Ann Ripley, Author . Kensington $22 (304p) ISBN 978-1-57566-777-5

You don't have to know an echinops from an epimedium to enjoy Ripley's (Harvest of Murder; Death of a Garden Pest, etc.) cast of characters, plucked from every niche of the horticultural world. Louise Eldridge, her ratings for her PBS show "Gardening with Nature" sinking due to sexy newcomer Bunny Bainfield's rival program, "Bunny in the Garden," is dismayed to find her competitor also attending the first lady–elect's Christmas conference emphasizing native plants, held at a restored colonial inn in Alexandria, Va. Gathered in the inn's crowded ballroom are many guests who have reason to hate Bunny or fear her methods and her success: the world's top floral designer, Bunny's glowering sidekick of suspected Stasi origins, a successful garden writer and publisher, a radical environmentalist, a bureaucrat, dignified academics and nursery owners. Bunny's drive to monopolize the nursery business and horn in on the design and publishing fields, her tinkering with America's native stock to make everything bigger and brighter, to say nothing of her nasty manners and brassy sexuality, all portend her demise, courtesy of a glass of poisoned wine. Louise, a sometime sleuth, investigates on her own, with and without the approval of the local police. A second murder adds zest to the puzzle, while the caricatures of national celebrities will raise more than a few smiles. As the cat in the Santa's cap and Christmas tree with death's head snowflakes on the jacket suggests, mystery fans can expect plenty of murderous holiday fun. Agent, Jane Jordan Browne. (Oct. 8)

Reviewed on: 09/09/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
Mass Market Paperbound - 304 pages - 978-1-57566-778-2
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