The Body in the Back Garden (A Crescent Cove Mystery)
by Mark Waddell
About The Body in the Garden
The Body in the Back Garden (A Crescent Cove Mystery)
Queer Cozy (“Quozy”) Mystery
1st in Series
Setting – The fictional town of Crescent Cove on Vancouver Island, Canada
Crooked Lane Books (August 22, 2023)
Hardcover : 272 pages
ISBN-10 : 1639104402
ISBN-13 : 978-1639104406
Digital ASIN : B0BN582M9W
In this queer cozy series debut, Luke Tremblay is about to discover that Crescent Cove has more than its fair share of secrets…and some might be deadlier than others.
Crescent Cove, a small hamlet on Vancouver Island, is the last place out-of-work investigative journalist Luke Tremblay ever wanted to see again. He used to spend summers here until his family learned that he was gay and rejected him. Now, following his aunt’s sudden death, he’s inherited her entire estate, including her seaside cottage and the antique shop she ran for forty years in Crescent Cove. Luke plans to sell everything and head back to Toronto as soon as he can…but Crescent Cove isn’t done with him just yet.
When a stranger starts making wild claims about Luke’s aunt, Luke sends him packing. The next morning, though, Luke discovers that the stranger has returned, and now he’s lying dead in the back garden. To make matters worse, the officer leading the investigation is a handsome Mountie with a chip on his shoulder who seems convinced that Luke is the culprit. If he wants to prove his innocence and leave this town once and for all, Luke will have to use all his skills as a journalist to investigate the colorful locals while coming to terms with his own painful past.
There are secrets buried in Crescent Cove, and the more Luke digs, the more he fears they might change the town forever.
Former investigative journalist Luke Tremblay has returned to Vancouver Island following the death of his aunt. He used to spend summers with her until his family found out he was gay and turned their backs on him. He can’t believe she left him her seaside cottage and the antique shop she has owned for 40 years. He had no intention to return to Crescent Cove so now all he wants to do is sell all her properties and belongings as quickly as possible and return to what’s left of his life in Toronto.
Then a stranger comes to his aunt’s door claiming her had purchased something from her before her death and he wants it now. With no idea what he is talking about and him without any kind of receipt Luke roughly sends him away.
The next morning he finds the stranger dead in his aunt’s back garden. When the authorities arrive the lead officer appears to think Luke is his prime suspect. It isn’t until Luke goes to the station for questioning that he learns he has a past with the handsome Mountie. The man in front of him was his best friend whenever he came to visit his aunt all those years ago. A man who was really hurt when Luke stopped coming to Crescent Cove. But that old friendship doesn’t get Luke off the hook. If he ever wants to get back to Toronto he is going to have to tap into his investigative skills and clear his name on his own. The small town has plenty of secrets. Secrets that may explain his aunt’s death and why a man ended up dead in her back garden.
I enjoyed meeting Luke. I really felt bad for him, the way his family treated him and for the way his relationship with his aunt came apart. The fact that she died before they could reconnect was heartbreaking. We also see it not only affected them but his friend Jack. I know she was trying to make amends by leaving him her entire estate and that it would bring him back to a now more open-thinking Crescent Cove but I wish they could have been closer before she was killed. She meant so much to him and clearly him to her.
I am happy that Luke and Jack reconnected and that their best sleuthing moments were when they worked together. Their interactions and flirtations were so true and at times very funny. As you can see, these characters felt so genuine that they found a place in my heart pretty quickly.
The setting of Vancouver Island was new to me but Mr. Waddell’s descriptions painted wonderful pictures in my mind. The cover is also beautiful and gave me some cozy feelings before I started to even read the story.
The mystery was pretty straightforward and I was able to hone in on the killer much earlier than Jack and Luke but that did not hinder my enjoyment of the story at all. Tagging along with Luke and Jack was very entertaining. Following the clues, and looking for a key item, along with the secrets that sent the whole book into motion were so interesting. The reveal was exciting and emotional.
The Body in the Back Garden is a well-written “queer cozy mystery” with engaging characters and a compelling mystery, set in a charming small town on an island that in real life is now one of the areas plagued with wildfires. It is a place a would love to visit someday but for now, I will settle for another trip there via the next book in this series. I am very curious to see what he has planned for Luke, Jack, and the rest of the residents of Crescent Cove.
