Two murders. An abandoned asylum. Will a mysterious former patient help untangle the dark truth?
The body of an elderly woman has been found in the bowels of a derelict asylum on the banks of the Thames. As Detective Lew Kirby and his partner begin their investigation, another body is discovered in the river nearby. How are the two murders connected?
Before long, the secrets of Blackwater Asylum begin to reveal themselves. There are rumours about underground bunkers and secret rooms, unspeakable psychological experimentation, and a dark force that haunts the ruins, trying to pull back in all those who attempt to escape. Urban explorer Connie Darke, whose sister died in a freak accident at the asylum, is determined to help Lew expose its grisly past. Meanwhile Lew discovers a devastating family secret that threatens to turn his life upside down.
As his world crumbles around him, Lew must put the pieces of the puzzle together to keep the killer from striking again. Only an eccentric former patient really knows the truth—but will he reveal it to Lew before it’s too late?
I was given a copy of this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review, my thanks to NetGalley and author S. W. Kane for the copy and opportunity to write a review for this book.
The Bone Jar is set in modern-day London where a body has been discovered in the fictional Blackwater Asylum; a long abandoned asylum for mentally disturbed individuals. Heading the case is Detective Inspector Lew Kirby and his partner. The Bone Jar is an easy-to-pick-up crime novel, with enough twists and turns to keep the reader interested. It’s a classic ‘whodunit’ story that keeps the reader guessing right until the end reveals. There are a few other threads thrown into the story to keep it from being one dimensional, which helps to keep a higher pace throughout the novel.
Whilst reading The Bone Jar, I didn’t realise it was a debut, self-published novel. The standard was well above what is expected when thinking about those two aspects to an author and I am eager to see what S W Kane has in store for DI Lew Kirby in future novels, but that is jumping the gun!
As a lead character DI Lew Kirby is a captivating character to read about. He has his own personality and quirks that make him engaging. His hatred for his company car and how that contrast to his preferred method of transport, the blossoming romance he has with new his partner, his home and family situation. All these aspects feed in to make him a joy to read about. A shining light amongst the dark work in which he inhabits. It was wonderfully refreshing to have a lead character that displayed a healthy dose of normal! Normal is an underrated trait to give lead characters, or so it seems, so it was nice to engage with a character that seems to revel in every-day life. I found each of the characters in the story were handled with care and given their own, unique personalities. From the ex-Blackwater Asylum inmate Raymond to urban-explorer Connie and all the flavours of character in between, but these two are the ones that stood out to me the most as well as Lews mother and the tragic tale she weaves into the story.
The setting of The Bone Jar is both sinister and magical, the description of the places in which DI Lew Kirby visits are wonderfully vivid; especially considering the time of year – winter. The choice of winter added a layer of desolation to the read. An otherworldly threat layered on top of what is actively happening in the crux of the story.
Although I have called the plot of The Bone Jar straightforward, it’s deep enough to get a bit lost in. There is an element of ‘family tree’ and ‘connection’ that could easily render the reader lost. At times I had to put the book down and take mental stock of what I had just had revealed to me so that I could keep following the plot. It’s complicated, but easy to read and digest, S W Kane has a writing style which has a nice flow to it and this lends itself well to the genre and because of that I found that the complications in the plot were easy to keep up with – and I enjoyed the challenging aspect of trying to figure out who had killed ‘poor’ Ena Massey before the novel gave all the secrets away; it’s that half the point of a crime/whodunit novel? Trying to guess the culprit before we’re told? I am happy to say that all the threads of the mystery are wrapped up nicely to a good, satisfying conclusion – always a good thing from a crime novel. But there was enough left over in DI Kirbys personal life to pick up in another book featuring the same character.
Blackwater Asylum left me with some very strong imagery and I found the scenes involving the building and the people involved with it the most poignant. The fact that these places existed and the abuse that happened within them is highlighted within The Bone Jar and while the setting is entirely fictional it’s easy to understand where S W Kane got her inspiration from.
All in all The Bone Jar was a very enjoyable read that, while complicated in plot content, was easy on the reader in terms of writing style. The characters are rich in personality and quirks whist surrounded by a rich London-based setting. I highly recommend this book if you’re a fan of crime novels and are looking for a main character that isn’t; drunk, dishonest, thrown off the case for no good reason, abrasive or out to prove themselves!