The Silence of Bones

June Hur's gripping debut re-creates the Joseon Dynasty, when Korea relied on brutality to contain the spread of foreign Catholicism. During this bloody time, 16-year-old Seol's irrepressible curiosity is about to become her best asset for solving crime... and staying alive.

In 1800, Seol is a new damo, "an indentured servant-of-all-work." She is bound to Hanyang's (today's Seoul) Capital Police Bureau, where she uses her hands to arrest female criminals and examine female victims, because men are legally forbidden to touch any woman (alive or dead) who is not a close relative. Although she has only recently arrived in the capital city, she's already been branded as a troublemaker--literally marked with the character "bi," for female servant--after a failed escape attempt to visit her ill older sister. Seol longs for home but she remains in service, hoping to discover information about her older brother who has been missing for 12 years. When Seol is summoned to handle the corpse of 19-year-old Lady O, her initial shock and fear quickly turn to fascination, emboldening a tenacious determination to find the young noblewoman's killer.

Confessing her obsession for books about Joseon Korea in her author bio, the Korea-born, Canada-raised Hur presents a vast cast that is methodically depleted as the body count grows, set against a historically tumultuous background. Beyond the rigorously researched, culturally specific narrative details, The Silence of Bones is an exhilarating thriller, pitting the powerful against the power-hungry, endowing the powerless with affecting agency. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

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