White Bones – Graham Masterton

Title – White Bones

Author – Graham Masterton

Published – 1 March 2013

Genre – Crime fiction

This was a review copy I received from Head of Zeus.

The story is set in Ireland and opens with the discovery of hundreds of bones on a remote farm. Called in to lead the investigation is Detective Kate Maguire from the Cork Garda.  It quickly becomes clear that the bones aren’t from a recent series of murders but date back to 1915, which means that there’s really no case to investigate, but Maguire wants to find out more. The initial examiniation determines that the bones belonged to the dismembered bodies of 11 women who appear to have been skinned alive and have been part of some religious ritual.

When the body of a young American tourist is also discovered on the same land Maguire believes that it is not just coincidence.  This leads to a more conventional police investigation, which has a few red herrings and a few twists and turns, some of which I found a little weak.

As with many leading detectives in crime fiction, Maguire has a troubled home life and in her case it’s a husband whose business deals involve some of the less law-abiding members of the local community. The couple is also dealing with the loss of a child which is putting a great strain on their relationship.

This book in unremittingly bleak. It’s not dark in a gritty way as perhaps a Craig Robertson book, but is just absolutely, depressingly sad.

Masterton doesn’t seem to have left his horror roots behind. There are some parts of the book that made me feel physically sick. I’ve read a decent amount of horror and plenty of overly graphic crime fiction and I have never felt like this before. Just thinking about it to write this entry is bringing it all back to me! Perhaps it was something specific to me, some personal quirk that means the passages affected me more than they would other people, but to finish the book I had to skip over a lot of description!

I was slightly put off by the list of Cork slang at the beginning that had been “translated” into English. What was really odd was that I don’t think I noticed many of these word in the book (and could probably have managed anyway) but the one word I went to look up wasn’t there!

This book was just too dark and graphic for me and even ignoring that, it wasn’t a story that I particularly enjoyed. It was good to see a strong female detective as the main character but  she came across as inconsistent or a little hypocritical in her dealings with her husband, some of the criminals and men in general.

Ah well – you can’t win them all!

Score – 3/5

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7 comments

  1. Sue – Thanks very much for your thoughtful and honest review. While normally I’m one who enjoys that plot point of finding old bones and discovering whose they are, etc., I think I’ll wait on this one. Not because of your review, but because I have my limits when it comes to dark and bleak. Something that unremitting would probably be a bit much for me…

  2. Just finished reading this one, I thought is was brilliant! A fantastic read, and not very gory, more shocking than needless gore. I couldn’t put it down! 5/5

  3. I’ve just finished this book and loved it! I must admit that at times it was like witnessing a car accident-close your eyes but peek out through your fingers to make it palatable enough to cope with. I wonder if these acts of cruelty are really handled by authorities. EEEEW! But the general story line was good and I thought the characters developed quite well. I did think it was a bit too convenient how her husband was written out though. Happy to read more of this series.

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