Review: “Island of Bones,” Gaby Triana

Rating: 5 out of 5

Gaby Triana’s Island of Bones (Haunted Florida) pulled me in so thoroughly that when I finished it I looked up, blinked a few times, and realized it was more than an hour past when I wanted to go to bed.

It’s 1951, and Leanne Drudge’s husband has been lost at sea in a boating accident while looking for sunken treasure. Her neighbors are all too happy to run her out of her house when she can’t make her mortgage payments, so she curses the house on her way out of town. In the present day, Ellie, Leanne’s 26-year-old granddaughter, just got broken up with by her boyfriend and her Nana has died. She decides to take some time off and take Leanne’s remains to spread them at the house she loved so much, Casa de los Cayos. She heads from Boston to Key West, Florida, and since she didn’t suss out a place to stay ahead of time, ends up staying in a dilapidated bed-and-breakfast run by a very sour woman, Syndia. It has a reputation for being haunted, and soon she starts hearing and seeing things. The property’s cat, Bacon, has developed quite an attachment to her, but Syndia clearly wants her gone.

First, the one and only thing in this book that bothered me: Ellie takes Zoloft for mental illness symptoms. Of course it turns out that with the drug in her system, she can’t fully hear and see the ghosts that come to her. This is written with some nuance, because she’s pretty clear on the fact that she needed that medication when she was younger and couldn’t handle it. But I still dislike plot lines in which a person discovers that their mental illness is actually a special ability and that they should just go off of a med without any oversight from a doctor (withdrawal symptoms can last for weeks).

That over with, I can gush about the rest of the book. The characters are wonderful. There’s more to Syndia than meets the eye. Nottie, a nurse taking care of Syndia’s mother, is only seen occasionally but is deftly given depth within those moments. Luis, a guide who gives “ghost tours,” is able to help Ellie fill in some of the blanks of what happened to her grandmother and grandfather. Ellie is having trouble adjusting to her ability to see ghosts, and she’s a nice blend of smartness, earnestness, and the occasional bit of snark.

There’s also a tropical storm headed for Key West, and Ellie feels she can’t leave yet, so she decides to stay. There are secrets for her to uncover, and soon she finds herself fighting for her life on multiple fronts. The writing is so bloody good. I was hooked from the start and could NOT put this book down. The pacing is masterful, gradually building up a riveting tension.

I would absolutely read more by this author! Since this book is labeled as “a Haunted Florida novel,” I have some hope she might write other books in this setting!

[T]he house looked like an old woman all alone on Bingo Night.

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