Synopsis from Goodreads: A dead prostitute. A missing garden hoe. Who hoed the ho?
Five jailbird teens are sentenced to do community service time at the Olive Branch Garden Center. Cops watch their every move and bad luck dogs their every step.
A sick-nasty gamer named Pone, a spoiled, self-centered rich kid they call Cash, Shroom, an ex-gang banger with a badass attitude, Bean, a really smart, but bumbling idiot, and a very angry prostitute named Spaz stumble upon a dead girl in an alley.
Pone grabs his cell phone to call 911. Shroom wants to blow and let someone else find her. Bean pukes on his new chucks and says nothing. Spaz sees her life mirrored in the dead girl’s eyes. Cash missed the whole thing, but he’s also missing a garden hoe.
Not really caring what the others want, Pone digs his heels in to investigate, needing to satisfy the “want to know” bug. He thinks they should join together to find who offed the dead chick. So how can he convince his new “friends,” who can barely stand each other, to solve the mystery of dun it?
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Review: Death of a Garden Hoe is the first episode (read: novella) in Gale Borger’s yet to be completed Olive Branch Mystery series. Death opens at the Olive Branch Garden Center, a full service garden center for the community as well as a safe haven/home for juvenile delinquents. The kids living at the Olive Branch are those who have to complete court-ordered community service in lieu of jail time. The Olive Branch’s current residents include:
Spaz: the only girl in the group with a terribly troubled past that includes a stint as a prostitute, or ho as the boys like to say
Pone: gamer/computer hacker whose dad is a cop. YIKES!! This is a good kid who just lost his way and really does want to do the right thing; has to constantly remind Shroom that not everything is about race
Shroom: a half-Mexican, tattooed, ex-gang member with a seriously bad attitude; Shroom thinks everything is about race, likes to make fun of others in the group and has some significant trust issues
Bean: the brainiac of the group whose intelligence often serves to isolate him from the others; Bean works hard to fit in with the others and has a totally head-over-heals crush on Spaz
Cash: the rich kid with a slight entitlement attitude; like Bean, his defining characteristic (his money) often serves to separate him from the group though when everyone needs a ride, Cash’s truck comes in handy
Each day the group is released into the community with orders to weed, plant, re-plant, mulch, water, and generally maintain prescribed areas around town. It is a day like any other until the kids are on their way back to the Olive Branch and stumble across the body of a dead girl. As if this weren’t bad enough: Spaz knows the girl, Amy, and knows she worked as a prostitute; the murder weapon turns out to be a garden hoe; Pone’s dad is a part of the investigation and; all of the kids, given their current situation are convinced the cops will naturally assume they killed the girl.
Although totally freaked out, the group, minus Shroom decides they want to help find the person who killed Amy. Seeing this as a learning opportunity and a way to better connect with his son, Pone’s dad agrees to let the kids help though he warns them they must, at all times work within the confines of the law. This is easier said than done and by the time the novella ends the kids have given Pone’s dad the name of a very viable and familiar suspect. They may have acquired that name in a not so legal way . . .
To be continued in episode two, Digging Up Dirt . . . .