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Island of Bones
Gabriel Crowther/Harriet Westerman # 3
Imogen Robertson

2011 / ISBN 9780755372027
Historical Mystery / England / 1783

Reviewed by LJ Roberts

First Sentence: There was a peculiar hush around the Tower the night before an execution.

Scientist and anatomist Gabriel Crother is something of an enigma to neighbors and acquaintances, which has been fine by him. Thirty years ago, he turned his back on his family tragedies, but now must face them. His estranged sister and her son are staying at the estate once owned by their family. Upon encouraging the current owner to move the tomb of the first Earl of Greta from the Island of Bones to the local church, an extra body is discovered within. Crother and his friend, Mrs. Harriet Westerman, are summoned and Crother must confront the past finding that what was thought to be true in the past may not have been and that a brother was falsely executed. Can the truth be learned before others die as well?

Having well-developed, interesting, appealing characters is so critical and Robertson has more than met that requirement. Each of the characters, whether principal or secondary, comes alive under Ms. Robertson’s deft hand; so much so that Mrs. Westerman is someone one would like to be, and her 12-year-old son, very believable. The relationship between all of the characters is perfectly correct and appropriate for the period, including the depth, trust and friendship between Crother and Mrs. Westerman. At the same time, each character is flawed making them realistically human. For those who’ve not read the previous books in the series, ample history is provided to each character, thus avoiding feeling lost.

There is no confusion as to where the story is set, either in period or in location. The period details of social proprietary and customs are always interesting but don’t make either the story or the characters seem stiff. We are reminded that this was a time when the old beliefs and legends still held their place beside Christianity. At one point, the vicar’s daughter acknowledges this blending…”I’m sure the Lord will forgive a few shreds of the pagan hanging on the souls of such good Christian people.” There are wonderful descriptions that both allow you to see the environs yet make you want to pack a bag and see them for fact. The weather is used very effectively as is the dialogue, which both shows the restraint of the time but occasionally acts as a vehicle for some delightful humor…”We might have managed that better. Your poor sister will soon run out of rooms to leave in high dudgeon.”

The story is wonderfully plotted. The prologue is significant to the story and absolutely compelling; drawing one in so completely as to resent ever having to put the book down, even for brief breaks. There are enough threads for it to be interesting but never confusing. It is remarkable the way in which Robertson occasionally picks up pieces and places them into the story in a new direction, thus changing the image of the puzzle in an unexpected way leading us to a wonderfully satisfying ending.

Island of Bones is the third in an excellent series which should be read in order but, most of all, should be read.

Reviews of other titles in this series

Island of Bones #3
Circle of Shadows #4

Reviewed 2011
© 2011