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Death in the Garden

3.65  ·  Rating Details ·  519 Ratings  ·  118 Reviews
In 1925, Diana Pollexfen was found innocent of killing her husband, but the accusation shadowed the rest of her life. Sixty years later, Diana's grandniece resolves to determine just who did kill George Pollexfen in that sunlit garden between the wars. First U.S. edition.
Paperback, 294 pages
Published October 1st 2005 by Felony & Mayhem (first published 1995)
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Dec 14, 2014 Sue rated it really liked it
This is a very British story both in the tangled web of the past history of "the Great Aunt" and in the modern tales of the current domestic lives of Helena and her various cousins, lover, her work and relative distance from others. Everything is quite proper---except when it oh so definitely isn't.

The story exists in two times, the early 1920s, just after the war when the wounds are still very fresh, and the beginning of the current new millennium. In the first, the setting is a gathering spent
Kim Skidmore
Apr 05, 2008 Kim Skidmore rated it really liked it
A wonderful British mystery novel with a surprising twist at the end. And yet it is so much more.
It is a murder mystery with a little bit of history and just a hint of the supernatural. Underlying it all is an exploration of the intricacies of human relationships over the course of a life time and between intersecting generations. Did you ever take the time to wonder what your mother, grandmother, great aunt was like before she was cast in the role of mother, grandmother, great aunt?
I loved this book! It's a bit slow to read, it really requires your attention, but there is so much going on it is very rewarding. All at once it is a traditional English country-house mystery, a glimpse of the modern years during and just following WWI, and a look at changing women and women's roles in this century. It's a complete portrait of an event that took place in 1925, seen in its historical context and through the eyes of the second generation to follow. Each piece of the puzzle unfold ...more
Matthew Gatheringwater
Nov 06, 2008 Matthew Gatheringwater rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
I enjoyed the way Ironside presents the reader with multiple points of view, through interviews of characters, journal entries, letters, and even a description of a short story written by one of the suspects. She doesn't do it with absolute strictness--an interview with a character isn't merely transcribed, we are also aware of what the character is thinking but does not say--but these shortcuts prevent what might otherwise be tedious reading.

Having the facts presented so neatly meant that I had
Sep 02, 2008 Gail rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2008
"In 1925 beautiful, bohemian Diana Pollexfen was celebrating her 30th birthday with a party at a country estate, but the celebrations soured when her husband died, poisoned by a cocktail that had been liberally laced with some of Diana's photographic chemicals. Sixty years later, Diana's grand-niece, Helena, is also turning 30, but with rather less fanfare. An overworked attorney in London, Helena's primary social outlet is an obsessive love affair. By way of distraction, Helena starts looking t ...more
Jan 31, 2016 Gail rated it it was amazing
I read this based on a friend's, Carrie Haner, recommendation. In her review, she called it satisfying. I concur! Satisfying is the perfect word for this mystery.
Jan 06, 2009 Ann-Marie rated it really liked it
An absorbing English country-house mystery. It reminded a bit of Josephine Tey’s Daughter of Time in that there is a main modern-day character who is delving into an unsolved murder from the past. I don’t think it was as good, though. There were some odd things about it, including some odd “skips” in time or sequence—a character sits down to eat and in the next sentence (same paragraph) she’s reading old diaries. At first one thinks she’s reading the old diaries while she’s eating, but then you ...more
Toni Moore
Dec 05, 2015 Toni Moore rated it really liked it
"Death in the Garden," by Elizabeth Ironside

“For that glance took in everything. Pia realised with what terrifying speed the eye sees everything, relevant and irrelevant, and understands everything, before the body can act or the voice cry out. The roses arching on the pergola were of the thick ruffled kind, of the very palest pink. There was a breeze, for they moved faintly. The stone was patched with crinkled lichen which sprouted a stiff, reddish fuzz.

George's suit, the same as yesterday, was
Clarice Stasz
Oct 20, 2015 Clarice Stasz rated it it was amazing
I've read two other Ironside mysteries and this is my favorite.
One of the best opening lines ever: "Today at half-past two in the afternoon I was acquitted of the murder of my husband."

