A California estate, great art and a dead body

Back to the Garden by Laurie R King is a modern day detective story which has roots in the past. The Gardener Estate is a large property in California which was inherited by Robert Gardener in the 1970s, run as a hippy commune and is now an art space open to the public. When repairs are made within the grounds the remains of a body are found which has obviously been there since the 1970s – it can be dated because it is underneath a large art piece that was installed at that time. Detective Raquel Laing has to find out what happened and who the murderer was but she cannot rule out the possibility that this case is related to the activities of a notorious serial killer who has never been found.

This is a well put together crime novel with a clever plot. The detectives have to explore the past and they do this by talking to a number of people who have at one time or another lived at the estate. As they investigate they find that other people also fell out of sight in the 1970s and there is a possibility that there may be more bodies to be found. Some of the story is told in flashbacks which means that the author doesn’t have to dump a lot of background on the reader but can show you what happened in the story, which I found worked well.

I am a great fan of the stories of Laurie R King. You can read some of my reviews of her books here, here, here and here. This latest book (it was only published this year) is as good as any of them. I find that this author writes intelligent fiction, her depictions of crimes are not too gory and her main characters are people who have flaws as well as strength.

This book introduces a new female detective and isn’t part of any of this author’s previous series but it does reuse a character from some previous books, although that isn’t an issue if you haven’t read her other novels. Raquel Laing has a walking impairment due to an accident and the author is consistent in remembering the limitations to her activity that would cause without making it a huge part of the story. The characters are very human and the twists in the plot are believable with a satisfying ending that ties up any loose ends.

An excellent and entertaining read.

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