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Bone Deep

by Sandra Ireland

Thriller and Suspense Books of the Month Books with reviews by our Reader Review Panel eBooks of the Month

LoveReading Expert Review of Bone Deep

This very modern story has a deep dark power weaving through it, creating a chilling, absolutely riveting read.

A siren-like read, the storyline simply swallowed me whole, it created such tension I could not stop reading! Mac a retired history lecturer who specialises in folklore and oral tradition hires Lucie who is running away from her life, as her Girl-Friday. As the story reveals itself, so does a threatening and deadly presence. The sense of foreboding sent shivers down my arms. While this is a very modern story, it has the feel of a twisted ghostly fairytale as a deep dark power weaves through the pages. Both Mac and Lucie tell their own tales, while another story ensures the past shimmers ever closer, before crashing into the present. I also adored Sandra Ireland’s debut ‘Beneath the Skin’, her writing has the ability to seduce, while creating a slicing piercing energy. I feel as though I was fated to read ‘Bone Deep’, that our paths were meant to cross, it is a chilling, yet absolute treasure of a book - highly recommended.

Liz Robinson

Bone Deep Synopsis

What happens when you fall in love with the wrong person? The consequences threaten to be far-reaching and potentially deadly. Bone Deep is a contemporary novel of sibling rivalry, love, betrayal and murder. This is the story of two women: Mac, who is bent on keeping the secrets of the past from her only son, and the enigmatic Lucie, whose past is something of a closed book. Their story is underpinned by the creaking presence of an abandoned water mill, and haunted by the local legend of two long-dead sisters, themselves rivals in love, and ready to point an accusing finger from the pages of history.

About This Edition

ISBN: 9781846974182
Publication date: 5th July 2018
Author: Sandra Ireland
Publisher: Polygon An Imprint of Birlinn Limited an imprint of Birlinn General
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 272 pages
Collections: 45 Novels With A Gothic Influence,
Primary Genre Thriller and Suspense
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Bone Deep Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

Creepy, tense and with a sense of foreboding that builds and builds, leaving the reader breathless.

The Watermill - disused and eerie, its wheel creaking in the wind - has a secret. A legend of love rivals, sisters and murder. 

Mac is the local writer, compiling a book of local legends and myths, and the one story that has her undivided attention is the story of the two sisters both now long dead. Everyone knows about the Watermill, the two sisters and the stories surrounding it. What stories it could tell if it could speak, but it's not just the mill that has secrets, Mac has one she hasn't even told her son Arthur. Her assistant Lucie has one too, and these along with the Watermill's are about to surface and the forbidding finger of doom, is about to tear their lives apart. Their lives will never be the same again.

Creepy, with a sense of foreboding building as the stories unfold, leaving the reader holding their breath until the last word..

Angie Rhodes

A sinister tale with a predictable plot.

Bone Deep is a Gothic novel with powerful themes of love, betrayal and revenge. I enjoyed the alternating dual narrative and the interwoven stories of the complex main characters, Mac and Lucie. However, the plot felt predictable and lacking in suspense at times. I would have liked more unexpected twists and turns and more development of minor characters like Arthur and Reuben.

Lisa Davies

A legend of the past has a hold of the present.

‘What happens when you fall in love with the wrong person?’ You may think you are about to sit down with a cosy romance, but his book is deemed a psychological thriller and so the reader is instantly aware that this is not going to be an easy ride for the two main female characters, Mac an elderly writer, and Lucie, the woman who arrives to be her ‘Girl Friday.’ Set over the period of a year it is told in the first person with chapters interlaced between the two women, a great idea for this type of novel because we get to know both women intimately as the novel unfolds. And then there is the historical story that is being written in the background about the plight of two sisters who lived in the abandoned water mill. So, there are lots of strands to this well-written novel.

I loved the style of writing in this contemporary novel, and Ireland certainly ratchets up the pace as we begin to understand that the intricacies of the plot are not as you might think. Bone Deep is Ireland’s second novel and I definitely recommend it. I look forward to seeing more from this novelist.

Lynn Johnson

The descriptive writing in this novel takes the reader into the scene of the action, often heart in mouth as the narrative becomes darker. It's the book equivalent of hiding behind the settee and peeping out through your fingers. I loved it!

This is quite a small book so at first sight the reader would not perhaps expect a particularly in-depth story. However, the reader is in for a big surprise.

The story is beautifully written: the language is sparing but is ideal for this stark tale of love, loss and betrayal. The descriptive writing takes the reader into the scene of the action, often heart in mouth as the narrative becomes darker. The two main protagonists, enigmatic and grumpy Lucie and eccentric and forthright Mac, tell this story between them and the use of the first person adds atmosphere and urgency. Unlike with some novels, this technique does not detract from the other characters who interact with Mac and Lucie and they are well-rounded and believable. There are clues as the story progresses if you look carefully but the ending is shocking and unexpected. This book is definitely one you won't be able to put down until you've finished the story. I loved it and look forward to reading Sandra Ireland's first novel and any novels she writes in the future.

Pauline Braisher

Seems like a nice happy story, but becomes very dark. Completely unputdownable. I shall be looking for more novels by Sandra Ireland, a fabulous storyteller.

This novel is written very well. It flows beautifully. Written from the view of the two main characters it gives us a good insight into what they are thinking and the reasonings behind their actions. As we see the passage of time pass, the story gets deeper and darker. Offhand comments give you hints as to what is coming, I started to picture different outcomes, ‘could it be this, could it be that’. Totally gripped and intrigued right until the very end. The characters are well developed and the gentle story of friendship developing over time is lovely. Completely enveloping, I physically locked myself in my room and left the kids to hubby while I was whisked away for the day with this novel. Completely un-put-down-able!!

Amanda O'Dwyer

An eerie story full of secrets and lies that will keep you gripped throughout. It has interesting characters and a brilliant plot that will keep you hooked.

This story centres around Mac, a retired academic historian and Lucie, who she employs to do her odd jobs. Mac is writing a fictional book about local folklore, one surrounding two sisters who were rivals in love and the mysteries surrounding them. Lucie is also a rival in love with her own sister and she has come to work from Mac to escape her complicated life and think things through.

There is a disused mill on the land (Mac's long-dead husband used to run the mill) and it is a creepy and mysterious place full of it's own secrets.

The plot is very captivating and keeps you engrossed throughout. As the book goes on it shows how Mac and Lucie's lives become entangled and the involvement of the other close characters involved in the story, such as Mac's son Arthur, Lucie's sister Jane and Jane's boyfriend, Rueben and the complications in these relationships.

It is a dark story, that keeps on throwing out secrets throughout the whole book. It will keep you interested!

Sally Doel

Two sisters. A broken bond and secrets as old as time.

Two sisters. A broken bond and secrets as old as time.

Max is an elderly historian who is now working on a fiction book. She employs a Girl Friday Lucie to write this up on the computer from her notebooks plus other chores around the house. Lucie lives in the mill cottage which overlooks the mill itself - which is the axis of this story.

Lucie committed a sin in her family known only to her mother and although not chucked out was politely asked to leave. She has never been particularly close to her sister Jane, who is far more attractive than her and has a boyfriend. 

This is her sin - they become lovers. He even finds her at the cottage and when he leaves circumstances occur which bring Lucie back into the fold of her family and Jane.

Meanwhile Max is intrigued by Lucie and follows this up with rewriting the story of the cruel sister. This seems to take a hold of her head and as she slowly sinks into dementia her past surfaces and interlinks with both the story and Lucie.

Added to this we have her son Arthur who has feelings for Lucie and Max is determined that this will never bear fruit.

A clever use of prose and told in alternating chapters by the two females. The past is always reflected in the present and you cannot run away from it.


Bev Farningham

Every one in this book has a secret they are keeping hidden from everyone else. A Gothic tale steeped in spine-chilling atmosphere it swept me along with it.

This book caught and held me captive from the very first page when we first meet Mac an elderly historian, and Lucie the young woman she employs to be her assistant. Mac is obsessed with an old tale she came across about two sisters who were rivals in love and are now long dead.

The story begins harmlessly enough but soon builds to something much darker, and through alternating chapters told from the view point of Mac and Lucie we soon get to know the two main characters.It seems like everyone in this book has a secret they are keeping hidden from everyone else.

I enjoyed this book. It is a Gothic tale steeped in spine-chilling atmosphere it soon swept me along with it. My only complaint with the story was that it was too short and the plot was a bit predictable. If the book had been longer and there were more unexpected twists and turns built in it would have been a really excellent psychological thriller.

This was my first time to read anything by Sandra Ireland, but it most definitely won't be the last.

Teresa O'Halloran

I opened 'Bone Deep' and settled down for a long session. By page eight I was sitting up, suddenly gripped by what promised to be a thrilling read. It does not disappoint!

