Friday Book Whimsy: The Girls in the Garden

The idea of living in a gated community where children run around freely, in and out of each other’s houses, sounds delightful. But perhaps this freedom doesn’t protect the children as much as one might think. After all, sometimes the danger is within the gates. The Girls in the Garden, by Lisa Jewell, gives us a taste of that kind of a life.

After Clare’s husband Chris burns down their house without knowing whether his wife and two daughters are inside (they weren’t), he is committed to a mental health facility. Clare and her daughters, 11-year-old Pip and 12-year-old Grace, move to just such a place. Things seem fine. The girls make friends. Clare learns to survive without her husband.

And then the night of Grace’s 13th birthday party, Pip finds her sister unconscious and near death, overdosed on sleeping pills. Until Grace awakens from her coma, no one knows how this travesty happened.

Readers are led down one path and then another. Just when you are certain you know who tried to kill Grace, that person becomes just another red herring.

Lisa Jewell is one of my favorite authors. I believe I have enjoyed every book of hers that I have read. While The Girls in the Garden was not necessarily my favorite of her’s, I think the author’s writing is exceptional, and was enough to make me enjoy the book.

And enough to want to put my arms around my grandkids and keep them close.

This one is a thumbs up.

Here is a link to the book.

Friday Book Whimsy: Big Sky

Way back in 2007, I first met Jackson Brodie in Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson. Formerly a police officer, Jackson was a private detective living in Edinburgh, trying to make a living working with insurance companies and helping people find missing animals. Brodie is a complex man who hasn’t had an easy life. He is divorced and struggles with a troubled past life.

Over the next few years, the author offered a three more Jackson Brodie novels, all of which I enjoyed very much. And then the books stopped coming. I missed the somewhat introspective and morose detective.

Finally, over 10 years later, Atkinson offered a new Jackson Brodie novel, Big Sky. It was worth the wait. Lots has changed for Brodie, but lots has stayed the same.

The detective has retired and moved to a small village near the sea. He spends most of his time with his teenaged son and a very old lab. He is separated from Julia, whom he met and with whom he fell in love in the first novel. They are still friendly, however. She is the mother of the teenager Nathan. Brodie was hired for a boring case involving a cheating spouse. From this seemingly boring case, he becomes involved in a sex trafficking scheme. Like her other books, Brodie meets people along the way who somehow end up being involved in the case, tying everything together.

The wait for an update on Jackson Brodie was worth it. The books offer some dark comedy and some low-key drama, but mostly some interesting perspectives on people and life from Brodie’s perspective.

The ending seemed a bit rushed and confusing. The stories were all wrapped up, but somewhat haphazardly. Still, it was a great read, and a pleasant reconnection with one of my favorite detectives.

By the way, Case Histories became a PBS series, and a very good one. If you can find it, watch it.

Here is a link to the book.