Rummanah Aasi
 1800, Joseon (Korea). Homesick and orphaned sixteen-year-old Seol is living out the ancient curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Indentured to the police bureau, she’s been tasked with assisting a well-respected young inspector with the investigation into the politically charged murder of a noblewoman.
  As they delve deeper into the dead woman's secrets, Seol forms an unlikely bond of friendship with the inspector. But her loyalty is tested when he becomes the prime suspect, and Seol may be the only one capable of discovering what truly happened on the night of the murder.

Review: The Silence of Bones is an intricate and gritty historical mystery set in gritty mystery, set in the Joseon dynasty of 1800. Our main protagonist is Seol, a teen, indentured servant to the Hanyang police. When the daughter of a high-ranking government official is found dead with her nose sliced off, Seol's curiosity and keen observational skills lead the enigmatic Inspector Han to recognize her natural sleuthing skills and promise post-investigation freedom if she cooperates. As in any mystery, nothing is what they seem. Through bits and pieces of Seol's memories we learn of her backstory: her father's death, her mother's suicide; and of her kind older brother who has been missing for several years-keep interfering with her duties. These two narratives eventually collide. 
  This book requires patience as the pacing is a bit slow as Hur builds suspense carefully while offering a noir-tinged atmosphere of late nights, mist-shrouded streets, and clandestine meetings. I had not heard of the Korean concept of han before reading this book so this part of the book fascinated me and kept me turning the pages. The customs, language, and politics, are woven flawlessly into the narrative, which is firmly grounded in the novel's historical basis: looming Catholic persecution, the Shinyu Bakhae of 1801, another element that I had never learned of and was intrigued by in the book. Some readers may solve the mystery ahead of Seol, normally a pet peeve of mine when reading mysteries; however I was so drawn in by the historical and cultural elements that I did not mind. The author does not shy away from cruelty in the book so sensitive readers may need to skip the abuse and torture scenes. I would recommend The Silence of Bones to readers who are eager to learn about cultures outside of Western-centric countries and a well written mystery. I look forward to reading more from Hur in the future. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution:  There are scenes of abuse and torture sometimes graphic, including attempted rape. 

If you like this book try: The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur (April 2021), The Agency series by Y.S. Lee, Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley
1 Response
  1. I love a book that teaches me about a time or place or culture while giving me a good story.

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