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by William Brodrick
Little, Brown, March 2006
352 pages
ISBN: 0316724661

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

William Brodrick's first novel, THE SIXTH LAMENTATION, was a surprise bestseller. It introduced the protagonist of Father Anselm, a barrister who gave up law to enter the priesthood. He returns here, this time involved in a case that comes out of his own past.

Elisabeth Glendinning QC loses faith in the law and devises an intricate scheme to bring a man to justice, a man who she successfully defended ten years ago. She leaves a trail of instructions for Anselm to carry out if she should die. Three weeks later, she is found dead and Anselm struggles to carry out her wishes.

Describing Brodrick's plot as intricate fails to do it justice. The book is incredibly complicated and at times, unnecessarily so. Obviously, Anselm's great effort to put together the pieces is essential to the novel, but at times, it feels as though the book is being extended for no real reason. There are points when it starts to drag and the reader longs for Anselm to get on with it and bring the story to its conclusion.

THE GARDENS OF THE DEAD switches viewpoint often. We hear from Anselm, Elisabeth and Elisabeth's son, to name but a few. This gives us varying insights into the characters and their minds. The novel also switches from past to present regularly, setting out the framework of the story.

Sometimes, the fact that the reader is made to wait for key information can be irritating, rather than heightening the suspense. At its heart, THE GARDENS OF THE DEAD is a study of characters and the way in which people think. Brodrick uses Christian imagery and symbolism and this serves to make the novel deeply layered.

Due to its complexity, THE GARDENS OF THE DEAD will not suit everyone. A great deal of the story is told through dialogue, with various discussions about key issues, including religion. A thoughtful novel, well written and interesting, THE GARDENS OF THE DEAD is recommended for those looking for a more cerebral mystery.

Reviewed by Luke Croll, April 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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