Helen Binney's never felt better! Her lupus is in remission, and she's taking up gardening for its health benefits. Only her first day at the community garden is anything but relaxing when she finds a woman's body lying beside a bulldozer that belonged to the dead woman. Was the early-morning death an accident, as the police believe, or did it have something to do with a dispute over title to the garden's land?
Helen finds out that the victim was a real estate developer, but she wasn't the only one with an eye on the property. Could she have been killed by one of the gardeners to prevent the land from being sold? Perhaps the outspoken, Harley-riding, ex-military town clerk...or a rival developer? Helen's handsome friend/lawyer Tate warns her to stay out of the investigation, but she's feeling invincible and can't resist asking a few questions. If she's not careful, though, there might be another death at dawn.
Helen Binney Mysteries:
In A Dawn of Death, Helen Binney has had no desire to get involved in another murder. All she wants to do is to grow a garden. She is hoping that the garden will provide the same joy that her former lawyer, now boyfriend Tate's woodworking gives him, something that would make her willing to kill over. So Helen goes to the opening day of the community garden and receives her plot. Everyone around notices a bulldozer sitting near the edge of the garden, but Helen thinks something looks curious about its placement. Wandering over to the bulldozer, Helen spots a body, that of Cheryl, who owns the local real estate development company.
Asking about the business that might have taken Cheryl there, ostensibly to prove that it isn't murder (as if anyone believes that Helen would ever think any death wasn't murder!), Helen learns that there has been a big controversy because many in the town want to sell the land that has historically been the plot of the community gardens. The senior living complex across the street from the gardens is full to the seams and wants to be able to expand Wharton Meadows into the land used by the community gardens. Cheryl has a history of purchasing land out from under people who anyone wanting to buy, making her an enemy of the owners of Wharton Meadows as well as the people using the community garden, in particular Dale Meek-Mason, a militant pro-garden environmentalist. Then there is Cory O'Keefe, the city council member who is also the local realtor and the heir of Cheryl. Thus, it is evident that there is no shortage of suspects.
This book was a fun listening experience. I liked the mystery plot, which contained enough detailed twists and turns to make the mystery fascinating. The police Detective Peterson strongly resents Helen and her history of solving murders that he has been unable to solve himself. I kept finding myself changing my guess about the identity of the murderer, with the conclusion's turning out to be a surprise. I also appreciated the book's environmental emphasis, seeing the different range of views of land use.
I really appreciated the complex portrayal of Helen's lupus and its effects on her life. She begins the book having a remission from her flare ups, but even though she has been able to abandon her cane, she still has to live with the impacts of this horrible disease. As someone with a chronic medical condition that for years scared men away from being willing to become serious about me due to my inability to live a "normal" life, I could really identify with Helen's fears about getting serious with Tate for fear of becoming a burden on him, both financially and physically. The book clearly shows the way lupus affects every aspect of Helen's life, yet she still shows her determination to keep her disease from preventing her from living as full a life as possible. She proves to be a real inspiration to me.
Lisa Valdini narrates the audio edition of the book. She approaches the book slowly and with care, as if bringing Helen's lupus and its side effects to life. She works to portray the attitude of the book in her narration, which I have come to enjoy. I especially appreciate her portrayal of Jack, Helen's driver who has lots of flare to his character.
A Dawn of Death has a little bit slower pace than many mystery books, but that suits the book well. I really appreciated the way the book gave me a fun experience listening to it and helped to distract me from my own physical pain from my constant migraine that was bothering me a lot that day. I give the book five stars.