Author: Graham Masterton
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Age Group: Adult (18+)
Rating: 4 stars
An ancient Irish mystery, and a ritualistic modern-day killer: Ireland’s first female detective Katie Maguire must find the connection. The first in a mystery series from a master of horror.
One wet November morning, a field on Meagher’s Farm gives up the dismembered bones of 11 women. In this part of Ireland, unmarked graves are common, but these bones date to 1915, long before the Troubles. What’s more, these bones bear the marks of a meticulous executioner. These women were almost certainly skinned alive. Detective Katie Maguire is used to dead bodies. But this is wholesale butchery. Her team think these long-dead women are a waste of police time. Katie is determined to give them justice. And then a young American tourist goes missing, and her bones, carefully stripped of flesh, are discovered on the same farm. With the crimes of the past echoing in the present, Katie must solve a decades-old ritualistic murder before this terrifying killer strikes again. Previously published under the title A Terrible Beauty.
When I saw White Bones for only 2 euros at a book fair, I couldn’t say no to it. First of all, I usually enjoy Graham Masterton’s writing style, and secondly, the plot sounded great. Well, the book definitely was no dissapointment, even if the plot was a little too over the top toward the end.
Katie Maguire is Irelan’s first female detective of her rank, so she needs to overcome a lot of prejudices. When a farmer on Meagher’s Farm discovers the dismembered bones of 11 women, all of them dating back to around 1915, the case is breaking news. The pathologist is clear: the victims were strippe off their flesh, skinned alive, before dying. Katie wants to solve the murders, but the matter becomes even more pressing when a young American tourist goes missing, and her bones are discovered, stripped of flesh, on the same farm.
A thorough investigation occurs. Anyone could’ve done it, and the murders are ritualistic and seem to be connected to an ancient ritual to raise a fairy witch who could grant a wish. The murderer is intent of making the thirteenth and final sacrifice, and won’t be stopped by some meddling detectives. Meanwhile, Katie has to deal with trouble in her personal life too, and when the case becomes a little too personal, she has to figure out who, if anyone, she can trust.
Bonus points to the author for the clever use of Irish folklore and adding it into the story. The police talk was also spot on, and Katie Maguire is a complex albeit likeable character. Her personal troubles added extra depth to her as a character. The whole mystery part was done really well, and it took a while for me to figure out who was involved, but even then, I enjoyed the rest of the book still, and it didn’t bother me.
The gruesome parts were done really well – I almost got physically sick thinking about what those poor women were put through – and the author did a tremendous job establishing the setting and characters. The writing was excellent, and I also enjoyed the supernatural parts.
The only part that didn’t work for me was the big reveal. Spoilers ahead, by the way, but the reveal annoyed me. I had a feeling this person was involved, but I didn’t buy it, not the way it was presented here. I don’t want to spoil it, but it just seemed too random for me.
Nevertheless, this was a very intriguing read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.