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Kill for an Orchid: A novel of Death in the Dordogne    by Michelle Wan order for
Kill for an Orchid
by Michelle Wan
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday Canada, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Michelle Wan's Kill for an Orchid is the fourth entry in her Death in the Dordogne cozy mystery series that combines a passion for orchids with an idyllic life in the southwest French countryside - and violent death.

Michelle Wan sets the scene with a puzzle - the mysterious death of a successful painter, while her nude model looks on in shock. She then takes readers to join English 'chronically unemployed landscape gardener' Julian Wood and French Canadian interior designer Mara Dunn in springtime 'in the glorious Dordogne.' When Mara broaches the subject of marriage, Julian absentmindedly agrees, his attention on a letter from Charles Perry, descendant of a nineteenth century plant hunter with ties to the Dordogne and knowledge of the elusive orchid, Cypripedium incognitum, that has long been Julian's obsession. Apparently Horatio Kneebone found it in China.

Julian agrees to rent Charles his cottage and exchange information, though each withholds some from the other. While this goes on, Julian's wife Véronique (he never bothered with a divorce) shows up looking for funds, and then is murdered. Though upset that he'd kept the marriage from her, Mara gives Julian an alibi. She also joins him in a rally in support of an international patents lawsuit by the Baixi people of China against 'predatory patents and biopiracy' by Bonisanté, 'Europe's biggest herbal pharmaceutical company'. After finding notes in Véronique's possessions that implicate a sleep clinic, Mara investigates. But a good friend who helps her ends up in a coma.

While an insomniac Mara investigates, Julian obsesses over his orchid. His relationship with Mara cooling fast, he follows the trail to China, where he survives inept murder attempts before finding out what really happened to Horatio Kneebone's expedition. Back in France, Mara fends off a killer and uncovers a plot to suppress the toxicity of a popular herbal medicine. All's well that ends well except that Julian realizes he 'went halfway around the world to discover that the thing I'm looking for, if it exists, grows only here' - and it's not an orchid. If French country living and/or orchids intrigue you, then don't miss this charming series.

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