Servant of the Secret Fire

Random thoughts on books and life in the reality-based community

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Location: New York, United States

The name I've chosen comes from "Lord of the Rings," when Gandalf faces down the Balrog in the Mines of Moria. My Hebrew name is Esther (which is related to the word for "hidden" or "secret") Serafina (which means "burning"). This seems appropriate because although I don't usually put myself forward, I do care very passionately about a lot of things. Maybe through these blogs I can share some of these passions, as well as less weighty ideas and opinions, with others.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Book Review: Bone by Bone *****

Bone by Bone by Carol O'Connell *****

Twenty years ago, at the age of 17, Oren Hobbs left his small California town after the disappearance of his younger brother Josh. Now he has been called home to find that his brother is also returning, one bone at a time being left on the porch of his family home. This is the situation at the beginning of Bone by Bone, Carol O'Connell's first novel after the (presumed) culmination of her incredible Kathy Mallory series, and the absence of Mallory has not hurt her writing one bit.

As in the Mallory series, the solution of the mystery is secondary to O'Connell's brilliant characterizations and her portrayal of the interlocking relationships and tensions that have turned this claustrophobic community into a pressure cooker ready to explode. Even the stock characters in this type of story, such as the family housekeeper, a tiny woman who can quell a grown man with a glance, and Oren's childhood crush, with whom he has never exchanged a word and who appears to harbor homicidal passions toward him rather than the usual kind, are unique and individual human beings.

As Josh's burial place is found and the investigation into his murder proceeds, Oren is drawn more and more deeply back into the secrets and haunted lives of the people in the town - the alcoholic socialite and birdwatcher who has chronicled the life of the town in her journal by portraying them as various types of birds, her controlling attorney husband, the crippled and scarred ex-policeman, and others. Josh was an inveterate shutterbug with a talent for capturing people's secrets with his camera. Could he have exposed one too many? Bone by Bone will keep you reading as it races towards the final confrontations and revelation of the various secrets that have poisoned the town for decades.

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