The Diabolical Bones whisks the reader away from the comfort of their armchairs to the chilly moors around Haworth in December 1845. There the reader is introduced to the Brontë sisters: Charlotte, Emily and Anne, and their troubled brother Branwell, reinvented by author Bella Ellis as detectives setting out to right local wrongs. The novel is an extraordinary mix of gothic noir, girl power and suitably ‘wuthering heights’.
The bones of a child are discovered within the walls of a cheerless grey edifice, wreathed with gargoyles, squatting atop the moor: the notorious Top Withens Hall. The brutish owner, Clifton Bradshaw, refuses to give the child a proper burial until the ground thaws. But the sisters, loyal daughters of the beloved local parson, determine to rescue the bones and lay them to rest, setting in motion a series of sinister discoveries that reveal other lost, and possibly murdered, local children.
The author, Bella Ellis (aka Rowan Coleman), has done her research, locating this story at approximately the time that the sisters got their first book of poems published. We learn a little of their previous lives and loves – and we see them struggling to find inspiration for their new written works. The respective personalities of the siblings are nicely depicted, alongside the parsonage’s long-suffering servant, Tabby. And the Yorkshire moors take a starring role in all their haughty resplendent majesty.
The murder mystery unfolds with appropriate twists and turns. There are malevolent mansion owners, a prospective romantic lead, Liston, son of the brutish Bradshaw, an obstreperous orphanage owner, and the magnificently mysterious Lady Hartley. Between these colourful characters, the enterprising sisters and their faithful animal companions, there are thrills and spills to warm the chillest of wintry hearts.
This is the second in a series by bestselling author, Rowan Coleman, writing here under her Brontë-inspired pen name. Whether you’re a Brontë lover, appreciate a collection of complex female characters or are just after a gripping read as winter sets in, The Diabolical Bones is the kind of novel that has you hoping for a rainy day so you can curl up with a mug of something and get stuck right in.