This book was so eerie and thrilling that as soon as I finished it I wanted to read it again. Island of Bones is Imogen Robertson’s third book featuring Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther, set in Georgian-era England. Right from the start, you know that it’s not your standard murder mystery as the story opens with the last night on earth of an alleged murderer, imprisoned in the Tower of London and visited by his only brother and heir to the family fortune.
After the execution, the brother hides from the world and the fortune that he has inherited, and seeks knowledge as an anatomist – a dark and almost sinister pursuit in those times. He sells his childhood home, Gutherscale Hall, and travels Europe in quest of learning. Thus, his friendship with the mostly respectable widow Harriet Westerman, is something of an anomaly.Â Mrs Westerman herself is a little out of place in polite society as she tends to be outspoken, and insists on managing her husband’s estate herself. So when Gabriel and Harriet are called out of the blue to visit Gutherscale Hall, to seek the truth of a mysterious body uncovered in excavations, it is actually not surprising that they immediately set aside their day-to-day concerns and head off to the village of Keswick in the Lakes District.
As a setting, the village and the lakes are glorious, with wild hills and magic in the air – or so the local cunning-man would have it. Still, with a black and brutal history to the local Hall and the addition of a newly uncovered unexplained body, this story is thrilling and entrancing. In addition to the strange body, there is a colourful local history, consisting of missing treasure – the Luck of Gutherscale Hall, and of mysterious dealings between the local Lord Greta and the 1715 Rebellion, as well as an additional murder, robbery and attempted murder while Gabriel and Harriet are in town. In small English towns, nothing is a coincidence, and Gabriel and Harriet uncover not only the truth of the strange body, but find that the current murder and robbery are just the latest steps in a tale that starts with Gabriel’s family fortune, includes his executed brother, and has its origin in the original Lord Greta’s attempts to join the Rebellion. Imogen Robertson has woven authentic local fairy-tales and folklore with history and her own special brand of mystery to make a story that is hard to put down.
Available now: Hachette RRP$32.99