Following on the tremendous success of "Bombay Ice", her first novel, Leslie Forbes is back with a new tale of love, murder, intertwined family relationships, and sins reaching far into the past.
Claire Fleetwood is an American in London, a forensic photographer who spends much of her time digging up and photographing bones. When she is unexpectedly left a house in London by a distant relative, she is both surprised and excited by her good fortune...and not a little disturbed by the house, which seems to have secrets of its own.
A few months after moving in, Claire is witness to a brutal murder of her next-door neighbour, setting of a chain of events that culminate in her meeting with Jack Ironstone, her cousin, and the botanical company he works for. Vaguely disturbed by Jack, and the air of menace he exudes, Claire nonetheless agrees to join him on a scientific expedition to find a rare plant in Tibet. Travelling through India and Tibet, accompanied by her distant relative's faded diaries, Claire slowly reconstructs a parallel life, this one a century earlier - and realizes that the sins of the past can sometimes come back to haunt the future.
As with "Bombay Ice", "Fish, Blood And Bone" is filled with nuggets of scientific information, this time about botany and the opium trade. Claire Fleetwood is a well-sketched character, given to moments of emotion and quick flashes of intuition - in this, she is again uncannily similar to Rosalind, the stormy heroine of "Bombay Ice" - and Forbes' vivid descriptions of India and Tibet are spot on as usual.
Perhaps Forbes' greatest success, though, lies in the atmosphere she evokes so brilliantly: from the dark, moody landscape of Whitechapel, where Jack The Ripper lurked almost a century ago, to the dust and grime of Calcutta and the pristine beauty of Tibet, "Fish, Blood And Bone" evokes the sights and smells of a world at once familiar and difficult to discern, and shot through with innumerable hues of the colour green - a colour which infuses Claire's dreams, the diaries she carries, and the mystery she finds herself embroiled in. Well worth a read!This article was first published on 07 Apr 2001.