The Child Garden, by Catriona McPherson (2015)

Mystery
Adult
The Child GardenFunny how some authors just stay with you. It’s been well over two years since I first read a book by Catriona McPherson, As She Left It, but I haven’t forgotten her name nor her captivating writing style. So I was thrilled to see a new stand-alone title by this author, known for her Dandy Gilver cozy mystery series. Nor was I disappointed. McPherson has delivered an eerie, complex story with layered characterization and a knotty plotline wrapped in an appropriately spooky setting in Scotland, an hour or two south of Glasgow. Gloria Harkness lives a simple life – she is a devoted mother of a teenaged boy who is slowly succumbing to a degenerative condition that leaves him unable to walk or talk. She works a registrar for the local public records office, dutifully documenting weddings, births and deaths. It’s a job that permits her to see Nicky every evening in the care home, which Gloria funds by living rent-free, housesitting for another resident of the care home who can no longer stay in the drafty old farmhouse Glo calls home. Her ex-husband lives nearby but apparently feels little attachment to his ex-wife or his son, and Glo is beginning to realize what an absolute twit she married. When a childhood friend suddenly appears on her doorstep, Glo is drawn into a decades-old mystery on the site of Nicky’s care home. It was known as Eden then, an alternative boarding school that closed in its first year when a student inexplicably died, apparently a suicide. Her old friend Stig was a student at Eden, and he’s now hiding from the law, a suspect in another classmate’s death. Convinced of his innocence, Glo sets out to prove it, hunting down the 10 other suspects one by one and unravelling the truth of what happened at Eden nearly 30 years ago, in hopes of identifying exactly who is behind the most recent murder. I told you it was a complicated plot! Despite this, McPherson’s writing makes it an accessible, enjoyable mystery, with a touch of spookiness made even more so thanks to the damp, dark and chilly Scottish setting. This is a great choice for a fall or winter weekend by the fire.
More discussion and reviews of this novel: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24586135
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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