Friday, June 27, 2014

REVIEW: The Bone Church by Victoria Dougherty


In the surreal and paranoid underworld of wartime Prague, fugitive lovers Felix Andel and Magdalena Ruza make some dubious alliances – with a mysterious Roman Catholic cardinal, a reckless sculptor intent on making a big political statement, and a gypsy with a risky sex life. As one by one their chances for fleeing the country collapse, the two join a plot to assassinate Hitler’s nefarious Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Josef Goebbels.

But the assassination attempt goes wildly wrong, propelling the lovers in separate directions.

Felix’s destiny is sealed at the Bone Church, a mystical pilgrimage site on the outskirts of Prague, while Magdalena is thrust even deeper into the bowels of a city that betrayed her and a homeland soon to be swallowed by the Soviets. As they emerge from the shadowy fog of World War II, and stagger into the foul haze of the Cold War, Felix and Magdalena must confront the past, and a dangerous, uncertain future.



Most of what I read is 'light' cozy mysteries.  But June seems to have been the month of the 'heavy read', including "The Bone Church" by Victoria Dougherty.  However, in this case, heavy is good...very good.  I mean, Prague during WWII, when it was controlled by Nazi Germany, and then afterwards, when it was controlled for years by the Soviets.  It doesn't exactly conjure up pictures of 1960's flower children dancing in the park, now does it?

"The Bone Church" helps us appreciate what people in Eastern Europe went through during WWII and since then, when intrigue, spies, and never knowing when something you do or something you are may get you on somebody's death list are a way of life, and not something you watched in the movies or read in a book.  Dougherty gave the characters life and expressed their stories beautifully with rich language worthy of a medieval tapestry.

(It reminded me of a story my mother's cousin in Switzerland told me about an evening's events during the war.  What today would be seen as teenage hi-jinks or petty vandalism would have had much more serious consequences then.  I heard that story first 30 years ago and it still gives me the shivers.)

If you are looking for a provocative book, one that will both entertain you and make you think, you need look no farther than "The Bone Church".



Victoria Dougherty writes fiction, drama, and essays that often revolve around spies, killers, curses and destinies. Her work has been published or profiled in The New York Times, USA Today, International Herald Tribune and elsewhere. Earlier in her career, while living in Prague, she co-founded Black Box Theater, translating, producing and acting in several Czech plays. She lives with her husband and children in Charlottesville, Virginia.


(Disclaimer:  I received an e-copy of "The Bone Collector" from the author via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was offered, requested or received.)


  1. Thank you so much for having me on! I'm delighted that you enjoyed The Bone Church!

  2. This one sounds interesting and exciting! Hope I am able to read it too :)