Cover Image: Pruning the Dead

Pruning the Dead

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Member Reviews

The mystery is a little light and details are repeated, but what I disliked the most was the too perfect main character.  Everything Lilly (or her deceased family members) does is perfect.  One character finally mentions a "flaw" that Lilly is shy so she sometimes seems stand offish which is not really shown which makes sense since everyone who pops up in the book is well known to her.  Everything Lilly had worked on was golden and people come to her to "fix" everything.  Her business acumen is mentioned several times.  Business acumen??? How did she acquire this? What did she do for work? We get little about her life outside of Goosebush and it was minimal details about her traveling with her husband.

When so much page space focuses on a main character, they have to be likable/engaging.   Her perfectness didn't irk me too badly so I give the book an OK rating, will try the second book to see if it's toned down a bit.

I spontaneously picked this book up at my library while trolling the New Books shelf, but also got a copy from Netgalley I forgot about. .
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Great cozy. It hit on everything I look for in a cozy. I enjoyed it and it was a quick read. I would buy it and recommend it to others.
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When I first read the synopsis to “ Pruning the Dead” by Julia Henry, I knew it was a book that I had to read! I love all things cozy mystery and this title definitely fit the bill. It is the first book in the “A Garden Squad Mystery” series. When one of the guests of her inaugural garden parties winds up dead and a suspect is named , Lilly Jayne will stop at nothing to find out who is responsible. 
    There is so much that I loved about this book. The characters are all older. We usually expect to read about twenty or thirty something year old characters. That’s not the case here. Lilly is in her mid-sixties. Also, as in most cases when it comes to cozies, the mystery was solved by the end of the book and a new mystery will begin with the next installment. The story was very well-paced and developed. I will definitely be reading more from Julia Henry in the future.
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Lilly Jane has not socialized much since her husband passed so when she decides to host her garden party again it seems like the whole town is in attendance. This party and the up and coming clean up of the park in town has sparked her decision to get involved again in the community’s issues. On the day of the park’s clean up the body of a woman is found in the shed that was set up to store the equipment they were using. Lilly Jane and her group of friends can’t help but get involved with the investigation to help solve the murder before the town’s reputation can be damaged.

This is a great start to a new series by Julia Henry. The plot is well written and has just the right pace with several twists and turns to keep the reader guessing whodunit. The characters are fun, unique and very likable. The setting of a small town makes you feel like you are apart of their group of friends and you are there solving the crime right along with Lilly Jane and the Garden Squad. I look forward to the next book in the series. 

 I voluntarily agreed to read a copy of this book supplied by Netgalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own and in no way have been influenced.
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This was a really cute cozy mystery that I found delightful. I loved the characters and the small town plot was fun. The plotting was paced well and the book was well written. All of the gardening talk made me excited for spring and a chance to work a little garden magic of my own! There were a few things that knocked down the last star for me though. The main character is an over achiever who seems to help every single person in town and the town itself whenever there is an issue, which is fine, but the author mentions it a few too many times. Other than that it was a good book and I look forward to the next in the series!
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Some readers want the murder to show up in the first chapter or even the first page. In this, the first of the Garden Squad series, it takes awhile to get everything set up and it is well worth the wait. We get to know the lay of the land in the small town of Goosebush, Massachusetts and the people who call it home. The main character is Lily Jayne, a lady of a certain age, a widow who has been reclusive since her husband passed away. Now she is ready to re-enter the social world and throw a garden party. Her late husband loved them and she promised him she would carry on in his memory. If left to her own devices she wouldn't do it as she is not so outgoing. But it's time to shake off her gloom and have some fun. Too bad one of the guests drinks a wee bit too much and is removed from the party. A couple of days later that guest is found stabbed. Things are sticky for Lily due to the fact that she found the body and the dead woman was the current wife of Lily's first husband. As they say, awkward.
This first in the Garden Squad series was a good debut and I found myself enjoying the close knit group of seniors that made up Lily's circle of friends. I have no skill as a gardener but I would enjoy hanging out with Lily as I might just learn a thing or two and not just about gardening. The second in the series, Tilling the Truth will be published 8/27/2019 and I will be adding it to my TBR stack.
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Pruning the Dead is a well written murder mystery.  Loved the plot and the elderly sleuth.  I recommend this book to mystery fans.  I received an arc from Netgalley and this is my unbiased review.
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Pruning the Dead

