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The Poison Garden: A Novel

The Poison Garden: A Novel

by Alex Marwood


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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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143110521
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/14/2020
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 500,952
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Alex Marwood is the pseudonym of a journalist who has worked extensively across the British press. Her first novel, The Wicked Girls, won the Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original, and was nominated for the Macavity Award for Best Mystery Novel and the Anthony and ITW Awards for Best Paperback Original. The Killer Next Door, her second novel, won a Macavity Award for Best Mystery Novel, was nominated for the Anthony and Barry, and has been optioned for film by James Franco and Ahna O’Reilly. Her third novel, The Darkest Secret, was published in 2016. Marwood lives in south London.

Reading Group Guide

1. While working as a journalist, the author both trained as a hypnotist and profiled a stadium evangelist. How do you think these experiences might have influenced this story?

2. To some degree, cults have become a very popular topic in books, film, podcasts, and more. Why do you think people find them so fascinating? Why in particular now?

3. Most people think they would never join a cult—until some do. Why did Alison join the Ark? Do her reasons make sense to you?

4. When Romy leaves the Ark, she has to learn how to function in modern society. What do you think would be most difficult for you to adapt to? What seems easy and normal to you that might be difficult for someone who has never experienced it?

5. After everything Romy went through at the Ark, why do you think she was so desperate to get back?

6. Cult leaders can make people do things that seem inexplicable to anyone on the outside. How did Lucien brainwash his followers? How can such toxic ideas and practice become so normalized?

7. Bullying comes up in this novel through the presence of Marie. How does this connect thematically to the Ark?

8. Were you surprised when Romy made her first kill? Why do you think she is capable of such violence?

9. Toward the end, Somer finally sees the horrors of Lucien and the Ark. What did it take for her to finally understand? Why don’t you think she saw it sooner?

10. Did you expect Romy to go through with killing Eden? Were you shocked by what happened when she couldn’t?

11. Why do you think that everyone from Sarah to the social workers failed to save Romy? What could they have done differently?

12. Romy goes through so many things and goes to such lengths to protect her family, yet she is also a murderer multiple times over. By the end, did you feel sympathetic toward Romy?

13. What do you think Romy will do now that she is back with Uri at Cairngorm?

14. Why do you think Sarah decided to go with Romy and Ilo to Cairngorm? Does it make sense to you, given everything she has said about cults throughout the book?

15. Alex Marwood’s books have been praised for their emphasis on psychologically complex characters. Who did you find most interesting in this book and why? Who did you like or dislike? Who did you feel sorry for?

16. From the outside, Lucien and the Ark are obviously pure evil, and yet Romy and her siblings refuse to believe it. Have you encountered any situations where you couldn’t sway someone from an obviously toxic belief? What worked or didn’t? After reading about Sarah’s experiences, what would you do in such a situation?

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