Cover Image: Pruning the Dead

Pruning the Dead

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Member Reviews

I had the pleasure of reading this lovely book, the first in Julia Henry's new Garden Squad series, on a very cold January afternoon.  In Pruning the Dead, the reader is introduced to Lilly Jayne - widow, master gardener, benefactress - and the town of Goosebush, Massachusetts.  When Lilly's first husband's third wife (yep!!!) is found brutally stabbed during the cleanup of the town's park, Lilly and her merry Garden Squad work together to find the murderer, all while secretly, and under the cloak of darkness, performing good deeds for town residents who are in need.   The mystery kept me guessing, and I am certainly looking forward to a return to Goosebush!  5 stars!!!
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Pruning the Dead by Julia Henry is the book number one in new A Garden Squad Mystery series and off to the good start.

Lyly Jayne has neglected her garden as well as her community responsiblities due to her husband illness and death. However when she finds out that the town park has become a sore spot, a group of locals gets together to clean it up. But before they can even start a body of much despised Lily's ex husband's third wife.
Police chief, a long time friend is simply not capable of figuring out the culprit. So Lily and several of her friends put their minds into solving the puzzle.

I enjoyd this mystery, liked the fact that leading lady is slightly older. It was interesting to see small town at work, and rules that simply wouldn't apply in any big city.
The setting is gorgeous and I have learned a lot about gardening. It is always a pleasure to find out new things while enjoying your cozy. 
Eventhough it takes quite a bit for murder to happen I liked it as it gave me a chance to really get to meet characters.
It is well written and steady paced, with well developed characters and enough red herrings to keep things exciting.
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Lilly Jayne is the benevolent wealthy widow of Goosebush, Massachusetts and in this first installment in what looks to be a new cozy series, she pulls together her "squad to solve a murder.  Her ex-husband's third wife, not a nice woman, is found murdered and he's a suspect, of course.  The murder also exposes some of the problems in this small town.  Lilly works well with Bash, the chief of police, as well as with other women she gardens with.  I like that she's a mature heroine and that this doesn't head into the frantic tone of some other cozies. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  Try this one!
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As I read the beginning of this book I felt as if I had missed something.  Since it is the first of a new series I was just confused, as it seemed the author assumed I would know backstories and what was going on.  I did stick with it and was rewarded.  Now I have invested time and energy into the characters and the town of Goosebush I will be looking forward to more from the Garden Squad.  Not perfect, but certainly worthwhile.
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I thoroughly enjoyed the plot, atmosphere, and characters.  I would recommend the book to friends and family for their reading pleasure.
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I want to preface this by saying I genuinely hate leaving bad reviews. I rarely meet a cozy mystery I don't like, so I don't have to worry about it that often. However, I honestly couldn't get into Pruning the Dead. The author alternated between characters when it came to sharing inner monologues. It made reading very awkward. The first time it happened I thought maybe it was just a mistake. However, it happened repeatedly in the few chapters I read. Only the main character should have an inner monologue, unless you're going back and forth between different time periods or something. Either way, the only way it works is if you make it clear to the reader that this other character is the central focus at the moment. But most of the time a cozy mystery needs to focus on one main character, and they're the ones who have the inner monologue... no one else. The writing just needs a lot of work. I understand this is an uncorrected e-galley, but most of what I read would need completely reworked. I'm afraid it's more likely that it will be published like this. Another problem I had was I didn't connect with any of the characters in the 70 or so pages I read. None of them are particularly likeable, so I didn't care what happened to them. Considering the fact that I couldn't even finish this first book, I won't be reading any others in this series.
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Pruning the dead is the first in a new cozy Garden Squad series.  Lilly Jayne lives in Goosebush, Massachusetts as has her family for the last several hundred years.  She has been in mourning since the death of her husband Alan a couple of years ago and out of circulation in her community while her husband was ill a couple years prior.  Lilly has a great circle of friends that have been supporting her during her mourning and they are working to get her back to “life”.   Tamara (childhood friend), Delia (Alan’s graduate assistant and now lives with Lilly) and Ernie (local storeowner) get Lilly back into the community and what Lilly begins to see are things she does not like.  The local area is not being maintained and folks are being fined over and over again for minor infractions on their property.  Lilly carries a lot of influence with the town and is dismayed at all the things she is seeing and decides to help on a local project to restore a park.  When Merilee Frank (3rd wife of her ex-husband Pete) is found dead at the scene and Pete is arrested for the crime Lilly and her friends with the support of the chief of police try to find the real culprit.  The chief thinks Pete is guilty but he is keeping an open mind as Lilly and Delia (research whiz) figure out what really happened.  This is a great new series and I really enjoyed the story and characters and the flow of the book.  I will definitely be looking for more from this author and in this series.  Highly recommend.
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Lily Jayne has been mourning her husband’s death and cut herself off from practically everyone in her hometown. Now finally being coaxed back into society, she decides to help beautify the town’s park, only to find a murder victim. The Garden Squad is born in Pruning the Dead in this new series. Can’t wait for more
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I really enjoyed this book. The whole tone of the book was very soothing. A great mystery and I loved the killer reveal but all the talk of flowers and plants was very calming. Fantastic read!
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Pruning the Dead by Julia Henry is the first book in this new cozy series and I couldn't be happier.

