Day 7 of the Blog Tour for BONES IN THE RIVER. Today, it’s the turn of the wonderful Jen Lucas to review the book for Jen Med’s Book Reviews. A thought-provoking look at the underlying themes, plus a plea for more!
If you like a mystery in which CSI and Detective work side by side (sort of) in order to solve a crime—one that in this case, at least from the start, isn’t clear to them is even a crime yet, then this is definitely the book for you. Now, as readers we are faced with a perspective that is completely separate from that of the investigating team. We know things that they have yet to discover, but then they are set to make a discovery that will take us by surprise too. Confused? You won’t be if you read the book—which I highly recommend you do as it is a brilliant read.
We start with a case of a potential hit and run, one with a startling conclusion that will guarantee to take you by surprise. But this is not the only thread in this story and when a skeleton is discovered on the riverbank close to the annual Horse Fair in Appleby, it leads Grace McColl and Nick Weston to a group of Travellers who are haunted by both secrets and a familial legacy which leads to all kinds of conflicts.
It is easy to paint Travellers in a negative light, as nothing more than thieves, not to be trusted. It is the reputation they have earned, whether justified or not, as they lead a lifestyle that many in the more rooted community cannot understand. However, whilst there is an air of mystery about certain members of the community, Zoë Sharp has worked hard not to bow to any singular stereotype, or make any aspersions about Travellers in general, whilst still conveying the judgement and prejudice that their community is subjected to. It is a delicate balance but very carefully handled. It was the elements of the story in which the Traveller culture is explored more closely, that idea of the sort of head of a clan, which I found fascinating. The story served to challenge my own prejudices without alienating me from what I was reading and I often found myself incensed by the behaviour of the self proclaimed civilised locals who sought to discriminate against the Travellers in their midst. Like every community, there are the good and the bad folk, and the bad are not always easy to identify whilst those you may trust least can often take you by surprise.
I do love the characters of Grace and Nick and the chemistry between them is undeniable. It’s not an easy partnership, several obstacles standing in their way, not least of which is Nick’s partner—the mother of his child. Theirs is a complicated relationship, not likely to be made any easier by revelations from within this book. Then there is Grace’s ex-husband—a man who cannot take a hint when told that they are over. Of course that’s not made any easier when you factor in Grace’s mother, Eleanor. Oh my word how I like her. She is a canny lady that’s for sure and she has the measure of those around her very quickly. She is keen, quick witted and very sly in her own way. A brilliant character and it’s easy to see where some of Grace’s spirit comes from. And it’s a good thing that Grace is so determined and strong as she will need her wits about her this time around as at least one of the people she is hunting for knows how to stay one step ahead.
One other character who was something of a revelation in this book is Queenie. Although she lives her life in a largely patriarchal community where her only role is to support her husband and bring up her children (and I say only with a roll of my eyes and more than a hint of sarcasm), she is so strong of spirit and heart that you cannot help but admire her. She is the calm at the heart of a storm, a voice of reason unafraid to stand up for what she believes in, no matter what peril she puts herself in. She is naturally wary of the police having had no reason to trust them in the past, but the reluctant respect she shares with Grace helps to drive the story. There is a real depth to her character and she is easy to grow to like. Although it’s not always easy to understand her acquiescence to her husband and brother, there is that underlying spark that signals a woman who will ultimately not be cowed by others.
The book is full of moments of tension and conflict and moments that will make you smile in spite of a very hard hitting storyline. It is a tale of long held secrets, of prejudice and mistrust and of family, for good or for bad. Parts will make your heart break, others will even make you angry or perhaps make you laugh. But what they will do is combine to produce a storyline that is 100% absorbing and a completely compelling read in a series I am loving.
I know this series is set to be a trilogy, but then it was only ever going to be a standalone at one stage. Is it too much to hope for that after book three there might just be room for a little more? Fingers crossed as these books are definitely recommended.
Read the review and leave a comment over on Jen Med’s Book Reviews.