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3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Bone by Bone
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on 23 October 2017
An interesting premis – many years ago 2 brothers, Oren and Josh, go for a walk in the woods near their northern Californian home. Josh, younger one, disappears. Now, in the present day, Oren returns home from the US Army where he was an investigator in the Army Criminal Investigations Division. A human bone is found on the verandah one morning. Each day a new human bone appears.

This is a huge rambling crime thriller. 502 pages. It did not work for me. The author, without great subtlety or conviction, shoehorns in so many eccentric characters and so many flashbacks, that the boat of this novel is becalmed on, and then sinks in, a sea of red herrings.

I felt the author was trying to establish and position the character Oren Hobbs to sit alongside the likes of Jack Reacher and Quinn Colson (The Ranger), the post-Vietnam, post-modern return home American heroes shaped by the military with a mandate to investigate and right wrongs. But the characterisations, particularly of the central character Hobbs, fail as I read further into a north Californian version of Southern Gothic. Indeed, I felt as if the characters, buildings, atmosphere and decaying vegetation had been levered out of Alabama and transplanted into the US north west.

I lost interest in the plot and the actors. After 300 pages, I had no investment in finding out what happened to Josh, and, whatever it was, who did it. 1 star.

[BTW this is not a Mallory novel, as incorrectly titled by Amazon].
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on 19 January 2009
I'm a tad prejudiced when reviewing O'Connell's Mallory novels; she's simply one of the best American writers around. And "Judas Child" perplexed many a reader and reviewer. "Bone by Bone" is her second non-Mallory novel, but this one is a short-step.

The beginning - the bones of a missing brother being returned one by one at home - is certainly original and promises much, but when we're drawn into this small American town we're getting in the middle of, as Kirkus Reviews so aptly describes, "a tad too Gothic", with a host of of characters of which only one - Oren, the brother - really comes alive. The plot runs away with the people or vice versa, but not much makes a lasting impression. There are many similarities with "small town, big crime" themes in "Flight of the Stone Angel", including an abundance of Gothic themes, but that was a Mallory novel and she got away with it, of course. It also reminded me of John Grisham's first foray outside his legal eagle novels with "A Painted House", but he kept that story reasonably "rural". Here, we're bewildered by too many people, too many sub-plots and an ending that reads as a weepie. No Mallory here.

Still, Carol O'Connor can write indeed, and I've enjoyed the book, warts and all. But when an author has produced such a memorable series as the Mallory saga, you're apt to be a tad disappointed.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 14 January 2012
"Bone by Bone" is a stand-alone police procedural by veteran New York-based author Carol O'Connell, who has published nine Kathy Mallory mysteries. It is set in the rural northern California town of Coventry, where, twenty years ago, a pair of teenage brothers went into the woods one day, and only one came back alive. Now the younger, missing brother Josh is coming back to his elderly father's front porch, a bone at a time: that calls the elder brother Oren Hobbs back from the Army CID to investigate.

O'Connell has created a town full of colorful characters: the family of retired judge Henry Hobbs and their housekeeper-with-a-possible-past, Hannah Rice. The Winston family: Addison, successful attorney, his alcoholic damaged wife Sarah, and stepdaughter, pretty red-headed Isabelle. The Hardy family, or what remains of it: smelly crazy Mavis, town librarian who killed her abusive husband; and Dave, her son, deputy sheriff. Sheriff Cable Babitt, who's none too bright, and special state investigator Sally Polk. Crippled William Swahn, a former Los Angeles policeman, oldest friend of Mrs. Winston. Ferris Monty, slimy local gossip journalist. Millard and Evelyn Straub, owners of the local hotel. And they almost all take turns posing as the murderer in O'Connell's fast-moving, complex plot. O'Connell, who has been compared to iconic suspense author Ruth Rendell, gives us a reasonably satisfying, many layered experience with this book, as we keep finding out more about these characters. I'd have to say I much prefer BONE to MALLORY'S ORACLE which I'd read and reviewed earlier, first in the Mallory series. But the writer does keep an annoying tendency from the earlier work, giving us protagonists who are not only unearthly in their physical beauty, which she keeps telling you about over and over, but also unmatched in their crime-solving accomplishments, whose romantic interests are just too lively. It's just too much like television.
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on 28 June 2010
At its core, this book contains a relatively intriguing plot: a long unsolved murder with numerous suspects, all with varying interests at stake. However, the book is a serious let down. Firstly, it is far too long. The story could have been completed in about 200 fewer pages.

