“Dry Bones” by Sally Spencer – Book Review

Last year I read “The Shivering Turn” which was the first in the Jennie Redhead series. With “Dry Bones” we revisit private investigator Jennie as she attempts to solve three murders which took place decades apart.

For those who haven’t made Jennie Redhead’s acquaintance, she is from the northern county of Lancashire, studied at Oxford herself, and got her degree in English Literature. And guess what? She IS a redhead! She views the fact that her hair matches her name to be a curse she is forced to endure. The year is 1974 and Jennie travels about the city of Oxford on her trusty bicycle to ferret out information.

Jennie left the Thames Valley police when she discovered one of her superiors to be corrupt. She still has a few contacts within the police, one of whom is DS George Hobson, her friend and former lover. She turns to George again this time round, testing their friendship.

Jennie’s best friend, Lord Charles Swift, St. Luke’s College’s bursar, comes to Jennie with a problem. Wanting to preserve the college’s reputation, he tells her about two skeletons which were discovered in the cellar of one of the colleges. He wants her to determine WHO these skeletons were in life. He also says that the bones were removed to be scientifically tested – thus disturbing the possible crime scene. Of course this is against the law and could get them both in trouble with the police. Science has determined that one of the skeletons is much older than the other one… One was interred during WWI, the other during WWII.

Porter’s Lodge


When Jenny begins to investigate she is reacquainted with the college ‘porter’ who has a long and esteemed relationship with the University.  The ‘porter’ is the hub of the college, the man who facilitates much of what goes on withing the walls of St. Luke’s.

The reader is transported back in time to the periods when the murder’s took place – one of which was during Jennie’s friend Swift’s time at the college. A time when scandal was verboten.

Jennie wonders… could Charles be in any way implicated? The investigation takes Jennie to Northamptonshire and the Spanish island of Majorca.

Sóller Cemetery, Majorca

Set in the beautiful and historic city of Oxford, this series is extremely atmospheric. Adding to that is the fact that there were three time periods within the narrative, the most recent being 1974 during Jennie Redhead’s time.

The narrative examines the limits of friendship and the lengths to which those loyal to Oxford University will go to preserve its reputation. It gives the reader a glimpse into what life was like at Oxford during the great wars and how the University had to adapt to fewer students and being used as housing for the military.

The writing was adept and utilized humour and irony to further the story along. I enjoyed this novel very much, though not as much as the first installment of the series. To date, there are just the two titles, but I would read the third if such a book were written.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from the publishers, Severn House via NetGalley in consideration of my honest review.

Sally Spencer is a pen name, first adopted when the author (actually called Alan Rustage) was writing sagas and it was almost obligatory that a woman’s name appeared on the cover. Before becoming a full-time writer, he was a teacher.

He lived in Madrid for over twenty years, and still considers it the most interesting and exciting city he has ever visited, but for the last few years he has opted for a quieter life in the seaside town of Calpe, Spain.

He has written twenty books featuring DCI Woodend (a character based partly on a furniture dealer he used to play dominoes with) and ten (so far!) about Woodend’s protegé Monika Paniatowski.

His DI Sam Blackstone books are set in Victorian/Edwardian London, New York and Russia, and the Inspector Paco Ruiz books have as their backdrop the Spanish Civil War.

Alan is a competitive games player who likes bridge and pub quizzes. It is only by enforcing iron discipline that he doesn’t play video games all the time.

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
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