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Ripley, Ann

Ripley, Ann

PERSONAL: Married; husband's name Tony. Hobbies and other interests: Horticulture.

ADDRESSES: Home—Lyons, CO. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Kensington Publishing Corp., 850 3rd Ave., New York, NY 10022.

CAREER: Journalist and novelist. Northwestern University, Medill School of Journalism, placement coordinator; associated with Catholic University of America. Worked as writer and editor for a suburban daily newspaper; worked as a reporter in Michigan.

MEMBER: Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Colorado Authors' League, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.

AWARDS, HONORS: Received local, state, and national prizes for education reporting; Top Hand Award for best book-length genre fiction, Colorado Author's League, 1995, for Mulch: A Gardening Mystery.

WRITINGS:

"LOUISE ELDRIDGE" MYSTERY SERIES

Mulch: A Gardening Mystery, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1994.

Death of a Garden Pest, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1995.

Death of a Political Plant, Bantam (New York, NY), 1998.

The Garden Tour Affair, Bantam (New York, NY), 1999.

The Perennial Killer, Bantam (New York, NY), 2000.

Harvest of Murder: A Gardening Mystery, Kensington Books (New York, NY), 2001.

The Christmas Garden Affair: A Gardening Mystery, Kensington Books (New York, NY), 2002.

Death at the Spring Plant Sale, Kensington Books (New York, NY), 2003.

Summer Garden Murder, Kensington Publishing Corporation (New York, NY), 2005.

Death in the Orchid Garden, Kensington Publishing Corporation (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to periodicals.

SIDELIGHTS: Ann Ripley, an award-winning reporter and a master gardener, is the creator of a mystery series sprinkled with gardening tips. Her "Louise Eldridge" novels feature a female sleuth who is an organic gardener and PBS gardening show host who repeatedly becomes involved with foul play. The series debut, Mulch: A Gardening Mystery, introduces Louise, a resident of metropolitan Washington, DC, her husband, an FBI agent, and her daughter. Louise, who is described as a "smart, appealing heroine all dressed up with no place to go [in Mulch's plot]" by a Kirkus Reviews critic, unearths pieces of a dismembered corpse while she and her daughter are busy collecting leaves for their organic garden. Louise suspects the victim is the lover of her married neighbor, a candidate for undersecretary of defense. "Coincidence and intuition figure prominently in [this] … slender, predictable first novel," declared a Publishers Weekly critic. Louise suspects that her neighbor is involved with the murder; when her neighbor learns of her suspicions, Louise winds up fighting for her own life.

While recovering from her physical battle scars, in Death of a Garden Pest Louise accepts a job with a gardening show on public television. Ripley's second Louise Eldridge novel received praise from a Publishers Weekly reviewer, who called it a "gripping tale [told] in engaging, down-to-earth prose, interject[ed with] bits of gardening advice, as scripts for the show." Backstage, relationships among the crew are rife with stress and negative politics. Soon after Louise begins work, her predecessor is killed with poison. Louise is the number-one suspect in the minds of her new colleagues and the police, and she is determined, with her family's help, to clear her name. According to a Kirkus Reviews contributor, who believed Death of a Garden Pest's weaknesses to be "peremptory characterization, absent-minded prose, and a leading lady who's soap-operatic in her suffering," the most commendable aspect of the work is its inclusion of nonfiction text segments focused on gardening. Alice Joyce complimented the novel in Booklist, deeming it "[an effective] mystery enhanced by plenty of tantalizing garden details."

For the next Louise Eldridge mystery, Death of a Political Plant, Ripley once again adds gardening information to a story involving murder. In addition, for the "delightful" book "Ripley tightly interweaves the threads of a Washington brouhaha, complete with an ensemble of frightful politicos," according to Joyce. "Serious gardeners will probably enjoy Ripley's informative gardening essays … but her clunky plot and heroine's irritating mix of smugness and chutzpah provide a good deal less satisfaction," concluded a Kirkus Reviews contributor. In contrast, a writer for Publishers Weekly applauded Ripley: "Her well paced tale is … peopled with fully dimensioned characters, and her gardening tips are both intelligent and relevant to the story."

The gardening information presented in Ripley's next mystery, The Garden Tour Affair, was referred to by a contributor to Library Journal as "intermittent pithy essays." However, the critic believed the characters to be entertaining. As for the mystery inherent in "this enjoyable story (laced with informative gardening lectures)," a reviewer for Publishers Weekly proclaimed: "There's no lack of suspects … [and] the waters [remain] suitably murky."

