Thursday 26 November 2020

BLOG TOUR: The Diabolical Bones (The Brontë Mysteries) - Bella Ellis


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 . . .

What did I think?

After admiring the absolutely gorgeous cover, I squealed with delight when seeing one of my favourite things printed on the endpapers: a map!  It's not just for decoration either; I found it really useful to refer back to the map as the story progresses to put into perspective how far the Brontës must travel (mainly on foot) to get to their various destinations.  I have to share a photo of the endpapers as they are so fabulous.

Although I have read The Vanished Bride, the first book in The Brontë Mysteries series, you can definitely read The Diabolical Bones as a standalone because other than the continuation of the characters' lives, it's a completely separate mystery.  With a poignant undertone, the story begins in 1852 with Charlotte, the last remaining Brontë sibling, reminiscing about a mysterious case in Christmas 1845 that she and her siblings investigated.

It is a freezing December night when the bones of a young child are discovered hidden in a chimney breast in Top Withens Hall.  Rather fortuitous for our nosy spinsters, their brother Branwell is friends with the owner's son which allows them to gain access to the house.  The owner is reluctant to let the sisters see the bones as he wants to bury them on his land but this doesn't deter the sisters as they are determined to identify the child.  When another child goes missing, it seems like something sinister is afoot in Yorkshire.

What an absolutely brilliant mystery!  I'm not going to say anything about the plot for fear of inadvertently spoiling it for others, other than to say it was very well done indeed.  Neither fast nor slow paced, I found the pacing to be just perfect to allow me to be fully consumed by the life of the Brontës.  

The sisters are just reaching out to publishers with their poetry and Bella Ellis includes two wonderful poems by Emily and Anne at the beginning and end of The Diabolical Bones.  At a time when women were to be seen and not heard, we can see how difficult it was to be a woman in the 19th century, always having to rely on men to gain access to places or giving the illusion that they are working for men.  The sisters do have Branwell for this, but he's pickled in gin most of the time!  As I was reading I could see the germination of ideas for their novels as the locations are described so exquisitely that you can't help but wonder if a certain place was the inspiration for Thornfield Hall, Wuthering Heights or Wildfell Hall.  This is something that Bella Ellis explores further in her Author's Note but it really does come through in the wonderful prose.

I simply adored The Diabolical Bones.  The history of the Brontë family interwoven with a fabulous mystery results in a compelling, exquisite and fascinating novel.  An absolute treasure of a novel, I can't recommend it highly enough and I didn't hesitate for a second before awarding the full five stars.

Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton for sending me a beautiful hardback to read and review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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