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
For 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?
And 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."