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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 12 March 2017
The third in this so far excellent series. A year has passed since Harriets' tragic loss in book 2. She needs to start living again and when Crowthers' past comes back to haunt him she has an excuse for a trip away from home.

Some of the other reviewers found this book slow. I can honestly say that I did not, The story is meticulously crafted and the atmosphere feels very authentic which is what I like in any historical book. The author plays with a touch of the paranormal but includes enough evidence for us to come to a more prosaic explanation, coincidence and possibly schizophrenia for example. I enjoyed this book very much and I will be buying the next one.
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on 11 April 2011
Island of Bones is a gripping murder mystery set in the striking landscape of the Lake District, where the dark secrets of the gentry's past are resurrected and entangled with the present. The plot entwines the lives of the upper classes and the superstitious townsfolk into the mystery, combining science and anatomical discoveries with magical paganism as the evidence builds towards the climax with plenty of intrigue along the way. Imogen Robertson's characters are well formed, diverse and interesting, and she carefully balances our growing awareness of their flaws whilst we simultaneously warm to them.

Island of Bones is part of a series of books, but can easily be read on its own, as I did. After enjoying the attention to detail and absorbing storyline of this book I am looking forward to reading her previous two novels!
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on 14 July 2011
I found Imogen Robertson first novel 'Instrument of Darkness' by accident and as it is based in Sussex, like me, I was intrigued. It was a fantastic book and I really enjoyed her follow up book 'Anatomy of Murder'.

This being her third book I would recommend reading them in order, it won't ruin any of the stories if you don't but you will get a lot more out of them from the build up of each character and thier relationship to each other, especially of those between Harriette and Crowther.

I cannot wait for the next book - thank you Imogen for such wonderful story telling.
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I hadn't read any of the Westerman/Crowther books before this dropped through my letterbox, courtesy of Bookhuggers... However, seeing as I really love mysteries and crime/murder stories are right up my street, I couldn't wait to get stuck in to this one! How disappointed was I then, that it took me such a long time to get into this story - to be honest it must have taken me a good third of the way in before I became involved with it all! Robertson spends a lot of time at the start of the book setting scenes, giving a lot of insight into the characters that we are going to deal with during the tale - extremely convincingly done, in all fairness - and gave us some very good dialogue which I found totally believable.
So what didn't work for me at first? I think that actually - perversely - it was the sheer amount of the detail given that put me off a bit and made me think `Oh come on, get on with it already!'. Doubtless that is my shortcoming, not the book's, but one nonetheless. However I stuck with it and was ultimately really glad that I did. The links between family secrets and British history were well developed, there was some fascinating stuff going on about the Celtic roots of our current Christianity (a bit of an interest of mine, so a bonus there!) and suddenly - whoomp - the story took off and I was dying to find out what was going to happen. At one point I was even reading it with one hand whilst holding the hairdryer in the other whilst getting ready for work - I couldn't wait to find out what would happen! Needless to say - I DIDN'T work out who it was until maybe a page before the denouement and that crucial part of the story actually made my heart beat faster with excitement. Excellent stuff! I have already asked the local library to get in the two books that come before in the series - the relationship between Westerman and Crowther in particular is one that I am keen to find out more about; seeing how widowhood actually empowers Westerman is a great take on the role played by women in society - just one more reason to read this book. Definitely a recommendation by me!
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First Sentence: There was a peculiar hush around the Tower the night before an execution.

Scientist and anatomist Gabriel Crother is something of an enigma to neighbors and acquaintances, which has been fine by him. Thirty years ago, he turned his back on his family tragedies, but now must face them. His estranged sister and her son are staying at the estate once owned by their family. Upon encouraging the current owner to move the tomb of the first Earl of Greta from the Island of Bones to the local church, an extra body is discovered within. Crother and his friend, Mrs. Harriet Westerman, are summoned and Crother must confront the past finding that what was thought to be true in the past may not have been and that a brother was falsely executed. Can the truth be learned before others die as well?

Having well-developed, interesting, appealing characters is so critical and Robertson has more than met that requirement. Each of the characters, whether principal or secondary, comes alive under Ms. Robertson's deft hand; so much so that Mrs. Westerman is someone one would like to be, and her 12-year-old son, very believable. The relationship between all of the characters is perfectly correct and appropriate for the period, including the depth, trust and friendship between Crother and Mrs. Westerman. At the same time, each character is flawed making them realistically human. For those who've not read the previous books in the series, ample history is provided to each character, thus avoiding feeling lost.

