'The Bone Jar' by S.W. Kane is the first book in the Detective Lew Kirby series, a story that circles around the discovery of an elderly woman's body in an abandoned asylum on the banks of the Thames. As DI Kirby and his partner start digging into the details of the woman's death, a second body turns up in the river nearby.
Secrets begin to unfold regarding hidden rooms, secret experimentation, and the legends that places like Blackwater Asylum so often develop.. that there's a force about them. Ghosts of the past. Or at least, an inescapable vortex that seems to draw others to their doom.
When Kirby meets with Connie Darke, an urban explorer whose sister died in an unexplained accident on the asylum grounds, his queries spur her own obsessions with the truth and she grows determined to help him find answers.
There are several questionable characters that pop up throughout the investigation, some of them tight-lipped and severe.. others wild and brash. Each one is richly portrayed, their distinctive quirks making them easy to keep track of even with a wide suspect pool.
To start with.. there's Raymond Sweet, the former resident of the asylum who ends up living on the property for decades after it closes. He's an unusual man, but he seems almost sweet in his strange way. There's the hot shot developer who ends up losing Sweets plot of land to him via squatters rights litigation, the missing urban explorer whose cell phone is found at the scene of the crime, the heir to Marsh House just in from Perth, the daughter of the deceased who is more than a little rough around the edges, and plenty of others.
Nearly everyone has secrets they're keeping, some of which are devastating and not all of them even relate to the case. In fact, while Kirby is trying to track down the killer, he's fielding calls from his parents about something his mom has been hiding. Admittedly, I found her reveal a little odd, but the story was still great.
I loved the dark, gritty setting. The description of the property throughout the book is so vividly stark. The asylum has stood on the grounds for years and it feels as if its affected almost everything within its reach.
Kane did a fantastic job of balancing character and story development with well-paced scenes filled with action or suspense. It's definitely worth the read.