Have nothing to do with the case.
Mikado - WS Gilbert
Photo of Temple Newsam House, courtesy of TripAdvisor
I usually bedeck my books with flowers, both wild and cultivated. More often than not, they do indeed have nothing to do with the case. They’re part of the setting, marking the seasons, differentiating between town and country gardens, hedgerows, meadows, moors, and woods.
Heirs of the Body, the 21st Daisy Dalrymple mystery (just reissued by Minotaur in trade paperback), I use a pleached walk of laburnam to suggest the threat of poisoning. The seeds are deadly. In fact, I use the walk for a different purpose, and another plant is used later in the book to poison one of my characters.
In another book, I killed a victim with oleander he himself had nurtured and cherished in his conservatory.
Anthem for Doomed Youth, DCI Alec Fletcher goes to question a victim’s widow:
“The front garden was laid out with military precision. A rectangular patch of lawn on each side of the brick path had rectangular flowerbeds centred in each lawn, edged with low, rectangular box hedges, as was the path. The beds were planted with rigid rows of magenta rose-campion and sternly staked red-hot pokers.The smell of flowers can be very evocative, too. My Regency Lavender Lady took its title from the fragrance of the home-made lotion the heroine uses. Later, when the hero smells the lavender sold by a street pedlar, it takes him straight back to the moment he first saw her and makes him decide he must overcome the breach between them.
“The widow is already planning to tear out ‘the lawn, the box, the campion—hideous colour!—the lot. I’m putting in a forsythia, and rambler roses, and... What else sprawls all over the place?’
“‘Well, buddleia, madam, but they be mortal untidy!’
“‘Just what I want, a bit of untidiness in my life. Nasturtiums! Trailing geraniums!’”
Death at Wentwater Court); spicy-scented crysanthemums instead of autumn flowers. Your reader may not know the difference between peonies and poppies, but the names make the scene come alive.
|Carola Dunn is author of the Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries, Cornish Mysteries, and multitudinous Regencies.|