TITLE: ISLAND OF BONES
AUTHOR: IMOGEN ROBERTSON
Details: no. 3 Crowther & Westerman
Received from Real Readers
In 1751 Charles Penhaligon watches as his brother Adair, 2nd Baron Keswick, is hanged for murdering their father. Charles is convinced of his older brother’s guilt although he insists he is innocent. As soon as the public execution is over Charles sells his family’s estate, changes his name to Gabriel Crowther and commences a life of scientific research and seclusion.
More then 30 years later Mrs. Briggs, the present owner of the estate, opens an old tomb and discovers one body too many. Knowing about Crowther’s interest in anatomy and solving mysteries as well has his past connection to the place, an invitation is send to him to visit his old home and investigate the matter. An invention that also extends to the recently widowed Harriet Westerman.
Crowther is reluctant to revisit his past but curious about the mysterious body. His sister, who he hasn’t seen for over 30 years either, happens to be a house guest of Mrs. Briggs together with her son, Felix which gives Crowther an extra reason to make the journey.
Travelling back to the childhood home that holds so many bad memories is difficult though. Crowther’s sister turns out to be a rather unpleasant woman and her son a spoiled brat. This is also the one place where Crowther can’t escape his heritage or the title he’s been denying for so long. And it isn’t long after he and Harriet arrive that more death and violence occur. Are these fresh eruptions of crimes, or are they somehow related to what happened in the past?
Crowther will be forced to face his past once and for all in a part of the country where modern life still lives side by side with the ancient and the magical.
This is a fascinating historical mystery. The descriptions of life and the conventions of the time are detailed and give great insight into what it must have been like to live in those times.
The contrast between Crowther’s scientific approach to life at a time when the sciences where still in their infancy, and the old ways depending on cunning men, herbs and witches in an era when the church seriously frowned upon such believes, gives the story added interest. This is enhanced by the fact that different parts of the story are told from the perspective of different characters with very diverse backgrounds.
The mystery itself was well plotted and the investigation leading to the, to me not completely surprising, solution was well executed. The fact that historical detail, such as the rebellion in 1745, gets tied in with the mystery only adds to that interest.
Both Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther are controversial characters in a time in which convention was second only to virtue, which makes them fascinating to read about as well as more accessible to modern day readers. Personally I found myself wondering on several occasions how a woman with any sense of her own worth and mind could possibly stay sane in those times without finding herself cast out of society.
This is not a quick or easy read. Because the cause of the problems in 1783 heralds back to events that took place up to 50 years earlier, there are a lot of names and events to keep separate and connections to pay attention to. While this no doubt adds depth and realism to the story it does require that the reader pays close attention.
I found this to be a great read, a book well worth taking my time with so that I could treasure every word, nuance and description.
I will certainly be on the look out for further adventures staring Crowther and Westerman.