Secrets can be buried, but bones can speak… When Michael (Digger) Digson is recruited into DS Chilman’s new plain clothes squad in the small Caribbean island of Camaho he brings his own mission to discover who amongst a renegade police squad killed his mother in a political demonstration.
Sent to London to train in forensics, Digger becomes enmeshed in Chilman’s obsession with a cold case – the disappearance of a young man whose mother is sure has been murdered. But along with his new skill in forensics, Digger makes rich use of the cultural knowledge he has gained from the Fire Baptist grandmother who brought him up, another kind of reader of bones. And when the enigmatic Miss K. Stanislaus, another of Chilman’s recruits, joins him on the case, Digger finds that his science is more than outmatched by her observational skills. Together, they find themselves dragged into a world of secrets, disappearances and danger that demands every ounce of their brains, persistence and courage to survive.
Jacob Ross brings the best traditions of crime fiction to the Caribbean novel with a fast-moving narrative, richly observed characters, a powerful evocation of place and a denouement that will leave readers breathless. Along the way, The Bone Readers has much to say about power, wilful amnesia and the need for truth. In Digger and Miss Stanislaus, The Bone Readers introduces characters to rival Leonardo Padura’s Cuban detective, Mario Conde, and Timothy Williams’ Anne Marie Laveaud.
So, this book was announced as the winner of the Jhalak Prize last night and soI knew it was definitely time to read it. It’s a crime fiction novel which is a genre I rarely ever touch as I’m not a huge fan of it, however, this novel is just wonderful and I’m definitely going to pay more attention to crime novels in the future!
As it’s a crime novel, I can’t say too much about the plot because that will spoil all the fun of the secrets and reveals as you read through. The characters are all fantastic and very well fleshed out and I really enjoyed the interactions between them all. The book is set on the fictional island of Camaho in the Caribbean which is based on Grenada, the author’s home. Because of this, it’s showing us a very gritty, realistic view of life on the island and doesn’t hold back from criticising certain traditions. One thing that I absolutely adored about the novel was that the characters spoke in their own language and it’s not adapted to Standard English. Although this may make it harder for some readers to understand (particularly those who do not speak English as a first language), I felt it really helped add to the immersion of the novel and I personally adore it when authors write dialogue the way it would be spoken by the characters.
I found the authors writing absolutely beautiful and I’m very excited to hear that this is the first in a planned quartet as I look forward to reading more about these characters and I really enjoyed the reveals as they worked on their case as I was kept in constant suspense and constantly surprised. This book has definitely both made me want to read more of his work, and made me want to read more crime fiction.
I would highly recommend this novel and I can definitely see why it was chosen as the very first winner of the Jhalak Prize – something which it definitely, definitely deserves. It’s so hard to put down that I read it in just two sittings (and I only stopped the first time because I had to go eat!)