Midnight Ink, 2015
Crime Fiction; 336 pgs
Catriona McPherson's The Child Garden has a bit of a Gothic feel to it, set in a small Scottish town steeped in history and charm. Gloria Harkness has always lived in the area and knows it well. Now she resides in the centuries old home of Miss Drumm, taking care of the place and Miss Drumm's dog and cats, and rocking the old stone in the garden for luck or to keep evil at bay, Gloria isn't sure. Both Miss Drumm and Gloria's teenage son live in a care home not too far away, a home that once was an alternative school for children that closed down after the death of one of its students several years before.
There is a darkness and foreboding throughout the novel, which heightens the intensity and heavy atmosphere in the book. From the pouring rain at night, a near accident, the overgrown woods and an unexpected visitor at her door, Gloria's simple, and yet complicated life is about to change in a way she cannot imagine.
Stig Tarrant is scared and unsure of what to do. A call from an old classmate has him racing in the direction of the old school he once attended for answers. When his path crosses Gloria's, the two old friends put their heads together only to find themselves deep in a web of deceit and possibly murder. Neither are eager to go the police for their own reasons, but Gloria is determined to get to the truth--not only for her sake, but for Stig's especially. And it might be fun to live as if she's in one of those books she loves to read so much while she's at it.
Neither Stig or Gloria are particularly young, which endeared the characters to me even more, being that I'm not much younger than they are. They are not particularly beautiful people either, at least not on the outside. I liked that about them too. Gloria nor Stig are perfect, each with their insecurities and selfish moments, each wanting to do the right thing just the same. Always first and foremost in Gloria's mind is her son, who is special needs. She wants most of all to protect him and keep him out of harm's way.
As the story unfolds, Gloria uncovers many different versions of the "truth" and must find a way to piece it all together. What is obvious is that there seems to be a connection between the alleged suicide of the boy all those years ago at the school and the fate of the other former students, including Stig and an unexpected person close to her. There were many twists in the story as more information came out, and I found myself suspecting a few different people as I read, some more than others.
I loved the attention given to the more supernatural stories Miss Drumm insisted were true--about the devil's bridge, the rocking stone, and the hallowed places. It gave the novel a sense of otherness, and yet the author does a good job of keeping the story grounded in reality. For those who do not like ghost stories, have no fear. This is not one of them.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Child Garden. I love the book references given Gloria's love for books. And I liked the overall feel of the novel, the characters for their depth and struggles, and the overall story, which was both entertaining and, well, disturbing.
Source: Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.
© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.