Sunday, July 7, 2013

67. "The Bone Garden" by Tess Gerritsen

Gerritsen, Tess. The Bone Garden. New York: Ballantine Books, 2007.
487 pages
Reviewed by J. d'Artagnan Love

The Bone Garden was another one of those books that I bought to build a stack of beach reads. In The Bone Garden, Julia Hamill, recently divorced, buys an old house in Boston and discovers a skeleton buried in her back yard. After the story hits the newspapers, Julia is contacted by Henry Page who is a descendant of the previous owner of Julia's home. Together, he and Julia sort through boxes of old family heirlooms, newspaper clippings and letters to try and uncover the mystery surrounding the skeleton in her garden.

The Bone Garden has a second story arch. The narrative flashes between present time and 1830s Boston where Norris Marshall attends medical school. In a maternity ward, Norris meets Rose Conelly, an Irish immigrant and her sister Aurnia, who is dying of childbed fever. When Rose is witness to a murder, she and Norris are entangled in an investigation to hunt down a serial killer.

This book is a fun read. The sections  of the narrative taking place in the 1830s are much better developed than those set in the present. Julia Hamill experiences a cheeky romance with Henry's nephew that feels contrived and forced. The relationship between Julia and Henry is endearing but not much time is spent getting to know Julia herself. Her character is less of a protagonist and more of a plot device to connect the past to the present. This in itself is not necessarily a bad writing choice, but it did make Julie feel like a hollow and archetypal character.

Rose Conolly, on the other hand, is pretty interesting. She has a fierce devotion to her family and, Irish stereotypes aside, she's strong and easy to root for. The relationship between Norris and Rose also feels a bit rushed and contrived at points but the mystery of tracking down the serial killer, and Gerittsen's descriptions of medical practices in the 1830s were fascinating.

In all, I enjoyed this book. It certainly falls into the category of "beach read" because it was highly entertaining, but not something of high literary value. The next time I want an easy, quick, entertaining read, Gerritson's work will be at the top of my list of choices.

3 darts out of 5
Bookshelf Project Status: DONATED

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