Kickboxing Detective Garda Cathy Connolly is called to a break-in at Zoe Grant’s house in Dublin which opens up a crime far bigger than the burglary that she was sent to investigate. Amongst the scattered clothing in Zoe’s bedroom is a beautiful wedding dress with added decoration which seems way out-of-place, some small bones have been sewn into its hem. And if that wasn’t enough for the Garda, the FBI believe a double murderer who needs urgent apprehension has entered Ireland, and they want him found.
The story that follows is complex, told from the viewpoints of three women; Cathy, Zoe and Emily Cox, a woman who works with the elderly in London. I always rejoice when fiction gives us women who are more than decoration and to get three such women who all display their strengths in very different ways really is exceeding expectations Ms Blake! Zoe is the most vulnerable of the three, understandable when her house has been ransacked which is shortly followed by the unexpected death of her grandmother but she forges on setting up an exhibition of her art despite it all. Emily demonstrates not only her caring nature when she befriends an elderly woman who is suffering with confusion, but also her steely side when she persuades her husband, a consultant psychiatrist to help out in practical ways. And then there is Cathy, a woman who despite turmoil in her personal life doesn’t resort to histrionics but makes plans and follows them through, although I’m quietly pleased to confirm she’ll break a few rules if required.
The underlying plot to this novel is complex, there is plenty of switching of viewpoints and a fair few mysteries that need unravelling. The author walks the line with grace between providing the reader with action, great characters and a credible plot with an equally believable solution and creating utter confusion with so much going on. This is a huge accomplishment for a debut novel, although this is a book that requires a certain amount of concentration as unusually the viewpoints switch within chapters. The headings to some of the chapters involve sewing terms bringing the reader’s attention back to those gruesome alterations that the unknown seamstress made to the wedding dress, and as when or why is also a mystery, they were quite clearly carried out for the purpose of concealment.
The author keeps the tension levels high by adhering far more to the actual time-lines of carrying out the necessary tests than many popular dramas we may watch. Despite the grimness of the wedding dress, this isn’t a depressing read, something achieved by some genuinely realistic yet appealing relationships between some of the characters. It is nice to see a police force not beset by one-upmanship and unrealistic expectations, Cathy and her partner Detective O’Rourke are mutually supportive and we understand why when we hear a little of their back story.
So in case you couldn’t tell, I was incredibly impressed by Little Bones, another great author to come out of the Bonnier Publishers imprint Twenty7 books. If you like your crime fiction to involve the more traditional police procedural, one that has a little more complexity to the generic, this may well be a book that you will really enjoy. This book has also confirmed my suspicion that Twenty7 have a huge talent in spotting these debut novelists, four out of the four I have read have been seriously impressive – a pretty good bet by anyone’s standards. If you have a manuscript that you think might be suitable for them and live in the UK or ROI, you might want to enter their competition but don’t delay it has a closing date of 31 May 2016.
I’d like to say thank you to the publishers for allowing me to read this book ahead of the publication in eBook format on 17 May 2016. This review is my unbiased thanks to them.
If you’re still undecided, you can read the synopsis and the opening lines here