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Pruning the Dead–cozy mystery with a gardening theme

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Pruning the Dead

by Julia Henry

Pruning the DeadA new cozy mystery series. A different sort of mystery. In what way different? Don’t they all follow a general formula? Yes and no. There are common expectations for cozies such as the absence of graphic violence, sex, or language, and the presence of a likable main character who finds herself (or occasionally himself) drawn into solving a mystery, often in a small town. Pruning the Dead fits the bill. The manner of deviation is the amount of time the author spends setting up the backdrop, the small town of Goosebush, on the south shore of Massachusetts, the gardening theme, and the characters, some of whom take on the role of Garden Squad with the goal of replacing “weeds with plants” and restoring “order from chaos.”

Lilly Jayne is starting to emerge from a cloud of grieving and depression following her husband’s death. She is rich and considered somewhat of a matriarch in Goosebush. Having neglected her civic duties for years during her husband’s illness, she suddenly begins seeing the negative changes that have crept into her hometown.

Although the murder doesn’t occur until a quarter of the way into the book, don’t be lulled into thinking it is less than an interesting mystery. The time the author, Julia Henry, spends developing the characters and setting is time well-spent. Although I deduced the murderer as I approached the end of the book, I enjoyed reading how it played out, and there were many detours and suspects along the way that kept the journey interesting.

Even though the second book in the series has not been published yet, I anticipate that readers will benefit by starting the series by reading Pruning the Dead, the first book. I look forward to reading the next book to see how the Garden Squad develops and what happens next in Goosebush, Massachusetts. 

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #1 in the Garden Club Mystery Series

Gardening tips are included at the end of the book.

Publication:   January 29, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

“Facts are facts, but the truth depends on the teller.”

“Choosing a kinder path is important. It makes the journey easier.”

“I made a decision a long time ago that hate is more exhausting for me than it is for the object on which I would bestow that energy.”


  1. Shalini says:

    Wow.. Linda, this seems like a good read… Not very sure about gardening theme as I don’t have the green thumb..
    But the rest seems great. Fab review

    Liked by 1 person

    • lghiggins says:

      Thanks, Shalini. The more I read cozies, the more I am drawn into thinking about the role of themes in them. In some the role is vey important and in others, not so much. For example, gardening for you and garage sales for me. If the book is well written, that theme has less importance because it is mainly the delivery system for the story.🤷🏻‍♀️

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The cover is really inviting and I always love your thoughtful reviews, Linda!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lghiggins says:

      Thanks, Myndi. It is an appealing cover; I think being able to see the cover of a book every time we pick up the book to read is one of the positive things that we unfortunately give up when we read books digitally.😔

      Liked by 1 person

      • Absolutely! And I use a Kindle Oasis to read, so I don’t even get the cover in color the first go round. And a lot of times, the cover helps me decide what I want to pick up next. Kind of sucks to have to go to Goodreads and peruse covers that way. Just not quite the same. Not that I’d give up my digital library, but it’s certainly a con.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This sounds like an interesting one. I enjoy gardening, and if it has this much character depth, I’d probably really enjoy it. Thanks for sharing. Great analysis.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Cozynookbks says:

    Sounds like a winner! A book that I started listening to a few weeks back 🤦🏽‍♀️ also has the murder taking place further along in the book. I’m enjoying that book, too. 😊 Great review!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. carhicks says:

    Wonderful review Linda. This is a very different theme from any that I have read. You have definitely made this one sound like one I would enjoy. I am a person that often chooses their books based on the cover and this cover didn’t really impress me, but I think I will need to find it, hopefully on hoopla.

    Liked by 1 person

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