Where Romy grew up, if someone died you never spoke of them again.
Now twenty-two, she has recently escaped the toxic confines of the cult she was raised in. But Romy is young, pregnant and completely alone – and if she is to keep herself safe in this new world, she has some important lessons to learn.
Like how there are some people you can trust, and some you must fear. And about who her family really is, and why her mother ran away from them all those years ago.
And that you can’t walk away from a dark past without expecting it to catch up with you.
“None of us will be the same, by tomorrow, she thinks.”
Two police officers are called out to investigate an awful smell on a farm by a neighbour: a seemingly innocuous call that gives them no warning of the life-changing and terrible sight they’re about to discover: lifeless bodies piled one on top of each other, frozen in death as they tried to flee. All the adult members of the Ark, the cult that lived on the farm, are dead apart from Romy who was in the infirmary unable to walk, listening helplessly as her family died in agony.
This book had me hooked from it’s chilling first chapter and kept me guessing until the final page. The story unfolded in a way I didn’t expect, but I loved.The choice to have Romy and her Aunt Sarah narrate offered us very different perspectives on events happening in the book and the world in general. Through the use of flashbacks to their childhoods we learn that these very different women actually have a lot more in common than first meets the eye.
“How do you explain, to someone who didn’t live it?”
Romy was a baby when her teenage mother, Alison, joined the Ark. She’s known nothing else but their strange, isolated lifestyle that consisted of preparing for the Apocalypse and living off the land while following the teachings of their Father, Lucien. She’s been taught to fear the outside world and those who inhabit it, known to her as the Dead. She sees danger and disaster all around her and is too terrified to leave her flat unless absolutely necessary. We soon learn that Romy is hiding secrets bigger than her fear of life outside the Ark and that there might be more to her story than it first seemed. I really liked how her character was written, especially the fears that she’d been indoctrinated to have. A lot of these fears were of real things that can or have happened, it’s just she’s been taught to see them as a sign of the world’s doom and depravity instead of accidents or evil done by a small few. It highlights how a small change in perception can completely alter our world view and it was fascinating to see the way we live through the eyes of people that had grown up totally removed from our society.
This wasn’t the first time I’ve read a book by this author, but it is a number of years since I did, and I will certainly be catching up on any others I’ve missed. The writing in this novel is riveting, harrowing and heart-rending. The pace quickened as the story went on and had me on the edge of my seat, the revelations increasingly jarring as we approached the dramatic and chilling finale. The Poison Garden is a multilayered, twisty thriller full of secrets and interesting characters that will delight and surprise lovers of psychological thrillers and mysteries.
Thank you to NetGalley, Little, Brown Book Group UK and Alex Marwood for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Alex Marwood is a former journalist who worked extensively across the British press. Her first novel, The Wicked Girls, achieved widespread acclaim and international bestsellerdom. It was shortlisted for ITW, Anthony and Macavity awards, was included in Stephen King’s Ten Best Books of the Year list, and won the prestigious Edgar Award. The Killer Next Door, her second novel, won the coveted Macavity Award for Best Mystery Novel, was nominated for the Anthony and Barry. The Darkest Secret, the tale of the disappearance of young Coco, met with critical and reader acclaim. The Poison Garden will be released in 2019. She has also been shortlisted for numerous other crime writing awards and her first two novels have been optioned for the screen. Marwood lives in south London and is working on her next novel.