Flowerbed of State
Dorothy St. James
Berkley, May 3 2011, $7.99
It is every American gardener’s dream to have the position that Cassandra "Casey" Calhoun occupies. After seeing her work in Charleston, South Carolina, the First Lady hires her as an assistant gardener at President's Park where the White House is located. The First Lady felt she and Casey shared similar views that are radical to the old guard status quo.
Casey finds herself face down in the mud and soon realizes someone tried to strangle her. A man looking like a black commando comes out of nowhere. She assumes he is her attacker coming to finish the job so she pepper sprats him. She is horrified to realize she injured Special Agent Jake Turner, an elite member of a military (CAT) arm of the Secret service. They soon follow a blood trail on damaged greenery, which leads to the corpse of Pauline Bonde, a Treasury Department accountant who was auditing the books of some powerful folks. Casey believes that the bankers who are visiting the President to talk him out of new oversight regulations and protestors who believe the First family is in bed with the bankers are linked to the murder. She investigates but almost gets killed with Turner always seemingly around to rescue her.
Part of the fascination with the first White House Gardener Mystery is the insight into how the support staff operates though that is similar to Julie Hyzy’s White House Chef Mystery. Flowerbed of State focuses on the people who care for the gardens; an eccentric group who take pride in their work. Although a deep childhood psychological trauma propels Casey to search for the killer, it remains over the top of the Washington Monument that she could carry out a professional investigation while Turner seems to be going nowhere with experience and support in his corner. Still fans who ignore the plausibility will enjoy an entertaining whodunit.