Monday, July 23, 2007

Mystery Book Review: The Gardens of the Dead by William Brodrick

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of The Gardens of the Dead by William Brodrick. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.The Gardens of the Dead by William Brodrick

The Gardens of the Dead by William Brodrick
A Father Anselm Mystery

Viking Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-670-03498-3 (0670034983)
ISBN-13: 978-0-670-03498-7 (9780670034987)
Publication Date: September 2006
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): When Elizabeth Glendinning, Q.C., dies of heart failure while making a desperate phone call to the police, her colleagues and family are devastated and mystified. What was she doing in east London at the time of her death, and what was she trying to tell the police in her last phone call? After her funeral, her son, Nicholas, Inspector Cartwright, the officer she was trying to call, and Father Anselm, Elizabeth’s former colleague, all receive packages about a case from years earlier: Regina v. Riley. The package also includes mysterious newspaper clippings about the accidental drowning of John Bradshaw, who just happens to be the son of the principal witness in the case. Why is Elizabeth still following the case? And what does she want the three people to do with the information she has sent them?

The germ of the story lies in events that occurred many years earlier when Anselm Duffy, Q.C., had won a rather difficult case by asking a question of the key witness: the question, right in every aspect for winning the case, turns out to have been fatally, critically, the wrong one. The acquitted man wreaks havoc in a number of lives and his net finally enmeshes those who had so cleverly defended him in court. Anselm Duffy's own life is changed radically as he becomes aware of the full repercussions of his performance in court. His inner voice won't let him rest, finally nudging him to abandon the silk for the robe. It is Father Anselm, whose story is patterned on circumstances in the author's own life, who asks the riveting questions in the novel: What is justice? What is innocence? And what, ultimately, is evil? As Father Anselm’s begins to make sense of Elizabeth’s directives from her grave, as it were, he discovers the complexity of truth and its lethal power.

Review: Barrister-turned-monk Father Anselm finds himself investigating a mystery that begins with the death of a former colleague in The Gardens of the Dead, the second book in this series by William Brodrick.

Following the sudden death by natural causes of Elizabeth Glendinning, a barrister he had once worked with years ago, Anselm receives a package from her. The package contains a cryptic letter, a key and some old newspaper clippings. She sent similar packages to her son, Nick, and to Inspector Cartwright, a friend from her court days. Elizabeth knew she was dying so she had prepared these packages to be sent after she was dead. Although the contents mean little or nothing to the recipients, they all agree that Elizabeth was trying to tell them something very important. Actually, Elizabeth was trying to right a terrible wrong that was committed in the murder trial of Graham Riley when she and Anselm were on the same sides of the legal table. They were Riley’s defense attorneys even though they both knew he was guilty. Through the cross-examination of a witness, George Bradshaw, Anselm suddenly won the case, and Riley was able to walk out of the courtroom a free man. Anselm couldn’t believe it. He didn’t understand what had happened. Only Elizabeth and Riley knew the answer.

Brodrick weaves the past and present lives of many other characters that are linked to Elizabeth and Anselm into the story. The Prior of the Monastery where Anselm lives offers strongly worded opinions. Elizabeth’s son, who knew nothing of her life, but is obligated to follow her instructions after her death. Her husband who did know her but kept quiet to protect their son. Graham Riley and his wife, Nancy, are an integral part of the mystery, as is witness George Bradshaw whose only son drowned years before. There's the mysterious Mrs. Dixon who seems to know everything, but won’t say anything. And then there's barrister Wyecliff, Riley's current counsel, who acts as though he knows nothing, but is he as ignorant as he seems? Each one has a crucial part in the mystery of why Elizabeth was so determined to right a wrong that was perpetrated years before.

The Gardens of the Dead is a such a compelling story, one that slowly but methodically reveals information about its characters as to who did what to whom and why, that it becomes a real page-turner until its surprising conclusion.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of for contributing her review of The Gardens of the Dead and to Viking for providing a copy of the book for this review.

Special thanks to Spotlight Publicity for providing an ARC of The Black Tea Experiments for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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Lance Wright owns and manages Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites, which had its origin as Hidden Staircase Mystery Books in 1986. As the scope of the business expanded, first into book reviews — Mysterious Reviews — and later into information for and reviews of mystery and suspense television and film, all sites were consolidated under the Omnimystery brand in 2006.

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