Ms. Henry is a "new to me" author but I am thrilled to have found this book. She has written a well-crafted story with very likable characters. I especially enjoyed the fact that the protagonist and her best friend are in their mid-sixties which is quite a change from the usual characters in cozy mysteries lately. I found the characters to also be relatable as Ms. Henry developed their personalities well in this first book. I am sure that readers will get to know them better as the series progresses. If I liked gardening more, I would want to join Lilly Jayne, Delia, Tamara and Ernie - the Garden Squad.

The story was quickly paced with just enough twists to keep me guessing and plenty of suspects that made me question their honesty and motives along with Lilly Jayne.  There was more than one mystery to be solved in this book but it was all connected as Lilly Jayne showed in the reveal. 

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book from Kensington via NetGalley. All of the above opinions are my own. I want to sincerely thank Kensignton for the opportunity to read and review this entertaining new cozy.
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A strong start to a new series. I love the dynamics between the characters in this book and how they tie in to the mystery. Its not a new setting, but the way the author writes the story is fresh so it seems like something totally new. I really enjoyed the mystery, it kept me guessing. This is a series I can see myself reading again and again.
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Pruning the Dead is the debut of the A Garden Squad Mystery series featuring Lillian "Lilly" Jayne and set in the coastal town of Goosebush, Massachusetts.  Lilly is a sixty five year old retiree who has shut herself off from friends and neighbors for several years following the death of her second husband, Alan.

Deciding it was time to get reacquainted with life, Lilly elects to bring back her annual garden party at Windward, her ancestral home.  With the help of Delia Greenway, Alan's brilliant research assistant turned Lilly's live in assistant, the gardens are back to being beautiful and the townspeople are flocking through the gates.  Unfortunately,  Lilly's first husband Pete arrives with his third wife Merilee in tow.  While Lilly has a soft spot for her ex husband she really can't tolerate his new wife and when the woman drinks too much, falls in the Koi pond and has to be escorted from the premises, Lilly's impression of Merilee doesn't improve.

The garden party gives Lilly the spark she needs to get out and explore Goosebush, and hopping aboard her red Vespa the first thing she notices is that the once beautiful Alden Park has gone to weeds.  With the help of Delia and hardware store owner, Ernie Johnson a group of volunteers has come together to clean up the park and everyone is excited to get started until Delia finds the dead body of Merilee face down in the mulch.

With so many people despising the woman, the list of potential suspects is a mile long but when Pete is named as the prime suspect, Lilly sets out with the help of her friends to uncover the real killer.  In her efforts to find the culprit Lilly discovers that many suspicious things have been occurring around town while she's been sequestered at Windward, and soon finds herself front and center in solving the problems and revitalizing the community.  

A captivating plot with thought provoking characters.   A little more serious than the typical lighthearted cozy, it will be interesting to see what the future has in store for Lilly, Delia and new neighbor, Roderick "Roddy" Lyden.

I received an advanced copy of Pruning the Dead from NetGalley via Kensington Publishing.  While not required to write a review I am more than happy to offer my honest opinion.
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Pruning the Dead is the debut novel in Julia Henry’s Lilly Jayne Mysteries series.  The storyline is well plotted, and the characters are well developed and likable.  This book conveys a strong message about the importance of friendship, kindness, and environmental issues.  The mystery is interesting, and there’s no shortage of suspects and motives.

Sixty-five-year-old Lillian “Lilly” Rose Jayne lives in the small town of Goosebush, Massachusetts has a green thumb, is an avid gardener with beautiful gardens that she’s very proud of, and an amateur sleuth.  Tamara O’Connor is a realtor, is married to Warwick who is a high school coach, and has been Lilly’s best friend for sixty years.  When her husband, Alan, died two years ago, his graduate assistant, Delia Greenway, moved into the house.  She receives free room and board in exchange for helping Lilly with repairs, shopping, and running the household.  Even though she’s much younger than Lilly, they’ve become good friends.  Lilly’s grief turned her into somewhat of a recluse, but her friends have convinced her to host a garden party as she did in the past.  Everyone is having a wonderful time until Lilly’s first husband, Pete Frank, and his third wife, Merilee, show up.  Merilee gets drunk, pushes Tamara into the Koi pond, causes a scene, and has to be removed from the property.  While working on a community project of cleaning up and restoring Alden Park, Marilee is found in the shed lying on bags of mulch, with hedge clippers in her chest.  Bash Haywood is Goosebush’s chief of police, but the position came about as more of a favor to his late father than his job qualifications, and he often relies on Lilly’s insight to help with his investigations.  Bash has never investigated a murder, but the evidence all seems to be pointing at Pete, so he becomes the prime suspect.  The retired police chief, Ray Mancini, knows Lilly has a talent for investigating and encourages her to look into the murder.  Lilly believes he’s innocent, and with the help of her friends, does her best to help clear his name and ensure the true culprit is brought to justice.

