Review: The Nightingale Bones



  • Author: Ariel Swan
  • Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
  • ISBN: 9781611944990
  • Genre: Mystery/Thriller

This is a haunted house story that also involves witches, so it was a perfect choice for October.  Alice has a strong sense of smell.  The trouble is that when she smells something, it brings about the memories of whatever spirits are lingering wherever she happens to be.  She sees this ability as a curse, despite her mother’s insistence that it’s a gift.  After separating from her husband, Alice finds herself house sitting in a home that has a lot of horrific memories involving the deaths of a child and a woman.  In an attempt to give the woman peace, Alice begins digging into the history of the house and the small town it’s in to figure out exactly who the woman was, and what happened to her and her child.

The first half of this book scared the bejeezus out of me.  I took a short break from reading because I was afraid to read it at night, and that was the only time I had the chance to sit down long enough to read anything last week.  After I picked it back up, though, the story became a bit predictable, and no longer scary.  Also, a slightly implausible romance was introduced, and I started to lose interest.  What kept me reading was the wonderfully detailed descriptiveness of everything, the believable small town characters, and wanting to know, without a doubt, how the mystery was solved.  The only thing I didn’t like about the level of description was the brand name product mentions.  They felt too much like the advertisements that are in the backgrounds of movies, and they didn’t add anything that was necessary to the story.  I didn’t need to know the brand of stereo Alice was using to listen to Billie Holiday, or the brand of cigarettes Kyrie was smoking.

Also unnecessary was the scene in which Alice and her mother, Josephine, do a tarot card reading.  It didn’t carry the story forward, and it didn’t have the spooky element of any cards having one meaning for the characters, but another meaning from the perspective of the reader.  If that was the author’s intention, it missed the mark.

Overall, I have to say that I would have enjoyed this book much more when I was in my 20’s.  It’s not a bad book.  I’m just no longer into stories in which the primary goal is to end with two characters falling into a “Happily Ever After” kind of love.  At least it passes the Bechdal Test.