It’s Christmas 1845 and Haworth is in the grip of a freezing winter.
Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë are rather losing interest in detecting until they hear of a shocking discovery: the bones of a child have been found interred within the walls of a local house, Top Withens Hall, home to the scandalous and brutish Bradshaw family.
When the sisters set off to find out more, they are confronted with an increasingly complex and sinister case, which leads them into the dark world of orphanages, and onto the trail of other lost, and likely murdered children. After another local boy goes missing, Charlotte, Emily and Anne vow to find him before it’s too late.
But in order to do so, they must face their most despicable and wicked adversary yet – one that would not hesitate to cause them the gravest of harm…
I absolutely loved The Vanished Bride and was delighted to be invited to review the second of the Brontë mysteries – The Diabolical Bones – via Netgalley ahead of its publication in November.
The mystery here begins with the bones of a child found in the chimney of Withens Hall. It’s a dark and disturbing beginning that brilliantly sets the tone for the rest of the novel. The sisters Brontë are immediately intrigued, and, buoyed by the success of their previous efforts in detecting, they travel to Withens Hall to claim the bones on the premise of giving the poor child a decent, Christian burial, but also so that they can begin to investigate, seeking clues in Withens Hall and the Bradshaw family, but also in the bones themselves, looking for hints that may reveal something of the child’s identity. I liked that the mystery in this novel is very different to that of The Vanished Bride, yet one that is equally puzzling. It seems an impossible task to identify a child with so little to go on, and yet the sisters aren’t daunted and are more than ready to step up to the challenge.
The sisters Brontë are once again a joy to read. I love the individuality that Ellis has created through their differing personalities – Emily once again was my firm favourite of three – and their disregard for matters of propriety, to which they pay lip service when it suits them, confident in their abilities and purpose. Through the relationship between the sisters, Ellis adds little touches of light-heartedness throughout the narrative, as it’s not uncommon for some good-natured banter between them, with two usually siding against the third, allegiances shifting constantly. Their brother, Branwell, also adds a touch of comedy when he tries to temper their enthusiasm, more concerned than they are for what is seemly, usually to be summarily ignored by the sisters.
Their investigation into the child’s identity and how the remains came to be in the chimney at Withens Hall has them traipsing all over Yorkshire, slowly piecing together the clues that they come across and making use of a variety of sources. It works really well, and I found the narrative to be gripping throughout. I did feel a little let down by the ending, although it may be that the particular style of twist used here just isn’t to my taste. I’d encourage you to read it – particularly if you enjoyed The Vanished Bride – and judge for yourself 🙂
The Diabolical Bones is an enjoyable novel with an intriguing mystery at its heart, and I hope that there’s another instalment to come – I thoroughly enjoy seeing the Brontë sisters brought to life in this way.
The Diabolical Bones will be published on 5 November by Hodder & Stoughton. Many thanks to the publisher for the opportunity to read and review the novel ahead of publication.