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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Poison Garden

The Poison Garden

ISBN: 1542004233

Publisher: Lake Union

Publication Date: 10/22/2019

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: 5 Stars ++ Top Books of 2019 Q&A with the Author A woman’s idyllic life becomes a deceptive hall of mirrors in a thriller of exquisitely constructed psychological suspense by A. J. Banner, bestselling author of The Good Neighbor.

Elise Watters seems to have it all—a blissful marriage, a gorgeous Victorian home surrounded by lush gardens, and a dream job running her late mother’s herbal boutique.

But on the eve of her first wedding anniversary, Elise makes a shocking discovery that turns her life upside down and casts doubt on everything she thought she knew—about her marriage, her friends, and even herself. As she treads into dangerous territory, Elise is forced to wonder: Is her whole future at stake? Or is paranoia getting the best of her?

If she is to believe what she sees, Elise has every reason to fear for her life…


My Review

Look for my fascinating QA Elevator Interview with the amazing A.J. Banner Coming October 22! You are in for a rare treat as she shares the "story behind the story." Master storyteller and talented author, A. J. Banner returns following, After Nightfall my Top Books of 2018, with her latest captivating thriller —THE POISON GARDEN and once again, Top Books of 2019. Richly Atmospheric. Spellbinding. Absorbing. Twisty. Compellingly hypnotic! A strong character-driven magical taut, psychological suspense thriller. THE POISON GARDEN is infused with rich, detailed and vivid descriptions. From lyrical prose, a lush and evocative island (Gothic-like) setting, and a strong sense of place drawing you into this world of mystery and intrigue—making this another page-turner winner by A.J.! Set in Pacific Northwest on the fictional exotic and quaint Chinook Island— part of the stunning islands in the Washington State area. (we all love the San Juan Island area-breathtaking)! What could be a more alluring setting with all the charming shops, views, and sites? From an island only accessible by a ferry, to the elegant childhood Victorian home, the lush, magical gardens, and the hundreds of acres of forest and trails, leading to a windswept beach, plus the herbal boutique cottage. I want to go now! THE POISON GARDEN is somewhat of a rectangular or square relationship filled with ongoing suspense and intrigue, rather than a triangle. We have four main characters involved in this saga. Kieran (husband), Brandon (ex-husband), Chantal (neighbor/friend), and Elsie (former pharmacist and current shop owner). They are all connected in some way. We also have secondary characters, Diane and Elsie’s mother —Selene, from the past. Elise seems to have it all. A blissful marriage, a sizable inheritance from her mom, a gorgeous Victorian home surrounded by lush gardens, and a dream job of running her late mother’s herbal boutique. However, for a woman who has it all, we soon learn men have complicated her life. Not only her current husband, doctor, Kieran, which she can no longer trust, but there is also her ex-husband, Brandon - destined to keep showing up. There are many pieces to this fairy-tale puzzle! After Elsie’s mom died, she took over her mother’s business. The herbal shop, Clary Sage, sat in the woods behind her house within the lush gardens. She kept it open to honor her mother. Elsie was a former pharmacist, and the pressures wore her down, and after her mom’s death, she returned to a slower life on the island. She loved gardening and shopkeeping but was still working and learning about creating effective botanical remedies in the little shop in the garden. At the beginning of the book, she discovers her husband cheating with another woman in her own house. Chantal, Elsie’s neighbor, finds her in the garden, where she fainted. Often Elsie does not recall things as sort of a sleepwalking time out. There was also a strangely shaped plant that had reemerged in the herb bed, with reddish flowers resembling tiny hearts — the Juliet. Hey, you cannot have a poison without a poisonous plant, right? Her mother had warned her not to touch the plant. You had to use just the right amount of powdered extract in tinctures and formulas. If someone administered too much, it could be deadly. Juliet becomes part of the ongoing mystery in the novel, as relates to Romeo and Juliet. Between the parallels, and symbolisms of plants (healing, natural, and deadly), as relates to the toxic people and relationships in our lives. Chantal is enigmatic. You never know what is going on with her. She is Elsie’s friend and neighbor. She is also a computer hacker. Smoke and mirrors here and one of the most intriguing characters. Had Elsie fallen into an altered state? Strange things began occurring. Items in the shop appeared to have been moved or misplaced. Elsie's mother's journal appeared she had never seen. Stuff on the prep table was tipped over. Elsie began losing time; there are strange credit card bills, her mother's past, another woman, a husband, an ex-husband, and a neighbor and friend. Was her husband trying to kill her for the insurance money? Why hadn’t she been more alert to his charming smile? He talks of going out on a yacht with her. Will he try to drown her or kill her with poison? She fears for her life. Or is there something bigger and more sinister going on? Brandon, Chantal, and Kieran all start acting strange, or is she paranoid? Is someone trying to make it look like she is losing her mind? Who can she trust? Mix all of this within the lush, mysterious grounds, roaring seas, and forest. Powerful! If you love the TV series THE AFFAIR (I am a huge fan), you will enjoy THE POISON GARDEN! There are many themes, topics, and emotions explored in THE POISON GARDEN. Marriage, romance, betrayal, murder, cancer, obsession, revenge, addiction, infidelity, friendship, and grief. Smoke and mirrors are predominant. A confusing or disorienting situation in which it is difficult to distinguish between truth and illusion or between competing versions of reality. WOW! For a small book, there is much to love in THE POISON GARDEN! A story of love, loss, betrayal, and deceit. As always, the author keeps you in suspense and always surprises. A chilling adventure, hooking you from the first page until the end! A.J. knows how to create the perfect backdrop for each of her novels and never disappoints. She has an uncanny way of grabbing your attention and captivating you. Each time you pick up her book is like a mesmerizing adventure awaits. For fans of authors, Sarah Addison Allen crossed with Mary Kubica, Gilly Macmillan, Kimberly Belle, and Liane Moriarty combined with A.J.'s signature style! I highly recommend all her books—one of my favorite authors! A special thank you to Lake Union, the author, and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy. #JDCMustReadBooks

