Book Review | The Skeleton Key

What a fantastic book to start off the new month with, especially as we get into spooky season.

The Skeleton Key
Erin Kelly


Summer, 2021.
 Nell has come home at her family’s insistence to celebrate an anniversary. Fifty years ago, her father wrote The Golden Bones. Part picture book, part treasure hunt, Sir Frank Churcher created a fairy story about Elinore, a murdered woman whose skeleton was scattered all over England. Clues and puzzles in the pages of The Golden Bones led readers to seven sites where jewels were buried – gold and precious stones, each a different part of a skeleton. One by one, the tiny golden bones were dug up until only Elinore’s pelvis remained hidden.

The book was a sensation. A community of treasure hunters called the Bonehunters formed, in frenzied competition, obsessed to a dangerous degree. People sold their homes to travel to England and search for Elinore. Marriages broke down as the quest consumed people. A man died. The book made Frank a rich man. Stalked by fans who could not tell fantasy from reality, his daughter, Nell, became a recluse.

But now the Churchers must be reunited. The book is being reissued along with a new treasure hunt and a documentary crew are charting everything that follows. Nell is appalled, and terrified. During the filming, Frank finally reveals the whereabouts of the missing golden bone. And then all hell breaks loose. | Goodreads | Amazon

I just knew that this book would be right up my street, the secrets, the family drama, and the mystery sounded fantastic but I was not at all expecting just quite how much I would be sucked into the lives of the family at the centre of this story. After reading the description I thought that the hunt for the golden bone would be the main part of the story but it’s the relationship between the Churchers and the Lallys and how the family is tangled together through choice, through circumstance, and through The Golden Bones that is the focus, and I loved it.

The characters were fascinating, some were toxic and manipulative, some were caring and loyal, they were all deeply flawed and trying to survive as best as they could with the fame and the furore that came with the success of the book The Golden Bones. Nobody in the book was particularly likeable but I think this worked brilliantly in this kind of story because it added to the stress and the tension of the plot but also the dysfunction of the family itself.

The story is told through multiple POVs and flashbacks to a few different timelines, and even though I feel it had the potential to be confusing in some respects I felt like it worked well here. I enjoyed getting to see what lead the character’s to their decisions and enjoyed that each little reveal had a big impact on the story. I also loved that there was a magical but dark atmosphere throughout the book, there was something about the folklore that is involved in The Golden Bones and the lengths that people went to interpret it, which seeps into the main story and helped to keep me entranced.

I am not going to delve much into the plot because I honestly wouldn’t know where to start, this is a story that has been so well crafted and is both captivating and twisted. This author has a knack for throwing me off guard, there were so many unexpected events and reveals and I could not put the book down as it headed into the final stages of the story. This book has been playing on my mind since I finished it and I am still thinking about these characters and still getting hit with jolts of realisation about the events and consequences in the story. It is the best kind of book hangover.

The Skeleton Key is the first book by Erin Kelly that I have read but I doubt it will be the last.

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