Rag and Bone

Title: Rag and Bone
Author: J.S. Cook
Publisher: MLR Press
Buy Link: Buy Link Rag & Bone (Inspector Raft Mystery Series)
Genre: M/M historical mystery romance
Length: 257 pages

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

A guest review by Jenre

Summary Review The second in the inspector Raft mysteries still has great characterisation and vivid setting at its core but suffers from an overabundance of vagueness in the mystery plot.


Scotland Yard Inspector Philemon Raft arrives on the scene of a deadly fire in Whitechapel, only to find a much more sinister force at work, destroying lives with swift abandon – and a lunatic may help Raft capture the master criminal known only as “The Master.”


I really enjoyed the first book in the Inspector Raft series, Willing Flesh, reviewed here, and I was keen to read this second book. The story continues the relationship between Raft and his constable, the affable Freddie, whilst introducing us to a new mystery surrounding a set of fires in the Whitechapel area of London. These fires have all taken place in almost the exact spot where the victims of Jack the Ripper were discovered. Raft’s investigations lead him to a mysterious underground gentleman’s club. When a number of ripper copycat murders take place, Raft is convinced that the ripper is back, and he’s determined to stop him this time.

I’ve given this book four stars after debating with myself for quite a while. The parts that worked well for me, really were quite special. These included the excellent prose and the superb attention to detail in the setting. The rookeries of Whitechapel are vividly described, both in the place itself and the people who live there. This is no wallpaper history that looks at the past through rosy spectacles, but an honest and insightful rendering of the true poverty that people lived in during those times. I was particularly affected by the descriptions of the workhouse where men, women and children struggle to survive in a cold and harsh environment.

Another aspect which worked was the developing relationship between Raft and Freddie, and the way their characters are evolving as the series continues. Freddie especially is struggling to cope with some of the harder realities of his job, and yet Raft is also wrapped up in his own problems. This could have torn the two apart, but instead we see them trying to work through their issues. Raft is terribly fearful of losing Freddie and the most touching scenes between them were those where they each voiced their fears and turned to each other for strength and comfort. Raft’s past is something that we are beginning to be given more information about, but only hints at this stage, and I look forward to finding out more about the gaps he has in his memory. I was disappointed that Raft’s paranormal gifts, which were made so much of in the previous book, are effectively forgotten, except for a brief mention at the beginning, and I hope this will be picked up and examined more closely later in the series.

Having said all that, I did have some issues with this book which almost made me put it in the three stars. Firstly is the secondary plot which is a homage to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I read the book fully expecting that there would be an ultimate point to this sub-plot, but there wasn’t really. There’s a link between Raft and the character of John Gallant in this part of the story but nothing actually comes of this and is a rather large plot thread left flapping about at the end of the book. Perhaps this is going to be taken up and explored in subsequent books because otherwise I was left scratching my head over why so much page time had been allotted to a story which effectively goes nowhere.

Another issue is that parts of the story were just not explained well enough for my liking. An example of this are the various illusions that take place, especially the fire illusion and that of the sleeping Rennie. These just seem to have been accepted as ‘mysterious’ with no attempts to discover how the illusions were created or maintained. It irked me a little that I was just supposed to accept that someone could create the sight, sound and heat of fire from nothing.

Finally, there were some glaring errors in the continuity. Normally the odd typo doesn’t bother me in a book, but I was pulled from the story a few times which did annoy a little. One such error was that the fires which were supposed to have taken place on Hanbury Street, were suddenly in Harley Street for a page or two before going back to Hanbury Street. Another error was that several times the characters refer to an incident which happened ‘the other day’ when in fact it had only happened that morning. At each instance I had to stop reading and check to see whether it was me who had got confused. It wasn’t.

So as you can see, overall this was a mixed read for me. I think my problems with it were due to an excess of ideas and plot all crammed into the pages which led to too much vague references and not enough concrete evidence and hard facts. Even the discovery of the villain was done through far too supposition for my liking. Despite this, the writing really was excellent, the characters are all very nuanced, even down to the most minor and the setting was vivid and realistic. For those reasons I could happily recommend Rag and Bone, especially to those who have read the first book and, like me, are hungry for more of Raft and Freddie. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series when hopefully some of the issues I had with this book will be explained and resolved.


  • Jen
    I was just as confused as MaDonna about where in hell this book was going. I love a good mystery but I thought that Rag and Bone was anything but. It was all over the place and I’m not sure that I’m looking forward to book 3 if it’s going to be more of the same.

    Right now I can’t figure out if this book is a mystery or a paranormal adventure. The writing was great but for me that didn’t make up for the loose ends, and I didn’t like the ending. End of rant. 🙂 I guess I was so disappointed because I had high hopes for this series, which were mostly dashed by Rag and Bone.

    • Hi Wave

      I think the book is both a mystery and paranormal at the moment and it remains to be seen whether they can continue to work alongside each other in later books.

      Hopefully the next book in the series will be a better experience for you :).