by Julia Henry

A 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.”
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Pruning the Dead by Julia Henry takes us on a jaunt to Goosebush, Massachusetts.  Lilly R. Jayne is a widow who lives in Windward, the family home.  Lilly has been reclusive since her deceased husband took ill and then passed away.  Lilly made a promise to her husband, Alan to host a garden party every year on their anniversary and she is holding the inaugural garden party today with the assistance of Delia Greenway.  Unfortunately, her first ex-husband, Pete Frank crashes the party with his insufferable third wife, Merilee.  No one is surprised when Merilee overindulges in the alcoholic refreshments and then shoves Tamara O’Connor into the koi pond.  Security ushers Merilee off the property much to everyone’s relief.  On clean up day for Alden Park, Delia opens the shed to find Merilee dead on bags of mulch with hedge clippers protruding from her chest.  When Pete Frank finds himself at the top of Chief Haywood’s list of suspects.  Lilly, with the aid of her friends who are dubbed the Garden Squad, dig into the case in the hopes of identifying the killer.  When not discussing the case, the group is trying to outwit the town clerk with her penchant for permits to spruce up select areas of the town.  Can Lilly Jayne and the Garden Squad root out the killer?

Pruning the Dead is the debut novel in A Garden Squad Mystery series.  I appreciated that the author took the time to establish the main character and her sidekicks who compose the Garden Squad. I like the town and most of the residents (there are always a few bad eggs).  Lilly comes across as a do-gooder (I am surprised there is not a golden halo shining over her head).  Goosebush is a small town that needs a little TLC.  Lilly has not been paying attention the last four years as she dealt with her husband’s illness and then grieving for her lost mate.  Now, she is aware that things have not been kept up around town and she has plans to rectify it.  Unfortunately, Pat French, the town clerk, has numerous rules in place to prevent the simplest task (like pulling weeds and installing plants around the flagpole).  Pruning the Dead is nicely written with steady pacing which makes for an easy to read book.  The mystery was very straightforward.  It is easy to distinguish who would die and who did the deed before the crime had been committed.  The why was equally obvious (insert disappointed sigh here).  There was repetition of case details as the Lilly and the Garden Squad got together to discuss the case.  Also, that Lilly creates order out of chaos was frequently mentioned along with Delia’s researching skills.  The friends like to get together to socialize, eat good food, and discuss gardening.  The gardening details are not lacking in Pruning the Dead.  There are gardening tips at the end of the book.  The story could have used more action (less gardening, talking and eating).  The pace slowed down when I was a quarter of the way through and did not pick back up until the end.  There is a hint that romance may blossom between Lilly and her new neighbor, Roderick Lyden as Lilly rejoins the living and becomes immersed in town matters.  I am giving Pruning the Dead 3 out of 5 stars.  Pruning the Dead is a good start to A Garden Squad Mystery series.  I will be reading Tilling the Truth when it releases later this summer.
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This was a well-written and well-plotted starter for a new series and I really enjoyed my trip to Goosebush, Massachusetts. I may not be a fan of gardening as an activity, but I sure felt like the friends who made up the Garden Squad were good friends of mine by the end of the book. 

There were a lot of secrets in the town not to mention the murder, but with the help of Lilly's Garden Squad friends, they all played a big part in bringing down the killer. I especially loved the showdown where Lilly had gathered all the suspects a la Agatha Christie. I liked how the current police chief and the retired chief both worked together and how Lilly took the new chief under her wing and helped him any way she could. I hadn't guessed the killer, so I just went along for the ride and discovered it as it unfolded.

