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The Body in the Back Garden by Mark Waddell


Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

Date of publication: August 22nd, 2023

Genre: Mystery, Cozy Mystery, LGBT, Mystery Thriller, Adult, Queer, Contemporary, Canada, Fiction, Gay

Purchase Links: Kindle | B&N | Kobo

Goodreads Synopsis:

In this queer cozy series debut perfect for fans of Ellen Byron and Ellery Adams, Luke Tremblay is about to discover that Crescent Cove has more than its fair share of secrets…and some might be deadlier than others.

Crescent Cove, a small hamlet on Vancouver Island, is the last place out-of-work investigative journalist Luke Tremblay ever wanted to see again. He used to spend summers here, until his family learned that he was gay and rejected him. Now, following his aunt’s sudden death, he’s inherited her entire estate, including her seaside cottage and the antiques shop she ran for forty years in Crescent Cove. Luke plans to sell everything and head back to Toronto as soon as he can…but Crescent Cove isn’t done with him just yet.

When a stranger starts making wild claims about Luke’s aunt, Luke sends him packing. The next morning, though, Luke discovers that the stranger has returned, and now he’s lying dead in the back garden. To make matters worse, the officer leading the investigation is a handsome Mountie with a chip on his shoulder who seems convinced that Luke is the culprit. If he wants to prove his innocence and leave this town once and for all, Luke will have to use all his skills as a journalist to investigate the colorful locals while coming to terms with his own painful past.

There are secrets buried in Crescent Cove, and the more Luke digs, the more he fears they might change the town forever.

First Line:

Look, I’m only going to be there for a couple of days, so can we meet up today?”

The Body in the Back Garden by Mark Waddell

When Luke’s aunt, Marguerite, was killed in a hit-and-run accident, she left a thriving antique business and her cottage to him. Luke was surprised that he was her sole beneficiary because he hadn’t talked to her in over 20 years. Not wanting the business or cottage, Luke plans to visit Crescent Cove, settle his aunt’s estate, sell everything, and head back to Toronto. But that is easier said than done. Luke is assaulted at the cottage by a man who insists that his aunt is holding a box for him. The following day, that man is found dead in the back garden of the cottage. Luke is forced to stay in Crescent Cove while the Mounties investigate the death. But, when the antique shop is broken into and an employee is hurt, Luke decides to look into what is happening. Using his skills as an investigative journalist, Luke soon discovers that Crescent Cove has secrets, and someone doesn’t want their secrets uncovered. What secret is so life-altering that someone is willing to kill for it? And will Luke realize that Crescent Cove might be the perfect place for him to be?

The Body in the Back Garden was one of the last books I downloaded from Crooked Lane Books. I discovered that I needed to improve in the cozy mystery department and decided to download a few Read Now books on their NetGalley page. I got a variety of books, and I enjoyed reading most of them. The Body in the Back Garden was in the category of mysteries I enjoyed.

The Body in the Back Garden is the first book in a queer mystery series (the NetGalley and Goodreads pages didn’t state what the series name is). Because it is the first book, you can ignore what I usually write in this section.

The Body in the Back Garden was a medium to fast-paced book set in Crescent Cove on Vancouver Island. The pacing for this book did suit the storyline (the storyline took place within a week or so of Luke’s arrival). I did not have to go back and reread chapters, which was a massive plus for me (I don’t particularly appreciate doing that).

The main storyline centered around Luke and the murders. This book has a well-written storyline. The author focused on the murders and the investigation (Luke and the Mounties). Sometimes, it slipped, but the author quickly returned the focus to where it belonged (for example, the date with Kieran).

I wasn’t a big fan of Luke when he was first introduced in The Body in the Back Garden. He was rude and wasn’t particularly nice to people. I didn’t get it. But then the author started explaining things (and I wished he had done it earlier in the book). Luke caught his ex cheating on him with an intern at work and threw him out. Shortly after, he finds out that his aunt was killed in an accident, and he inherited everything. Luke also has trauma from his family throwing him out and disowning him when he came out to them as a teenager. Once all of that was shared, I understood why he was so defensive and prickly. Once all that was out in the open, I started to understand him better, and then I started to like Luke. By the end of the book, I loved him.

I also liked that Luke was an investigative journalist. He had contacts and knew how to help (or not help) in an investigation. I liked that he worked with the Mounties (sharing his knowledge) on the case. It was a refreshing read from the cozy mysteries I have read where the people bumble through the investigation and don’t share the information with the police.

The mystery angle of The Body in the Back Garden was terrific! There were three different mysteries in the book: the murder of Joel (the stranger), Marguerite’s accident, and (this was introduced much later in the book) the mystery of the box. I liked how the author connected everything. I also loved the twist at the end of the book. Not only was I not expecting the killer to be who it was, I didn’t expect that person to be involved with Marguerite’s death and the reason why that person did everything. It was a huge shock and left me shaking my head.

The romance angle in The Body in the Back Garden was very subtle but there. The chemistry between Jack and Luke was nonexistent at first (because Jack was salty about something that Luke had no control over as a teenager), but the author started to amp it up. They were sparking by the middle of the book (the scene at the Collingswood manor). I also liked that the author didn’t have sex scenes. But he did have Luke thirsting over Jack in his Mountie uniform (and that did give me a chuckle; who doesn’t like a man in uniform?)

The end of The Body in the Back Garden was your typical cozy mystery ending. I liked how Jack and Luke put two and two together about everything. I did feel bad for Luke when the killer was confessing everything. I also liked what Luke decided at the end of the book and what he said to Jack. It made me very excited to read book 2.

I would recommend The Body in the Back Garden to anyone over 16. There are no sex scenes, but some very mild kissing scenes. There is also violence and some mild language. There are trigger warnings, too. They would be cheating (off page and mentioned), bigotry (off page and explained to Luke about the town at one point), racism (off page and explained to Luke during the same talk with the bigotry in it), and homophobia (off page, Luke gets thrown out of his house as a teenager and his family cuts off contact with him).

Many thanks to Crooked Lane Books, NetGalley, and Mark Waddell for allowing me to read and review The Body in the Back Garden. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

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