I was sent a copy of The Bones of You by Debbie Howells by Mumsnet Book Club for review.
This is Debbie Howells’ debut novel; it’s about a small village where an 18 year old girl goes missing, and is soon found dead. It’s written from the point of view of Kate, an inhabitant of the village who knows the girl’s family in passing. Kate befriends the girl’s mother and tries to support her through this difficult time, but things are not as they seem, and she soon realises there are a lot of hidden secrets behind the facade of the perfect family in their show home. The husband is a famous TV news reporter; the wife is always dressed and made up perfectly; the house and garden are perfectly pristine at all times.
This book is written largely from Kate’s perspective, but what makes it interesting is that there are also short parts written from the perspective of Rosie, the dead girl. Through flashbacks of her life, we find out more about what may have happened to her.
I was captivated by this book from the first page, and couldn’t put it down. The characters are really well developed and the twists hard to spot. Without giving the ending away, I thought it was perfectly handled, with a realistic consequence.
I love the idea of using flashbacks of Rosie’s life to show what it was really like to be her. It’s not something I’ve seen in a book before and it was really refreshing. It also allows the reader to discover a lot of things that would otherwise not have fit well into the story.
One thing I found odd was that an entire year seemed to pass after Rosie’s death, without anything really happening. These days the police tend to catch a killer by finding the tiniest piece of trace evidence in the middle of a literal haystack – but the police in this fictional village seem to be fairly inept in that respect. I like the fact that there are other things going on in Kate’s life beside the death of a girl she barely knew; it makes the story more believable.
Kate’s husband is largely absent from the story, and her daughter also leaves for uni fairly early on – which makes it believable that she might end up with nothing better to do than try and help her friend, spending more and more time either with her or talking about her.
The one character I thought was a little far-fetched was Laura. Shortly after Rosie goes missing, Laura turns up in the local pub – Kate knew her at uni but hasn’t seen her for years, apparently because she’s now living in New York, working for a magazine. Laura remains throughout the entire book, but I can’t imagine a magazine in the world that would send a reporter to another country and have her stay in a tiny village working on a single story about the murder of an 18 year old, even if that 18 year old was the daughter of a famous TV personality. I also felt like she was really only there to relay information about the police investigation (via her “inside source” which she apparently has even though she works in the States). It allows for information about the police investigation to be included in the story, without something even more far-fetched happening, like Kate having an affair with the lead detective or something. I do think perhaps it would have worked better if the dead girl’s mother just mentioned things from time to time though, and the Laura character was just a friend from the village whom Kate talked to about her suspicions.
That said though, this is still an immensely readable book that I really enjoyed. With so many books like this, you tend to get to the last page and have the grown-up equivalent of “and they all lived happily ever after,” with all loose ends neatly tied up, the bad guy behind bars and life returning to normal. I find the ending of this book more realistic in that respect.
Thanks for reading.