Blood and Bone

2 Mins read

Blood and BoneWritten 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.”

If you are a fan of the serial killer versus cops theme, you might also enjoy Saul Black’s The Killing Lessons. For another book set in the Pacific Northwest, try Past Crimes by Glen Erik Hamilton.


CFL Rating: 4 Stars

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related posts

The Shadows of Men by Abir Mukherjee

The fifth Wyndham and Banerjee mystery is a delight to read because author Abir Mukherjee is such a wonderful storyteller. It’s a narrative that’s easy to get lost in. The 1920s colonial India setting is rich and colourful but also ripe with all the best…

Turf Wars by Olivier Norek

Translated by Nick Caistor — It’s been almost a year since we’ve reviewed the first of Olivier Norek’s The Lost and the Damned. The French author’s debut in English was one of our top crime fiction novels of 2020. The question is can he match…

Good Cop Bad Cop by Simon Kernick

Hero or villain? That’s the central question in Good Cop Bad Cop by the prolific British thriller author Simon Kernick. Is Met Detective Constable Chris Sketty an honest to goodness white knight, the hero of the Villa Amalfi siege, or a manipulative and calculating criminal…
Crime Fiction Lover