When lawyer Benjamin Booker and his senior partner Robert Harvey stumbles upon a crime scene, they are horrified the victim is longtime friend and company founder Percival Norris. The case seems connected to Isabella Wilder of Belle Island. Benjamin agrees to pay her a visit to investigate the murder under the cover of giving her legal advice.
The victim, Mr. Norris, has served as trustee of the Wilder estate in a way which increasingly worries and angers his charge Isabella. He is trying to use his power to pressure Isabella into allowing a shipbuilding company onto the beautiful and secluded Belle Island. For the last ten years she has not left the island even once because she believes in a curse on her family. She is adamant on keeping everything as it is, stay on the island and run her willow basketry business as usual. Only trouble is, she has this strange and vivid dream of being present in the Wilder’s town house at the time of the murder.
When Benjamin arrives at Belle Island, he is eager to both please his employer, Mr. Hardy, and regain confidence in himself after a very public and humiliating loss in court. He is trying to quietly dig up additional evidence in the murder case and figure out what Isabella has to do with it all. Could it be she or another family member is the actual murderer?
Isabella’s niece Rose Wilder is betrothed to Christopher Adair. He lies about his whereabouts at the time of the murder. He acted entitled and arrogant, and I disliked the way he tried to cover up and obstruct the investigation.
Evan Curtis is Isabella’s childhood friend and youth love interest. He was sent away to the most dangerous of war zones because it was in Mr. Norris’ best interest as trustee that Isabella didn’t marry. He is very angry with Mr. Noris and suspects him of picking the most dangerous posting of all hoping he would be killed in the Peninsular war. I found him odd and secretive, maybe even dangerous with his experience of weapons and war. Why is he back a Belle Island after so many years?
Dr Theodore Grant also Isabella’s childhood friend. Even though he is a very talented doctor meant for big things in some city, he stays on as country doctor. Isabella expects him to propose to her at some point. She waits, but nothing happens. Instead he seems to act over-protective, possessive and patronizing towards her. She considers him a friend, but has no real feelings for him. A strange display of reactions show everything is not as it seems with him.
The vivid writing of this story draws me into the plot. It feels like I’m actually there in the beautiful English hamlet Riverton with the old village church, thatch roofed cottages and the Thames River lazily floating by. I love the descriptions of life on the river at the time. A lot of activity seemed to be going on with fishing boats and net makers trying to make a living.
Weeping willow trees and lush greenery add to the lovely nature scene. I can almost hear birds chirping in the trees and feel the sun on my face, while I visualize the story. Who could imagine bad things happen in a beautiful place like this.
I found the menu descriptions of the dinner party at Belle Island as thorough as they were impressive. People really did know how to eat and party at the time. The dancing part an issue in it’s own right.
This plot had great build up of tension. I was kept busy suspecting a number of characters of some kind of foul play throughout the story. The relationship between Isabella and Ben I felt grew slowly but surely amidst all the drama in a way that complimented the story without overpowering it.
The Bridge to Belle Island is recommended for fans of Julie Klassen’s other works and for readers of historical fiction.
My rating 5 stars / 5
(All opinions in this review are my own)