Lilly was one of the kindest, most thoughtful and generous characters I've read about in a cozy mystery, but what I loved was that she was realistic too. It was cool that she and her friends are a little older, but these folks are no strangers to tech, since they all have their smartphones and texting network. I'm anxious to see what the next Garden Squad adventure will be!
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Great first in series! Likable main characters and enough twists and turns to keep me guessing until the very end. I love the setting and the idea of the Garden Squad. I can't wait to find out what the squad gets into in the next book!!
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This is the debut book in the new series and it is delightful. The author has every aspect of the perfect cozy mystery in this wonderful mystery.  I loved it and highly recommend this series. Well done to the author. 

We meet our savvy smart new protagonist Lilly Jayne who I was thrilled to read is in her sixties. It is so rare that a author features senior women and so appreciated by this reader. .We seniors appreciate a realistic protagonist for a welcome change to the world of cozies. . This is a protagonist that is talented,, vital and a fun personality to read about.  She is a vital part of her community and well loved. She also does much behind the scenes for people in the community. as well as is a well known  outstanding gardener..  She has returned to her community  activities after a period of grieving for her husband. where she did not leave her home while grieving.  I like this was presented in a realistic way for the reader and part of what makes Lilly Jayne so endearing to us.  The town of Goodbush is a fun small town to read about with all the charcters that make a perfect cozy small town likable including friends and foes. 
She has written a well-crafted sleuth with very likable location and people.  The small town local is described so well the reader feels they are in the town among the gardens solving the murder in read time with the group of gardeners.  The characters are relatable and I  look forward to their development in the second book.  This was such a enjoyable read with wonderful gardening information and fun charcters. The sleuth kept me guessing until the end. I enjoyed it from beginning to end. 
Thank you for the advance reading copy which did not influence my personal review . I look forward to the second book.
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THIS was an excellent book - a very good mystery within the genre of the cozy mystery. I had never heard of this writer and I was reluctant to start a new series, but there was just something about the description that drew me in and man am I glad that I took that chance; I enjoyed every second of this book. The main character Lilly and her companion Delia are just so delightful and I love how their minds work and how well they work together, in spite of their age difference. I appreciated how the author dealt with Lilly and how she grieved [and was still grieving] the loss of her beloved husband Alan and how the grief process includes often shutting ourselves off from the world, which had happened to Lilly and she was oblivious was happening in her beloved town and it wasn't until some things about the town were brought to her attention did she realize she needed to start living. As someone who has dealt and lived with the grief process, this part of the story felt very real to me and I am grateful that the author didn't try to gloss over it or make it a trite thing; it made the book seem more real and believable to the reader. 

The whole book in itself was very real and believable; as someone who lives in a small town [full of many of the kinds of people in this book], so much of this book and what happened - the murder, the "garden squad", the comradeship - all of those are very real in a small town, along with the gossip, the nasty rumors and all the bad that also comes with a small town.  It made me feel like I was just visiting another small town like mine and that made the book even more fun to read. The characters are real and fun and believable. And the mystery was excellent; I had no idea and that always makes it awesome!! 

I truly enjoyed this book and cannot wait to read the next one! 

Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Publishing for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Pruning the Dead by Julia Henry is the first book in A Garden Squad Mystery series, and a good start.  Lilly Jayne is 65 and retired.  Lilly loves gardening at her home in the town of Goosebush Mass, and she makes sure everything is perfect for the garden party.  At the garden party where hundreds of people attend, a drunk, disliked guest later shows up dead.  The women is the wife of Lilly ex husband, so when he becomes a suspect along with her bed friend, Lilly must learn the truth.  I enjoyed this book, but I found it slow at times.  I will be reading this author again and looking forward to the next book in the series.  

I received this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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Pruning The Dead is the first book in the A Garden Squad Mystery series.

