Review: Shadow Garden by Alexandra Burt

Title: Shadow Garden by Alexandra Burt
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


A wealthy woman suspects something is off about the luxurious complex she lives in . . . and she is right, in this riveting domestic-suspense novel from international bestselling author Alexandra Burt.

Donna Pryor lives in the lap of luxury. She spends her days in a beautifully appointed condo. Her every whim is catered to by a dedicated staff, and she does not want for anything.

Except for news of her adult daughter.

Or an ex-husband who takes her calls.

Donna knows something is wrong, but she can’t quite put her finger on it. As her life of privilege starts to feel more and more like a prison, the facade she has depended on begins to crumble. Somewhere in the ruins is the truth, and the closer Donna Pryor gets to it, the more likely it is to destroy her.


Shadow Garden by Alexandra Burt is a perplexing mystery.

Donna Pryor’s plastic surgeon husband Edward inexplicably moves his wife into an apartment where her only company is her housekeeper Marleen Clifford and new friend Vera Olmstead. Donna at first complies with both Edward and Marleen’s wishes but after a year, she begins to wonder about a few things. Why does her husband never visit her? Why has she not seen nor heard from their twenty-nine year old daughter Penelope? What will happen to her if Edward divorces her? Or, even worse, cuts off her financial support? Donna decides it is time to find answers to these troubling questions, but is she prepared for the answers she might unearth?

Almost from the beginning of their marriage, Donna’s life is on the superficial side. She spends her days decorating and redecorating their home. She manages their social calendar. Donna stages gatherings in their home to show off their “perfect” family. But underneath the surface, not much in the Pryor household is perfect.

Edward works long hours and does not have much interaction with Donna or Penelope. He is aware of the distance between himself and his daughter, but he does little to bridge the gap between them.  As Penelope grows up, Edward accepts Donna’s explanations for some of their daughter’s bizarre behavior. He instead concentrates on the one area of his life where he has complete control: his career.

Penelope’s behavior is somewhat troubling from an early age. Donna initially shrugs off some of her more unusual actions since their daughter is meeting her milestones and appears to be very bright. But an incident prompts Donna and Edward to put her in therapy where she is smart enough to reveal only her least disturbing thoughts to her therapists. Over the years, Donna makes excuses for Penelope’s increasingly alarming deeds. Edward and Donna breathe a sigh of relief once she reaches adulthood, but Penelope fails to settle into a career. But with Donna always there to gloss over her mistakes and missteps, will Penelope ever take responsibility for her actions?

Shadow Garden is an intriguing mystery but the pacing is incredibly slow. The narration seamlessly switches between the different members of the Pryor family’s points of view. None of them are particularly likable and Donna, in particular, is not exactly reliable.  Attentive readers will most likely figure out long before Donna what has most likely gone wrong with their dysfunctional family.  With Donna on an unrelenting quest for the truth, Alexandra Burt brings this domestic mystery to a somewhat predictable yet satisfying conclusion.

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