Saturday, February 10, 2018

New from Randall Silvis, WALKING THE BONES, Murder and Love

Last year's mystery from Randall Silvis was Two Days Gone, a superb work of compelling suspense that tested the impact of once-in-a-lifetime friendships, while also inquiring into how writers do that mysterious "slice open a vein" action and live to tell about it ... or not. Police Sergeant Ryan DeMarco's investigation led him into immense pain over the loss of his writer friend, and also across the line into killing a killer.

In this year's new Silvis offering, WALKING THE BONES, DeMarco is determined to recover from his losses -- and to get around to the foundational work that his romantic relationship with a fellow officer, Trooper Jayme Matson. It's already a fraught affair, taking place around his obvious case of depression and PTSD and haunted by his child's death and the way his wife has abandoned him (but not yet divorced him). Is there any chance he can regain enough health of heart -- emotional and physical -- to meet Jayme's expectations?

Things look rough -- but when a cabal of quirky justice seekers in Jayme's hometown of Aberdeen, Kentucky, enlist DeMarco to investigate the deaths of seven young women (only their bones remain), his sense of purpose moved back into position (and Jayme's egging it on).

The crimesolving here is well plotted and first rate. But the best strength of any Randall Silvis book is the growth of character, often through pain, and with much awareness of how fragile life can be. Here's a taste of WALKING THE BONES:
At sixteen [DeMarco] was still fleet of foot, and by then had gotten a name for himself as a street fighter thanks to his quick hands and footwork. His knuckles were still scarred fro some of those fights.

In the army he could do five miles with a full pack and still be the first man to the showers. But he had been forty pounds lighter then. And unburdened by the elephantine weight of a conscience that rendered all unnecessary movement futile.

These days all the important movement took place in his head. And to keep that movement fro devolving now into a dark downward spiral, he thought about the girls. Seven unfortunate girls of color, all from miles and hours away. all ending up here in quiet little Aberdeen with the butterflies and hummingbirds,

He wondered if Hoyle had been aware of the metaphor he had created by describing the girls as cocooned in plastic sheeting. Hoyle, as strange as he was. did not strike DeMarco as  man who chose his words lightly.

And it made DeMarco sad to think of those girls as unformed butterflies. They had never been given their wings, had never tested the sky. And now every time DeMarco saw a butterfly, he would think of those girls.
For DeMarco to solve the case, he'll have to push well beyond his current physical limits, and risk both his life and his heart, under grim conditions that reminded me at times of a Stephen King horror plot. But don't underestimate him -- or Jayme, who's determined to somehow pull him back to life.

A fine read; I only wish DeMarco's series came to publication more often than once a year. This one, like its predecessor, comes from Sourcebooks. Readers of Julia Keller's West Virginia mysteries will feel at home in this Silvis series; those to value the mysteries of Charles Todd and Louise Penny will also recognize the soul battle underway.

PS: Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.

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