Gothic, elegant, and suspenseful, Bone House vividly evokes seventeenth-century rural England. It is the tale of two women. One is Dora -- large, voluptuous, and charismatic -- a prostitute to whom men are drawn for pleasure, women for friendship. Her strange death in an icy ravine affects everyone in the tiny village: her enormous, slow-minded son; an embittered midwife; the hunchbacked lord of the manor; his decaying mother; and an itin- erant portrait painter, whose arrival in the village unearths secrets and passions beyond anyone's expectations. The other -- young, slight, and solitary -- is a dutiful chambermaid to the mistress of the manor until Dora's accident begins to distract her from her daily tasks. Her quest to uncover the truth about the prostitute's mysterious life and sudden death leads her to a terrible discovery, and the beginnings of a future. A novel about murder, flesh, fertility, desire, medicine, and art, Bone House transports readers to stratified Elizabethan England, where the body -- or "bone house" -- had a primary role in deter-mining one's destiny. Sensual, sophisticated, and fiercely compelling, this is an uncommonly assured debut.
Tracy Chevalier author of Girl with a Pearl Earring Wonderful! Betsy Tobin has skillfully portrayed life in a seventeenth-century English village as well as written a compelling mystery. The maid's voice is deceptively clear, the plot subtly twisty-turny, and the results poignant and gripping.
Robin Maxwell author of The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn and The Queen's Bastard Betsy Tobin draws us deeply into the seldom illuminated world of the Elizabethan underclasses. Her characters who, in other novels, are generally rendered in broad strokes -- the prostitute, the midwife, the lady's maid, the village idiot -- are here painted in vivid hue and detail. She has captured not only the language but the harsh reality experienced by the majority of England's population. A seventeenth-century Upstairs, Downstairs.
Margot Livesey author of The Missing World and Criminals From the opening pages of Bone House, I found myself utterly engrossed. How deftly Betsy Tobin transports us to the seventeenth century and how lucidly she spins her complex tale of obsession and superstition. This is a beautiful and suspenseful novel.
The New York Times A gripping narrative?shimmering with psychological depth.
Los Angeles Times A surprisingly delicate murder mystery, tempered by great detail and remarkable control.