A killer with a penchant for torture has taken notice of forensic expert Gwen Marcey . . . and her daughter. When Gwen Marcey’s dog comes home with a human skull and then leads her to a cabin in the woods near her Montana home, she realizes there’s a serial killer in her community. And when she finds a tortured young girl clinging to life on the cabin floor, she knows this killer is a lunatic. Yet what unsettles Gwen most is that the victim looks uncannily like her daughter.The search for the torturer leads back in time to a neo-Nazi bombing in Washington state—a bombing with only one connection to Montana: Gwen. The group has a race-not-grace model of salvation . . . and they’ve marked Gwen as a race traitor. When it becomes clear that the killer has a score to settle, Gwen finds herself in a battle against time. She will have to use all of her forensic skills to find the killer before he can carry out his threat to destroy her—and the only family she has left.
After reading and loving the first in the Gwen Marcey (*Christian crime fiction) series this past January, and shortly thereafter hearing a sequel was due for publication just a few months after that, that sequel quickly became one of my most anticipated reads for this year! (If you didn't catch my review for the first book in the series, you can find it here.) I was so pumped when an opportunity came around for me to grab a copy of this one :-)
Just as in the first book, The Bones Will Speak is inspired by Parks' own true-life experiences as a forensic artist. In her author's afterword, Parks does explain that it is not scene for scene inspired and that a good bit of creative license was woven in, but I still found it pretty cool to hear the backstory. Also back in this book is the religious fanaticism that leads to the crimes themselves. While the first book takes the reader back to the 1800s, this one stuck more closely to more recent eras. The main crime story takes place in present day but has ties to other crimes dating from the 1970s-1990s. Something struck me personally to read the story's crime having a small link to the killings at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas the '90s. Though I was just a small kid at the time, I do have memories of seeing the compound on fire on the news, and the police forces trying to move in. Also linked in is the story of the Columbine HS shooting, which occurred when I was in high school and directly affected security measures at my own school afterwards, so again, another extra personal kick I wasn't expecting.
This time around, forensic artist Gwen Marcey is still living in the cabin in the woods with her daughter, still having body parts and other crime evidence pop up around the property. By now -- had I been in Gwen's shoes -- I would have been weirded out to the point of moving. Gwen, however, is just like "hey, another skull... oh, that looks like a femur, maybe?" lol. But that's just one element I love about this series, Gwen's personality. She's just like "I like this house and I don't mind shooting anyone who bothers me here. Now let me get back to work." Zero frankfurters given lol. In this one especially, she's often carrying a pink camo rifle -- as she likes to say, "Pink is a killer color." -- just looking for a reason to take down a bad guy. Even though she likes to point out that she's an artist, not an investigator, she does seem to fall into doing her own investigations (and, of course, solving these crimes for everyone) because, as is often the case with these kinds of novels, the antagonist has it out for Gwen personally. The reader has to stick around and find out why. In this case, said antagonist carrying out all the kidnappings and murders has ties to a group of white supremacists / Christian extremists. I don't know if I want to say too much more than that because I want to avoid veering into spoiler territory.
The Bones Will Speak definitely seemed to have more grit & edge to the storyline / tone than A Cry From The Dust. This second book has a key character who is a child prostitute, only 15 years old I think. Even realizing it was fiction, some of what this teen girl describes surviving made for hard reading at times, just imagining it. I also liked the realness Parks writes in, showing a police chief struggling to figure out how to find the funds to pay for ongoing investigations. Not something we as citizens often think about, particularly not with the popularity of high-tech CSI type crime shows. But that's another aspect addressed in this story -- Gwen actually has to school newbies investigators on the differences between the magic of tv & movies and how real-life field work usually goes down. Particularly in small-town Montana, where this takes place.
I typically don't find myself hugely engrossed in many crime novels out there these days. I don't watch much of the CSI-type shows because after awhile the shows and the books all start to feel formulaic to me. Some people love that, knowing what to expect, the "knowing what you're gonna get" type experience. I tend to tune out when I don't feel the tingles of surprise. One reason I think I'm enjoying Parks' novels so much is that she does weave in a good many twists and turns, quick dialogue you can actually imagine occurring, and characters that feel true-to-life. Everything in the first book was an utter surprise to me, maybe because I knew next to nothing about the history she was writing around. This time around, I managed to figure out who the killer was about 1/4 of the way into the story -- the clues and hints that were being dropped narrowed the suspect list pretty quick for me -- but in this instance, that didn't ruin my enjoyment of the story. It was still fun to see Gwen piece things together in her own time, to see how this crime was connected to that one, how she was linked to all of it. The only reason this one was a 4.5 star for me as opposed to a 5 was just that general sense that sometimes readers can't quite explain -- there was just something to the first book that had my heart racing (for nearly the entirety of the book) that I didn't quuiite feel in the same way here in the second book. Still, I read through this story in no time and will gladly take on any and all future Gwen Marcey investigations!
FTC Disclaimer: BookLookBloggers.com and Thomas Nelson Publishers kindly offered me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.