There is no confusion as to where the story is set, either in period or in location. The period details of social proprietary and customs are always interesting but don't make either the story or the characters seem stiff. We are reminded that this was a time when the old beliefs and legends still held their place beside Christianity. At one point, the vicar's daughter acknowledges this blending..."I'm sure the Lord will forgive a few shreds of the pagan hanging on the souls of such good Christian people." There are wonderful descriptions that both allow you to see the environs yet make you want to pack a bag and see them for fact. The weather is used very effectively as is the dialogue, which both shows the restraint of the time but occasionally acts as a vehicle for some delightful humor..."We might have managed that better. Your poor sister will soon run out of rooms to leave in high dudgeon."

The story is wonderfully plotted. The prologue is significant to the story and absolutely compelling; drawing one in so completely as to resent ever having to put the book down, even for brief breaks. There are enough threads for it to be interesting but never confusing. It is remarkable the way in which Robertson occasionally picks up pieces and places them into the story in a new direction, thus changing the image of the puzzle in an unexpected way leading us to a wonderfully satisfying ending.

"Island of Bones" is the third in an excellent series which should be read in order but, most of all, should be read.

ISLAND OF BONES (Hist Mys-Gabriel Crowther/Harriet Westerman-England-1783) - VG+
Robertson, Imogen - 3rd in series
Headline, ©2011, UK Hardcover - ISBN: 9780755372027
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on 7 May 2012
In 1783, anatomist Gabriel Crowther finds that the family history he has tried so hard to forget has come back to haunt him. The opening of a tomb on his late father's estate in the Lake District turns up one body too many and stirs up secrets from the past. Accompanied by his investigation partner, naval widow Harriet Westerman and her young son Stephen, Gabriel travels north to examine the body and try to determine the chain of events that led it to be in the tomb.

I have a bit of an issue with books which have a map or a family tree at the beginning - they make me nervous as they seem to be saying "You'll really have to sit up straight and pay attention or you'll miss something vital". It's entirely my problem and not a failing in the books in question, but I need to admit to a touch of anxiety when I saw that Island of Bones opens with a map. However, I needn't have worried as, while the map can enhance a reader's experience of this book, you don't have to pay any attention to it to enjoy the novel.

This is a wonderful read, full of well-drawn characters, a twisty plot containing a few genuine surprises and a convincing historical background. The author provides just the right amount of description to allow the reader to visualise what is going on, without overburdening us with irrelevant period detail. Historical novels all too often feel handicapped by the weight of research, as the author can't bear not to include everything they found out. Imogen Robertson resists this temptation and gives us a rich period background in proportion with the other elements of the book.

I haven't read either of the two previous novels starring Westerman and Crowther, so this was my first introduction to them. This novel can definitely be read without knowledge of the first two in the series and the characters come alive even without the reader knowing all the ins and outs of their respective back stories. I particularly liked Harriet Westerman and enjoyed the "humanising" effect she has on Gabriel who, without her, could all too easily retreat into his world of science and have no human contact. I enjoyed his lack of tact and the way he says exactly what he thinks about everything - Harriet reins him in a little and tries to get him to see the rest of humanity as more than just a nuisance. I was also interested in what the book has to say about the role of women in the society of the time, in particular in relation to Harriet's "fame" for being involved in investigating murders and how that impacts on how her peers view her.

There were other wonderful characters in the book, but I thought Casper Grace was a standout. He represents the power of nature and the "old ways" still followed by many of the area's inhabitants. The contrast between old and new ways is a key to the novel, and one which doesn't always lead to the conclusions you'd expect.

Island of Bones is a lovely long book that you can really get your teeth into and time seemed to fly by as I was reading it. There are clues to some of the plot twists seeded throughout the narrative, but there are still some real shocks and unexpected turns that make the book even more enjoyable. Even those who read a lot of crime fiction (as I do) will still find lots of surprised in the plot.

I loved that the narrative as well as the language of the characters is historical - this makes the whole novel feel contemporary to the action, rather than a modern invention - and I also liked that the font used for the book looks like something from the era in which the book is set. Also, the fact that the plot is based around real historical events makes it all the more realistic.

I absolutely loved this book and really missed the characters when it was over. I've already gone out and bought the other two in the series and can't wait to read those too. I'm also looking forward to more Westerman and Crowther books in the future.

For those who like murder mysteries and/or historical novels I can't recommend this highly enough.
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This is the third in the series featuring Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther, set in England in the 1780s. The series, starting with Instruments of Darkness, is a great historical novel series with strong protagonists, interesting and intriguing complex storylines, and written in a highly engaging manner.

