Many years ago our family went on a fantastic vacation that included a few days in Washington D.C. The area is so beautiful and until that trip I only knew about The Rose Garden at The White House. There are many gardens including the vegetable garden started by Mrs. Obama which I believe was the author’s inspiration for The Scarlet Pepper.
Dorothy St. James’ White House Garden Mysteries take us right on the grounds of The White House and inside the internal workings of The White House and its staff especially the grounds crew. She is here today to take us on a little tour. If you are like me you will be wanting to plan a trip to the capital as soon as possible.
What’s with all these writers penning series that aren’t set in their hometown? Aren’t you supposed to write what you know? This was a question that was asked of me not that long ago. It’s a good question. Why do we set our books where we do?
I’m sure every author has a different—and very personal—answer for that question. But I think all of those answers can be boiled down to one similar thought: We love the places we write about.
Naturally, my White House Gardener Mystery series had to be set in Washington, D.C. But I didn’t have to write about the White House when I call the Lowcountry of South Carolina home. A beautiful place steeped with history and thick with pluff mud. I feel blessed to live here!
And yet, I did choose to write about D.C. because (quite simply) I love the city. I love its multicultural roots. I love the free museums. I love its energy. D.C. is a vibrant place to visit and rich with inspiration for mystery novels. You don’t hear anyone complaining that there’s a shortage of scandal or intrigue in our nation’s capital.
On April 3, 2012, The Scarlet Pepper, the second book in the White House Gardener Mystery series, was released. In it, Casey Calhoun, the White House’s organic gardener is up to her elbows in dirt as she works on the First Lady’s Kitchen Garden.
When someone starts tampering with the garden and a hard-nosed investigative reporter is found dead, Casey realizes that the next thing buried in the dirt might just be her…
To help me research this book, I took several trips to visit the White House Kitchen Garden.
Unlike the lottery ticket system if you want to attend the White House Easter Egg Roll, or having to contact your Congressman if you wish to take a White House tour, twice a year the White House opens its gardens to the public. For free! And no advance ticket required!
Just pick up your tickets from the National Park Service’s visitor center located adjacent to the White House.
Once we passed through security and the fabled iron gates, we had the freedom to wander through the South Lawn. White House gardeners and volunteers stationed at various points throughout the tour patiently answered all of my questions.
The Secret Service agents, present in full force because the First Family was in residence, answered my questions about the different types of guns they carried, their responsibilities and the best place to eat breakfast.
The White House gardens have three seasonal displays. The first three books in the White House Gardener Mystery series celebrates each season: Flowerbed of State: SPRING, The Scarlet Pepper: SUMMER, and the upcoming Oak and Dagger: FALL.
Volunteers work in the kitchen garden, a 1,500 square foot raised bed garden plot.
Details for Spring and Fall Tours: Garden tours are free, visit www.whitehouse.gov for information about upcoming garden tours. The website posts dates for the tours approximately a month in advance. In the past, tours have occurred the third weekend in April and October. Bring plenty of film and a notebook to jot down hints and tips you’ll pick up from the volunteer docents.
In the meantime, I invite you to let Casey Calhoun give you an insider’s tour of the White House and its grounds in The Scarlet Pepper and take a mini-vacation.
To find out more about Dorothy and her books check out her website at www.dorothystjames.com
The Scarlet Pepper
(A White House Gardener Mystery)
2nd in the Series
Berkley Prime Crime Mystery
The Berkley Publishing Group
Published by The Penguin Group
Cover Illustration by Mary Ann Lasher
Cover Design by Olivia Andreas
Casey Calhoun works at The White House as the assistant gardener. In this installment we are focused on the First Lady’s Kitchen Garden. It hasn’t been classified as an “organic garden” yet, but Casey is using organic procedures as they work toward that goal. There are rumors running rampant in the media about the garden. It is being said that Casey is replacing plants to make it seem that the plants are growing faster than they actually are and that the ground is full of lead making the vegetables grown there dangerous to eat. Casey thinks it is funny that with all the issues the nation is facing the vegetable garden is such a high priority with the press.
There definitely is something going on in the garden as red peppers are popping up where green peppers are supposed to be and cabbage is growing where lettuce was planted. Casey is very confused when in addition to the different plants the garden is being vandalized during the night.
Then an investigative reporter is found dead with Casey’s name in his notes. She doesn’t haven’t much time to dig into all the details as the first harvest of the garden is right around the corner and it is going to be another big press event. There is much more going than a few garden incidents. Someone seems to think Casey is the key and knows who the killer is, she is having one close call after another. She’d better hurry up and figure out what’s going on or she may find herself planted right between the eggplant and cauliflower.
When I reviewed Flowerbed of State I said couldn’t wait for the next Casey Calhoun story and it was well worth the wait. Who knew a little kitchen garden for The White House and a pesky reporter could cause so much trouble? Its got all the makings of a fabulous mystery especially in the hands of this author.
I love a strong female protagonist and Casey fits the bill. If the Secret Service Training Sessions don’t make her want to quit her job there is no way a murderer running around the gardens is going to either. She is right in the dirt with this one. I loved it!!!!
St. James writes a fast paced cozy mystery with more twists than all the varieties of bell peppers. Toss together a little humor, romance, a pregnant first lady, and some Secret Service Agents with some unpredictable volunteers, an organic garden expert, a few secrets and a dead body and you are in for a bountiful feast for your reading pleasure.
This cozy gets my highest recommendation, a perfect escape, and it should be in your in your hot little hands as you prepare your own gardens. Definitely a must “seed” story!!!
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”