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The Silence of Bones: 05/27/20

The Silence of Bones

The Silence of Bones by June Hur is a mystery set in 1800 Joseon (Korea). The king has recently died. While the capital is still in mourning, a young noblewoman is found murdered. As the kingdom is run under Confucian law, the police employ female servants to help in the investigation.

Seol is sixteen and in the employ of the police. She is on the team to investigate the murder of Lady O. She believes she is an orphan. Her mother and sister are dead. Her brother is missing, presumed dead.

The political climate is changing. Catholicism has been gaining a footing but under the new queen, religious persecution is on the horizon. Is Lady O's murder related to her religious affiliations or something else?

Although this novel is set in Korea, the anti-Catholic sentiment combined with a police procedural brings to mind Maureen Jennings's mysteries set in 1890s Toronto. As the author was raised in Toronto, I wonder if Ontario's history / cultural atmosphere influenced her choice of subject?

Regardless, The Silence of Bones in its exploration of Seol's growth as a person and how she helps investigate the murder, is situated on the road narrative spectrum. Be warned, though, that the analysis will contain spoilers. These spoilers aren't directly related to solving the murder mystery, but one associated with Seol.

Seol came to the city believing she was an orphan — and thus an orphan traveler. Her investigation into Lady O's murder leads to to revelation that her long lost brother is alive and well, and someone very close to her. Learning his status changes the traveler from orphan to sibling (CC).

The destination here is solving the murder. As the murder took place in the city and most of the investigation is done within its borders, the destination is, thus, the city (00).

Finally, the route taken is a transformative one. Throughout Seol's internal monolog, she refers to the city streets as being a labyrinth. As the investigation leads to Seol learning she's not alone in the world, the route is indeed the transformative route of the labyrinth (99).

All together, Seol's journey can be described as siblings traveling through the city via the labyrinth (CC0099).

Four stars

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