Starting Island of Bones: Imogen Robertson

Posted: October 21, 2011 in Book Awards, England, Historical

Sometimes you get nudged into reading a book, and then finding that it is number 3 in a series and wish you had spotted the books earlier and started at the beginning. My good intentions to read the 2011 CWA Ellis Peters shortlist resulted in me picking up Island of Bones by Imogen Robertson. I am now half way through this historical mystery set in late 18th Century England, a period I know little about apart from some studying of the American War of Independence. The author who grew up in Darlington was a TV, film and radio director before becoming an author. She plays the cello, speaks four languages and overcame mild dyslexia to read Russian and German at Cambridge. Almost as interesting a back story as her main characters, the beautiful Mrs Harriet Westerman, and the taciturn anatomist Gabriel Crowther.

I would have made more progress through Imogen’s book if I had not become totally engrossed exploring her website and blog , which are packed full of information about the novels and the period. There is a very interesting video tour of Georgian sites in London relating to Anatomy of Murder, the second book in this series.

Imogen Robertson’s writing style smoothly matches the period and has been described as similar to Jane Austen and Patrick O’Brian, apparently there are a lot of naval connections in Anatomy of Murder. She is certainly a talented writer, who has meticulously researched the period becoming in the process an admirer of Horace Walpole, who in 1764 had initiated a literary genre with first gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto. 

The dialogue especially that between Mrs Westerman and Crowther is convincing, and one is never shaken out of 1783 by inappropriate slang, such as Downton Abbey’s ‘As if’, and ‘our lot get shafted’ etc. This is much more erudite writing for a unhurried readership prepared to take the time to be absorbed into the atmosphere of the place and period. It is not a fast read but it is an utterly fascinating one. I am hoping the second half of the book is as good as the first.

‘Are you quite sure, Mrs Westerman?’ Crowther asked, opening his eyes a little wider. ‘I have had the urge to horsewhip him ever since I saw the manner in which he tied his cravat.’ Harriet shook her head again and tried not to laugh. 

Terry Halligan’s review of Island of Bones at Eurocrime 

[to be continued]

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Norman – You’ve sold me! I’d heard of this series, but not dipped into it. Now I shall say, “…not dipped into it yet.” I’m so glad you’re enjoying the novel and I must pay a visit to that site.

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