Saturday, August 3, 2013

A post devoted to Sandra Orchard's "Deadly Devotion"

How lovely it is to settle down with a new book and a hot cup of tea . . . and within five pages discover our heroine's mentor has just been murdered with said beverage.  Poisoned, naturally.  It couldn't have been accidental, since she certainly knew the difference between edible calendula marigolds and toxic tagete marigolds, so the police think it was suicide, since there was no sign of foul play.  But why would an expert botanist and herbal researcher commit suicide with a plant that, while toxic, is not typically deadly, especially when there are significantly more poisonous and fast-acting herbs at her disposal?

Deadly Devotion, Port Aster Secrets Series #1   -     
        By: Sandra Orchard
Thus Kate embarks on a quest to find the murderer, even with the cops telling her to keep out of it.  Thankfully one detective, Tom Parker, has pity and tries to keep her out of trouble, even if it takes a while before he realizes that it had to have been murder.  Suspects abound, and if one is searching for a motive, it is easy to find; harder to find is the actual murderer.

Sandra Orchard does an excellent job hopping back and forth between suspects so that one never is sure who is the guiltiest.  I found that Kate and, to a lesser extent, Tom, are rather quick to jump to conclusions, both in the investigation and in their developing relationship.  Both have baggage to work through that is not easily fixed, and I appreciate that the story does not end with their lives perfectly wrapped up.  Granted, other things left me a bit frustrated in the end, but to say what would spoil the story . . .

I enjoyed the herbalist aspect; I have long been interested in medicinal and wild plants, so the mode of murder particularly piqued my interest.  Orchard does not delve heavily into plant science; there's enough to make the plot solid, but it is by no means overwhelming.  It was fun to have this in a novel with a modern setting for a change!

It was an enjoyable read; maybe not spectacular, but I do look forward to the next installment, as while the mystery may have been solved, the story is not yet finished.  Orchard leaves plenty room to continue Kate and Tom's story in her next novel of the Port Astor Secrets.  Over all, 4 out of 5 stars.

Port Aster Secrets
1. Deadly Devotion
2. Blind Trust
3.Desperate Measures

 Post Script:
Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother & Other Botanical AtrocitiesFor people who are interested in herbal studies and poisonous plants, there is an excellent nonfiction book by Amy Stewart titled Wicked Plants: the Weed that Killed Abe Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities.  It covers a wide variety of plants - those that are deadly, illegal, dangerous, intoxicating, painful, etc.  Well written, informative, and amusing, it certainly highlights how amazing (and dangerous!) God's creation is.  Who knew that cashews were so closely related to poison ivy and would give the same allergic reactions were they not cooked first?

The Secrets of Wildflowers: A Delightful Feast of Little-Known Facts, Folklore, and HistoryAnd for "a delightful feast of little-known facts, folklore, and history" on common wildflowers, see Jack Sanders' The Secrets of Wildflowers.  I have sat reading that one just as avidly as a work of fiction - it contains poetry, traditional medicinal uses, quotes from literature, the odd recipe, and all manner of botanical trivia, easily occupying one's attention for hours.  Truly, "without wildflowers, the world would be a pretty dull place." 

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