“Elegant, witty and compulsively readable – I think the Brontë sisters would have been delighted.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
The Diabolical Bones by Bella Ellis is the second book in what is rapidly becoming one of my favourite ongoing series, The Bronte Sisters Mysteries. Once again the three sisters become invested in solving a mystery, this time involving the discovery of the skeletal remains of a child in a walled off room in a remote farmhouse on the windswept moors. The family who owns the house includes a brutish father , Clifton Bradshaw who is mourning the loss of his beloved wife years before, and a son who is coming of age and desperate to get out from under his cruel father’s control. The house is also the source of much rumour and speculation, including a tale that Clifton has sold his soul to the devil . Assuming the remains are centuries old , the sisters decide to give them a decent burial, but another discovery at the burial site seems to suggest that they are much more recent, and it seems likely that foul play was involved. Once again the three women, helped and occasionally hindered by brother Branwell, thrust themselves into uncovering the truth ,which is darker than any of them ever imagined.
This is an impeccably researched and beautifully written mystery, perfect reading for the dark and wintry nights ahead. The writing is wonderfully atmospheric and very evocative of both time and place, and the story itself is both cleverly told and distressingly believable in the context of the social and political climate of the time. The author does not shy away from tackling the unpleasant aspects of Victorian attitudes to social standing, race, politics and religion, instead incorporating them into the book in a way that adds to the story without feeling like a lecture. The real highlight of this book, as was the case in the previous one, is the wonderful characterisation of the three sisters. each of whom has a distinct personality. Fans of their writing will enjoy the suggestion that the people the girls meet in this book could have acted as inspiration for some of the characters readers have come to love over the centuries.
I read and reviewed an ARC courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher, all opinions are my own.
Added 20th November 2020