Wednesday, 19 October 2016

The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen - Book Review

4.5/5 Stars

A gruesome secret is about to be unearthed...

Edition: Paperback
Pages: 526
Chapters: 37
Publisher: Bantam Books

Book Links: Goodreads
                      Author's Website


The Bone Garden is a mesmerising medical thriller/historical drama that captivates and chills. Set predominantly during the 1800s in Boston, with periodic jumps forward to the present day, Tess delivers cutting brutality, intricate mystery, and a realistic look at the hardships and class divides that plagued the times (and, in some ways, still persist today).

Historical fiction isn't something I normally pick up. Not because I don't like it, I'm just very neutral about it. Well, Ms Gerritsen has shown me what I've been missing. The way she creates the world around a vivid cast sends you back in time, and the in-depth lives we follow make you forget there's a crime story right up until it smacks you in the face just as hard as it does our characters.

And the detail... The author, with previous medical experience, is unrelenting with the macabre nightmares concocted within The Bone Garden. There are no rose-coloured glasses here, with poverty and murder painted with dark, depressing realism.



When a human skull is dug up in a garden near Boston, Dr Maura Isles is called in to investigate. She quickly discovers that the skeleton - that of a young woman - has been buried for over a hundred years. But who was the woman? And how did she die?

It is the 1830s, and an impoverished medical student, Norris Marshall, is forced to procure corpses in order to further his studies in human anatomy.

It's a gruesome livelihood that will bring him into contact with a terrifying serial killer who slips from ballrooms to graveyards and into autopsy suites.

And who is far, far closer than Norris could ever imagine...

Plot - 4.5/5 Stars

The Bone Garden follows two time periods: The present and the past. In the present we journey with Julia, a newly divorced woman who uncovers a body of bones in the backyard of her newly purchased home. Intent on finding out who those bones belong to, and how they died, Julia researches the horrific history of her house and the family line who previously lived there. This propels us into the meat of the novel, the 1830s, where we spend most of our time. There we follow Rose and Norris, the former a girl in poverty who falls into the tangled web of a conspiracy, and the latter a man who's inextricably drawn into the plot of a deranged serial killer.

There's a little disjoint in switches, with chapters set in the present almost entirely useless to the overall story. The characters, though, warrant the extra time.

The 1830s, however, are a glorious, gruesome adventure that will have you eternally grateful for the modern world we live in today. The mystery is marvellous, and the way Tess entrenches it into the lives of people in the direst of circumstances only heightens the experience. We see the consequences of immigration and prejudice; the beautiful bonds of family and loyalty; and the class divides that push people to do the unthinkable.

Pace - 4.5/5 Stars

Apart from the ragged edges of time shifting, The Bone Garden is a bubbling bowl of brilliance. It's smooth and unputdownable, with each page a delicious slice of heartbreaking reality. The flow is slow, but not in a negative way. Tess builds a vivid world with layers that need time and attention to be absorbed. The focus divides its time between intense relationships and cutting conspiracies, so there's never a dull moment.

Characters - 4.5/5 Stars

Gosh, character personalities and progressions are phenomenal. Care has gone into the plot, but equal consideration has been given to each individual that populates the book. Strong themes of greed, selflessness, love, and hate all collide in an explosion of drama. So much so that, even without the thriller elements, this story would be tremendous.

The only irk I have is the romantic threads, and it's not that big of an irk. I think relationships within the novel are developed well and emotionally sound, but sometimes a jump from intrigue to love can leave the reader a little confused.

Oh, and although Maura Isles, one of the main characters from Gerritsen's Rizzoli and Isles series, is in the blurb, she only pops up for about five pages. 

Writing - 5/5 Stars

You can always rely on Tess Gerritsen to infiltrate your mind with crisp images. Even if it leaves you with nightmares. Blood and gore await within The Bone Garden, and there's no holding back on stomach-churning scenes, but I dare you to try and stop.

Overall - 4.5/5 Stars

The Bone Garden makes me extremely grateful for the advantages I have in my life, even if it's not perfect. Hopefully it does the same for you. 

All in all, Tess delivers yet another terrific tale that tickles your imagination while giving you a strong dose of reality.

It's definitely not for the faint of heart.

For more Tess Gerritsen reviews: Index

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