The Gardens of the Dead by William Brodrick: Book Review

The Gardens Of The Dead

The Gardens of the Dead by William Brodrick is his second novel. Although this book is a page turner I felt it was rather disjointed in parts. I had to backtrack a few times to make sure I was following the plot and the timeline is occasionally confusing. But on the whole I thought the book was pretty good.

Elizabeth Glendenning QC dies of a weak heart at the start of the book. Ten years earlier she had successfully defended a guilty man, Graham Riley. Just before her death she devised a scheme to bring Graham Riley back to court and to implement this scheme she had enlisted the help of Father Anselm, the barrister turned monk and her son Nick. She left a safety deposit box key with Father Anselm along with instructions that he should open it in the event of her death. Once he does this a sequence of events is triggered as Father Anselm and Nick follow the trail laid out by Elizabeth.

Part of me, the cynical part, wondered why she did this – it would have been much simpler to simply leave a written account rather than set what turns out to be a puzzle to be solved. But another part of me enjoyed seeing the mystery unfold. There are several surprising and some not so surprising elements to this story of good and evil, of revenge, family loyalties, justice and morality.

I liked the character of Anselm. He is kind and patient, well versed in analysing information and questioning people from his work at the Bar and also a good listener. My favourite character though is Father Andrew, the Prior, who was fond of a saying from a Desert Father:

Don’t use wise words falsely.

So he didn’t talk much and was always cautious when he spoke, but throughout the book he has several conversations with Anselm which are always perceptive and wise.

I borrowed this book from the library and at the time I thought the author’s name was familiar to me but couldn’t remember reading anything by him or reading any reviews of his books. Later I realised that I have the first novel he wrote The Sixth Lamentation, languishing somewhere in my to-be-read piles. Now I really must dig it out to read more about Anselm.

Library Loot


I borrowed just three books this week from the library.coastliners For more Library Loot click on the button above.

  • Coastliners by Joanne Harris:  a novel about a hardy island community fighting the encroaching seas. A young woman returns to her home island off the Atlantic coast and tries to stop the decline of her father’s fishing village. I borrowed this book because I loved Chocolat and Gentlemen and Players.


  • The Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie. This is a collection of short stories. A thirteen-problemsgroup of friends, including Miss Marple meet on a Tuesday night and tell sinister stories of unsolved crimes. I’m taking part in the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge and this week this was the only book in the library by AC. I’ve started reading it and am finding it a bit simplistic. So far it’s been Miss Marple much to the surprise of the others (but not to me) who comes up with the solution.


  • The Gardens of the Dead by William Brodrick: When Elizabeth Glendinning QC dies of gardens-of-the-deada sudden heart attack 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 Inspector Cartwright in her last phone call? I’ve never read anything by William Brodrick, so this is new territory. The quotes on the back cover are promising eg: “Worthy of Le Carre at his best”  from Allan Massie writing in the Scotsman.