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The Bone Garden - Tess Gerritsen

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Author: Tess Gerritsen / Genre: Fiction

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    7 Reviews
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      18.08.2012 15:25
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      A good book but not her best

      Set mostly in the 1830's this book tells the story of Rose Connolly - a young Irish poor girl who had followed her sister to America. She encounters a group of medical students when she her Sister is admitted to the local hospital having trouble giving birth. They are all thrown together by witnessing a terrible murder by someone who will go on to be dubbed 'The west end reaper'. A spate of murders occur and it is up to the group to find out who is responsible as one of them is accused and another is hunted.
      The book starts in the present when Julia Hamill is cleaning the garden of her recently bought house and she discovers some human bones. The bones are examined and found to be very old. She then contacts a relative of the lady who used to live in her house, Henry, and together they go through the contents of some old boxes he removed from the house and find lots of letters and documents telling the story of Rose Connolly and the mudrers in the 1830's.

      This book is quite different from Tess Gerritsons usual gruesome medical type murder books. I found it to be more historically romantic than a muder/crime genre. I did find it a good read, historically interesting, especially from a medical point of view and also appealed to the romantic in me. But i also thought that the ending lacked a little explaination and finished too abruptly.

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      06.03.2010 11:45
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      Another great novel from Tess Geritsen.

      I have read several novels by Tess Gerritsen and have enjoyed each one. I find I get into the story quickly, easily become involved with the lives of the characters and it soon becomes a page turner. This time, I decided to read The Bone Garden, which was published in 2007.

      Gerritsen's books are usually modern forensic thrillers, but this one surprised me as it also has a strong historical element, which I thought enhanced the novel wonderfully. It begins with a letter written in 1888 as the prologue, then the action begins in the present.

      We meet Julia Hamill, who has recently moved into a new home in Boston (USA) after a bitter divorce from Richard. The 130 year old house was previously owned by an elderly woman and needs lots of renovations doing to it, so Julia has adopted it as a pet project to take her mind off other aspects of her life. As she is digging the garden, she uncovers buried bones and soon Dr. Maura Isles (a recurring character in Gerritsen's novels, but she only briefly appears here) is excavating the site, trying to discover what secrets lie beneath the ground.

      As a woman's body is found, further secrets emerge about the previous occupant of Julia's house. She is contacted by an old man called Henry Page, the cousin of the house's former owner. He has boxes of old documents, which he says reveal some fascinating things. She drives over to his house in Maine to find out more.

      The modern day sections of the story are interjected with chapters following life in the 1830s. A young woman called Rose Connolly is at the hospital bed of her sister Aurnia, who dies of "childbed fever" just after she gives birth to a daughter. Following Aurnia's death, Rose has to protect the baby and it seems there are several people trying to get to them, as well as the ever-present threat of a serial killer on the loose - the West End Reaper.

      Rose is helped by a young medical student called Norris Marshall. He is a talented man, but faces some prejudice as he comes from a poorer background than the others on his course. To help pay for his studies, he has to assist the shady Jack Burke in stealing bodies from graves. Jack sells these on to the hospital who use them for training the students in anatomy and surgical skills.

      The story is complex and I don't want to give too much away, as the twists and turns are part of the enjoyment of reading this novel. There were several times when I felt I had guessed which way the story would go, but I was always wrong.

      Tess Gerritsen is brilliant at writing characters that come alive from the page and the stars of The Bone Garden are Julia and Henry in the present, Rose and Norris in the past. These are all wonderful characters, completely believable and you are really rooting for them all the way through.

      Julia is the one I related to the most, being a similar age to her and a woman of today. Henry is a great person too and easy to picture - a crotchety old fella, but astute and insightful. Rose and Norris are easy to love too, despite the distance the reader may feel at some points, as their 1830s lives are often quite different to ours. However, personality traits are the same and these two are strong, brave and loving.

      The events in the 1830s seem very true to life and I am sure the author has done a lot of research into this period, as it comes across as authentic, especially the details of how medical students learn their profession. This is fascinating to compare to modern day standards and quite frightening how wrong some of the doctors' beliefs were in the 1830s!

      The novel has a bit of everything - crime, romance, drama, thriller, horror - and holds the reader's attention throughout. There are a few gory bits that squeamish readers may not enjoy much, but I loved the whole thing and as soon as I had finished reading The Bone Garden, I decided to read another Gerritsen novel next - which is always a good recommendation of an author's work!