However, the bigggest issue is that the characters are all so implausible. The story takes place in a town which must be remarkable in that every single inhabitant mentioned in the book is a weirdo. Their actions rarely make sense. This is partly because the author seems to think that simple good story telling is not enough. She has decided that in order to keep readers hooked she cannot simply unfold a riveting story, she has to demonstrate her creativeness by simply making the story confusing and difficult to follow. After only a couple of chapters, the reader quickly becomes lost in the boring, twisting sub-plots about why every member of the town hates every other member.

The entire story just becomes illogical and nonsensical. Why would they leave a murder unsolved for 20 years and then suddenly, all the key players converge and it gets solved? Why doesn't the author explain the thought processes behind the key players? Why don't they act like normal human beings? Is it set in a parallel universe where everyone is entirely random?

I wanted to know what happened so kept going with the pain. Ultimately, I felt let down as the end is an anti-climax and never really explains what has been going on and why.

There are far better thriller/ mystery, etc books out there. I am not sure how Carol O'Connell has become so revered. Perhaps this monotony is a one off moment of weakness?
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on 4 February 2009
First Sentence: A batty old man of the cloth had once described the Hobbs boy as a joke of god's: an archangel of the warrior cast and a beacon for women with carnal intentions.

Almost 20 years ago, 17-year-old Oren Hobbs and his younger brother Josh, went into the woods. Oren came home but Josh was never found. Told that his father is dying by the housekeeper who has been with the family since early childhood, Oren resigns his position as investigator for the Army's Criminal Investigation Division and returns home. His father is fine but bones belonging to Josh are being left on the front porch, one at a time.

O'Connell didn't start her writing career until her 40s and after a career as a painter, proof reader and copy editor, skills which are apparent in her writing. She knows how to hook the reader from the first sentence; without a prologue or a single portent.

I'm delighted to add. Her humor is slightly off center, which I appreciate. "It had been her mission to save him from literacy and send him outdoors in search of a life." "...why does the town have so many loonies?" "Tolerance."

To me, it is the since of a fine writer who can create an eccentric cast of characters but, without manipulation, justify each one. The characters are fully developed but in an artist's way of creating layer upon layer until the full representations are clear. The characters drive the story, and there are some wonderful characters. But they also show how our foibles and the constraints we often put on ourselves by not saying things out loud can cause great damage to ourselves and to others.

The story is very well plotted. This is not a fast-paced, quick read, but one with intrigue and as intricate as the tango which occurs late in the story. "I don't think I've ever seen blood drawn on a dance floor." A hint of magic and mysticism only add to the feeling that should one find this town in a map, one would be wise to drive around it.

O'Connell has such a deliciously subtle style that plays with your emotions and provides an ending that is both heartbreaking yet filled with promise.
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VINE VOICEon 27 January 2013
This is different to Carol Mallory's usual books but I would say it is up to her usual high standards. It is the story of Oren who has returned home after serving a number of years in the Army as an invesigator. he is no sooner home than the jawbone of his long lost brother appears on the front porch. His brother is coming home Bone by Bone. he is asked by the local police to look into the decades old murder. The characters in this book are described brilliantly. Most of the characters are eccentric and all have thier own inner demons. Some are way beyond eccentricity and have fallen over the pit into madness. This is a good read and the story moves along fairly quickly. So why have I given four stars instead of five. Firstly I thought it started a little too slowly and secondly the story trails in parts. It could have been much tighter and therefore have heightened the tension. However, saying this I still think it's a cracking read and would recommend it.
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on 2 September 2012
The book was chosen by one of the lady's in my book club, the author was an unknown to me. I LOVED IT. Wonderfully descriptive, a real bunch of interesting characters, a lot of strong female ones which I really liked. There is humour, and some really touching moments too. And it kept me guessing right up to the near end. I would definitely recommend this book.
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on 3 February 2014
I love this story. It stays in the mind. The story is subtle and detailed, set in a go-nowhere town that the rest of the world has passed by. The finger of suspicion hovers over most of the characters at different times. But are they guilty of a brutal murder or something else? As each layer of the story is revealed, what you think you've learned about the people involved is turned on its head. A tale that is hard to put down until the last page is finished.
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on 1 July 2010
This is certainly up to O'Connell's usual high standards. Well-written, with excellently-drawn characters. Somewhat quirky, as usual, but written with wit and a good understanding of human foibles. A gripping and interesting story. Thoroughly recommended.
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on 18 March 2012
This is exactly my kind of book, keeping me guessing till the very end as to what happened and who did it. Struggled to put it down and when I did couldn't wait to pick it up again.
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