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I have a gardener’s inherent belief in the natural order of things. Soft‑petalled flowers that go to seed. The resolute passage of the seasons. Swallows that fly thousands of miles to follow the eternal summer.
Children who don’t die before their parents.
When Kate receives a phone call with news that Rosie Anderson is missing, she’s stunned and disturbed. Rosie is eighteen, the same age as Kate’s daughter, and a beautiful, quiet, and kind young woman. Though the locals are optimistic—girls like Rosie don’t get into real trouble—Kate’s sense of foreboding is confirmed when Rosie is found fatally beaten and stabbed.
Who would kill the perfect daughter, from the perfect family? Yet the more Kate entwines herself with the Andersons—graceful mother Jo, renowned journalist father Neal, watchful younger sister Delphine—the more she is convinced that not everything is as it seems. Anonymous notes arrive, urging Kate to unravel the tangled threads of Rosie’s life and death, though she has no idea where they will lead.
Weaving flashbacks from Rosie’s perspective into a tautly plotted narrative, The Bones of You is a gripping, haunting novel of sacrifices and lies, desperation and love.
1. When did you start writing?
I began writing in earnest about five years ago, women’s fiction which was what I liked to read. But I also wanted to write books that addressed more serious real-life issues as well. I think with Wildflowers I achieved that. It’s had some wonderful reviews on Amazon, but though 6 agents asked to read the full manuscript, no-one actually took me on.
2. The Bones of You is a change of genre. How did you come to write it?
I’d put everything I had into Wildflowers and it came so close, but not close enough. I knew then I had to write something different. Everyone says, write about what you know about. I think that’s true, but I think also, you have to appeal to the market. That said, I don’t think it’s possible to write without your heart one hundred per cent in it.
3. Were you surprised with the reaction you got from agents and publishers?
Completely blown away! It was beyond my wildest dreams. There are phone calls and emails from that time that I will never, ever forget. When you’ve worked so hard for so long, battled rejection but kept going anyway, to reach the point where I’m being published is something I’m so excited about – and enormously grateful for.
4. What advice do you have for other writers?
There are so many brilliant, unpublished writers out there. Finding an agent and a publisher mean you have to write a good book, but it takes luck, too – in spadefuls – to hit the right person with the right idea when the market’s right… It’s also a massively subjective industry. What one person loves, another wouldn’t give the time of day to. And no-one can predict tomorrow’s bestsellers.
If you can’t find an agent to take you on, consider self-publishing. A number of authors have had huge success this way and in any case, you learn from it. Then keep writing – the next book, the one after. If you don’t, you’ll never know…
5. Have you written your next book?
I finished it just before Christmas. It’s another psychological thriller about not just what we hide from other people, but from ourselves, too. It’s about a washed-up lawyer and a woman he used to love, who’s suspected of a murder. He’s determined to prove her innocence but an overdose has left her in a coma.
As well as a thriller, it’s also a love story.
The Bones of You by Debbie Howells is an intricate tale that delves into issues of depravity many of us would sooner not face. I was very impressed with this story. The author weaves haunting, beautiful words and phrases together throughout the book.
This story is told in alternating view points. First, there is Rosie. Rosie is just 18 years old, and, first missing, it is discovered that she has been heinously murdered. Her words lead us through what happened to her and then take us back earlier to lead up to the killing. This was very reminiscent of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. The other main view point is that of Kate. She is a mom of one of the neighborhood girls, and Rosie used to visit with Kate’s horses and help out. We also get Delphine’s point of view a few times throughout the story – she is Rosie’s 12 year old sister.
The story was well-written. I found myself continuously turning pages, and not just because of the mystery/thriller aspect. The author does a wonderful job painting the words on the page. The story flows and I found myself highlighting many sentences in my Kindle while I was reading. The author has a knack for putting words together that stick with you. I found myself thinking of The Bones of You and talking about it during the times I wasn’t able to read it. The alternating story tellers and the intensity of the build up surrounding the murder really kept me enthralled. The story had twists that had me guessing. While I did figure out the identity of the killer, I didn’t figure it out until right before the author revealed it.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The Bones of You by Debbie Howells kept me up late at night reading. The story stuck with me after I finished. I think the author has a talent for writing thrillers and I look forward to reading more of her work.
The wonderful childhood I had, the toys, far-flung holidays, the TV in my bedroom, which I was so proud of, all still there, only shattered into a million pieces, bloodstained, dust-covered, shrouded in inky blackness.
Then the voices start. The secrets no one must ever know, which aren’t secrets anymore, because I can hear them. The face that was always watching me, that knows the truth.
I’m looking at the movie of my life.
I put down the phone and just stand there, completely still.
“Mum? What is it?”
Everything in this house is Grace’s business. At eighteen, she’s allowed secrets, but no one else. When I don’t reply instantly, it’s not good enough.
