Published: April 17th, 2018
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ISBN 978-1-63023-089-0
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A car lies at the bottom of an icy ravine. Slumped over the steering wheel, dead, is the most critically acclaimed horror writer of his time. Was it an accident? His son Milo doesn't care. For the first time in his life, he's free. No more nightmarish readings, spooky animal rites, or moonlit visions of his father in the woods with a notebook and vampire make-up.

Or so he thinks.

Milo settles into a quiet routine―constructing model Greek warships and at last building a relationship with his sister Klara, who's home after a failed marriage and brief career as an English teacher. Then Klara hires a gardener to breathe new life into their overgrown estate. There's something odd about him―something eerily reminiscent of their father's most violent villain. Or is Milo imagining things? He's not sure. That all changes the day the gardener discovers something startling in the woods. Suddenly Milo is fighting for his life, forced to confront the power of fictional identity as he uncovers the shocking truth about his own dysfunctional family―and the supposed accident that claimed his parents' lives.


"With his first novel, the influences of which include the gothic visions of Hawthorne, the morally charged horror of Shirley Jackson, and the twisty storytelling of Italo Calvino, Barsa emerges as a unique voice in contemporary fiction."
Kirkus Reviews

"Ominous, fantastic, and wonderfully malevolent, Michael Barsa's The Garden of Blue Roses immediately held me in its grip. Both major characters feel unreliable in the best, most disorienting way, while the world of the novel itself vacillates in one's mind between the real and the magical - and Barsa's magic is the black and blue sort of damaged souls hidden among dark foliage. The disquieting effect as I read was such that outside my door, I felt the spirits of Shirley Jackson, Edgar Allan Poe, and Albert Camus' Meursault, whispering to join the fun. Barsa's The Garden of Blue Roses mixes just the right amount of death, poetry, and deceit, into an already glorious stew of familial dysfunction and the ultimate result is this pure and delicious fiction."
— Alice Sebold, best-selling and award-winning author of The Lovely Bones

"The Garden of Blue Roses is full of literary pyrotechnics and Easter Eggs, dark twists and darker humor, and it's all held together by the wonderfully malevolent unreliable narrator Milo Crane. I was hooked from page one."
— Paul Tremblay, award-winning author of A Head Full of Ghosts and The Cabin at the End of the World

"[A] taut mystery about how the lives we lead are forever changed by the stories we tell and the secrets we keep. These pages are gripping and rich."
— Ramona Ausubel, award-winning author of Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty and No One is Here Except All of Us

"In this rich neo-gothic novel, Michael Barsa has designed a real treat. His hyper-nervous, hyper-careful narrator captures us with an eerie power exactly like Henry James' governess and the stressed-out, dreamy extremists of Poe. The Garden of Blue Roses is drenched in all of the awful and wondrous features of dark horror - all whispered in our ear by Milo, the son, the brother, the watcher, the spy, who had my sleeve fiercely in his fist the whole way."
— Ron Carlson, award-winning author of Five Skies


Michael Barsa grew up in a German-speaking household in New Jersey and spoke no English until he went to school. So began an epic struggle to master the American "R" and a lifelong fascination with language. He's lived on three continents and spent many summers in southern Germany and southern Vermont.

He's worked as an award-winning grant writer, an English teacher, and an environmental lawyer. He now teaches environmental and natural resources law. His scholarly articles have appeared in several major law reviews, and his writing on environmental policy has appeared in The Chicago Tribune and The Chicago Sun-Times. His short fiction has appeared in Sequoia.

The Garden of Blue Roses is his first novel.