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The Child Garden

A long-lost friend is a stranger you think you know

Eden was its name. “An alternative school for happy children.”  But it closed in disgrace after a student’s suicide. Now it’s a care home, its grounds neglected and overgrown, and its only neighbour Gloria Harkness. Her son lives there, lighting up her life and breaking her heart each day.

When Gloria’s childhood friend turns up at her door, she doesn’t hesitate before asking him in. A girl from Eden is stalking him, has goaded him into meeting her at the site of the suicide.  Only when the dead begin to speak, it’s murder they say.

Gloria is in over her head before she can help it. Her loneliness, her loyalty and her all-consuming love for her son lead her into the heart of a dark secret that threatens everything she lives for. 

 

Book Club Questions

  1. The first question has to be would you have let Stig in? Have you ever experienced a similar (over)abundance of trust because you knew someone as a child?
  2. Do you agree with Gloria’s assessment of her life, at the start of the book, as lucky?
  3. What do you think about why Gloria’s marriage broke up? Did your opinion change in the course of reading the book?
  4. How do you think Stig and Gloria’s birth families contributed to how they grew up and what kind of adults they are?
  5. What role do you think Miss Drumm plays, in Gloria’s life and in the book?
  6. The legend of the rocking stone and the devil’s bridge is partly Scottish folklore and partly dreamed up for this book. What do you think of mixing facts and fictions in this way?
  7. I wrote The Child Garden as a love letter to my former home, after I moved to California.  Rough House is lifted whole from the Galloway farmhouse I lived in for ten years. What did you make of it?
  8. If you know Scotland, do you find it romanticised or realistically portrayed in The Child Garden? If you live elsewhere, does this book make you want to visit? What books have made you want to visit their setting?
  9. When you read crime fiction, do you try to solve the puzzle as you go along? If so, did you crack the whodunnit in The Child Garden? Does it affect your enjoyment of the book either way? (Follow-up question: I’m always fascinated by people who read the ending of a novel first. If you do this, can you say why?)
  10. I think The Child Garden has a happy ending. Do you agree? And do you think the book  has a moral, or a lesson?

"If you like your thrillers twisty and twisted, you'll love THE CHILD GARDEN"  ----- Val McDermid

"just the right mixture of spookiness and mystery" ---- James Oswald

"A gripping thriller" ----- Ian Rankin

"both utterly intriguing snd eerily disturbing" GUARDIAN

"a warm-hearted character study ... that shivers with suspense" NYT

"The Child Garden is the best work so far and coming so soon after her brilliant Come to Harm, that’s saying a lot." Globe and Mail.

"a terrific stand-alone that is complex, haunting, and magical"  -- LJ (starred review)

"a stunning combination of creepy thriller and classic mystery" -- Kirkus (starred review)

"An enchanting brew of mystery, poetry, legends, and dreams ... also an elaborate shell game that will keep readers guessing up until the very end." -- Hallie Ephron

"webs of intrigue so beautiful and intricate she puts spiders to shame ... This is a book you will absolutely devour." --William Kent Krueger

 

"Deeply resonant, utterly original, compelling and satisfying ... the work of a master -- of character, tone, setting, and plot -- writing at the thriller-most top of her form." -- John Lescroart

"A riveting, page-turning read; I did not want it to come to an end."   -- GM Malliet

"the tremulous miracle at the heart of this novel is its heroine, Gloria Harkness" -- Jenny Milchman

"smart, complex, even a little magical—and absolutely chilling." -- Lori Rader-Day

 "Catriona McPherson is a powerful force and major talent in crime fiction. And the last page?  I cried." -- Hank Phillippi Ryan