In The Garden Where We’ve Been Planted by Oliver Yardley

In The Garden Where We’ve Been Planted by Oliver Yardley
Publisher: Champagne Book Group
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Short story (141 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

When the husband of a prominent Boston art museum curator goes missing, his wife contacts our PI asking him to find him. She insists the investigation must be secret. No one is to know that her American Indian artist husband disappeared—there is to be no publicity that could reflect badly on the artist’s reputation, or her social status.

Our PI senses something deeper is wrong. Why not report him missing to the police? If it is foul play, surely the police should get involved. Perhaps his disillusionment with his professional life after his wife’s passing drives him to do a job he normally wouldn’t. Experience tells him to walk away, but the client lures him in.

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It is not only a detective story, it is a story about lost-and-found—people as well as emotions—love and the desire for affection. It looks at issues involving racism, fringe politics, people’s station in life, and ethics—contrasting the PI’s personal morality with public values.

After the death of his wife, our PI hero feels like he’s being taken on the winds of change – uprooted and cast adrift to find a new place to settle down. Feeling dissatisfied with his job as a consultant, he takes on the case of a missing husband on the sly. As the case unwinds our hero finds himself taken from the US to Australia and on a journey he’ll never forget.

I enjoyed this book. Written very much like a hard-boiled detective novel in the first-person perspective it took me a while to settle down to the fact we never discover our hero’s name. While this bothered me a little, it somehow seemed to really fit in with the Sam Spade/Harry Bosch/noir detective type feel that the book as a whole had for me. And it honestly didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the story too much at all.

There’s a fair bit of philosophical monologue scattered throughout the story – talk of our hero’s atheism and his beliefs on Fate and chance, the randomness that is life that pieces together with how we each deal with the good and bad luck we’re handed. This isn’t strictly a straight-detective novel and while I enjoyed the fact our PI had a broad and open mind, it was an odd juxtaposition between a liberal and open minded hero and the older style of hard-boiled writing and mystery. I did like this paradox but I have to admit it felt a little strange reading it, with the writing and ambience all noir/gritty mystery and then our hero freely expressing his opinion on how women could just as easily emotionally and mentally abuse their husbands as men physically abuse women. While the writing might be delightfully old-fashioned and hard – the plot and viewpoints are incredibly modern and liberal. I both enjoyed this and found it unusual.

The plot got a lot more interesting – and a lot more political – when the Australian connection came about and while I was impressed with how the author handled such delicate matters as the Indigenous relations and land issues, a lot of this side of the plot was quite dense, emotional and complicated. I really feel that readers looking for a light and fun mystery – or a more straight-forward noir/gritty detective story might find the political and Indigenous aspect of this books plot a little heavy for casual reading. I truly feel the author did an amazing job – he neither skimmed over these important issues, nor are there pages of thickly complicated activist sermons, but this plotline is a lot heavier and more politically complicated than what I would consider normal in a mystery or romance story. I feel readers looking for more meat in their plot – or who are interested in political stories revolving around the Indigenous communities – will find this interesting and satisfying. It’s not the sort of story I’d recommend to pass an idle sunny afternoon as some happy brain fluff or a quick “pick me up” type of read.

While there is an element of romance in this story, I feel this book strongly sits in the Mystery category. Our PI hero, coupled with the very strong plotline and the fact the story pretty much revolves around finding a missing husband all weigh this book in my opinion as a Mystery. There is an element or two of romance in it and while there is some love-making it’s fairly brief and I don’t feel it’s at all written explicitly. I was personally happy with this being a strong mystery book with a political plotline and only a dash of romance – but readers who are looking for something more focused on the romance and relationships might not find this fits what they’re seeking.

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