Sometime you pick up a book and know from the first page that it's going to be good! This is exactly how I felt when I opened 'Bone Deep' and settled down for a long session. By page eight I was sitting up, suddenly gripped by what promised to be a thrilling read. It does not disappoint! Part thriller, part legend. The clever writing of a story within a story is impressive, and convincingly feels as if it is coming from another pen, that of the character, Mac. It kept me guessing to the very last chapter. Brilliant!

Kathy Martin

Great read, Definitely worth reading!!!!

Well this was my first book by Sandra Ireland and definitely won’t be the last.

I really liked the plot to this book, it made the book into a real page turner.

Even though the plot was good I felt there was something missing when it came to the characters. I found that a little more background of each of the characters was needed at the beginning, so that we can see why they behave and develop the way they do in the book. Although the background information was missing I still really enjoyed the book and realised sometimes even with information missing about the main characters a book can still be a great read.

It is well written and I like how the author has combined both real and folklore stories together to create this book.

The book may be short but definitely worth the read.


A gothic tale of infidelity and betrayal and what happens when you make the wrong choices. A galloping good read.

Bone Deep is a tale of two women, infidelity, betrayal and revenge. Lucie is a young woman on the run from a messy relationship. She takes a job as a PA to Mac, an older woman who is a retired historian now working on a book of local folklore tales. So far, so very standard relationship novel. However, throw in a remote location, an old mill, hints of the supernatural, and the story becomes increasingly gothic. Lucie has to resolve her own problems – the extent of which don’t really become apparent till the final chapters – while contending with Mac’s gradual unravelling which takes the story down some very dark paths indeed, culminating in a gripping finale. A galloping good read.

Bernadette Scott

A twisty spooky psychological thriller where the past and present collide and death is never far away.

This psychological thriller is told from two women, Lucie and Mac's point of view. Myths and legends are closely linked with truth, history and the present day. Love, adultery and betrayal all collide to tease and confuse the reader. I did struggle to get into this book for quite a while and although linked, the two narrators were quite disjointed. This was an interesting idea but the plot just didn't seem to gel for me.

Sarah Jones

Sandra Ireland could make watching paint dry sound interesting. One of those books that you really want to finish but really don’t.

As soon as I read the first page I knew I was going to like this book even if nothing happened. Sandra Ireland could make watching paint dry sound interesting. It’s an intriguing tale about what happens when you fall in love with the wrong person - but so much more. Lucie goes to work for Mac, a writer and historian. Parallels are drawn between the present day and the ancient folk tales Mac’s stories are based on. In the quiet of the Scottish countryside, Mac and Lucie are both harbouring secrets. Slowly things begin to unravel. In alternating chapters, things fall apart as snippets of the past are uncovered. I loved this book. One of those books that you really want to finish but really don’t.

Rachel Aygin

I loved this book. It is a compelling and very intense psychological thriller based on obsessive love and betrayal. It links secrets past and present to a dramatic conclusion.

I loved this book! It is an unusual and very intense psychological thriller with an element of horror. The story is based on obsessive love and the pain of betrayal over 3 different time periods. The author has cleverly linked the passionate emotions of the characters demonstrating how events of the past can have a strong influence on the present.

The narrative is told from the viewpoint of two women, Mac and Lucie. Mac is an elderly writer who lives with her dogs on an estate adjacent to an old disused water mill, supported by her only son, Arthur. Lucie is young and passionate and comes to work for Mac, assisting with her new novel and to escape from a difficult family situation. They both have their secrets and the strange relationship that develops between them is riveting. I really liked the authors portrayal of all the characters especially her insight into the effect that strong emotions can have on the different relationships between people.

I couldn't put this book down as the story is quietly compelling from the very first page and builds in intensity to an extremely powerful conclusion.

Fiona Rothery

Bone Deep seeps right into you, imbuing the reader with an inescapable sense of growing unease as local legend is told, more recent secrets are revealed and women unravel.

Sandra Ireland made me feel for Lucie: she’s in the wrong but also effectively in exile for it. A banished damsel-in-distress, in astonishing denial about her situation, which becomes apparent to the reader and Mac long before she acknowledges it. And yet Lucie’s slightly more fathomable behaviour still manages to throw Mac’s into sharp relief.

While Mac’s secrets are not overly surprising, its her actions that are shocking and made my blood run cold. That she doesn’t find them disturbing reveals the toll they’ve taken on her and it’s fascinating to watch this woman unravel before us on the page. Are her only son’s fears about to be confirmed, or is she simply becoming consumed by her work and finding it increasingly difficult to separate fantasy from reality? Or is something altogether more sinister happening here?

