by Heather Webber
There's a serpent loose in Nina's garden ...

Nina Colette Ceceri Quinn's business, Taken by Surprise--a landscaping firm specializing in surprise garden makeovers--is the only thing in her life that seems to be thriving. Her marriage to adulterous police detective Kevin Quinn has wilted. Her antisocial stepson Riley is spreading trouble around like pungent manure. Even her gardening tools are disappearing, including a rather valuable set of hoes.

Worst of all, the delightful old man who first introduced her to the joys of horticulture is dead--and not by natural causes. Something evil has taken root in Nina's Ohio small town, and the local police--including dearly unbeloved Kev--are baffled. But it's amazing what a resourceful gardener can dig up when she puts her mind to it--though, by sticking her hands too deeply into this fetid, fertile soil, Nina might well end up planted beneath her own petunias.
Read A Review:

Nina Quinn has a landscaping firm called Taken By Surprise. They specialize in surprise garden makeovers.

She thought she had the perfect life until she found lipstick on her husband’s boxers. Kevin is a police detective. He admitted he is cheating on her. She has kicked him out, but her teenaged stepson Riley has remained. He’s making life difficult for her.

Plus gardening tools are ending up missing every day. Who is stealing them and why? Could it be on e of the excons she employs?

To top it off her gardening mentor is found murdered. What has happened to her quiet idyllic life?

Can Nina get to the bottom of everything while still dealing with Riley and Kevin? And can she find the murderer and the thief without putting herself in danger?

I really enjoyed this book. I can’t wait to read more of Nina’s adventures. This book is a quick, easy cozy to read. The story is paced well and keeps you wanting to turn the page and find out what happened. I highly recommend this book.

Dawn Dowdle

This story commences as Nina places her husband's picture down the garbage disposal. He is a fine-looking man but not a very good guy. A respected police detective, Kevin is no longer welcome in Nina's bed after she learns he was cheating on her.

Nina's teenage stepson Riley also can be a handful. He cuts school occasionally and Nina has concerns about some of his friends. As well, there is his pet snake loose in the house. This theme was particularly well done. I was even looking for the snake! Nina has a tough love approach with Riley that is realistic. She is in his corner even when she does not have to be. Theirs is an interesting relationship.

In A HOE LOT OF TROUBLE, the first mystery in this series, author Heather Webber introduces an inventive and creative theme. In a media saturated with make-overs, this is the garden and landscaping theme. Nina owns a landscaping business called Taken By Surprise, Garden Designs. Her mentor, Farmer Joe Sandowski, died recently under strange circumstances.

The Sandowski family is comprised of Joe's wife, his son Tim and daughter-in-law, Bridget. Bridget and Nina have known each other since kindergarten. How pleased Nina is for Bridget to learn she is pregnant as Tim and Bridget have wanted a baby. Unfortunately the happiness is coupled with the sad occasion of Joe's sickness and then his death.

Nina wants to discover what really happened to Joe. She is able to use her business as a cover and already knows that the Vista View Project was trying to purchase the Sandowski property without success. Is there a connection between Joe's murder and this? Nina knows she is getting closer when she starts being jeopardized and threatened.

Four problems confront Nina. Her unfaithful husband is playing footsy with his work partner. Farmer Joe has been murdered. Riley (her stepson) has had a change in his behavior as well as misplacing his pet snake. Work items (especially hoes) are stolen from the business. Mysteriously, sometimes they are returned.

There is a surprise ending that this reader did not see coming. I enjoyed the format and will anticipate the next book in this series.

Rita Ratacheck