This is a wonderful new series and I see where it will become one of my favorite series.  The story takes place in the quaint village of Goosebush.  The main character, Lilly Jayne’s family was one of the first residents and help settle the little town and were instrumental in making it grow over the years.

Lilly had always been active in the community until her husband passed away a few years ago and has become somewhat of a recluse  Since then she has devoted almost all her time to her garden which has residents in envy.  Tamara, Lily’s friend since childhood and Delia, Lily’s late husband’s research assistant who has moved into Lily’s house and helps take care of the house, are able to finally get Lily to come out of her shell and host a garden party as she had in the past.  As people are arriving for the party Lily finds that her ex-husband, Pete Frank, and his third wife, Marilee, are in attendance.  After too many visits to the punch bowl, Marilee has an argument with Tamara is asked to leave.

The next day Lily goes into town and notices how overgrown Alden Park and the Memorial flagpole has become and enlists the help of Tamara, Delia and Ernie Johnson, owner of Bits, Bolts, and Bulbs.  As the group, The Garden Squad as they have named themselves begins their workday the body of Merilee in a shed located in the park.  Merilee is not well liked in Goosebush so there ends up being a long list of suspects as to who the murderer might be.  

Soon Pete Frank becomes the prime suspect.  Lily doesn’t feel that he is the murderer, so with the help of former police chief, Ray Mancini and her friends set out to help the inexperienced police chief, Bash Heywood to find the killer.

I felt this was a wonderfully plotted and told story with a wonderful cast of characters.  I feel that I would love living in Goosebush with its enjoyable residents.

I’m looking forward to reading more books in this new series.  I’m looking forward to learning more about the wonderful residents and the community.  I’m especially interested in seeing if Lily and her neighbor, Roderick Lyden will become a couple in the future.

Gardening tips are also included with the book.
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This book starts out like a long and dry history lesson, and then turns to endless and mostly unnecessary dialogue. Definitely one of the most boring books I have ever read.
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What a great start for a new series!
It's a bit more complex than the average cozy and with a set of quirky and lovely characters.
I loved the gardening theme, gardening is one of my hobbies, and liked the Gardening Guerrilla part (that is when they go gardening at nighttime), an unusual theme for a cozy mystery.
The book is well written, I like how introduced the town and the characters and I like how the plot starts slowly and then accelerates.
The mystery is very good, full of twists and turns, and it was exciting and entertaining. 
I look forward to reading other books in this series.
Highly recommended!
Many thanks to Kensington Books and Netgalley for this ARC
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Title : Pruning the Dead

Author:Julia Henry
Series:A Garden Squad Mystery #1

Pages: 304

Genre: Cozy mystery

book synopsis

Post-retirement aches and pains can't prevent sixty-five-year-old Lilly Jayne from keeping the most manicured garden in Goosebush, Massachusetts. But as a murder mystery blooms in the sleepy New England town, can a green thumb weed out a killer?

With hundreds flocking to her inaugural garden party, meticulous Lilly Jayne hasn't left a single petal out of place. But the picture-perfect gathering turns unruly upon the arrival of Merilee Frank, Lily's ex-husband's catty third wife. Merilee lives for trouble, so no one is surprised after she drinks too much, shoves a guest into the koi pond, and gets escorted off the property. The real surprise comes days later--when Merilee is found dead in a pile of mulch . . .

Lilly wishes she could stick to pruning roses and forget about Merilee's murder--until her best friend and ex become suspects in an overgrown homicide case. Now, aided by the Garden Squad, an unlikely group of amateur crime solvers with a knack for planting, Lilly knows she has limited time to identify the true culprit and restore order to Goosebush. Because if the murderer's plot isn't nipped in the bud, another victim could be pushing up daisies!

