Cover Image: Dry Bones

Dry Bones

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Member Reviews

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.

3.5 stars rounded up for NetGalley.
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Sally Spencer immerses us in Dry Bones in which Jennie the detective is pulled into an old murder mystery, two skeletons found bricked up in the College's basement.  The bodies date to the first and second world war and Charles Swift, the bursar at St. Luke's College, is implicated in the cases.  Murder revolves around the wars and the victims' homosexuality.  Who murdered them?  Is the murderer still alive?  Jennie has to unravel the mystery fast or her friend Lord Charles will be charged with murder.
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It was an entertaining read though not very memorable. 

It is the second book in the series, but you can read it as a stand-alone, I didn’t have a feeling that I was missing something from the previous sequel.

Jennie Redhead, our red-haired protagonist is a private investigator and a close friend of Charlie Swift, the bursar of St Luke's College in Oxford. When human bones are discovered in a sealed medieval ventilation shaft in the cellars of the St Luke's College, Charlie Swift decides not to report the incident by the police straight away but in order to protect the reputation of his College and to avoid the public scandal first contact his old friend Jennie to ask for a favor. She has to find out whom those bones belong and what happened with their owners. The case that seems to be unsolvable at the first sight- as the lab on the campus has detected, the human bones belong to two different bodies and their deaths separate at least 30 years –is quickly resolved. But it is not the main story of the book. 

At 50% we know WHO these men were and we have also a main suspect. But then an unexpected twist turns the story into a totally different direction. It will happens at least twice after. THIS style, on the one hand kept my interests and made me wanting to read further to find out what all THIS story was about, on the other hand, I had a feeling that the author didn’t really have a plan or what genre he should have committed himself to. 

The timeline shifts back and forth between present (here it is 1974th), 1916th and 1943th. Though I found the time representation a little bit flat, it is not a great atmosphere that keeps you on reading, but your curiosity. The more you know the more you have doubts about the truth, the more you hesitate about whom you can trust in this story.

I don’t know if I’ll read the next book in the series, but it was a quick and partly amusing read that reminded me of a British TV mystery series.
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I read The Shivering Turn, the first book in the series earlier this year and I was thrilled to get to chance to read the sequel Dry Bones. Private investigator Jennie Redhead is back and in this book, she has to solve the mystery of two skeletons that are found in the cellars beneath St Luke's College without the police finding out about that since her friend, and the college's bursar, Charlie Swift doesn't want to involve them. The skeletons are buried 30 years apart, so now she must find out what links them together to find out who put them there.

I found the Shivering Turn to be an excellent start and I'm thrilled to say that this book is also great. One aspect I love about this series is that it's set in the 70s Oxford and I was also extra pleased that this book dealt with a cold case. We got to see flashbacks back to St Luke's both during WW1 and WW2 and it was especially interesting to get to know a younger Charlie Swift. The book really captured the atmosphere of the different periods and I always love reading a book that feels authentic. As for the case, well, it's a true puzzle, but Jennie is a good PI and she, despite, feeling let down by Charlie hiding things will do everything to solve it.

I quite enjoyed this mystery book and I look forward to reading more books about Jennie Redhead!
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Private investigator Jennie Redhead finds her loyalties divided when she investigates the decades old murder of a college student. Oxford 1974, in the cellars beneath St Luke's College, a sealed mediaeval ventilation shaft is opened up to reveal human bones. Two bodies, buried 30 years apart, but is there a connection? Desperate to protect the colleges reputation and finances, the bursar, Charlie Swift, hires his old friend, Jennie Redhead, to find the identity of the two victims.

This is a well written historical mystery. The parts that go back during the war make intresting reading. When the remains of two skeletons were discovered, instead of calling the police they moved them to a lab on campus. Bursar, Charlie Swift, wants to keep the find quiet, but does Charlie know more than he's letting on? He refuses to call the police and Jennie's task is nearly impossible. The more you read of this book, the more you won't know who to trust.

I would like to thank NetGalley, Severn House Publishers and the author Sally Spencer for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Entertaining Oxford based thriller

Private investigator Jennie Redhead finds her loyalties divided when in 1974 she investigates two bodies, buried thirty years apart under an Oxford college. 

Whilst I found this quite entertaining, it fell a little short for me. The view inside Jennie’s head I found a bit irritating and some of the World War 2 descriptions appeared a bit flimsy.

However, it was entertaining with some great descriptions of Oxford and Jennie is a strong character that keeps your interest to the end of the book.
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Dry Bones
An Oxford-based PI mystery
by Sally Spencer
Severn House

Severn House Publishers
Mystery & Thrillers
Pub Date 01 Feb 2018


I am reviewing a copy of Dry Bones through Severn House Publishers and Netgalley:

In Oxford 1974 found in the Cellar's beneath St. Luke's College in a sealed ventilation chamber, human bones are found. Two bodies buried thirty years apart but they are connected.


In order to save the college's reputation and finances, Charlie Swift. Charlie Swift hires his old friend and Private Investigator Jennie Redhead to find out who the two victims are. 


As Jennie puts the clues together she realizes that Charlie knows more about these murders than he is willing to admit. As she pieces the clues she uncovers Scandals that go back over sixty years, and wonders if she every really knew her old friend Charlie.


I give Dry Bones five out of five stars! 


Happy Reading!
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St. Luke's College, Oxford, in 1974 two bodies are discovered in an old air shaft.  Charlie Swift, bursar, employs his friend and private investigator Jennie Redhead to discover who they are. Tests reveal that one had probably died sixty years previously and the other forty year ago. So the story moves between these three time periods, but what scandals does Jennie expose to have caused these deaths.
A good mystery though I am ambivalent about the characters.
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Oxford, 1974. In the cellars beneath St Luke's College, a sealed medieval ventilation shaft is opened up to reveal human bones. Two bodies, buried thirty years apart, but is there a connection. 
Desperate to protect the College's reputation - and finances - the bursar, Charlie Swift, hires his old friend, private investigator Jennie Redhead, to find out the identities of the two victims. But as Jennie pieces the clues together, it becomes increasingly clear that Charlie knows rather more about the murders than he's admitted. As she uncovers a series of scandals stretching back more than sixty years, Jennie is forced to question how well she really knows her old friend Charlie Swift  and whether she can trust him.
I enjoyed the book & liked the mysteries within it, especially the more I read the more I didn’t know who to trust. The descriptions of life in Oxford were very well written & so true to life. Also how the class differences were portrayed was very well done. I did feel a little let down as to the way homosexuality was portrayed as it was still illegal at the time of both murders. However a very enjoyable read & I’ll certainly be reading more from the author 

My honest review is for a special copy I voluntarily read
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From the very beginning, there is something highly suspicious going on in this book and the mysteries just keep piling up the further you get into reading. I liked that I never knew quite who was telling the truth in this book or whom I could trust.

The characters are very intriguing and I liked that the main character had such a brilliant personality. I guessed at what was going on throughout the book, but was never quite right. I was excited to read the ending and see how it all came together.

The dialogue is very well thought out and written in this novel, but there is also plenty of action and excitement to be had. I liked this book a lot and look forward to reading more from this author. if you are looking for a book to keep your mind busy, this one will do nicely.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher, provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
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I gave this 3 stars on Goodreads because I did like some of it, but truthfully, Charlie's behavior made me uncomfortable.
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Dry bones is an excellent historical mystery, one of the Jennie Redhead Mysteries, set in the autumn of 1974 when a cache of skeletal bones are discovered in a boxed-off air vent in the basement of the De Courcey Quad at St. Luke's in Oxford. The cellar was constructed in 1214.  The skeletons, one placed behind the wall from  1909 - 1919, the other interred between 1934 and 1944, are both males aged between their mid-20's and mid-30's. 

Jennie Redhead, private investigator, and her dear friend and co-alumni of St. Luke's, Lord Charles Edward George Withington Danby Swift, are attempting (against her better judgement) to discover the identity of the remains, which have not yet been reported to the local police.  The mystery should have been easily solved - there have ever only been four keys to the basement of De Courcey Quad.  One is held by the Master and one by the Dean. Another has been in the stewardship of the head porter.  There had been only three porters in the 20th century.  Mr. Gough, his son Mr. Gough, and Mr. Jenkins, trained by the second Mr. Gough.  And of course Charlie, as Bursar, holds one of those four keys. The problem lies in that the college buildings were used to house military personnel during both the 1st and 2nd World Wars. 

The look backs into those times of war are very interesting, and the mystery builds beautifully during the telling.  Sally Spencer is an author I will add to my favorites list.

I received a free electronic copy of this historical novel from Netgalley, Sally Spencer, and Severn House Publishers in exchange for a honest review.  Thank you all, for sharing your hard work with me.
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I would like to thank Severn House Publishers and NetGalley for providing this book in exchange for my review.

When a vent shaft is opened in the cellars of St. Luke’s College in 1974, two skeletons are discovered.  Rather than call the police, the remains are removed to a lab on campus and Charlie Swift, the bursar, hires investigator Jennie Redhead to discover the identities of the two victims.  Charlie has been Jennie’s friend since she was a student at St. Luke’s and he knows more about the bodies than he is willing to share.  Asking her to keep the investigation a secret and not to notify the authorities of the discovery is against the law and puts a strain on their friendship.

One of the skeletons is dated to 1914, while the other is dated thirty years later.  As The author takes you back in time to introduce the victims and provide the motives for their deaths you also get a glimpse of Britain at war and a changing society.

