About five years ago, I discovered Graham Masterton’s “Night Warriors” series, and I went on to enjoy some of his short horror tales here and there as well. When I saw he was releasing a mystery/crime novel, I was pleased. I love detective stories and whodunits.
I bought “White Bones,” not realizing it had been released in America ten years ago under the title “A Terrible Beauty.” Luckily, I hadn’t already read that particular book. A publisher apparently had decided this story starring Detective Katie Maguire of the Cork Garda could be the first in an Irish crime thriller series, so “White Bones” is also now being referred to as “Katie Maguire #1.” (I have to admit I like the book cover for “A Terrible Beauty” better than the updated version.)
One wet November morning, a field on Meagher’s Farm gives up the dismembered bones of eleven women.
The bones date back to 1915, and bear the ritualistic marks of an executioner who skinned his victims alive. Detective Superintendent Katie Maguire of the Cork Garda wants to give these women justice, but the trail is stone cold. And then a young American tourist disappears, and her bones are discovered on the same farm. With the crimes of the past echoing in the present, Katie knows she must find a way to solve the old murders before the present day killer strikes again.
The character of Katie Maguire is likeable but flawed, and sometimes she seems to face constant adversity a bit too well. Being the first female Detective Superintendent in Ireland, she has to deal with resentment from several male colleagues on a daily basis, and her home life is even more troubled. The loss of a baby boy has left her marriage in shambles.
“White Bones” raised plenty of emotions in me while I was reading it, and I can’t really say I enjoyed the experience, even though I couldn’t stop until I got to the end. It was well written and moves along at a good pace, but I felt it was much more of an extreme horror story than a crime novel. I had problems reading through the graphic torture scenes.
Overall I found this tale to be relentlessly sad and bleak. It even weakened my desire to visit Ireland one day. (I’ll probably get over that though.) Also, I wish I’d noticed the “Selected Guide to Cork Slang” that appears in the back of the book before I had finished reading the novel.
The twist at the end seemed somewhat surreal, although it wasn’t completely unexpected since enough clues were presented to the reader to keep it from being too fantastic. When I think about the sequels – however many there may be – I honestly don’t know if I’ll have the gumption to read them. I would only recommend this book to true horror fans.