Black Garden

The Black Garden

By Joe Bright

Living in an isolated community with his granddaughter, George O’Brien seems to be harboring not only a grudge against everyone in his town, but people in general. In 1941, when our story opens a young girl named Carolyn, takes her own life. As the story then continues and young college student decides to take a summer position with Mr. O’Brien to clean out the junk in his own and restore the much-neglected garden and yard that is in total disrepair.

Added to the mix is O’Brien’s granddaughter Candace, a young girl in her early twenties whose life seems focused on taking care of her grandfather and his needs. An unhappy man who never seems to smile and always has a scowl on his face and behind every statement a nasty remark, George O’Brien has a secret that has something to do with his garden and more.

Mitchell Sanders enters and decides to work for the Mr. O’Brien and soon learns the truth behind why he and his granddaughter living in total isolation and seclusion. His daughter, Carolyn, victim of a brutal rape, which caused the entire town to turn against not only her, but George as well. With his wife out of town and his daughter as the only witness to the rape, Grant Baxter, son of the richest man in town who owned the Taft Paper, is tried for the rape but the result was not what George expected or deserved. Twisting his words and recreating the events of the crime to suit his needs and objects, Baxter’s lawyer, now a prominent judge, helps Grant go free. Instead of being jailed for the crime the lawyer implies that George is the guilty party and more. For over 20 years living in seclusion and never setting foot in town or allowing his granddaughter to leave his side, he becomes more jaded, bitten and angry allowing.

When Mitchell goes to town and meets some of the residents of Winter Haven, he learns the truth behind their feelings about George and goes on a one man crusade to not only change their mindset about him but to renew George’s faith in people and to help him foster a healthier relationship with his granddaughter and the people where he lives.

But, that would not be easy since many of the people still feel there is more to what really happened the night Carolyn committed suicide and more to what really happened to Grant Baxter. Mitchell too has many secrets in his past and can understand how it feels to be picked on and ridiculed by family and peers. Together with his newfound allies Kirk and Quinn and Nicole, they ban together to right a serious wrong.

But, the trouble was not over yet and our author presents us with the background information we need in order to decide what really happened when Carolyn, George’s daughter, was raped and took her life. Grant Baxter forever taunted her and kept a precious necklace belonging to her as a memento of his conquest.

A town ruled and run not by the law enforcement agencies in it, a town run by the rich and those who were powerful. Found guilty of a crime that he did not commit because a judge and a lawyer made the evidence he provided disappear, George O’Brien with the help of Mitchell Sanders will now try and right a wrong and hopefully give the man back the self-respect and dignity he so deserves.

Using a first person narrative the author allows the reader into the mind of the main character, Mitchell, in order to understood his thoughts, reasoning and goals in helping to solve this 20-year-old crime and the disappearance of Grant Baxter and more. Even Candace’s grandmother, Dora could not handle the rumors and allegations against her husband and after Carolyn’s death she distanced herself and eventually left both her husband and granddaughter. Blaming Candace for her plight in life and not wanting her in her home anymore, her grandmother leaves and does not return.

Being judgmental and blaming an 8 year old child for what happened between her mother and someone else, is wrong. What the school did by not defending the child was just as bad. Throughout the book the author does flashback to the events that led to what would happen in the present. No matter what transpired in the past, it does not change the prison that George lives in now.

In the garden in the back is a bathtub. Under that tub everyone suspects is the body of Grant Baxter. But, the sheriff will not pursue the matter nor will he try and make life worse for George who is finally attempting to get along with his neighbors and the people in the town.

What happens next will surprise the reader? What is under the tub you will have to read for yourself? Where is Grant Baxter’s remains and who really killed him? Read this outstanding novel that deals with disloyalty, hate, trust, unhappiness, deceit and more. But, most of all the love of a granddaughter and one young college student who wanted to make one man’s life better. Will Mitchell’s and Candace’s paths cross again? Only the author knows for sure !

This is a must read for all mystery lovers and I hope he writes a sequel.

Fran Lewis: Reviewer

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