To read something new, to discover a new author, it is all worth not sleeping decently for two days.
The Bone Jar by S W Kane is a debut novel of such power that it was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger Award.
Deserted buildings have their own charm and it isn’t a surprise that a derelict asylum such as Blackwater in London pulls in the curious and the adventurous. The curious remain at the gate but the urban explorers, they try to find their way in.
Blackwater Asylum was not just a mental health institution, they conducted experiments. Some of those experiments had to be done secretly for obvious reasons. So, there had to be secret rooms, tunnels connecting staff to patients to equipment storage facilities, and of course, super-secret rooms so that no sound could ever carry over to other rooms.
This also meant that personnel was most likely engaged in more than capacity. Which ones conducted experiments? Which doctors and nurses disappeared from Blackwater? Which patients had died there and were rumored to now haunt the halls as ghosts?
When an old lady is found dead in what is left of Blackwater, finding out how she got there, the cause of death, her identity, and her possible connection to Blackwater, snowball the story into action. But this isn’t the sole storyline. We have an ambitious and greedy man who’d love to use the prime real estate for different purposes. He is not just slick, he is hiding more than daylight tolerates.
To top this off, we have the tragic story of a young woman forced into a relationship as approved by her controlling father. She doesn’t obey, gets pregnant, and dies in childbirth. The child? The cold-blooded family made sure that the child was kept out of sight, out of loving arms from family and friends, and ultimately out of the UK, out of Europe, out of sight in the hope that they would be forever forgotten. And they almost managed, almost did this child give up on hope and happiness, but then one person could no longer remain silent.
Questions (warning: spoiler alert!)
A few weak points have to be mentioned.
The role of the Creeper. Was this just a creepy guy who loves to break into people’s homes to move their personal things around or is this a man with a plan? This storyline either needed more work or it may be a foundation for future works.
What role exactly did Kaplinsky play in Sarah’s death? And, was he another one of Calder’s lovers?
Hamer’s exact extra-curricular activities and their extent, are left open to our imagination.
Last, the medical condition and the actions of the Detective’s mother at the end do not affect the plot or play a role in the outcome of the story other than to explain why his parents divorced. So, why add this at the end? To make the officer more personable? To set the stage for book 2? The book’s ending would have been equally strong without it.
Despite the fact that not all ends are tied up, I loved reading this book. The pace is fast so you got to stick with it. The characters are relatable and come across in a very realistic manner. That’s how you also know that the person Connie meets is not the one she intended to meet. Not going to elaborate on this!