Death of a Garden Pest
by Ann Ripley
Book Review by Amy Coffin
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Louise Eldridge has an interesting life. She is a very talented gardener, and those skills have landed her a job on a local television show. Unfortunately, she replaced Madeleine Doering, who is not too happy to be pushed aside.

Louise runs into some other challenges during her first few days as well. Her producer, Marty Corbin, is very supportive. Sometimes he is a little too supportive, if you catch my drift. He firmly believes Louise is right for this job, even though he once had a lengthy affair with Madeleine.

John Batchelder is Louise's co-host on the show. He doesn't seem too happy to be the number two man under the supervision of Louise. While taping, he often ad-libs and tries to make Louise look like a fool.

On top of everything else, there is even a set of picketers at the station who are protesting Louise's anti-pesticide stance.

Aside from all of these difficulties, the gardening show seems to be a hit. Louise decides to audition for a national commercial. She runs into Madeleine there. Madeleine starts a big fight that is witnessed by all that are trying out for the spot.

Later on that day, Louise returns to the television station. She runs into Madeleine in the bathroom. Madeleine tries to instigate a fight by scratching at Louise's face. Madeleine's hair gets caught on Louise's shirt button. Louise refuses to be part of the fight. She helps Madeleine break free from the shirt button and leaves the bathroom. Minutes later, Madeleine is found dead in the bathroom. She has been poisoned. Coincidentally, it is the same pesticide Louise will be using on her next show.

Louise is the main murder suspect. There is lots of evidence behind a solid motive. Madeleine truly hated Louise. Everyone at the commercial audition witnessed their fight. Louise's skin was found underneath Madeleine fingernails from the bathroom incident, tying Louise to the scene of the murder.

No one on the police force believes Louise is innocent and her arrest is imminent. Louise decides that she must find the real killer before it is too late.

Louise finds there are many suspects that could be responsible for the murder.

Could it be a member of the television station? Could is be one of the sponsors? Could it be the mean girlfriend of John, the co-host? Is somebody trying to frame Louise? All these questions are answered in Death of a Garden Pest.

The Plain Dealer of Cleveland calls Ms. Ripley's novel "A good lighthearted diversion from summer weeding and deadheading." I find this to be an accurate description of the story. Death of a Garden Pest isn't complicated reading. It is a simple, but entertaining mystery. If you treat it as such, you will enjoy the story as well.

Ms. Ripley has done a great job to integrate gardening facts into her mystery novel. After every three or so chapters there is a little lesson on gardening. These lessons don't deter from the story, but if you aren't a gardening fan, you may be annoyed with them.

Apparently, Ms. Ripley wrote Mulch before this novel. I didn't realize that or I would have read it before Death of a Garden Pest. There are some references to Mulch in this story, but I found those previous events easy to follow.

The one glaring con I found with this story has to do with the setting of Washington D.C. For some reason, there are a couple of chapters regarding the fictional President of the United States. I have no idea why he is in this book. Perhaps it has something to do with Mulch or a set up for her next book.

Death of a Garden Pest is an easy read. It is entertaining and somewhat humorous. Ms. Ripley is in no means in the league of Agatha Christie, but this story is ideal for a summer break from gardening. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys mysteries. It would also make a good gift for the reading gardener in your life.

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Note: This book is out of print. You might be able to find it at your public library or through Half.com.