Bone by Bone

April 3, 2010 - Bone By Bone (Carol O'Connell). The author sets her latest novel in the northern California town of Coventry. It's a tourist spot, but it's also an insular community where everybody who lives there knows everybody because they've all lived there for years. What ties the tourists and the locals together are the regular Ouija board sessions hosted by the local hotel owner at her rundown cabin in the woods.

The story begins when Army CID investigator Oren Hobbs is called home to Coventry. Oren left 20 years ago, not long after his younger brother Joshua disappeared in the woods. His body was never found, but now it seems that someone has found Josh and has been leaving his bones – one by one – on the family's porch. It soon becomes clear that only some of the bones belonged to Josh. The rest of the bones belonged to a woman. Who was she? Why were her bones in the same grave as Josh's? And, most importantly, who killed them and why?

As Oren unofficially investigates, he comes into contact with a varied cast of characters: Hannah, the Hobbs' pint-sized caretaker whose mysterious ways give her a big influence; Evelyn Straub, the hotel owner who introduced Oren to the ways of love; Mavis, the reason why nobody goes to the library; William, a former policeman who quit the LAPD after a brutal attack that left him lame and disfigured; and Sally, the state investigator who hides her skill behind sweet talk.

And, we can't forget the Winstons, the wealthiest family in town who live in what amounts to a castle on the hill. They use telescopes to keep tabs on their neighbors' comings and goings. The money comes from Addison Winston, a cut-throat and very successful criminal lawyer. Sarah, his wife, spends her days in a tower room, slowly drinking herself to death. She used to be an avid bird watcher and filled journal after journal with feathered representations of Coventry's citizens. Addison enables Sarah's alcoholism, but he makes his wife sober up once a year for her extravagant birthday ball. Daughter Isabelle is an ornithologist who, like Oren, has spent years away from Coventry. Now she's home and is ready to renew her adolescent war with Oren. The tension between the two culminates in a fabulously-written tango.

Reading a book by Carol O'Connell is like sampling a microbrew or tasting a wine for the first time. You sort of know what to expect but there are unique flavors that make each one delightful in its own way. In Bone by Bone, O'Connell serves up another delicious reading experience by using her dense and descriptive prose to create a world that mixes a good helping of eccentricity with plenty of long-buried secrets and a dash of mysticism.