Friday, April 6, 2018

The Bone Shroud by Jean Rabe (spotlight, review) LTP (updated 4/8/18)

I have the pleasure of sharing a guest post with a deleted scene from author Jean Rabe with a title that is an interesting play on the events of the story. I apologize that technical difficulties, i.e. a black hole in my mailbox, lol, prevented me from posting this in a timely manner!

A Discarded Piece of The Bone Shroud

When I reviewed my finished novel, The Bone Shroud, I decided to take one more pass to trim and tighten it. Among the cuts was an entire chapter. I liked the chapter; I thought it gave some insight into two of my secondary characters. But it wasn’t necessary. The scene was not required to move the story forward. I present it here, a little window opening into Sister Sophia’s life.

“What is your life? It is a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” Sophia spoke in English to the child, as Hamadi insisted that be his son’s primary language. The boy would learn other languages when he was older. Only age five; the one tongue was sufficient for now.
She selected another passage: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
“Shadows,” the boy said. “You and Papa talk about shadows.” The boy had dark brown eyes, seemingly always wide with wonder; and long lashes that she envied. His hair was the color of polished maple and had soft curls. It covered the tips of his ears and should be trimmed. “I like to make animal shadows with my hands.”
He perched on the edge of a high-backed chair across from her, gaze fixed on the large book in her lap. It was old and valuable, an illuminated vellum manuscript—one of a set that together was a hand-printed bible from the 1300s. It was written in Latin, which Sophia could translate. Someday the boy would be taught to read Latin, too. The colorful letters and gold trim held his attention.
“James, do you understand what that means? Coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows?”
“Shadows,” the boy repeated. Then he drew the word out like he toyed with it: “Shaaaadows. Papa talks about being in God’s shadow.”
“You overheard us talking about being in the shadow of a man from some time ago,” she kindly corrected.
“Did Papa know him, this man?”
“The man lived a long, long time ago, James.”
“Before Papa was born?”
She smiled. “Hundreds and hundreds of years before your father was born.”
“So he’s dead, right?”
“A very long time ago. He choked after a feast in honor of his most recent wedding.” She surprised herself by being so blunt with the boy. “Some say he was murdered. Poisoned. But it was so many centuries ago no one knows for certain.”
“But they’re certain he’s dead?”
“He should have chewed his food better. He might not have choked.”
“I suppose he should have.”
“Or he should not have angered people. Then he might not have been murdered.”
“Yes, he should have been nicer.”
“But he wasn’t.”
“No, James, he wasn’t.”
“He’s still dead.”
“Yes, James.”
The boy rubbed his chin. “Then how can you and Papa be in his shadow if he’s dead? He’d be all bones. There wouldn’t be much of a shadow, just bones. It would be a skinny shadow and Papa would not fit in a skinny shadow. You are skinny, but not as skinny as bones. I’ve seen pictures of bones and—”
Sophia let out a long breath and James quieted. Hamadi entrusted James to her a few hours every day. Part of the time was play, sometimes she walked in the vineyard with him, but mostly she read and tried to teach him something. Already he could read rudimentary children’s books. He was the proverbial sponge soaking up so much, ahead of his years. Blessed. She hadn’t intended a history lesson today.
“An archaeologist friend of your father’s is digging—”
“Archaeologists build houses.”
“No, that’s architects, and they design houses. Archaeologists discover history by digging in the dirt.”
“—do they dig?”
“No. Why does the ar-kay-ol-o-gist look for a mean dead man’s bones?” The boy drew out words that were new to him. “What good are old bones, Sister Sophia? Why dig up a buried man? If you bury someone aren’t they supposed to stay buried?”
“I—” Sophia studied his face. James looked honestly curious. “Usually yes.”
“I want to go to the museum. The Conservatori.”
“Tomorrow, James. I promised you we would go tomorrow.”
“You keep your promises, Sister Sophia.”
“Yes, I do.”
“Papa said I could come to the party tonight.”
“For a little while,” Sophia said, grateful he had changed the subject. Despite his brilliance, the boy’s attention often wandered from one topic to the next. “There will be music, a local folk band. Some dancing.”
“I like music. You will dance with me Sister Sophia?” James did not wait for her to answer. “I like music a lot. Musica it is called in Italian. It sounds better in Italian than English.” James smiled, his face dimpled and his eyes widened. He slipped off the chair and started to sing:
