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Thursday 2 September 2021

‘Small Bones’ by Kerry Buchanan

Published by Joffe Books,
3 June 2021.
ISBN: 978-1-78931-843-2 (PB)

Sue Hearn is living on a limited income after she was forced to leave work in order to look after her father, who is suffering from dementia. Sue’s mother vanished when she was a teenager, and since the death of her grandfather, her father is the only family she has left. Carrow Lodge, the Victorian house that has been in Sue’s family for generations, is falling apart, and when the greenhouse collapses Sue cannot afford to replace it and decides to create a herb garden in its place. It is while she is digging out the greenhouse foundations that Sue is horrified to discover the bones of a young child. She knows that she should report this to the police, but she is aware that the greenhouse was erected by her dearly loved grandfather, the mainstay of her teenage years, and she fears that he may be implicated in the child’s death and that an investigation will have a detrimental effect on her father’s fragile health. Sue turns for help to her friend and former boss, Professor Mark Talbot of the State Pathologist’s Department. Mark is supportive but he insists that, if the child’s bones are of a recent burial, rather than a historic burial, Sue must report it to the police. This turns out to be the case, along with indications of foul play, and Acting Detective Inspector Asha Harvey and her second-in-command, Detective Constable Aaron Birch, become involved in the investigation.

Asha is painfully aware that if she is going to be confirmed in her new rank it is essential that she solves this cold case quickly and with the least use of resources, however, it is a difficult case, as the child victim has not been identified and does not seem to appear in any Missing Persons records. As Asha and Aaron probe the case of the murdered boy, they also have to work out if his death was in any way connected with the disappearance of Sue’s mother, Monica, thirty years previously. Monica vanished when the Troubles in Northern Ireland were at their height and there is little indication that her disappearance was properly investigated. Sue is willing to help in any way she can, but her memories are those of a bewildered teenager who had been sheltered by her grandfather. Even before he was stricken with dementia, Sue’s father was no support because he was addicted to drugs. Asha and Aaron painstakingly put together the past clues and unearth new information. To their horror, they discover the reason why the few records regarding the disappearance of Monica or the child have been ‘lost in the system’, when they reveal a vicious web of police corruption that has lasted for the last thirty years. As the investigation continues the violence escalates. Asha and Aaron are determined to discover the truth but soon they, as well as Sue, find themselves in imminent danger of their lives and have no idea who, if anyone, they can trust.

Small Bones is the second book in the series featuring Asha Harvey and Aaron Birch. It is a superb book, with a narrative that is told in both 1992 and the present day. The plot is complex and compelling with clever and totally unexpected twists, and the background detail skilfully captures the Northern Ireland of thirty years ago and of modern times. The characterisation is excellent, with some convincing depictions of bullying, racism and sexism, but this is balanced by some thoroughly likeable characters, especially Asha and Aaron who are engaging protagonists and the sort of cops that are worthy of respect. Small Bones is a compelling read, which I wholeheartedly recommend.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Kerry Buchanan  is a vet who retired when her disability left her unable to carry out the duties required. Since then, she’s designed leukaemia patient databases, researched high pressure food processing, taught ICT to people who were convinced computers would explode in their face if they hit the wrong key, and run her own livery business. Kerry lives on a farm in amongst the drumlins of County Down in Northern Ireland, surrounded by animals, both two- and four-legged. The view from every window provides inspiration for her stories which is the reason, she says, for her productivity. These days, she’s a full-time carer for her father, who is 93 and suffers from dementia, but still makes time to write prolifically. She won an ACNI SIAP award in 2019 and then a second ACNI award in the summer of 2020. Her short stories are widely published, including The Armada Tree, which won Kraxon Magazine's Story of the Year Award (2019), but she is only now beginning to submit some of her novels. Her first crime novel, Knife Edge, was published by Joffe Books 14 April 2021.
Facebook: @KerryBuchananFantasyAuthor
Twitter: @DabblinginCrime

Carol Westron is a successful author and a Creative Writing teacher.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  Her first book The Terminal Velocity of Cats was published in 2013. Since then, she has since written 5 further mysteries. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below.
To read a review of Carol latest book This Game of Ghosts
click on the title.

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