cover image Hearts & Bones

Hearts & Bones

Margaret Lawrence, M. Lawrence. William Morrow & Company, $23 (307pp) ISBN 978-0-380-97351-4

Set in 1786 in the township of Rufford, Maine, Lawrence's impressive historical suspense debut poses a fascinating conundrum and vivifies the society in which it arose. The story centers on the investigation by midwife Hannah Trevor of the rape and strangulation death of a young mother, Anthea Emory. According to a letter presumably written by Anthea, the dead woman was raped on three successive nights, by three different men, before one of them finally killed her. One of the three men accused is Daniel Josselyn, father of Hannah's illegitimate seven-year-old daughter. Because the marks on Anthea's neck match the imprint of Daniel's three-fingered hand, he becomes the target of a lynch mob and flees in search of Anthea's husband, whom he believes can shed light on her sad life and tragic death. Before following Daniel into the dangerous wintry wilderness to save him from the mob, Hannah finds that two of the three men accused in Anthea's letter, along with Constable William Quaid, were members of a Rufford Patriot division that stumbled into an ambush at Webb's Ford in 1777. In retaliation, three of the Patriots raped Anthea, then a young girl, and slaughtered her family. The final revelation of Anthea's killer comes as a surprise, although several plot strands are left vague, and a few discrepancies are disquieting. At intervals, inquest transcripts, recipes, diary excerpts and marginally relevant testimonials punctuate the narrative, vividly evoking the Revolutionary period and providing authentic, if occasionally obtrusive background detail. While not perfectly fluid, the story commands attention as it immerses readers in its mystery and the past; like the extended quilt metaphor that runs through it, this novel is greater than the sum of its parts. (Sept.)