Book Bites: Murder in the Community Garden by Judith Gonda

About The Book

Murder in the Community Garden (A Tory Benning Mystery)

Budding sleuth Tory Benning has to overcome planted evidence and growing suspicions to save an innocent man from being framed . . .

Designing a community garden as part of a new condo project seemed like a no-brainer to landscape architect Tory Benning, since it would bring people together and enhance the environmental profile of the property. But soon members of the garden begin squabbling and even leveling accusations of sabotage against each other in a friendly growing competition. Then one of the gardeners is found murdered at the grand opening, and Tory realizes she’ll have to weed through some damning false evidence to help prove her implicated friend is innocent.

It’s a daunting challenge given that her friend was seen threatening the victim on live TV and all the clues point to him as the culprit, but Tory is certain someone is behind a devious plot to set him up. As she starts looking into the backgrounds of those closest to the victim, secrets begin to emerge about marital infidelity, a sizable inheritance, and estranged children. Fearful now that she might be going up against someone far more cunning than a garden-variety killer, Tory will have to stand her ground to bring the culprit to justice—and be careful not to dig her own grave . . .

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Book Three of The Tory Benning Mystery series, Murder in the Community Garden, opens with a cabbage heist and a flurry of clues. At stake is a seemingly inconsequential gardening contest with apparent ties to the hotly contested mayoral race for the community of Santa Sofia. When one of the candidates drops dead after a press conference The obvious suspect is the opposing candidate, who just very publicly threatened her. Tory is convinced that her friend couldn’t have done it but the matter is confounded when a witness places him at the shooting of the victim’s son.

I have not read the first two books in this series and I didn’t need to. I do think that Tory’s story is compelling enough to give the first books a looksey. The cold opening to the story with immediate drama is a terrific way for the reader to dive right in. Even though the murder takes place further into the story, there is already an emotional investment. The mystery itself is a classic whodunnit trope with a trove of suspects, several conflicting and quixotic clues, and some pivotal plot twists. 

Overall the story was enjoyable. The cast of secondary characters are witty and colorful with plenty of growth over the story and through exposition over the series. The descriptions of the town of Santa Sofia put the reader right into the setting. There is plenty of room for expansion n this series and I am looking forward to revisiting. 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I received an advance review copy for free through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours and Netgalley. I am leaving this review voluntarily

About the Author

Judith Gonda is a mystery writer and Ph.D. psychologist with a penchant for Pomeranians, plants, and puns, so it’s not surprising they all pop up in her amateur sleuth mysteries featuring landscape architect Tory Benning. To learn more about her books, please visit her website:

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