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'Lilies That Fester' comes up roses

| Sunday, Feb. 3, 2002

"Lilies That Fester" calls itself "a gardening mystery." There isn't much gardening lore in it, but it certainly is mysterious.

Florist Bretta Solomon, an appealing amateur sleuth who has appeared in previous books by Janis Harrison, is at a florists' convention in Branson, Mo., where she's in charge of a competition. She will announce a category, and contestants will put together appropriate flower arrangements. Speed and creativity count.

The contestants are wild to find out the categories beforehand. This seems excessive to the reader who isn't a florist short on spontaneity and long on deliberating about design arrangements. However, one florist who isn't spontaneous breaks into Bretta's hotel room and walks into a booby trap meant for Bretta. Something nefarious obviously is going on.

All the florists in the book are acting mysteriously, including one who lies about the date she arrived in Branson. Everybody else acts mysteriously, too, including Bretta's assistant, hotel employees and a man Bretta is romantically drawn to. He says he's attending another convention in the hotel, but some of his words and actions are contradictory. Bretta can't figure him out and doesn't know whether to trust him.

Then she gets a letter from a couple whose adult daughter visited Branson and died soon after she got home. The couple is supposed to be staying in the hotel, but they can't be located. Bretta thinks they might have been murdered because they learned too much about their daughter's death. Bretta's inquiries at a local mortuary prove to be a dead end.

Everything is a mystery in this interesting whodunit.

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