      The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen is 527 pages long and has a cover price of £6.99 for the paperback, but I bought it cheaply from a charity shop.

      I loved this novel and would rate it a 9 out of 10.

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        02.12.2009 21:39
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        Absolutely fab read - I couldn't put this down...Highly recommended!

        I'm really loving the crime/thriller genre at the moment, and having read a few Tess Gerritsen novels now, I couldn't wait to read this. As expected, it was a fantastic read!

        This book is a little different from her usual style, with less emphasis on the typical main characters and a split of storylines. It was released late 2008 and is described as her 'chilling new bestseller'.

        The book swaps between the present and future, but each chapter is labelled when there's a change to avoid confusion. I thought at first that this would get quite annoying, and yet it worked very well!

        Initially, we're introduced by Julia Hamill, a recently divorced woman who moves into a new home in Boston, only to discover a skull whilst digging up the garden. Once the police are called in, medical examiner Maura Isles concludes the skull is over 100 years old, and needless to say this stirs both interest and unease for Julia.

        Keeping with this storyline, Julia finds herself coming to terms with the break from her husband and the risk she took by buying a fairly dilapidated house. She notices Tom whilst he was walking his dog, a handsome man who she discovers lives down the road from her, and their paths become entwined through his uncle. His uncle is Henry, an elderly but determined man with a keen interest in history, and he contacts Julia to discuss letters & such that were found in the old house before Julia bought it.

        Whilst the pair, Julia & Henry, dig through the various letters, the second storyline surfaces and is gradually uncovered. We learn of Norris, the son of a farmer turned medical student in 1830's Boston. Working as a body snatcher to help pay his way in medical school, Norris doesn't quite fit in with his classmates, (ie. Edward, Charles & Oliver Wendell Smith, the latter who made a profound impact in history by suggesting doctors wash their hands!) with their carriages to escort them home at the end of the day and their fine clothes.

        At this point in time, childbed fever was rampant and we are drawn in to the story between two sisters. Rose Connelly is at the hospital amongst the medical students with Aurnia, her sister who had suffered to give birth to her child and unfortunately died shortly after.

        The hospital is quick to suggest the baby is taken away from Rose, who desperately clings to the newly named Maggie to keep her safe. It's not long before Rose must do whatever it takes to keep her safe, but it's not just the hands of the child institutions and her sister's pigheaded partner she must run from.

        The story quickly darkens as bodies are found with grim knife wounds, and as Norris, the humble medical student, appears to be close at hand when the bodies are found, suspicion quickly falls upon him.

        Norris & Rose develop a bond when they find they are linked by this Boston Ripper, and it soon appears it is the baby who is at the heart of the deception and bloodshed. But why? Who's chasing Rose? And to what lengths will such people go to get what they want?

        I must admit I did prejudge this book once I realised the skeleton dated back to the 1800s. I didn't want a book that went into history; I wanted a gritty crime/thriller that kept me hooked on reading until the killer was found. I didn't think I'd get that with this book once the storyline reverted into history, and I've never been that keen on reading about the 1800s. I was wrong and misjudged this book, so I'm very glad I kept reading!

        Whether or not you've read a Tess Gerritsen book before it doesn't matter, this one can be picked up and read without prior knowledge of any characters. Her main two characters, Rizzoli & Isles, aren't particularly involved in this, bar Isles who makes a small appearance. I was quite disappointed at first, because having read a few Gerritsen books now it was those main two characters who I had really warmed to and wanted to read about.

        None the less, Gerritsen introduces us to new characters, both past and present. The character development is fantastic, enabling empathy and compassion to be drawn out whilst you read about them. The characters were so well described in intricate detail that it was a pleasure to read about them because they were really brought to life. I really felt as if I were there with them, though very grateful I wasn't considering what happened back in the 1800s!

        Because she's such a superb writer, there wasn't a moment when I felt confused about the storyline or bored by it. The plot is detailed and moves along purposefully, with each character embedded well and each action & scene described vividly in such a way that you could imagine every detail as if you were there living it yourself.

        It also shines a light on light on 1830s Boston, from the types of jobs, the types of people and what the streets were like, to the tensions with the Irish and the poor state of medical care.

        The ending wasn't quite what I had expected, and I was hooked on reading this from start to finish and left wanting more. I was hoping for a happily ever after, but that wasn't quite what we get, and I found myself really empathising with the characters - and this was a style of writing and era that I wasn't particularly interested in reading at the beginning!

        I would highly recommend this book - there's nothing more I can say without giving the plot away or repeating myself: absolutely fantastic!

