Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Child Garden by Catriona McPherson


First Line: 1985. It was far from silent in the dark wood.

Gloria Harkness has a responsible job, and she's found the perfect home: remote and close to her son, Nicky, so she can visit him every day. Her entire life revolves around the boy, but when a childhood friend shows up on her doorstep with a strange story about being stalked by a woman he went to school with years ago, she doesn't hesitate to help.

Gloria's nearest neighbor is the now-derelict school known as Eden. It wasn't open very long due to a child's suicide. Everyone connected with Eden seems to want to stay far away from it, and Gloria's friend is no exception. But the woman stalking him has persuaded him to meet her at the site of that long ago suicide, and Gloria is going to go with him. Within the blink of an eye, Gloria is in over her head, and everything-- and everyone-- she holds dear is in danger.

Having met the marvelous Catriona McPherson at 2016's Left Coast Crime, I was determined to give her books another try. I'd already read the first of her Dandy Gilver mysteries, but since I'm not a fan of Golden Age mysteries, After the Armistice Ball really wasn't my cup of tea. Anyway, back to the drawing board I went, and I discovered that McPherson has written several standalone suspense novels, and I chose The Child Garden. I'm glad I did. 

The character of Gloria Harkness almost immediately wrapped itself around my heart. Her young son Nicky is severely disabled, yet everything in Gloria's world revolves around him. If something goes wrong, her first thought is of how it will affect her son. She's chosen a job that will allow her to be with him everyday. She's found affordable housing close by. It would be almost impossible for me to remain completely unmoved by a woman who is so loving, so loyal... and so alone.

McPherson weaves a palpable feeling of dread into this story. A feeling of isolation... of someone who has gone to ground and wants only to be safe and left alone. The second Gloria agrees to help her friend, everything begins to go wrong. She's just got that kind of luck, and McPherson's swift and sure pacing guides us through a downright diabolical plot. When the killer was revealed, I just shook my head. Of course! Now... why didn't I see that?

Sometimes it can be very wise not to give up on an author. Even though I didn't enjoy her historical series featuring Dandy Gilver, I could tell that they were well-written and fit into that Golden Age style beautifully. (In other words, I could see the woman has talent.) When I learned that she writes novels in the modern, psychological suspense vein, I remembered that talent, and gave The Child Garden a try. This is when I struck pay dirt. I'm definitely reading more of her non-series work!
    

The Child Garden by Catriona McPherson
eISBN: 9780738747095
Midnight Ink © 2015
eBook, 290 pages

Suspense, Standalone
Rating: A
Source: Purchased from Amazon. 


 

9 comments:

  1. I'm really glad you enjoyed this one, Cathy. I've read some of her Dandy Gilver stories and liked them, but I'm not familiar with her other work. Looks like I have some good reading in store.

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    1. Yes, you do. I have the added bonus now of being able to read her books and hear her narrating them in my head. I love her accent!

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  2. I'm so glad to hear someone else didn't care for Dandy Gilver, I thought maybe something was wrong with me! I enjoyed her stand alone a though, immensely. Haven't read this one though.

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    1. I don't think there's anything wrong with you, Peggy Ann, but if there is, at least you're not alone!

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  3. I love Golden Age mysteries so I'm looking forward to reading McPherson's Dandy Gilver series. It's been in my sights for some time.
    I'm not a real fan of suspense novels but I might give The Child Garden a try. Gloria seems worth it. ;-)

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  4. Hmmm. Suspense. I don't know if it's my genre. I have mixed feelings about it.
    I read Fiona Barton's The Widow and thought it was quite a book, especially as a debut novel. I couldn't put it down and thought about the topic for weeks, and friends had to hear about it. Trying to think through how "the widow" lived for years with suspicions, yet in denial, thinking of news stories of real women in this situation, is quite mind-altering.
    But I practically had to stay overnight at a neighbor's and curl up with her dog, and the eeriness of the book stayed with me all week.

    So, I ask will this book cause me to want to curl up with the neighbor's dog and the lights on? (although if a book is well-written, it's tempting anyway.

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    1. It's really hard to advise you because neither of these books bothered me. But with the isolation and all, I'd say there's a possibility of needing that dog for a scene or two.

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  5. OK, good advice.

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