I loved this book! I write Gothic (The Mateguas Island Series; The Kate Pomeroy Gothic Mystery Series) and when I find a book like this, it warms the cockles of my heart. The Bone Weaver’s Orchard is the best novel in the genre I’ve encountered since Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale and I loved that book, too. The Bone Weaver’s Orchard has everything – a spooky old abbey turned into a boarding school for boys, a fascinating protagonist, hidden secrets and passageways, and an array of folks who just might be the villain of the piece. To this regard, Ms. Read keeps the you guessing until the very end!
The story, set in the year 1926, starts when Charley Winslow arrives at The Old Cross School for Boys in North Yorkshire. Charley has come a long way – all the way from South Africa. He is new at the school and his hobby – entomology – is not appreciated by the older boys. That, and his unusual upbringing, set him apart from the others.
But he soon befriends another new student, Ethan Bowles, who is a budding geologist. Together, they search the grounds for bugs and rocks. Unfortunately, they run afoul of some of the older boys who pellet them with stones, one of which hits Ethan on the back of the head causing injury.
Enter Matron Grace, the school nurse. She stitches up Ethan’s head and fears he has a concussion. He stays in the infirmary, but soon disappears – all that is left is a blood stain on his pillow. The headmaster says Bowles has run home – a not infrequent occurrence at this strange school. Everyone but Charley buys this story.
Thus, begins our young hero’s search for his friend which will take him into the bowels of the school. The abbey is a spider’s web of dark tunnels, all leading to the crumbling East Wing which has been closed for years. What secrets does this ruined structure hold? Charley is determined to find out.
But who can the boy trust? The Matron? The gardener with the scar on his neck and rumors of a dark past? The headmaster?
The Bone Weaver’s Orchard is a tale rife with twists and turns and ghosts wearing tattered gray garments that limp through the boy’s dormitory late at night.
As I reached the end of the book, I was unable to put it down, the pages turning effortlessly as the mysteries were laid bare.
This is an exceptional read, full of vivid description and fascinating characters, all surrounded by a dark and dreadful purpose. If you like Gothic fiction and stories that will keep you up into the wee smalls, then The Bone Weaver’s Orchard is a must read for you! Most highly recommended. I will be watching for whatever Ms. Read comes up with next!
I received a free copy of this book as a member of the Horror Writer’s Association in consideration for a Bram Stoker Award.