“Mother, who were you talking to?”
“Sorry.” You know those moments when your head is bursting with too many thoughts to form the words? My eyes fix blankly on something—a spot on the wall, an empty mug—not seeing them. “That was Jo. Something really odd’s happened. Rosie’s gone missing.”
Living at opposite ends of a small village, with daughters at the same school, Jo and I belong to a group of mothers who meet now and then. I know that she’s married to Neal, a renowned journalist, whose handsome face I’ve seen looking out of our TV screen more times than I’ve actually met him, reporting from the middle of war zones. That they have two daughters, drive new cars—her black Range Rover and Neal’s BMW X5—and live in this big, architect-designed house, which I’ve been inside only once or twice. It’s a friendship that extends to the occasional coffee or gossipy lunch, but it’s Rosie to whom I’ve found myself drawn. They’re the same age, Grace and Rosie, A levels behind them, the start of hard-won university places a few short weeks away, but the similarities end there. I know Rosie as a shy girl, quieter than Grace’s crowd and who shares my love of horses.
Grace rolls her eyes. “She’s probably just hanging out with Poppy and hasn’t told Jo, because she wouldn’t let her. Poppy’s a slut.”
She says it good-naturedly, like idiot or moron, but it’s an ugly word on my daughter’s lips. The reprimand’s out before I can stop it.
“Gracie . . .”
And then my mind’s wandering, as I try to imagine what’s happened to her, seeing the clear eyes she hides behind the fair hair that falls across her face.
“Seriously, Mum. You haven’t met Poppy. Her skirt’s so short, you can see her panties. And she snogs anything—even Ryan Francis.”
Ryan Francis is the worst male specimen on the planet, according to Grace, who’s yet to explain exactly why.
“But Rosie’s not like that, surely?” I struggle to imagine the Rosie I know snogging an indiscriminate anyone. She has a gentleness I’ve seen with my horses, which comes from her own instincts. They mooch peacefully around her through the long grass, like she’s one of them.
“Duh. I’m talking about Poppy, Mother. But, you know, peer pressure and all that . . . I wouldn’t be surprised. . . .”
Alarm bells start ringing. What if she’s right and Rosie’s got in with a bad crowd or, worse, been persuaded to run off with some less than desirable boy? Should I say something to Jo? Then I see Grace’s face. She’s winding me up.
“Well, whatever,” I say, annoyed, because this isn’t something to joke about. “If you hear anything, let me know. Jo’s really worried. She hasn’t seen Rosie since yesterday, and her mobile goes straight to voice mail. If it was you, Grace, I’d be out of my mind.”
Grace hesitates. “I can get Poppy’s number, if you like.”
Flicking her long red hair over her shoulder as she busies herself texting.
Thanks to the interconnectedness of today’s teenagers, in a few seconds she has it. “I’ll send it to your phone.”
Half an hour later, I get through to Jo. She’s jittery, not surprisingly, only half listening, her mind jumping all over the place.
“Not Poppy Elwood?” I can hear from her voice, she’s shocked. “Oh, Kate, Rosanna wouldn’t be friends with her. . . .”
“Well, according to Grace, she is.
“Oh my God . . .” I can hear her imagining her worst nightmare, that her daughter’s run off or eloped. Jo’s inclined to fuss over her daughters, even though Rosie’s eighteen and about to leave home.
“The police will find her, won’t they? You hear about this kind of thing happening . . . but they always do find them, don’t they?”
“Try not to worry, Jo.” Sounding far more confident than I feel. “I’m sure they will—if it comes to that. She’ll probably walk in any moment with a perfectly reasonable explanation. But why don’t you call Poppy?” I remind her. “You never know. She might be able to tell you something.”
“Yes, I suppose I should.” She’s quiet. “I still can’t believe she’s friends with that girl.”
I know how she feels. All mothers have them. The friends who threaten everything we’ve ever wanted for our daughters with another way to live, another set of standards, which we’re terrified they’ll prefer to ours.
“She can’t be all bad, or Rosie wouldn’t be friends with her,” I point out. “And at the end of the day, she’s your daughter. She knows what’s right. She’s not stupid.”
Jo’s silence echoes my own hesitation, because it’s not something Rosie’s even hinted at, but I’m curious.
“I was thinking. . . . Does she have a boyfriend, Jo? Only if she does, he might know something.”
“No. She doesn’t. She’s put all her time into studying. Not like . . .” She leaves the sentence open-ended.
“I’ll get off the phone,” I say hastily, ignoring her gibe at the students who work hard but play hard, too. Like Grace. “She might be trying to call you. Will you let me know when she comes home?”
Rosie will turn up. I’m sure of it. I have a gardener’s inherent belief in the natural order of things. Soft-petaled flowers that go to seed. The resolute passage of the seasons. Swallows that fly thousands of miles to follow the eternal summer.
Children who don’t die before their parents.