Thursday, November 05, 2020

The Diabolical Bones by Bella Ellis

First Line: Charlotte could not conceive of a place more beautiful than Haworth and the surrounding countryside in spring.

Haworth Parsonage, February 1846: While the Brontë sisters wait for word from publishers about their poetry and try to formulate plots for the novels they intend to write, it's high time for their detecting enterprise, Bell Brothers & Company, Solicitors, to have a new case. Then their housekeeper Tabby tells them of a grim discovery at an old farmhouse belonging to the Bradshaw family-- a set of bones has been found bricked up in a chimney breast inside the old building. Despite Tabby's dire warnings, the sisters decide to investigate, and they soon learn that they've been lured right into a trap.


I fell under the spell of the first Brontë Sisters mystery, The Vanished Bride, and it didn't take long for a repeat performance with this second book, The Diabolical Bones. I am very well acquainted with the Brontës, their writings, and the Haworth area, and author Bella Ellis does a phenomenal job of bringing both the times, the physical setting, and the characters to life. If you love being immersed in an historical mystery, this is the one for you-- and you don't even have to be a Brontë fan to enjoy yourself.

The book begins with one of Emily's poems, a perfect choice for the weather in The Diabolical Bones, then moves swiftly to sole survivor Charlotte thinking back on this particular investigation, which gives it a bittersweet start. You might want to wrap up for an Arctic expedition when you read this book, because the sisters walk for miles and miles and miles in bitter cold, biting winds, and deep snows. You're also going to be picking up interesting little nuggets of information about why yew trees are usually found in English graveyards, the Pendle witches, and villagers' attitudes towards Christianity and the "old stories" and superstitions.

Do you know why so many people in the small towns and villages were both so religious and so superstitious? Seems like a contradiction, doesn't it? Well, they thought of it as wearing your "belts and braces (suspenders)": Christianity was your belt, and the old stories and superstitions were your braces. You needed both to survive a world that often seemed to be dead set against you.

One oddly worded sentence in The Diabolical Bones told me who the villain was, but that did not take away any of my enjoyment of this book, and it's not all serious business. The loving relationship the sisters have. Their camaraderie. Their stealing lines from each other for their writing. It's all pitch-perfect enjoyment that I highly recommend.

One note on the cover used. This is the UK cover, and today is the UK release date of this book. Publishers have been playing musical chairs with release dates the past few months, and this second Brontë Sisters mystery is now set to be released in February 2021 here in the US. I decided to review it now because who doesn't need to be told about good books to read? But don't worry-- I'll remind you again in February! 

The Diabolical Bones by Bella Ellis
eISBN: 9780593099162
Penguin Publishing Group © 2021
eBook, 336 pages
Historical Mystery, #2 Brontë Sisters mystery
Rating: A
Source: Net Galley


  1. I hadn't heard that about 'belts and braces' before, Cathy - that's interesting! And I give credit to any author who can evoke a time and place this well. That's not easy to do (I think C.J. Sansom does it very well, too). The plot of this one - the actual mystery - sounds intriguing, too. I can see why you enjoyed this as much as you did.

    1. Yes, C.J. Sansom does an excellent job, too.

  2. It sounds as though this one has several things I love in a book! A good mystery, interesting historical facts and other tidbits, some wonderful characters and a good feel for the time and place. Sounds like a perfect read.

  3. I think I need to find the first book!

  4. I love the idea of novels featuring real-life classic authors like this, but like Jen, I think I need to find myself a copy of that first one. Thanks for the heads-up on the new series.


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