  • Loved the first novel in the series and was hoping that book 2 would clear up some of the ambiguities and answer some questions – instead it just created more questions. Also, it went madly off in all directions with sub plots and I didn’t know where the writer was going with them. Seeing dead people, vampires, what is he? who is he? who are these other characters? what happened in the past? And I was so upset with the ending because I love Freddie and thought him a grounding influence on Raft. But then there’s the visions of the exotic/foreign beach that Raft “sees” at times so I think (hope) they will see each other again on foreign soil before the year is out.

    Also, I really could have lived without the nose picking character;-)

    All in all, when I came to The End I didn’t know if I loved the novel, or disliked it. Very strange reaction. But I know I really *need* to read book 3. I need some answers, damn it! LOL

    Excellent review. Nice to know I wasn’t the only one … confused.

    • Hi MaDonna

      But the nose picking character was just so ‘colourful’! LOL!

      I really need to read book 3 too and I’m also hoping for some answers :).

  • Another one here who dove into this one after absolutely loving the first Raft story. Love the descriptive settings and the characterizations.I echo the sentiments of frustration that many plot points were left so open. I guess I just figured explanations will be forthcoming in future installments being as this is a series – at least I hope so. I hope that we do get to find out lots more about Raft’s past in the next story, as I was finding it frustrating to keep wondering just what made him tick -other than Freddie 😉
    And speaking of Freddie, I am so glad that his “issue” was addressed before this book ended, although the way it was handled kinda broke my heart and left me wondering how it will be worked into the next book.

    • Hi Dianne

      I was happy with the way that Freddie’s problem was addressed fairly quickly too. I wouldn’t have been happy if it had been dragged out over several books becoming more and more of a problem. I’m reserving judgement on the way it was dealt with until the next book :).

  • I enjoyed this book but it could be that I have a deep love for the characters. I’m a bit of a Ripper and Dracula fan so the blend was nice for me. There seemed a touch of Hellfire Club feeling to it in spots.

    I do wish the book had been more filled out in areas, definitely. But I LOVE the characters.

    • Hi wedschild

      The characters are just so wonderful and completely carried to book for me, enough that I was willing to overlook some of the faults.

      • Agreed. I went with the “Some books aren’t going to be as good as others” hope for this book. I felt that way about a couple of Charlie Cochrane’s and J.D. Robb’s books. Riding out some of the not-so-stable plot points is worth it for the characters. I’m looking forward to what else is coming from the writer for these characters. 😀

  • I pretty much felt the same way you did, Jen. I loved the first book and tore into this second installment only to be a bit disappointed — not much, but a little.

    I love this author’s writing. The descriptions of the poverty in London were so incredibly well done, and I think that may be one of the things I’ll leave this book with. And I adore our protags, and am eager to see how she resolves the ending in the next book.

    BUT the vague, loose ends re: Gallant, Rennie, and the illusions, and the paranormal element around Raft being dropped brought down my enjoyment. I kept thinking “okay, she’ll explain it later” on some of the things that confused me a bit, then later never came. Still, better than a lot that is out there, for sure.

    Thanks for the review, Jen.

    • Hi Lynn

      I kept thinking “okay, she’ll explain it later”
      Me too! That’s why I went with so much of the confusing stuff because I thought all would be cleared up by the time the book ended. I was waiting for one of those typical Sherlock Holmes parts were Raft would say – “and this is how he did it” but that never happened.

      I agree with you about the writing an setting. Some of it was heartbreaking.

  • Weird… I liked this book much better than the first one. It seemed less confusing to me and held my attention far better than Willing Flesh despite discrepancies and cliffhanger at the end. Waiting for Come to Dust to be released. 🙂

    • Hi Hellga

      I’m glad you enjoyed the book. I’m looking forward to the next book, especially after that ending!

  • Ah, I was also really confused by this book. I couldn’t keep up with all subplots and illusion/magic/vampires… I felt they deraled from the initial mystery plot. I don’t know, it was too complicated somehow?

    I was expecting a development of the psychic abilities and how that would affect his relationship with Freddie. This part was almost glanced over and Freddie just “knew” what Raft could do.

    It’s such an ambitious story and I love the characters, the set-up and the environment but it feels this book was too many ideas in one go.

    • Hi Saga

      There were a lot of intertwining story threads in this book. Some of them worked for me, and some of them didn’t. You are right the story is very ambitious which oddly enough is both a point in favour of the book and a frustration :).

  • I was so very disappointed in this book, especially because the author is extremely talented, the story had SO MUCH potential and I loved the first book. I actually pretty much agree with everything you wrote here (although I had other complaints too and I missed some of the things you pointed out), but I just couldn’t get over them. In fact, I gave the book three stars on GR because I appreciate the outstanding writing and, especially, the nuanced setting. If this had been written by less skilled author, the rating would probably be lower. That said, I’m still looking forward the next book. The story and characters STILL have a lot of potential. I’m hoping the author would have more stern editor this time around. Her writing deserves that.

    • WP ate my comment :(.

      Hi Lady M

      I saw your review at Good Reads a few days ago and found myself nodding along at much of it. Some of the things that bothered you didn’t bother me as much but I can see why you may have found them annoying.

      I agree that this series has a great deal of potential and I’m looking forward to seeing how it progresses.


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