Note: I received a free ARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
I read this book over the weekend on a last-minute road trip to see some college friends. It was the perfect road trip book. Engaging and intriguing, but not overly intellectual or depressing.
In The Alcatraz Rose, amateur sleuth and gardener extraordinare Lawrence Kingston stumbles across a mystery when a young girl asks for his help in solving her mother’s missing person cold case. In a seemingly unrelated happening, Kingston hears the news that an incredibly rare rose–presumed extinct–has been found at Alcatraz, the infamous island prison of the 1930s. Tying together the mysterious death of an old gardener, a huge unsolved robbery of the 1950s, a trip to Alcatraz, and a long-missing mother, Kingston puts himself in harm’s way to untangle the mystery.
First, my major complaints about this book: I was not overly fond of Lawrence Kingston. He was constantly disregarding the cautions of both his good friend and neighbor and his new sidekick, a retired policewoman. He doesn’t hesitate to lie his way into some new information. And these traits constantly get Kingston into trouble that could have been avoided had he listened to his friends. (Possibly I would like Kingston better if I had read some of the earlier books in the series, and I’m not opposed to going back and reading a couple of them.)
My other main complaint is that there are a lot of plot lines that are tied together. I’m all for intricate plots and mysteries with seemingly unrelated components that eventually tie together, but this one seemed a little excessive. I started losing track of all the pieces, and at one point the original mystery seems to have been forgotten altogether. Still, the author does a great job of tying everything together at the end, which made me almost (but not quite) forget about the tangled mess that happened midway through the book.
Now the good stuff! The Lawrence Kingston mysteries are touted as being full of suspense and intrigue but without any blood and gore, and I so appreciated that. I don’t need to read a crime thriller every time I pick up a mystery, and I don’t need Agatha Christie to scare the pants off me when I’m just looking for something interesting and lighthearted to pass the time. This book was a perfect road trip book, but it would also be a great read on a rainy day with a cup of tea, or late in the evening after a long day of work. Some might see a relaxing mystery as a flaw, but I loved that about this book.
Although Lawrence Kingston did annoy me at times, I really enjoyed his travels and his interactions with his friends. I thought that some of these friends were a little more helpful than I would have been at times, but because of that, Kingston gets to explore Alcatraz, study rose gardens, traipse through the English countryside, and read up on cold cases that only the police have access to.
I’m interested in looking at some of the other books in this series now–it looks like they’re all gardening/flower themed. Definitely pick up The Alcatraz Rose if you’re looking for a relaxing mystery that will keep your interest all the way through.
Rating: Pretty Darn Good