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July 19, 2023

Back to the Garden by Laurie R. King ~ a Review

by Donna Huber

A body is found under a toppled statue on the Gardener Estate. Presumably, the body was buried there 50 years ago when the statue was erected for Midsummer's Eve and may be connected to a serial killer cold case. Roquel Laing is a San Francisco Police Department investigator who is known for her profiling and behavioral analysis skills. While on modified duty following a knee injury, she is assigned to the Cold Case Unit and begins working with an unofficial group of police detectives trying to solve the "Highwayman" murders. With the discovery of a new body and the prime suspect in the murders dying, Roquel must work quickly to determine if this body is one of his 19 victims.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of mystery novel Back to the Garden by Laurie R King
September 2022; Bantam; 978-0593496565
audio, ebook, print (336 pages); mystery

The ebook and hardback editions of Back the Garden by Laurie R. King came out last fall, but it is now available in paperback. If this book became buried on your to-read list or you prefer to read paperbacks, now is the time to pick it up.

I found the plot a little slow to get into, but as we learn more about the commune in the 1970s and the serial killer investigation of present day the more enthralled I became in the story.

The story is told in alternating timelines - then (the 1970s) and now (present day). 

In the 1970s, the Gardener Estate was in private ownership and a stipulation of the inheritance was that the grandson had to live on the estate for 5 years. Rob, a Vietnam vet, had joined a commune in Oregon by the time his grandfather died. The group decided to relocate the commune to the estate with the understanding that after the 5 year period, the estate would become the property of the commune. Yet, just a few months short of the 5 year mark the commune began unraveling and it all started with the festival on Midsummer's Eve. 

Now, a foundation runs the estate as a public garden. Rob and his cousin David still serve on the board but don't have much to do with the day-to-day operations. Rob lives a mostly secluded life in a cabin in a wooded section of the estate.

While this does not read like a romantic suspense there are some subtle romantic vibes between Raquel and the estate manager Jen. The book is much more about the mystery though.

Raquel is an interesting character. Right now Back to the Garden is a stand-alone novel. Yet, there is plenty more that can be explored with character as I felt we barely scratched the surface as to who she is. 

This is the first book by Laurie King I've read. I was initially drawn to the novel because I've read a few books about gardens and enjoyed them. The garden didn't feature as heavily as I had hoped - it was more of a setting than a piece of the plot. Yet, the mystery of the body was intriguing enough to keep me reading.

Buy Back to the Garden at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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