Meanwhile, Lilly becomes aware of some problems occurring in town, including Pat French, the town clerk, claiming Goosebush doesn’t have the funds for park upkeep on public parks or other maintenance throughout the town and imposed large fines on residents for not complying with her strict interpretation of the historic district’s code requirements.  Many residents where property rich and cash poor and couldn't afford to pay the fines, and when they failed to pay, Pat would threaten to take place liens on their homes.  Lilly, Delia, Tamara, and Ernie Johnson, the owner of Bits, Bolts & Bulbs, form the Garden Squad to work on correcting the problems.  Lilly also meets her new neighbor, Roderick Lyden, whose garden hadn’t been tended to in years, and whose weeds are encroaching upon her garden and she and Delia help him get things under control.

I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from NetGalley and voluntarily reviewed it.
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Pruning the Dead by Julia Henry is the first book of the cozy A Garden Squad Mystery series. As with most cozy series the story within will be a self contained one with the mystery being wrapped up in the one book and a new mystery in each additional book of the series.

This series features an older leading lady in Lilly Jayne who is sixty five years young. Lilly Jayne hadn’t realized she’d become bit withdrawn after her second husband had passed away two years before but when her friends give her a gentle nudge she decides to once again focus on her garden.

Lilly Jayne has acres and acres of garden space at but she hadn’t hosted her tours in years so she wanted to make sure every petal was in it’s place before the hundreds of guests arrived. Attending Lilly Jayne’s affair was her first husband and his third wife who Lilly Jayne doesn’t quite care for but she never wished the woman would turn up murdered and her ex would become a suspect.

Pruning the Dead wasn’t a bad little mystery read at all, in fact most other reviewers seem to absolutely love it. However, when you see a 3, or I say eh, it was OK in the cozy mystery genre generally that means it just wasn’t quirky enough for me. I really enjoy the overly funny stories the most and I noticed someone called this one “realistic”, well yes, but realistic also translated into ordinary to me. It didn’t really help matters that the author tended to be one to tell and not show, especially right off, so I just didn’t get that excited with this new series.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.
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I had a great time traveling to Goosebush, Massachusetts. As a Massachusetts native, I always get a thrill reading a book that is set there.
Lilly Jane is a fantastic character and I grew to lover her right away. The story was well written and captured my attention from beginning to end.
I am really looking forward to reading the next book in the series.
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Lilly Jayne is a sixty-five year old widow, just getting back into the swing of things after years mourning the loss of her beloved husband. Once she starts paying attention to life in her small New England town, though, things get a little crazy - Lilly notices some inconsistencies in funding and zoning, she puts her finger on the pulse of relationships in the town, and to top it all off, a woman gets murdered. The suspects are Lilly’s friends, or if not friends then people that she knows quite well given the small nature of her town, and she (as well as some sidekicks along the way) work to get to the truth, both to find justice for Merilee as well as, in some way, save the soul of Goosebush.

This book initially caught my eye for a number of reasons - the cover is really nice, the synopsis was intriguing, the setting was a place that (being from Massachusetts myself) resonated with me, I’m very fond of Murder She Wrote so an older woman taking up solving mysteries in a small town seemed perfect, but most of all what I liked was that it was a cozy mystery. As I’ve gotten older I’ve discovered that I no longer really want to read stories about suffering, or without resolutions, and cozy mysteries are always the antidote to that. The characters are usually engaging, the mysteries compelling, the plot fun, and Julia Henry did an excellent job on all fronts.

One of the biggest selling points for this book is how extraordinary the characters are. Every character has flaws (some even acknowledge them! wild!), they all have backstory and nuance, the relationships between the characters are well developed and intriguing leaving endless fodder for future books, and even the antagonists in the book (women like Pat French and Merilee Frank) are interesting and have complex motives. Speaking of, I absolutely love that so many of the characters are women, and that diversity is not an issue for this author, it’s something she includes without question. The friendships are so lovely as well, and the ‘found family’ aspect, especially of the Garden Squad, is very important to me. I love how most everyone in Goosebush takes care of each other and the town, as that is something that is sorely lacking in today’s world.