Where the second story in the series, Anatomy of Murder, took a broad canvas, heading to the War in America, and to political intrigues originating in France, this book takes us back in time. The story is set in 1783, more than a year after the tragic events of the previous story. A strong focus of the story however is the time of the Old Pretender and the Uprising of 1715, and the Young Pretender’s return in 1745. Within these turbulent times lies also the history of Gabriel Crowther, whose mysterious antecedents have been teasing the readers (and Harriet Westerman) up till now. The discovery of an unknown body in the tomb of the Earl of Greta leads to Harriet and Gabriel being called upon to investigate further, and the lands of the Greta family had since been owned by Gabriel’s own family. So this time it’s very personal indeed for Crowther, and for those who care about him.

This story very successfully weaves together Gabriel Crowther’s personal history with the history of the Stuarts and their supporters. I found it very interesting in this story the immediacy with which people were, in 1783, remembering and personally experiencing the times of 1715 and 1745. Thinking about it, it’s very much the same as us now recalling the experiences of those who suffered through the First and Second World Wars – two generations ago, then one generation ago. It is still fresh, and raw, and people remember those who went before them. That immediacy and the personal recollections of those events are very clearly laid out in this story. I found it a great read, as I have also found the previous two books in the series. The author has a very light touch and the action opens itself up before the reader very clearly and engagingly. Definitely recommended to anyone looking for a good historical novel series. I look forward to the next in the series, Circle of Shadows (a preview of which is offered at the end of this book).
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VINE VOICEon 27 November 2012
The author has done her research into the life and times of the English during the latter half of the 19th Century, sometimes a little too thoroughly. The detail tends to slow the movement of the storyline. However, this is small potatoes when looking at the very well written whoduunit set in 1783 - mainly.

I do take issue with her editor who seems to think the Americanism 'out back' was used at this period and that jogging was used as a quick human trot but this is just nit-picking. She creates atmosphere and colour in the Lake District which hasn't changed a great deal even today.

For those following this eccentric pair of sleuths this is a good story which fits nicely into the scheme of things relative to Crowther's family background. Harriet Westerman we know about but Gabriel Crowther has always been an enigma, the more so when we discover he is, in fact, Lotd Keswick by inheritance.

The author gathers around her a whole plethora of characters, some bad, many mainly good, as Crowther begins to uncover the reason why a skeleton was found in a tomb meant for two, not three. It's clever, interesting and a welcome change from the crash, bang, wallop of today's investigations. The children, frankly, seem too good to be true. Pity they aren't all like that. The local baddie wasn't too hard to spot but as to why he was so became clear only at the end which is as it should be. The reader is held captive as the story unfolds, flitting from Vienna to London and back to Cumberland, the characters feeding off each other as a few more bodies tax the mind of Crowther and his ally, Harriet Westerman.

Imogen Robertson has a series to be proud of and I'll now search out the next book for another breath of fresh air in the crime thriller genre.
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on 19 May 2012
The story starts with the hanging of a man for the murder of his own father, rapidly followed by the discovery of a mysterious body in someone else's tomb. The intelligent but aloof Gabriel (brother of the hanged man) and the feisty Harriet, whose relationship to Gabriel is never fully explained, are brought in to solve the puzzle.

A gothic whodunit set in the 18th century. The story has wonderful historical snippets and possesses a real sense of the period. And there are some fabulously comic lines dropped in here and there. The author really picks up on the religious reality of the time when ancient pagan practices mingled with Christian teachings.

My one complaint about this book is that there are too many different characters popping up all over the place; so much so that I found it a little confusing and difficult to follow at times.

I very much enjoyed this book, however, for its interpretation of the gothic, its drama and intrigue, suspense and the way in which we really get a sense of period through the author's style of writing. I especially enjoyed the character of Casper.

This is a book I will keep hold of and read again. The one advantage of having that complexity I mentioned earlier is that I will hopefully find out something new with each re-read.
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on 30 May 2012
This is a real historical gripper. I found out by accident this is actually the third in the series, but only after reading this compelling crime novel. Although this is the third it does not deter the read. I would urge any reader to start with the first book, which I have just commenced.
I could not put this book down, I felt compelled to read this to its end and read it on a train journey, and it was a rare occasion to look forward to the journey home to complete this.
The book centres around scientist and anatomist Gabriel Crowther who is both puzzling and ambiguous. He has turned his back on the family tragedies- hoping he can ignore the past, but it catches up with him.
His estranged sister and her son are staying at the estate once owned by their family. whilst encouraging the owner to move the tomb of the first Earl of Greta from the Island of Bones to the local church. Another body is found within tomb. As a result Crowther and his friend, Mrs. Harriet Westerman are asked to attend in which crowther cannot resist. He has to then confront the past and that his brother may have been falsely (as the reader may have been thinking at the beginning of the book)
Each of the characters are real and Imogen Robertson spins a good compelling story.
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