My thoughts

rating: 4 

Would I recommend it :yes

Will I be going on with the series : yes

For a cozy mystery its slow going but does pick up the more you read, along with memorable characters that will my you shake your head at them, with that said I would like to Netgalley for letting me read and review Pruning the Dead, in exchange for my honest opinion
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I read the blurb for this book and thought: nice setting, interesting main character and I could do with learning some more about gardening! I’m glad to say the mix of gardening, culprits, motives and sleuthing shenanigans worked well and made for a very enjoyable read. 

Lilly is an absolute doll. She is 65 years young, just into her ‘later’ middle age she says, and ready to enjoy the rest of her life in Goosebush, as she’s just starting to take an interest in town activities once again. She’d become a bit of a recluse after the death of her husband. Her determination to make life better for all in her Goosebush town, and how she comes back into her own with the assistance of her Garden Squad friends, is a really well-developed aspect of the story and makes Lilly even more likable. I can’t wait to read more stories in this series to see how Lilly continues to grow.

The secondary characters are funny, classy, come from varied backgrounds and promise that life with the Garden Squad will be full of entertainment and good food!

The mystery itself is well-plotted. There are clues and cues and red herrings all around. The suspects are several and quickly whittled down. The motives and opportunities are gradually revealed and the pacing of the action is just right. I picked the right culprit earlyish but didn’t figure out the full why until the big reveal. 

I’m not much of a gardener and admire those who can. I enjoyed the short forays into gardening advice littered throughout the story. If you aren’t interested in gardening, don’t worry, the tips are not excessive and do not detract from the overall enjoyment of the story. 

The little town of Goosebush is diverse and intent upon preserving its history. The short historical anecdotes and research bits add charm to the tale and made me enjoy it even more. 

I definitely hope to continue the series and give this story 4.5/5 rosy espresso shots. ​

Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an ARC of this book courtesy NetGalley and publisher Kensington. All opinions expressed are my own.
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Lilly Jayne has been grieving for her husband, but is finally ready to rejoin life in her small town of Goosebush, Massachusetts. With the help of her friends Tamara O’Connor and Delia Greenway, she hosts a garden party showcasing her beautiful plants and landscaping. At the party and at another event that evening, Lilly keeps crossing paths with her ex-husband Pete Frank and his obnoxious wife Merilee. Lilly tries to put Merilee out of her mind, but then a few days later, Merilee is murdered. The local police chief is over his head and latches on to the easiest suspect - Pete. Lilly believes in Pete’s innocence and gets her friends to help with her own investigation to find the real killer.

I love the premise of this book. A retired woman and her diverse circle of friends are sleuthing by day and doing good deeds to beautify the town by night to avoid the scrutiny of a by-the-book town employee. Lilly has lived in Goosebush her whole life so with her contacts and her young friend Delia’s research skills, together they are able to find a much larger list of possible suspects than their inexperienced chief of police. In fact, they find so many people with a motive to kill Merilee, they enlist the help of some of their other friends to double-check timelines and verify alibis. Although some of the dialogue is a little stilted, the best parts of the book are these scenes with Lilly and her friends. Lilly hasn’t had much of a social life recently, but her friends are helping her to get back to being her blunt, but kind-hearted self and it’s great to see how the friends support each other. I love how the garden squad pitches in to help their friends and make their community a better place.

Unfortunately, it takes a while for the pace of this book to pick up. During the first several chapters, the reader is weighed down with facts about the history of the town and its residents. Many of the characters have complicated ties to each other and I experienced information overload with too little action for much of the beginning of the book. Things pick up after the murder, but even with all of the suspects, there is one character who is so unlikable that you knew you were looking at either the killer or a future victim. The plot was a letdown, but I did come to care about the main characters. Although the book is flawed, reading about Lilly and her various friendships is enjoyable. I think this new series has potential as long as future books include less telling and more action. For anyone who loves to garden, there are many details about gardening throughout the story and at the end of the book. I would rate this book 3.5 stars.

I received this book from NetGalley through the courtesy of Kensington Books. The book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.
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