In The Christmas Garden Affair: A Gardening Mystery, the First Lady of the United States convenes an exclusive conference on native plants. Louise receives an invitation to attend, but so does Bunny Bainfield, a British gardening expert, television show host, and Louise's closest rival. Bunny is not well liked among the American gardening establishment. Her abrasive personality, general belligerence, and brazen behavior rankle, as does her intention to bash her way to the top of the American gardening market. When Bunny is poisoned at the conference reception, many are suspected of being the agent of her death. Louise risks her own life to ferret out the killer from the long list of Bunny's enemies. Booklist reviewer Carol Haggas commented that "Ripley's hardy heroine blossoms in this latest Louise Eldridge mystery, her most accomplished yet."

Death at the Spring Plant Sale finds Louise attending the annual plant show of the Old Georgetown Garden Club at the invitation of her longtime friend, Emily Holley. As Louise becomes acquainted with the diverse members of the club, she also notices a strong sense of competitiveness among them. When club president Catherine Freeman is shot while riding in the car driven by her husband, Walter, a prominent government official, Louise and Emily begin searching for clues, motives, and suspects. They uncover possibilities of infidelity in Catherine's and Walter's relationship. Long-simmering jealousies among the garden club members, many of whom begrudged Catherine her prize-winning azaleas, also add the possibility that a rival may have finally been driven to murderous actions. Rex E. Klett, writing in the Library Journal, called the novel "a welcome series addition."

More than plants are turning up in Louise's garden in Summer Garden Murder, as the discovery of two bodies make her a murder suspect who must clear her own name. When Peter Hoffman is released from the mental institution where he served a four-year sentence for murder, he reappears in Louise's neighborhood and confronts her at a cocktail party. Since she was the one responsible for his incarceration, Louise decides to leave town for a while, hoping that Hoffman will move on. When she returns, however, Hoffman's body is discovered buried in Louise's garden, and she becomes the prime suspect in his murder. Louise begins her own investigation, which puts her in conflict with attorney Mike Cunningham. Her situation becomes even more grim when Cunningham's body is found interred among her onions. Determined to clear her name, Louise investigates a variety of unpleasant, increasingly dangerous suspects. Haggas, in another Booklist review, commented that "Ripley continues to exhibit polish and flair in this sunny addition to the cozy mystery landscape."

When asked about her writing, Ripley told CA: "I was encouraged to write as a child, and it has been something I have enjoyed and profited from for many years. I try to read good literature (Ian McEwan, Penelope Fitzgerald, Gustave Flaubert) in an attempt to write better. My writing process is to 1) find a problem; 2) develop a plot around this problem; 3) carefully summarize chapters; and 4) write the book. The most surprising thing I've learned as a writer is that I am now able to view all life experiences with more detachment. I always find the last book I write to be my favorite, for I can easily recall the enjoyment I had while producing it."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Heising, Willetta L., Detecting Women 2, Purple Moon (Dearborn, MI), 1996.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, May 1, 1996, Alice Joyce, review of Death of a Garden Pest, p. 1491; February 15, 1998, Alice Joyce, review of Death of a Political Plant, p. 989; September 15, 2002, Carol Haggas, review of The Christmas Garden Affair: A Gardening Mystery, p. 211; Carol Haggas, review of Summer Garden Murder, p. 2003.

Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 1994, review of Mulch: A Gardening Mystery, p. 509; May 1, 1996, review of Death of a Garden Pest, p. 646; January 15, 1998, review of Death of a Political Plant, p. 86; September 1, 2003, review of Death at the Spring Plant Sale, p. 1104.

Library Journal, January, 1999, Rex E. Klett, review of The Garden Tour Affair, p. 163; October 1, 2002, Rex E. Klett, review of The Christmas Garden Affair, p. 132; October 1, 2003, Rex E. Klett, review of Death at the Spring Plant Sale, p. 121; July 1, 2005, Rex E. Klett, review of Summer Garden Murder, p. 58.

Publishers Weekly, May 23, 1994, review of Mulch, p. 81; May 20, 1996, review of Death of a Garden Pest, p. 243; February 23, 1998, review of Death of a Political Plant, p. 55; November 9, 1998, review of The Garden Tour Affair, p. 59.

ONLINE

Kensington Publishing Web site, http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/ (January 1, 2006), biography of Ann Ripley.

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