Monday 29 August 2022

The Skeleton Key by Erin Kelly #TheSkeletonKey @mserinkelly @HodderBooks #BookReview


Summer, 2021. Nell has come home at her family's insistence to celebrate an anniversary. Fifty years ago, her father wrote The Golden Bones. Part picture book, part treasure hunt, Sir Frank Churcher created a fairy story about Elinore, a murdered woman whose skeleton was scattered all over England. Clues and puzzles in the pages of The Golden Bones led readers to seven sites where jewels were buried - gold and precious stones, each a different part of a skeleton. One by one, the tiny golden bones were dug up until only Elinore's pelvis remained hidden.

The book was a sensation. A community of treasure hunters called the Bonehunters formed, in frenzied competition, obsessed to a dangerous degree. People sold their homes to travel to England and search for Elinore. Marriages broke down as the quest consumed people. A man died. The book made Frank a rich man. Stalked by fans who could not tell fantasy from reality, his daughter, Nell, became a recluse.

But now the Churchers must be reunited. The book is being reissued along with a new treasure hunt and a documentary crew are charting everything that follows. Nell is appalled, and terrified. During the filming, Frank finally reveals the whereabouts of the missing golden bone. And then all hell breaks loose.

The Skeleton Key by Erin Kelly is published in hardback by Hodder on 1 September 2022. My thanks to the publisher who sent my book for review. 

Erin Kelly is one of my all-time favourite authors. I have devoured everything that she's written and have to admit that The Skeleton Key has been one of my most anticipated books of the year. The joy of reading on holiday enabled me to really get stuck into this one, with no distractions and no need to put it aside to cook dinner, or do the washing. What an absolute treat that was and I was completely and utterly lost within the pages. It's a stunning read that takes the reader on a wild and rocky ride, alongside two troubled and very dysfunctional families. 

Nell Churcher has lived away from her family for many years. Choosing to live off-grid in a house boat, shunning the family wealth and making her own way, creating her own glass art and travelling the waterways in a very simple life. 

Nell's father is Sir Frank Churcher, celebrated artist and author of a book that took the world by storm fifty years ago. His creation, named The Golden Bones is a treasure hunt story, with clues littered within the text. The Golden Bones attracted people who were determined to solve the clues and find the bones of Elinore; the female character whose skeleton was scattered and the bones hidden. One bone remains undiscovered and the fiftieth anniversary of the book's publication makes for the perfect showcase. Frank will reveal the whereabouts of Elinor's pelvis, and the jewel that was hidden with it. 

Nell's life was almost ruined by the book, and the hunters. The hunters became obsessive and sometimes violent and Nell's decision to hide herself away is the result of the trauma she faced as a child.  Now she is returning to the family home, and to the two families who live side by side and are linked together by secrets, guilt and deceit.

The Skeleton Key is a gothic mystery with such depth. Kelly not only describes the Golden Bones book, the hunters and the furore caused by it all, she also takes two families and cleverly unpicks the many layers within them. Theres's an age-old mystery within the story too and as the author slowly reveals each character and their innermost thoughts, the reader begins to learn and to suspect each and every one of them.

Told mainly in Nell's present-day voice, with flashbacks from the decades before, this is a complex and multi layered story that is utterly bewitching. I especially loved the female characters who have tried their utmost to be their own people, yet ultimately remain the wives of famous and somewhat controversial men. 

Addictive, disturbing and so very inventive, this is fiction at its finest. Erin Kelly is a master of her art, I adored this book. I loved the mystery, I loved to hate some of the characters, it really is brilliant. 

Erin Kelly is the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Poison Tree, The Sick Rose, The Burning
Air, The Ties That Bind, He Said/She Said, Stone Mothers/We Know You Know, Watch Her Fall and Broadchurch: The Novel, inspired by the mega-hit TV series. 

In 2013, The Poison Tree became a major ITV drama and was a Richard & Judy Summer Read in 2011. He Said/She Said spent six weeks in the top ten in both hardback and paperback, was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier crime novel of the year award, and selected for both the Simon Mayo Radio 2 and Richard & Judy Book Clubs. 

She has worked as a freelance journalist since 1998 and written for the Guardian, The Sunday Times, Daily Mail, New Statesman, Red, Elle and Cosmopolitan. 

Born in London in 1976, she lives in north London with her husband and daughters.

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