The Bone Weaver’s Orchard by Sarah Read
Publication Date: February 1st, 2019
He’s run away from home. That’s what they say every time one of Charley Winslow’s friends vanishes from The Old Cross School for Boys.
It’s just a tall tale. That’s what they tell Charley when he sees the ragged grey figure stalking the abbey halls at night.
When Charley follows his pet insects to a pool of blood behind a false wall, he could run and let those stones bury their secrets. He could assimilate, focus on his studies, and wait for his father to send for him. Or he could walk the dark tunnels of the school’s heart, scour its abandoned passages, and pick at the scab of a family’s legacy of madness and murder.
With the help of Sam Forster, the school’s gardener, and Matron Grace, the staff nurse, Charley unravels Old Cross’ history and exposes a scandal stretching back to when the school was a home with a noble family and a dark secret—a secret that still haunts its halls with scraping steps, twisting its bones into a new generation of nightmares.
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Here’s a very atmospheric novel with plenty of gothic elements. Fans of this genre will enjoy how The Old Cross School for Boys is a character all its own—a haunting structure complete with a brooding landscape. From the moment Charley steps foot on the property, we begin to soak in the promise of eventually discovering all its mysteries.
I enjoyed Charley’s quirks, and how he often doesn’t do or say any of the right things. He’s delightfully awkward, lending added tension and creating a sense of isolation from the beginning. Not only does he have to navigate being the new boy on campus, but once his new (and only) friend disappears, he’s compelled to sleuth out what’s become of him. Read effectively sprinkles in clues (and some gore) along the way, allowing us to piece together the secret horrors lurking in the darkness. We wonder who can be trusted, and if Charley will be able to figure it all out before he too goes missing.
Readers should find this to be a page turner. I certainly did. My only critique is that there’s quite a lot of slinking around in secret passages and climbing in and out of windows. And, I would’ve liked to have seen more use of the townspeople. We get introduced to a few of them, which left me wanting more. But these things shouldn’t deter you from putting on your inspector hat while taking out your magnifying glass and mini-notepad to have some fun with this book.
My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