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by P. J. Parrish
Pocket Books, June 2007
480 pages
ISBN: 1416525874

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Readers of PJ Parrish’s Louis Kincaid series will recognize Joe Frye as Kincaid’s love interest. A THOUSAND BONES is her story, and a well-told story it is. Joe tells it to Louis on a beach in Florida, although it takes place more than a decade before, in a small town in northern lower Michigan, on the Leelenau peninsula. Joe is a rookie, and this is her first big case. It will change her life.

Echo Bay is a small town, with a small police department. Joe is partnered with Mike, who’s lived in Echo Bay pretty much his whole life. Mack is the detective, and he came to Echo Bay from Petoskey, a larger town known for its tourism industry. The chief, Leach, seems to know what he’s doing, although Frye thinks he doesn’t give her enough to do because she’s a woman. She may be right.

One fine day on the cusp of winter, some kids find some bones. Human bones, not very many, but enough to know that whoever it was died a while ago and was a young female. There's no way of knowing who she was, although Mack is convinced she is Annabelle Chapel. She is the victim of a case he had in Petoskey, a case that was never solved, a case he is more than a little obsessed with. Leach is not sure.

Frye is living with Brad Schaffer, a veterinarian. As she gets more involved with this case, her relationship with Brad deteriorates. More bones are found, and then more again. There is evidence that the cases are connected, but in each case there are so few bones that identifying any one victim is a real challenge.

As the news gets out, parents of missing women descend on Echo Bay. Leach has to contend with other agencies wanting to horn in on his case, agencies with vested interests and lots more clout and tools than Echo Bay has. Joe is assigned to work with one of the state investigators, Norm Rafsky. They make a good team.

A THOUSAND BONES is a good police procedural. As the Echo Bay police work the case, Parrish lets the reader into the mind of the killer. One would think, perhaps, that this would let the reader know more than the police. Not so. Parrish has some plot twists that keep the reader from becoming complacent.

Parrish’s descriptions of northern Michigan in late October and early November are absolutely right on. Parrish also has the mindset of the region pegged. Those residents who live there all year long take a jaundiced view of the seasonal people; everyone loves the money boaters and hunters and skiers bring in, but there is a certain amount of resentment based on income disparities and the attitude of entitlement that some recreational users have about the land.

Somewhere in the middle of A THOUSAND BONES, the tenor of the book changes from that of a standard police procedural mystery to that of a suspense thriller. This shift goes almost unnoticed. As the police department closes in on the killer, Frye and Rafsky find themselves in danger.

The ending of A THOUSAND BONES will make the morally certain among us uncomfortable, although there is an obvious, almost Biblical, symmetry to the decisions made by the Echo Bay force. What that decision does to Joe as a person is harder to delineate, and it colors the rest of her career. Readers will have to see what it does to her relationship with Louis Kincaid.

Reviewed by P. J. Coldren, May 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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