What if the figure that haunted your nightmares as child, the myth of the man in the woods, was real?
He’ll slice your flesh.
Your bones he’ll keep.
Twenty years ago, four teenagers went exploring in the local woods, trying to find to the supposed home of The Bone Keeper. Only three returned.
Now, a woman is found wandering the streets of Liverpool, horrifically injured, claiming to have fled the Bone Keeper. Investigating officer DC Louise Henderson must convince sceptical colleagues that this urban myth might be flesh and blood. But when a body is unearthed in the woodland the woman has fled from, the case takes on a much darker tone.
The disappeared have been found. And their killer is watching every move the police make.
I am a huge fan of Luca Veste’s books, not just because they are set in Liverpool, but because they are truly gripping crime fiction books. He also has a fantastic podcast with Steve Cavanagh, Two Crime Writers and a Microphone, that I very highly recommend you check out. It is hilarious but also hugely entertaining and informative for book fans. Anyway, enough about how much I love Luca, his books and his podcast and on to why I enjoyed The Bone Keeper so much.
When I received this book a few months ago, and even before that, when I first read the blurb for it when it was announced, I’ll admit to feeling a little disappointed that it wasn’t a Murphy and Rossi book. There comes a point in every crime writer’s career where they take a break from their main series and introduce us to a new one, or write a standalone. Some are a success, and some fall flat on their face. I won’t name names but even one of the world’s most successful crime authors has released a few duds away from their main series. I suppose I should have had more faith in Luca because The Bone Keeper ended up feeling like a refreshing change from what has came before from him, and ended up being a gripping and immersive read that nearly kept me awake at night picturing the scenes within.
If you didn’t have your own scary myth being passed amongst your friends growing up then I’ll be very surprised. All cities have them, and for me as a child it was the yearly jaunt to Colomendy that was said to be haunted by Pegleg. Many a night was spent awake in the dorms discussing this character, but what if he had been real? Luca Veste does just that and creates a myth that has been passed around Liverpool for years and makes it into a real thing. The Bone Keeper is said to live in the woods, he even has his own song. With bodies starting to be unearthed in the woods, the city is in fear of The Bone Keeper being real and it’s down to Louise Henderson and her boss DS Shipley to enter those woods and work out what is fact and what is fiction.
Luca has proven his worth as a crime writer and has turned his hand to horror here in The Bone Keeper. It’s not a terrifying read a la Stephen King but it’s certainly enough to get the blood pumping and to make you think twice about whether you really want to take that shortcut through the park at night (even before reading this book I wouldn’t be walking through Liverpool parks at night, but anyway). I grew up addicted to the Haunted Liverpool series by Tom Slemen and The Bone Keeper is a thing that could have been written about in those books. I think I enjoyed the book more because it was set in Liverpool. I love recognising place names and easily being able to visualise the places being described within. I love the way Luca always adds little asides into his writing about the city and how he shows the good, the bad and the ugly. Personally for me too much time was spent in the south of the city, but that’s only because I’m from the north and very rarely venture south.
Louise Henderson is a mysterious character who is hiding something for the majority of the book. I found her to be quite cold and standoffish and so whilst I didn’t ‘like’ her per se, I liked this mysterious persona that she had and I wanted to know just what it was that was making her behave the way she was during the investigation of this case. In terms of her relationship with Shipley it almost bordered on being a little cliched, but for the most part I felt they worked well together. I enjoyed the pacing of the story and enjoyed following along with the investigation and trying to work things out before they were revealed. Luca creates just the right amount of tension to keep you intrigued and wanting to read on, as with the residents of the city, I too wondered just how The Bone Keeper could be real and wondered what tricks Luca had up his sleeve as we neared the denouement of the story.
Fearful of giving away spoilers I obviously can’t say too much about how the story ended other than that it was brilliant. Given everything that had come before it, I wanted and needed a believable ending to tie everything up nicely and make the story itself make sense. The ending was truly fantastic and the final scenes had my eyes glued to the page. A cliche, but it’s true. There’s an emotional undercurrent all the way through this story and it’s in these final pages that it all comes to a head. Will we see these characters again? I feel like The Bone Keeper works well as a stand-alone novel, but I can also see how there’s scope to further explore some of the characters featured within this story. Personally I just want Murphy and Rossi back because I miss them but I wouldn’t be against reading about Louise and Shipley again.
If you like your crime fiction with a helping of horror and a dash of humour alongside some gripping and immersive storytelling then I highly recommend The Bone Keeper. And I highly recommend all of Luca’s books, they are I believe usually on offer on Kindle. I’ve never seen them cost more than a large coffee and they bring far more enjoyment than an overpriced drink ever could. Having followed his author journey since his debut I am constantly in awe of his success and weirdly feel kind of proud witnessing a local author do so well and I sincerely hope that The Bone Keeper is a huge success because it deserves to be. So go and buy it and enjoy.