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Naming the Bones

3.26  ·  Rating Details ·  457 Ratings  ·  78 Reviews
Knee-deep in the mud of an ancient burial ground, a winter storm raging around him, and at least one person intent on his death: how did Murray Watson end up here?

His quiet life researching the lives of writers in university libraries seems a world apart, and yet it is because of the mysterious poet Archie Lunan, dead for thirty years, that Murray now finds himself scrabbl
Paperback, 384 pages
Published March 2010 by Text Publishing (first published January 1st 2010)
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Apr 15, 2010 Karen rated it really liked it
Perhaps I should warn readers of this review that Louise Welsh is one of my all time favourite authors. NAMING THE BONES was therefore greeted with some excited anticipation in these parts. One of the things that I really like about Welsh's books is the dark, introspective nature of her characters and the settings, as well as irresistible Gothic quirkiness.

NAMING THE BONES is the story of Dr Murray Watson; academic, guilty lover, conflicted brother, writer of a poet's biography. Murray's love a
Apr 07, 2014 Desinka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very engaging read. Welsh is a great storyteller. I loved the melancholic and slightly depressing feel to it. And the academic writing a book about a dead poet was a topic I associated with a lot.
Sep 06, 2011 Georg rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english, crime, added-2011
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 21, 2013 Dolors rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
Finally!! I had been waiting for this book for ages and it never seemed to arrive. So when it did, I plunged straight into it and started reading even though I'm not usually very keen on thrillers and I had never read anything by Welsh before.
The result: I was positively surprised, the book has resulted to be worth waiting for!
Maybe the Gothic atmosphere, maybe the detailed characters, maybe the smug style... Everything helped to create a very real and evocative setting and as the novel took pac
Lynn Harnett
Apr 08, 2011 Lynn Harnett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-scotland
In this atmospheric and leisurely Scottish mystery, youngish Murray Watson, Glasgow doctor of English literature, has taken a sabbatical to research his literary inspiration, the dead poet Archie Lunan. Drowned sailing in a storm off a remote island in the 1970s, Lunan, 25, left only one slim volume of poems.

There are those – including Watson’s department head, Fergus Baine, who think one volume was quite enough. Baine was against the project from the beginning and after a discouraging slog thro
Mystery novels and their readers have funny relationships, more than other genres such readers look for reflections of self in the protagonists; I doubt many self proclaimed "dog people" read books with talking cat "detectives," for instance. The sub-genre of academic mysteries draws those who tend to prefer a more leisurely pace with less violence and moderately eccentric, rather than full-blown crazy, characters.
In Naming the Bones, Louise Welsh follows the classic style with her protagonist M
Nov 28, 2010 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is beautifully and carefully plotted. Its hero may be a little on the passive side (Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones he most certainly is not) but the journey he takes is believable enough. Everyone pretty much has a secret and a piece of the puzzle. Typically in this kind of book we get drip-fed the facts and no one seems willing to tell everything they know on one visit, be it Professor James, his daughter, the landlord of the pub Bobby Robb frequented, Meikle, Fergus, Mrs Dunn (Murray’s la ...more
Jan 20, 2013 Vivienne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The cover blurb and even the synopsis on the author's website suggests this is a fast-paced thriller which it isn't. This is a literary mystery in which the tension builds very slowly to a dramatic climax in its final chapters. Aside from his quest to discover more about Archie Lunan's life and death, Dr. Watson broods his way very effectively through a number of personal issues including an estrangement from his brother and the fall-out from an adulterous affair with a fellow professor, who is ...more
Melanie Garrett
Feb 26, 2011 Melanie Garrett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From the back cover, this novel seemed a bespoke fit to my own preoccupations. The story moves initially between Glasgow and Edinburgh, two cities I spent the better part of twenty years toing-and-froing between. Then, as things gain speed, it moves to a remote Scottish island. The main character is an academic, at Glasgow Uni, who is overly involved with his subject - the life and work of a dead poet. As a postgrad at Glasgow uni I spent several years walking in much the same footsteps as Murra ...more
Apr 29, 2014 Helen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've enjoyed previous books by Louise Welsh; the Cutting Room, Magic Bullet, Girl on the Stairs but this one didn't quite come up to her usual standard.

