The Skeleton Key by Erin Kelly

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The Skeleton Key by Erin Kelly

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: I started The Skeleton Key suspecting that the subject matter wouldn't appeal to me - and then couldn't read it quickly enough. Absolutely compelling and highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 512 Date: September 2022
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1473680883

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The Golden Bones is going to follow me around for the rest of my life. How can I trust anyone? It all leads back to you!

Nell didn't want to go to the reunion to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of The Golden Bones. She'd had no benefit from it - in fact, it had made her life precarious and unbelievably challenging. I'd better explain. The Golden Bones was a treasure quest book painted and written by Frank and Cora Churcher. The story revolved around murdered Elinore whose golden and bejewelled bones were hidden around the country. The clues - some of them quite tortuous - were disguised in the words and pictures of the book - and all the parts were discovered except for the pelvis. As with such quests, some people were obsessive and the theories became more and more outlandish.

One theory which gathered enough believers to make it dangerous for Nell was that her pelvis was actually Elinore's pelvis and Ingrid Morrison attacked her with a knife. You could argue that it was Nell's fault: the family knew of the threat and she was delivered to and picked up from school every day by Ahmed. One day she decided that she'd go out with her friends - and Ingrid attacked her on her way home. Since then she's lived her life trying to stay away from the spotlight.

Nell has fifteen-year-old Billie to take into account. Billie's actually the daughter of a former boyfriend and she matters to Nell. They live on Nell's houseboat, Seren, which has to be moved regularly. It's a bit of a nuisance but it does limit the chances of Nell being found by the Bonehunters. The book made Frank (now Sir Frank) a rich man but it wasn't only Nell who suffered. Marriages broke down, homes were lost and a man was killed. Frank doesn't seem worried - in fact he craves the publicity - and hopes that it will help to sell his real work, the portraits of the women he's slept with. Some of them are far too close to home.

I did wonder if I was going to enjoy the book: treasure quests are not really my thing but Bookbag has reviewed a few of Erin Kelly's books and some respected reviewers have been blown away. I suspected I was missing something, so I started to read about a treasure quest...

... and I couldn't put it down. In the first few pages you'll wonder if you're going to have to come to terms with a cast of thousands, but relax - you're in safe hands. Every one of these characters will come to life as you read. Some - Nell and Billie - you'll be rooting for. Others - Frank Churcher, we're looking at you - will be despised. After you've turned the final page, you'll wonder how they're all doing.

I'd have read this book just for the joy of the characters but you also get one of the best plots I've encountered in a long time. It's like a jigsaw, which comes together piece by piece as you come to the inevitable - but totally unexpected - conclusion. It's an absolute cracker of a book and the brilliant thing is that there's a back catalogue to be explored. I'm going to start with The Poison Tree.

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