"A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin."
~ H.L. Mencken (1880-1956), American author and satirist
All the Flowers Are Dying
by Lawrence Block
In a dark novel that alternates between alcoholic ex-cop Matthew Scudder's viewpoint and that of a ruthless serial killer, Scudder finds himself and those he loves the object of the cunning murderer's attention. Readers new to Scudder who want to watch him age over the course of the series will want to bypass this 16th entry and start with The Sins of the Fathers; Block fans who need a little something to tide them over while waiting to get their hands on A Drop of the Hard Stuff, Scudder's 17th novel that's due out next month, should try Robert B. Parker's Spenser books or J. A. Jance's J. P. Beaumont novels.
The Last Kashmiri Rose
by Barbara Cleverly
After a stint with a police force in colonial India, Scotland Yard detective and WWI veteran Joe Sandilands thinks he's going home to England. He couldn't be more wrong. The governor of Bengal requests his aid when the wife of a British officer is found dead. It looks like suicide, but when Sandilands investigates, he discovers that several wives have died over the last decade and that there are strange coincidences between the deaths--like each woman dying via her greatest fear (burning, cobra bite, etc.). Golden-age mystery fans will especially enjoy Barbara Cleverly's vividly drawn, well-plotted, and "spellbinding debut" (New York Times Book Review), which is the 1st in a series that now numbers eight.
The Name of the Rose
by Umberto Eco
In 1327, Brother William of Baskerville is sent to investigate charges of heresy against Franciscan monks at a rich Italian abbey, but his priorities shift when several monks die in bizarre ways. With his apprentice Adso of Melk, William investigates the murders and explores the abbey's strange medieval library. Written by an Italian professor of semiotics, The Name of the Rose is something of a modern classic. Originally published in English in 1983, it has sold millions of copies in multiple languages and is beloved by many. If you're in the mood to savor words and complex ideas, check this one out.
Queen of the Flowers: A Phryne Fisher Mystery
by Kerry Greenwood
Who is chosen as St. Kilda's Queen of the Flowers in 1928 Melbourne, Australia? The Honourable Phryne Fisher, of course! But the independent-minded, glamorous flapper and amateur sleuth finds herself dealing with more than her royal floral duties when one of her four young flower maidens vanishes. Phryne investigates, but more trouble occurs when Phyrne's own adopted daughter Ruth disappears. And then there's Phyrne's unexpected reunion with one of her many former lovers. Though this is the 14th book in this "consistently strong series" (Booklist), newcomers who like lighthearted tales peopled with witty, intriguing characters can start here.
Flower Net: A Red Princess Mystery
by Lisa See
Set largely in 1997 Beijing, Flower Net introduces Chinese detective Liu Hulan and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Stark. The two former lovers team up to solve two high-profile murders: the killings of both the son of the American ambassador to China and the son of one of China's elite. Though some readers may find this fast-paced, suspenseful novel to be less assured than Chinese-American author Lisa See's later books, those who enjoy learning about other cultures should check out this 1st in a trilogy (it's followed by The Interior and Dragon Bones). Fans who want to read more of See's writing about China but don't mind leaving murder behind should pick up one of her later, bestselling novels, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Peony in Love, or Shanghai Girls.