Ok, I confess – I knew next to nothing about the era of the Enclosures Act, which changed English rural life for ever, and not in a good way… Somehow my history classes at school bypassed that age, shunting me straight from the Tudors to the First World War, although my literature studies did include a good dose of John Clare, whose beautiful and poignant poems chronicled the age from the countryman’s point of view, and inspired this new novel by Lucienne Boyce.
After becoming absorbed in the history of the Highland Clearances, which had a similar effect on Scotland, while on holiday in northwest of that country, I really wanted to fill the void in my knowledge about the equivalent period in my homeland. Far more appealing to read an engaging novel whose work I already enjoyed (see my review of To the Fair Land ) than to open up a straight history book. Even better when I was invited to be a pre-publication reader of Bloodie Bones, a historical detective thriller set during the Enclosures – I didn’t even have to wait for it to come off the press!
Fascinating History, Gripping Plot
I was rewarded with a cracking story, highlighting in a very readable and enjoyable way the social changes brought about the Enclosures Act, without which, arguably, the Industrial Revolution would have been slower to arrive – or might even have been avoided altogether. This is a much neglected topic in historical fiction, in my experience at least, yet still very relevant to the modern reader, not only because the way it changed our landscape for ever, but also because there are still rumblings in the news about property rights and rambling issues.
Lucienne Boyce is a meticulous and subtle historical novelist, creating a vivid sense of time, place and political sensitivities, without ever thrusting historical facts or interpretations on the reader. You almost feel like you’re a detective yourself, drawing your own conclusions on what it was like to live in the era that she’s writing about, while listening to a gripping story.
Introducing Dan Foster
Bloodie Bones is billed as the first in a series of Dan Foster mysteries. Dan is a flawed but basically honourable and likeable Bow Street Runner who is posted out of town to help solve a local murder mystery. In Holmesian tradition, he infiltrates the local community to get to the heart of the matter, and finds himself torn between the ruling class and the workers.
Like To The Fair Land before it, Bloodie Bones is very well researched novel that really opened my eyes to the facts and the impact of an era in which I’ll now be much more interested. I also completely fell for Dan Foster, and I’m keen to read more of his adventures, whether set in London, where he’s based with his interesting and challenging family (his plight as the thwarted husband of an angry, alcoholic woman is very poignant), or whether he’s despatched to wherever else mysteries need to be solved.
If you enjoy Bloodie Bones, look out also for another new detective series from the same era by Susan Grossey – I’ll be adding my reviews of her books soon.
To order Bloodie Bones from your local bookshop, quote ISBN 978-1781323601 (see sidebar for links to help you find your local bookshop) – plus of course it’s available to order from all the usual suspects online, in paperback and in digital form.
To find out more about Lucienne Boyce, her fiction, her non-fiction, and her busy programme of excellent talks and events (where does she find the time?!), visit her website: www.lucienneboyce.com.