Mon
Mar 27 2017 1:00pm

Review: Bone White by Wendy Corsi Staub

Bone White by Wendy Corsi Staub is the 3rd and final book in the Mundy's Landing Trilogy (available March 28, 2017).

“We shall never tell.” This cryptic phrase, discovered in a centuries-old letter, is the driving force that propels Emerson Mundy on a decisive search for truth in Bone White, the final book in New York Times bestselling author Wendy Corsi Staub’s Mundy’s Landing Trilogy. Consumed by grief over her father’s death and looking to escape the attention of an overzealous boyfriend, Emerson skips town to travel cross-country from California to Mundy’s Landing, New York. There, she hopes to reclaim her ancestral heritage—but soon finds that the family name is a burden to bear.

Mundy’s Landing—a seemingly idyllic Hudson River Valley town—has a dark past that continually haunts its present. Despite the recent resolution of the infamous Sleeping Beauty Murders (see 2016’s Mary Higgins Clark Award-nominated Blue Moon), there’s another skeleton in the village’s proverbial closet: a cannibalization scandal that sent founding colonists James and Elizabeth Mundy to the gallows, leaving their three children—and future generations—to protect the family’s carefully safeguarded secrets. But when aged town historian Aurora “Ora” Abrams proffers a long-hidden disembodied skull for forensic analysis—the results of which harken back to that fateful winter of 1666, when starvation plagued the settlement—she inadvertently sets in motion yet another series of sordid affairs.

Despite these tragic underpinnings, Emerson’s arrival starts off promisingly enough. She quickly befriends Sullivan “Sully” Leary—a former NYPD detective who has moved to town and joined the local police force after helping solve the Sleeping Beauty case—and Rowan Mundy (protagonist of Blood Red), who enthusiastically embrace her desire to redeem her roots. Sully, however, is quickly distracted by two unforeseen events: the reappearance of her old partner, Barnes, and the suspicious death of a male tourist. While the latter is suspected to be a suicide, seldom is anything straightforward in Mundy’s Landing. Emerson, left largely to her own devices, immerses herself in genealogical lore only to realize that somebody’s been whittling away at the family tree. 

A veteran of more than 80 novels, Staub still manages to surprise with the breadth of her creative ambitions. In Bone White, she seamlessly melds history with contemporary sensibilities, fleshing out the narrative while also maintaining its potency. She also achieves an ambient sense of time and place, using the strength of her setting as the common thread that unites these books (as opposed to character or theme, which connected her past trilogies).

Additionally, the author revisits many of the saga’s earlier characters, albeit more peripherally, to experiment with perspective while showing how impressions and realities are often at odds with one another. It’s all done with a subtle hand, but the cumulative effect is striking.

Finally, Staub offers a twist ending that will undoubtedly rank among her finest and most memorable. While fans have long endeavored to unmask her villains before their intended reveal, this particular denouement is a unique addition to the repertoire—and it may just fool even the most discerning of readers.

Cunningly orchestrated, Bone White once again proves why Wendy Corsi Staub’s name remains at the very forefront of domestic psychological suspense.

 

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John Valeri wrote the popular Hartford Books Examiner column for Examiner.com from 2009 – 2016. He can be found online at www.johnbvaleri.com and is featured in the Halloween-themed anthology Tricks and Treats, now available from Books & Boos Press.

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