Blackmail, murder and a legacy of treachery and lies…
Robertson reunites us with her unlikely pairing of curmudgeonly Crowther and feisty Mrs Westerman, as theIsland of Bones sees Crowther’s past rewritten as he is confronted with a burdensome truth.
The incomprehensibly sudden desire to move the remains of Lord Greta from their resting place (on the ‘Island of Bones’) doesn’t quite sit right; and a scandalous discovery opens up more than just skeletal remains – it would appear that Crowther’s family has a skeleton in its tomb. Resigned to dutifully uncover whatever truth lies behind the mysterious person’s death and subsequent placement in the tomb; Crowther sets about the unenviable task of investigating murder in a time when such work is ill-conceived and draws the morbidly curious like flies to a rotting carcass.
Set against the glorious backdrop of the Lake District, the grim act of boiling the partially mummified ‘John Doe’ seems incongruous. Defiling the dearly departed in such an intimate and outwardly destructive manner would raise hackles in even the most open-minded individual of the time, and Crowther is happily relegated to an outbuilding and some semblance of solitude. This reprieve from the social niceties however, are abruptly brought to an end when the local ‘cunning man’, Casper Grace (brilliantly named) dumps the recently uncovered corpse of one Herr Hurst; a visitor to the region, known acquaintance of Crowther’s nephew, Felix, and quite clearly murdered. Local magistrate, Mr Sturgess immediately sets his sights on Grace as the culprit: it seems that finders equals guilty and it is up to our intrepid duo to dig out the truth of the matter. Curiously, but far from detrimental, is the elaboration of Mrs Westerman’s young son, Stephen. A more inquisitive and perfectly delightful young boy you would be hard pressed to find. His vibrant innocence and keen moral sense overawes many of the other characters within Island of Bones, and his conviction that his newly found friend Casper is blameless never wavers despite the strong opinions of the adults around him. So the race is on, because one thing is certain: someone else is going to die soon...
Island of Bones has a complex plot that pulls at the strands of Crowther’s past and his family’s present. With an unnerving clarity, we see his brother executed for the murder of his father, witness the memories of the cruel dismissal of the brother’s pleas of innocence and the cold discharge of his younger sister into the care of distant relatives. Robertson also dives into the lingering folklore of the Lakes; taking note of the use of medicinal herbs, giving a nod to faeries, boggles and other supernatural entities – it is the anomalistic characterisation of an individual suffering auditory hallucinations, deftly done that is the most pervasive. A terrific read: entertaining, often amusing, certainly enlightening and always remarkably bound up in the lyrical pitter-patter of old English syntax and turn of phrases. This series only improves over time – wholly gratifying and effortlessly good fun.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012