It opens with a couple of Colchester builders making an incredibly grim discovery: a cage made of bones containing a feral child, in a house marked for demolition. From here, DI Phil Brennan is tasked with discovering the true nature of the situation. Working with his partner psychologist Marina Esposito, he’ll uncover a killer who has been working undetected for 30 years. He’ll also find himself linked to the case via his unremembered past, and it’s a race against time to break a conspiracy encompassing soulless predators more evil than any they’ve faced before.
The novel is over 500 pages long, and there have been murmurings among crime fiction fans about these longer novels which are appearing. The Dead Tracks by Tim Weaver is another 500 pager recently reviewed here. The question is, do these books need more editing? After all it’s accepted in publishing that genre novels shouldn’t be more than around 400. I’ve even heard someone report that they wouldn’t read a book longer than that because ‘it’s probably boring if it’s that long.’ But I say let the story stand on its merits. If it’s good, told well enough and the characters are interesting, why the need for more editing just because of a line in the sand? It shouldn’t matter how long a book is, give it a read and make a decision based on that. Size doesn’t matter!
So, does Cage Of Bones hold up well despite being a bit longer? Undoubtedly it does. An absorbing mystery, with many nods towards horror (without the supernatural of course), Cage Of Bones is an outstanding crime novel. The pace zips along, with well thought out characterisation and storytelling. It is meticulously plotted, each strand of the story coming together to form a ruthless and uncompromising read. This is a must-buy book for any crime lover.
It was the horror elements of the story which most interested me, and they worked well. There’s been a bit more discussion of this growing trend lately, with other authors blending crime and horror well. John Connolly has been doing this for years with his Charlie Parker series, and Steve Mosby is also a proponent. Both these authors produce incredible novels as a result. Well, with Cage of Bones, Tania Carver deserves to be added to this list. (See our interview with one half of the writing team here.)
With a growing sense of unease, urgency and expediency oozing from every page, Cage Of Bones is one of the most gripping and entertaining reads of 2011. I was sad when I finished the last page, but I’m hoping there’s not too long a wait until the next novel. Highly recommended, an almost perfect example of good storytelling overshadowing the need for shorter prose.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars