The Bone Readers: Jacob Ross

Published by Little, Brown and Company / Peepal Tree Press / Sphere, 2016, 264 pages.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable whodunit from a Grenadian writer.

Michael Digson (“Digger”) is out of work, living on the island of Camaho.[1] He is the illegitimate son (“outside child”) of a maid and her employer, the Commissioner of Police. Digger is haunted by the death of his mother, who was shot during a demonstration to protest the rape of a woman. They never found her body.

One day, Digger witnesses the murder of a young boy and is able to identify seven of the eight offenders through their voices. DS Chilman, the head of a homicide squad, is impressed by his skill and recruits Digger to work with him. Chilman is fairly unorthodox. The squad is almost an autonomous unit, and recruits aren’t drawn from the ranks of trained police: Chilman tends to hire people off the streets or even ex-criminals if he thinks that they show skill or an aptitude for the job.

Digger not only has a good ear for identifying voices but he also has an almost uncanny way of being able to “read” the bones of a corpse. By examining the bones, he can build up a detailed picture of the victim and how the person met their end.

Both Chilman and Digger are obsessed by cold cases: Chilman by a boy, Nathan, who disappeared four years ago, and Digger by his mother’s death. The fact that his father was the Commissioner of Police at the time complicates matters.

In the meantime, there are rumours about something funny going on in a religious sect. Is the sect connected to Nathan’s disappearance? Alice, a young woman and member of the sect, seems to have left suddenly. But why did she leave her young son and her mobile behind? Digger and the newest recruit, Ms. Stanilaus, set out to investigate. Things reach a head when Bello, the head of the cult, is shot. Ms. Stanilaus takes the blame but there is no way she could have shot him. Is she covering for someone?

The dialogue is written in the local dialect, which gives it a Caribbean flavour without losing understandability. DS Chilman talks to Digger about how the island is changing.

“A lil boy got greedy and they kill him in their own style. They didn have the decency to respect we own clumsy island method. And when I see that, you know what I say to myself? I say something change. I say dis island get visited by something different that is not likely to go away. I say to myself ‘new crimes’. … And new crimes require new minds. Dis old dog too sick to learn new tricks. … Is y’all fight now.”

Jacob Ross paints a vivid picture of the island, its people and its way of life. Although it is a man’s world, the women are no pushovers. Ms. Stanilaus is more than a match for her male colleagues, and Digger’s grandmother seems to have been pretty terrifying.

I couldn’t put this book down. I loved the story, the characters and the virtual trip to a country I know very little about. This is the first of the series, and I’m looking forward to reading the others.

Buy from UK / USA

[1] Camaho is a variant of the Kalinago name of Grenada, Camerhogne (

6 thoughts on “The Bone Readers: Jacob Ross

  1. Reluctant Retiree

    While I don’t normally read mysteries, this sounds interesting! I was going to like the post but can’t find the button to do so.

    1. suroor alikhan

      Thank you, Reluctant Retiree! I haven’t enabled the like button on my page but you can like it on the WP Reader.

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