MURDER IS BLOSSOMING IN THE WELSH BORDERS.
Aldermaston’s having a bad day. A falling hanging-basket has killed the town’s mayor, and a second narrowly missed him. His wife wants him to build her new greenhouse in three days, and some nutter is sending him death threats.
This isn’t the quiet life he expected as the new Marquess of Mortiforde.
It’s the annual Borders in Blossom competition, and Mortiforde is battling with Portley Ridge in the final. But this is no parochial flower competition. The mayor’s mishap looks like murder, and there’s another body in the river. Someone desperately wants Portley Ridge to win for the fifteenth successive year.
So when a mysterious group of guerrilla gardeners suddenly carpet bomb Mortiforde with a series of stunning floral delights one night, a chain reaction of floral retaliation ensues.
Can Aldermaston survive long enough to uncover who is trying to kill him, and why? And can he get his wife’s greenhouse built in time?
Simon Whaley is an author, writer and photographer who lives in the hilly bit of Shropshire. Blooming Murder is the first in his Marquess of Mortiforde Mysteries, set in the idyllic Welsh Borders – a place many people struggle to locate on a map (including by some of those who live here). He’s written several non-fiction books, many if which contain his humorous take on the world, including the bestselling One Hundred Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human and two editions in the hugely popular Bluffer’s Guide series (The Bluffer’s Guide to Dogs and The Bluffer’s Guide to Hiking). His short stories have appeared in Take A Break, Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special, The Weekly News and The People’s Friend. Meanwhile his magazine articles have delighted readers in a variety of publications including BBC Countryfile, The People’s Friend, Coast, The Simple Things and Country Walking.
Simon lives in Shropshire (which just happens to be a Welsh Border county) and, when he gets stuck with his writing, he tramps the Shropshire hills looking for inspiration and something to photograph. Some of his photographs appear on the national and regional BBC weather broadcasts under his BBC WeatherWatcher nickname of Snapper Simon. (For those of you who don’t know, they get a lot of weather in Shropshire.)
Social Media Links
If you’re looking for a funny, cosy mystery with a cracking pace, you’ve come to the right place. Quintessentially British humour is in abundance here, as are the blooms … and the dead bodies.
Now, the characters’ names might be tongue-twisters, but they perfectly sum up the vibe of this story – think of it as a mash-up of Carry On films, The Darling Buds of May and an Agatha Christie mystery and you’ll be primed for the Borders in Blossom competition where innuendo and double entendres are in full bloom.
So, to the story: When his older brother proves not to be the legitimate heir to the Marquess of Mortiforde title, Aldermaston and his wife are obliged to take up the position, bringing a halt to their previous lives to serve the community as his family always has. Part of his role includes being Chair of the Borderer’s Guild on behalf of the people of Mortiforde. As is the norm, the village has entered the Borders in Bloom competition, reaching the final two along with the winners for the past fourteen years, Portley Ridge. The prize is to host the horticultural TV show in the village, which is guaranteed to boost the village coffers in tourism alone.
Members of the County Council, or rather one member, the Chief Exec, takes advantage of Aldermaston’s absence at a meeting to take a vote on the Marquess’s position as Chair, convincing many (through nefarious means) to call for Aldermaston’s resignation if Mortiforde loses once again to their rivals at Portley Ridge.
Meanwhile, as the competition is launched, a hanging basket falls and knocks out the Mayor, who later dies of her injuries. A second hanging basket, placed above Aldermaston’s head has also been sabotaged. But why would anyone want to kill them? Aldermaston determines to find out.
Aldermaston has a battle on his hands both to find the Mayor’s killer and to win the competition, but unbeknownst to him, the villagers of Mortiforde (the allotment group, in particular) are also fed up of losing and launch a plan of their own to win the competition.
When the Mayor’s belongings are investigated, a file with Aldermaston’s name on it suggests she has discovered some dodgy undertakings going on that may explain how Portley Ridge has won so consistently over the years. Has the competition been fixed? There is very good reason to suspect so, and threats upon Aldermaston’s life plus the “unfortunate” drowning of a second councillor seems to imply that somebody wants to stop Aldermaston from digging further into the case.
Putting all thoughts of the other jobs on his to-do list (building his wife’s new greenhouse, and winning the competition) he and Lisa, the new Democracy Support Officer, pick up the case where the Mayor left off, but it’s not without its complications.
While they investigate, the “guerrilla gardeners” of Mortiforde spring into action and the roundabouts of the village burst into bloom with dazzling displays of floral fancy that surely must earn them the title this year. The villagers are delighted with the overnight transformations, and hopes are high, much to the annoyance of the person(s) behind the death threats for whom Portley Ridge must win and Aldermaston’s involvement has to end.
Naturally, it’s less straightforward with yet more sabotage to come, hidden tunnels, dark dealings (I mean, where HAVE all the gardening guys from the TV show gone?) and some very un-village-like shenanigans going on, and let’s not even mention the cottage cheese incident.
Chock-a-block with over the top characters, oodles of humour and some plain old silliness, Blooming Murder is a breath of fresh air in the cosy mystery genre, combining olde-worlde village charm with modern day crimes. A chuckle-worthy read. Bring on book 2.
For more news and reviews