The Azalea Assault by Alyse Carlson is the first book in the new “Garden Society” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, June 2012

Roanoke, Virginia, is home to some of the country’s most exquisite gardens, and it’s Camellia Harris’ job to promote them. But when an out-of-towner turns up dead, she discovers there’s no good way to spin murder.

Camellia Harris has achieved a coup in the PR world. The premier national magazine for garden lovers has agreed to feature one of Roanoke’s most spectacular gardens in its pages—and world-famous photographer Jean-Jacques Georges is going to shoot the spread. But at the welcoming party, Jean-Jacques insults several guests, complains that flowers are boring, and gooses almost every woman in the room. When a body is found the next morning, sprawled across the azaleas, it’s almost no surprise that the victim is Jean-Jacques.

With Cam’s brother-in-law blamed for the crime—and her reporter boyfriend, Rob, wanting the scoop—Cam decides to use her skills to solve the murder. Luckily a PR pro like Cam knows how to be nosy.

This first book is a great introduction to the world of PR and gardening. We meet Cam who is the PR rep for the Roanoke Garden Society and a gardener herself. When a famed photographer is murdered at one of her events, her desire to learn the truth is spearheaded when those close to her are accused of the crime.

I like it. This is a great read. The execution of this well-pruned plot quickly became a page-turner, as I could not put this book down. The mystery was good as it offered plenty of suspects to choose from and it was fun watching Cam and her friends narrow down the field. Cam is a great protagonist who knows how to dig for dirt and bring a killer to justice. This lighthearted whodunit boasts a great cast that includes Cam, Rob and Annie; entertaining dialogue and beautifully defined luscious gardens as a backdrop. You are going to love Annie who brings comedic interludes to this delightfully appealing new series and I look forward to my next visit with Cam and her friends.

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