        RRP £6.99 but it's selling on Amazon for £4.86

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          06.10.2009 23:43
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          excellent book

          The Bone Garden is a gripping read and a fast paced sometimes gory medical drama. Two stories intertwine throughout the book one set in present day Boston where the discovery of an old skull in a garden provides a welcome mystery for the house's new owner particularly when she find that the skull belongs to a young woman from over 100 years ago. The other story transports you back to 1830s Boston where the notorious serial killer, the West End Reaper, had a rein of terror preying on medical students. This story focuses on Norris Marshall a poor medical student who has to turn his hand to shady dealings to further his studies. How are these stories linked and what are the consequences for all the main characters? This book really kept my attention throughout.

          In my opinion this is an excellent book, this was my first Tess Gerritsen and I really enjoyed it and am looking forward now to reading some of her others. A real page turner!

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            11.05.2009 19:31
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            An interesting historical mystery.

            Julia Hamill is digging in her new garden in Boston when she comes across the skeleton of a woman who seems to have been murdered and dumped over 100 years previously.
            Curious as to the past of her new home, Julia is contacted by the previous owners cousin who has letters dating back to the 1880's which might give clues as to the identity of the mystery woman buried in her garden.

            Its in the 1830's that we find ourselves for most of the book, looking in at the life of a young medical student called Norris Marshall, a farmers boy who has to obtain payment for his course through gruesome means - by becoming a "resurrectionist" - digging up fresh graves for bodies for the medical institutions to learn and discover further information about the human anatomy.
            At the same time, a young woman by the name of Rose has had to take charge of her newly born niece as her sister dies from childbed fever. Norris and Rose are drawn together by the gruesome murders that have occurred by someone dubbed the West End Reaper who is killing the people that they have been in contact with. The evidence against both of them is damning as they both struggle to survive and clear their names.

            Will they discover whom the West End Reaper is before it strikes again? Will Julia discover the identity of the skeleton in her garden?

            I selected this book from a readitswapit list, it isn't usually my type of book, but the other swapper wanted an old book of my dads and this seemed like a change from the usual! To be honest, I was expecting a crime thriller/mystery but what I actually got from this book was completely different. After looking at some other reviews, it seems some others were surprised also.

            Firstly, I found something odd. The book description mentions a woman called Dr Maura Isles who is called in to "investigate" the bones of the woman in the garden. By the back of the book, I had the impression that this woman has featured a lot in Tess Gerritsen's books and I assumed she would be the main character in this one. Although she does appear in the beginning of the book, she has such a fleeting presence that I wonder why she is mentioned at all! I have never read a Gerritsen book before so I wasn't really disillusioned, but I can imagine if you are expecting a returning character this might be a bit disappointing.

            In fact, the story mainly takes place in the 1830's with small chapters back in the present to remind the reader that we are finding out all these details about the past from the letters that were written from someone called O.W.H to a woman called Margaret. The scene is set perfectly for us to anticipate some juicy secret, as right at the beginning, we get to read the first letter in which O.W.H hints at a secret past that has been left buried but he wants to now share with Margaret about her parents - if she wants to know.

            This did get me gripped from the outset but for different reasons than I first thought. Once I realised that most of the action would take place in the 1830's, I wasn't at all sure I would see it through to the end, but I found that I was intrigued by the life of Rose and her sister Aurnia's life. Instead of a thriller, it firstly became an interesting look at the history of childbed fever and the way in which it was dealt with as well as looking at the medical profession in a historical context. I assume that most of what has been put in the story regarding practises when dealing with corpses and dealing with pregnant women is accurate - Tess Gerritsen, the author herself is a doctor and anthropologist, so this in itself was fascinating. Later, when the murders occurred, it became an exciting mystery that was to be unravelled.

            As for the characters themselves, these were well portrayed. Norris's background and personality are explored well enough for the reader to engage with him, and Roses' courageousness at just 17 is inspiring. Other characters of interest were those of the professors that taught Norris who offered a colourful and upper class alternative to Norris and Rose, and also O.W.H himself who was a surprising character that I warmed to throughout the book.
            The characters who we see in the present didn't hold a lot of interest for me, I liked Julia, but she wasn't present enough in the story for me to care really what happened to her in her own life. (The reader does learn of the issues in her life and this is followed through at the end of the book, but I found it was really secondary and almost pointless after reading about Norris and Rose.)

