The startling reviews of Tropic of Night announced Michael Gruber as
one of the most talented thriller writers to debut in many years. Now, with the
much-anticipated publication of Valley of Bones, Gruber fulfills that
genre-bending promise as perhaps no writer since Graham Greene, with a genuinely
exhilarating thriller that simultaneously offers a profound, deeply provocative
exploration of the nature of faith itself.
The setting is Miami. Rookie cop Tito Morales arrives at the Trianon Hotel to
investigate a routine disturbance call -- and, to his shock and horror, watches
as a wealthy oilman plunges ten stories and impales himself on a nearby fence.
Soon Morales is joined by detective Jimmy Paz, famous throughout the city for
solving -- or at least providing a plausible solution to -- the so-called Voodoo
Murders that left Miami burning months earlier.
Together Paz and Morales enter the hotel and discover, in the dead man's
room, a most unusual suspect, an otherworldly woman by the name of Emmylou
Dideroff. She emerges from a rapturous, prayerlike state and admits that she had
a motive for killing the oilman. Ultimately, she says she wants to confess, and
asks for a pen and several notebooks in which to convey the details of her
What Emmylou writes is nothing like what Paz expects; he enlists psychologist
Lorna Wise in an effort to make sense of things that go beyond Emmylou's
explanation of the murder: details of childhood abuse, of other crimes
committed, of regular communion with saints -- and with the devil. Is she
mentally disturbed or playacting in hopes of getting declared unfit for trial?
Or does she really believe herself to be an instrument of God? And why is it
that so many people -- including Paz's biological father -- are suddenly
interested in the contents of these notebooks and in preventing them from
As Valley of Bones moves toward its startling and dramatic finale,
Emmylou's "confessions" lead Jimmy Paz, Lorna Wise, and Tito Morales
down a series of unexpected and dangerous turns that puts them in the path of
perhaps the most terrifying evil imaginable and forces each of them to confront
questions about faith, love, and the possibility of the miraculous.
The New York Times
… Valley of Bones has enough originality to back up its easily excited
imagination. And at its core is the kind of ineffable mystery that's worth more
than the corpse-out-a-window kind. Mr. Gruber is at least as eager to fathom the
violent and the unknown as he is to exploit these things. Some books simply
relish the darker sides of human nature. Mr. Gruber summons them with troubled
inquisitiveness, with both brio and regret.
The Stephen King of crime writing.
The Washington Post - Patrick Anderson
Michael Gruber's second novel, Valley of Bones, like his first, last year's
acclaimed Tropic of Night, challenges the reader to accept the reality of
an unseen world. In the first book, his focus was powerful African
sorcery, brought to this country by an angry black man and used for criminal
ends. Valley of Bones is equally fascinating and even more troubling because its
subject is the power of Christian faith, as embodied in a woman who may be a
saint or may simply be delusional. Either way, the tormented, painfully candid
Emmylou Dideroff is one of the great characters in recent popular fiction.
Booklist - Frank Sennett
... the story takes its sweet time getting up to full speed. But
once it finally does, the characters--especially Emmylou--spirit readers along
toward a richly rendered Joan of Arc meets Lawrence of Arabia climax.
Starred review. Gruber intersperses the Miami action
with scenes from Emmylou's possibly confessional notebooks detailing her at
first lurid and then heroic past, tossing in searing sex, African civil-war
carnage, wonderfully serious religious thought, great tenderness, and some of
the snappiest byplay since William Powell and Myrna Loy. No second-novel slump
here. Gruber has drawn even with John Sandford and has power to spare.
Starred Review. Gruber's new mystery/thriller more than fulfills the promise of
his dazzling Tropic of Night (2003)...evocative prose, an
erudite author, spellbinding subject matter and totally original characters add
up to make this one a knockout.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by mary A disappointment I loved all Gruber's previous books, but found this one less than enthralling. It needs editing - it's way too long without adding much to the story. I found my attention wandering as he jumps from character to character or gets overly involved... Read More
Rated of 5
by Erin * This was a fairly good story with a nicely driving plot. The author manages to drive attention and still keep the reader guessing throughout the story. The detail is well done and researched. Overall, a great tale.
Although Tropic of Night was his first
book in his own name, Gruber has ghost-written 14 books for his cousin Robert
Tanenbaum (his mother and Tanenbaum's mother are
sisters). According to Publishers Weekly, in 1984 Tanenbaum, a successful trial lawyer, called him
from his offices in Los Angeles asking him to look at the first hundred
pages of a book he had written at the request of a publishing
house. Gruber says "I called him, and I said, 'This is
unsalvageable. It's not a novel, it has no characters, no plot,
In return for half the advance, Gruber rewrote the novel, they
renegotiated the contract and went into business. This arrangement
continued for 14 books. Gruber says he created the characters and
the novels based on stories Tanenbaum told him, or transcripts of cases
Tanenbaum had worked on. However, Gruber's credit was limited to a
thank you on the acknowledgements page. Eventually the...
Tanenbaum delivers his grittiest, most ethically challenging thriller yet, as New York chief assistant district attorney Butch Karp fights for his family in the wilds of West Virginia's coal mining country.
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