On my blog today, I’m sharing my thoughts on the debut crime novel by Anna Bailey, Tall Bones.
When seventeen-year-old Emma leaves her best friend Abi at a party in the woods, she believes, like most girls her age, that their lives are just beginning. Many things will happen that night, but Emma will never see her friend again.
Abi’s disappearance cracks open the façade of the small town of Whistling Ridge, its intimate history of long-held grudges and resentment. Even within Abi’s family, there are questions to be asked – of Noah, the older brother whom Abi betrayed, of Jude, the shining younger sibling who hides his battle scars, of Dolly, her mother and Samuel, her father – both in thrall to the fire and brimstone preacher who holds the entire town in his grasp. Then there is Rat, the outsider, whose presence in the town both unsettles and excites those around him.
Anything could happen in Whistling Ridge, this tinder box of small-town rage, and all it will take is just one spark – the truth of what really happened that night out at the Tall Bones….
Tall Bones is an engaging, harrowing and an unnerving debut thriller by Anna Bailey. Anna takes us to a small American town, where the church is at its centre. The pastor of the church has a lot of influence, and you get the sense that the people will follow whatever command he gives. When teenager, Abi, goes missing, tensions in the town run high. Many, including Abi’s family, are pushed to breaking point as they try to work out what happened to her and who they should blame.
I wanted to know what had happened to Abi. Anna Bailey portrays very clearly how rattled her disappearance has made the residents of the town. Abi’s father Samuel is very religious, but he is also a bully. He is a character who I really didn’t like from the start, and I hated how the pastor could easily excuse his actions.
One character who I did like was Rat, a Romanian boy who lives on his own in the town. He felt like a breath of fresh air in the book, compared to the rest of the town’s population. I also really liked his relationship with Abi’s older brother, Noah. This relationship is looked down upon by the rest of the town’s population, especially by Abi’s father. I was worried that something terrible was going to happen to Noah; I wouldn’t have put it past a few of the town’s residents to have done something despicable to him.
I had so many thoughts on what had happened to Abi as I was reading, and I was never able to quite work out what had happened. Did she run away? Did she get caught up in something much more terrifying? I was kept utterly gripped as the final devastating truth became clear. There are some shocking truths as the reasons behind Abi’s disappearance become clear.
Tall Bones is an exciting debut and I’m sure I’ll be looking out for anything that Anna Bailey writes next. If you enjoy character-driven novels, then I highly recommend this book. I’m sure it’ll stay in the minds of readers long after they have turned the final page. I loved it.
Publication date: 1st April 2021
Print length: 352 pages
Tall Bones is available to buy: