Secret garden offers surprise

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 June, 2009, 12:00am

The Poison Garden
By Sarah Singleton
Published by Simon and Schuster
ISBN 978 1 84738 297 9

A teenage boy and his family are struggling to make ends meet in The Poison Garden. When Thomas' wealthy grandmother dies, his mother assumes their financial worries are over.

But when the old woman's will is read, there is only puzzled disappointment. Grandmother has instructed that Thomas is to be apprenticed to a pharmacist in the city, and left the funds to make this happen.

But Thomas doesn't want to leave his family, live with strangers and take on a job he knows nothing about. It is obvious the old woman had her reasons for doing this, but neither Thomas nor his parents know what they were.

Sarah Singleton's clever historical thriller begins as all good thrillers should. It throws its hero into a mystery and the reader has no choice but to keep turning the page. Singleton is good at building up suspense and the clues and questions here come thick and fast.

The danger with a set-up as gripping as the first few chapters of The Poison Garden is that the conclusion could easily be a let-down. But it's worth reading on to find out if that happens.

Thomas' grandmother has also left her grandson a mysterious box which grants him access to a beautiful garden. Thomas didn't know the garden even existed behind the old lady's mansion. But there is a terrible surprise waiting for the boy in the secret garden.