“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…”
Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Rosary Garden by Nicola White. The Rosary Garden was published by Viper Books on Thursday 21st January 2021 and is available in paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Rosary Garden. My grateful thanks to Viper Books for sending me an early copy of the book.
Nicola White first came to my attention when the first book in her Vincent Swan series – A Famished Heart – was chosen as a #R3COMM3ND3D2020 pick by author Rachel Sargeant. I said then how much that first book appealed to me. So when the opportunity to read this second Vincent Swan Mystery – set in Ireland in the 1980s – arose, I grabbed it with both hands.
Teenage Ali and her friend, Fitz, make a shocking discovery in the garden shed at their convent school. The body of a newborn baby. Detective Vincent Swan of the Murder Squad is called to investigate the grisly scene but because of Ireland’s turbulent history between religion and a woman’s rights, the case becomes an instant media storm. Particularly when it’s discovered that this isn’t the first dead baby Ali has discovered. The nuns are quick to absolve themselves of any blame. Swan struggles to find a link between his suspects and the child. Nothing seems to make any sense and the investigation falters. But someone is hiding a very dark secret. Someone knows what happened to the baby…
The Rosary Garden is a dark, beautifully written, emotional story which kept me turning the pages. It works perfectly well as a standalone. I haven’t read the first book in the series but I didn’t feel I was missing out. I will be rectifying that though and reading A Famished Heart as soon as I can. The author has skilfully managed to bring her reader into the lives of these characters to the point where they felt so very real to me. I watched as Vincent Swan struggled to find a link to the baby, as Ali was caught up in the media frenzy, wrung out by the press who claimed their pound of flesh and then left on her own to pick up the pieces. The way Ali was treated at times was appalling but sadly I feel this is how life was for young women in Ireland (and elsewhere) in the 1980s.
The subject matter isn’t something everyone is going to be comfortable with. The heart-breaking scenes the author paints are made to make the reader think about life for a young unmarried woman in Ireland in the 1980s and she does it with aplomb. If you’re looking for a book to make you feel something, The Rosary Garden is definitely it. The mystery aspect of the book flows steadily from the very beginning and I instantly liked Detective Vincent Swan, who is having his own issues at home, as well as investigating a very emotional and prominent case. The story builds gradually layer by layer and I was on the edge of my seat as the story edged ever closer to the end. And what an ending! It was a perfect fit and very satisfying.
Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Rosary Garden is a very compelling and beautifully written heart-felt mystery which I devoured quicker than most other reads of late. There was something quite addictive about the characters and their story. You’re never really quite sure who to trust and I really enjoyed that. I would happily pick up another book by this author and I look forward to reading A Famished Heart soon. Recommended.
I chose to read and review an ARC of The Rosary Garden. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.
The Rosary Garden by Nicola White was published in the UK by Viper Books on 21st January 2021 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Bookshop.org | damppebbles Bookshop.org Shop |
Nicola White won the Scottish Book Trust New Writer Award in 2008 and in 2012 was Leverhulme Writer in Residence at Edinburgh University. The Rosary Garden won the Dundee International Book Prize, was shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize, and selected as one of the four best debuts by Val McDermid at Harrogate. She grew up in Dublin and New York, and now lives in the Scottish Highlands.