White Bones by Graham Masterton

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White Bones by Graham Masterton

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Iain Wear
Reviewed by Iain Wear
Summary: Graham Masterton moves from horror to crime thriller and brings some of his horror mindset with him. This helps elevate a book which does fall into some of the genre cliches a little above the norm.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: March 2013
Publisher: Head of Zeus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1781850640

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There are many authors who wear several hats, but few who wear as many as Graham Masterton. So numerous are his writing hats that the Bibliography section of his website lists his works by genre, ranging from historical sagas, through sex instruction books, to his horror novels, of which I have long been a fan. Now, he has turned his hand to writing crime thrillers and so we have White Bones.

Finding a dead body isn't an unusual occurrence for Detective Superintendent Katie Maguire of the Cork Gardai. But finding the bones of eleven bodies in a mass grave, each with marks that suggest the flesh was stripped from them and with evidence that they were used in a voodoo-like ritual is beyond the pale even by her usual standards. There is some respite when it appears that these bones have been dead bodies for more than 80 years until another fresh set appears in roughly the same spot.

As if dealing with a killer isn't enough, Katie Maguire is also having domestic issues. Her husband, Paul, is mixed up in some underhand dealings and has upset some major figures in the Cork underworld, in one case by having an affair with his partner. Whilst Katie tried to avoid bringing Gardai work home with her, Paul's actions mean that it follows her home on more than one occasion. She is under further pressure by being the first female Detective Superintendent in the Garda and by having most of the men she encounters taking quite a liking to her.

From very early in the book, you can see how Masterton's horror leanings are at work here. The reasoning behind the crime is quite dark and, given just a slight twist, this could easily have been written as a horror novel. The depictions of some of the murders are quite graphic and written with a level of detail that may turn a weaker stomach than mine. As a horror writer, Masterton is particularly good at writing the more visceral aspects of events, meaning that the reader gets a far more vivid and disturbing picture of certain things than is usual in a standard crime thriller.

The other aspect of the story I particularly enjoyed was the frequent use of Cork dialect and slang. I love the Irish accent and it was difficult not to hear it when some of the characters were speaking, especially when they dropped into local expressions. Even though the story was in many ways a touch too extreme to feel entirely realistic, much of the language used here felt real and somehow warm and comforting amongst the Irish rain and the multitude of dead bodies.

Perhaps the one disappointment here was that Masterton conformed to a number of the standard crime thriller clichés. Although it adds flesh to the story, ironically enough given how the victims were found, the sub-plot of Katie Maguire's home life was a bit of a distraction to me and takes something away from the stark horror of much of the story, although this sub-plot did contain one particularly vividly gruesome part. The ultimate ending was also a touch disappointing and took some of the edge off the book and I would have felt more satisfied with the book as a whole if it had ended just a few pages shy of where it did.

There was also a little signposting which enabled me to guess the identity of the murderer a fair way from the end, which always disappoints me, as I'm not usually good at spotting such things. There were, however, a couple of decent revelations to add to this which I hadn't expected and which gave the story a couple of slightly cheeky twists which helped lessen my disappointment at seeing at least part of the ending coming.

I felt this was a pretty good novel for a writer perhaps, as yet, not entirely used to the genre. In some ways, it was fairly standard but the areas in which it did stand out were enjoyable enough to elevate it slightly above average in a very crowded genre. My hope is that future Katie Maguire novels will lose some of the clichés but retain the horror leanings and, if that occurs, they will be very good indeed.

For other crime thrillers which aren't for the squeamish, I recommend Still Bleeding by Steve Mosby or Gutted by Tony Black. You might also enjoy Broken Angels by Graham Masterton.

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Buy White Bones by Graham Masterton at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy White Bones by Graham Masterton at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy White Bones by Graham Masterton at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy White Bones by Graham Masterton at Amazon.com.


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Heath Purdy said:

This book was too gruesome for me and I deleted it early from my kobo.