Prather’s Pick: A mystery in a London garden
“The Girls in the Garden” was written by Lisa Jewell, a “New York Times” bestselling author. She has written thirteen novels. This week’s novel was first published in Great Britain by Century in 2015. The paperback edition was published in the United States by Atria Paperback, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, in 2017. The author lives in London.
I really like the two-page map at the beginning of the book because the reader gets a visual of Virginal Park in London where the novel takes place. Apartment houses and an area of shops surround a large crescent-shaped park. Within the large park are three smaller parks; The Jungle, filled with lots of trees and other vegetation; the fenced Rose Garden; and the fenced Secret Garden. There’s also a playground and benches placed around everywhere.
The apartments open out into the park, and both kids and adults hang out there, often into the night. Sometimes the residents hold parties there in summer. Kids run free in the park and are in and out of houses. It seems like a safe place to raise kids—or is it?
The novel begins on July 5 at 9 p.m. It’s midsummer, and a neighborhood party is in full swing in the park. Young Pip Wild has taken her mother Clare home. Clare has had too much to drink and is feeling sick. After Pip gets her settled in for the night she goes back to the party to find her almost-thirteen-year-old sister Grace.
Nobody has seen Grace for hours. Finally Pip notices something sticking out from the hedge that surrounds the Rose Garden. It’s the foot belonging to Grace who is lying on the ground partially undressed and bloody. She’s unconscious.
Then the novel switches to “Before” and the plot flashes back two months or so when Clare, Grace, and Pip moved to the garden. It was after their house burned down. Pip’s dad Chris is schizophrenic, and over the years he has insisted that there were various situations threatening his family’s well being, such as a gas leak or, more recently, rats. The episodes have come and gone until the night he set the house on fire to get rid of the rats. Chris ended up in a psychiatric ward at a hospital. That’s where he is now.
So Clare and her girls have been getting acquainted with their neighbors who include the much-admired Howes family. The father, Leo, is handsome and charming; Adele homeschools her daughters and is an editor, and kids run in and out of their house with daughters Catkin, Fern, and Willow. Leo’s father Gordon (“Puppy”) comes to live with them because he has to have his foot amputated. He is considered a “pervert” by some of the neighbors.
Then there’s Cecelia and her daughter Tyler and Dylan and Fiona and an older, wise, resident named Rhea who has a Giant Flemish rabbit named Fergus.
Pip writes letters to her father which is a clever way for the author to let the reader know what she is thinking. As the plot progresses, Chris Wild is about to be released from the hospital The doctors insist that he is better, but Clare doesn’t want him back with them.
Who could have hurt Grace? It’s a mystery with plenty of possibilities. Readers will keep turning the pages of this novel.
“The Girls in the Garden” costs about $16. I bought my copy at City Market in Craig.