUS and White House staff are well-drawn without relying on real people or television characters for their substance. As the story moves quickly and smoothly from one plot point to the next, St. James skillfully weaves in clues and red herrings while skillfully developing her characters.
Flowerbed of State turns out to be a charming and satisfying read for the lover of cozy mysteries. Just enough danger and just enough humor, it’s the sort of book that will be a pleasant alternative to the political news of the day.