Cover Image: Tall Bones

Tall Bones

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Member Reviews

A great book showing the twists and turns of living in a small community. Who can you trust? And who should you avoid?
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Loved the two timelines in this book! It was filled with suspense and had a haunting vibe that meant I just couldn’t put this down. I read this alongside some friends and it was an amazing book to discuss. That ending!! Can’t wait to read more of Anna Baileys work!
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Set in Colorado, Tall Bones is based in an insular and remote town. When a teenage girl disappears, 17-year-old Abigail Blake, all of the community’s most devastating secrets and long-held grudges rise to the surface in this claustrophobic and atmospheric literary début. In Whistling Ridge, Abigail's best friend, Emma Alvarez is racked by guilt and questions are asked of the small town occupants, including Abigail's elder brother, Noah, younger sibling Jude, and preacher, Pastor Lewis.

Anna Bailey's descriptions of small-town life are second-to-none in this psychological thriller début. Part mystery, but also heavily character-driven, I was soon enthralled reading this fabulous, riveting and incredibly well-structured tale. Tall Bones is an exquisite thriller with a steady and unrushed pace that you really don't want to miss.

I received a complimentary copy of this novel at my request from Random House UK, Transworld Publishers/ Doubleday via NetGalley. This review is my own unbiased opinion.
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I'm very torn as to how I'm going to review this book. Part of me found it abhorrent and distasteful, and so depressing. Claustrophic. I would skip pages in a vain attempt to miss the worst of it, then find myself going back because I'd missed something.

I'm not a huge fan of raw, visceral, in-your-face behaviour, the hatred spewing from small-minded, illiterate homophobic racists, creatures born of generations of loathing and resentment, suspicion and superstition, a deep-rooted primal fear that can't leave well enough alone and mind its own damn business, I know it exists, I know it's very real and even more sickening than I could ever imagine while sitting and reading alll snug on my bed, cat on my lap and cup of tea beside me. 

But... I also couldn't not finish it, and kept itching to get back to it. What sad, sick beings humans can be, and how smugly gleeful we are when the rot among us get what's coming to them. Not sure what that says about me, but glad I was. Hell yeah! Glad indeed, with righteos, fervent fire and zeal - and yes, that should tell you something about what lurks between the pages of this book (I categorize the latter school of thought very much with the afore-mentioned yobs). 

Tall Bones had the same effect on me as Jane Harper's 'The Dry', and 'Into the Water' by Paula Hawkins, and lets just say I'll never re-read either. Nor this. But don't let me put you off. It itches and irritates until you reach the final page, where a tiny glimmer of light shines through, a glimmer that is red in colour. It paints a dark and sad picture of life for many, many families who live with abuse and madness, and how it wrings and twists the heart from anyone not of the witch-hunter general's faction. How it destroys hope and anything soft and good (and frankly, were I Dolly, Samuel would have been found in a shallow grave with his head bashed in way before Abi disappeared). 

Tall Bones is chilling and often ugly, but tautly-written and the characters spring to vivid life, inspiring hate, pity and fury in turns. And I reckon that's pretty much why we escape into fiction in the first place.
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I enjoyed this beautfully written, atmospheric debut  thriller. The author really brings small town America to life and she is so skilful in portraying the characters. I  did find the pace slow and it took me a while to really get into it  but once I did I was glad I persevered. It is a novel to just immerse yourself in and soak up the writing and atmosphere.  Recommended. 
Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a digital ARC.
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This has all the right ingredients for an amazing story - a mysterious disappearance, small-town secrets, difficult relationships. I was certainly pulled in at the start when the book establishes the characters in the town and how hard their lives were. The writing is compelling as well.

