Someone suggested I read Ink and Bone, but it turned out there were two with that title and Lisa Unger’s cover art just drew me in, so I read it instead of the YA fantasy I had been recommended. I find spooky trees hard to resist. Be specific, people!
Ink and Bone is part of a mystery series centered on a small upstate village called The Hollows. This is a transitional novel that shifts the focus of the series from Eloise Montgomery, a reluctant psychic, to her granddaughter Finley who is just beginning her useful phase of being psychic, learning to control her power instead of allowing it to control her – or at least trying to control it.
Meanwhile, there is a young girl named Abbey who has been missing nearly a year. The book opens with her abduction. Abbey’s mother, Merri, desperately believes she is still alive, insistent she feels her life force. She hires Jones Cooper, the local private detective who works with Eloise to make one last attempt to find her.
But the spirits are not speaking to Eloise this time, they reach out of Finley, so she takes on the case with Cooper. Her way of working is very different from Eloise, so Cooper has some adjusting to do.
Ink and Bone takes risks that few mystery series do and not just in transitioning from Eloise to Finley. Readers have certain expectations and Unger refuses to cater to them. She also offers some real insight into life, insight that is perhaps harsh. Abbey’s father, Wolf, is a travel writer and writing has him searching always for the story arc. “But that was another truth of life that Wolf had only recently learned. Very often, there was no redemptive narrative. The consequences for some mistakes would not be undone.” I really loved how Unger dug deep for some real honesty in this book, but naming the philandering husband Wolf was a bit reductive.
The relationship between Wolf and Merri is an important part of the story. Most parents who lose a child divorce, their marriage unable to withstand the pain. Wolf and Merri were already having trouble when Abbey disappeared, but they are, so far, sticking it out for the sake of Abbey’s brother, Jackson. For Merri marriage was like this, “Daily, she forgave his flaws, just as she knew he forgave hers. Maybe that alone was the foundation of a good marriage, an endless willingness to forgive and to love in spite of ourselves, an ability to ride the highs and endure the lows, the decision to always go home.” There is truth there, that marriage is about enduring and forgiving and deciding to stick it out.
The story is atmospheric and the sense of place is powerful. You can feel the menace in the landscape at times. The plot was intricate and sadly, altogether too realistic (other than the psychic stuff). And yes, while I am not one to believe in the supernatural, I did not mind that the detective is a psychic, just as I enjoy stories about hauntings, vampires and dragons.
I enjoyed Ink and Bone very much. It succeeded in the most important thing, getting me to request more of her books at the library. I am eager to read them. And yes, I probably will also read the other Ink and Bone, the one I was recommended in the first place. It sounds fun.