There are some books you finish and want more of immediately. For me, ISLAND OF BONES is one of those books. I loved everything: the setting, the characters, the mystery. I’ve been reading a lot of historical mysteries lately; oddly, they’ve all been series and I’ve started all of them somewhere in the middle rather than from the beginning. The same is true for this one; it’s Imogen Robertson’s third book featuring the characters of Mrs. Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther. Surprisingly, this didn’t dull my enjoyment one bit.
Mrs. Harriet Westerman is a woman still grieving over her husband, even after her mourning period is officially over. Now, rather than be a spectacle to pity, she is trying to move forward with her life. When a request arrives to investigate the discovery of an extra body found in a crypt that had been supposedly untouched for many years, the idea of an adventure is quite appealing. Mrs. Westerman and reclusive anatomist Gabriel Crowther set out for the Lake District to investigate the circumstances surrounding the skeleton. Crowther, also known as Lord Keswick, a title he has shunned and has done all he could to distance himself from not only the title but also his family, meets his past head on when they arrive in the Lake District. Not only is there a dead body and a mystery surrounding it, but Crowther’s sister and nephew are also in residence at Silverside Hall, a place once owned by Crowther and his family until he sold it. A happy family reunion it is not.
"There are some books you finish and want more of immediately. For me, ISLAND OF BONES is one of those books. I loved everything: the setting, the characters, the mystery.... I had high hopes for this book, and those expectations were met."
While the mysteries mount, a strange thing begins to happen --- long-held beliefs of the townspeople start taking center stage in the investigation. A lost relic called The Luck, a gold cross embedded with jewels, becomes part of the discussion and makes its way into the investigation of Mrs. Westerman and Crowther. More than one person’s hidden family history comes to light before the mystery is solved.
There’s something so very likable about Robertson’s writing. She writes great characters who are frank, smart and surprising. I loved how she took a very relaxing setting and overlaid it with death, local folklore, and a mystery of family proportions that only seemed to grow larger by the day. It all fit so well together. When the story started coming to a close, I wanted more even after the satisfying conclusion. And, yes, there is a satisfying conclusion. I like that in a mystery.
Going back to the main characters, Mrs. Westerman and Gabriel Crowther are a strange combination but one that works brilliantly. Crowther is a grump of a man, a recluse who takes no pleasure in people except for the few he can tolerate, and yet, his scientific analysis is a fascinating attribute. In fact, it’s an interesting aspect of the story itself and slightly morbid as he does care to spend more time with the dead than the living. Mrs. Westerman is a great counterpoint to his standoffish qualities. I also like unconventional women in historical fiction, and she’s certainly unusual for her time. I should point out that the story is set in 1783, and a woman investigating murders is far from the norm.
Now that I have used one too many laudatory words in describing what I liked so much about this book, I leave you with this: Read ISLAND OF BONES. There will be no regrets. I had high hopes for this book, and those expectations were met.
Reviewed by Amy Gwiazdowski on October 26, 2012