As the story goes on though, the pace slows down and becomes bogged down with details that I didn't feel were relevant. I didn't find any of the characters particularly interesting as they're mostly stereotypes like abusive dad, judgemental pastor, closeted boy, town outcast. The story is full of miserable people and bad things happening to good people so it was hard to read. The mystery is predictable and the storyline is frustrating. I appreciate that the author has a knack for writing the inner thoughts of the characters which shows another side of them. But I wish I was more invested in their lives.
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This should have been perfect for me. Small town, disappearance and a mystery. But say this just didn't work. 
The writing style, although I can't put my finger on why, just didn't work for me. One issue was definitely the pacing. Right from the start it felt too slow for me to fully get immersed. 
Another issue was the characters all feeling flat. I disliked them all. I don't know if that was the plan but I found it hard to even care what happened to Abi. 
This book is full of racism, homophobia and abuse. Non stop. Yet I also felt nothing much was happening regarding the mystery for me to care to find out the big reveal.
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When seventeen-year-old Emma leaves her best friend Abi at a party in the woods, she believes, like most girls her age, that their lives are just beginning. Many things will happen that night, but Emma will never see her friend again. 

I was looking forward to reading ‘Tall Bones’ but I really I struggled to get into this book. The characters were good but I didn't find the story compelling and it took me a very long time to read. I wanted to love this debut novel but I’m sad I didn’t.
Thanks to Random House UK, Transworld Publishers and #TallBones #netgalley for giving me a copy of  ‘Tall Bones’ by Anna Bailey in exchange for an honest review.
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Beautifully written with an unerring sense of place and time. This is a harrowing story, extremely well told although I found the mystery a little predictable
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I enjoyed this claustrophobic look at life in small town America. The characters come across as exaggerated stereotypes and I have to believe people really aren’t like this. That said it is that stereotyping that makes the book interesting as Bailey explores how awful people can be to each other and how easy those in a small town find it to turn a blind to what goes on behind closed doors.

The book stars with the disappearance of Abi and moves backwards and forwards in time showing events from the perspective of various characters so that the reader builds up a picture of what has been going and what actually occurred on the night in question.

I liked the way the narrative built up the suspense and kept you guessing with sly reveals and subtle asides but by the end of the story what I appreciated most was the character development…yes the stereotypes (or at least some of them) managed to move forward and become more than a stereotype.

Who would like this? Anyone looking for a light thriller who is more concerned about the people than the plot twists. I will just issue a trigger warner for domestic abuse and violence towards children.
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This debut psychological thriller has it all - small town USA with its politics, racism, relationships and all the other undercurrents that occur in a stifling town.
Seventeen year old Abi went missing after her friend Emma leaves her out at Tall Bones, having promised that she would get home ok. Someone knows what happened to Abi, but no one is saying anything. 
The strong cast of characters, from Abi’s younger brother Jude to her cruel father Samuel, and her best friend Emma and her friend Rat, have all been so well written that the book just flows, and is easy to read - so much so that it’s difficult to put down. I really enjoyed this book.
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Emma and Abi are best friends and have been for years. While at a party one night, Emma chooses to go home early, leaving Abi behind at her request, never guessing for a second that she is kickstarting a devastating sequence of events that she’ll be trying to unpick for months to come. When tragedy strikes in a small town, it can serve to shine a spotlight on all its occupants, revealing their deepest, darkest secrets and showing the hidden aspects of people’s lives. Everyone knows everyone but how well can you really know anyone, and how do you know the difference between the truth and what they want you to believe? 

This is a dark, atmospheric thriller and I really enjoyed it. I found it a little bit tricky to get into, but it’s a great read. I liked that the main female characters weren’t the typical perfect high school - chearleader Mary Sues, they were complex, imperfect and had hidden depths. The characters were generally all good though, intriguing and with layers to their characters, they all felt 3 dimensional. A great read, I would definitely recommend this! 

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Tall Bones is an absolutely stunning debut novel. I took a lot longer reading it than I would normally need because I spent a lot of time highlighting different sections as I read, going over them several times before continuing with the rest of the story. I never usually do this, but the writing style was so beautiful, I wanted to keep a record of some of the passages.

A small-town murder mystery with a heavy emphasis on the parochial attitudes of its inhabitants - Tall Bones was a slow-burn but impossible to put down at the same time. It was atmospheric and intense, tackling difficult subjects alongside the main storyline of Abigail's disappearance. I am sure this won't be the last we hear from Anna Bailey, and I can't wait to see what she has in store for her next novel.
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I do get the 'small town, everybody has a secret' scenario, but I felt this was a little over done here...virtually everybody had some links, or had perpetuated, horrible crimes...it was written well, but I guess I was looking for the light at the end of the tunnel...which unfortunately never came! Many thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for the chance to read this ARC.
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It felt like hard work reading this book a bit like running through sand. The characters were well written and it was easy an easy to follow plot apart from the heavy detail all the way through. 
Certainly not a light summer read but worth ploughing through,,, I think.
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'Tall Bones' is a novel about small-town life in a place where the bible is used by the church and fathers to attempt to keep their kids - and wives - in line, and yet all sorts of bad stuff is going on under their noses (sometimes perhaps UP their noses). It's a place dripping with hypocrisy, racism, homophobia where small minds get ample opportunity to perpetuate their privileges.

When a young woman - Abi - goes missing after a part out in the woods (at a place called Tall Bones), nobody can initially be sure if she's been killed or has run away in search of something better. As we get to learn more about her family - one for which the term 'dysfunctional' seems an understatement - it's not hard to see that running away might have felt like a very realistic option.

Her best friend, Emma, soon finds out she didn't really know Abi at all. Emma's got a couple of problems of her own - a drink problem and being mixed race in a very white town. Her friend Rat, the Romanian immigrant, is another outsider, but he's also not really who she thought he was and he's also very deeply tied up with Abi's family. 

The book is menacing. I didn't know who did it until the 'reveal'. There seemed to be plenty of people who might have and even more who were willing to do whatever it took to cover up the evil of the town. 

It's a great read. We peel away the layers of intrigue, head down the odd blind alley only to bounce back again, and there are plenty of people who are definitely not living their best lives. There's one event where a baddy gets his comeuppance where I defy you not to cheer out loud when it happens. 

Highly recommended. I'd read this author again.
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Emma and Abi are best friends, they’ve grown up together and are navigating being seventeen year olds in a small town side by side. They attend a party one night and when Emma wants to leave, Abi decides to stay. Emma checks she is sure that she definitely doesn’t want a lift home and when Abi insists that she is fine, Emma head off in her car. That is the last time anybody will see Abi alive.

Whistling Ridge is a small community, where everybody knows every else’s business and the church plays a large role in setting the tone for the moral compass of the town. Pastor Lewis runs the church with an iron fist and uses his power to influence and coerce his parishioners into following the word of the Lord, breeding a culture of misogyny, racism and xenophobia. This is one of those towns where everything looks perfect, but scratch beneath the surface and there are dark thoughts and dangerous deeds. They may think that they are living a Godly life, but they turn a blind eye to the events which take place in Abi’s family home and do little to welcome Rat Lăcustă, a young man from Romania who has recently moved to a trailer park on the outskirts of town.

The disappearance of Abi brings the darkness hidden behind closed doors firmly into the light. Everybody knows that Abi’s family is odd, that her dad, Samuel is not a man to be crossed. They see the bruises on the face of Abi’s mother Dolly, they haven’t questioned why the eldest son, Noah didn’t go to University as planned and nobody has thought to ask why Jude, Abi’s younger brother walks with a stick. The Blake house is not a happy place at all, yet rather than helping they turn a blind eye. Bailey writes about this family with immense sensitivity and compassion. There are moments which are difficult and upsetting to read, but they provide background and add further layers to the feeling of menace permeating throughout the town.

Emma’s grief and guilt at the loss of Abi consumes her, causing her to find solace in alcohol and in a friendship with Rat. Emma is written so beautifully. She has so many feelings that she doesn’t know how to express and finds herself eaten away by her hand in Abi’s disappearance. Her relationship with Rat is the only thing keeping her from disaster and their burgeoning friendship leaps from the pages.

Using a dual timeline of both the present and the past, the events which lead up to Abi’s disappearance are laid bare for us. Dual timelines can be a difficult narrative structure to handle but Bailey writes this with a deft touch. Astonishingly this is a debut novel but it reads like a book written by a novelist with a number of books under her belt. It draws the reader in so vividly that Whistling Ridge felt like a real place. It is oppressive, atmospheric and exceptionally plotted with characters who leap from the pages and a book that should absolutely be on your radar.
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A staggering debut that is compelling, thought-provoking and memorable...

