Review: Bone Music by Christopher Rice

Bone Music by Christopher Rice is the first book in the Burning Girl series, where Charlotte Rowe learns there’s more than one way to stoke the flames of revenge (available March 1, 2018).

Christopher Rice may share one of the literary world’s most recognizable and respected surnames thanks to his mother, Anne, but he’s carved out his own place among the luminaries since debuting with A Density of Souls (2000). Rice has notched four New York Times bestselling thrillers, received a Lambda Literary Award (and twice been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award), and launched an internet radio show, The Dinner Party Show with Christopher Rice & Eric Shaw Quinn; he also serves as head writer and executive producer of television’s The Vampire Chronicles. His work spans genres that include erotic romance, suspense/crime, and supernatural thrillers—and his newest, Bone Music, is yet another highly anticipated hybrid.

This title marks the first book in a new series and introduces readers to Charlotte Rowe (aka the “Burning Girl”). As a baby, Charlotte—born Trina Pierce—was abducted by her mother’s killers, serial predators Daniel and Abigail Banning, and raised in the woods. Rescued by authorities at the age of seven, she was then returned to her father only to be repeatedly exploited by him for financial gain. Books, movies, and public appearances followed, as did outcry over their capitalization on tragedy, false rumors of her own murderous tendencies, and the emergence of a stalker. Sickened by the entirety of it, she sued her father as a teenager and used her share of the profits to change her name and purchase an isolated property on the outskirts of Scarlet, Arizona.

Present day: Charlotte’s tenuous tranquility is shattered when a nearby movie theater commemorates Halloween by resurrecting two entries from the Savage Woods Films franchise—the torture porn pics based loosely on her life—for their seasonal double feature. Despite having previously refused medication as a course of treatment for her condition, anxiety and exhaustion have finally rendered her susceptible to the repeated urgings of her therapist, Dr. Dylan Thorpe. He eagerly provides her with a new drug, Zypraxon (which he describes as a “mild central nervous system depressant”), and then watches her swallow a pill before leaving the office.

When Charlotte arrives home, she discovers that her fortress has been breached—and that her stalker, Jason Briffel, is now inside. Though she’s meticulously planned for just such an eventuality, he has systematically disarmed the place in her absence. The terror she feels is palpable, but it also ignites something else within her, and their showdown unleashes a superhuman strength that renders him incapacitated.

This is not coincidence—it’s the pills. Both exhilarated and alarmed by this epiphany, Charlotte is forced to flee the desert (and a string of dead bodies that are linked to Thorpe) for Altamira, California, where she once happily lived with her grandmother (now deceased). There, she is reunited with her lawyer, her grandmother’s old boyfriend, and a former male classmate.

To quell their skepticism of her newfound abilities, Charlotte decides that a series of demonstrations are necessary. This is easier said than done, given the fact that she must first experience an acute physiological response to act as a trigger. Her strength stems from her vulnerability—meaning that any miscalculation could be deadly. Still, when that response does come, it makes her whole being thrum:

The tingling she felt earlier is all over her body, along with another sensation. It’s utterly foreign, utterly without precedent in her experience. The words that leap to her mind to describe it are just as strange: bone music. It feels like the bass line of some song is being played in her very bones.

Thorpe and his associates have high hopes of benefitting from the future proliferation of Zypraxon, given Charlotte’s promising preliminary showings. And while Charlotte herself is unsure of their means and motives, she has every intention of showing them just what she’s capable of. This includes a seemingly misguided crusade to catch a killer known as The Mask Maker; this UNSUB is the new media obsession and has perpetrated a handful of gruesome crimes without leaving a trace of his identity behind. But Charlotte and her group of well-meaning misfits have the element of surprise on their side—even if the potential for error is great.

A potent mix of thriller, science fiction, and romantic intrigue, the narrative is near relentless in its pacing. Fans of more traditional crime fare will likely prefer the elements of the story that are firmly grounded in a sense of realism; indeed, the early pages are entirely compelling if not wholly original. However, the more outlandish aspects of the plot (which will undoubtedly appeal to speculative fiction aficionados) are offset by dynamic characters, emotionally resonant themes, and thought-provoking debate. Consequently, a willing suspension of disbelief should prevail.

Bone Music is an ambitious addition to the author’s eclectic oeuvre and one that will likely prove fruitful for years to come. In a world that desperately needs heroism and hope, Charlotte Rowe stands tall, blazing a brilliant path of glory in the darkness that could have consumed her.

Christopher Rice outlines 5 famous killers from books, TV, and film that he'd like to turn the tables on and offers a chance to win a copy of Bones Music!

 

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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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