I was as desperate as Lucie that Mac kept writing the sisters’ legend. It adds another dimension, making you wonder if it’s holding up a mythical mirror to the modern storylines, dooming these characters to repeat history, or whether their stories will diverge.

Sandra Ireland’s descriptive writing immersed me in Bone Deep’s world until I felt the damp in Lucie’s cottage and the draughts in Mac’s study, could feel the rumble of the mill grinding to life and *almost* taste Arthur’s pastries. Recommended reading.

Kathryn Eastman

Compelling, interesting well written book which is very hard to put down. A mix of old and new, young and old mixed together. An excellent read you will never forget and will really enjoy reading

To use a cliche, this book was very hard to put down! An original idea of an eccentric elderly lady and a young woman fleeing from her unhappy home life.

Both are hiding secrets. The young woman falls for her sister's boyfriend and finds an escape by working as a secretary to the elderly lady who is a writer. The elderly lady's secrets are all to do with the mill her husband and his family made flour in but is now lying idle after the death of her husband. She is also writing a very disturbing story about the local myth of two sisters one of which mysteriously vanished.

This book is written in chapters of either the young girl or elderly lady meaning you see the story from both perspectives there is a good mix of old and new mixing together the past and present. I cannot recommend this story enough it is well written very compelling and interesting.

Laura Jones

A cleverly written thriller with an intense menacing atmosphere.

I was immediately drawn into this engaging thriller. Bone Deep intertwines three stories (one current, one recent and one historical) about betrayal and revenge. Mac, a retired academic who lives near a disused mill, is writing a book based on old folklore and she hires Lucie as a personal assistant. As the novel progresses we discover that Lucie is escaping a doomed affair with her sister’s boyfriend and that Mac has one or two secrets of her own. A sense of growing unease is heightened by the spooky setting of Mac’s farm, the mysterious mill and Mac’s gradual revelation of an ancient local tale of sisterly betrayal, murder and revenge.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes well-written psychological thrillers. It is not particularly long, and most readers could probably work out some elements of the ending, but Sandra Ireland has worked hard to create a sense of menace that intensifies through the story and holds your attention to the very end.

Annie Day

An atmospheric and interesting story which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Rivalry between sisters is once again the topic of this novel but the story presents a fresh angle with the very different characters and unusual setting. A staid family with two very different sisters is invaded when Jane’s boyfriend Reuben comes to stay long term. Lucie, withdrawn and awkward finds herself the object of his attention and the ensuing secret liaisons they have result in a breakdown of family relationships and Lucie breaks off with Reuben and moves away to live and work for an eccentric author called Mac. Mac’s ramshackle house attached to an old Mill holds many secrets of its’s own and the book which Mac is writing is based on local myths and stories which brings a creepy element to the novel reflecting Lucie’s state of mind and influencing the flow of the narrative. An ancient mysterious tale of two local sisters from time past seems to mirror recent events and historic secrets are gradually brought to light. Lucie has to face the unavoidable consequences of her previous life before she is able to rebuild bridges and move on with her life. 

An atmospheric and interesting story which I thoroughly enjoyed. The small village community which is portrayed is appealing with a varied though limited cast of colourful characters from the eccentric Mac to Anita the clever waitress in the local café, Arthur, Mac’s baker son to Reuben the cuckolding boyfriend. Told from different character’s perspectives  the story dovetails well together and is well told. 

Jillian McFrederick

An atmospheric and obsessively compulsive read which is a refreshing departure from the norm.

Mac needs a little help with her work. Lucie needs a place to hide. They could be perfect for each other but what initially appears to be a win-win situation soon starts to break down. As Mac’s mind begins to unravel, fact and fiction, the past and the present start to collide and intermingle with devastating results.

I absolutely loved this book, Sandra Ireland has crafted an atmospheric and obsessively compulsive read. It’s one of those stories that plays on your mind even when you aren't reading it. It niggles away, asking for your attention, prodding you to pick it up again, to discover what happens next. It’s a really different take on a tried and tested formula common to many psychological thrillers. The fairy tales of Mac’s work added mystery and depth, the details of her past added intrigue and Lucie’s story pulled it all together. The twists were unexpected and fresh and the characters really got under my skin. Mac is endearingly eccentric, her unravelling mind perfectly believable, Lucie is feisty and independent, even as she withdraws into herself, and the charming Arthur supports them both with his endless bakes. The dual timelines are woven together perfectly, at no point did I need to flick back in order to pick up the story or determine who was narrating. I can’t recommend this highly enough. A refreshing departure from the norm.

