Better Gnomes & Gardens by Casey Cardel offers an immersive reading experience for fans of cozy mysteries and tales with strong supernatural hints. The place is called Mysty Haven, and it is filled with mysteries. Bob McLarney has just earned his degree in journalism and landed a job as a reporter for Mysty Haven Weekender. But when he — the self-styled best investigative reporter in Mysty Haven — sends his first article “Bigfoot Sightings Confirmed in Las Vegas” to the printer, he is fired. Wanting to help an elderly man find a missing gnome, Bob eventually becomes the center of a controversy, believed to be a thief by the Sheriff, but he keeps up the search to unravel the mystery behind the missing gnome. His adventure leads to the startling discovery of the secrets of Mysty Haven and its seemingly innocent locals.
This novel is a tale for readers who enjoy cozy mysteries and fantasy. The author has crafted a spellbinding story with a wonderful setting, giving readers a unique sense of place and creating characters they can readily relate to. Mysty Haven comes across in the narrative as a character in its own right. Cardel’s use of the first-person narrative voice lends an intimate feel to the story, allowing readers a stronger connection with the protagonist. Bob is a character who thinks he is the best and it is hilarious to follow his escapades; at times, he is full of himself and that makes him genuinely flawed and believable, but underneath the haughtiness that greets readers when they meet this character lies an affectionate heart and a deep longing for truth. Casey Cardel is a great storyteller who succeeds to keep readers turning the pages. In addition to creating a beguiling setting, the author invents a world that readers find irresistible; the quirkiness in most characters had me utterly riveted. The gorgeous prose with timely paragraph breaks creates an enjoyable reading experience. Some of the descriptions are terrific. One good example is how Bob describes Maddie who: “…wasn’t bad on the eyes, either. She had just the right looks for a woman to make a man want to howl at the moon on a lonely night. Those deep brown eyes behind her luscious black eyelashes conveyed a sense of mystery.” Casey Cardel's clever plotting impresses with the fine-drawn organic feel of well-crafted clues that are designed to emerge as pertinent much later. Better Gnomes & Gardens kept me up the whole night; it’s a tale that balances humor with the right dose of magical realism.