Bone By Bone by Carol O'Connell - Book Review

A general rule of mystery fiction is that the plot moves at a quickening pace. This causes difficulty for character driven readers like myself. And has been the main reason, for all of my forty years as a reader; I stay away from novels tagged mystery. I’m glad I broke my pattern for Bone by Bone by Carol O’Connell because I’d have missed a whole town of wonderfully developed characters.

Bone by Bone takes place in the small northern California town of Coventry. Like most small towns, it is filled with nuance and shared history. The novel opens with Oren Hobbs', a former Army criminal investigator, return to Coventry after an estranged twenty-year absence. It seems Oren’s father, Judge Hobbs, is a bit distraught. Bone by bone pieces of skeletal remains keep finding their way onto the Judge’s property. This in of itself would be disturbing, but the bones appear to be that of the Judge’s other son, Josh, who left one day with teenage Oren - never to return.

Bone by Bone is a mix of perfectly paced drama and familial situations rotating in a dance of calm against a brewing storm. Since I’m short on mystery novel knowledge I was unfamiliar with O’Connell’s work, but the Sun Sentinel’s mystery reviewer, Oline H. Cogdill, writes that O’Connell, “specializes in stories about damaged, complex and strong characters,” and it seems her specialty is on full display in Bone by Bone.

Oren has never recovered from his brother’s disappearance and a cloud of guilt hangs over each move he makes. Hannah, the Hobbs family housekeeper, is hiding a secret. The police are either a mix of Keystone Cops or sinister involvement. The wealthy neighbors might be a sad conflagration of times past or a bed of deceit. Moments of humor are infused in the character of Isabelle, whose anger at being overlooked by the dashing young Oren years before has now manifested itself in physical form.

Yet, all these shiny characters never complicate the quick paced narrative of the mystery surrounding what happened to Josh or how the bones are appearing. It is, after all, a mystery and though a character novel might have deeper characterizations these serve to not only advance the plot, but also manage to add depth.

Bone by Bone is recommended for mystery readers and those of us who like our characters a bit more rounded than the typical mystery.

© 2007-2009


caite said...

I am a mystery lover, and I think that the best are in fact, character driven. I don't think the two preclude each other.

I would give examples, but it is way too early in the morning to think. or spell.


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