Sarah Harper

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was provoking, dark, at times it made my heart race, and I leapt through the last pages to find out what happened.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was provoking, dark, at times it made my heart race, and I leapt through the last pages to find out what happened.
The past mingles up with the present in folklore and memory loss, a woman's decent into old age, holding onto reality by a thread and confusing the past and the present with dangerous consequences.
Thrown into this comes Lucie, she is lost herself, full of guilt and hiding herself away so as not to face reality. How the two come to share a common thread is clever, and at times disturbing!
The mix of modern day and folklore made for a very enjoyable, if at times uncomfortable, read.

Lou Woods

A taut, psychological, gothic thriller mirroring a tale of folklore and a modern day relationship between two very different women.

A taut, psychological, gothic thriller told from the alternating view points of Mac, an acerbic academic historian and Lucie, her newly employed Girl Friday. Mac is working on a book
based on folklore about two sisters, rivals in love long ago, all set against the backdrop of Mac’s beautiful, but eerie old water mill.

Plot description was great, and the novel rattled along at a great pace, but, character definition and development was less so, and I felt I wanted more depth on both Mac and Lucie to better understand them, their relationships and motives. The subplot of the legend if the sisters was interesting, mirroring the modern day situation and I really wanted to know what would happen in Mac’s novel.

Sarah Ireland writes very well and I was caught up in the story with a growing unease as it moved towards its gothic end. I shall certainly look out for more of Sarah Ireland’s work.

Sharon Wood

A slow burner!

This is a slow burner! All the action happens at the end. The story line is good and worth the wait.... although part of me is not convinced by it.

Mac is in her twilight years and writing a book on local folk tales (This underpins the book and provides a novel narrative). Lucie comes to work for Mac, she is trying to escape her current situation.

A book about love, falling for the wrong person, a book about consequences. All set against the backdrop drop of a disused water mill. While the writing about the landscape and setting is lovely some of the characters are a bit one dimensional, the men in the book are particularly weak.

Alison Greenacre

A gripping read for your summer holidays.

The story is told in alternate chapters by the two main characters, each one moving the narrative on rather than telling the same part from their own point of view. Both characters are believable and you want to carry on reading from the start to see how their lives will become linked. The tale really picks up pace towards the end and although there are no great surprises I did find that I couldn't put it down until I had found out exactly how all the threads joined.
This is a straightforward, interesting story which would be perfect as a holiday read.


The novel examines timeless human emotions, such as rivalry and betrayal, which draw together the three narratives: Lucie's, Mac's and the ancient Northumbrian murder ballad of the Two Sisters.

After falling out with her family (after falling in love with her sister's boyfriend Reuben), Lucie needs a fresh start and takes a job as a Girl Friday for historian and novelist, Dr Margarita Muir, better known as Mac, in a small cottage next to a creaking, sinister, disused watermill. One of her main jobs is typing up the handwritten stories, based on local folklore, that Mac is compiling into a book, including one that focuses, uncannily, on the betrayal, jealousy and dastardly deeds of two sisters. When Reuben reappears in her life and Mac seems to be getting more and more delusional, Lucie needs to reconcile past and present, as well as fact and fiction, with shocking consequences.

Written in a dual narrative over a twelve-month period, with the two women narrating alternate chapters, the novel examines timeless human emotions, such as rivalry and possessive love, which draw together the three narratives : Lucie's, Mac's and the ancient ballad of the Two Sisters, which is a genuine Northumbrian murder ballad that recounts the tale of a girl drowned by her sister and that first appeared in 1656 as "The Miller and the King's Daughter." I love the way the folk tale is brought up to date and linked into the contemporary tales of the two very different women.

There are no huge surprises - I did work out most of the big bombshells way before they were revealed - but it's still a tense, foreboding and enjoyable read.

Cheryl Pasquier

Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9781846974182
Publication date: 05/07/2018
Format: Paperback

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About Sandra Ireland

Sandra Ireland was born in Yorkshire, lived for many years in Limerick, and is now based in Carnoustie. In 2013 Sandra was awarded a Carnegie-Cameron scholarship to study for an MLitt in Writing Practice and Study at the University of Dundee, graduating with a distinction in 2014. Her work has appeared in various publications and women’s magazines. 

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