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by Tania Carver
Sphere, September 2011
448 pages
6.99 GBP
ISBN: 0751545252

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

When workmen about to begin the demolition of a derelict building decide to take a look inside, they find an awful lot more than they'd bargained for in the basement. A feral child, starving and afraid, is locked inside a cage made of human bones. The floor is strewn with rotting flower petals and there are strange symbols on the walls.

Detective Inspector Phil Brennan is called in to investigate and he brings in his partner, psychologist Marian Esposito, to try to help the child. Together they have to uncover a complex and far-reaching series of events that stretches back years, and discover who is responsible for the boy's suffering before another child ends up in the same state.

CAGE OF BONES gets off to a flying start with some really strong imagery in the scene in the basement. Child abuse in all forms is appalling, but there is something almost too horrific about the idea of a child imprisoned for so long as to be almost skeletal with teeth rotted to nothing more than broken stumps, and Carver exploits this potential to the full without descending to the level of gratuitously unpleasant description.

It's not always easy picking up a book in a series where the main characters clearly have a lot of history behind them, and I felt hampered at times by the fact that for Detective Sergeant Rose Martin in particular, there was a heavy element of both show and tell in the early stages to establish her, and I felt that the story would have benefitted from a lighter touch in that regard, although when CAGE OF BONES got into its stride, those reservations were very much swept aside and I began to care about what happened to her.

Brennan and his unconventional team are good value for money, as are his adoptive parents, in particular retired policeman Don Brennan, brought back on board to help with a case that for both him and his son is all too close to home. Where the book suffers is in dealing with the conspiracy elements, which appear to head into territory that requires rather more than the usual amount of suspension of disbelief. The same is also true for the existence of a cave near Colchester, which played a large part in the final scenes. Plot devices like this can serve their purpose, but I do prefer such things to be geologically plausible.

Linda Wilson is a writer, and retired solicitor, with an interest in archaeology and cave art, who now divides her time between England and France.

Reviewed by Linda Wilson, August 2011

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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