            My criticism would be that there were times when I felt that the story was dragging, and in fact a lot of the action doesn't really happen until way into the second half of the book. This wasn't too much of an issue, but I was just aware that I was half way through the book but actually in fairness not much had really happened. Despite this, the tension that Gerritsen creates makes it a worthwhile read and the story is only enriched by the medical history that she has added to it.

            Although I would in no way call this a classic thriller (in fact, its not a thriller at all really), I felt that the element of mystery that the author created was superb and the suspense was well drawn out. Her writing style is enjoyable, easy and a pleasure to read and I was engrossed in the life of the 1830's in Boston for most of the book. I was also pleasantly surprised that I hadn't guessed all the mysteries by the end of the book - as well as forgetting that the whole point of the story was to find the identity of the 100-year-old murdered woman! It was nicely tied up and I thought it successfully achieved the title of "historical mystery" rather than thriller. A very enjoyable - and different - read.

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              25.11.2008 11:54
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              A strange blend of fact, fiction and speculation

              Tess Gerritsen is a doctor, an anthropologist, and now an extremely successful novelist. She has, to date, specialised in crime and forensic fiction in the present day.

              This novel marks a change from her previous style, with no real lead character and a historical setting. Whether or not she has successfully made this transition, I'm not sure at all.

              I think the first thing to establish is that the novel is set both in the present (by the discovery of long forgotten letters and documents from the 1830s) and in the 1830s (as we see the events described in the documents unfold).

              In the present day, Julia Hammill uncovers the remains of a young woman whilst clearing the garden of her recently purchased run-down house. Following her recent divorce, Julia is trying to put her life back together and the last thing she needed is a body in the garden....However, it proves to be well over 100 years old and, therefore, is of no interest to the police. She receives a call from a surviving relative of the previous owner of the house telling her of some interesting facts that have come to light whilst he has been going through his late relatives documents.........

              Meanwhile, back in the 1830s, we meet a group of surgeons, some well-known, others merely students from a range of different backgrounds....Our two main characters here in the 1830s are the famous Oliver Wendell Holmes (real life poet, writer and physician), the other Norris Marshall (a fictional farmers son who has dragged himself through to medical school from nothing.....). They are joined by Rose Connolly, desperately keeping her late sisters newborn baby safe and well and away from the orphanage. She is not helped in this aim by the evil father of the child Ebbett Tate, the drunken victorian villian (complete with twirly moustache I expect) who wants to sell the baby. Suddenly, those known to these three are being murdered, and it soon becomes apparent that it's the same killer - the West End Reaper....as he leaves his own macabre calling card...by mutilating the bodies (not entirely dissimilar to our very own East End Ripper, better known as Jack!)

              Norris, hard-up and needing the cash, links up with the wall-eyed Jack Burke (yep, Jack Burke! as in Burke and Hare) the resurrectionist, to steal newly interred bodies for medical research......

              Norris teams up with Rose to protect the newborn but falls under suspicion of being the West End Reaper.............his mentor defends and supports Norris' innocence.......he falls under suspicion again.......meanwhile, dark forces are closing in around Rose and the baby....another murder occurs...

              BY this point I had grave doubts about this book - I really can't work out if the author is being lazy here by drawing upon historical evidence from Britain in the 1830s or trying, in her strange way, to pay homage to some of the darkest days in medical history and British crime........

              I don't want to spoil any more of the book for you but, be warned, their are some fairly graphic descriptions and some convoluted plot twists before story ends......

              Available new at £6.99 RRP, but try your supermarkets first!!

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                13.10.2008 12:29
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                An enjoyable and refreshing read.

                The Bone Garden is a break from Gerritsen's usual style of writing, and her first one-off book for a number of years. There is no Rizzoli, and although Dr Maura Isles makes a brief appearance it is just that, brief! If you are a fan of the duo and this was your reason for purchase, you could be disappointed.

                I found the change refreshing, and it demonstrated new depths of skill in Gerritsen's writing. I'm not generally a fan of historical type novels, but Gerritsen has slipped nicely into the genre giving it her own unique edge.

                The book mainly takes place in Boston in the 1830s with occasional jumps back to the present day. The main horror and suspense is in the horribly vivid descriptions of the medical practices of the time. The ignorance and brutality of the time make for some of the most shocking and stomach turning autopsy scenes of any of her books. However, it gives a real insight into the state of the medicine profession of the time and a deeper understanding of how far we have come in (relatively) so short a time.

                A thoroughly enjoyable and captivating read.

                © BondgirlK8 October 2008

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