The Poison Garden by Sarah Singleton

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The Poison Garden by Sarah Singleton

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Wonderfully creepy supernatural mystery involving all sorts of difficult concepts. Younger readers will enjoy being stretched, whilst older ones will revel in the atmosphere of menace.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: May 2009
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 1847382975

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When Thomas's grandmother dies, she leaves him a mysterious and magical box. Opening it leads him to a other-dimensional garden, in which her revenant - more of an imprint than a ghost - tells him that she was poisoned. His grandmother's will also specifies that Thomas should be apprenticed to a London pharmacist, a member of the same arcane guild to which she belonged. And it's not long before Thomas discovers that it's a member of the guild who poisoned his grandmother and is continuing to pick off her colleagues, one by one...

At its heart, The Poison Garden is a relatively simply-plotted murder mystery. There aren't many members of the Guild of Medical Herbalists and so the suspect list is fairly short. Thomas proves to be a tremendously attractive detective. He's young and untried, but he doesn't lack courage and has a very definite moral compass that guides the choices he makes. He makes some impulsive decisions but he has great determination and boundless curiosity. He's a central character that will resonate with clarity to all his readers.

But what is so super-duper, lovely-jubbly about this book is the underlying complexity Singleton has created in her world of other dimensions. Like Madeline L'Engle, she has woven all sorts of difficult concepts into the plot. Each member of the guild has his or her own box, which acts like a Tardis; containing entirely disparate realities. Yet these realities are all part of the same whole. Younger readers will be stretched by the ideas, but never by how they are expressed, because the writing is clear, direct and elegant.

It's a very credible whodunnit and it has a satisfying coming-of-age story for its central character, and if this was all it had, I would still recommend The Poison Garden. But when you add in the ideas it presents and the questions it begs and the thought processes it will inspire, this one is a book they really shouldn't miss.

My thanks to the nice people at Simon & Schuster for sending the book.

Fans of high-octane fiction might enjoy The Alchemyst by Michael Scott, a blend of thriller and fantasy with plenty of alchemy. Slightly younger readers might enjoy supernatural in Victorian times in The Haunting of Nathaniel Wolfe by Brian Keaney. Tanglewreck by Jeanette Winterson creates an equally fascinating world of other dimensions.

Booklists.jpg The Poison Garden by Sarah Singleton is in the Top Ten Books for Young Readers That Feature a Passage Between Worlds.

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Buy The Poison Garden by Sarah Singleton at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Poison Garden by Sarah Singleton at


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