Published: 5 November 2020
Author: Bella Ellis
Published by: Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 352 pages
Reading dates: 12-22 November 2020
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 evening, their housekeeper Tabby tells them of a grim discovery at Top Withens Halls, 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…
This is the second book from Bella Ellis with the Bronte sisters as the central characters, and although I haven’t read the first in the series, The Vanished Bride, I was able to pick up The Diabolical Bones and read it as a standalone.
When the bones of a child are found bricked up in the chimney breast of Top Withens Hall, the sisters are immediately intrigued and start to investigate who the child might be and how they might have died. Using their contacts including Celia Prescott who having studied medicine is able to determine that the bones belonged to a likely malnourished child of between 12-14 who lived in poverty. With no obvious cause of death evident from the bones the sisters discover there have been children who have gone missing from the local orphanage, and when a local boy goes missing, they face a race against time to find him.
I really enjoyed The Diabolical Bones. It is historical fiction at it’s best. We know the Bronte sisters for their skill at writing but Ellis does a fabulous job as imagining the sisters are detectives as well. Each sister takes a turn in telling the story and they all have their own unique personality and voice and I love the humorous interchanges between the sisters and their brother Bradshaw.
The setting of Haworth, on the often bleak Yorkshire Moors, in the run up to Christmas 1845 is richly atmospheric and the description of the cold chilled my bones. Ellis has done a great job with her research. The poverty that people suffer and the shocking conditions of the orphanage are appalling. The book itself is stunning with a beautiful jacket and a map inside (I do love a map in a book!) I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Bronte sisters and I look forward to seeing what mystery they get involved in next.
Thank you to Steven Cooper for inviting me on the blog tour and for my copy of the book. Please check out the other blogger reviews below:
About the author
Bella Ellis is the Bronte inspired pen name for the award winning Sunday Times bestselling author Rowan Coleman. A Bronte devotee for most of her life, Rowan is the author of fourteen novels including The Memory Book, The Summer of Impossible Things and The Girl at the Window.