Jennie’s investigation takes a surprising turn when another murder occurs at St. Luke’s and is eventually tied to the discovery of the skeletons.  There are a number of surprising twists that keep the reader guessing to the very end, making this a mystery that is well worth reading.
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Hi Karen,
My next review is:-

“Dry Bones: A Jennie Redhead Mystery”, written by Sally Spencer and published in hardback on 31st October 2017 by Severn House Publishers Ltd. 224 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0727887542
Oxford, 1974. In the cellars beneath St Luke's College, a sealed medieval ventilation shaft is opened up to reveal human bones. Two bodies, buried thirty years apart, but is there a connection ...
Desperate to protect the College's reputation - and finances - the bursar, Charlie Swift, hires his old friend, private investigator Jennie Redhead, to find out the identities of the two victims. But as Jennie pieces the clues together, it becomes increasingly clear that Charlie knows rather more about the murders than he's admitted. As she uncovers a series of scandals stretching back more than sixty years, Jennie is forced to question how well she really knows her old friend Charlie Swift - and whether she can trust him..

Jennie attended the college herself and is very aware of it’s geography. She was originally in the Police, before deciding to set up as a private investigator.  She seems to spend a lot of time visiting the numerous pubs in Oxford in the pursuit of research. She has contacts in the Oxford police with whom she uses for research purposes.

The background to the two corpses found in the ventilation shaft take up a lot of time but Jennie is very thorough with her research and I fondly remember the previous Jennie Redhead book “The Shivering Turn” which introduced the series.

Sally Spencer is a pen name adopted by author Alan Rustage when he was writing sagas and it seems to be obligatory to adopt a woman’s name on the cover (other authors of sagas such as Emma Blair and Mary Jane Staples are also men).

Anyway, the author is very prolific and has dozens of books to his pen name. He has lived abroad for many years and is currently living on the Costa Blanca. I have read many of his books as they are always very exciting and usually very well researched historical mysteries.

I enjoyed this latest one enormously and look forward to reading more books from this very gifted author in this series or any of the others. Strongly recommended. 

Best wishes,

Terry Halligan

(To be published by eurocrime.co.uk in due course)
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Jennie Redhead is a free-thinking, independent private detective in 1970s Oxford. The second in a series by Sally Spencer offers just as puzzling a mystery as book one. "Dry Bones" presents skeletons dating back to each of the world wars that are found bricked up in the basement ofJennie's old college. Discovering who they are isn't quite as tough as figuring out who did it. As in book one, Spencer saves the solution to the very last and it's satisfying. The author's characters are thoroughly modern despite the decades-old setting.
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As a history buff, I love mysteries with a twist, particularly if it's historical, and Oxford and the World Wars take care of that. An excellent mystery and my first by this Author.
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Oxford with its longstanding history and traditional disparity between classes makes for an excellent mystery setting. (Morse anyone?).  The followup to The Shivering Turn is equally as good.  Dry Bones is skillfully plotted, showing just how long hidden murders can affect the present (in this case 1974).  Jennie Redhead’s friend Charles, the bursar of St Luke’s College, begs her to investigate when two skeletons are discovered walled into the cellar of St Luke’s - one from the First World War and one from the second.   Who were the murdered men? What links the two to St Luke’s? Sally Spencer moves adeptly between past and present revealing a complicated tale of evil deeds, long hidden secrets and honor.  Jennie’s investigation will tax her belief in the ones she loves most and will challenge long held friendships.  Not only that it will lead to murder.

Dry Bones is an excellent mystery, eloquently written with plenty of twists.  Jennie Redhead is an exceptional lead, with a mind and tongue as vibrant as her red hair.  I've read numerous mysteries by Sally Spencer and I have to say her Jennie Redhead novels are her best work yet.

5 / 5

I received a copy of Dry Bones from the publisher and Netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.

--Crittermom
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I was brought up in Oxford and spent my teenage years around the middle of the city.  I was delighted when I saw that this book was set in the university.  However, having read about a third of it, I am afraid that I can no longer read it.  For some reason I cannot get into the plot at all and I am confused by the characters and the inevitable (nowadays) time switch.  Can no one write a book that is just in one year?
It is a shame, and I am sorry, but no for me.
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Jennie is called in by an old friend to help investigate the identity of 2 bodies found in Oxford University. This is a story which goes back and forward in time to explain what happened. It is funny in places and well written. It is an easy read. It is written in a style which I know a lot of people like.
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Thank you Netgalley and Severn House for the eARC.
Oxford, 1974.
Jennie Redhead, a P.I. is asked by her best friend, Charlie Swift, to investigate a case for him.  The bones of 2 men have been found in the basement wall of St. Luke's College.  Charlie is the Bursar of St. Luke's and he wants Jennie to find out the names of the murdered men.  He refuses to alert the police, which puts Jennie in an impossible situation.  Not only are they legally obliged to alert the police, another good friend of hers is a detective and won't take kindly to her keeping this from him.  Plus, she has a nasty suspicion Charlie knows more than he lets on, which starts to feel like a betrayal  as time goes on.  What kind of mess has he got her into?
We go from 1974 to WWI and WWII, which was very well done, easy to follow as well as giving us 3 good storylines.
I enjoyed this book very much, it was entertaining and interesting, with a likeable, plucky P.I.  I didn't guess the ending, which was satisfying, if a bit sad.  Definitely recommended!
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