You know the blurb and despite it sounding creepy, it really wasn't. The two story lines I was interested in (the affair and Dr Watson's brother) came to a sudden stop and the rest of it became far fetched, unbelievable and just a little bit silly.
Kate McDougall Sackler
Nov 13, 2012 Kate McDougall Sackler rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclub

Ugh. The only mystery in this book is why it is classified as a mystery in the first place! Boooooooooring! Characters no one cares about.
Tina Maison
Feb 19, 2014 Tina Maison rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Like trying to walk through a peat bog on a misreble dreich day.
Carey Combe
Goodness me a real slog to get through, although well written, not very nice or believable characters and sooooooo slow..... I dont think I will be reading another
May 02, 2014 Megan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For a book where not a lot happens (until the denouement) I was glued to the page - atmosphere, the characters.
Dec 20, 2016 Cphe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed this mystery set in Scotland. Doctor Murray Watson is an Academic who is fascinated by the poetry of the late Archie Lunen who died in tragic circumstances.

This mystery ended up rather more complicated then I initially thought it would, and I had no idea as to how it would conclude. That's always a plus. I really liked the bleak overtones of the setting and characters, they seemed to compliment each other if that makes sense.

Another author I'd not heard of before so glad I took the chan
May 14, 2012 Martina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dr. Murray Watson ist Literaturwissenschaftler an der Universität Glasgow und hat es sich zum Ziel gesetzt eine Biografie über Archie Lunan, einen eher unbekannten Dichter, zu veröffentlichen.

Lunan war sehr jung unter mysteriosen Umständen vor dreißig Jahren ums Leben gekommen und sein einziges veröffentlichtes Werk, ein Gedichtband mit dem Namen Moontide, sowie eine Kiste mit Notizen aus dem Nachlaß von Lunan sind alles was Murray von Lunan hat.

Trotzdem beginnt er in Lunans Leben zu stöbern, ma
I tried to like this book on many different occasions, in many different moods and in many different ways - I failed so I'll keep this reasonably brief!

Murray Watson is a disillusioned professor of English literature engaging in a saddening affair with a married woman and his feelings of desolation seep through every aspect of the book. He makes quite the pitiable figure and when I first started reading, I felt very sorry for him. Pity alone does not, however, make a great story.

The novel centre
I bought this one with some other books. It was more or less a side-order, not a specific, intentional buy. I bought it because of the literal plot and because the protagonist is described as being fascinated with an poet. Fascination with a scientific subject is something which speaks to me, but nevertheless I didnt expected much. And for some reason when I came to choose what to read next, I started with this book. Maybe I was just curious?

In the end I was positivly surprised. Though the prot
Mar 24, 2012 Wwmrsweasleydo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my favourite Louise Welsh book -- and I loved The Cutting Room and The Bullet Trick so that's high praise.

Murray Watson (a Dr Watson without a Sherlock) is a beautifully described verbally literate and emotionally illiterate man. Like a Greek Tragic hero much of his undoing is in his essential nature. He is drawn to things which are bad for him, and surrounded by others with weaknesses and darknesses which compound the messiness of his life.

The mundane minutiae of academic life are des
Jane Fenn
Jul 26, 2011 Jane Fenn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first 'paper' book I've read in a long while, as I normally prefer audio books, but I've loved evertying Louise Welsh has done previously so decided to give this a go. The plot is very different to earlier work - a university lecturer goes on a voyage of discovery to bring the work of a young poet to public attention, so goes to invesigate his untimely and suspicious death, becoming dragged into a current web of deceit. This was nothing like the fast-paced crime thrillers I normally ...more
This is a very well written book, in fact it is excellent. It deals with an academic in English literature at Glasgow University, Dr Murray Watson, who wants to write a book about the life of a dead poet, Archie Lunan, and who in the course of the story tries to find answers relating to Lunan's life and his somewhat mysterious death at sea off the island of Lismore. As much of the novel is set in Glasgow (West End) and Edinburgh there was a lot I could relate to, and indeed it brought forth echo ...more
Sep 15, 2013 Jenaya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I ordered this book through the library somewhat randomly - at a poetry reading I heard quoted a writer named Lou Welch or Lou Welsh or something I couldn't quite make out. A search through my libraries catalog brought up Louise Welsh as the closest match. This isn't a book of poetry, but the plotline focuses on a poet, so I thought I might find the quote within. I did not.