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Excerpt from The Body in the Back Garden
The drive back to the cottage took no more than five minutes, and when I got there, I found a Jeep Wrangler with RCMP markings waiting for me. My heart sank. I really didn’t want a third encounter with the police today.
With some reluctance, I trudged around the side of the cottage and found Jack Munro waiting for me, brawny arms folded across his tactical vest as he gazed out at the sea. My heart sank even further, but also fluttered a little as well. I had no idea how to behave around him now that I knew he was my old friend.
As I approached, shoes crunching on the stone path, he turned to face me. I paused. Jack looked mad. His square jaw was clenched and his eyebrows were drawn downwards in a fierce glower.
“We need to talk,” he informed me, and I nodded jerkily after a moment’s hesitation.
“Sure. Okay. Do you want to come inside?”
With a shake of his head, Jack then advanced towards me until he was close enough that I had to look up into his face. “I want to know why you lied to me.”
I had to work moisture back into my mouth before I could reply. “What do you mean?”
“I spoke with Aleesha Perkins.” At my blank stare, he added, “Her mom runs the greengrocers in town. She delivered some groceries here yesterday.”
Oh yeah. I nodded again, mutely.
“Aleesha claims that she witnessed you assault Joel Mackenzie and then threaten him.” Jack’s resonant baritone was tight with anger. “Is that true?”
“I wouldn’t say assault, exactly,” I hedged. “I did push him, that’s true.”
“She says you pushed him off the front porch and that he landed on his back on the ground.”
“Uh. Yes.” Jack’s eyes narrowed and I added hurriedly, “But he provoked me. He called my aunt a thief and said she got what was coming to her. I…I got upset and pushed him harder than I intended.”
“And then threatened him.”
“No!” I protested. “No, I just told him that if he came back here he’d regret it.” I paused. “Okay. That sounds bad, I admit. But I didn’t mean anything by it. It wasn’t a threat.”
Jack said nothing. His features, familiar and yet not, were completely blank.
On a rising tide of panic, I reached out involuntarily and grasped his forearm. “Jack, please. Please believe me. I did not kill Joel Mackenzie. I didn’t see him again until I found his body this morning. I know how this looks, but…”
Jack stepped back from me, breaking my hold on his arm. “You assaulted and threatened a man who later turned up dead on your property, Luke.” His voice was cool now, dispassionate. “And you have no alibi for last night. How this looks is extremely bad for you.”
My feeling of panic increased as I stared up at him. “But you know me. You know I would never—”
He cut me off with brutal finality. “I used to know you. I’m not sure I do anymore.”
I had no response to that. There was nothing left to say. My panic slowly subsided, leaving hurt and fear in its wake.
A deep silence fell between us. Waves crashed in the distance and gulls screeched overhead. “Is there anything else you want to tell me?” he finally asked. “Because if there is anything, you need to tell me now.”
I shook my head once. “There isn’t anything,” I said, barely able to speak through the tightness in my throat.
He nodded without taking his eyes off me. “I strongly advise you to stay put here at the cottage while we continue our investigation.”
I said nothing, and after a long pause Jack brushed past me as he headed back to his Jeep. I watched him go with something close to despair.
I was now the only suspect in a murder, and the person in charge of investigating that murder clearly disliked me. I wanted to trust that Jack would figure out who the killer was rather than pin this on me, but given our recent interactions, that seemed far from certain. If I didn’t want to end up in prison, there was only one option left.
I needed to solve this myself.
About Mark Waddell
Mark is originally from Calgary, Alberta, and grew up on the cold, windswept Prairies of western Canada. Fleeing southward, he earned a Ph.D. in the history of science, medicine, and technology from the Johns Hopkins University and then worked as a professor at Michigan State University for fifteen years. Finally, he persuaded his amazing husband to move to Vancouver Island, where they now live.
When he’s not writing stories about murderous Canadians, he plays the viola in the Civic Orchestra of Victoria, walks his dogs along the seashore, and thinks up interesting ways to kill people.
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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.”