Death in the Garden
Elizabeth Ironside
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Death in the Garden

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  393 ratings  ·  103 reviews
Gold Dagger nominee In 1925 beautiful, bohemian Diana Pollexfen was celebrating her 30th birthday. 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,...more
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Published October 31st 1999 by ISIS Audio Books (first published 1995)
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Kim Skidmore
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
Nancy Oakes
At the onset of the novel, it is 1925 and Diana Pollefexen is awaiting the verdict at her trial for the murder of her husband George. The story of George's death is divulged little by little both contemporarily (to 1925) and later, after her grand-niece Helena receives word that her great aunt has died. Helena is going through her great-aunt's property and finds a journal entry telling about that day in court in 1925. Helena, through the help of other family members, friends, and further journal...more
Matthew Gatheringwater
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...more
"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
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
Aug 16, 2008 Deb rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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...more
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...more
Carolyn Hill
May 20, 2011 Carolyn Hill rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to planetkimi by: Teresa
Shelves: fiction, mystery
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bev Hankins
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
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
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.
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
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...more
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
Tina Bembry
I think that if my brain were its former, sharper self, I would have rated this 4 stars. The narrative timeline was so back and forth that for the first half of the book, I had to take notes on who the characters were and how they were related, what time period certain things happened, etc. By the latter part of the book, though, when more of the stories were laid out, I could relax and not refer to my notes. The end was a little anticlimactic, but worth getting to.

Ironside clearly has the gift...more
Ironside weaves a tapestry of past & present. The initial premise is a birthday house party of some who may know each other tangentially. The host of the party is found dead in some pain and the authorities assume it is his wife. Fast forward 80 years and the widow has died, leaving her great-niece the estate. As Helena learns more about her great-aunt, she questions whether she should keep a perhaps ill-gotten estate.
I was intriqued by this book. It's written by Lady Catherine Manning, the wife of the British Ambassador to the U.S. The setting is present day and also between the wars. Her voice is authentic, she knows the people and the burdens they carried after WWI. She obviously knows something about present day MP's too. She carries off a good mystery, even though you guess the ending, but it's all sad and pretty heavy. I thought I was getting a cozy and I got more. So why did it leave me feeling unsettl...more
I adored this book! It captured my interest and imagination right from the start. I loved the interwoveness of it. It moved back and forth in time seamlessly never leaving the reader confused. It flushed out the original 1925 characters extremely well and brought forth their complexities in a really compelling way. I could not put this book down once I started in. I wanted to both find out the ending, but not rush through the story both at the same time. Simply wonderful.
Mar 11, 2009 Sarah rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sarah by: Mom
Shelves: mystery
My mom recommended this book to me as she knows I love mysteries. I was not disappointed. It focused on the solving of a murder rather than adding elements of blood and gore, which is what I love best about mysteries - the solving of the problem. It reminded me of another mystery author I love, Josephine Tey (I highly recommend any of her 8 seven novels). The writing was above the average for a mystery which meant it took a bit longer to read, but I enjoyed it more b/c of that. I look forward to...more
This is a vintage 1930's upper crust, British, garden mystery that takes 50 years to solve. It is PD James, Agatha Christie and Evelyn Waugh wrapped in one. Moving the action between the '30s and the end of the century is actually very interesting and keeps the suspense of who and why going. Elizabeth Ironside, the pseudonym for Lady Manning, the wife of the British Ambassador to the US, paints a wonderful picture of life between the wars. This book was another great read that I spent 2 days try...more
Good mystery, good characterizations, some food for thought in terms of relationships, some intergenerational stuff, a bit of history of WWI and effects on British society.
I was interested in the introspection on one of the main character's obsession with her affair with a married man. Hadn't come across much of that before.
Amazing, though, that an author today can get by writing exclusively about the upper class... reading this book you wouldn't know there was anybody else around, besides the...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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