EXCERPT: She pushed the door open, Fitz was standing in the middle of the shed, her face as pale as milk and her fingers at her mouth. A smear of lipstick trailed across one cheek. She appeared to be standing in a nest of gardening tools – hoes, rakes and loppers meshed around her ankles. Her eyes were fixed on the floor: on a wire basket filled with smaller tools. Ali picked up a fallen rake that blocked her way, propped it against the wall. As she turned back she noticed a large mushroom or egg nestled among the tools in the basket. She wanted to go to Fitz, to free her from the tangle of handles – but she couldn’t make sense of this thing. She stepped closer, wondering at the fuzzy halo around the edge of the egg.
Downy hair on a head.
ABOUT ‘THE ROSARY GARDEN’: It was Ali who found the body of a murdered newborn baby, hidden in the garden of her convent school. In an Ireland riven by battles of religion and reproduction, the case becomes a media sensation, even as the church tries to suppress it. But this is not the first dead baby Ali has found.
For Detectives Vincent Swan and Gina Considine, the pressure to discover the identity of the dead child is little help against a community with secrets to protect. Gina knows all too well how many of Ireland’s girls are forced to make difficult decisions in terrible circumstances, silenced by shame. Is Ali one of those girls? Because what evidence there is, points to Ali herself…
MY THOUGHTS: I liked but did not love The Rosary Garden by Nicola White. This is a new revised edition and prequel to ‘A Famished Heart’ which I have not read. This book was previously published as ‘In the Rosary Garden, Vincent Swan #1).
Set in Ireland in the mid-eighties, this is the story of Ali, who has just graduated school and is awaiting her leaving results. She is next on the scene after her friend Fitz finds the body of a baby in a garden shed. But this is not the first baby’s body that Ali has encountered, which is suspicious for a start. Is Ali an innocent caught in the crossfire of other people’s desperate acts, or is she more deeply involved?
This mystery is set before the time of the internet, mobile phones and DNA testing. The police (Gaarda) have to rely on investigative footwork for their results. This is an Ireland of no contraception, abortion is illegal and even sex education in schools is sketchy at the best. Girls ‘in the family way’ are bundled off to relatives in the country or homes for unwed mothers, while the men involved escape relatively unscathed. It is not uncommon for unwanted babies to wind up in slurry pits, or buried in gardens.
Despite the numerous twists and red herrings, the mystery failed to fully engage me. The cast of suspects is relatively small, with the same faces appearing again and again, which is in no way a criticism, but I felt little in the way of suspense or apprehension.
This is a family that has many skeletons in the closet, and one or two under the bed. Secrets are kept and perpetuated, with drastic measures taken to ensure that they are never revealed.
I wish I could have liked this more. I was excited by the beginning, by the premise, but as the book progressed, my interest steadied and settled. This is a better than average read, but not a memorable one.
#historicalfiction #familydrama #mystery #irishfiction
THE AUTHOR: Nicola White grew up in Ireland and New York and graduated from Trinity College, Dublin. She lived in London and Belfast before moving to Glasgow to work as a contemporary art curator, moving on to produce arts documentaries for BBC radio and television.
Nicola currently splits her time between Glasgow and the Highlands, which means she lives mostly on the A9.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Serpent’s Tail /Profile Books, Viper for providing a digital ARC of The Rosary Garden by Nicola White for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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