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Michigan Mysteries

A Thousand Bones, P.J. Parrish, Pocket Star, $7.99.

A Thousand Bones by P.J. Parrish

The worst kept secret in mystery is that "P.J. Parrish" is really the nom de plume of two very talented sisters, whose writing skills somehow miraculously complement each other. Now many books into what is one of the strongest P.I. series being written at the moment, the Parrish sisters are changing things up a bit and putting their series character, Louis Kincaid, on a bit of a hiatus. This book is so good that even if you love Louis you won't miss him in this outing. The novel opens with Louis hitting the beach with his high powered cop girlfriend, Joe Frye, who has something she wants to tell him before she decides what should be next on her life path (i.e. regarding Louis and her job). The minute the story goes back into Joe's past, I guarantee you you will be hooked for the entire, enjoyable ride.

Every P.J. Parrish book has a great narrative - and I don't think I've EVER sold these books to a reader who didn't like them (and I've sold books to readers who didn't like Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly, Lee Child, and James Lee Burke, so that's saying a lot). A Thousand Bones is no exception to the great narrative rule. Joe goes back in her life to the beginning of her career as a cop - she's living with a veterinarian and they have moved together to Echo Bay, Michigan, so she can take her first job in the Echo Bay police department. As in all Parrish novels, the domestic details are carefully set up and ground the rest of the story without taking it over. Suffice it to say that Joe's partner isn't as thrilled with Echo Bay as she is and it adds an extra bit of tension to the story.

When some suspicious bones are uncovered, Joe, being young and eager, manages to spot some mysterious signs carved into a tree near the grave. As the bones of more bodies are discovered, more of the signs are found as well, linking the cases together and thus requiring the FBI as it looks like the work of a serial killer. As Joe spends time with the experienced Rafsky from the FBI, the young cop and the older one complement each other and work together well as a team. As the book gets progressively darker and scarier, it's pretty much impossible to set it aside and stop reading it, something I find to be always the case with a Parrish novel. The careful build really pays off, and I've never been able to stop reading one of their well told and gripping stories when I was in the middle of one. There's some very nice, atmospheric writing here as well as some really well drawn characters. When Louis is folded back in at the end of the book, it's almost jarring - Joe Frye and Echo Bay will have you hooked all on their own. This is another powerful entry in what has easily become one of my favorite mystery series.

The Parrishes are winners of a Michigan Notable Book Award this year for last year's terrific novel, An Unquiet Grave.

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