I appreciate her effortless, elegant prose and her willingness to try a break in the narrative. The murder is a classic death-in-the-manor event during a house party with a variety of eccentric guests. There's a Cambridge physicist, a parent-battered spinster, a strange Frenchman resembling Toulouse Latrec, and m
Aug 16, 2008 Deb rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Cyanne
The author was channeling Virginia Woolf as she unfolded this tale of death, friendship, war, justice and self-deception. Although she channeled the solution to the sixty-seven-year-old mystery about 2/3s of the way through, the parallels between Diana's life and that of her great niece were nicely drawn and the ending was realistic even if a little deflating. I enjoyed this "murder mystery" more than most of the fiction I have read this year.
Susan Oleksiw
Jul 24, 2016 Susan Oleksiw rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mysteries
Elizabeth Ironside writes mystery novels that feel traditional at the outset, but become something different as the story advances. There is indeed a mystery, and it's a good one, but there is also backstory and mystery about the characters and their lives.

A prominent political figure, George Pollenfex, is found poisoned in his wife's photography studio during a weekend party when she has invited several friends to visit. George isn't fond of his wife's friends, who tend to be artists, but he to
Jul 07, 2008 Janemarple rated it it was amazing
The niece looks to find out why her Aunt never told her about her previous life where she was accused of murder. Finding out the many layers of her Aunt's life, she sets out to find the real murder and manages to do this even though it is almost 60 years later.

There is interesting switches between the past and present in the story, but it does not take away from the flow.
Apr 02, 2014 Lulu rated it really liked it
This was nothing of the sort of your typical Agatha Christie type English mystery. This was an intelligent story about an unconventional heiress who delves into the history of her legacy to try to determine who committed murder in her garden. Sixty years ago, in the 1920's, an unsolved murder occurred, of which her great aunt was acquitted. Upon the great aunt's death, our central character inherits her manor house, and discovers this, until now, unknown history of her aunt. An unmentioned marri ...more
Sep 21, 2016 Lucy rated it really liked it
"If I had ever given you advice, Ananda, the one thing I would have said is: don't speak. Understand; say nothing. Words are weapons; they wound; they can never be taken back and, even when they heal, they leave a scar. Understanding evolves silently" (203).

"She was remembering the war. We shall remember them. In every village of France in the square in front of the church or the mairie was an ugly little cross remembering them, listing the children who died for France, Henri Rey, Joseph Lator,
Jan 06, 2009 Kathryn rated it really liked it
Shelves: mysteries
An English country house mystery of sorts in which the murder is investigated years later by the great-niece of the alleged murderer (who was acquitted). Interesting cast of characters particularly from the time of the murder. The ending was a little pat but overall well handled. 3 1/2-4 stars.
Jan 23, 2009 Brigid rated it it was amazing
This kept me reading, a great then and now book with believable characters. The "now" characters are trying to understand all the posthumous things they find out about "great aunt", and of course the reader is treated to first hand accounts of great aunt's life 65 years before.
Gabi Coatsworth
May 18, 2014 Gabi Coatsworth rated it really liked it
This has been on my list for ages. I finally found a copy and I can see why it was so well reviewed. it's not simply a whodunnit but also an interesting character study of the two main protagonists, one a modern-day lawyer and the other her great-aunt. The historical setting in which the murder takes places is well drawn, the modern period less so, although it could be said, I suppose that we are more familiar with Britain today. The characters were convincing (apart from some of their names) an ...more
Nancy Seaman
Jun 11, 2014 Nancy Seaman rated it it was amazing
Not a page turner and slow to start, but I found myself drawn into it as an interesting puzzle. Our heroine is trying to understand what happened to her great-aunt 30 years earlier. Maybe I like the idea that the young people discover that the old, boring people had interesting prior lives before they became old, boring people. Her aunt was charged with the murder of her husband and found not guilty. But then no one was ever convicted of the murder. The clues are there to see. Interesting people ...more
Dec 09, 2009 Sandie rated it it was ok
Elizabeth Ironside populates her DEATH IN THE GARDEN with memorable and complex characters, all of whom have needs, desires conflicts, and secrets. Her delivery of information about these characters is akin to watching a languid, methodical strip-tease in which the observer is tantalized as each layer is slowly removed to reveal yet another layer before the subject is, so to speak, finally laid bare. So it goes with this story as each layer of the puzzle is peeled away.

Cleverly navigating betwee
Jul 30, 2011 John rated it really liked it
The story begins in 1925 when friends gather to spend a weekend celebrating Diana Pollexfen’s 30th birthday in the English countryside. Before the weekend is over, Diana’s husband, George, a member of the British Parliament, is found dead in the garden (hence the book’s title), apparently poisoned by chemicals from his wife’s photography studio that were mixed in his whiskey. Diana is tried for murder and is acquitted by a jury of her peers.

