Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Book review: Miranda Warning by Heather Day Gilbert

I've always enjoyed mystery stories about detectives who garden or gardeners who do some sleuthing. Brother Cadfael from the Ellis Peters novels is a great example, as are Rosemary Boxer and Laura Thyme from the British television series Rosemary and Thyme. Every year around this time I get my name on the hold list at the library for the latest China Bayles book by Susan Wittig Albert. This year I was fortunate enough to receive an advance reading copy of the first book in a new mystery series while waiting for Albert’s latest book, and it looks like I will now be adding Tess Spencer to my list of fictional detectives to follow.

As presented in the series debut Miranda Warning by Heather Day Gilbert, the main character Tess Spencer is not a gardener or herbalist like the other detectives I have mentioned, but plants nonetheless play an important role in the story. Another character in Miranda Warning compares Tess to Nancy Drew, and a resemblance can indeed be found in the uncanny knack that Tess and Nancy both have for untangling the confusing web surrounding mysteries. Like China Bayles, Tess solves her mysteries in a small town setting with the support and help of her husband, other family members, and a cast of endearing friends. 

Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) photographed by Philip Jägenstedt in Stora Hultrum, Sweden. File from the Wikimedia Commons, released by the photographer into the public domain.

 When I was about a fifth of my way through the book, I thought I had everything all figured out, but instead I found plenty of twists and surprises to last through to the end. Miranda Warning was an enjoyable book and I will look forward to the next installment. Hopefully plants will continue to be featured prominently in the series, but even if this doesn’t happen, it will be fun to see what Tess Spencer confronts when we meet her again. I hope that next time Tess will even share some of her favorite recipes, like Nikki Jo’s eggnog pumpkin bread!

The book will be released on West Virginia Day, June 20, 2014. It is available in Kindle format and paperback from Amazon.

Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) photographed by Kurt Stüber. File from the Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.


  1. Thank you for posting this, Aly! I loved reading your review on Goodreads. I also LOVE the idea of sharing Nikki Jo's recipes in these books...it's something I'm looking into! And I love that you picked up on the Nancy Drew references. I keep thinking this series is sort of like the grown woman's Nancy Drew. Thanks so much for reading and sharing such a thorough review!

  2. As someone who went through every Nancy Drew (and Hardy Boys) in the local library as a kid, I welcome this grown-up version. Of course Nancy and Tess are different in many ways, but they have some of the same appeal to readers.

    1. I appreciate that so much! And BTW--I've decided there will be a WV recipe at the end of each book! Grandpa John L's Cornbread Recipe in MIRANDA WARNING. Thanks for that great idea!