Written by VM Giambanco — The London-based author introduced us to Detective Alice Madison in The Gift of Darkness in 2013 and followed it with The Dark the following year. Madison is a complex and conflicted woman, who fled an abusive home in her teens and, despite the efforts of those who have come to love her, has pursued a me-against-the-world life ever since.
In Blood and Bone, Madison is called to a house of horrors in suburban Seattle. She finds a man’s body, his face battered out of all recognition, and enough blood spattered around the walls to keep the forensics department busy for a month. Matt Duncan seemed to be Mr Nice Guy, with no enemies, an unassuming but prosperous lifestyle, and an attractive wife.
The killer seems to have entered the house while Kate Duncan was out on her daily run. They carried out the killing and escaped with some jewellery. Madison and her partner, grizzled veteran Kevin Brown, struggle to make any sense of this totally pointless killing. If it was an attempted burglary, why on earth did the intruder spend time reducing Mr Duncan’s head to pulp? And if it was a targeted killing, why did the assassin bother to take some fairly unremarkable trinkets from Mrs Duncan’s bedroom drawer?
Despite the horrors found in the house on Fauntleroy Way, Madison has other things on her mind. She is under investigation by the FBI for her connection to a notorious killer – John Cameron. Cameron’s notoriety is based as much on his choice of victims as his coldly efficient modus operandi. His most recent targets have all been members of one of the most successful drug cartels in the country, and none of its top operatives seems safe from him. Society is better off without these characters, but the Bureau feels that Madison made a grave error months earlier when she saved Cameron’s life. Does she have information that could lead to his arrest?
As the search for Matt Duncan’s killer goes round in circles, a chance blood match links the crime with another murder, years earlier, where a man was convicted despite swearing his innocence. The detective who put the man behind bars? None other than Kevin Brown. It seems that not only did Henry Karasick get a lengthy jail term for a crime he did not commit, but Washington State and Brown will never be able to put things right as Karasick took his own life four years into his sentence.
Madison and Brown discover, to their horror, that the Karasick case is merely one of several where an innocent person has been framed and convicted for murder. The two detectives manage to put together a workable artist’s impression of the man they are looking for, but will they be too late to prevent another attack?
The parallel story concerning John Cameron remains precisely that – parallel. It never meshes with the hunt for the serial killer, and perhaps it was never meant to. Although we are told a certain amount about Cameron and his significance in Alice Madison’s life, it’s one of those you-had-to-be-there moments. It’s always a risk for an author to base too much on what happened in a previous book, and here it doesn’t pay off.
As a read, Blood and Bone is a good diversion and a good police procedural, even if the killer’s final come-uppance is slightly clumsy. There is a nice line towards the end of the book when Madison, no stranger to the bad things that men do, contemplates the source and nature of evil. “No, not the Devil’s work,” she says, “Just us and our messes.”
CFL Rating: 4 Stars