Publication Date: September 23, 2017
Harry Paterson’s father, Lord Elliot Paterson, is murdered and because he stands to inherit the title, Harry is the #1 suspect. Judith Meadows is assigned to stay with Harry during the investigation to keep him safe and also garner whatever information she can to help solve the case. Together they look into strange messages that Harry received from his father before his death regarding strange transactions at the family bank.
The Desolate Garden by Daniel Kemp is an investment. Its a complicated story that jumps back and forth in time and takes readers on an exploration of European financial history and political alliances. Harry is a man completely unconcerned with his family money and industry which involves managing a secret bank that funds those things that the British government wants to keep from the eyes of the public. The Secret Service of accountancy and financial provision. While historically the bank has followed the rules of primogeniture, Harry’s younger brother takes the reigns. Sadly, for the brother, taking control of the bank is a fatal move for him and Harry wonders where the attack has come from and if he is also in the line of fire (though as he has no connection with the business and hasn’t been in contact with his father for years it seems, on the surface, a very long shot). Judith Meadows is assigned to Harry, she’s an agent whose job is to stick to him like glue and get him to tell her every detail about the family from which he’s been mostly estranged. The crazy thing is that Judith actually knows more about the Patersons than Harry does. Their investigation takes them into deep family secrets and enemy connections.
The Desolate Garden has a Kingsmen (2014) level of reality to it that I would normally enjoy but it somehow missed the mark. Was it the young Lord who we were clearly supposed to find admirable but I found somewhat petulant? Was it the complex journey that led to a secret family connection that somehow didn’t quite make sense to me. Kemp’s focus was character development but with such a complex plot, should he have perhaps have made a point of setting believable twists? There is a reason that you don’t see the killer coming and it’s not for the well constructed story leaving the reader in awe of that thing they should have seen all along. Its more like that person you’ve never met mistaking you for someone else and jumping out from behind a wall to surprise you.
The Desolate Garden has a very slow flow and could have used a good editor for those little typos that slip the attention when a person is writing and reads back. Kemp is clearly a very visual writer and that sort of attention to detail can, in some genres, be unnecessary and weigh the story down. The Desolate Garden is Kemp’s first novel and, given my rule for first novels, shows an author with potential. There is good character development and with someone giving it a second look, the first novel shows the signs of a read that could have been brilliant. In fact, if you like procedural novels, you may want to give this one a look. My Dad, David, loved it and thought that each surprise was a mind blowing delight. “Can you believe who the killer turned out to be?” he asked when we discussed the book. Another lesson that tells this reader that just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an audience.
If it looks like something you might like, give it a shot and let me know what you thought.
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