‘White Bones’ is prolific author Graham Masterton’s first crime novel (he’s primarily known for his horror writing but has published in other genres and non-fiction too). Set in Cork in Ireland, it follows Detective Superintendent Katie Maguire – the bones of 11 women are uncovered, and what looks like a case with an obvious answer turns out to be something entirely different…
Katie Maguire is a likeable character: intelligent, sometimes funny, very human. I found it interesting to see more of the home/domestic life of a top detective, as well as being privy to her inner monologue and thought processes. The way her colleagues perceive her contrasts nicely with the Katie we are given access to, and there’s both humour and bathos in this.
This book is definitely not for the faint-hearted though! I have read a fair amount of horror in my time and there has only ever been one other book before that I’ve found as disturbingly visceral as some of the descriptions in ‘White Bones’ (that was Poppy Z. Brite’s ‘Exquisite Corpse’ in case you’re interested!). It is credit to the power of Graham Masterton’s writing that his depiction of human violence is that shockingly horrific and real. On several occasions when reading before bed I had to put it down prematurely, because I couldn’t bear to read any longer at that moment (or thought it might give me nightmares). This has never happened to me before! Masterton is an absolute master of the craft though, and doesn’t overdo it – these parts never last too long either. I found the novel well paced and plotted, and some of the domestic details and sub-plot (involving Katie having to deal with her husband straying over the boundary of criminal activity) balanced out the horror for me.
The ending – of course I won’t say much! – was a genuine surprise, which was a surprise to me in itself because I couldn’t see where any sort of twist might come from. Not a perfect ending, bits of it felt a little rushed/thin to me, but I was more than satisfied with this book. Indeed I thought it was brilliant, and I look to Graham Masterton with a wary but interested eye on his horror list, and hoping for more crime novels from him (our catalogue lists it as ‘Katie Maguire 1, so looking good!).