“A frog he would a-wooing go. Heigho, says Rowley. Whether his mother would let him or no. With a rowley powley gammon and spinach. Heigho, says Anthony Rowley.” He stopped and looked expectantly at Sophia.
She picked up the next part: “So off he set with his opera hat. Heigho, says Rowley. And on the road he met a rat. With a rowley powley gammon and spinach.”
The boy continued. “Pray, Mr. Rat, will you go with me—”
Sophia thought he had a strong, clear voice for one so young, and that he’d memorized the entire “frog” song and several others suggested to her that he was going to go far in life. Hamadi had great ambitions for his son. She was doing her best to help, teaching him phonics and a rudimentary understanding of the alphabet and forming words, teaching him the Bible and about early Christian sects.
Though James always showed interest in the religious tomes in his father’s collection, his favorite book was no great piece of literature in her mind. It was insipid: Green Eggs and Ham…the author had used only fifty different words, and James could read it, had memorized it. The boy would be enrolled in a private school for the gifted next year, where they focused on reading and math, and where he would select a musical instrument to play.
“When they came to the door at Mousey’s hall. Heigho, says Rowley. They gave a loud tap, and they gave a loud call. With a rowley powley—”
Sophia wished James was as interested in scripture as he was his Dr. Seuss books and silly songs. She took him to church on Sundays—different churches on occasion so he could experience various arms of the Christian faith, but sometimes had to leave him in the daycare room because he could not yet sit through an entire sermon without squirming and making a ruckus.
“Pray Mrs. Mouse, are you within? Heigho, says Rowley. Yes, kind sirs, and sitting to spin. With a rowley powley—” He tugged on her skirt, and she sang the next line.
“Pray Mr. Frog, will you give us a song. Heigho, says Rowley. But let it be something that’s not very long.” Sophia shuddered as James continued the song…about a cat and kittens appearing and eating the rat and mouse, and a verse later a lilywhite duck gobbling up the frog.
“With a rowley powley gammon and spinach!” James clapped and twirled, then hoisted himself back into the chair. “Rana. That’s the Italian word for frog. Sometimes it’s ranocchio. They don’t sound right in my song.” He suddenly looked all serious. “Read me more, Sister Sophia. Read to me from Papa’s old book.”
She did, and he listened attentively—or at least politely pretended to. Sophia earnestly hoped he caught some of the meaning behind the words. After more than a half hour, he started to fidget. It had been her longest session of reading scripture. She finished with one of her favorite passages: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if people claim to have faith but have no deeds? Can such faith save them?”
“I will have good deeds, Sister Sophia,” James said. “And I will go to heaven. All Dogs Go To Heaven…I saw that movie. That dead man with the shadow … he is not in heaven, is he? I would not like to meet his mean ghost.”
“No, such as he is denied heaven.”
“He’s in the dark place, right?”
“Yes, James.”
“But I will go to heaven, Sister Sophia.”
“I am certain you will, child.”
“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing,” James said.
Sophia’s mouth went wide. It was the first time James had quoted scripture back to her. Five years old. Truly gifted, destined for something amazing. Sophia knew with all certainty she had done the right thing, leaving the convent for this new endeavor, helping Hamadi, and finding a new calling on the grounds of this perfect vineyard…even if part of her work involved trespassing in cemeteries late at night.
“Is anyone happy? I am happy, Sister Sophia. I will sing another song.” He slid off the chair once more and ran to the window. “Sister help to trim the sails, Hallelujah. Sister help to trim the sails, Hallelujah. Jordan’s river is deep and wide—”
Sophia carefully closed the book and returned it to the shelf. Hamadi had so many old and valuable books, though she considered this illuminated Bible set the finest. One of a kind, priceless, holy.
James continued to sing, misremembering the lyrics and making up some of his own. “Sister help to trim the sails,” he sang. “For Froggy and I are fond of good cheer. With a rowley, powley, gammon and spinach. Hallelujah!”
“Would you like to play, James? Outside? The weather is lovely.”
The boy turned from the window and rushed to the door. “Croquet, Sister Sophia!”
“That would be fine.”
“The sun is out,” he announced. “It makes shaaaadows.”


