The Poison Garden by A.J. Banner

A BarksBeachesBooks Review

Who is really the crazy one in the latest psychological thriller from A.J. Banner, The Poison Garden? Because I’ll be honest, it could have been any of them from the first page. The opening page brings us to Elise Watters running for her life with a quick, pulse raising one-and-a-half-page prologue. And then we are purposely disoriented, being thrown back to the “before” of the chase with a calm ferry ride back to her island home after attending business on the mainland.

Elise has an interesting life though it seems she tried to make it as dull and peaceful as possible. No drama, just simple things that make her happy – a beautiful home surrounded by beautiful gardens, running an herbal boutique. But she did just lose her mother. She just got married. She just started working full time in the herbal shop inherited from her late mother. She also just came home early to catch her husband in the middle of an affair…among other things.

On top of that, she’s unearthing secrets as quickly as you’ll flip the pages of this book. And, she’s sleep-walking?! Not entirely strange in and of itself, but the activities she’s enjoying while doing so are a little suspect.

The duality of all these characters is incredible. There is the crazy woman that her husband was caught with (what exactly is she involved in?). Her neighbor is one of her good friends, but also a grieving schemer. Her ex-husband is around every corner because he’s the island’s go-to Mr. Fix IT…or he’s stalking her. Small island; hard to tell. And then there is Elise’s husband himself, good looking, patient favorite Dr. Kieran Lund. He seems like a good guy who made a mistake. He does everything to make it up to Elise-and I mean everything. They go through a lot in such a short time and he really is holding Elise upright. But it’s either him who’s crazy or Elise. It can’t be both…right?

A.J. Banner does such a great job of misdirection in The Poison Garden that you really won’t know what’s what and who’s after who until the very end. I LOVED the ending. Oh my gosh, just such a good twist! (Let’s be honest, twistS.) I highly recommend this fast paced, psychological thriller with a poisonous touch-it’s just up my alley!

And now, a comprehensive list of people I suspected throughout the book: Everyone.

Enjoy!

When the Lights Go Out by Mary Kubica

Mary Kubica is an expert at twists, as you know if you’ve read Pretty Baby or Don’t You Cry. The twists you expect are the breadcrumb clues she lays out for you to follow, only to make a 180 at the last minute. However, what I loved the most about this book was not the plot twists (the last of which was kind of genius), but rather the genre twist. What starts out as a mystery/psychological thriller does not end in the same way. Mary sets you on one path only to realize you were never really going in the right direction.

Another aspect of Mary’s writing that is appealing to me is how much detail she uses. Personally, I have never had an issue going to sleep. It may not be great sleep, but falling asleep in and of itself is not a problem I can say that I have had. Insomnia as a major theme in the book is something that drew me to it. I knew that I would be able to experience it (if only in my imagination) if Mary was the one describing it – and I was not disappointed. My point here is not that I want to have insomnia, but rather that an author that can use details like Mary does is an amazing thing in helping you really be transported into the story. Nevertheless, due to the detail-oriented writer that she is, there were no doubt sometimes that I wanted the descriptions to just “Hurry up already!” so that I could get to the good stuff – what did she find in the closet crawl space? Who was the man in the garden? Did the clues lead where I thought they would? (Almost never.) Instead I found mini-cliffhangers and then I would be hooked again, reading for hours at a time as I followed a new lead.As an avid reader, I rarely don’t finish a book. I always try to push my way through to give every book a chance. Of course, this has been a waste of time on many books; not this one. Even though I did find myself at certain points begging to know whose social security number it really was, I know that if it weren’t for all the scenic descriptions I wouldn’t be as invested in the story. So, instead of judging a book solely based on what I feel while reading it (this time: frustration, anxiety, determination to guess the twists), what I rely on is the feeling I get after I am finished reading. Is it easily forgettable or am I still constantly thinking about it days later? In this case, and this is my mini-cliffhanger gift to you, the ending was in no way what I expected and I am still heartbroken for Eden’s story even days later. I urge you to give this book a chance to play with your mind a little. I challenge you to get ahead of Mary and figure out her ending.