Book Review: Hearts and Bones by Margaret Lawrence

Set in 1786 in the township of Rufford, Maine, Lawrence’s impressive historical suspense debut poses a fascinating conundrum and vivifies the society in which it arose. The story centers on the investigation by midwife Hannah Trevor of the rape and strangulation death of a young mother, Anthea Emory. According to a letter presumably written by Anthea, the dead woman was raped on three successive nights, by three different men, before one of them finally killed her. One of the three men accused is Daniel Josselyn, father of Hannah’s illegitimate seven-year-old daughter. Because the marks on Anthea’s neck match the imprint of Daniel’s three-fingered hand, he becomes the target of a lynch mob and flees in search of Anthea’s husband, whom he believes can shed light on her sad life and tragic death. Before following Daniel into the dangerous wintry wilderness to save him from the mob, Hannah finds that two of the three men accused in Anthea’s letter, along with Constable William Quaid, were members of a Rufford Patriot division that stumbled into an ambush at Webb’s Ford in 1777. In retaliation, three of the Patriots raped Anthea, then a young girl, and slaughtered her family. The final revelation of Anthea’s killer comes as a surprise, although several plot strands are left vague, and a few discrepancies are disquieting. At intervals, inquest transcripts, recipes, diary excerpts and marginally relevant testimonials punctuate the narrative, vividly evoking the Revolutionary period and providing authentic, if occasionally obtrusive background detail. While not perfectly fluid, the story commands attention as it immerses readers in its mystery and the past; like the extended quilt metaphor that runs through it, this novel is greater than the sum of its parts. — Publisher’s Weekly

This novel is not so much a mystery as a suspense novel. It grabs you when you first open the pages and pulls you in. Set in post revolutionary war Maine you quickly are forced into the world from a midwife’s point of view. Hanna is what you would think of as a feminist. She doesn’t conform to societies ideals for a woman. And really that is alright.

I have not read pure suspense book in sometime, and was really looking forward to this one. While it did fall somewhat short of my thought of what is a five star book it was still a good read. Some of the prose does go over board, and some of the scenes do drag. But over all it is a very enjoyable book. The characters are well thought out, and interesting. You do really want to know more about Hannah, and some of the other ladies of the book.

Most of the historical content is correct, except for one issue. Several references are made to the ladies being patchwork quilters. As a woman who knows her history (especially this era) and a woman who knows her sewing history as well it irked me. It is widely agreed upon that patchwork quilting as it’s called now was not done at this era. Quilting yes, but not the specifics of Patchwork. So that did bother me a little bit. But not enough to make me put down the book.

If you’re looking for a good historical that is just a short time after the revolution this is a good read. It doesn’t really have any romance on it. And you will follow a very interesting cast of women through the story.

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