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Island of Bones: A Novel (Crowther and Westerman) Hardcover – October 11, 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

More than three decades after leaving his family estate in 1751 and taking a new name, anatomist Gabriel Crowther is back—thanks to the discovery of a body. The corpse in question is found atop a fifteenth-century tomb being relocated, and Crowther, formerly Charles Penhaligon, Lord Keswick, returns to Cumberland, along with colleague Mrs. Harriet Westerman, to examine the remains. The venture also reunites him with the younger sister he sent away as a young child after their older brother was hanged for killing their father. As other murders ensue, Crowther must reexamine his family history as he seeks answers about killers past and present. The forthright Mrs. Westerman, still grieving 20 months after her husband’s murder, is aided by her young son, Stephen, as she frequently cuts to the heart of matters. Local “cunning man” Casper Grace adds a touch of the supernatural to the political and familial intrigue. In the third entry in this series (after Anatomy of Murder, 2012), subplots can become confusing, but the well-drawn protagonists carry the day. An altogether satisfying historical mystery. --Michele Leber


Praise for Island of Bones:

“Robertson's superior third historical featuring anatomist Gabriel Crowther and widow Harriet Westerman (after 2012's Anatomy of Murder) makes the most of its revelations about Crowther's backstory . . . First-rate prose and the deepening relationship between the two leads bode well for the longevity of this series.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Set aside quality time to fully enjoy this richly layered, engaging historical series; a great suggestion for fans of Anne Perry, Charles Finch, and C.S. Harris.”

Library Journal

“An altogether satisfying historical mystery.”


“[An] audacious mix of cultural gloss and uncomplicated, straight-ahead storytelling. The multi-layered nuance of Peter Ackroyd and the buttonholing narrative grasp of Stephen King are stirred into the mix.”

The Independent (UK)

"A new Imogen Robertson book is fast becoming something of an event. ...this follow-up does not disappoint.  As ever, the characters are enticing and the plot absorbing. If you've not read the previous books, do not despair--they each stand alone. But if you have time on your hands, now is your chance to catch up."
The Daily Mail (UK)

Praise for Anatomy of Murder:

“Memorable prose, strong and unusual leads, a sophisticated plot with several unexpected turns, and an accurate portrayal of the period all make this a winner.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Robertson's language is spry . . . her scene-setting broad and detailed, her prose gracefully pressed into the service of a serpentine plot."
Financial Times (UK)

“In the overcrowded field of historical fiction, Robertson has the smarts comfortably to outpace most of her rivals.”

The Independent (UK)

Praise for Instruments of Darkness:

“A sensitive melodrama. . . . Robertson’s enjoyment of the period and her characters is infectious.”

The New York Times Book Review (Editor’s Choice)

 “A thoroughly engaging novel, with rich prose and an intricate, suspenseful plot, with melodramatic, Gothic touches in perfect keeping with the historical period. Robertson has already written another Westerman/Crowther mystery. . . . let us hope for many more.”

Associated Press

“Every so often I encounter a book that makes me think with envy: ‘How I wish I could have written this story!’ Instruments of Darkness is just that book—poetic, enchanting, and chillingly memorable. Imogen Robertson is an exquisite writer, and this is an extraordinary novel.”

Tess Gerritsen, author of The Silent Girl

“Mayhem runs amok in this period thriller. [Robertson] pulls out all the stops. . . a roaring soap opera of a novel.”

The Washington Times

“Impressive . . . A ripping homage to Dickens, Austen and Conan Doyle, Instruments of Darkness will keep you up at night, and then, like me, waiting for the sequel.”

Seattle Times

“The book works splendidly as a period thriller, with complicated leads and informative details that illuminate 18th-century England for modern readers.”

Publishers Weekly

“This debut is getting some play and should well serve lovers of historical suspense.” 

Library Journal


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Product Details

  • Series: Crowther and Westerman
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books; Reprint edition (October 11, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670026271
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670026272
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,152,566 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By L. J. Roberts VINE VOICE on July 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover
First Sentence: There was a peculiar hush around the Tower the night before an execution.

Scientist and anatomist Gabriel Crother is something of an enigma to neighbors and acquaintances, which has been fine by him. Thirty years ago, he turned his back on his family tragedies, but now must face them. His estranged sister and her son are staying at the estate once owned by their family. Upon encouraging the current owner to move the tomb of the first Earl of Greta from the Island of Bones to the local church, an extra body is discovered within. Crother and his friend, Mrs. Harriet Westerman, are summoned and Crother must confront the past finding that what was thought to be true in the past may not have been and that a brother was falsely executed. Can the truth be learned before others die as well?

Having well-developed, interesting, appealing characters is so critical and Robertson has more than met that requirement. Each of the characters, whether principal or secondary, comes alive under Ms. Robertson's deft hand; so much so that Mrs. Westerman is someone one would like to be, and her 12-year-old son, very believable. The relationship between all of the characters is perfectly correct and appropriate for the period, including the depth, trust and friendship between Crother and Mrs. Westerman. At the same time, each character is flawed making them realistically human. For those who've not read the previous books in the series, ample history is provided to each character, thus avoiding feeling lost.

There is no confusion as to where the story is set, either in period or in location. The period details of social proprietary and customs are always interesting but don't make either the story or the characters seem stiff.
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Format: Paperback
This series gets better and better!
This book, the third, unravels much of the mystery of Gabriel Crowther's parentage, and the reasons why he abandoned his title and family name to take up anatomical studies.
Robertson weaves together elements of folklore, the Jacobite Rebellion, and medical treatments to create an engrossing novel.

The book centers on Crowther and his friend Harriet Westerman, but the supporting characters are vivid and add to the local color amazingly well.

This is my favorite new series, and I can't wait for the next installment.
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This third novel in the Gabriel Crowther and Harriet Westerman series was another absorbing reading experience for me. I would definitely recommend the books be read in order (first is Instruments of Darkness: A Novel and the second Anatomy of Murder) just so you are familiar with everything which has come before the events in this novel. Imogen Robertson has developed full characters in the players in these novels so you will be missing important pieces of the picture if you begin anywhere other than the beginning. However, if you should choose to start here, I think you will enjoy the novel and then be intrigued to find out what has come before.

This is definitely a novel for readers who enjoy being completely enveloped in the atmosphere of times past. This novel takes place in July, 1783, but takes the reader back in time often to uncover the family history of Gabriel Crowther. It is a somewhat tangled web and I have to say that I found myself a little bit at sea sometimes trying to place exactly who was being spoken of and how they fit into the narrative. It might have helped if I had made my own list of characters because the author did not provide one. Maybe I wasn't supposed to get befuddled? Those familiar with the series know that Crowther renounced his title long ago and took a name other than the one he was given at birth. Now the sister he has had no contact with since that time has asked that he come back to the family seat which they no longer own to help clear up the mystery of a second body found in a tomb.
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Island of Bones is another fantastic addition to the Crowther and Westerman series. Lord and Lady Greta's remains are to be removed from their crumbling resting place to a more secure location in the church. During the removal an extra corpse with an unknown identity is discovered. Mr. Crowther and Mrs. Westerman are called upon to travel to Crowther's childhood home to discover the secrets of the corpse. Crowther must face the ghosts of his past and learns that all was not as it seemed in the murder of his father.

I love this author, but I still have the same complaint I had with the other books. These books are set during the late 1700's. The people did not use such harsh swear words during this period. I feel like it's the only time, she steps out of the period. Otherwise, it would have been a 5 star novel. The swearing is always brief, and there are not more than 5 uses of foul language, but it just feels particularly jarring in a book set in this time period.
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