Deader Homes and Gardens Review
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Searching for the perfect home can be tedious business—trekking from one candidate to the next, evaluating bathrooms and appliances and location, location, location. But when newlywed Claire Malloy tries to search for a new house in author Joan Hess’s Deader Homes and Gardens, the house hunt turns deadly.

Now that she’s married Deputy Chief Peter Rosen, Claire finds that the duplex that she once shared with just her teenage daughter, Caron, isn’t big enough for three. So while Peter heads out of town on an important assignment, Claire heads out to find a new home.

Just when Claire finds The Perfect House, though, everything goes horribly wrong. While Claire explores the home’s gorgeous gardens, her real estate agent, Angela, disappears. As Claire searches the area for clues to her whereabouts (and a ride home would be nice, too), she meets the Hollows, a strange family full of eccentric characters. They tend to keep their secrets well hidden inside their country compound—but as soon as Claire shows up, their secrets start coming out.

  
 
It may start out as a simple story about a missing realtor, but Deader Homes and Gardens quickly unfolds into something more layered—and much more intriguing. Claire may not be able to find Angela as she wanders through Hollow Valley, but she finds so much more: suspicious suicides, poisoned cocktails, and a whole bunch of quirky characters.

The story’s numerous mysteries are definitely intriguing, but they’re made all the more fascinating by the eccentric pool of suspects. The Hollows are a unique bunch—from business-minded Ethan and his Earth Mother wife, Pandora Butterfly, to judgmental Charles and Felicia to batty octogenarian Moses. And as Claire gets to know the family and their quirks, her imagination takes over until there are about as many motives as members of the Hollow family.

But it isn’t just the Hollows who make Deader Homes and Gardens fun to read. While Claire’s determination and imagination make her a likable amateur sleuth, her young assistants give the story a little bit of attitude. Claire’s daughter, Caron, is a teen drama queen who often speaks in Capital Letters for added emphasis. And her easy-going BFF, Inez, is always ready to take off on a new adventure. Together, these clever young girls add their own insight and ideas to the investigation—along with their Internet expertise—and their tendency to get into trouble adds a little bit of humor, too.

Put all of these captivating characters together in a compound in the country—and mix in a couple of dead guys and a missing real estate agent—and you’ve got a fun-filled mystery. So if you’re looking for an entertaining read for your next vacation—or a trip to the pool—Deader Homes and Gardens is a good choice.

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