The Poison Garden

A J Banner Books


"[An] impressive psychological thriller...Fans of domestic suspense will be rewarded." Publishers Weekly

“[A] sharply written and taut psychological thriller…” —Seattle Times

"The Poison Garden is a real page-turner of a mystery that leaves the reader second-guessing all the way to the end. An ideal summer read that won’t disappoint."

Authorlink Writers and Readers Magazine

“What Lies Beneath meets You…The Poison Garden is an addictive read!”

Charlie Donlea, USA Today and International bestselling author

“The Poison Garden is a taut, absorbing, richly atmospheric thriller. I started it one morning and finished it late the same night. A. J. Banner is a master of smart psychological suspense.” —Cristina Alger, bestselling author of The Banker’s Wife and Girls Like Us

“A fast-paced ride that leaves you guessing until the last page. The Poison Garden is sure to please fans of Banner’s work. Engrossing and fun, I read it in one sitting.” —Catherine McKenzie, bestselling author of The Good Liar and I’ll Never Tell

“A. J. Banner has crafted yet another wonderfully dark tale of love and loss with The Poison Garden, a fast-paced, twisted ride into the depths of obsession and deceit.” —Victoria Helen Stone, bestselling author of Jane Doe

“A. J. Banner writes a chilling page-turner that will snap you out of any book slump! The setting, characters, and plot will pull you into a twisting adventure that will keep you riveted. Perfect for a weekend away by a cozy fire or a beach, The Poison Garden will keep you wondering and continue to surprise you right until the last page!” —Laurie Petrou, author of Sister of Mine and Love, Heather

“The Poison Garden is a dizzying tale of obsession, deception, and revenge, electric with tension from the first page through to the brilliant conclusion. I could not put it down!” —A.F. Brady, author of The Blind and Once a Liar

“The Poison Garden plays on a universal fear…Beneath the racing heart of this tautly written and compelling thriller lie deeper questions that speak to the bonds of love and loyalty, and the final shocking twist comes as a unique and ultimately satisfying surprise.” —Barbara Taylor Sissel, bestselling author of Faultlines and The Truth We Bury

Q&A With AJ Banner

Q&A with A.J. Banner Oct 22, 2019


About the Author

AJ Banner

As a child, A. J. Banner loved reading everything from Nancy Drew to Tolkien to her parents’ spy novels, “borrowed” from their bookshelves and hidden beneath her pillow. She wrote her first thriller, Mystery at Crane Corner, at the age of 11. She drew her own cover art and bound the pages with staples.

Born in India and raised in North America, A. J. graduated from high school in southern California and received degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. She tried various professions after college, including a stint in law school and a memorable job at a veterinary clinic, since she loves animals, but eventually she returned to writing. Her fourth novel of psychological suspense, THE POISON GARDEN, is coming soon from Lake Union Publishing. AFTER NIGHTFALL, which Publishers Weekly calls a “gripping psychological thriller,” is now available in hardcover, paperback, audiobook and e-book formats.

THE TWILIGHT WIFE (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster) became a USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestseller. THE GOOD NEIGHBOR, her debut, was the #1 Kindle bestseller for 34 days, remained in the top five on the Kindle bestseller list throughout the book’s release month, and was in the top 50 in the Kindle store for 145 days in a row. THE GOOD NEIGHBOR was named by Harper’s Bazaar as a book that could be the next GONE GIRL.

A longtime fan of Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, A. J. feels at home writing stories with unexpected twists and turns. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and six rescued cats. Read More






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