Bone by Bone review

It's great when you get a chance to meet an author, in part because it makes you more likely to buy a book you wouldn't otherwise. After a talk by Sanjida Kay (aka Sanjida O'Connell when writing non-fiction and historical fiction), I picked up a copy of her psychological thriller Bone by Bone - and I'm glad I did.

I think there's two reasons I wouldn't normally have bought this - partly because I prefer traditional crime fiction to thrillers, and partly because the publisher has come up with a cover that seemed to hint as it being women's fiction, a category that there is absolutely no reason to straight-jacket this book with.

The difficulty with this kind of story is that it's difficult to say too much without engaging in spoilers, but it features a single mother and her nine-year-old daughter. They have recently moved from London to Bristol, and the daughter begins to be bullied at school. As Laura, the mother, attempts to sort out the bullying she first makes things worse and then plunges herself and her daughter into a spiral of increasingly out-of-control situations.

It's very well written - an excellent balance of good description and taut writing, which pulls the reader on relentlessly. By doing away with numbered chapters and using relatively short sections, Kay strongly pushes the 'I'll just read a bit more' button, and I found that I got through it extremely quickly, particularly as the tension builds towards the end. The sections are either from the point of view of mother Laura or daughter Autumn. I'm usually find child POV writing a touch excruciating, but Kay does not overdo the childlike thinking, giving an inner narration that could be an adult's, but from a child's viewpoint, which mostly works well.

The only slight complaint I'd have is about the topping and tailing prologue and epilogue. I absolutely see the point of the flash forward in the prologue as a way to ratchet up the tension straight away, but the specific occurrence left me feeling a little cheated when we got to it in the 'real time' part of the book. And the epilogue feels a tad over-neat in the way it wraps things. But neither of these spoiled the book for me.

If you fancy a book that combines a page-turner of a story with a situation that anyone with children could identify with (even though reality would thankfully be unlikely to be so extreme), it's one to go for. The Bristol setting makes a pleasant change from other city locations and there's enough depth here to absorb more than caricature sketches of characters, without ever getting the feeling the author has forgotten the importance of plot.

See more about the book at an