Fast forward 60 years later, and Diana’s own death coin
Carolyn Hill
May 20, 2011 Carolyn Hill rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Hilda Haithcock
This seemed a very different style of murder mystery to me, but then I don't read much in the genre. At the outset, it seems to be a set piece -- an English country house murder mystery of the mid-20's -- but it is so much more. It begins with one of the best opening lines I can remember, "Today at half-past two in the afternoon I was acquitted of the murder of my husband." The story centers around Diana Pollexfen, the dispassionate and enigmatic wife of the murder victim George Pollexfen. She i ...more
May 13, 2008 planetkimi rated it liked it
Recommended to planetkimi by: Teresa
Shelves: fiction, mystery
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 05, 2011 Bev rated it really liked it
Death in the Garden by Elizabeth Ironside is unlike any mystery novel I've read. It's a mystery. It's a historical novel. It's a lesson in research (both of the time period and by characters within the novel). It's a fine character study. It is a lesson in betrayals and secrets and what men and women will do to hide them. It's an example of how little people who think they are close really know about one another. And, above all, it's brilliantly written--employing flashbacks, diary entries, lett ...more
Jun 28, 2009 Colleen rated it liked it
An entertaining mystery. I liked the plot although it was hard to follow at times. And I guessed the ending about halfway through the book. The parallel stories of Diana Pollexfen and her great-niece, Helena, was set up in a clever way. Both are women who are devoted to their careers and whose personal lives support those careers, despite Diana living in the 1920s and Helena in the 1990s. Diana marries for money so her husband can support her photography career. What she didn't plan on was her h ...more
Feb 13, 2014 Jane rated it really liked it
Very interesting twist on the traditional British country house mystery. In this one the detectives are family members researching the murder accusations (that they just found out about)against a recently deceased aunt almost half a century after the incident. Their sources are diaries, letters, news reports of the time and interviews with the last surviving guest at the country house the weekend of the murder. The layers of textual evidence make the narrative intriguing for professorial types.
Feb 28, 2015 Joan rated it really liked it
It was a fascinating story that I found hard to put down. I did solve the puzzle before the end but that didn't take away my enjoyment. It sounded impossible at the beginning as the incident had happened so long in the past but following the search for the truth uncovered much about all the characters involved and in some ways helped them to deal with events in their own lives.
Sep 04, 2010 S rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent mystery. What starts out as the rather commonplace English weekend murder mystery (which I appreciate well enough), turns into a wonderful story that unwinds itself as slowly as a non-detective in the present time looks into the crime of the past. About a third of the way through the book, you will not be able to put it down. As delicately uncovered details are revealed about each character, you find yourself drawn back to the beginning of the story over and over again, each ...more
Nov 16, 2012 Audrey rated it it was amazing
This is the first book by this author I have read and I enjoyed it very much. It's a wonderful English murder mystery that spans several decades. The story is told at the beginning through the guests eyes at a fateful weekend party at a lovely English country home shortly after WW I and then switches to modern time and the story continues through the diaries of an old aunt who has died, photos, books, and even a eyewitness.

I love English mysteries like this, I have to admit I had a little troubl
Feb 23, 2015 Anna rated it liked it
Found this on the bookshelf and only vaguely remembered buying it for dad.
Was reading something else that annoyed me, but put that down and finished this pretty quickly.

Guessed the outcome, but still enjoyed the tale.
Mar 02, 2009 Scilla rated it really liked it
This is a well written book by the wife of the former ambassador from England to the US. It takes place in England beginning 1925, when Diana's husband, George, is poisoned at her birthday celebration. Diana is acused and acquitted of the murder. Diana dies in 1985 and leaves her house and most of her belonging to her grand-niece, Helena. Helena researches how George died, because she didn't want to inherit George's property if her great-aunt had murdered him. Most of the friends at the 1925 bir ...more
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Elizabeth Ironside is the pseudonym of Lady Catherine Manning, wife of the British Ambassador to the U.S. Her first novel won Britain’s John Creasey Award for Best First Mystery of 1985, and Death in the Garden was nominated for Britain’s CWA Gold Dagger for Best Mystery of 1995.
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“The discovery of her life was that she herself didn't actually need money, apart from a little cash for those relationships with taxi drivers and officials of the Great Western Railway which can only be expressed financially.” 2 likes
“Death is a huge cliff and when you are about to be thrown off it, like an Aztec sacrifice, other problems on the valley floor look very small, but once on the ground with the rest of the world they become again of dominating proportions.” 0 likes
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