Another thing done well was how Henry gets the drama of small town New England life down. Everything from conflicts at town meetings, issues between prominent residents, the struggle to develop and yet keep historical integrity, new residents making a place for themselves, everyone knowing each other’s business…It was so fascinating and well done. The world building here was fantastic - Henry has the history of Goosebush down pat, as well as the relationships past and present between the characters.

What a delightful read all around, and an excellent start to a new series; I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys mysteries but especially cozy mysteries. I really loved this, and cannot wait for the next installment. Also, at the end of the book there are gardening tips, which I thought was so sweet and apt, given the nature of the book and the main character’s love of gardening.

Pruning the Dead is set to be released on January 29, 2019.
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Wow, I'm so glad I discovered this series.  I really enjoyed this first book in the series.  I like that the main character is in her late mid-life (I think that is how she referred to herself).  It's nice to have a great series revolving around a more mature, wise woman.  Most of the cozy mystery series I read revolve around young women (and many are still making silly mistakes).  I like the gardening theme, the supporting characters, and the town.  I can't wait for the next in the series!  I was impressed with the writing as well.  No way this is a newbie author.  I'm going to have to see what else this author has written.
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Loved it! A delight to read from beginning to end. I am thrilled to see that it is the first in a series. A diverse variety of characters. Someone with whom anyone can relate. I look forward to the further adventures of the Garden Squad.
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Pruning the Dead by Julia Henry is the first book in a promising new series featuring Lily Jayne, benevolent town matriarch of Goosebush, Massachusetts and a close band of friends who have dubbed themselves the Garden Squad. They have taken on the task of sprucing up the town which has been neglected over the past few years, but are soon interrupted by murder and the suspicion that the perpetrator is Lily’s ex-husband. Although divorced, she holds no ill will toward him, and doesn’t believe he is capable of murder. In addition, Lily wants to see Bash, the town chief of police, succeed in his job and if he arrests the wrong person she fears his job will be in jeopardy..
	The book was a little difficult to get into at first as there seemed to be a big story-telling aspect to the writing as opposed to helping the reader see the action. After the second chapter, the ability to “see” the characters and the town of Goosebush improved and the story began to take off.
	The victim is not a likeable character, so there is no sadness at her demise. Conversely, Lilly and her friends develop into people you would like to get to know, perhaps even ask if you could become a member of the Garden Squad if you had anywhere near a green thumb. That sets the reader up to enjoy spending time with the people of the book as well as in the town of Goosebush itself.
	Lily and her best friend, Tamara are well into the middle age category with the younger group being represented by Lily’s friend Delia. In addition, we get a closer introduction to Roddy, Lily’s new neighbor, Ernie, the proprietor of the local garden supply store along with several other town residents who will hopefully be repeat characters in the next book in the series.
	The mystery itself was easy to solve, although that didn’t detract from the book itself. The reason for the murder was spun out in a slow fashion that made for interesting reading and also set up the series for further books, although this is a completely self-contained mystery. It seems to be the type of series where relationships and characters are more richly developed as the books progress, making it the type of series best enjoyed by reading in order of publication.
	There is enough description to help the reader fall in love with the town of Goosebush and at least want to visit if not relocate. It represents a return to the charm of small-town Americana, although that charm is being threatened by outside forces. Some of this has happened because  Lily has been focused on grieving the death of her husband for the past few years. The reader can breathe a sigh of relief, along with the town’s residents, when Lily begins taking an in-depth look around at her town and realizes she needs to get back to work to help the people and the town return to a pleasant place to live. It is easy to pull for Lily on the one hand, while never really doubting her ability to accomplish her task of making Goosebush a pleasant place to live, and accomplish it all while solving the mystery of who among them could commit murder.
This is a classic cosy in that the murder is touched on briefly in terms of description and most of the emphasis is on figuring out who the murderer is. Also, in classic cosy style, the murder is solved by Lily with the help of her cohorts, the resident amateurs who take on the task. They do have the help and support of local law enforcement, primarily because Lily is a lifetime resident of the town and has been known to always be working behind the scenes for the betterment of the community.
This first in a new series is good enough to create interest in reading the next book to see if it is as entertaining. I would love to see a few more viable red herrings and clues that were buried a bit deeper so that it becomes a more engaging puzzle for the reader. I look forward to reading the second in the series to see if it meets, or hopefully, exceeds that possibility.
My thanks to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for providing an advanced digital read copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is one I recommend to anyone looking for a new cosy mystery series.
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Enjoyed this book tremendously.  Loved the characters and the twists and turns in the plot.  Thank you Julia Henry for this delightful cozy mystery.  Looking forward to reading more from this author.
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