Today kicks off the Blog Tour for BONES IN THE RIVER with a review from the amazing Karen Cole at Hair Past A Freckle. Karen has taken a deep dive into the book and really got to the heart of what the story is all about in her perceptive, detailed review:

I’m thrilled to be launching the blog tour for Bones In The River today. Huge thanks to Zoë Sharp and Ayo Onatade for inviting me and for my advance digital copy of the novel.

When I reviewed Zoë Sharp’s DANCING ON THE GRAVE a couple of years ago, I concluded it with the hope that the standalone would become a series and so I was delighted to discover that yes, Grace McColl and Nick Weston were going to appear again in BONES IN THE RIVER, the second book in what is now the Lakes Thriller trilogy—although each story can easily be enjoyed as a standalone too.

The novel opens with the death of a child and though it was an accident, the killer makes a panicked decision to hide the evidence. His identity is revealed to the readers very early in the book but rather than diminishing the tension, knowing who was responsible ahead of the investigating team actually increases the sense of nerve-wracking anticipation to the proceedings. There’s a tantalising game of cat-and-mouse played out as the perpetrator takes progressively wilder steps to evade being caught even as a crucial piece of evidence lies in the hands of the police.

The discovery of the boy’s badly damaged and bloodied bicycle sparks a concerned investigation into his disappearance and if a missing child is always likely to stir up emotions in a community, the prospect of violence becomes even more probable here with the influx of Gypsies and Travellers arriving for the Appleby Horse Fair. Relations between locals and the Travelling Community are always strained but as a second body is discovered, the age-old stigma and mistrust of Gypsies means many are quick to accuse them of both crimes and to make it clear they are even less welcome in the area.

The Fair also brings with it the added complication of old arguments—among different Gypsy clans and with the locals. Usually the Shera Rom (head man) keeps a tight grip on things but Hezekiah Smith’s recent death means the position in waiting to be filled. More than one man wants the role and they won’t risk losing face even if it results in bloodshed. Zoë Sharp writes of the difficulties arising from hostilities between locals and the Travelling Community with empathetic insight and her use of Romany words throughout adds an authentic flavour to the story. She draws attention to the abiding bigotry directed at Gypsies whilst still acknowledging their own difficult issues—perhaps most notably regarding some of their less than enlightened attitudes towards women. With that in mind, Queenie Smith is undoubtedly one of the most engaging characters in the novel; her strength and courage in the light of all she endures here meant that I looked forward to every scene this superbly rendered woman appears in.

The strong characterisation extends beyond Queenie, of course; I loved Detective Nick Weston and CSI Grace McColl in the first book and that was cemented here as their contrasting roles and investigative styles perfectly complement one another. The chemistry between them continues to simmer and I welcomed the introduction of Grace’s mother, Eleanor who interferes just enough in her daughter’s life. Meanwhile, the acting Head of CSI, Chris Blenkinship is a thoroughly unlikeable man whose arrogant behaviour ensured I was desperate for his comeuppance. On that score, I particularly loved the fabulous Force Medical Examiner, Dr Ayo Onatade (that name will obviously be familiar to many crime fiction lovers!) whose cool attitude and depth of knowledge so ably puts him in his place on a few occasions.

BONES IN THE RIVER is a gripping police procedural and the intertwining investigations into both a tragic new case and the discovery of a body killed a decade ago are captivating throughout.With long-hidden and more recent secrets gradually being uncovered, the drama is never less than compelling, the sense of place is vividly evoked and the perceptive exploration of complex family issues is thoroughly engrossing. Zoë Sharp’s writing is always first-rate but there are moments when it becomes utterly beautiful and the lyrical poeticism she uses in her descriptions of the river or the day as a storm approaches are simply outstanding passages that I read twice just to savour them.

BONES IN THE RIVER is as brilliant as I’ve come to expect from an author who has become one of my favourites. It’s dark, shocking and exciting but is imbued throughout with intuitive empathy and a dry wit—I loved it!

If you’d like to comment on the review, please visit Hair Past A Freckle.