Crime Fiction Alphabet: B is for Bones

I’m using the Mysteries in Paradise Crime Fiction Alphabet meme to highlight books I read prior to starting this blog. This week’s letter is B and I’m discussing Jan Burke‘s 7th Irene Kelly novel Bones which was published in 1999 and I read in January 2007.

Bones opens with a cold case. Nick Parrish, on death row for a series of murders, claims to know the location of the body of Julia Sayre, a young mother who disappeared 4 year previously, and will lead police there if his sentence is commuted to life imprisonment. When officials, with Irene Kelly along for the ride, are at the site of the body a booby trap sets off a bomb and Parrish escapes. He then proceeds to stalk Irene Kelly by sending her repulsive gifts (think body parts) and otherwise physically and psychologically torturing her.

The series is a sort of cross-over between amateur sleuth and police procedural as the protagonist, Irene Kelly, is a crime reporter for her town’s newspaper who, by the time this novel starts, is married to a police detective. This makes the fact that she becomes involved in a swag of criminal investigations a lot more credible than some series where I struggle at the outset because I just can’t accept the premise that a chef/school teacher/librarian/etc would encounter that many murderers in their day-to-day lives.

These days I tend to shy away from psychopathic serial killers on blood lust rampages but this book is far more about the characters than the killing and the plot is not a predictable one which is why I rated it so highly (4 out of 5). Irene is a smart female character and in this setting, much of which takes place in the Sierra Nevada mountains, she’s surrounded by interesting outdoors-y type people. I particularly enjoyed the dog tracker / forensic anthropologist and his two brilliant dogs Bingle and Bool who can even locate decomposing bodies under water.

Bones won the Mystery Writers of America Edgar award for best novel in 2000.