Island of Bones by Imogen Robertson

Island of Bones by Imogen Robertson

Cumbria, 1783. A broken heritage; a secret history…

The tomb of the first Earl of Greta should have lain undisturbed on its island of bones for three hundred years. When idle curiosity opens the stone lid, however, inside is one body too many. Gabriel Crowther’s family bought the Gretas’ land long ago, and has suffered its own bloody history. His brother was hanged for murdering their father, the Baron of Keswick, and Crowther has chosen comfortable seclusion and anonymity over estate and title for thirty years. But the call of the mystery brings him home at last.

Travelling with forthright Mrs Harriet Westerman, who is escaping her own tragedy, Crowther finds a little town caught between new horrors and old, where ancient ways challenge modern justice. And against the wild and beautiful backdrop of fells and water, Crowther discovers that his past will not stay buried.

Island of Bones by Imogen Robertson marks the third in a series featuring the enigmatic and fastidious Gabriel Crowther and the wonderfully captivating Mrs Harriet Westerman. A finalist in this year’s CWA Ellis Peters Historical Awards – 30th November – Island of Bones, published by Headline, is sure to be a front runner at the awards ceremony for its engaging and free flowing narrative, entertaining storyline and a very well developed investigation. Although – as I have already mentioned – part of a long standing and successful series I had no trouble in picking up the novel and beginning my journey despite having missed the earlier adventures.

I was immediately transported to the 18th century where I experienced a public hanging and the inevitable shame it brought upon a family which in turn prompted Lord Keswick to sell his family’s land, seek privacy and detachment by changing his name following his father’s murder. Determined never to visit his old ancestral home things never quite work out that way and together with Harriet Westerman the pair are drawn back to Silverside Hall to investigate a possible murder. Things move at a pace and additional crimes keep the story ticking along nicely.

Their arrival in the Lake District – welcomed by some and viewed cautiously by others – shakes things up in an unusual village that has its fair share of colourful and odd characters. The village itself is well presented and I found myself closing my eyes, imagination running riot as I wandered the muddy streets, visiting the local pub and stepping down the steps that led to the small but functional museum, I was transfixed.

There was a peculiar hush around the Tower the night before an execution. The mist from the river shushed the streets and people moved quietly. The guards nodded to each other, stamped their feet and wished for dawn, then thought of the man in the tower; they looked at the light showing faintly from his rooms and shivered again.

The fire could do little against the damp air of a February night, and nor could the wine warm the two men keeping vigil in the white/washed cell. They had been silent a long time. It was clear they were brothers – they had the same hooded eyes, the same slender figure – but they were turned away from each other, thinking their own thoughts.

Characterisation is simply wonderful and although I thoroughly enjoyed Crowther and Westerman as lead protagonists it was the relationship between Caspar Grace and Westerman’s young son Stephen that held me captivated throughout. A young lad’s inquisitive mind – with boundless energy – and his fascination with a talking bird – Joe – helped keep the narrative flowing and had me turning the page to see just what the pair would do next. Although powerful as an unlikely partnership they worked equally well alone, in fact it was rather refreshing – to me at least – to see Imogen Robertson give so much time to the young lad. It worked incredibly well and his youthful exuberance brought a limitless colour to the pages yet at the same time showed a wonderful maturity far above his years. Magnificent.

The narrative is incredibly moreish and I often found myself comparing the prose to Lynn Shepherd’s Murder at Mansfield Park – set a few years down the track in 1811 – which incidentally was one of my top books for 2010. As with Mansfield Park I struggled in the early stages to find a rhythm but once I lost myself in the narrative I was hooked. The final 150 pages were simply irresistible and I couldn’t put the book down. From the golf ball sized hail, murders, fireworks, skulduggery and greed, Island of Bones has it all. It comes highly recommended and with a fitting and exciting climax it will serve as a wonderful companion to those cold winter nights.

Published by Headline Island of Bones is available on Kindle & Hardcover.

Tagged with:

1 Response » to “Island of Bones by Imogen Robertson – Book Review”

  1. […] in 1939, the height of Stalinism, held little interest to me if I’m truthful but after finishing Island of Bones by Imogen Robertson – another title shortlisted for the awards – I wanted to tackle something completely […]

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers:

%d bloggers like this: