What’s this? It’s only a review of The Bone Keeper by Luca Veste, which isn’t even out until March. Sorcery!
Disclaimer: Luca has said nice things about my own writing in the past before he became famous, and he has several of my family members and at least one pet held hostage in secret locations around the country, each strapped to (or in the case of Mr Tiddles, trapped inside with nothing but a squeaky mouse for company) a nuclear weapon. He’s a maniac and must be stopped.
In his latest, Luca veers away from his police procedural series to venture into serial killing urban legend territory (though one of the central characters is still a detective).
A woman (whose surname, possibly coincidentally - there’s a few of us around, is Rickards) is found staggering down a street, bloody and clearly tortured. All she’s able to say to start with is a fragment of a local childhood rhyme about the mythical “Bone Keeper”, said to lurk in the woods and kill people to steal their bones, and who, presumably, may not be as mythical as the adult officers who know the rhyme from their own childhoods might have told themselves.
I can’t say much about how it develops because, hey, spoilers, but the Bone Keeper himself is enjoyably nasty and alien, the other characters have plenty of depth, the various plot elements roll along snappily, the families of his other victims and the effect the killings/disappearances have had on them are particularly nicely drawn, and there’s a very clever bait and switch: one character lost her brother to the killer, one has a tragic fire-related history, and Luca lets you believe it’s not the character you think has either, without making you feel at all cheated when clarity comes.
For the most part it plays out like any good slasher story - the Bone Keeper remains creepy as you like (in a similar way to the killer in Warren Ellis’ Gun Machine, if you’ve read that (and you should)) - until the truth comes out. When things come to a head, I was immediately reminded (without spoiling anything; this reference could mean anything) of Hot Fuzz. Not that it’s comical at all - not at all, but rather there’s an aspect of what’s happening that… well, spoilers. It’s no bad thing - Fuzz is a great menacing British murder story as well as a comedy - and the resolution is entirely bought and paid-for by the build up to it.
Well worth your time and filthy, filthy money when it’s out…
Now please can I have Mr Tiddles back, Luca?