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BONE BY BONE by Carol O’Connell

BONE BY BONE

By Carol O’Connell

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-399-15514-7
Publisher: Putnam

A young soldier comes home after a 20-year absence to find his widowed father aged, his loyal housekeeper unchanged and his kid brother returning, piece by piece, after having vanished two decades before.

The disappearance of Josh, back when the two Hobbs brothers were teenagers, never made sense. Although no body had been found in the woods around their small Northern California town, Oren knew his brother was not a runaway. A sensitive and perceptive youth, Josh was also a gifted photographer, his snapshots often revealing more about their small town’s populace than was comfortable. But the inept investigation at the time had seemed to point to Oren himself, a seductive young man involved with several of the town’s women. These suspicions—and the unyielding personality of his father, a judge—had chased Oren into the Army, where he became a criminal investigator. When he comes back, believing wrongly that his father is dying, he makes a grisly discovery. Someone is returning Josh bone by bone, leaving the relics on the old judge’s front porch. It’s soon revealed that the mysterious visitor is leaving the remains of other victims as well. O’Connell (Find Me, 2007, etc.) knows how to get into a protagonist’s head, mixing guilt and suspicion as one shady character after another surfaces. But the plotting has gaps. The local sheriff is too trusting of Oren, and his unofficial deputizing of the surviving Hobbs boy is accepted without sufficient reason or questioning. The strange neighbors are all a tad too Gothic with their obsessions, addictions and curious scars. Multiple points of view let us into these bizarre characters’ heads, but none of them are as vivid as Oren, and the final effect is cartoonish rather than suspenseful.

Over-the-top characters show up weak plot points in this psychological thriller.