Sunday, March 28, 2021

Review: The Diabolical Bones by Bella Ellis

by Bella Ellis
Release Date: February 16th 2021
2021 Berkley Books
Kindle Edition; 336 Pages
ISBN: 978-0593099155
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

The Bronte sisters-- Anne, Emily, and Charlotte--are busy with their literary pursuits. As they query publishers for their poetry, each sister hopes to write a full-length novel that will thrill the reading public. They're also hoping for a new case for their fledgling detecting enterprise, Bell Brothers and Company solicitors. On a bitterly cold February evening, their housekeeper Tabby tells them of a grim discovery at Scar Top House, an old farmhouse belonging to the Bradshaw family. A set of bones has been found bricked up in a chimney breast inside the ancient home.

Tabby says it's bad doings, and dark omens for all of them. The rattled housekeeper gives them a warning, telling the sisters of a chilling rumour attached to the family. The villagers believe that, on the verge of bankruptcy, Clifton Bradshaw sold his soul to the devil in return for great riches. Does this have anything to do with the bones found in the Bradshaw house? The sisters are intrigued by the story and feel compelled to investigate. But Anne, Emily, and Charlotte soon learn that true evil has set a murderous trap and they've been lured right into it...
My Thoughts
The Diabolical Bones was an intriguing look at the treatment of children, especially orphan children, during the time period.  When a child's skeletal remains are found hidden in the walls in a local house, the Bronte sisters become devoted to discovering the identity of the child as well as to finding out how they ending up being hidden and why.  This led to some interesting discussions focusing on the plight of children and the abuse so many suffered in these homes.  Unfortunately, I felt the mystery kind of fell to the wayside in the midst of all this telling, focusing quite a bit on what the Bronte women may have been up to before they wrote their famous novels.
One of the strengths of this novel is the descriptions of the lives of the Bronte family.  While definitely impoverished, suffering from various illnesses, including their father's failing eyesight, the Brontes have an unshakable bond that makes them strong despite the hardships.  I enjoyed the witty dialogue, the interactions, the arguments, as it made them feel alive.  I read Jane Eyre when I was 13 years old so to have these women come alive in this way is still exciting for me as those books still hold a special place in my heart and I love how the author incorporates ways in which the Bronte women may have developed their ideas for their books.  
The story is told in different POV and I liked learning the different perspectives of the Bronte women. It would be kind of interesting to have Branwell's POV as well as he plays a role in a lot of the sisters' activities, but you never really know what he is thinking.  That he is suffering is evident, but to know more would be intriguing.  There is also a little ache in my heart as I am familiar with their stories and know what happens to all of them, and it is tragic. This story is set around 1846, so those of us familiar with the Brontes know the ending is coming soon. 
The mystery itself was probably the weakest part of this book.  It was quite easy to guess who was the culprit and I find it interesting that it was one that one simple thing that clued me in about one-third of the way in, otherwise I think I would have been left guessing.  Knowing doesn't usually bother me however, as I always find the details so interesting, but the actual 'detecting' was slow, especially in comparison to the previous book.  Those scenes dragged on and got wrapped up in the descriptions, as interesting as they were, dampening the tension and drama that should have been there. 
The Diabolical Bones was a solid entry in the Bronte Sisters Mystery series, if not quite as interesting as the first book.  The author has done a great job researching the lives of the Bronte sisters and it is well worth reading just for that alone.  Readers of the Bronte novels will enjoy reading about the locations that have appeared in their works and their poems which makes it double the fun. The mystery however, was a little thin in this one, but for the most part, it was still entertaining and I definitely appreciated the focus on children and their terrible treatment in orphanages.  I do recommend this book, especially if you are a fan of the Bronte sisters.