My rating: 4 of 5 stars
William Brodrick follows his brilliant debut novel, The 6th Lamentation, with another Father Anselm mystery, Gardens of the Dead. Before her untimely death, a former colleague of Anselm’s, Elizabeth Glendinning, QC, reopened a case on which they both had worked a decade before. Glendinning left some rather cryptic instructions, along with a key, asking Anselm to complete her work. The case involved that of one Graham Riley, a shady wheeler-dealer who had been accused of pimping but was released due to lack of compelling evidence. Why Elizabeth chose to saddle Anselm with a blind investigation, rather than simply leave an account of what she had now turned up is a perplexing question, but on that fulcrum the plot revolves. What follows is a mystery that is equally perplexing, with several memorable characters who are both more and less than what they seem. The most interesting of these is Riley’s wife, Nancy, who has more heart and humanity than virtually anyone else in the book except Anselm. That is not to say that she is unflawed, nothing of the sort. But as a writer, Brodrick is outstanding in his ability to populate his complex plots with fully realized, genuine characters with all-too-human virtues and faults. While Gardens lacks the intensity of Lamentation, it has a moral and spiritual dimensions all its own.