Island of Bones

Island of Bones

Book rating: 05 Paperback

By (author) Imogen Robertson

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  • Publisher: HEADLINE REVIEW
  • Format: Paperback | 496 pages
  • Dimensions: 131mm x 198mm x 32mm | 336g
  • Publication date: 29 March 2012
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0755372042
  • ISBN 13: 9780755372041
  • Illustrations note: map
  • Sales rank: 121,061

Product description

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.

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Author information

Imogen Robertson grew up in Darlington, studied Russian and German at Cambridge, and now lives in London. She directed for TV, film and radio before becoming a full-time author, and also writes and reviews poetry. Imogen won the Telegraph's 'First thousand words of a novel competition' in 2007 with the opening of Instruments of Darkness, her first novel.

Customer reviews

By Marleen Kennedy 08 May 2012 5

In 1751Charles Penhaligon watches as his brother, Adair, 2nd Baron Keswick, is hanged for murdering their father, 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 an invitation is send to him to visit his old home to investigate the matter and to bring the recently widowed Harriet Westerman with him.
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 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.

By CuteBadger 07 May 2012 5

In 1783, anatomist Gabriel Crowther finds that the family history he has tried so hard to forget has come back to haunt him. The opening of a tomb on his late father's estate in the Lake District turns up one body too many and stirs up secrets from the past. Accompanied by his investigation partner, naval widow Harriet Westerman and her young son Stephen, Gabriel travels north to examine the body and try to determine the chain of events that led it to be in the tomb.

I have a bit of an issue with books which have a map or a family tree at the beginning - they make me nervous as they seem to be saying "You'll really have to sit up straight and pay attention or you'll miss something vital". It's entirely my problem and not a failing in the books in question, but I need to admit to a touch of anxiety when I saw that Island of Bones opens with a map. However, I needn't have worried as, while the map can enhance a reader's experience of this book, you don't have to pay any attention to it to enjoy the novel.

This is a wonderful read, full of well-drawn characters, a twisty plot containing a few genuine surprises and a convincing historical background. The author provides just the right amount of description to allow the reader to visualise what is going on, without overburdening us with irrelevant period detail. Historical novels all too often feel handicapped by the weight of research, as the author can't bear not to include everything they found out. Imogen Robertson resists this temptation and gives us a rich period background in proportion with the other elements of the book.

I haven't read either of the two previous novels starring Westerman and Crowther, so this was my first introduction to them. This novel can definitely be read without knowledge of the first two in the series and the characters come alive even without the reader knowing all the ins and outs of their respective back stories. I particularly liked Harriet Westerman and enjoyed the "humanising" effect she has on Gabriel who, without her, could all too easily retreat into his world of science and have no human contact. I enjoyed his lack of tact and the way he says exactly what he thinks about everything - Harriet reins him in a little and tries to get him to see the rest of humanity as more than just a nuisance. I was also interested in what the book has to say about the role of women in the society of the time, in particular in relation to Harriet's "fame" for being involved in investigating murders and how that impacts on how her peers view her.

There were other wonderful characters in the book, but I thought Casper Grace was a standout. He represents the power of nature and the "old ways" still followed by many of the area's inhabitants. The contrast between old and new ways is a key to the novel, and one which doesn't always lead to the conclusions you'd expect.

Island of Bones is a lovely long book that you can really get your teeth into and time seemed to fly by as I was reading it. There are clues to some of the plot twists seeded throughout the narrative, but there are still some real shocks and unexpected turns that make the book even more enjoyable. Even those who read a lot of crime fiction (as I do) will still find lots of surprised in the plot.

I loved that the narrative as well as the language of the characters is historical - this makes the whole novel feel contemporary to the action, rather than a modern invention - and I also liked that the font used for the book looks like something from the era in which the book is set. Also, the fact that the plot is based around real historical events makes it all the more realistic.

I absolutely loved this book and really missed the characters when it was over. I've already gone out and bought the other two in the series and can't wait to read those too. I'm also looking forward to more Westerman and Crowther books in the future.

For those who like murder mysteries and/or historical novels I can't recommend this highly enough.

Review quote

'Chillingly memorable...an extraordinary thriller' Tess Gerritsen This series, launched after Robertson won a Telegraph writing competition, continues to excel' Daily Telegraph 'Matchless storytelling, gripping and moving in equal measures. Addictive' Nicci French