Category Archives: The Poison Garden

Review: The Poison Garden by Alex Marwood

Title: The Poison Garden by Alex Marwood
Publisher: Penguin Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 400 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


A new novel of insidious secrets and chilling revelations surrounding a mysterious cult–the latest gripping psychological thriller from Alex Marwood

When nearly one hundred members of The Ark, a sinister apocalypse cult are found dead by poison at their isolated community in North Wales, those left alive are scattered to the winds with few coping skills and fewer answers. For twenty-three-year-old Romy, who has never known life outside the compound, learning how to live in a world she has been taught to fear is terrifying.

Now Romy must start a new life for herself–and the child growing inside her. She is determined to find the rest of her family and keep her baby safe, no matter the cost. But as the horrors of her past start to resurface, she realizes that leaving her old life behind won’t be easy. Outside the walls of The Ark, the real evil has only just begun.

A brilliantly plotted, page-turning novel from “one of psychological suspense’s best writers” (The Boston Globe), The Poison Garden will leave you stunned.


The Poison Garden by Alex Marwood is a darkly mesmerizing and suspenseful mystery about the survivors of The Ark, an apocalypse cult.

Following the suicide deaths of the other cult members, twenty-three year old Romy and her half-siblings Eden and Ilo are taken from North Wales back to England. Romy is now living on her own following stints in hospital and a halfway house while Eden and Ilo are placed with their deceased mother’s sister, Sarah Byrne. Eden and Ilo are not having an easy time assimilating to life outside their isolated compound, so Aunt Sarah turns to Romy to try to better understand them.  Romy appears content with their new life, but does she know more about what happened to the members of The Ark than she is revealing?

Sarah and her much older sister, Alison aka Somer, grew up in an extremely religious household.  After falling pregnant with Romy, Alison is forced to leave the family home. After giving birth to Romy, she joins The Ark where the charismatic leader, Lucien Blake,  eventually selects her to impregnate with his child. Somer fall from favor a few years after giving birth to Eden when she becomes pregnant with Ilo. Hoping Lucien will forgive, Somer remains with The Ark and suffers degradation as she is assigned to the worst of tasks around the commune.

Despite Somer’s disfavor, Romy remains an integral part of the cult. Although disappointed by her assignment, she applies herself with fervor to her tasks. She is quite watchful of others and makes several highly intelligent observations that provide her with an edge as Lucien’s eldest son, Uri, insinuates himself within the commune.  Taking Ilo under her wing, Romy prepares herself and her half-brother for the devastation Lucien predicts is coming.

Interspersed with events in the present are chapters that detail life within the walls of the commune for several years leading up the recent deaths of the cult members. While idyllic at the start, an insidious and pervasive attempt to wrest control from Lucien slowly creeps within the walls of the commune. Members disappear without explanation and outside recruitment gradually ceases. Lucien remains a revered leader but Romy eventually begins to realize all is not as it appears. The events leading up to the members’ deaths are revealed in horrifying detail and in the present, the truth about Romy soon becomes shockingly clear.

The Poison Garden is an engrossing mystery that is quite riveting. The revelations of life behind the walls of the commune are difficult to read yet quite informative. Following the suicides, Romy, Eden and Ilo are thrust into a world they cannot understand. Sarah is ill-equipped to help her nieces and nephews leave the teachings of Lucien behind.  Painting a vividly terrifying portrait of cult life, Alex Marwood brings this chilling novel to a stunning, twist-filled conclusion that will leave readers hoping for a sequel.  A brilliant mystery that I highly recommend.

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Filed under Alex Marwood, Contemporary, Mystery, Penguin Books, Rated B+, Review, Suspense, The Poison Garden