I've had this book sitting in my Kindle for a really long time and decided to read it last month. I wasn't too sure of what to expect though the plot summary did sound very intriguing. 

It took me a little while to get through but it was a decent read. Back to the Garden had a mix of everything from family issues, romance, murders, detective mysteries and a little bit of cultish behavior. 

It was extremely well written and developed, and I enjoyed reading from the perspective of all the characters. 

Publisher's Summary

A magnificent house, vast formal gardens, a golden family that shaped California, and a colorful past filled with now-famous artists: the Gardener Estate was a twentieth-century Eden.

And now, just as the Estate is preparing to move into a new future, restoration work on some of its art digs up a grim relic of the home’s past: a human skull, hidden away for decades.

Inspector Raquel Laing has her work cut out for her. Fifty years ago, the Estate’s young heir, Rob Gardener, turned his palatial home into a counterculture commune of peace, love, and equality. But that was also a time when serial killers preyed on innocents—monsters like The Highwayman, whose case has just surged back into the public eye.

Could the skull belong to one of his victims?

To Raquel—a woman who knows all about colorful pasts—the bones clearly seem linked to The Highwayman. But as she dives into the Estate’s archives to look for signs of his presence, what she unearths begins to take on a dark reality all of its own.

Everything she finds keeps bringing her back to Rob Gardener himself. While he might be a gray-haired recluse now, back then he was a troubled young Vietnam vet whose girlfriend vanished after a midsummer festival at the Estate.

But a lot of people seem to have disappeared from the Gardener Estate that summer when the commune mysteriously fell apart: a young woman, her child, and Rob’s brother, Fort.

The pressure is on, and Raquel needs to solve this case—before The Highwayman slips away, or another Gardener vanishes.

My Thoughts

This book had multiple POVs that alternated between present and past. There were multiple plot points happening and they were all equally intriguing. 

I loved how there were two mysteries: who was the person buried beneath the statue and what was the deal with the serial killer in the hospital. Were the two connected? What was the motive? There were a ton of unanswered questions at the start of the book and I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what happened.

I also really love when the backdrop of a mystery is a mansion and large estate of land - it makes it that much more enticing and intriguing. The house almost becomes another character in the story.

The book was a bit confusing at first, with the different Gardener men and the entire backstory of the family but once you get your bearings, the story flows a bit more. The back and forth of the past, present and different POVs also threw you off but like with the characters, once things settle down you can follow the story more.

The writing was really wonderful - it required you to read between the lines a little bit which added a layer of depth and intrigue while also pumping up the mystery. 

As the story continues and you start reading everything through Raquel's eyes, the plot starts to form and your questions have more questions. It isn't until the very end that the real truth about everyone - the Gardener estate and the Highwayman, come to light. It wasn't what you expected, though I had a bit of an inkling of how the story was going to end up.

It was very exciting, very intriguing and interesting, and kept you on the edge of your seat, even when things were a little slow at times.

If you're not a fan of traditional thrillers, I think you would like this. It has a bit of everything and makes for a great story.


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