The book, however, was a pleasant surprise. A lyrical, somewhat brooding novel that begins as a somewhat typical story of an
Jul 27, 2011 Scotchneat rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
The title is a strange choice for this book. Yes, there are bones at the heart of the mystery, but really it's more about passion and poetry and dysfunction, so I suspect the choice came out of the mystery novel title-generator.

A lit prof who's obsessed with a long-dead local poet gets caught boinking the Dean's wife just before he heads off on sabbatical to write the definitive biography of the poet.

As he chases down what happened before the poet drowned, he discovers how inter-related the peo
Feb 05, 2012 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries, scotland
On the front of this book there is a blurb calling it a literary thriller. I really wouldn't put it into the thriller department so I will define the literary part. Considering the last few 'literary' mysteries I have read, what they have in common is that the deaths that are in question are not cleared up so much by detection as much as by being revealed through the stories course of events.

Doctor Murray Watson is somewhat of a schlub mostly because he sees himself that way, despite the way we
Apr 16, 2011 Christine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011-reads
Murray Watson lives a reasonably quiet life in university libraries as a literary researcher. He is trying to put together a biography about Archie Lunan, a favorite poet who committed suicide in the waters off the island of Lismore. Murray travels to Lismore to speak to Archie’s lover. The deeper he investigates Archie’s unusual life and death, the deeper he gets embroiled in the past and the surprising things that took place on this small remote island.

This book entwines literature, poetry, bl
Jul 26, 2014 Rachel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: n, 2014, female-author
I honestly thought that this book was difficult to get through. Not because it was a difficult read or because it had a challenging, difficult to understand storyline, but because it bored me. I didn't find that it was the slick crime drama that it had been portrayed to be. I really liked the setting of the bleak Scottish island but that was about it. I found the characters to be flat and uninteresting and i didn't really believe in what they were doing. The ending also seemed very rushed and I ...more
Davida Chazan
Oct 02, 2012 Davida Chazan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Louise Welsh knows how to intrigue her readers and, like any good mystery writer, gives them enough twists and turns to keep them interested to the last page. But instead of using a professional (like investigator or detective) to get to the bottom of this story, she puts the research in the hands of a Professor of Literature on sabbatical, trying to write the story of his favourite poet's brief life for a book. Using this as the basis of the story, the people in his life also get tangled into t ...more
The smile was forced, everything was forced, but for the moment that was just how it had to be.

Last line from Naming the Bones by Louise Welsh. When I see a Cannongate logo on the spine, I pick up the book. Up until now, this system has worked well and I’ve enjoyed the titles I’ve read so far. Something was bound to mess up that system though and that something is Naming the Bones, which turned out be a bore. The story drags its heels to the point where I began to wonder if there was even a plot
Oct 27, 2013 Deb rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Scottish professor takes a sabbatical to write a book on an unknown Scottish poet. This poet died at the age of 25 and only wrote one book. The lives of the people from the past and the present intertwine in his research of this poet. The professor must deal with his inner demons and relationship with his brother in order to understand why the poet died at his own hand at 25 years old. Interesting characters. Author delves into the psychological aspects of each character justifying why in each ...more
Jo Barton
Jun 23, 2011 Jo Barton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've long been a fan of the darkly different books of Louise Welsh. This slightly unusual thriller really grabs your attention from the opening page, it quickly becomes one of those books you simply can't put down.

Set in Edinburgh, and largely focused on academic Dr Murray Watson, and his research into the life of an enigmatic Scottish poet, Archie Lunan. With very little information, Dr Murray begins to uncover a web of intrigue, which will eventually lead him into danger, and a journey of self
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After studying history at Glasgow University, Louise Welsh established a second-hand bookshop, where she worked for many years. Her first novel, The Cutting Room, won several awards, including the 2002 Crime Writers’ Association John Creasey Memorial Dagger, and was jointly awarded the 2002 Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award. Louise was granted a Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial ...more
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