Saturday, August 29, 2015

Bones by Jan Burke

This book has been sitting on my shelf for years, so maybe there were unrealistic expectations.  I was also impressed with the Edgar Award for best mystery this book won, as well.  But I wasn't overly impressed by the end.  It left me underwhelmed.

The first third or half was solid.  Investigators in the mountains; a serial killer with them.  Bodies turn up and you know the killer will get away.

But there were so many missteps after that.  The dialogue is really, really terrible.  Very stilted, very unrealistic.  It talks down to the reader and overexplains really simple things, as if the author didn't think the readers could follow along.

Some scenes just backfired.  When the killer mails to the main character, a reporter, a pair of her own underwear, she and her co-workers break into inexplicable laughter.  The author tries to say that the hilarity is due to extreme tension, but it never comes across that way.  It's just an awkward scene.  There's a lot of those.

An example that blends both of these: a bomb is set up beneath one of the bodies in the mountains, and the killer gets away (after awhile) in the confusion.  The author/narrator (or the first-person main character) asks: How could have known that was going to happen?  I read that and immediately thought, I did.  You will, too, even if you're not a particularly astute reader.  Awkward.

And the end is unrealistic.  The killer, a genius, suddenly comes to her workplace, where there's an armed guard or two, plus co-workers, plus a helicopter that lands on the roof--and he doesn't know any of this, even though he has stalked all of his other victims to the point of knowing their lives better than they do.  The ending is really unfulfilling.  It hinges on the identity of the killer's helper, but you'll figure that out before too long.  You might even see it right away, not too far into the book.

These could be forgiven if the writing was good enough, but it's not.  It's awkward, the dialogue is just plain bad, and it mellows in a sentimentality and, at times, in suddenly jarring religious-speak (the main character suddenly says out loud to someone that they don't have to work on the Lord's day--even more confusing, since the narrator says she's mostly a non-believer)--and, well, the book's an award-winning mess.  I have nothing against a suddenly and unrealistically religious character, or occasionally bad dialogue, or scene and plot missteps--but not all at once in the same book.

This book is the 7th in the series, but you don't have to read any of the previous ones to read this one.  Unfortunately, I have no desire to do so, nor to read any of the next ones.  I see that I have written more negatively of this book than many have, but I don't see any way around it.  If you wish, someone please let me know if the previous ones, or the latter ones, were any better.  I've never seen the show based on these books, but the clips look good, and the show's been successful for some time now.  If you're watching that, please let me know if it's any better than the books.

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