The Gardens of the Dead
Franciscan friar turned barrister writes this thorny mystery whose
central character is a barrister turned Benedictine monk.
Father Anselm handled a case a decade ago, back when he was still
at the bar, and now it comes back to haunt him. He wondered about
the outcome at the time, but a victory is a victory. Now, news of
the death of his co-counsel and dear friend, Elizabeth Glendinning,
is accompanied by a puzzling message. Before she died, she had
begun looking into their last case together. Apparently, what she
found disturbed her a great deal. There seems to be nothing
surrounding her death that would suggest foul play --- just a bad
heart. But an early demise of another person connected with the
case might figure into the picture. And Elizabeth left behind a
cryptic message: Leave it to Anselm.
Anselm would like nothing more than to understand her meaning. He
follows instructions left in a letter from her, blindly groping for
answers, but he needs more information.
The star witness against their client, the defendant Gilbert Riley,
fled the courtroom under questioning by Anselm. He not only walked
out of the courthouse, but also walked out of his private life,
running from a past he did not want to face. Elizabeth found him
living on the streets and enlisted his help in bringing Riley to
justice, a move that went against the code of ethics at the very
least, but one that she believed would put her mind at rest. If the
law couldn't take care of Riley, she figured she could.
Unfortunately, she died before she could complete her mission. Is
that what she meant by "Leave it to Anselm," or was it something
Anselm sets out to do what he can, hoping to fulfill Elizabeth's
last wish. He hears that the missing witness is now a street person
going by the name of Blind George. This news is not encouraging.
Besides, finding Blind George proves to be quite a challenge. Then
getting anything from him that is useful is an even larger
challenge, since he has been kicked senseless and has very little
left in the way of memory. But sometimes help comes from the oddest
places, and this is just such a time.
Pay close attention. The past sneaks in upon the present and
switches back again, which isn't surprising since the past is so
interwoven with the characters' lives in the here and now that the
two seem nearly inseparable. Just be sure to know what time it is
that you're reading about.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 22, 2011