Tall Bones is so much more than a story about a missing girl. It’s a story of abuse, patriarchy, power, racism, love, friendship, bigotry, religion and community. This is a powerful story that is so intricately layered I cannot believe that it’s Bailey’s debut. This is an unsettling read in an all too real way - there are truly harrowing and haunting moments - but there is also tenderness, redemption, hope and positive strength. It’s devastatingly affecting in its gripping exploration of small-town mindedness, which breeds a mob mentality and has affects that will permanently scar. This novel is so rich in masterfully developed themes that I will be ruminating on it for a long time. Needless to say, because of this, it will stay with me forever too.

The mystery of Abi’s disappearance definitely propels the narrative forward. There are some extremely tense and exhilarating moments, particularly as Emma (and later Hunter) try and determine just what has happened to Abi. Normally these sequences would keep me turning pages, but with Tall Bones it was the gradual peeling away of the layers encasing the towns’ secrets that kept me reading. There is plenty of suspense generated from multiple angles within the storyline, but it is the touchingly human aspects of the plot - including ingrained homophobia, racism, fear of the “other”, religion used to justify one’s actions, domestic abuse and substance abuse - that really get under the reader’s skin and keep you turning the pages. I couldn’t consume this novel quickly enough and it pained me every time I had to pop my bookmark between the pages. This is compulsive and addictive reading.

A cacophony of perfectly drawn characters, rich and deep and entirely absorbing. A lyrical and beautiful style to the prose (some of the descriptions are literally poetry). A fearless tackling of difficult subjects, realised with compassion, depth and humanity. A striking story of identity and above all things, finding the strength to be you in the face of adversity. These are all things that make Tall Bones a 2021 must read. Don’t be surprised to find this topping lots of “best of” lists this year. It’s up there with Abigail Dean’s Girl A,  with it’s similarly raw and consuming power. Don’t miss this marvellous book and then, like me, eagerly await Bailey’s next offering!
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Tall Bones is a superbly written debut by Anna Bailey and is probably the best book I have read so far in 2021.

Tall Bones is atmospheric from the outset and the author gives you a real feel for the place.

“The roar of the bonfire is hard to distinguish from the sounds of the trailer-park boys and the schoolgirls who holler and dance in the shadow of the Tall Bones. It is a small-town sort of night – the last that Whistling Ridge will see for many years to come. Although nobody knows this yet – in this kind of town where coyotes chew on cigarette butts and packs of boys go howling at the moon.”

The last Emma Alvarez saw of her best friend Abigail Blake she was heading into the woods with ‘the vague shape of a boy.’

“Abigail Blake is seventeen and like all girls her age, she believes she’s going to live for ever. Deep down, Emma believes it too, and that is why she leaves her friend there.”

That night Abi fails to return home and Emma is forced to endure people at school whispering that it was her fault for leaving her in the first place.

The Blakes all feel Abi’s absence like a wound although whispers around the town suggest that she may have just run away.

“No wonder the daughter’s gone, they say, in a house like that. No wonder the daughter’s dead.”

The police investigation into her disappearance is lacklustre to say the least and it seems to Emma that she is the only one who cares to discover the truth.

Tall Bones is essentially about outsiders in a small-town community. It covers a whole host of issues and does so phenomenally.

I didn’t for one minute feel bored reading this book or wish it to end, and I loved learning about all the different characters. I even enjoyed learning about Pastor Lewis even if I did want to punch him.

There is ‘Rat’ who lives at the trailer park. A Romanian with a slightly dodgy reputation and a knack for drawing attention to himself.

“The truth is that, just for a moment, everyone has forgotten about the Blake family. At least the Blakes are of the town, of the church, of the faith. Rat – with his tight jeans and the smooth dark laterals of his unfamiliar accent – is a stranger. He is a bullet that has entered the town and not yet left an exit wound.”

I cannot recommend this book enough.
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This book had such an intense feel to it, and from the beginning I was completely immersed into the surrounding pages. Claustraphobic is a perfect way of describing it - as I felt like I couldn't leave its pages until I had read it all.
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