The Bone Shroud
Jean Rabe

Genre: Mystery/suspense
Date of Publication: March 30, 2018
Irem Madigan’s wedding trip to Rome turns into a desperate search for an archaeological prize, and a struggle to stay ahead of a killer.

Set in and under Rome, The Bone Shroud is a love story wrapped in a perilous relic-hunt.
Irem flies to Italy to be the “best man” in her brother’s wedding. He’s marrying an archaeologist bent on revealing the graves of some famous ancient dead. Irem, an archivist at the Chicago Field Museum, becomes obsessed with the centuries-old mysteries.
Unfortunately, Irem discovers there are other players in the game, and some of them are playing deadly. Can she survive and uncover the ancient secrets?

“Intrigue, romance, and danger amid the relics of Rome’s storied past, with compelling characters and building tension that will keep you turning pages!” Gail Z. Martin, bestselling author of Vendetta

“Strong characters, shady dealings, ruthless villains, a beautiful setting, an ancient mystery–The Bone Shroud has ’em all. Don’t miss it!” New York Times bestselling Richard Baker, author of Valiant Dust

Amazon link


Jean Rabe is the author of three dozen novels and more than a hundred short stories. When she’s not writing or editing, she tosses tennis balls to her dogs, indulges in fantasy football leagues, and fuses glass jewelry in her basement.

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My review:

4 stars

The Bone Shroud by Jean Rabe provides a delicious look at the city beneath the streets of Rome as an intrepid archivist from the renowned Chicago Field Museum gets involved in a remarkable treasure hunt. The ambiance of the rich cultural resources is nicely evoked, with a chilling counterpoint of the danger and excitement attendant with searching for history that some may feel better off left buried. There are shivery violence-laden scenes that contrast with the slowly building heat between the heroine and the policeman she keeps crossing paths with, and at times I almost couldn’t decide if I was willing to continue reading without the reassuring light of day!

Although the heroine ostensibly is a combination of many of the characteristics I like—intelligent, loyal, and kick-ass—she tended to irk me at times, and I never quite connected with her. To me, she is a bit wishy-washy at times…with respect to her job, her brother’s joy in his new life, and the excavation her brother’s fiancé is involved with. I also found the ending less than satisfying, as there are plenty of dangling threads that have yet to be resolved.

Despite all of these drawbacks, I enjoyed the chance to armchair travel and develop a desire to retrace these characters’ footsteps (at least the ones above ground, lol). The mystical aspect combined with the frightening ruthlessness of the villains who have their own lofty agenda makes this an entertaining and thought-provoking story that is vividly portrayed. I hope the next story will be coming soon, as I am impatient to discover what is going to happen next.

A copy of this title was provided to me for review.


  1. Thank you for your review! I loved the texture of the backstory and I agree, need MORE!

    1. I appreciate you taking the time to visit and read my review! I apologize for not having the guest post and hope you get a chance to come back and read it, since it gives another glimpse of Sister Sophia and her young charge.

  2. Drink Juice or pop and eat potato chips.

    1. I've started eating Cantina thins instead of potato chips, but I agree, that combination of salty and sweet hits the spot! Thanks for visiting, Kim!

  3. I drink tea and eat chocolate.

    1. Yum, I have to admit that See's candies are a favorite indulgence. Thanks for dropping in, Rita!

  4. Oh I love having a bowl of popcorn and iced tea!

    1. Sounds delicious, Laura! Thanks for popping by!