book reviews, Psychological Thrillers

Book Review: The Bones of You by Debbie Howells

IMG_2626“I have a gardener’s inherent belief in the natural order of things. Soft-petalled flowers that go to seed. The resolute passage of the seasons. Swallows that fly thousands of miles to follow the eternal summer.

Children who don’t die before their parents.”

My rating: 4/5 stars.

In short: More of a domestic drama about a murder than a crime thriller. But brilliantly executed with a well-crafted plot and believable characters. This book is an elegant mystery with a surprise twist.

Synopsis: When eighteen-year-old Rosie Anderson disappears, the idyllic village where she lived is in shock. Local gardener Kate is struck with guilt. She’d come to know Rosie well and thought she understood her — perhaps better than own Rosie’s mother. Who could want to harm her? And why? Kate feels police are missing something. She’s certain that someone in the village knows more than they’re letting on. As the investigation deepens, so does Kate’s obsession with solving the mystery of what happened to Rosie.

My review: This book kept me up way past my bedtime, which is always a good sign. It’s not a fast-paced thriller or even a page-turner, but it had me hooked from the very first line. The Bones of You begins as Kate, one of the novel’s three alternating narrators, learns that her neighbour’s teenage daughter is missing. From there, it delves straight into the action.

The action, however, isn’t akin to your typical thriller novel. The mystery surrounding Rosie’s death doesn’t touch on the procedural or forensic — the police are only mentioned in passing when new evidence comes to light. Instead, the story smacks of family drama, past and present, with chapters narrated by the dead girl (not a spoiler — we learn very quickly that she’s dead), and the younger sister she leaves behind.

The lack of a detective presence is unusual for this genre, and it’s something that I felt weakened the story at times. It works, just, because the characters narrating the events (Kate, Rosie, Delphine) aren’t directly involved in the case, but I would have liked a little more insight into the investigation.

(SPOILER ALERT)

For example, we learn about 3/4 of the way through that Rosie was pregnant when she died. This revelation comes as a shock to many of the characters, but surely it would have been discovered during a post-mortem? If her mother didn’t want anyone to know, then I suppose it could have been a secret, but it’s not clear. Even though The Bones of You is more of a character-based drama about a murder than a crime novel, I think a bit more explanation would make the twists and turns more palpable.

The spotlight is on Rosie’s parents, Joanna and Neal, and before long the cracks in their perfect facade begin to show. Kate befriends Joanna, despite that their homes and lives couldn’t be more different. Through flashbacks from Rosie from beyond the grave (The Lovely Bones style), we unearth the dark truth about this seemingly perfect family.

The outcome is somewhat predictable if you’ve read enough of these kinds of thrillers, but still shocking. Plus, unlike many other novels of this genre, the characters have depth, are believable, and the motive behind the murder makes sense.

If you’re looking for an unputdownable novel with fascinating characters, a dark domestic premise and a slow-burning, steady momentum, I’d recommend this debut from Debbie Howell.

You can purchase it on Amazon or from your local bookshop.

Have you read The Bones of You? I’d love to know whether you enjoyed it as much as I did.

E x

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